The lights are up!

Some of them.

Okay, a few.

Alright, one strand, but it's a honey. The gods of the UL frown when I plug them in, because I'm sure the length exceeds the finely carefully calibrated quality for which Chingzhau State Electrical Factory #42 is known. There are four areas to light, at a minimum. The bushes in front of the house (this includes the area around the door), the evergreens that line the stairs, the back yard tree visible from the kitchen, and the big tree that can be seen for quite a distance, since it's up on the hill. This requires using a pole with a hook, swinging the lights way up in the air, trying to snag a branch, snagging the wrong branch, trying to disentangle it, fitting it back on the hook, trying to snag, and so on, cursing ornately, until it's done. Every year I think I did it better the previous year.

But I got that one done. Couldn't do the front: don't have the boughs that go around the door. Couldn't do the backyard: the multicolored strands vanished, either because they were pulled into the dimensional gateway in the shed (no other explanation for the disorder that always ruins the carefully arranged items stored away; some mischievious spirit comes in and throws everything around) or because I threw them out. It is a miserable job to put them on; the tree has stubby twigs and limbs that scratch at your face like a madwoman, and removing the lights always yanks bulbs out or snaps a wire. I think I felt that I did it right once.

Ah, that once. There was always a once, wasn't there? The year when you got all the lights right, the year when the tree was up on the right day and the music was perfect when you decorated it, the year when the snow came thick and fast before Christmas so the lights glowed under the frosting, the year when you knew the gifts were perfect, the year when it seemed you were poised in the perfect point in life with equal measures of joy fore and aft.

Hah! That was the year the lights shorted out and the tree went dead-dry after a week and the Christmas dinner was a bit late and everyone sort of went through the motions, having a good time but not overflowing with festive spirits, because heck you just saw them the other day, and you let the fire go out because you forgot to poke the logs, and the next morning the big toy took forever to assemble and didn't quite hit the mark the way you'd hoped. Right?

Hah! No. That was every year, and none of them. Those things were rationed out over the years along with the perfect moments, because it's always some of this and some of that. What matters is which one you remember. I've always made a point of remembering the good part, because I can't possibly see the point of storing away the disappointments. Unless they're spectacular. The year the toddler had an inexplicable meltdown on Christmas Eve and forebade everyone to open any presents? Priceless. Save that. Got it on tape, too.

But that's about it. I can see the lights I put up from my studio window. They're okay. Next year they'll probably be worse. Or so I'll think. But it'll be dark, and they'll be bright. That's what counts.

Unless I really clump them up. Wife hates that.

Anyway: I got the lights out of the bag where I'd stored them, and it didn't seem like I just put them away a few months ago. Odd. As you get older you swear the time between Christmases shrinks to a matter of weeks. Not so with spring; not so with summer; no so with fall. But The Tree, man, that was yesterday. There are reasons - the diminishing percentage of a year in your lifespan, and the similarity of the chore, the putting it up, the taking it down. There are few other things in life that specific, with the same objects involved. It had seemed like a long time since I put up the lights with the pole, and that was good. I didn't listen to an old radio show as I did before, because my bluetooth headphones were not charged, and wearing wires means the lights always snag on the cord and pull them out of my ears and @#$()$@^ not again.

First, untangle the cords. Plug them in. About thirty percent had checked out. Great. I had enough for the tree, though, so I laid them out in a long line in the back yard and plugged them into the cord I had tied around the tree. This went to a central timer post by the front, which went to the picky twitchy bitchy outlet on the wall. Apparently when I had that one installed the electrician asked if I wanted the outlets that would reject most grounded plugs for no reason unless excessive force was applied, and I said sure, hook me up.

As I strung the lights the long cord moved like a thin spiky snake, which made Scout quite interested. SCOUT! NO! REPRESS YOUR INSTINCTS.It isn't prey. I pulled the strand, saw a bulb catch in the bricks; no no please don't break - it didn't. Strung them all, then noted with a grim appreciation of life's innumerable disappointments that one strand went out while I was stringing them up. But it was in the back, an only 12 lights. Overall, success. They looked beautiful.

For an hour. Then the outlet popped and had to be reset. I'll distribute the load tomorrow, crouching in the bushes with their branches poking my neck and dumping snow down my collar.




For the Season: Trees.

This is now sufficient to indicate the Festive time of Joy. Trees.


Amoeba Trees, at that.




As the Christmas season begins, we shift to ads that reflected the spirit of the season. This was very controversial: Old Fitzgerald went with the simple red look, eschewing snowflakes and other signs of Christmas.

No one was upset. Of course, no one was upset with Starbucks, either, but at least back then you didn't have social media to amplify faux-rage.

It says it was designed by the famous Walter Landor. Who? Huh? I suppose the reader was supposed to take their word for it, and try to remember the name in case a guest noticed the shape of the decanter. Yes, it's a Landor. You know. Walter Landor. Oh! Uh - sure.

Houbigant? Youbigant?

Oh, how I love "GIFTORAMAS." The inexpensive ones were purchased by the kids for Mom. The more expensive ones were purchased by an adult son for his mother.

An overwhelming gift:

I hope they're not referring to the perfume. You can just smell it, can't you? Powder. Women's gifts back then had more powder than a scene in the last half of "SCcarface."

This may seem mysterious to younger folk. It was THE IRON LAW when I was a kid:

Long-distance was like nothing else in your life: time was money. The longer you spoke, the more money you'd pay, and the minutes would pile up behind you and your parents were giving you that look. In our part of the country, the rates dropped at 11; if the phone rang after 11, it meant long-distance. This didn't mean bad news, since everyone who mattered was in town. It might have meant an old friend, or a chum I'd met at speech and debate. The eleven o'clock rule would evaporate eventually, but to this day I still feel a twinge when I cial long-distance at 9 or ten. It's faint, barely noticed, but it's there.

Avoid the rush on Christmas Day, because everyone will be calling, and your call might not go through. So many voices trying to fit into those cables; it's a wonder the phone poles didn't lean with the weight.

When the Sack O' Sauce from the Can O' Meat dropped on your shirt, what did you use? Right:P

How happy would this make someone? SO VERY VERY HAPPY

By the way, I was kidding about the obscurity of the Old Fitz decanter and Walter Landor. Because this is the internet and the internet is amazing, here's a documentary on the design of the decanter, narrated by Landor himself.

That will have to hold you, although there are two pages of Frank Reade Jr. The adventure continues, in a new vessel; I think Frank has completely trashed at least 75 big airships / submarines / land skimmers so far. I don't know where he gests the money.



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