Friday, December 5, 2014

inflatable christmas

Gone are the days of large C9 bulbs and silver tinsel you find in your living room long into spring.  The Christmas decoration future arrived in the 2000's in the form of giant, air-filled snowmen and reindeer.  Inflatable Christmas shit.

Driving through your average American suburban neighborhood you will find these massive inflatable creatures all over, and with every year comes a new! and fun! character or idea:

Christmas Crocodile Bearing Gifts!

Santa on a Motorcycle with Sunglasses™!

Jesus, Lord, at Thy Birth!

If you can dream it in a nightmare, America can inflate it and put it in your front lawn.

In my humble opinion, these inflatable Christmas decorations should be used sparingly.  An ideal house would include Christmas lights draped from your gutters and spread around your azaleas by the front porch.  Candles in the windows, perhaps some wreathes hanging from your windows.  One massive inflatable Rudolph biting into a candy cane and your yard is COMPLETE.  Less is more when it comes to Christmas.

My brother's philosophy is the complete opposite of this.  I made note of this when I pulled up to his rambler a few Saturdays ago.  Three o'clock in the afternoon, it's a cold day and my brother, my dad, my sister-in- law and my niece and nephew are scattered on a lawn roughly the size of an elementary school cafeteria, staging various inflatable Christmas decorations.  There are at least ten of them.

It is utter chaos.  The decorations are all in various stages of "flate," some sagging, some flattened to the ground, others proud and full.  The entire house, from the front yard, to the front porch is a tornado of Christmas.  Most people, if they pulled up to the house might say, "Good GOD, what happened here?  Was it an F5?  Were their any survivors?  How sad, the storm left them with so much Christmas shit in their yard."

On the porch there is a life-sized Santa statue facing the wall.  His arm is hanging limply, jerked into an awkward, uncomfortable angle.  Something violent has happened to this Santa statue, and for some reason he's being forced to stand in time out.  I ask my five year old niece, "What happened to Santa, why is he not out with the rest of the decorations?"  "An animal got him," she says, her eyes wild, as if remembering that fateful night when an animal almost made off with Santa's arm.  Was it a dear?  Was it a dog?  Was it actually a neighbor, grown impatient with the clutter of my brother's yard, seeking revenge on this jolly man and the arm he uses to deliver joy to children?  We don't know.  One thing is clear, even the local fauna doesn't like what's going on in my brother's front yard.

As you scan your eyes over the yard you'll find an inflatable decoration to tickle any number of fancies.  There's an inflatable dachshund with a scarf and Christmas hat.  There's Charlie Brown and Snoopy on a seesaw.  There's a Santa in a hot air balloon that failed to make it into the air.  There's yet another Santa, popping out of a chimney, flames covering his backside, his eyes wide with surprise, forever caught in a hilariously violent moment that teaches young kids how funny it is when people are on fire.

My brother rushes from one decoration to the other, stressed and confused, like a surgeon with multiple patients he needs to attend to simultaneously.  As he runs around the yard, the over-worked, over-capacity power strip is accidentally knocked about, a plug pops out, just to be plugged back in immediately and cursed at by my brother.  This causes all of the decorations to slowly deflate at once.  Like a sad puppet show, they all start to go limp, bowing down to the ground.  And then click!  They inflate once again for a slow, unenthusiastic encore, like an inflated Aerosmith show.

There is a decoration with two snowmen standing together, one in front of the other like a snowy two-person conga line.  When the electricity goes out they slowly sag forward, the snowman in the back covering the other in a graceful, protective dance.  And then click! they come back to life.  While the snowman in the front remains bent at the waist, the snowman in the back slowly stands erect, hands out to each side, a smile on his face.  He is thrilled.  A front lawn sex show slowly inflates before our eyes.  Should the kids be seeing this?

My favorite part is the main event of the yard, the "snow globe."  When it works properly it's supposed to look like a human-sized globe filled with tiny pieces of Styrofoam snowflakes shooting up from the bottom  and falling between two snowmen who are hugging at the waist in what appears to be a moment of pleasure and elation.  Another Christmas sex show that can be viewed easily from the road.  Have snowmen always been sex maniacs and I just never realized it?

Not only are the snowmen embracing, they are also sharing a leg.  Let me just slow this fun train down for a second and ask why these snowmen have legs.   Have snowmen really evolved so quickly that they easily sprout legs without any magic?  Are legs just a given in the snowman world now?  It used to take a silk hat and a handful of bored, unsupervised children for a snowman to sprout some legs, now it's expected.  What happened to the days when snowmen glided around on a single ball, playing the banjo?

Traditional gliding ball

This giant snow globe decoration is having a hard 2014, it must have been chewed on by some field mice while it sat in the garage, because it has a few holes.  My brother plugs it in and the styrofoam snow blasts up from the bottom.  "Yay!!" the kids yell with excitement.  It takes us all a few seconds to realize the snow is actually being forced through a hole on the bottom and out into the yard.  "That's bad for the environment!" some people would say, and then they would deflate the snow globe and dispose of it.  "What a mess!" other people would say, and then they would deflate the snow globe and dispose of it.  "This decoration is broken!" still other people would say, and then they would deflate the snow globe and dispose of it.  Not at my brother's house.  "Okay!" he says and walks away, leaving the snow globe on while it shoots a steady stream of Styrofoam into his yard.

Finally, the sun is setting and now should be the time to quit.  But my brother is never finished.  "We want to buy 5 more for next year," my sister-in-law says matter-of-factly. Cars honk  and people "wooOOOOOOoooo" out of their windows as they pass by on the road.  Are they excited and in the Christmas spirit?  Are they mocking him?  Maybe it was a little bit of both.  I feet a little torn myself.  I love Christmas, but I hate shit.  I love fun but I hate things that are stupid.  While a part of me wants to pop all of the decorations in a hateful Professor Hinkle fashion, I decide it would be best to leave that up to the "animals" described cryptically by my niece earlier.  When I come back in a month maybe all of the decorations will be on the porch, slightly deflated, tattered and facing the wall.  I'll ask my niece "what happened, why are they not out in the yard?"  "Animals got 'em."

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