Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Sacred and the Profane

Actually, I don’t think there is anything inherently profane about an inflatable Santa Claus riding a motorbike tethered outside a house as a Christmas decoration. (Anyone who has a problem with the word “Christmas” would do well to read John Bailey’s commentary.) No, the problem with these popular Christmas artifacts is that they appear to deflate rather easily. Every morning they lie limply on the grass: it must take a large bicycle pump to get Santa back in the saddle. And who would find fault with Frosty on the left here? Except of course for the homeowner wielding the bicycle pump. As you can see, I drove around for a while last night on my way home from babysitting, trying to capture the essence of Grosse Pointe exterior decor. And my question is: what in the name of Sam Hill is Homer Simpson doing making spirits bright on Lakepointe? When did he become an icon for the holiday season?

I have photographs of inflatable Santas on sleighs, inflatable bears and a moose leaping out of a box, but I wanted to move on to Lakeshore Drive, where (with one notable exception) they have extremely tasteful and expensive displays. Around the end of November armies of workers festoon the estates by the lake with thousands of lights. It is a joy to drive by and see how the other half live. TV cartoon characters are not lurking near this crèche, although I will admit there are some displays of French milkmaid figures and reindeer on other lawns of this estate. The red lights are a beacon for cars driving along Lake St. Clair.

I wanted a photo of my nomination for the minimalist display of the year. The house is in darkness except for one enormous illuminated tree which stands in solitary splendor on the vast expanse of yard. However, this being Grosse Pointe and all (and thanks, Nancy, for posting this on Grosse Pointe Today) there was nowhere to park and the surrounding streets had dead end signs. Parking seemed out of the question, so I aimed my camera out of the window and hoped nobody had alerted the police as I circled round looking for a vantage spot.

There will be some pretty enormous electricity bills come January, but thanks to everyone for the festive displays. I may even get to like Santa on the motorbike.

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