Holding Forth

Published on December 16th, 2015 | by Richard Black


Lights Out, What’s Up with Light Displays?


The only reason I find this display fascinating is because it is obviously the product of an extremely disturbed mind.

I’ll just get it right out there and I should probably apologize in advance if I offend but I won’t. You shouldn’t click a link titled “The Unfit Father” and not expect to be offended at least a little.

I don’t get lights. Specifically Christmas lights.

I understand how they work. I flip a switch and they go on. I flip the switch again and they go off. I’m kidding of course. The mechanics of how lights functions are much more complicated than that.

Once tripped the switch actually kicks a tiny little light fairy out of his rocking chair prompting a constant stream of curses that goes through the wires to light up the bulb. Flipping the switch again knocks the fairy out thereby ending the cursing and the source of “electrons” or negative invectives required to power any electrical device. As a side note this is why banging on a broken television, laptop or phone and screaming the word “Fuck” over and over again makes the device work.

So yeah, I’m not an electrician, but I understand how lights work.

I even appreciate them from time to time, usually when it’s dark (rimshot. I’m here every night between nine and eleven ladies and gentlemen please tip your waitress.) After a bottle of cough syrup I even enjoy looking at lights when they’re on a tree or the outside of a home assuming of course that I haven’t had anything to do with putting them up.


This kid is going to have a pretty weird fetish when he grows up.

What I don’t understand is the fascination with public light displays. My daughter loves them which I can understand because she’s five. Five year olds have a brain only slightly less developed than a Labrador retriever and anything shiny and sparkly is bound to draw their attention.

My wife though is not five which saves us some awkwardness at social events but does nothing towards explaining her obsession with luminous objects this time of year. Laura loves driving through anything festooned with Christmas lights be it a public park, a neighborhood or a car wash. If Auschwitz were decorated with tiny little lights and had a drive through option Laura would probably be the first in line. “It’s such a tragedy what these people had to go through,” I can hear her say, “but the garland around the guard towers really is quite lovely.”

If Laura had recently suffered from a stroke I could understand her fascination. Unfortunately, at least for my purposes here, my wife is in full control of her physical and mental faculties. To make matters worse she isn’t a pill popper, an acid freak or a hard core stoner. While detrimental to many other aspects of her life an affection for illicit pharmaceuticals would go a long way to explaining her compulsion to sit in a controlled traffic jam for twenty bucks just to stare at a bunch of blinking lights.


“Back when I was a boy the family, all nineteen of us, would hop in my daddy’s microbus and drive for three hours just to see farmer Wilson’s three foot snowman.”

The incandescent light was quite a hit back in the day when it was introduced as it should have been. The light bulb was far superior to other forms of illumination. It was brighter, more consistently illuminative, safer and less labor intensive than tending to lamps, candles or rushes. People were suddenly able to see with alarming clarity what, and even who, they were doing. As an aside the widespread acceptance of the incandescent light also prompted the phrase “let’s do it with the lights on” instead of the much more unwieldy “let’s do it with the fourteen candelabras lit”.

That was over a hundred years ago and apparently the honeymoon for some still isn’t over. Are we that starved for entertainment? Are these people trying to recall a simpler time when Rutherford B. Hayes was in office? Are there really that many people taking industrial strength hallucinogens in this day and age?

I couldn’t say. These are rhetorical questions and I’m afraid our time together has come to an end. My wife wants to take the family for a walk to see the decorations around the neighborhood and I need about fifteen minutes to ransack our medicine cabinet in search of something to make the experience slightly tolerable.

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