Click here to start at the beginning of our saga. Otherwise, let’s jump into the fray…
So I raced home in my car, loaded down with the slightly illicit stash of goods from Lou’s Emporium of Budget Miniature Housing and Questionable Moral Values, in an overly giddy mood about the prospects of what I might do with my new porcelain offspring. Granted, the situation was nothing like traditional childbirth, since no one had actually shot anything out of their highly-stressed womb. But I was still a rather proud Papa, ready to mold the fruits of my financial loins into something I wanted them to be instead of what the fruits actually desired out of life. This is just how the world works, and it’s the basis for why family counseling had to be invented.
Even though I really wasn’t that far from Command Central in my domicile, if you base it on the quaint notion of “how the crow flies”, I had miles to go before I had any chance of sleep. I was boldly attempting to work my way from a smaller burgh on the outskirts of Dallas into the City Proper itself. There’s an intrinsic barrier between “fancy urban area with over-priced sushi” and “small town where we still shuck our own corn and no one marries outside their assigned religion”.
Suffice it to say that I was dealing with a traffic mash-up of laid-back country folk who thought it was just fine to drive a combine down Main Street and over-caffeinated city folk who are still mystified by their ownership of a Hummer not giving them carte blanche on the roadways of America. Stir in the additional ingredient that many native Texans (I’ll let you guess the political-party affiliation) are convinced that they are always right, getting from Point A to Point B can take a soul-killing amount of time. As such was the case, I had a few minutes to reflect on the current state of my Village Addiction.
As I have mentioned before in this current cycle of stories concerning me and my fondness for toys that light up, the fourth official season of the Christmas Village was the one wherein I lost all reason and objectivity. It was a spiral of shame that has repercussions to this day. Of course, no one else really cares about my overly-dramatic interpretation of life events, but since I am Exhibit A in the textbook on Anal-Retentiveness, it is my destiny in life to reflect upon minor things that most folk would deal with by simply belching and then moving on to more important things.
First, there was my infidelity. Yes, I had cheated on my beloved St. Nicholas Square collection from Kohl’s in previous years, stepping out a few times on the down-low with some Department 56 tramps. It was sordid and distasteful, but at least it had only been brief flings with single houses at a time. Until recent developments, it had still been possible for me to atone for my indiscretions by appearing on “The Tonight Show” in a Hugh Grant-esque manner, exuding an air of remorseful but charming regret. And I could certainly still run for political office, because history has shown that many voters have limited memories when it comes time to mark a ballot.
Now, however, things had changed, with my discovery of Lou’s Hallmark of Seduction and Lust. I had just purchased an entire harem of Department 56 sluts, and I was in the process of dragging these trollops back to the house and parading them around in front of my betrothed, the St. Nicholas Square buildings, lovely porcelain beings who had done nothing but faithfully serve me over the years with their cuteness and electrical joy.
There was bound to be talk in the Village neighborhood, with the established residents quite perturbed and outraged, huddling in groups to gossip about the audaciousness of these new houses, with their flashy detailing and obviously snooty, moneyed background. A class war could easily erupt, with citizens spilling into the plastic streets, waving tiny, hand-painted signs to express their dissatisfaction.
I had to proceed carefully. Yes, I had sinned and strayed, but the deed was done and we all just had to get along. I would have to go before the city planning commission to ensure that all needs were met. I really did not relish the possibility of having to declare martial law and lock down the city after curfew. That would be a sordid and tacky move, and there really wasn’t enough money left in the municipal budget to support such a militaristic endeavor.
So once I arrived home, I immediately went on a Public Relations offensive, taking careful steps to show that I was not playing favorites. All my children were equal. I marched into the Village Staging Area in the front room, where no urban development had yet taken place that year. We were still in the pre-deployment stage, with stacks of boxed houses all over the room. No furniture had yet been transformed into real estate, and the cats at Bonnywood Manor were still allowed to sniff the boxes freely, pending Banishment Day when they would no longer have access privileges.
As I entered the soon-to-be-transformed room, carefully transporting three of the new housing boxes, there was a collective gasp from the tenured stacks of housing. (“What is he doing? Why is he bringing those fancy things up in here? This is the hood. We’re Ghetto Village People housing from Kohl’s. We can’t compete with fine china from the Land of Hallmarkia!”)
I ignored the cries of outrage and placed the boxes in one of the few clear spaces left on the floor, then proceeded to gather the other boxes from the car until all seven newbies were stacked in a little pile. The tension in the air was thick, and I had to make a move to prove gentle but firm dominance.
I took one of the white bedsheets I use as “fake snow” and covered the new arrivals, instantly dimming any haughty shimmer they might have, in a move meant to convey that I didn’t care for these new intruders any more than I did for my loving older offspring. All citizens were equal in this democratic country that I completely controlled.
At first, this seemed to placate the unruly crowd.
Then there was a very tiny voice from under the white sheet.
“Oh, no he didn’t! You don‘t cover ME in a low thread-count sheet. I went to a private school in Switzerland and my retail price is at the high-end of the market.”
Uh oh. See, you bring in these pampered kids that have lived a life of luxury in fancy stores with startling prices, and they just don’t know how to act in the real world, especially when that real world involves bargain miniature housing from discount stores. Was there going to be a riot after all? I didn’t know if I had the strength to deal with this insurrection, especially since I hadn’t taken my multi-vitamin that morning.
Gratefully, there was an equally tiny smack as some level-headed occupant of the fancy houses under the sheet bitch-slapped the spoiled Muffy and shut her up. This slapper was a wise person. You might be made of the finest porcelain in the world, but the seven of you (okay, nine of you, if you count my two former indiscretions) don’t stand a chance against an angry mob of at least 70 houses built of cheaper but very bitter porcelain.
No further words came from the shrouded seven boxes.
And eventually, the rest of the room settled down. (Except for the cats. Cats never settle down, they are always anxious, staring into corners of rooms with sudden attention, as if they have just spotted the Meat-Hook Killer and we are all about to die, even though nobody else on the planet can see what they think they are seeing. But the cats are not integral to the plot, so who cares about their unresolved issues.)
We were okay for now. No impending genocide.
But did I learn anything from this incident, wherein I almost instigated a civil war with my wanton purchases? Of course not. I was on a bender that year. Some kind of fire had been lit, and I was running with it. I had an insatiable need for more housing. And sadly, there were a number of convenient outlets more than happy to satisfy my wicked, carnal desires.
The next fail point was when I discovered that the Michael’s chain, that distributor of mystifying crafting products, with things like fake flowers and Styrofoam balls and mammoth yards of felt, also carried a line of Christmas housing. Normally, this is not a destination I would choose, as I’m not a crafty person. I get in enough trouble messing around with mere words, so I certainly shouldn’t be allowed access to glue guns and paint thinner.
But there was a sale ad in the Sunday paper that caught my eye. I was transfixed by a big ole display of little Christmas houses, looking cute as hell in that manipulated way that all sale circulars have, where something looks magnificent until you actually cast your eyes upon said objects in the store. I should have blown it off right then. This was a craft store. How could this possibly satisfy me?
But I didn’t blow it off. I headed to the nearest Michael’s. Low and behold, they had a huge selection of housing shooting out their ass. All kinds of interesting stuff. Now, this product line is not always top quality, by any means. (For those of you in the know about such things, the Michael’s line is manufactured by Lemax. Lemax is hit and miss. One house can be completely stunning, the next house is total crap. Whoever is in charge of production is clearly unfocused, not that there’s anything wrong with that, but maybe that person shouldn’t be making developmental decisions.)
And, it must be noted, the Lemax line is on a smaller scale than St. Nicholas Square or Department 56. The buildings are therefore out of proportion. You have to be very careful when mixing this line with the other two, or things just end up looking stupid and your village will not win any imaginary awards no matter how hard you try or dream about the accolades at nignt.
This little proportion glitch didn’t stop me, of course. Who cares about minor things like that when you’re gay? We have genes that no other marketing segment has been blessed with, an innate ability to glance at something and immediately know where the jazz hands should be applied. We can take crap and turn it into fine art within seconds. It’s just what we do.
I believe I only purchased five houses whilst breaking my virginity with Michael’s. Granted, I was cheating on St. Nicholas Square once again, but really, that barn door was already open. I had to let go of the guilt, and be free. It took about three seconds for me to do this.
A few days later, Terry and I are in Lowe’s, that bastion of home-improvement and do-it-yourself mania. I don’t know what we were looking for. In fact, I don’t know why we were even there together. We never agree on anything when we’re in that store. He wants track lighting, I want sconces. He wants a hot tub, I just want to make sure the hot-water heater is working properly. You know how it goes.
Anyway, I grew bored with whatever item we might be arguing about, and I wandered out to their Christmas area. I’m used to this being a place of Christmas trees, decorations cobbled together by underpaid workers, and power cords. Then I turn a corner and I’m stunned.
Lowe’s now had a Christmas Village line, shoved in between a display of garden hoses and a selection of wood chippers for those days when you really just need to grind something or divorce papers will be filed.
This new offering was called Carole Towne. I guess the extra “E” on “Town” was meant to convey classiness, don’t really know, especially since we were in the midst of fertilizer bags and chemicals that you could inject into your toilet to make the plumbing stop being anti-social. I do know that this new line had some things I desperately wanted, clever little houses that were just too damn cute to ignore. Somebody was feeding me an enchanting supply of smack, once again. And junkie that I am, I raced forward with my hand in the air, snatching things up and hurling them into the groaning shopping cart.
And we left that establishment with yet another stack of village housing.
So we get all this crap home, and now there are piles of boxes all over the front room, otherwise known as the The Room Where I Slowly Lost My Mind. Terry, trying to inject some sanity into my madness, calmly asks: “How are you going to make this happen? There’s only so much space in here.”
I just look at him. How can he doubt me? This is the one thing I can do with any hope of success, despite a college education, and I do it with astonishing skill and prowess. Don’t mess with me. I calmly advise him that he should go entertain himself with some activity that does not involve this room, and he shouldn’t expect to see my face again for another week. (He departs, whipping out his cellphone and calling his sister. “It’s happening again. What was the number for that intervention hotline?”)
I slam the door and get to work.
Click here to read the next entry in this series…
Originally published in “The Sound and the Fury” on 01/03/10 and “Bonnywood Manor” on 12/30/15. Some changes made, as I find this to be the weakest link in the chain, and I’m still not satisfied. But despite the bumpiness, it moves us forward to the final two installments…