Click here to read this story from the beginning, if needed. For those of you who have been breathlessly awaiting the visuals, this is the first of two posts filled with such…
Okay, folks, we’re taking a break from my rambling narrative and spending a bit of time analyzing actual snapshots of The Christmas Village. All shots were taken by my esteemed photographer sister Dawn, after she wandered into the room to find me weeping despondently over the fact that I couldn’t get a decent “night-time” shot of any part of the village.
Sensing my emotional needs, she quickly whipped out her ultra-deluxe camera (I believe she had to go through certification training before she was allowed to carry it around) and saved the day. Be sure to click on each snap to see the larger, and possibly more frightening, image.
And here we go…
This is the view from the middle of the room, facing east. Directly in front of you is the “Downtown” area, which was recently moved back to the actual middle of town after a few years in the suburbs. The citizenry never really appreciated the downtown being in a dumbass place, so I had to move it back.
That brightly glowing thing, just about dead center in this picture and sitting on one of the bookshelves, is actually a model of Graceland, as in the place where Elvis ate peanut butter and banana sandwiches. I’ve never actually been there, but the advertising on the box swears that it’s an exact replica. You can set this thing to play Elvis Christmas songs.
And the thing has its own remote control.
Seriously, I can stand in this position, pick up the remote which lives on the roof of the St. Nicholas Square bank building located in the extreme lower left of the dining table, and can then manipulate the lights, adjust the volume of Elvis (or just turn him off, because Dude, I understand that you‘ll have a Blue Christmas without me, but enough already), or change the song selection. This gives me a sense of power that I am clearly lacking in my life.
On the left wall we have one of the residential sections, a fancy part of town filled with stately homes owned by people who inherit rather than work for a living. On the right wall we start out at the bottom with businesses around a lake, but as you climb the “mountain” (just like the von Trapp family!) it turns into a ski resort where people with disposable income do lots of things except actually ski.
If you look at the bedsheets hanging down the mountain, you might notice what looks like a bit of “red eye” toward the floor. This is the tail end of a power strip. You don’t ever want to get nosey and peek in there at how many electrical cords terminate right at that point. It will scare the hell out of you, and you might possibly run screaming from the house, never looking back or visiting again during the holiday season.
Shifting to the right from the previous picture, we get this angle on the village. It’s essentially the same scene, but from this perspective it gives you a better idea of just how many houses are involved in this thing. (It also allows the scene to be reflected in the front windows, giving you the illusion that things are much bigger than they really are, a natural tendency exhibited by the male species.)
This is another example of how anal I get with the village. I meticulously consider how things might look from different points in the room. I don’t know if anyone has ever noticed the detail of the planning, but I live for it. During the construction phase, it’s not unusual for me to sit up in the middle of the night and scream “Oh my God, the second bakery has to be turned 90 degrees!” And then I’m reaching for my jammie pants and running down the hall.
This is a better angle on the main residential section. Much of the housing consists of Victorian era models, but we have lots of haphazardry thrown in here. (I tend to forget about things like thematic consistency during my frenzied buying sprees. I go to a dark, greedy place really fast.) Still, architectural style is not all that important as long as you move the buildings around a hundred times until that one moment when it just clicks. It’s all about the presentation rather than the substance. (Isn’t that how most politicians get elected?)
Side note: it wasn’t until I reviewed this picture just now that I noticed one of the village packing boxes is sitting on top of the giant apothecary cabinet on the far left. (This particular item is a lighthouse, and it would have looked nice and dramatic up there if I had managed to take it out of the box and turn it on.) This is incredibly tacky on my part, and I will most likely not be getting my Village Merit Badge this year.
Here we have the view looking out from Graceland, so this is what Elvis gets to see when he isn’t singing or eating or asking Lisa Marie what she was thinking with the Michael Jackson thing. This is the true town square. To qualify as a candidate for placement in this prime area, a building has to meet rigid code enforcement specifications and exhibit the proper ambiance.
I did make an exception to the rules this year by placing the odd, wedge-shaped building in the mid lower-left, even though the style is totally wrong and out of place. The wedge is a Chevrolet dealership, and the car on display inside actually rotates while tiny people gaze at this wondrous sight. That amazing mechanical ability allowed the building to make the cut, whilst other promising candidates were tossed to the suburbs, shamed and shunned until next year’s competition. Sadly, the building is facing the other way and the wonder is lost from this angle, so it all may have been much ado about nothing.
In the middle forefront, we have Union station, which is actually one of three train stations that currently serve this village. (These people like to travel, probably wanting to go someplace where all the damn houses don’t light up at night.) Just to the left, that little green thing is an entrance to the subway.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the Village got an underground mass transit system installed this year. It’s a very exciting time. Granted, there are only two stops (the other one is in a western suburb that we’ll visit shortly), but still, these people are really living the high life now, and before you know it George Clooney will have a vacation home here.
This is the far northeastern part of town. I really like the bit on the lower right. Several years ago, the Lemax village line started putting out these “flat” houses, only one or two a year, which you can actually hang on a wall. (They run on batteries, so no irritating, dangling cords.) But I decided it might be fun to cram them into this otherwise somewhat useless small space that developed during foundation-laying this year. (Form follows function, yes?)
Speaking of foundations, I’m sure you can see that we have some stabilization issues happening along the top row of houses, with buildings tilting this way and that. I can assure you that my Engineering team is not to blame for this situation. Everything is carefully leveled before the buildings are placed or the team does not get a Christmas turkey and they are avoided socially.
Therefore, my explanation is going to be that somehow Scotch the cat slipped into this room unnoticed at some point (probably when one of my relatives left the damn door open when they wandered out, because the cat is not allowed in here during village season). Scotch then spent several exhilarating moments swinging from the power cords that drop down behind this display. (When I take things down this year, I will probably also discover several tiny people who plummeted to their deaths as well.)
And here we have the hedonistic part of town. It’s a little hard to discern what’s going on, so let me spell it out for you: On the back row we have three breweries and a wine-tasting facility. Next row down, two pubs and a tavern. Bottom level, there are tons of restaurants, and I have personally given each of them a liquor license.
Clearly, this is where my people go to drink. You know it’s going to happen, so you might as well group these establishments all together so you can keep an eye on things. There’s also yet another train station on the far lower left, in case you need to get out of town in a hurry after the alcohol caused you to do something you shouldn’t have done and now unhappy people are seeking vengeance.
To maintain law and order, or at least keep the paperwork moving after you are arrested, there is a courthouse on the right side of the second level. I look out for my people, I really do. I am a good king, and there should be no need for uprisings and beheadings.
This is the “rustic” part of town, which translates into farmhouses, country stores, and an overwhelming number of barns. (In the far upper right of the shot, even though you can’t see it, lies the trashy mobile home that was one of my initial indiscretions with Department 56. It appears that this pic was taken just as the gaudy blinking lights on the trailer were on the down-low.)
Which brings up a good point worth mentioning. At least a third of these structures are designed to blink their lights merrily whilst activated. Sadly, there’s no way to coordinate all of these so that each house blinks at exactly the same time. Therefore, any snapshots taken are subject to “brownouts” wherein it appears that we have power supply issues. This is not the case. The city budget is adequately funded for all utilities. Don’t believe any rumors and lies that you might hear from my opposing candidate during the mayoral elections.
And this bit you can’t see at all either, but in the upper left of this conglomeration, there is actually a replica of The Alamo that Terry found in, of all places, Wal-Mart. (Who knew?) This building is also the victim of coordinating the picture-taking with the blinking. Then again, there was no such thing as electricity during the Texas war of independence, so let’s just call it historic realism.
And finally, we have this section of town, which has been dubbed the “A Christmas Story” subdivision. This was an easy name to come up with, mainly because many of the structures, including most of the upper row, are products from the Department 56 “specialty” brand that is only sold at Sear’s, and is based on the movie “A Christmas Story”. The one where the geeky blonde kid really wants that air rifle and people run around ardently tonguing strange frozen poles.
(If you zoom in really closely, on the third house from the right on the upper row, you can actually see a small model of Ralphie’s father opening that crate that had the leg lamp in it. I take pride in these details, even if no one else on the planet does so. When I’m sitting in my rocker on the front porch of the Happy Valley Home for the Incredibly Aged, I will be able to smile feebly at the memory of a job well done)
Moving to the front row, we have some reminders of my villaging sins. Second from the right is the Krispy Kreme shop, the first item I purchased that was not St. Nicholas Square, and thereby a symbol of me whoring myself for my art. Moving further to the right, dead center on the front row, we have the infamous McDonald’s (see the golden arches on both sides?) that was the catalyst for me developing a sordid relationship with the gossipy, fake-blonde hypocrite in Duncanville known as Lou.
Yes, every single building has a story to go with it. This go around, I tried to keep it positive and life-affirming.
Next time? We dig deeper into the underbelly of this Peyton Place, and I tell amazing stories of sin and degradation.
I’m sure you can hardly wait…
Click here to read the final entry in this series…
Originally published in “The Sound and the Fury” on 01/05/10 and “Bonnywood Manor” on 01/04/16. Minor changes made, mostly to smooth out a few rough transitions and do a bit of grammar-housekeeping. Extremely random trivia: Those of you who actually clicked to enlarge the images may have noticed that the titles on the photos indicate that they belong to Part 7, even though this is Part 6. This series initially had eight episodes, but the original Part 6 was cut out of the syndication deal, so Parts 7 and 8 became Parts 6 and 7. Such are the cryptic ways of editing at Bonnywood Manor…