Thursday, December 7, 2006

Naughty or nice? The holiday displays that put the bah in our humbug

Published in the Portland Phoenix

Portland-area residents do pretty well when it comes to horrendous light displays. By well, I mean absolutely, over the top, slap-a-ribbon-on-me tacky. I’m not talking about the traditional candles-in-the-windows or the subdued wreath-on-the-door. What I want are the light displays visible as you approach from miles down the street, or coming in from I-295. Or even, as Danny DeVito’s character suggests in the light-display extravaganza Deck the Halls, “from space.” We at the Phoenix found these all on our own, without relying on the movie’s Web site, which at press time lists just two “decked” homes in Maine. Clearly the Deck site is asleep at the sleigh, so herewith, our best of the worst:

Decked out
836 Broadway, South Portland
The top location this year, and with a strong prospect for next year’s showcase, is this home clearly labeled “North Pole” (equipped with a leaning, and apparently wayward, penguin), a Rudolph whose nether end is unlit (no guiding light there), an inflated tree around the site, and, to top it all off, Christmas music playing to passers-by. Don’t miss the Nativity scene, because Christmas is really all about the humble Baby Jesus. He would have loved this setup.

On the market
37 Fall Brook St, Portland
For sale: two-unit multi-family house on half an acre, apparently home to Santa and Mrs. Claus, Frosty the Snowman and a friend, and flashing snowflakes. Asking price $225,000, Santa not included.

Santa on a Harley
7 Woodmere Rd, Portland
A simple selection, unadorned with any other accoutrements, a shades-wearing Santa rides a flaming Harley through the suburbs off Allen Avenue. (No, the headlight isn’t red, and there aren’t any gifts in tow. This is Santa’s ride on a hall pass from the missus.)

Evil tree
460 Ocean Ave, Portland
The red candy canes illuminating this tree at Payson Park make me hungry. I also skipped breakfast this morning, so maybe that has something to do with it.

Frozen fish
230 Commercial St, Portland
Sapporo’s display actually looks better on paper than in real life. Perhaps it’s the reflection of the lights in the window distracting from the web of electrical cords exposed to the elements.

Kiss this
37 Casco St, Portland
Atop the entrance to “The Ambassador” apartment building is a festive green pyramid, but don’t stand under the mistletoe on the awning over the door — the passed-out guy on the top step might wake at any moment looking for love.

Zombie dolls
73 North St, Portland
These cheerful fellows make the most of a tiny Munjoy Hill front yard, but unlike the other displays, you have to catch them during the day — at night, they’re turned off and shrivel to tiny pieces of fabric on the ground, only to rise again the following morning.

Balls to the wall
231 Commercial St, Portland
Ah yes, those glowing balls of holiday cheer I love to hate. Get your ball fix throughout the downtown, but nowhere more abstractly than above Decorum.

Stocking stuffers:

Pole dancing
24 St Lawrence St, Portland
Not much special here, except the effort required to lift a five-pointed, two-dozen-lighted star some distance in the air on the back porch of this Munjoy Hill home. Which is enough.

Armed bear
29 Jordan Ave, SouthPortland
A polar bear carrying two sticks of uncertain origin does an approximation of the robot on the side of this lit lawn.

Three Santas
39 Mona Rd, Portland
A bicycle with “spinning” wheels is the first eye-catcher on this lawn, which also features a waving Santa, two other Santas, motorized dolls in the window, Minnie Mouse and Mickey Mouse dressed up for Mickey’s Christmas Carol, and a penguin blocking the front door.

Festooned follies
267 Brackett St, Portland
While perhaps more sweet than tacky, the moving elves in the front window of this West End townhouse are just plain creepy. And the lights around the door are a bit much.

Nonsectarian snowflakes
558 Main St, SouthPortland
Businesses are not exempt from holiday cheer. This chiropractic office has chosen the inoffensive snowflake as its expression of winter wonders.

963 Washington Ave, Portland
Meloon’s Florists takes a very specific approach, with lifelike statues in a timeless moment from “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Is this the part where Santa redeems Rudolph from the status of outcast? Or is it the little-known section where Santa laughs at the illuminated proboscis, just like all the other reindeer? We’ll never tell.

Snow cones?
end of Mona Rd, Portland
It’s unclear what exactly Tigger and Pooh are thinking mounting poor Frosty and the jar of “hunny,” but I’m pretty sure they need some adult supervision.

Choo-choo chintz
921 Highland Ave, SouthPortland
Even the mailbox is decorated at this house, which also includes a decorated garage and a train puffing “smoke” in lights.