Monday, November 30, 2009
fake trees and net lights
it's christmas-time! it's christmas-time!
i recognize that geeking out over the holidays may potentially diminish my cool-factor, but i continue to do so annually... without - as yet - incurring any apparent ill effects.
after awakening from our collective post-thanksgiving somnolence, one of my family's favorite pastimes has got to be 'griswolding'. we cruise through the various local cookie-cutter neighborhoods in search of quality holiday lighting. much like any serious endeavor, it's kind of a zen art. any schmoe can pull their buick out of wal-mart with an 8-foot plastic tree and 12 giant-size inflatables and a skein of extension cords and strew them about their lawn (and/or roof).
the ever-present 'fake tree' phenomenon seriously chafes my mental thighs. 'i'm protecting the environment by using this plastic tree every year.' a.) how many fake-tree people SERIOUSLY use the same fake tree year after year? b.) how environmentally-conscious is it really to buy a ginormous monstrosity, crafted in laos and sold in a discount superstore, composed of plastic, wire, and fiber-optic cable, and destined to end up in a landfill? is it really more environmentally-conscious than chopping down a tree which has exhaled delicious oxygen for a decade, and which will seamlessly biodegrade, leaving space on the mountain for a new sapling? anyway, beyond that, i just don't want to be a person who communes with plastic trees (or plastic string, for that matter). that's in your living room though, and honestly, not even MY discerning holiday-eye is so well-trained as to be able to spot a fake tree from the street.
regardless, as far as christmas decorations go, i tend to be impressed not by quantity, but by quality. just like in yo-yoing... character is important.
our character is revealed (or if you prefer, made manifest) in every step we take. it's revealed in the way we sign our credit card receipts and in the choices we make at the store. it's in the art we create, in the yo-yo's we play, and in each string we twist (or in the ones we yank out and then casually discard). i get inordinately cheesed off by people who want to have xmas lights, but don't feel like it's worth 20 minutes of effort. to my mind, the most egregious crime against 'seasonal authenticity' is what i will term 'Effing Net Lighting'. i'm not sure if this phenomenon existied when i was growing up in the 80's; maybe i just didn't notice it... but sweet christ[mas], those bush/tree-lighting arrangements that have been conveniently pre-braided into pristine nets are just aesthetically awful.
like every facet of the convenience that our society has come to worship, net-lights have become ubiquitous. driving through the neighborhoods, we amble past houses where no light seems out of place. the bushes and shrubs are like perfect little luminous checkerboards... and yet... the rub is that there NEVER seems to be just the right amount of net to cover ALL of the shrubs. inevitably, there will be an area to the side or the top that falls suddenly black, bringing the laziness of the homeowners into glorious relief.
i'm not actually that bitter about it. stacy and i actually enjoy these drives, calling out 'NET-LIGHTS' when we see them poorly employed, and 'OOOOOOOH' when we see a house that was clearly well-decorated. she's way nicer about it than i am (although she DID some up with the idea of just buying a few links of net lights and, as a sort of statement, draping them miserably over a section of the lawn for the season - frickin' brilliant!). i don't mean to be draconian about seasonal lighting, but my dad taught me to really rejoice in the effort. it's NICE to spend an hour or two in the lawn, first untangling the gordian knot i inevitably left myself the previous year, and then enduring twigs to the eyes, ears, and throat as i battle the japanese maple in the attempt to encircle it. my house isn't winning any awards for Most Glorious, but at least i work for it. i'm not just casting a net out like a balinese fisherman, watching it drape haphazardly over the shrubbery, plugging it in and calling it a day.
to me, it's just like yo-yo, which is fundamentally an exercise in expressing sincerity. this project sets itself apart from the attitude of convenience, and taking the time to twist string these past few months has made it much more clear to me. i had spirit bomb pretty well dialed on my no jive a few months ago. for a year, going from that trick to shoot the moon was my barometer for whether my yo-yo's were set up right, and whether my skill-set was up to snuff. using this new-old stuff, which is thicker, stiffer, and less forgiving than any cotton i've played in the past (minus, perhaps, the stock tom kuhn strings, which feel like steel cable), i find spirit bomb pretty near impossible. i maybe hit it once every 4 tries now, and ONLY with a newly-twisted string. to be certain that my skill hadn't decayed, i dug out one of my old pre-twisted strings and had it first throw (and yes, i put said string back away immediately).
at that point, i remembered that using this string isn't about being better 'technically', so much as it is about improving 'emotionally', or maybe even 'spiritually'. it's about recognizing that while certain tricks may be out of range for me, others are delightfully obvious. for example, this string stalls better than anything i've played (EXAMPLE), and it's enabled me to come up with new and ridiculous stuff (like THIS - lol) that i've never really considered. it's truly Responsive, as in it links me fully with the yo-yo, and enables each of us to Respond to the other. and the stuff positively SINGS on wood. i've found myself playing my no jives so much lately that the smell of scorched maple feels as familiar as my mother's voice. and when i want to do something 'tricky', even things that were automatic on lighter string, like mach 5 or triangulation... i have to work for it. i have to earn it. and when i can fight through the initial angry reflex that treats that fact as an inconvenience, i recognize it for what it is: a pleasure. it's PLAY, dammit.
sometimes you have to put blinders on to see the big picture. sometimes you have to limit yourself to appreciate your own limitless nature. the limit may be a thick cotton string, or it maybe the inconvenience of slowly arranging your holiday lights. for the effort you put into either (or anything), you appreciate the fruits of your labor that much more. i don't want to be a douche about fake trees and net lights. i'm really no one to judge; i just know what i like and try to express what i feel. as my wife explained to our daughter during our most recent drive-by, "people don't really decorate their houses for others. they decorate for themselves. whether they work extra hard on it or not, they light their houses up, and it's beautiful and meaningful, and they like it."
people don't really yo-yo for other people. they yo-yo for themselves. whether they work extra hard on it or not, they play how they want to play, and it's beautiful and meaningful, and they like it.