Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Dyker Heights: Land of Lights and Also Horror.

Dyker Heights is an often pretty, sometimes hideous, largely Italian-American neighborhood in South Brooklyn. Its homes range from rambling, elegant Tudors to Scarface-inspired nouveau-riche Italianate monstrosities bedecked with stone lions. Seriously: there are more stone lions per capita in Dyker Heights than anywhere else in, well, I'm going to go out on a limb and say pretty much the entire universe.

Here in New York City, where detached single-family homes inspire awe in and of themselves, Dyker Heights has the added distinction of also being the most over-decorated neighborhood in the five boroughs. Its Christmas lights display is notoriously blazing and over-the-top, and I've wanted to go for pretty much the entire eight-plus years I've lived here. Finally, last night, I dragged my long-suffering husband down to Bay Ridge from whence we walked up to Light-Central: 83rd Street between 10th and 11th Avenues. This is what we saw:


Jesus! And more lights!

Slightly creepy dancing dolls!

Trees bedecked with still more lights!

You know what's on this house? LIGHTS!

Ahhh... an understated, light-free house. Unless you count Jesus, light of the world as a light.

And then we found this:

Apparently these are called "Snow Babies" and they are tres Victorian. These particular sad death-dolls did indeed look at least 150 years old.

Passersby described this poor bear as variously "mangy" and "leprous." To that I am sure they all meant to add "frightening."

Though not quite as frightening as the Santa of Death. Incidentally, all these "Snow Babies" were moving. Slowly. And menacingly. As though they were after your soul. Which would make sense, since obviously their souls have long since been stolen and they are doomed to wander the earth forever...

A grand time indeed! Incidentally, did you ever stop to wonder what the deal was with all these crazy lights? Is it just a case of rich-person one-upmanship? Or are these people truly insane, like some sort of crazed, exhibitionistis anti-hoarders? Well, turns out there was a documentary made about these folks once upon a time; if you can get your hands on it, let me know. I'd like to see it. (The cast of characters includes a woman named Lucy Spatza, a.k.a The Plastic Queen. I am intrigued.)

Others posit a genuine cultural phenomenon at work here. In Italian Folk: Vernacular Culture in Italian-American Lives, author Joseph Sciorra posits the decorations may harken back to the agricultural rhythms of life in the old country as they serve to demarcate the seasons. Combined with an "enthusiastic embrace of American consumer culture" abundant Christmas decoration has become an "ethnically identifying practice and proclamation among New York's Italian-Americans."

Hence: giant animatronic Santa head! In the true spirit of Christmas, the uber-decorators are happy to share their lights with you and don't even mind if you traipse all over their lawns snapping photos. Which is very merry of them indeed.

1 comment:

  1. I am extremely offended by this blog it should be deleted and I am going to report this how dare you say these harsh remarks about Christmas decorations ! Have you no soul mr.grinch