Wednesday, December 27, 2017

christmas magic enchanted land

For the first time in a long time, social media was correct in an advertisement it attacked me with. Most of the time, I get ads for subscription boxes and skincare treatments. Both of which I am not interested in, she screams into her computer screen. But this time, I was intrigued. The advertisement was for an event happening near where I live and from the pictures, seemed like the perfect combination of things; Christmas lights, ice skating in Texas, art installations, a maze, shopping, and booze. 

So, I bought tickets to Enchant.

I am finding it difficult to describe the experience. They a parking lot and with the wizardry of industrial design built a temporary miniature city of fake grass, compact gravel, false buildings, and LOTS of lights. This arrangement was striking and felt as if I was stepping into a small Christmas theme park without the rides.

Now, Texas is known for it's Christmas light mazes. For those of you who don't know, that is when you hop into your car and drive to some random location where there is a long stream of giant Christmas light displays. You sit in your car and drive through in a long line of these scaffolded displays, sandwiched between other cars, while you look at these structures in the same way you wait in the drive through at Taco Bell. 

Enchant took this idea and made into something more pedestrian. Literally. Not figuratively which would have the opposite meaning. You were forced to use your legs (gasp) walk through the whole thing (double gasp). Okay, maybe not the whole thing, but it was mean to be an immersive experience. Honestly, it was breathtaking.

The truth is that I was so captured by the artistry of it all that I failed to document the rest of the place with any kind of journalism. There was a whole section of Enchant that looked like a German city with shops -- and eaves -- and windows -- and more. Everything was themed to the point that there were beautiful archways spanning the walkways. 

No picture taken.

There were also a few eating areas and tents erected to eat. This is where I had MANY helpings of probably the most delicious mac and cheese of my life. Which is saying a lot because mac and cheese is one of my guilty pleasures. These eating areas made me feel like I was crashing a wedding reception and everyone was happy I was there. These spaced were filled with this underlining lazy energy of community cheer.

One picture taken.

Then the only picture I got of the ice skating rink, failed to capture the beauty of it -- or the size -- or the bridge that completely went over the thing -- or the beautiful poinsettia garden around it -- or any other detail to display it's impact.

I stood on the bridge for a long time. Sipping on a hot chocolate I procured. Watching the people skate below me. There were many people skating and yet, it didn't feel like those cramped iceskating rinks you find at a enterprising mall. This rink was filled with the same feeling of ease and camaraderie that I experienced when enjoying the mac and cheese. There were complete adult strangers laughing with each and playing games as if they were children again.

I know now and knew then that these moments were something special. It's not necessarily Enchant itself, but the spirit of it. It was the energy and the people. 

I know now and knew then that they probably would do try to do Enchant again, but it wouldn't be the same. People would go. Yet, the magic wouldn't be there. That's what it felt like, it felt like magic. I refuse to say it was enchanting because that would make me a punny asshole. But damn it, I had a good time. 

Also, I really did like the lights.

Monday, December 18, 2017

the devil in the white city

One night (during a particularly long Netflix binge) I decided to watch H.H. Holmes: America's First Serial Killer. This is a documentary about Herman Webster Mudgett who went on a secretive killing spree under his alias, Dr. Henry Howard Holmes. The entire time I watched this documentary, I was riveted. I had never heard of Holmes before. Which was travesty since I was grew in the Chicagoland area and posited myself as an authority on local bizarre histories.

So when I happened onto the book The Devil in the White City, I picked it up right away. And boy am I glad I did!

Photo Courtesy:
The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson is really two narratives happening at the same time. Written in a style that feels authentic for the timeline. At moments his embellishments can feel contrived and stretched. However, much of what he has written was extracted, not just from news reports but from diaries and journals.

One narrative follows the inner workings and details that surrounding the 1893 World's Fair (The White City). The other follows the killings that were happening simultaneously less than five miles away in H.H. Holmes's "Murder Castle".

This book is somewhere in-between nonfiction and great story telling. A weaving of joyous haunting that seems to encapsulate all the "shock and awe"of the time. But, I think that this is both a blessing and a curse. A reader who likes their history "cut and dry" might not like the peppering of fiction. Whereas. the reader that isn't into history might feel a put off by all the insertions and fun-facts. 

For me, this is what made the book. The mashing of characters (Buffalo Bill, Archduke Francis Ferdinand, Thomas Edison and others) and flavors of the past (the Gilded age's steel and steam with a touch of electricity).  I LOVED it! 

If I had to (and I do for the purposes of writing this blog), I would pick one excerpt from the book that somehow encapsulates it was written. It shows the underlining juxtaposition that Larson was seemingly going for when writing his two narratives. It connects the White City on the edge of Lake Michigan and the ambiance of thematic death.
“Beneath the stars the lake lay dark and sombre," Stead wrote, "but on its shores gleamed and glowed in golden radiance the ivory city, beautiful as a poet's dream, silent as a city of the dead.”  
― Erik Larson, The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America
If you liked that quote, then I do believe you'll like the book. 

Monday, December 4, 2017

the red door

I have a lot of fascinations. I wouldn't call them obsessions because I don't think about these things every hour on the hour. There are just some things that hold my attention longer than others. One of these things is pretty much any red door.

I remember being very young, traveling with my parents to Milwaukee. We stopped to pick up some things and as we parked I noticed a brick building across the street with a red door. On that rainy day, that door seemed so vibrant and inviting. Weirdly,  it also had a bit of hauntedness that I couldn't place. At that moment, I thought to myself, "One day I will have a red door and another little girl will see it in the same way". Because well, I've always been precocious.

Photo Courtesy: quicksandala

Since then, I have learned that red doors actually have a lot of history.

  • For the Chinese, a red door is linked to auspicious energy and often used for shrines. Ancient Chinese law stipulated that high ranking government officials had to have a red door. This connected the practice with success and prosperity.
  • The Scottish also connect a red door with success and prosperity, as it is a tradition to paint your door red when your mortgage is paid off.
  • In early American tradition, having a red door meant that you would welcome road weathered travelers into your home. It meant that your home was safe and welcoming. Just as the symbolism was again used to represent safe houses for the underground railroad and refugees.
  • Many traditions believe that a red doors ward off evil spirits.
  • Red is also often used (sometimes in combination with white or gold) for church doors to signify spirituality and the blood of Christ.
  • Traditionally, red is the cheapest paint color to produce. So, it was often a good color to use for a splash of color to an otherwise muted color scheme. This was the reason behind so many red barns.
Anyways, one day...