Lucy Van Pelt tells us Christmas is a conspiracy, run by an east coast syndicate. If you don't know who Lucy Van Pelt is, well, there's no hope for you and don't look here for a link. You have Google and you know how to use it.
The older I get, the more I realize Lucy is right. In the two hours I have been up this morning I have been told it's time to become a "merry Maxxonista" buy a Lexus, shop smarter at Marshall's, eat Little Debbie's, spend Christmas day at at least seven different movies, all of which are the film of the season and Golden Globe nominees (and we all know Golden Globe nominees are great films) and visit the Christmas Light Festival in the parking lot of the Zoo.
The Festival of Lights, actually, is pretty much the cause of my angst. Every year we plow through the Festival of Lights. It's a display that meanders through Griffith Park, starting at Los Feliz and finally culminating on the Zoo side of the park as we slowly edge our way through an archway formed by an elf peeing Christmas lights over the road and onto a fire truck and then into the grand tunnel of white lights to the strains of Neal Diamond singing "O, Holy Night." We're then treated to one last Christmas light tableau of the Statue of Liberty along with the triumphant chords of "God Bless America" added, yep, you guessed it, in 2001. What do you mean that has nothing to do with the holidays? Are you part of a sleeper cell or something? What's wrong with you, don't you love your country?
IF you do go, make sure you go on the week-end. Yes, it's very crowded on the week-end, which is why you need to allow at least two hours. But, and this is a great, big but...that's when the best show is. Not the lights, that doesn't change. It's the crowd. The cars back up onto the freeway. There are people at the entrance to the park selling churros and cola. Do NOT indulge. It seems like a good idea but you WILL be trapped in your car for at least an hour, closer to 90 minutes. This is NOT the time to be full of churros and Coke. If, however, you decide to throw caution to the wind and you actually make it through the light festival full of churros and coke...once you pass the Statue of Liberty made of those environmentally friendly, oddly glowing blue and white lights, make a bee line past the Zoo parking lot (it's not open, don't bother stopping) and the satellite Observatory and make the first right. This will take you directly on to Victory Blvd and in two blocks you will see the comforting glow from the Chevron Station at the corner of Victory and Western.
As you crawl through the mile or so of dark park that precedes the actual start of the Festival of Lights people will wander through the double line of cars, offering helpful items to increase your viewing pleasure. Items like 3-D glasses. We've never actually figured out what amuses us more, the guys trying to sell 3-D glasses to enhance the Christmas Lights, or the people shelling out good money to buy them.
Try and get into the left lane. MOST of the light vignettes (such as muscle bound men made of twinkle lights lifting barbells in a tribute to Muscle Beach - you think I'm kidding?) are on your left. If you are in the right hand lane you will, most likely, spend an hour peering through SUVs and mini-vans full of small children watching "Bolt" on the vehicle's built in DVD player while dad texts his fantasy football picks from behind the wheel.
IF you choose to make this trip on a week-night, well, be prepared to watch the lights. The crowds aren't especially heavy, especially between Christmas and New Year's Eve and you can pretty much zip through in 10 minutes. No one sells churros, Coke, or 3-D glasses. My oldest son fondly remembers the year we made a quick, extra trip through the park on the closing night. We entered about 9:55, right before the scheduled closing time. There were one or two cars in front of us, darkness stretched out in the rear view mirror. We realized we were the last people to see the Festival that year, they closed it behind us. This, for some reason, truly impressed my oldest, who now likes to try this maneuver each and every year.
My sons LOVE this excursion, we make it annually. However, as the State of California is morally and economically bankrupt and has jacked up every fee imaginable in an effort to enhance revenue, I find myself unable to afford that yellow sticker for my car license plate, you know, the one that says "2010"? I have visions of a phalanx of LAPD waiting for my unregistered ass to crawl though the park in order to slam my unpaid up backside in the pokey. Where, I imagine, I would get a free meal and a week-end away from home, something I don't have now.
Might be fun at that. And it's free.