Ed (sirndipiti) wrote,


"When the kids were little," as they say, around this time of the year, we used to go to a place 'down the shore' called Storybook Land. As you may surmise from the title alone, it was a kiddy place with depictions of scenes from various kid stories, fairytales. There was a quite lengthy tunnel affair with black light and paintings and dioramas from Alice in Wonderland. Another area had replicas of the houses of The Three Little Pigs, complete with the pigs and the nasty ol' wolf. Well, you get the idea; I say was 'cause it's in my past but as far as I know the place is still there, probably bigger and better than ever.

It's not a "Disneyland" kind of place. It's more mom-and-pop than that. It gives the impression that it might have started out as an experiment in some farmers yard to see if s/he could suck some tourist dollars from the flocks heading from Philadelphia to the Jersey Shore. And in a cutesy kind of way it is a fun place. The kids loved it. They still remember the time grandma came along with us to Storybook Land.

It was around this time of year. We always went around Christmas because that's when things were spectacular. That's when they strung up lights, thousands of 'Christmas lights," maybe hundreds of thousands. They use LOTS of lights. The effect is quite spectacular; if you happen to be there at dusk when the switch is thrown and the whole place explodes with light. This backwoods, kids playland is transformed into a magical place. Really!

So, yeah, they did a good job in developing a grand tourist trap...after all, it's for the kids. And yes you know there's the traditional gift shop you must traverse on the way out. But it's still fun and families come to see a trip to Storybook Land as a yearly tradition, the entrepreneur's dream, repeat customers.

Maybe the original idea came about not merely to shuck the tourists. I mean, I gotta believe that you don't just one Sunday afternoon say to the spouse, "hey, sweetheart, I think I'm gonna start building fairytale characters in our yard. What do you think?" unless you've got some deep seated love of fairytales. Did Walt think about building a mega world while he sat about in his garage doodling out little Micheys and Minnies? Perhaps, but I think that some things, once started, do take on a life of their own, so Walt was doing what he loved doing.

Yes. This is capitalism at work in America. Do what you enjoy. Do it well and if there's a market, you make money. The money allows you to do more of what you love doing. A model of Little Bo-Peep and her lonely sheep in the side yard of some farmer develop into acres of life size tableaux complete with sparkley Christmas lights, bells and whistles. And the farmer said, "this is good." And OK, the idea, on a somewhat different scale, slips right in there with mom, the flag and apple pie.

And now to the meat, to the point. Yes; surely you knew it was coming. Why, I ask again (rhetorically, in case you're wondering), is it a growing phenomenon, around here at least, for folks in the little boxes made of ticky-tacky (and yes, I live in one of them) to attempt to emulate Storybook Land? Each year Mr. Jones adds a new delight or two to the the growing collection of lawn debris. And so do his neighbors to the left and right and so on down the line. Is it a contest? Well, yeah sure, sometimes it is a real contest, sponsored by the local newspaper. Is it a demonstration of how much the family is the 'American Dream Family'--all love and huggles? Add another plastic reindeer.

I'm not a Scrooge. If people are really into turning their yard into an electric wonderland, go for it. I get a kick out of walking the dog and marvelling at the attempts. But I do shake my head sometimes and mumble to myself, "wowser, wtf were they thinking?"

It's so easy now. There are thousands of cracker-marts throughout the land, and each year there's something new dreamed up by some slightly warped troll that, "if we shave a few bucks on the food budget we can afford, can't we, honey?"

One year it was shaped and tied straw lawn deer, then plywood cut-out lawn deer, then welded wire lawn deer, and just yesterday in my local okay-mart i spied a boxed herd of welded wire lawn deer with electric lights and motors to wave the heads back and forth. This no doubt adds to the realism of the fake lawn deer. (Remember those pink plastic flamingos and reflecting globes? Ahh those were simpler times)

I think I've latched onto some of the precepts of capitalism. The market must continue to grow. If the market's not growing, it's dying. And then comes underemployment, unemployment, hunger, homelessness, yada yada. But holy shit, can't the economy grow on something with more intrinsic worth than the search for the ultimate plastic fantastic lawn deer? Is it anybody's falult? Is advertising so absolutely compelling (and i include government advertising right in there with comercial) that folks can no longer distinguish between needs and wants and that the wants have become so out there that I begin to wonder it the epidemic we need fear is not some physical ailment but a mental one? Is nuttiness spreading throughout the land or is it just me? I find more and more that I just wanna go live in the woods.
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