Mid-City Tacky Tour 2007

One of my family’s great Christmastime traditions is what we call “Tacky Patrol,” in which we hop in the car and drive around nearby neighborhoods looking for incredibly tacky displays of Christmas lights and decorations. Since we’re from Illinois, we’ve always enjoyed great success.

I’ve been in Los Angeles long enough that I figured it’s time to bring the tradition here. It’s a little trickier in inner-city Los Angeles than in the exurban fringes of Chicagoland: for one thing, the most elaborate displays here are actually pretty tasteful. I suspect that this is related to the proliferation of professional holiday decoration services, which are disheartening but unsurprising in a city where the gentry cannot so much as wipe their own asses without an immigrant laborer (armed with a green card purchased in MacArthur Park) handing them the toilet paper.

We begin our tour on Harvard Boulevard in lovely, historic West Adams. Why not?


The Potter Stewart principle applies to tackiness in holiday decorations: you know it when you see it. Still, there are characteristics that, while not guaranteeing that a display will be Tacky!, give it a good push in that direction; a number of these are on display here. First off, that’s a lot of shit in not a lot of yard space–awesome. Second, we have a mixture of colored and white lights; if memory serves, this one’s got flashing lights, as well. Finally, we’ve got inflatables. Oh man, I love inflatables: Santas, snowmen, and–this year’s hot item–the snowglobe. If I’m not mistaken, that’s actually a snowman Nativity scene in that inflatable globe. Kick ass.

We proceed further down into South Los Angeles, into the neighborhood hopefully dubbed “Chesterfield Square.” Back before my dad signed on with some wacky religion based out of a quasi-rectangular state, he smoked Chesterfields. Evidently, they will kick your ass from here to Virginia.


This bungalow on West 41st Drive is another fine entry in the “Lots of Crap in the Yard” genre. I’ve never been in a porno theater–hell, other than the TomKat on SMB, I wouldn’t know where to find one–but I’ve always imagined that the aisles would have red lights, like the ones outlining the sidewalk here.


This bungalow just around the corner on 42nd Street would be borderline for inclusion on our tour–the dense jumble of colored lights and the limp-looking white icicle lights on the eave are ugly, but not tragic–but the minivan on the lawn puts it over the top. Classy!

We next move a few blocks north and west into Leimert Park, the “Black Greenwich Village” (or so says filmmaker and outstanding Trojan alum John Singleton). BTW, for the taco fanatics, Tacos Don Beto–formerly a nighttime staple of Pico Boulevard between Cochran and Redondo–now sets up for the evening in the parking lot of a mini-mart at the gateway to Leimert Park, where Leimert Boulevard splits off from MLK.


I suppose all the red goes with the white house and the green shutters, but…no, no it doesn’t. This is a model of economy and restraint compared to its next-door neighbor, though.


Yes, one house to the north, we’ve got this carnival of delight. I say “carnival” because that Ferris wheel actually moves and plays music, presumably 24/7. The “Happy Holidays” written in script on the garage roof didn’t completely make it into the picture, but it was a classy touch, in the way that a character from Tony ’n’ Tina’s Wedding might say “classy.” I also like the way the snowmen are unlit and looking away from the Nativity scene, as if acknowledging that they are not worthy to look upon even a molded plastic baby Jesus.


Remember, dear reader, that for the million or so people in the City of Losanjealous who live south of the 10 and east of Culver City, the “Westside” begins not at La Brea or the Beverly Hills line, but at Vermont, the 110, or even (gasp!) Main Street. This house on Westside Avenue, which runs north-south in Leimert Park several blocks east of Crenshaw, features colored light “presents” and an outlined front lawn. I think it would be really cool if there were a naked man climbing on the star on the roof. We are the priests of the temples of Syrinx! Our great computers fill our hallowed halls!

Our sojourn in Leimert Park complete, we cross the 10 and head to another affluent, largely black nabe, Lafayette Square. Lafayette Square is a semi-gated community: cars can only enter by way of St. Charles Place, off of Crenshaw, but there’s pedestrian access to all streets from both Washington and Venice. (This is in contrast to Victoria Park, across Venice, to which gaining pedestrian access by a route other than the “official” entrance requires a bit of fence-jumping–nothing too bad, though.)


This house on the niftily-named Buckingham Road is pretty tasteful as far as lighting goes, but holy shit is that a lot of yard crap. The best part is how many different themes are present: animatronic reindeer, candy canes, Mickey and Minnie, Santa Claus, Snoopy, and of course a Nativity.

Next, we head to Longwood Highlands, the Roscoe’s-adjacent home of El Chato (the taco wagon with the best al pastor in the city) and one of the prettiest nabes in the whole damn city.


Only a moderate amount of yard crap, but the sloppiness is the real appeal here. The candy canes look as hung over as the person who installed them. I also like the “I don’t really give a rat’s ass” statement made by the multicolored icicle lights’ wholesale abandonment of the roofline once at the doorway.


Yes, I know, the manufacturing process for photovoltaic cells involves all sorts of heavy metals, some of which are even scarier than Danzig. (Satan commands you to laugh, pitiful mortal.) Still, I really can’t imagine that it takes much more effort to put a few solar panels on your roof than it does to install a plywood Santa and a 2/3 full team of reindeer. Also, what the hell are penguins doing there? Somebody’s parents didn’t buy him Zoobooks.

We now jog north a couple blocks to Olympic, go east for a mile, hop back on Crenshaw until it stops, take a right on Wilshire, and turn left on Irving, where we pass the Getty House–AKA the official mayoral residence of Los Angeles. Antonio Villababoso sleeps here–except, that is, when he was diddling Mirthala Salinas at her condo in Sherman Oaks, where he would stand around in the lobby the morning after, trying to look inconspicuous. An old lady said he shook her hand and said, “Hi, I’m Antonio.” Hey, pendejo: you’ve been on the cover of Newsweek. You’re not going incognito, at least not in the Greater Los Angeles Combined Metropolitan Statistical Area. Besides, chicks dig historic architecture, right? Windsor Square pretty much wins there.


Lots of yard crap here. Look at the band of lights around the trunk of that conifer (deodar cedar, right?). You’d think someone who lives in one of the wealthiest parts of the city wouldn’t want to have anything on their property look half-ass.



The nearby intersection of 3rd and Windsor brings a tear of joy to my eye. On the southwest corner, we’ve got yard crap and mismatched lights. On the northeast corner, we’ve got Col. Kringle’s 25th Airborne Cavalry Regiment preparing for a raid. My housemate just watched Apocalypse Now for the first time a couple nights back, and I got to thinking: wouldn’t it be more terrifying if a flock of assault choppers were blasting, say, the Carpenters? Or maybe “How Much Is That Doggie in the Window?” or the Brady Bunch’s “It’s a Sunshine Day.”

Phew, we’ve been at this a while. Time to wind things down. Well, you know damn well where this was going to end up:


Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and a Kwazy Kwanzaa, everybody.