December 14th, 2010

Lights in the Heights: A Photo Essay

For years I’ve heard what a great time Lights in the Heights provides to residents of Houston’s first suburb and those around the city. I tend to get anxious around large groups of people which might be the reason I’ve never made the trip. This year would change all of that. Actually, the decision was made for me. With only a few blocks separating me from the festivities and my street choked with the cars of revelers the only option was to join in.


A bottle of Tomatin left over from a recent Christmas party served as the fuel for a flask stuffed in the back pocket. Word on the street was that drinking on the street was allowed, if not encouraged. Don’t threaten me with a good time. I leave my house and head north on Michaux looking forward to the scene.


The lights, of course, are what everyone is here to see, but each group that passes is it’s own sight. Donning Santa hats, pushing strollers, tugging leashes and almost always towing a cooler, friends and family make their way up and down each street. This is no place to fly solo… or is it. A swig from my flask says otherwise.


What I was really looking for was one of those over-elaborate light displays synced to Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Unfortunately that little wish would take me all the way out to Frisco, TX. [Why am I not surprised that warrants its own website?] Jeff and Bridgette Trykoski, the internet salutes you. Come to think of it, that event of lights and sounds would probably wear on me pretty quickly.


Even though the tiny bulbs that coat each house in the Heights don’t dance and blink to the music, every five houses seems to have a band playing on the porch. Some play covers, others play original music, but it all blends together into a fitting soundtrack to the evening just like people from every walk of life teeming in the streets.


Even boats, long retired, serve a new purpose during Lights in the Heights. This one broke a bottle of champagne with its bow long ago. Now it floats on a sea of blue bulbs… Driven by Snoopy?? Come on, we all know that Snoopy flew a Sopwith Camel. Ok, ok, it was just a doghouse, but the Red Baron never saw such a fire fight…


Some houses took “dressing up” literally, as witnessed by this Rudolph Ranch Home. My bet is that all the Santas in the frame are involved in an epic Roshambo showdown trying to figure out which one will be sitting in the Silo Sleigh that this house will lead into Christmas’ eve. Look at those beady eyes, though. Rudolph definitely has something up his sleeve.


Some houses even got a little preachy. Rhetorical questions are now most suitable for Mother’s criticism and Christmas light fantasia. I do appreciate the calligraphy, but the kerning really needs work. That question mark is lonely. US Policy is for question marks to never be lonely.


I know what you’re wondering, “but, Paul, are you really walking around by yourself this whole time?” Well, not quite. Amidst the sea of people, I eventually ran into some familiar faces. Stephan’s group of tacky-sweatered sightseers were just too fast for me to catch up with. Not only did that mean that I didn’t have to hide behind tree trunks to take swills of Scotch, but conversation! Also, the added bonus of relieving my camera duties to able hands as we stood in front of a house hosting The Live Lights.


Listening to one band for a bit turned out to be a relief to the eardrums. Finally my brain was able to focus on one song instead of trying to differentiate Christmas carols from Free Bird. Actually, they were pretty good as well, which is always a plus when you stumble upon something. We’ll add another Texas band to follow the progress of.


Unfortunately, my friend couldn’t stave off the seduction of the camera. Armed with my Canon and a business card from The Loop Scoop, he crashed through the gate of the private party playing across the street from The Live Lights. “I’m with the press,” I imagine him saying as he pointed the camera. Dutifully the partiers posed. He snapped. And now I have a permanent reminder of why things like Lights in the Heights bring people together even if they start off on their own.

— Paul


Julie Lambert — Tuesday, December 14, 2010 9:53 pm

This is a fantastic summary of one of the greatest events in Houston. It is a parade of people, invading one of Houston’s oldest neighborhoods with loads of holiday cheer and so many great lights, sounds and sights. Love it!

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