The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Have Yourself A Tacky Little Christmas

by Tricia Dower

Some years ago I was amassing quite the collection of tacky souvenirs. It’s packed away in the garage now, waiting for my lucky children to fight over when I die. My favourite is a napkin holder featuring a reproduction of the Last Supper in which the disciples’ eyes move. I’m also partial to the tiny square of Elvis Presley’s vinyl convertible top, complete with certificate of authenticity. My primary criterion for adding an item to the collection at the time was that it had to take itself seriously— in other words, not know it was tacky.

I’ve moved on from that particular hobby, but I still enjoy sniffing out the tasteless. Newsmax, an online and print magazine that, according to writer, actor, and attorney Ben Stein, reveals the "unafraid, uncomplicated, bare-knuckles truth about today's dangerous world," offers a particularly fine selection of neo-con items this year. (I’ve condensed their product descriptions but the words are theirs.)

  1. The Deck of Weasels: This hot new set of playing and informational cards depicts the enemies of America and Iraq’s liberation, including Michael Moore, Tim Robbins, Jacques Chirac, Barbra Streisand, Teddy Kennedy, Kofi Annan and many more. You’ll laugh out loud looking at the faces of the world’s greatest weasels, each wearing the beret of Saddam Hussein’s Republican Guard.
  2. The U.S. military’s Desert Camouflage Hat (also called the Desert Boonie Hat), worn during Operation Iraqi Freedom by our combat troops and embedded journalists, is one of the coolest items you can wear, while reminding America of our victory in Iraq.
  3. You can stand with the men and women of the Central Intelligence Agency by proudly wearing the CIA cap. CIA operatives have successfully located a number of dangerous al-Qaeda operatives in the Middle East and eliminated them with strikes from Predator drone aircraft. Wear the cap and send a message to your friends and neighbors that you believe the US should remain firm in its battle against terrorism.
  4. With the US Border Patrol Cap, you can stand on the frontline of America’s battle with illegal immigrants.
  5. With Ronald Reagan's Greatest Laughs CD, you'll laugh as the Gipper uses wit to expose big government, defeat the Evil Empire, take the Democrats to task, and much, much more.
  6. Pray and Be Rich reveals the Biblical secrets that will enable you to become a member of the five percent of people who rise to the top and succeed.
For tacky experiences, though, I’ve got to hand it to Victoria’s Lighted Truck Parade. I had heard good things about the annual event and didn’t want to miss it this year. I imagined something akin to the Rose Bowl Parade, with elaborate floats on flatbeds. So on a drizzly night, Colin and I stood along the road with hundreds of others as a long, steady stream of vehicles passed by: tractor trailers, tow trucks, panel trucks, buses, a huge RV, the Canada Post van, and more. (“Will it never end?” I whispered at one point.) It was reminiscent of the USSR’s displays of military might during the May Day parades of armoured tanks. In Victoria, however, commerce, not war, is king. Noting that we had not one, but two cement mixers in town willing to participate in the parade (one actually spinning), brought to my mind Bob Cratchit’s wonderful lines from the 1951 film version of Dickens’s A Christmas Carol: “Bravo, there’s bounty for you. I declare. I’d like to know how many families of our acquaintance could boast of two rounds of the best gin punch.”

Most of the vehicles made an effort to festoon themselves, but a surprising number opted for the minimalist look, leaving us nothing to admire but their advertising: XYZ Moving. 1-800-JUNK.

The parade was presaged by the appearance of Santa in an inflatable suit and running shoes, handing out flyers on behalf of local shops. Several children standing next to us were excited to see him. But their excitement turned to confusion as a few other Santas showed up on trucks, waving down at them. There were a couple of blow-up Santas, too, one of which was moving quite strangely on its pretend sleigh on top of a truck.

“Santa is twitching,” I said.

“Yeah,” Colin agreed, “maybe jerking off.”

That just about said it all.

Photos: I don’t think I’ll be buying the Deck of Weasels or Reagan's Greatest Laughs. But, I am mighty tempted to get the Barack and Michelle ornament, above. What do you think?


Blogger Katherine said...

I'm claiming the Last Supper napkin holder now.

Thu Dec 18, 12:42:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Okay, it's yours as a reward for reading this post! Do you remember going with me to the Elvis museum in Niagara Falls? We didn't pay to tour the museum, just went straight to the gift shop.

Thu Dec 18, 02:13:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Andrew Tibbetts said...

I have phases in my life where I like tacky things too, and go on collecting binges. But lately, I just remind myself that I won't be able to throw it out for decades after I've fallen out of the spell of its charm. And that means more boxes to lug on more moves. Aversion therapy!

Thu Dec 18, 03:50:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger wolfgang said...

That was a great trip. And that singing Elvis Christmas ornament you gave me years ago is one of the highlights of the season for me now. He's more important than the angel at the top of the tree.

Thu Dec 18, 05:42:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

I hear you, Andrew. I couldn't bring myself to get rid of my tacky souvenir collection when we left Toronto. We actually paid to store it along with other things and eventually ship it to Victoria.

Katie: I had forgotten about that Elvis ornament. It sings Blue Christmas, right? What class I have when selecting ornaments.

Thu Dec 18, 10:31:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Steve Gajadhar said...

Hmmm, sounds like our little parade here in Waimea!

Thu Dec 18, 11:30:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

How many trucks does Waimea have, Steve?

Fri Dec 19, 06:47:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger wolfgang said...

No, Christmas Elvis sings "Are You Lonesome Tonight." Go figure.

Fri Dec 19, 07:27:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger T. Lee said...

Ah, yes, Christmas tacky... My mother's dancing hip-hop Santa is all I really need each year. Even her dog slinks away with embarrassment when my mom turns the on button.

Fri Dec 19, 08:01:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Ooh, Tamara, I covet your mother's hip-hop Santa.

Sat Dec 20, 01:30:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger J.A. McDougall said...

I have quite a collection of singing ornaments too: the chorus of dogs in Santa hats, Santa himself with swaying hips, the snowman on the piano, and the pine tree with googly eyes. Sadly these are still in my living room...I have to hold on to them a little longer until the kids finally get that they're tacky :)

Sun Dec 21, 10:59:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Jen, your kids will consider those items treasured heirlooms one day.

Tue Dec 23, 02:00:00 am GMT-5  

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