It used to be I’d turn up my nose at those who’d leave their Christmas lights up all year — reserving an extra helping of disdain for whoever lived in the house that actually illuminated them past, say, January 2.

Indeed, just passing these neighbors on the street would give me whiplash, so fiercely would I jerk my haughty nose north.

And woe betide anyone who dared accent his front yard with chain link — Gonna top that with razor wire next? — or display, via four strategically placed cinderblocks, his non-working ’67 Impala. These people I’d make it a point to meet, if only to say, “Welcome to the neighborhood; when are you leaving?” (And thanks to the ever-expanding capabilities of the Internet, e.g.,What’s-That-Schmuck’s-Name-dot-com, You-Too-Can-Be-A-Sleuth-dot-com, etc., one need only “meet” such people in cyberspace. Avoid all that uncomfortable face-to-face stuff. Sign whatever name one likes to her welcome letter.)

But before dismissing me as just another typically pantywaisted snob, kindly note: I never shied away from a face-to-face confrontation with those neighbors whose idea of “perennial landscaping” is a weekly planting of whatever white elephant — whether Norge deep freeze or asbestos chaise longue or lead-based jungle gym — they’re too cheap to have hauled away. Shoot, I nearly lost an eye after confronting someone about the apparent lack of interest in their rats nest-festooned box springs planting! (A word to the wise: Do not assume that the grey-haired, bespectacled, limping neighbor is any easier to confront than the steroid-addled Li’l Abner-looking one. Because no matter how respectfully delivered your “I say, old timer, you might want to add a couple more exclamation points to that ‘Free!!’ sign if you plan on showcasing 51 other treasures this year,”

chances are you’ll be dodging a cane to the cornea.)

Anyway, the thing is, that’s all in the past.

I mean, sure, a chartreuse house with a visible clothesline — whether chockfull of tasteful housecoats and paisley tighty whiteys or just plain vacant — still offends my sensibilities.

But the people residing there?

Unless we’ve already met or have otherwise established some sort of acquaintance, I’m not passing any judgment.

Until I’ve determined that they’re horrible tippers or heard them use “all’s” as a contraction more than once, I’ve no right to assume that they never wash their hands after toileting. That their sole purpose is to drive down my property’s value.

This isn’t to say I’ve turned over some Gandhi-esque new leaf or had one of those “There but for the grace of…” epiphanies, no sir.

Indeed, the reason I resolve to never again judge a schnook by his hovel is because, well, my own Christmas lights are still burning. And will be until I no longer find ‘em purdy—or until I get the energy to pull ‘em down and pack ‘em away.

Let’s just pray that’s before I run into that snooty blueblood next door, what with her freshly sodded lawn and new flagstone walkway: Oh, how I wish I could love her as much as I love her house!—Kelly Feser Eells, Ojai


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