Note From Jon


Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Third Childhood

If my life is a YouTube video (specifically my favorite Tales of Mere Existence video by Lev Yilmaz) then 2007 has been Phase 4 (and frankly I’m hoping a good part of Phase 5). While I can neither confirm nor deny that I am perfectly happy being single, looking back on my favorite photos of this year, I feel pretty confident that I’ve made the most of my enfreedoming. The hardest part was narrowing the photos down to 20 (an arbitrary limit I set once I saw that I had no chance of picking just 10), and I only succeeded because I don’t have many photos of the first four months of 2007, and, despite spending most of my free time at Sportrock, I have almost no climbing photos.

In keeping with the “rediscover all the music you like” portion of Phase 4, I found NPRs All Songs Considered and Song of the Year archives, which they recently reorganized into the musical crack that is Discover Songs. As a result I was well prepared when Sarah made the brilliant (if ethically ambiguous) suggestion that all of our friends make a mix CD of music to share with each other for Christmas.

“If” I made such a mix and wanted to share a soundtrack of this year to go with the slideshow here’s what would be on it and why:

1) Business Time by Flight Of The Conchords – Because when I’m down to just my socks you know what time it is… aw yeah It’s business time. That’s why they call them business socks. And because we listened to all the songs from the show en route to the Raven Rocks hike.

2) She's a Ho by Ludacris – Apparently not everyone is a fan of my indie tastes so on occasion I would get a request (demand?) for some booty music, and this was the crowd favorite on several car trips.

3) Pretty On The Inside by Ceann – Too bad I’m an outside kind of pretty guy… Saw these guys play at Murphy’s after the funhouse fountain photo, but they were upstaged by Darren unveiling his controversial nesting theory.

4) I Love Booster! by The Coup – One of the few songs without a good reason, other than I smiled all year long when this ode to shoplifters shuffled up.

5) Bukra Wba'do by Pink Martini – Pink Martini was the perfect accompaniment to our Wolf Trap picnic in June, and this song in particular became the theme song for the Arabic classes I’ve been taking.

6) We're From Barcelona by I'm From Barcelona – Because it’s impressive when you tour with more members than the Polyphonic Spree (29 vs. the 22 at the Spree show) and I figure I’m in good musical company when I found out DJ extraordinaire Sean was into these guys as well.

7) Abel by The National – Favorite song by my runner up for Band of the Year. As I listened to each song crescendo into a fiddle-frenzy (and every song eventually did) I had a quiet moment of gratitude for the friendships I’ve made and strengthened this year.

8) The Championship by The Polyphonic Spree – Best show of the year. When George and I went for his birthday, it was the last night of their tour and the lead singer’s birthday. As The Frames proved well, one lesson I learned this year: Always catch a band on the last night of their tour. Bonus points because of my crush on the flautist who squeezed my hand as she walked through the crowd.

9) Here's Your Future by The Thermals – Finding them on the 2006 list of overlooked bands prompted my expedition through the entire Song of the Day archives and resulted in pretty much everything else that happened for me musically this year. They still remain undeservedly overlooked though as I wound up catching them by myself at the Black Cat (I mean none of my friends came, not that it was a private showing, they aren’t that overlooked).

10) Rain by Bishop Allen – My personal Band of the Year. In a year overflowing with new (to me) bands, these guys are my favorite. They have a variety of different sounds (including one song that I always forget isn’t Modest Mouse) and I like every one of them.

11) Dark Matter by Andrew Bird – Days after I first heard his album, this song was played during the intermission of a Fringe Festival show at Studio Theatre. I loved the song and I loved both shows we saw there (Abstract Nude and Trixie Tickles – though I can’t remember which intermission it was) so now they’ll always be blended in a mash of mental happiness.

12) The President's Dead by Okkervil River – The moment of gratitude I felt at The National concert is captured perfectly in the section from this song:

…there was spring on the wind.
If you don't live through a day for the littlest things,
And the littlest ways made you feel you were blessed
If you died right then, well you know you'd be missed,
But there's no better state to cease to exist
And you wouldn't feel sad, and you wouldn't resist
Cause you knew what you had, and were thankful for it
In your own little way, I'm a small quiet man
I've got no wars to win, I don't have a big plan
But I love my new place, and I love my old friends
And I scrimp and save, and one day I'll have kids.
I can truthfully say that my day was like that…
13) Friday Night At The Drive-In Bingo by Jens Lekman – Another one that just made me smile and I hoped sharing it with friends would increase my odds of having company at the show when he comes back into town.

14) A Front Row Seat to Hear Ole Johnny Sing by Shel Silverstein – I can’t deal with Shel’s voice when he’s reading his poems but it didn’t bother me here, and I always love a song by (or in this case about) Johnny Cash.

15) Dime by Cake – Truly a “rediscover all the music you like”, I decided to look up an old favorite and see if they had anything new and this is what I got. I know, not NPR related, hard to believe. Let’s see if I can finish the rest of the album without any NPR inspired music…

16) Frayed Blue Jeans by Matt Palka - Darren’s friend from college wrote a novel about biking across the country and made this soundtrack (and even a music video) to go along with it.

17) My Spot by Colouring Lesson – Our friend Trevor’s band who play locally in the D.C. area, hopefully this will encourage more of our friends to come join us at their shows!

18) Lives by Modest Mouse – It’s hard to remember to live before you die… Words buffeted into my head while it was stuck out the window of a bush taxi riding through Guinea.

19) Arc of Time (Time Code) by Bright Eyes – I discovered this band through…, which was my music discovery source before NPR (and before Pandora was blocked at work!)

20) Gopala Over Credits by John McDowell – The theme song from Born Into Brothels which I saw in 2006 but didn’t download (from iTunes, before I learned about their 7 burn limitation) until I was reminded of the song from an HBO trailer.

21) Let Your Troubles Roll By by Carbon Leaf – The best band to never show up on NPR. Dave Connolly introduced me to these guys last year and I caught them at three shows in 2007 (possibly a fourth this Saturday). No song cheers me up more than hearing the chorus of this one live.

I found a host of other great songs and artists this year, but with a couple of exceptions those are only the ones which had personal memories for me beyond the music. For simply a “best of” from my exhaustive search of the NPR archives, here are some additional bands and songs I found for your listening pleasure:

Yardsale by The Avett Brothers
Just one More by John Rae and the River
Children of December by The Slip
Between the Moon and The Ocean by Bon Savants
While you were Sleeping by Elvis Perkins
I Trained Her to Love Me by Nick Lowe
Man O’ War by Eric Bachmann
The Sun Shines Down on Me by Daniel Johnston
This Lamb Sells Condos by Final Fantasy
The Funeral by Band of Horses
The Ballad of Bitter Honey by Eef Barzelay
Handle With Care by Jenny Lewis
Nantes by Beirut
Not Big by Lily Allen
Personal by Stars
Deserter by Matthew Dear
Aspect of an Old Maid by The Mendoza Line
Earned Average Dance America by The Seedy Seeds
Don’t Bother Me by The Blakes
Paper Planes by M.I.A.
The Minaret by John Vanderslice

Monday, December 24, 2007

Spiked Frosty

The family took a drive around the old (for me at least) neighborhood to check out the lights on Christmas Eve. I still don't think anyone beats my parents neighbor who has been adding lights each year for at least the past 20 years. Rumor has it they have to borrow power from next door...

It was a pleasant drive, save for discovering two disembodied Frosties... Enjoy the slideshow and Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Driving cross-country... on a Segway

So I know you’ve all been wondering about this photo I posted back in July (and if not, why not?). I must get about a dozen emails a day asking me “What’s the deal with that t-shirt, and how do I get one?” It’s gotten to the point where I can’t answer all the messages personally anymore so I figured it was time I made a public address:

10mph is a fun documentary about a couple of guys who quit their cush jobs in cubicle land and film themselves driving across the country… on a Segway.

It’s a great concept, and an even better movie, but what makes it personal for me is that the filmmakers, Hunter Weeks and Josh Caldwell, are my friends and housemates from college. I don’t usually do promotion, but this film and these guys definitely deserve an exception. They’ve worked out a pretty impressive deal with an organization called OurStage, which supports independent musicians and filmmakers. In order to help my friends out, all you have to do is register (for free) with OurStage using the 10MPH link and they’ll get $1 which they can use to help finish their forthcoming documentary called 10 yards (which incidentally explores a favorite “hobby” of mine, fantasy football). And if you just aren't willing to register with OurStage... you can always make a direct donation to support their work.

But wait, there’s more! Not only do they get $1 for each registration but they are the first filmmakers ever to give away an iTunes download of their film free of charge. That means that once you register with OurStage, you’ll be able to download the entire feature-length documentary. I’ve registered myself and done some research into OurStage (though not in that order) and it is legitimate and offers an opportunity to both support and discover independent artists by voting on their work Hot-or-Not style. Check out an article in the Wired blog about OurStage.

10mph had a successful run on the film festival circuit and did a national tour of theatres this summer. I caught it here in D.C. when the film came through the E St. Cinema and even cut short my African trip by a day to be sure I was home in time. Josh and Hunter have pick-your-price DVDs available on their website and soon they’ll be posting the entire movie on YouTube. Whatever way works the best for you there’s a way to watch the documentary, and trust me, the “tractor” and “self-righteous cop” scenes alone would make the film worth watching.

And, as an added bonus, if you register with OurStage in the next 30 minutes and help them out, then you are allowed to look at my embarrassing decade old photos I am posting below of the filmmakers and I on our Indonesian abroad. This is your opportunity to watch me try to dance… in a skirt. This was probably the stupidest I looked in my entire life (until I sang “I’m too sexy” at karaoke a few months back). You know that’s got to be funny. But you are NOT authorized to look at these photos without registering at Don’t you do it… your guilty conscience will haunt you forever… Now here's that link one last time.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

White Elephant leads to Airing of Grievances

I feel like the Red Paperclip guy... in reverse. Over the course of the weekend, I managed to trade a never used (but 10 year old) Wok for a handmade knit thong (not particularly useful to me, but at least unique) which in turn I traded for a slightly flat soccer ball (that I’d hoped was going to be a volleyball). Ah White Elephant season. I really can’t complain though because our fourth annual holiday party was a success. I know it was a success because of my two critical criteria: 1) Does Dave manage to string another set of lights 40+ feet up in our tree without breaking a limb (his or the tree’s)? Check (bonus points this year for enduring 50 MPH wind gusts that were too much for our (formerly) rooftop santa). 2) Does our slightly sagging floor manage to hold the 50+ people crammed upstairs to watch or participate in the two hour White Elephant gift exchange? Check. And while not an official criteria for success, a surprising number of people seemed to have a pretty good time…

And if the 100 photos in the slideshow just aren't enough for you... you can always check out Carmel's

Special Thanks goes out to:
  • Diana who came over at noon to bake dozens of cookies to be decorated
  • Dave for risking his life and keeping the tree climbing tradition alive
  • Dharma for lending us her climbing rope so Jeff and I could keep Dave alive
  • Jan Louis for answering our special request for his black bean dish
  • Everyone who brought food, decorated, or helped with all of the endless tasks that come up during a party.
Thank You!

White Elephant stats and awards:
  • 48 Participants
  • Running time: 2 hours 8 minutes
  • Remember to underline the 6 and the 9
  • Rules: Three steal max, when stolen from you must take a present from under the tree
  • Gifts stolen the maximum number of times: Yaneev’s Dancing, Singing James Brown. The Christmas Story Leg Lamp. My hand-knit thong (that sounds wrong). Minh’s Atari in a joystick. Missing any?
  • Regifts from White Elephants past: Kevin’s Smiley Clock (3rd year), Darren’s Oklahoma guidebook and Candy Panties (2nd year – yeah this sounds bad), Joel’s Amtrak board game (2nd year), CharAnn’s Penis Pasta (2nd year), Yaneev’s Jesus doll (2nd year). Screaming flying monkey (2nd year). Virginia Beach Bikini Salt Shaker (2nd year). Melissa’s framed photo of Joel (2nd year for the tradition even though this was the 2007 photo). Sadly, Christine failed to show up with what would have been the record setting 4th year for the Soviet Era Geography quiz book…
  • Best wrapped gift: Joel’s Festivus themed present
  • Best gift combination: A bottle of milk with … the Boobie Squirt Gun
  • Best gift for photo blackmail: The purple penis drink bottle that Joel couldn’t put down (and it wasn’t even his gift)
  • Winner of this year’s Lost and Found gift: Allison. She got sunglasses, bike shorts, a lens cap to a camera, and water balloons
  • And the 2007 Gift of the Year: Yaneev’s Dancing, Singing James Brown
Notes for the 5th annual Jon and Darren Holiday Party:
  • Come up with a better name. 4 years running and the best we can come up with is Jon and Darren’s Holiday (previously Xmas) Party? The suggestion box is now open
  • So far the following people have been found to have committed the cardinal sin of leaving behind the White Elephant gift they are responsible for removing from the premises. Why do you think I actually take photos of the gift everyone opens? We take this seriously and follow international doping policies: a first offense results in a two year ban, the second offense is a lifetime ban:
    • CharAnn for the Boy Bands CD – 1st offense
  • We had 90 yeses and 17 maybes and while we haven’t conducted the official postmortem to hone next year’s list (based on accuracy of evite response), I’d roughly say that 70 people were on hand for dinner. The 15 Peruvian chickens (cut into 8 pieces each) were enough for everyone but the 10 sides of fried plantains and yucca were gone about halfway through. Jan Louis brought black beans, we supplemented with 12 cups of rice, and several people brought casseroles but nearly all sides were gone by the end of the night. Next year we should bump up the ratio of sides to chicken
  • Devise a new mounting system for the rooftop santa which can sustain 50 MPH winds
  • Purchase a tree skirt
  • Buy three indoor outlet timers so ALL lights are timed instead of just the outside ones (every day we came home to a half lit house)
  • Conduct research into the best extension pole for Dave to use while stringing lights. The paintbrush-duct-taped-to-the-broom-handle looked classy but it wasn’t effective enough

Friday, December 14, 2007

“You’ve got the keys right?”

Except that I didn’t… and Flea wasn’t kidding. Dread crept into our eyes with each empty pocket we checked. We really shouldn’t have been surprised. I mean, the Redskins had actually won the game… they’d finally held a fourth quarter lead… with their backup quarterback even. Something had to correct this cosmic imbalance, and apparently that something was going to be us. Oblivious to the revelation Flea and I just had, our friends JB and Swag called out cheerily that they’d found the car. Flea and I just stared at each other. Warm thoughts of the car heater I’d been craving since the second quarter faded away with the color from our faces. It was 30 degrees at 12:30am on a Thursday night, and the four of us were standing in the middle of the parking lot at FedEx field… without any car keys.

“I gave them to you when you turned the music on” I reminded Flea, but he already knew. I calmed down a bit. We’d probably left them in the car and not locked it when we finished tailgating. Right? Flea and I joined JB and Swag at the car… praying it was unlocked. You could literally see the sigh of relief in the air when the door opened. Flea jumped into the car to search, and immediately returned with… a girl’s hand purse? Holy shit, was this the wrong car!?! … No, it had Flea’s aftermarket stereo, Redskin stickers on the doors, and all our tailgating gear in the back. This was his car. “Britney”, whose license, credit cards and cash we now had must be a friend of Flea’s wife. The four of us scoured the car wondering how a set of keys magically transformed into a girls purse! But. there. were. no. keys! Seriously, what do you do in this situation?

We split up. Flea headed back to the stadium (we had done a lot of jumping up and down as the Redskins won). If the keys could be found at this point they’d be at the seats. JB took a moment to check with 411 for the mysterious Britney. They didn’t have a number… nor did they have a joke like the clever group a few cars down that JB checked with (no they didn’t know Britney ****, but they did know Britney Spears! Hilarious I tell you). Well unless Britney had our car keys, she wasn’t going to do us much good, so JB and Swag decided to retrace our path across the parking lot. Really, what are the chances you could even remember which cars you walked between across an entire parking lot, let alone spot a set of keys in the dark. And they were pretty trashed. But I let them stumble away and I crawled around looking under every car anywhere near our spot and the one where we’d tailgated. I turned up a knit hat and a lone glove… but no keys. I was too upset to remember that the spot where I was crawling around on my stomach… had been the pisser before the game (just remembered that now actually. Damn. I feel the need to stop writing and go shower).

As I lay in (hopefully) evaporated piss, I prayed things were going better for Flea. Turns out he was at the seats now… about to get arrested. Security didn’t take too kindly to his return as they cleared out the stadium. “You’ve got to leave now, or you will be arrested!” the guard shouted. Flea could hear the radio crackle out commands of sections where stragglers remained. “Section 410, get them out of there now!... Section 109… he’s got to go!” Flea pleaded just long enough to search all around the seats… and not find anything. Ok. So one more shot. Flea turned into the bathroom we’d stopped at on the way out. Except that when he turned in… a woman walked out. WTF? Yep, this was a women’s bathroom, not the men’s which had been right outside our section, which meant… Flea checked the wrong seats! Hope was still alive. This time he went back to the right section… where his newest security friend was unthrilled to see him again. “You want to spend the night in jail!” he yelled so loudly that I’m surprised I didn’t hear it out in the parking lot. Flea was on his knees practically in tears begging the guard to let him check the seats. “I was in the wrong section before, look, here is my ticket!” Finally, luck was on our side because the enforcer relented and even helped look for the keys, which turned out to be…

...nowhere to be found.

Meanwhile, back at the car I’d exhausted all of my search options and decided to see what AAA could do for me. They’ve helped with keys locked in the car before… but I was already in the car, without the keys. A friendly woman named Leslie answered and I was happy to learn that their locksmiths can make ignition keys too… if the car doesn’t have advanced security features on the ignition… and if there are any locksmiths working in the area at say 12:30am on a Thursday night. Shocker, there weren’t. BUT, I was a AAA “Plus” member so we could get a free tow up to 100 miles away. Loudon county, where Flea lives, felt 100 miles away at that point, but I am pretty sure it isn’t. So that was a possibility for the car, but what about the four of us? Well, she could check on whether there was an extended cab tow truck in the area. I’ll leave it as an exercise to you to guess whether they had one. Yeah. Not so much. Metro is closed. Leslie offered to call us a taxi but we’d have to foot the bill for that, halfway around the Beltway to my car in Merrifield. She sounded as upset as I was that AAA couldn’t help.

The situation couldn’t be much worse. That is until I dropped my head on the steering wheel… and the car started going berserk. Lights blinking, horn blaring. Great, I’d set off the alarm and guess what I have no keys to shut it off! Then it stopped. Then it started again… and I knew we were saved. It wasn’t the alarm, it was the panic button and someone had the keys! Leslie and I were practically hugging each other through the phone as I explained what was happening.

I stared out through the windshield and my eyes picked out JB triumphantly holding the keys in the air. So what happened? Had Flea gotten them from customer service and met up with JB and Swag on the way back? Nope. JB had found them on his hike back to the stadium. And where exactly had he found them? In. A. Bush. Let that sink in for a moment. He found them in a bush. All the way across the parking lot from our car, next to the stadium. In a bush. At night. Of course when JB found them, Swag logically pointed out that was great and all but that they weren’t our keys. Why should they be our keys… they were across the entire parking lot… in a bush. They spent the entire walk back from the bush arguing about whether the H on the keychain stood for Honda or Hyundai. As they explained where they’d found them (did I mention it was in a bush?) I remembered a moment on the walk back when I heard footsteps behind me and turned to see Flea as he tried to jump into me. I know now his jump is when the keys tumbled out of his jacket pocket and into, well you know, A BUSH! What I will never know is how the hell JB found them there…

And this story has an epilogue (yeah I know, it’s long enough already). Flea joined us back at the car and we started all over explaining what happened from each person’s perspective… and expressed our disbelief at the discovery in the bush about as many times as I have here. As we all stood around the car laughing hysterically and gasping for air... a girl walked right between us all and opened up Flea’s car door! BRITNEY! I recognized her from her ID. She was as happy to have her purse back as we were to have the keys and joined in the revelry as she retold her story.

It was so cold. She was so drunk. She’d lost her friends around halftime and was supposed to meet back up with them at their car. Britney got to the car but no one was there yet. It was unlocked so she curled up in the back seat of her friend Adam’s car. Only of course it wasn’t Adam’s car. It was Flea’s car. And apparently she’d napped (or passed out) there happily for most of the second half. Turns out Adam was parked just a few cars down. And he too had a white car. But it was a car, and Flea drives a Hyundai SUV! How drunk do you have to be to not know the difference?!? Well Britney had been that drunk...

Britney eventually walked back off to her group of friends with her recovered purse and as we drove home we realized two things:

  • If we hadn’t lost the keys, we’d have been long gone with Britney’s purse
  • The group of friends who Britney walked back too… were the same clever ones who didn’t know her, but knew Britney Spears.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Rampaging Reindeer

We gave the new Festivus pole a week to shine on its own, but on Sunday it was time to unleash the reindeer. Each year we try to add a bit more, which means we need to recruit plenty of help! We try to turn it into a celebration in its own right but really it's more Darren and I trying to squeeze some free labor out of our friends. Thankfully they all had a good spirit about it (unlike me, who was grumpy all morning from trying to recover our satellite TV signal after a couch broke the jack. Damn gnomes always rearranging furniture and breaking things...) Luckily Sarah's gourmet Mac and Cheese and Natalie's gluten-free cake buried any lingering frustration I had. Having friends who bake so well has got to be one of the keys to a happy life.

New additions for our fourth year were the Festivus pole, the huge star on our front gable (which admittedly is lost a bit in all the icicle lights surrounding it), and Santa's sleigh which could literally fly off of our roof at any moment.

Enjoy the photos while I record some of the mundane notes that I'll want to remember for next year:
  • Buy colored lights with white wire for the windows and door (why is that style of light so hard to find?). If we can't find any then string the lights as tightly as possible and double up any excess length on the bottom of the window.
  • Santa is prevented from liftoff by a string from the base of the fan to the vent on the roof (careful reaching over the power lines...) and two strings tied together to make one long connection from the base, through the window, and finally tied off on the leg of the futon.
  • The star is attached to the gable by fishing wire that is hanging from the spindle of a rolling pin that is jammed between the shingles and vinyl siding at the peak of the roof (follow all that?). Probably don't need to put all the little stars around gable as well next year.
  • Suck up to your friends all year because their help is invaluable when it comes time to decorate (it also helps to lure them to the house with promises of a CD exchange party - more on that later)!

Thursday, December 6, 2007


As mentioned previously, I’m going through a phase of minor addiction to online edutainment. A few days ago I thought I might be able to manage my habit. I was coming to terms with losing my first Scrabulous game, and having finally beaten level 12 of the World Traveler’s quiz, I was ready to retire with my newfound knowledge that Vladivostok, Russia is just above North Korea and that somehow Norway inexplicably owns an island midway between South Africa and Antarctica called Bouvet. But then my little pusher, I mean sister, had to go ahead and ruin everything by offering me some of this great stuff she found at and I was hooked all over again.

FreeRice is essentially an adaptive vocabulary quiz. Each time you get a word right the next one is theoretically harder. Get one wrong and it gets easier. Nothing too exciting… unless you are a mild word nerd (philologist) like me with fond memories of the now-renamed “verbal” section of the SAT. But what makes FreeRice unique (to me at least) is the philanthropy angle. For every word you get right, the proprietors of FreeRice donate 20 grains of rice to the UN’s World Food Programme. Riiiiiggggttttt. But apparently it is legitimate. Now admittedly it isn’t the most efficient way to donate time or money to a charitable cause, and I think my circle of friends would contract dramatically if I started throwing out some of the higher level words in conversation, but that doesn’t stop me from feeling just a bit vogie each time I get a word right. I figure I’ve donated some food, learned a new word that could help in Scrabulous someday, and gotten one step closer to reaching vocab level 50 (level 48 so far – yeah it keeps track of that too. Did I mention it taps into my competitive vein?). And I’ll admit that the philologist in me enjoys learning a word that we’ve heard through our lives but probably had no idea what it meant, like kith (friends, as in kith and kin). Plus, while my friends may not speak these words, they do write them, like George's satori (enlightenment) and Dagny's affianced (betrothed)…

Monday, December 3, 2007

A Festivus for the rest of us

Frank Costanza: Many Christmases ago, I went to buy a doll for my son. I reached for the last one they had, but so did another man. As I rained blows upon him, I realized there had to be another way.

Cosmo Kramer: What happened to the doll?

Frank Costanza: It was destroyed. But out of that a new holiday was born: a Festivus for the rest of us!

Our house lost a tree this year. Thankfully it wasn’t the Connolly Tree, which now stands alone in the front yard, patiently awaiting the addition of this year’s strand of lights. The Connolly Tree did look rather lonely though and the right side of our lawn is just a bit empty now that the massive maple has been removed. So Darren and I came up with a plan: Where the maple once stood… we would erect a Festivus Pole! Although traditionally unadorned we decided it would look like a flagpole or unfinished construction project if we simply planted a pole there, so we decided to enhance our Festivus Pole with a friendly (though not so subtle) sign. In honor of Festivus, which falls before Christmas, we will give the pole a week in our front yard alone before the full onslaught of holiday lights and decorations are added next Sunday.

Notes to Jon:

  • While we nearly settled for the pole of a volleyball net or PVC pipe (spray painted chrome), our search led us to the electrical aisle in Home Depot where we discovered a Festivus pole that had been captured and was being sold as electrical conduit. We liberated the pole from a dreary existence shielding electrical cable in some commercial warehouse and brought it home. I believe it is 2” outer diameter, ¼” thick, and 10’ long, and while it isn’t aluminum, it does meet the Festivus requirement of having “a high strength to weight ratio”.

  • Three sections of four foot rebar hold the pole in place surprisingly well.

  • Painting the white letters on the black board is critical to being able to read the Happy Festivus sign. Just using the lights alone wouldn’t have been legible.

  • We drilled holes in the sign just big enough for each light’s base to slide through but not for the bulb itself. This was a plus because we didn’t have to glue the lights in place, but then again we did have to take out each bulb and reinsert it once we slid the base through the hole… and that can be a problem because: Although the lights say they stay lit when a bulb “burns out”… they don’t stay lit when a bulb isn’t seated properly in the first place. Turns out that made it a pain in the ass to figure out which bulb wasn’t reseated properly when I plugged the sign in and it didn’t light!