I Am Clark Griswold

Wow, it’s December already. This is one of my favorite months…I always go a little overboard during the holidays (which explains the falling snow on my blog; great feature, WordPress!). My enthusiasm this year is tempered a bit by the fact that I am unemployed (and further by the fact that I have not received so much as a single call back on any of the jobs I’ve applied for – damn this 13% local unemployment rate!). I’m taking steps toward self-sufficiency and beginning to focus more on the freelance writing career I’d like to have, as it seems I may grow old and feeble waiting for some company to come along and hire me; last week I created an online portfolio/website with links to my published book reviews, web content, newsletters I’ve created, etc. I researched various options online for hours before realizing that the WordPress format is actually perfect for what I needed, so I created a second account, purchased my domain (first name last name dot com), set up my pages, created a Contact Form through Google Docs on the Hire Me page (which I also added to my blog here), and – voila! – now I’ve got something pretty nifty to point to when trying to sell myself. One can never have too much of an online presence when hoping for fame and fortune someday, right?

If it weren’t for the internet, what would I do with myself?!

I’ve also begun applying for freelance writing jobs. So far, I’ve earned a whopping $80 from this endeavor, but it’s a start, you know? We sent monkeys orbiting around the earth before man ever set foot on the moon. One step at a time.

It hasn’t been all work and no play, though. Everybody knows that made Jack a dull boy, and suddenly he was chopping down bathroom doors with a hatchet and trying to murder his family. I’d hate for a similar type of insanity to befall me, so I’m keeping myself busy as much as possible. Once Thanksgiving was over and done with, this gave me an excuse to decorate the townhouse for Christmas, inside and out. I wasted no time trotting out the decorations and packing up all the Harvest-themed stuff I’d had on display. I swapped one season for another in the course of an afternoon.

The biggest challenge? The outdoor lights.

The most enduring traditions of the holiday season are best enjoyed in the warm embrace of kith and kin. (Image courtesy of ugly-christmas-trees.com)

Until last year, I’d never bothered with them. I live in a condominium complex, which means my house is attached to a bunch of other houses. At least I’m on the end, instead of being sandwiched between two others. Still, it’s hard to go all gung-ho with exterior decorations when you’ve got this type of setup. But I missed the good ol’ days, when I had a house and would decorate it for the holidays, so last year I decided to put lights up. I hung them around the garage, and they looked pretty good. Plus, I was the only person in the complex to put lights up, so I immediately achieved the status of Clark Griswold of the neighborhood. In case you aren’t familiar with Clark Griswold (oh, the shame!) he is the patriarch of the Griswold family in National Lampoon’s Vacation series of films, played by Chevy Chase. Clark is a devoted family man with good intentions, and yet, he is accident-prone and often ends up in situations over his head. Take National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, for instance. A modern holiday classic and always, the first Christmas movie of the season for my family and I. Clark decides to string Christmas lights around the house, and in typical Griswold fashion, takes things to the extreme. Chaos and misfortune (but also a lot of laughs) follow.

Now, I’m not saying I went to the extreme, unless you take into account the fact that, once again, I was the only one in the complex who put up outdoor lights. My five strands of LEDs won’t cause a drain on the city’s power supply or blind neighbors who pass by. But, I did feel a certain amount of kinship with Clark as I strung up those lights while retaining my balance on a somewhat rickety ladder. Especially when I got up onto the roof and, lying on my stomach, reached beneath the eaves and staple-gunned the lights into place while partially dangling twenty feet above the ground.

“You checked the lights, right?” K1 (I ought to call him Rusty) asked as I stapled the last strand into place.

Err. Umm. No, I had not. But surely they’d be okay, right? After all, I’d just purchased them brand new last year. And they’re LED lights, which are both energy-efficient and long-lasting. I would certainly be spared the ignominy of a big scene in which I gather everybody around, Clark Griswold-style, as I flip the switch for the lights, only to have them not work.

I was not spared the ignominy of the big scene, however. I flipped the switch, and the lights did not work.

Well, some of them worked. But not all of them. I muttered a few choice curse words beneath my breath, and updated my Facebook status afterwards.

MP violated the first rule of hanging Christmas lights: I did not check all of them before they went up. Grr. Now I REALLY feel like Clark Griswold.

I assumed my FB friends would be sympathetic to my plight. Perhaps they’d offer me a good-natured virtual pat on the back, or send me encouraging words of wisdom. Instead, they pelted me with LOL’s. One particularly joyful friend even called me a “dumb ass.” Not that I blame her for that comment. I really should have checked the lights first. Even my teenaged son knew that!

Did I get mad and kick the Santa display in the front yard, though? I’m proud to say I did not! Mostly because I have neither a front yard nor a Santa display, but that’s neither here nor there. Instead, I made a trip to Target the following day. Bought some replacement lights, hauled the ladder back out, and checked every bulb, one by one, until I found the burned-out culprit. I replaced it, and my lights worked fine. It still boggles my mind that a single defective bulb can cause an entire strand to go dark. We have cell phones that are so smart they can practically cook dinner for us and change the oil in our cars, and yet we can’t come up with the technology to keep a string of lights lit if one of them goes out?

Whatever. My lights are working now, and I’ve got the best display in the neighborhood! (It’s the only display in the neighborhood, but again, let’s just overlook that for now).

All that’s left now? Kicking off our fun old-fashioned family Christmas by heading out into the country in the old front-wheel drive sleigh to embrace the frosty majesty of the winter landscape and select the most important of Christmas symbols.

No, not a Santa tie. A Christmas tree.

And if the kids are really good, I’m taking them to Wally World next year.

25 thoughts on “I Am Clark Griswold

  1. Love it–and, I don’t think I’ve ever seen “Christmas Vacation”!
    We usually watch…”Elf” and “It’s a Wonderful Life”
    oh, and the X-Files.

    we’re cool like that.
    congrats on your double blog life!


  2. Heeee. Not going to lie, I definitely snickered over your FB comment saying that you had pulled the ultimate Clark Griswold and didn’t check the lights first.

    Love the snow on here! 🙂


  3. I can no longer watch Christmas Vacation since I married Clark. It is too real for my liking. Don’t forget to check for squirrels, your cat shouldn’t be given that kind of responsibly. Merry Festive Holiday Season! 🙂


  4. You GO, boy!

    Between your hard work promoting yourself, and your AWESOME positive attitude, I’m SURE something will be coming your way soon! Plus, you’re an awesome writer, so you’re bound to find some writing gigs.

    LOVE the snowfall on your blog. VERY cool-looking!

    I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who gets as excited as I do when it comes to Winter and snow. Don’t ya just love it?

    And can you believe I’ve never seen ‘Christmas Vacation?” It’s on my list for this months viewing!

    Hope you had a super day, Mark!


  5. LOL, I love this. Reading this has helped me get a bit more into the decorating mood, so thanks for that. I am also amazed that you are doing ANYTHING with your free time since you lost your job. I can just imagine myself sleeping in till noon, living off of cereal and watching soap operas (hence why I would only sleep intill noon – my favorite soap starts at 1. Gotta be up and going by then). So good work on the site and the lights!!


  6. MARK! We just got finished watching “Christmas Vacation”!
    the kids and I howled! great recommendation…
    we absolutely loved his temper tantrum in his living room!
    “Hallelujah! Holy Sh*t! Where’s the tylenol!”


    1. Yay! That’s why it’s been a family tradition in my house for longer than I can remember! Not sure why the kids are so quick to point out the similarities between me and Clark, but I’ve learned not to question these things too deeply. I’m glad you enjoyed the movie.


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