Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Crowning Glory

He's at it again.

For the last few years, just around this time, Dominic Luberto has made the Boston news. For those who don't live in the area, or for those who live in the area but don't pay attention to the news and/or don't drive down the Arborway anytime during November and December, Luberto is the fellow who each year decorates his mock-Tudor castle with a gazillion lights.


The stories are always the same: annoyed neighbors who have to put up with the glare, the traffic, and  - until KeySpan put in a bulked up transformer - electricity brown outs; someone who really likes looking at the lights; and Luberto himself defending his right to light up his life - and the life of everyone who lives anywhere within a spotlight's distance from him.

This year's commotion is about a hefty gold crown that Luberto has added to the display.

Luberto claims its a decoration; the City claims its a structure that Luberto hasn't gotten a permit for. (Or maybe he has. I was in the neighborhood on Saturday evening to gawk, and we briefly spoke with Luberto, who was out working the crowd.) Some neighbors fear that in a good stiff wind, the crown will go airborne and crush some ogler or kid walking by.

I've been by Luberto's house a number of times, and the decorations are ridiculously outlandish - a couple of hundred thousand lights, inflatable Santas, penguins, snowmen, choo-choo train, flying reindeer, etc. One of the light displays is an American flag tree. There's also - nice nod to ecumenism - a big, glowing Star of David.

I'm not anti-Christmas lights, by any means. Growing up, one of the holiday highlights was piling into the car to drive around Worcester gaping at the lights. Sure, we liked to go over to the Westside of the city and see the tasteful displays of the rich folk in their big mock-Colonials and mock-Tudors. All those nice all is calm white candles, the simple spotlight on the front door wreathe... But what we really wanted to see was the all is bright people, those who went nuts with candy canes, snowmen, manger scenes, carolers, Santa on the roof, etc. The over the top display people tended to live in neighborhoods like ours: modest one family houses, two-family houses, and three-deckers. (It was the one family houses that went in for the mega decorations. There must have been something so liberating about getting that GI Bill Cape Cod or ranch house. No more worrying about what the cranky tenants upstairs would say. Santa Claus was comin' to town!

I also like the lights they put up on the trees around the Boston Common, and up the Commonwealth Avenue Mall (that's a walking mall, by the way, not a shopping mall).  They're bright and festive, and I miss them when they're taken down (or turned off - I think some years they leave the lights in place).

So, I like lights. Even though global warming's making it a bit balmier, it's still a dark and gloomy time of year. Let there be lights.

But Luberto's house...

One of the first thing that strikes the drive-by gawker is that this is not the type of neighborhood where people tend to go in for major glow in the dark.

The Arborway, where Luberto's castle-like home is located, is full of large, pricey, elegant homes. From the get-go, then, Luberto is putting himself at odds with his neighbors with his déclassé display. Part of me says ha-ha; the other part of me asks: why set something up that aggravates and affronts the people who live around you?

Of course, Luberto's house is a bit of an odd job to begin with. In a neighborhood of vast, stately, Protestant-ethic-and-the-spirit-of-Capitalism homes, his looks like a castle. Sort of. Anyway, it's far different than the houses surrounding it. Not quite Mad King Ludwig, but....

Lights aside, Luberto does provide a certain amount of local color. It's not clear where he made the money that allows him to own a $1.7M house, and drive the Hummer that I saw in the back yard parking lot. Real estate is the working hypothesis, although he claims to be a musician. He has something of the "Hey, I made it in America!" about him - he's not "from here" - I read somewhere that he's from Argentina. I'm sure that the immigrant hustle doesn't help endear him to the more understated folks in the 'hood.

And speaking of hustle, the man's also selling a self-published "Find Dominic Decorating" book for kids - with web site and all - for $9.90 plus shipping and handling. He was handing out little flyers for it when I saw him on Saturday. He'd like to sell a million copies, and is donating $.25 from each copy to Children's Hospital. I'll just bet he'd like to sell a million....It can't be cheap keeping all those lights on.

And speaking of keeping all those lights on, in this day and age, don't we have to sort of question the waste of energy - the energy-energy (let Luberto waste all the human energy he wants putting his lights up and taking them down). Shouldn't we all be thinking about making at least modest, symbolic attempts at conservation? Not forcing our local utility to set up a new transformer so that we won't blow the grid for the neighborhood.

I'm just happy I live nowhere near Dominic Luberto's house, which I'm certain would be a constant irritation throughout the holiday season.

But I will admit that, when I drive by it, or, as I did the other evening, walk around it, it does indeed make me smile, if only at the goofy wonder of it all. Of course, it also made me want to sing what is quite possibly the worst Christmas song ever: "Dominick the Donkey."

Hey, chingedy-ching, hee-haw, hee-haw

It's Dominick the Donkey

Chingedy-ching, hee-haw,hee-haw

The Italian Christmas donkey

La la la, la la la la la la....

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