Miracle Whip On West 34th Street,
Hampden, Baltimore, Maryland
There is a street in Baltimore that has been over-the-top for several years now: hubcap christmas trees, crab reindeer sleighs, pink flamingos and a lot of Grinches. The community of Hampden calls it "Miracle on 34th Street," and it draws quite a crowd every Christmas season. Located in the 700 block of West 34th Street in Hampden, Baltimore, Maryland, there is a website available to give you all the facts:
CHRISTMASSTREET.COM - Hampden, Baltimore, Maryland - The Miracle On 34th Street - The Miracle Of Lights - MERRY XMAS!
Yesterday, I drove up Route 95 to take in the gaudy glory of it again. I took about 83 photographs, but I won't subject you to all of them. You can click on any image to see it in a larger format. After you've seen about twenty of these houses, your eye grows jaded with the splendor of it all:
This is Cafe Hon located on Main Street in Hampden. It has an old-timey feel with home cooking on the menu. "Hon" is a word adopted by Baltimore by the nature of it's speech. John Waters, director of Pink Flamingos and other notable movies (and a native of Baltimore) once wrote an article about the waitresses in his town who called everyone "Hon," as in "Honey." In truth, everyone says "Hon" in Baltimore. It became a cult word and now there is even a "Hon Fest" held every year in Baltimore, sponsored by Cafe Hon: HonFest 2005!!
A trio of Hon's. Hon's have evolved into women with huge beehived hairdo's, cat eye sunglasses, glitter, hot pink feathered boas and leopard print anything.
Including the bathroom at Cafe Hon:
As I walked the few blocks down Main Street toward the light festival, I started shooting store front windows. There seemed to be something "unique" in every one of them:
I loved this pizza shop. The neon pizza slice had this light blue steam in neon that would rise up at each interval. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to catch it on film. Hey! It was cold out there! I love the drawing of the pizza underneath it with red circles and green squiggles. Green cheese?
I wish I had tried to shoot this without the flash. It looked like a turd Christmas tree. When I stepped back a few steps to see the name of the shop above me, it looked like it said "Eat Elvis." When I stepped back even further, I could see the shop is named "Fat Elvis." I don't know which is worse. I think I prefer "Eat Elvis," myself.
This was fascinating. A crab window display. For those not in this area, Baltimore and the Chesapeake Bay area is know for it's natural resources of crabs. The little red lights around the window are crabs that were blinking. The crab in the center of the window photographed "solid," when it truth it was a neon piece, completely reflective in orange.
Baltimore does not grasp that old adage about always removing one extra piece of jewelry before you leave the house.
When I saw those inflatable Santa appear this August, I told myself, "I just know someone in Hampden is going to have that on display this year." There were many. I even saw miniature versions of them. There were some teenagers discussing this item while I was standing there. One rocket scientist offered up his opinion that the inflatable dropping "snow" down worked on the principle of "static electricity."
...and our first Grinch house. I don't know why the Grinch is so popular with these people. This is the only one I am showing you, but the inflatable showed up again and again. One house had a Grinch manger...well...several did. Note the white angel made out of bicycle wheels.
You are going to have to enlarge this one and really study it. I tried photographing it from several angles. It didn't have a good side. What you are seeing is a crab sleigh pulled by crab reindeer, also hauling Old Bay cans. For those not familiar with Old Bay, it is a spice made in Maryland and used on seafood dishes, but particularly when you are steaming crabs. I was very disappointed as this house used to always have a crab and Old Bay christmas tree and that wasn't up this year.
A side view of all of the inflatables, gee gaws and clutter that make up this spectacle.
Probably the most popular thing to see: The Hubcab Christmas Tree.
There was also a crab tree in this yard with wrenches for claws, and if you really study the can at the bottom? It's a Natty Boh (National Bohemian) beer can cut in the shape of an angel. National Bohemian. Baltimore's beer. Also, the ever present Old Bay cans.
You can't see this from the angle it was shot, but the figures have these big plugs coming out of their backs. I loved the decorated palm trees next to the manger. It's Christmas? Let's get lit.
I think this was supposed to be "Teddy Bear's Picnic." The little children loved this one the best. It was in front of this display that a father told me all his little son could say was "Lights. Lights."
I hedged on putting this one in, but this woman had the most amazing hair. It was real Baltimore hair. She had this marcelled waved white strip right down the center of her head, as you can see. Later, when I was viewing this picture in editing, I realized her hair matched her coat. She actually walked into the shot and kept apologizing to me for the slip up. I told her it wasn't a problem and that any woman wearing fur was "ok" in my book.
How much can you cram into a small space? A lot, apparently, including a windmill. This was the entrance to the steps that lead up to a suspended train track that runs above your head, and a porch full of trees and toys and Santas and maybe even Jimmy Hoffa's body...I don't know. It was all there.
Do not ask me. I do not know.
I threw this one in, because I was fascinated by all of the glitz combined with a chain link fence. To top off the je ne sais quoi of it all, a man hired as a butler opened the door, checking for guests, and he waved at me. This, when just a few doors down, the neighbors were having pizza delivered. Green cheese?
"Remember when I let that escaped lunatic in the house, because he was dressed like Santa Claus?" ~~ Homer Simpson. D'oh. Great house: Santa Homer, a manger, a Santa Claus, the America flag, probably some pizza in there somewhere...
Another one you might have to enlarge to "get." It had a movable Grinch that had fallen, but was actually set up to be popping out of a disproportionate manger scene, which is buried under the Grinch. Oh yeah..more Santa's, snowmen, reindeer, pizza...
You've got me. I stared at this thing for a LONG time. It was like Ma nagged at Pa to keep up with the Jones' so he ripped apart the old furnace sitting out in the back yard and got his creative juices flowing. There was a lot of stuff on the porch. I looked for a refrigerator, but didn't see one. Oh yeah...this was the only decoration in the yard.
And so you cross the road at West 34th Street to walk back to your car, and you immediately see this: