South Shore Visitor's Center - Hammond, Indiana: Christmas Trees and Ugly Lamps

South Shore Visitor's Center - Hammond, Indiana: Christmas Trees and Ugly Lamps

Pushing the boundaries of where I can venture with Under Armour tightly clung to my skin, I decided to risk a longer bike ride out to Hammond, Indiana. Adequately prepared this time around, I armed myself with a ski mask and goggles, scarf, leather gloves, and a jacket and shorts to go over my Under Armour. While I still wasn’t able to resolve the chilled feet issue with shoes that seem to breathe in cold air faster than they breathe out, I found that taking a little break every fifteen minutes kept my toes from frostbite.

Once again, I found the bike trail completely to myself, save for one jogger sporting my exact style of Under Armour in a cool shade of gray. We were kings of the idiot trail, pushing health obsession to an arguably unhealthy level.

Stopping by the South Shore Visitor’s Center in Hammond to warm up a little, I was pleased that no one called security despite my ski mask and goggles. Perhaps they noticed the low mobility of my attire and deemed me incapable of running away, let alone fitting through the door.

I was happy to see the winners and participants of the ugliest lamp contest on display along with the best decorated tree entries. Amorphous shapes clothed in tacky and tattered shades, the ugliest lamp display was a beacon of distorted light. Some handcrafted and others re-gifted nightmares, whoever believes one man’s trash is another man’s treasure has clearly never laid eyes on this monument to hideousness. There was a pudgy foot busting out of its sandal straps, a flamboyant leopard-patterned eyesore, and, my personal favorite, an adorned skull of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.

The Christmas trees, unlike the lamps, were not a deliberate disappointment. While I was quite impressed with the creativity and design of each individual tree, I couldn’t help but feel that judgement of artistry was forsaken for novelty when awarding the first place winner, The Schoop’s Hamburgers entry. Though a big fan of Schoop’s hamburgers myself, I just couldn’t get behind the simplicity and commercial appeal of their carry-out bag-decorated branches, when some of the other trees had handcrafted and culturally rich ornaments, like the Polish heritage tree (left tree in title photograph).

After finally warming up, I mounted my bike once more and started on the journey home. While passing through Griffith, I ran into one sight I just had to stop and see. A small plant, barely a foot tall, was growing out of the snow. Not the most remarkable occurrence to happen this year, but still it caught my eye. The leaves were bright green, save for a few brown freckles on its cheek. It stood erect in the setting sun, waiting in hopeful excitement for the new year. This struck me not just because something living was actually growing in Da Region, but because it was a fortunate metaphor that not even the luckiest of pennies could bring and a wonderful way to begin another year.


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  • I agree. The judging of the trees should be based on difficulty and creativity, no just sponsorship!

    I did like the lamp winner...too funny.

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    Travane Phoenix

    Aside from blogging, I’m the writer, director, actor and founder of the independent film group, ICE Productions. I’ve been volunteering at the John G. Shedd Aquarium since 2003 in the Interpretive Guest Services department; so if you’re visiting Shedd, keep an eye out for me. Practicing improv at Comedy Sportz in Chicago, I’ve had the privilege of competing in both their student and professional showcases. Always jumping at the opportunity to help new talent, I’ve also participated in multiple Columbia College short films and stage plays. Doing extras work whenever movies make their way into Chicago, I’ve been lucky enough to make it into several feature films and TV shows including: Contagion, The Dilemma, Chicago Code and ER. In my free time I enjoy a good bike ride, volleyball game, or simply losing my soul to Halo and Final Fantasy on one of my video game consoles.

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