How To Survive Christmas In Lake Charles
I just moved here last March, so this is my first holiday season in Southwest Louisiana. Getting through Christmas here is a lot like getting through Christmas anywhere else, but everything is just a little bit different in the Bayou State. The holidays are no exception.
I’ve taken what I’ve learned so far in my months here (that I wish I’d known before I moved), and applied all that knowledge to a quick and handy guide to surviving the holidays in Lake Charles.
I hope it helps.
I’m not sure if our city planners were on the crack rock when they designed the roads of Lake Charles, but it sure seems like at least a few of them never paid attention to Nancy Reagan’s “Just say no” campaign back in the ‘80s, because nothing makes any sense here.
We have roundabouts in random locations, roads that dead end a few feet away from connecting roads, stoplights seemingly designed to back traffic up into the middle of every single intersection, and some roads that are just plain missing. I tried to find 16th Street from Common once by passing over Alamo, then 18th, then 17th, only to find 15th street coming up next, because there is no logic here.
I headed over to Enterprise to try and connect to 16th there, which I did, but I couldn’t find the place I was looking for anywhere since there's apparently multiple 16th Streets, because of course there are. Turns out, the section of 16th that I needed was tucked between Common and Enterprise, without ever actually connecting to either of them. Because reasons.
As for driving the mean streets of the city in search of Christmas gifts, you’ll probably end up on either Nelson Road or Highway 14 at some point and wish you hadn’t. Unfortunately, all of the development in the city seems focused on these two hives of madness and despair, so if you need to go to Walmart or something, get ready. Grab some riot gear, maybe a Bible or two, let Jesus take the wheel and start praying. You’ll need all the help you can get.
I avoid these areas at all costs during non-crazy times of the year, and things only get worse during the holidays. Traffic backs up, people try to turn exactly where they shouldn’t, and every driver seems to be one missed parking space away from a total road rage breakdown.
Avoid these areas if at all possible, which won’t be at all possible.
The worst part about Christmas shopping is how you have to get out of the house and onto the bizarre labyrinth of our roadways in order to find that perfect gift for your special someone. (See also: Driving)
I guess you could always skip all that by hitting up Amazon or any other online retailer and just ordering your stuff online, though. The only problem with that is the rise of Porch Pirates, who spend their days driving around town around the holidays, looking for packages left on people’s doorsteps. When they find one, they hop out of the car and help themselves to a little five-finger discount on whatever it is you foolishly thought would be safe sitting in a box on your porch all day while you were off actually working for a living.
A safer bet would be checking out one of the great offers from local businesses over on SeizeTheDeal.com. You might not be able to find an NES Classic or any Hatchimals for your kids there, but you could always snag a great deal on a good massage from a local spa to help ease the tension that comes from accepting your failures as a parent.
If you do want to get out to shop, try checking out north Lake Charles. Most of our locally-owned businesses seem to be concentrated there, with all the new chain developments popping up in the south end of town. You’re bound to find something unique and special at a local antique store, and you won’t have to feel your sanity slipping away as you try to turn left across traffic by Chick-Fil-A during rush hour over on Nelson.
I like Christmas music as much as the next guy, but I’m not prepared to hear it 24/7. Invest in a good pair of headphones and wear them around your neck all day, every day, everywhere you go. You never know when you’ll walk into a store and hear your trigger song. You know which one I’m talking about. Everyone has one.
Mine is Blue Christmas. I can’t stand it. Hearing the opening chords of that wretched song makes me physically weak, like how Superman must feel whenever Lex Luthor breaks out the kryptonite. Fortunately, I keep my phone and a pair of headphones on me at all times, so I can quickly drown out the plaintive “ooo-eee-ooo-eee” moans of the song’s background singers with literally any other song I have ready to play at random on my phone.
You have your own trigger song. Don’t act like you don’t. Maybe it’s Santa Baby or that awful, horrible, no good Mariah Carey nightmare version of All I Want For Christmas Is You that screeches its way into your ear holes every single time it comes on. Which is a lot, for some reason.
Click here for a quick list of other songs you’re likely to run into during the holiday season. They’re the worst, and should never be played by anyone, anywhere, at any time. But they are. All December long. Everywhere you go.
Be prepared to start your day with the heater on during your commute to work in the morning, then switching over to the A/C on your way home in the afternoon. Dress appropriately.
I recommend light jackets you can layer in the morning, then shed as the day goes on and the temperature rises. Never make the mistake of committing to the morning’s cold, or you’ll be sweating your pores off by lunchtime.
It'll also probably rain a lot, because in addition to living in a swamp, we're also in a tropical rainforest or something, because water is always falling from the sky here. The roads will flood because they always flood, probably due to the fact that the same lunatics who designed our roads also planned our drainage system. (Or lack thereof.)
People will not know how to drive in the rain, either. So be prepared for that. Some people will go absurdly slow because they fear water since I guess maybe they're Gremlins or something, and other people will drive insanely fast, just to prove to everyone how much water doesn't scare them. Either way, people will make your life miserable on the road.
You will see women wearing UGG boots, scarves, wool jackets, and all the other accessories that scream Winter Fashion everywhere you go, regardless of the temperature. Don’t worry about it too much. Just let them do their thing, because seasonal fashion doesn’t care at all about local climate.
After all, if all the TV shows set in places that have actual seasons have their actors dressed in super cute winter outfits, then everyone else is going to be wearing them, too. It doesn’t matter if it’s 85 degrees and sunny on Christmas morning. Christmas pictures will be taken, and nobody wants to be wearing short sleeves and blue jeans for the family photo in front of the fireplace. Which will also be blazing, by the way. Because of course it will.
A little while back, I wrote about The 7 People Everyone In Louisiana Has On Their Friends List, which contains everything you need to know about decorating for Christmas in Louisiana. The Fleur-de-lis Everything Person is out in full force during the holidays, with entire Christmas trees decked out in crawfish ornaments, fleur-de-lis tree toppers, and Mardi Gras twinkle lights.
The display by the Civic Center here in Lake Charles is pretty great, with The Twelve Cajun Days of Christmas depicted in festive, animated lights. (Okay, so there's nothing particularly Cajun about the Twelve Days of Christmas, but you should click that link anyway. It's pretty funny.) Just get ready to drive really slow down Lakeshore after the sun goes down, as people rubberneck around the place.
Then there are the lazy people who buy those ridiculous Christmas light projectors instead of actually hanging lights like we used to, back in the olden days of a few years ago. I'm sorry, but I just don't get the point of covering your house in tiny, multicolored pinpricks of light that have more in common with a Pink Floyd laser show at a 1975 roller rink than it does with Christmas in 2016.
But hey, who am I to tell anyone else how to decorate for the holidays? I have my own Weird Christmas Traditions, so I'm not here to tell you how to live. You do you. That's kind of the whole point of Louisiana, really.
We don't need anyone's approval. We do what we want.
That about wraps up my little guide to surviving Christmas here in Lake Charles. It's not much, and I'm sure I'll learn more important survival tips as the holidays push on, but this will do for a start.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, Southwest Louisiana!