Tom Mannion is someone who needs no introduction. But since you, dear readers, probably haven’t met the man behind the magic, I’ll give you a brief one. Tom Mannion works for Caltech and lives a short block away from the undergraduate houses – practically across the street from the Admissions building. Tom loves to throw free (or veeeery highly subsidized) events for students. Some call him a professional entertainer, the coolest of cool, a space cowboy, the gangster of love, “Maurice”, but everyone can agree that Tom is THE MAN. (Check out “The Joker” by the Steve Miller Band if you missed those last few references.)
Over winter break, Tom is hosting several events to entertain students that are staying on campus and to make sure that we are in fact still eating. (Practically every Mannion event begins or ends with stuffing your face). Tonight was a trip into different parts of nearby Los Angeles to view some particularly spectacular Christmas decorations.
Before we get to that story, let’s take a step back and talk about the Holidays at Caltech. Caltech definitely dresses up a bit for the holidays. Every office in the Center for Student Services puts up tinsel and garlands and the alleys of many houses drape the walls and ceilings with colored lights.
Just before Thanksgiving, the yearly Lloyd Christmas Tree was put up. Organized by three freshmen (including my roommate!), six strings of 60ft rope lights were hoisted from the bottom of Millikan Library to the rooftop and fastened to look like a giant Christmas Tree! To top it all off (literally) was a massive golden double L fastened to the very edge of the roof. This is Lloyd House’s yearly prank and quite a large undertaking! All of the frosh and many upperclassmen came out throughout the night to help us put it all together!
The final product. Thanks to Tyler Okamoto for this photo!
And here we see a mugshot of the pranksters themselves. Thanks for this picture goes to Dennis Liao, the Lloyd Historian!
Now back to Tom Mannion! We arrived at his house at 6pm and were first loaded up with sandwiches, chips, pretzels, soda, cookies, brownies, M&Ms, oranges, mozzarella and cherry tomato kebabs, and chocolate covered raisins. Then we boarded the small charter bus that Tom had rented and drove off into the night. There were four stops. At all but the last one, the bus unloaded and we admired the displays from up close.
First were the Huntington Gardens.
Second was the Balian house in Altadena. The Balian family made their fortune in the ice cream business and now has a mansion close by. Tom informed us that they are well known for going over the top around the holidays, and certainly did not disappoint!
Third was Christmas Tree Lane. Yes, this is the real street name. Yes, it lived up to its name. The street was lined with enormous fir trees, each one either draped with long strands of colored lights or turned into the classic triangular tree with some minimalist light strands.
Fourth was an especially festive neighborhood. Unfortunately, taking pictures of this area was too difficult since we didn’t get off the bus. Imagine though, each block had a different holiday theme and big wooden cut outs (at least 5 feet tall) for each house that sat in front of each mailbox. Themes included doves with olive branches, Christmas trees with cut outs for real ornaments, globes with the word “Peace” painted on in different languages, and some massive candy canes. On top of this, every – and I mean EVERY – house had some sort of extra decorations. These ranged from the basic lights on rooftops to a lawn completely covered in lights and a house that had three different Christmas figures riding in blow up airplanes with real spinning propellers. Can you say winter wonderland?
Here’s to more colorful days like these.
Until next time,