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Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas

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Published by Anthony Simone

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Published by: Anthony Simone on Aug 14, 2012
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08/14/2012

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By Anthony Simone © 2008
It was 8:45 when I got there and I wasn’t sure if I’d have time enough to do it. See Santa, I mean. InMacy’s. Yeah, the
one on 34th Street. Yeah, from the movie (and not that lousy remake for TV, either).
It was chilly, too, given that this was Santa’s first day for this year’s New York gig. Underdressed for 
the weather but determined to see Santa, I hustled up the escalator (no elevators for me, bub) to thefourth floor where the old man was situated.
Sure enough, he was there and since it was his first day there weren’t many kids around, or anybody for 
that matter. So I ambled up to him and said, as earnestly as I could,
“Santa, can I have a few minutes of your time?” He stared at me from behind the granny glasses perched on his red nose and said, “Whatare you, kidding me?!” I blanched. “You’ve got to be 40 years old at least!” “Forty
-six, actually,
Santa,” I muttered, “and I still believe in „.” my voice trailed off. Santa glared at me for a moment.“Damn!” he finally said, “I haven’t seen one of you in a long time.” Another stare. “I get out of here at9, wanna have a drink?” “I always want to have a drink, Santa,” I rep
lied, barely concealing my delight
over this unexpected good fortune. “Great, “he said. “Go over there and hang around the toaster ovenswhile I finish up here, then meet me at the main terminal bar in Grand Central at 9:15. Sharp.” And,
with a wave of his hand (no sashes available) I was off to Grand Central.The main terminal of Grand Central station is a wonder at any time, but during Christmas it is glorious.The ceiling is already covered with the constellations ever so softly lit and, with the addition of all theChristmas lights, wreaths and ornaments, that ceiling becomes a canvas of urban beauty andimagination. Since the bar is close by, the images are always around you from peripheral points. Santaknows his spots. No sooner had I sat down than h
e appeared. Yeah, appeared. Like, I didn’t see himcoming. Like, his ass just showed up on the stool next to me. “So, great spot, huh?” I nodded inagreement. Santa looked at me again intently and smiled. “Let’s get a drink and you’re buying cause
Santa do
esn’t carry money.” “Not even gas money?” I asked. “Very funny,” he said. The drinks were
ordered, arrived in short order and, after what seemed to be an interminably long sip, Santa looked at
me again. “So, let me ask YOU something?” I nodded. “What in th
e world would make a 46 year old
man want to talk with Santa?” Before I could answer, he blurted out, “and why do you STILL believein me? I’ve been thinking of hanging this up and letting the deputies handle the admin stuff anyway.”
 
“Well, Santa,” I began, and he interrupted me again. “Listen, I know you call me Santee Clauz andthat’s what you say to all the kids, too, so go ahead and call me that.” I grinned and said, “OK, Santee,here’s the story. I’ve got a lot to ask of you this year; a lot more than
 
usual, so I thought I’d make a tripto see you and, New York was the closest and best spot I knew of.” Santa fingered his rocks glass andreplied, “You don’t ask for much to begin with, at least not for yourself. So, what do you want?” “How
 
long have you
got?” I questioned. “All night, son. Things don’t get hopping till around December 15th.And when this joint closes we can always go the Waldorf, I got a suite there.”
 
“All right, how about I get myself out of the way first?” I asked. “Sure, sure, whatever you say „ hey!How about some peanuts over here?” Santa shouted. A waitress scurried over with a heaping bowl of nuts. “Nuts!” Santa laughed, “
This
world’s full of them.” I got myself reorganized and continued. “Youknow I’d like a little whiskey and maybe a couple of good books and a nice sweater or two. That’s it,really.” “How about cigars this year?” Santa queried. “Naw, I quit smoking,” I said. “Remember I toldyou I wanted to live to be 100?” “Oh, yeah, that’s right,” Santa said. “You know age is ju
st a state of 
mind „. and gravity.” “Got you, Santee, thanks.” “Sorry,” he said, “keep going.”
 
“So, what I’m looking for is stuff for the people I love and a couple of things I can’t really explain,except to say that they aren’t things but something else; something I don’t know how to define.” SanteeClauz gave me a once over and said, “You’re getting a little psychiatric, if you know what I mean. Do
you know how hard it is for me to just get around to the toys? Hell, half the time the elves are off  boozi
ng it up or hitting on each other „ a repulsive site, really. And anyway, I’m having a harder andharder time with the mentality gifts.” “What do you mean,” I asked. “Pal,” he answered, “half theworld doesn’t believe in me and tells their kids I’m just a
creation of Rankin and Bass, and the other 
half of the world tells their kids that I represent all that’s materialistic and take away from the true spirit
of Christmas. Hell, I was there when Jesus was born! I know what a big deal it is. This stuff abouth
aving Christmas in your heart all the time has to come from all of you. I just don’t have the horse, er,reindeer power to do it.” I began to look down into my drink and Santa added, “But go ahead and tell
me. I can always do my best, which is usually pret
ty good. And anyway, you’ve been a very good boythis year.”“Well, Santee, “I said, “it’s good to know you think I’m pulling my weight.” Santa laughed andreplied, “It’s not about pulling weight, kid. It’s about not denying to yourself or anyone else wh
at
happens on this planet and how you can affect it and others.” Now it was my turn to give Santa a penetrating look. “Hey, Santa,” I said, “You’re not going to give me the Christmas Carol treatment, areyou?” “No,” the old man replied, “but a variation on
 
the theme. Wanna’ take a ride?”
 
The first thing I noticed about Santa’s sleigh was its simplicity. No high tech lights, ultra shiny bronzeornaments or spotless stainless steel sleigh rails. It’s Radio Flyer red, of course, with gold trim and
 plain iron
rails. The bench seat isn’t leather, more like a buffalo hide that’s more than a little worn. Theone accommodation to modern times is the GPS unit mounted on the dash. “Even I gotta’ have one of these,” Santa confided to me. “A couple of years ago Rudolph
had a head cold and we wound up in
Manitoba instead of Minnesota.” The second thing I noticed was that this sleigh and reindeer weresituated smack dab in front of Grand Central and nobody noticed at all. “Are we invisible?” I wondered
 
aloud. “Nope,” Santa said, “but just like the sleigh bells – 
 
you have to believe first to hear and see.”
 We rose from the street and into the air effortlessly, without noise or hoof beats, like the ascension of ahot air balloon. Once we got to what seemed like an Everest like elevation, we rode the air as a surfer 
does a wave. I felt no cold and heard nothing but my own thoughts „ so did Santa.
 
“You’re wondering where we’re going, huh?” he asked. “Well, sure,” I said. “I’m surprised I didn’t see
 blurriness before my eyes,
like you see on the TV when you’re headed into a dream or flashback.” “Idon’t pull stunts like that, buddy,” Santa said. “God equipped me with the space
-time continuum gift.
Works wonders when you’re short on time and you forgot your house keys.”
 Before
I knew it we had stopped. “First stop,” Santa announced. “Where are we?” I questioned. “Takea walk around and you’ll see soon enough,” Santa commanded. Commanded was the right word,
 because it was clear to me we were in a war zone. I felt the cold at this point and, on either side of mewere miles and miles of barren fields, horse carcasses and shredded tents atop trenches. It looked muchas Verdun or Flanders may have in 1917. Not too far from me I saw a group of men huddled behind anembankment, their uniforms barely more than rags, long rifles leaned on as canes and in their midst aflicker of a fire. The air smelled rancid and, far off, I thought I saw stars and a few stripes. I knew
immediately. “Valley Forge,” I said aloud. “Smart lad,” Santa said. “O
f course, it could just as easily
 be France, Germany, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan or Iraq. Does it really matter?” I shot Santa a look with the force of one of the long rifles I saw. “It does to me,” I hissed. “Temper, son,” Santa calmlyreplied. “Take a look around and you’ll see why this Christmas at Valley Forge is important for you to
see firsthand
.” Santa gestured broadly across the field and said, “Do you see that fellow about ahundred yards to your left? Next to what remains of that tent?” “Oh, yes,” I said, “I see it. He looks pretty beaten down.” Santa leaned over and touched me on the shoulder. “That’s your great
-great-great
Uncle Henry Sprague. With the Long Island first regiment.” My jaw dropped as Santa went on. “Your mother told you about him once, didn’t she? How he had come down from Canada only a few years
 before the revolution, joined the regiment just before the battle of Long Island and ended up a Captain
in the Continental Army, right?” “Right,” I stammered. “You know Washington lost nearly half the
army just before and during Valley Forge from desertion and lack of re-enlistment. But not your uncle.
He stuck it out and gave up his Christmases until 1783.” “I had forgotten about him,” I said slowly.“Well, don’t forget anymore,” Santa said, somewhat sternly. “Let’s go.”As we winged across the sea I said, almost casually, “Santa, muc
h as I was thrilled to see my uncle,
what was the reason you showed me Valley Forge?” “Well,” Santa replied, “you know already, I hope,that Christmas isn’t about asking for things, it’s about giving things.” “Yes,” I said, “I do prefer the
giving to the g
etting. But all of us long suffering, people pleasing martyrs do.” Santa threw back hishead and laughed to the point of rocking the sleigh. “At least you know yourself, son,” he finally said.“More often than not the joy of giving is missed. You see, thos
e boys at Valley Forge stayed there not

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