Yesterday I went on a hike with Santa and his rein-goats –I said “rein-goats,” not reindeer, and it was another interesting moment in the life of this journalist. It played out something like this:
I pitched an idea for a Christmas story to a local newspaper, and the publisher/editor gave me the go-ahead. While investigating (this is something any good freelance journalist does) Christmas traditions in the city where I live, I was put in contact with (one contact almost always leads to another… funny how that works) the towns very own Santa Claus, who has been on duty for over 20 years. Let me reassure you… apart from this Santa’s “real” beard and belly, there was nothing traditional about this guy. He’s very clearly a different kind of Santa!
When I called him on the phone, he was loud, jovial and very willing for me to interview him, but he had one stipulation. I had to show up on the morning of his big debut, which was held at this lovely historical museum and ranch, for an 8-am hike around the lake with him and his rein-goats. I agreed, and showed up with my camera and hand recorder ready to take on the morning with Santa. It was a lovely morning. The goats seemed happy, Santa led the flock and I had to follow behind. However, you really don’t want to stand or walk too closely behind a herd of goats. They poop FREQUENTLY, and it was very challenging trying to dodge their green pellets while trying to conduct an interview.
Everything was going along smoothly until my hand recorder stopped working. Suddenly I found myself trying to take notes while hiking, which was ridiculously difficult, especially with a herd of goats directly in front of me. I kept tripping on their hoofs, and then finally Santa said, “Uh, are you okay back there? What’s happening?” I said, “Well, my recorder battery died, and I am trying to keep up with you, while dodging goat poop and take notes on everything your sharing at once.” He answered back, “Uh huh… and how’s that coming?” I said, “Well, it’s not. Can we do this after we finish the walk?” He said, “Tell you what…”Why don’t you come with me while I suit up and get made up for my big appearance, and you can interview me while I get ready?”
Sounded like a good idea to me… so, game plan #2 came into being. He had exactly an hour and a half to shower, color his greying beard, eyebrows and hair white, put stage make up on his face, rosy up his cheeks and get dressed. What I wasn’t prepared for was Santa to come out of the shower in his boxers. That’s right. Santa came out of the bathroom at his friends house in his underware, and said, “There’s no way I am putting that hot Santa’s suit on before I have to, and so hope you’re not offended by seeing a fat man in his undies darlin’, but you’re gonna have to deal with it, cause I ain’t putting clothes on while I get made up!”
So there I was, in the middle of Santa’s inner sanctum watching him paint his beard and hair snow white, put his face make-up on and suit up. By the time he got his heavy red velvet suit on, he was dripping with sweat from head to toe, and affirmed his absolute hatred of the beard and the costume. He then told me that the beard comes off on December 26th and he is counting the days, but in late February or March, he begins growing another one again.
We left his friends house, and went over to the museum, where he began a 2-day run of his Santa act.
I asked him what he did when he’s not playing Santa and he said, “Oh, you mean when I’m not making toys back in the North Pole? I drink beer, belch, back-pack with my packing goats, build cannons (only for the novelty of it), work as a high-tech plumber (not the toilet fixers), and volunteer for various organizations in the community. Occasionally I boggie board, and have considered taking up surfing. I don’t take people’s B.S., and you don’t really want to know what I think of Christmas…”
Surf’s up Santa…