I was reading Tim Murphy's blog last night. (Hey, who doesn't have a blog these days?) I don't think he knows I read it. When I was visiting him in October, I saw it. He said, "This is just stuff for work. You won't find it very interesting." No? Well, I check it all the time. Tim doesn't figure himself as a writer but I am a reader, so…
Anyway, I was reading it last night and I saw a passing mention of Santa La Salle. Ah, Santa La Salle.
Who was he? Well, history (if made up) tells us that there are a lot of Santas. Only that Kringle guy gets the good press. The rest are out there doing their giving in less… flashy ways. Then, there's Santa La Salle.
The first appearance of Santa La Salle happened one Christmas when I wanted to drop off some gifts. (I forget which year.) Now, I have no idea how I'd been able to purchase gifts because, back then, I was always broke. (Hey, I was a teenager, you know?) Tim and I hung out a great deal back then. He figured he'd come along… and we came up with this idea. I didn't have a Santa suit but I did have some fake, white hair and some spirit gum (actor that I was) and some pillows. And when we were done making me up as Santa, I looked nothing like that Claus fellow. I didn't look like THE Santa but we figured I looked like A Santa. Santa La Salle.
We walked all around Santa Ana (yet another Santa), delivering gifts. Tim wasn't dressed like an elf but figured he must be one since he was with me and didn't have antlers (thus ruling him out as a reindeer). I'd say "Ho Ho Ho" in a low voice and he yell "Ho Ho - Ho Ho Ho Ho" in a high-pitched whine. It was really cool. Partially, I think it was cool because almost nobody got it. "And you're Santa WHO?" they'd ask. "Santa La Salle, of course," we'd reply. "Who?"
It was a one-time thing. I was never supposed to happen again.
But then, Rob came along. Rob, who had an elf costume (actually, I think it was a modified Robin Hood) and, more importantly, a CAR! Tim and I had walked because we hadn't had a car. Now, it's really sad to say this but my memory has faded so much over the years that I can't remember if we did it one year or two. I know it couldn't have been more than two. So, it was either the one year we did it or the last year we did it when we actually got me a Santa suit.
The suit belonged to the parents of DeAnna - whose last name I remember but couldn't spell to save my life, something life "Leifgshkey" - the girl who had been Rob's girlfriend and who I had dated that recent October. Yep, I screwed up my friendship with Essex by dating his ex (DeAnna Caudillo), Tim Murphy by dating his ex (Mary Cassidy), and Rob by dating his ex (DeAnna Lievchgzki - or something). (For the record, I also dating another of Rob's exes, Christy Morrison. For the record, she was HOT HOT HOT.) I was a dick. Her mother talked to me outside of their home as Rob got the suit. "You know, Ken, we all like you even though things between you and Dee didn't work out. You just need to learn when enough is enough. Don't let your emotions have such control over you. You need to just reign it in a little." I kept wishing she would shut up or Rob would come out with the suit or BOTH. You see, I'd fallen hard for DeAnna (as, oddly enough, Rob had predicted I would) and couldn't really accept when she'd broken up with me. I didn't stalk her… really. But I bugged any good feelings she might have still had for me right out of her.
Anyway, we got the suit. I looked like that Claus guy. The problem with looking so Kringl-esque, however, was that nobody understood the Santa La Sall-iness of it all. It was no longer an absurd take on a Christmas tradition. ("Bifmas" anyone?) Now, people kept assuming I was Claus! NO, I told them over and over. But it didn't help. Sure, I got served booze in people's homes (where they didn't know me personally - we were also dropping off Rob's gifts) because they didn't realize how young I was but others would bring their kids up to me ("Kids, Santa's here!" "Yeah!" No kids, I told Rob afterwards. No kids! It was supposed to be a surreal, teenage rebellion against Christmas, not a complete embrace of the traditional image!) and still others would give me their gifts and ask us to make stops at other homes!
We could have made a fucking business out of it!
But it ended in 1985, with Rosa. Or, perhaps I should say, because of Rosa. You see, that year, we couldn't get the suit. I was so glad! I was so looking forward to a return to form! I even had images of giving Santa La Salle this great backstory about how he got syphilis from Turkish nuns!
"Would that make me, Mrs. Claus?" Rosa asked.
"No, not Claus," I corrected. "La Salle. Mrs. Santa La Salle."
You see, she wanted to go with us, make her appearance as the third of our troop.
Then, she found out there'd be no Santa suit.
"Well, what are you going to wear?"
"Oh," I spitballed, "maybe jeans and a red windbreaker."
"That's not Santa!"
"No. That's Santa La Salle."
But she didn't get it. I even showed her all the fake, white hair and spirit gum!
I think it all came crashing down when she forbad me from visiting her friends or family. She didn't want them seeing that. With a kidney blow to the concept, she turned Santa La Salle from absurd and surreal into cheap and stupid. (I must admit, it's painfully easy to do. I can't count the amount of ideas I've had that have been shot down by a simple, "I don't get it.")
And so, Santa La Salle came to an end. I never told her it was because of her. I said something like, "Well, I'm kind of tired of doing it anyway." "Wait until you have a Santa suit," she said… and that killed Santa La Salle.
That is, until last night. Last night, I read Tim Murphy's account and remembered something that she never got. I'd lost it because I'd been with her and had been infected with her sensibility. (We're all infected by others to one degree or another, like it or not.) Very simply, cheap or stupid, absurd or dumb, surreal or sucky, it was FUN! It was fun to appear on someone's doorstep in this crazy getup, yelling "Ho Ho Ho" and giving gifts. That's the Christmas fucking spirit, dammit! Was Kringle's getup that normal looking when he first did it? Hell no! And for those of you looking to tie in that Christ fellow, who is he but someone hard to look at, saying "Ho Ho Ho"?
Maybe Santa La Salle will return one day. Maybe I'll find another cohort who says, "I've got this great idea…" But until that day, he's been reborn in my heart and I have Tim Murphy to thank for it. Thanks, Tim. Thanks for starting a short-lived tradition with me and for reminding me once again what it all meant. And, lest I forget, thanks to Rob for carrying on that tradition with me. (As traditional as that Santa suit might have been, we both got huge laughs out of explaining the Santa-mobile to the kids who thought I was the real Claus.)