T-Bone rolls into the shop, 25 minutes late, early for him.
“By God man,” I say. “What the fuck happened to ya?”
T rolls the eyes, shoots the grin, and the Rorschach test splayed across his wifebeater tells the story:
The Sriracha splotch, a meandering dribble of Jager.
The desperate smudges of lipstick, a shade unavailable in the Continental U.S. the past decade.
“Rough one,” he says. “Anything to drink?”
I throw him the package from Party City, all itchy asbestos-laden floss and clearly flammable crimson polyester.
“Suit up, Santa. The fellas are waiting”
We do the shoot quick, maybe 6 takes in all.
It’s early for everyone, and we mumble into coffee cups: varying degrees of hungover.
I Irish up the Folger’s, Brad rallies us to please put a little twinkle in them steps.
Santa is getting into character, and all the good booze is quickly drained.
“Really man? The Crown Black? I told ya to hit the goddamn Kessler first, didn’t I?”
Green Screen stuff is done. We head downtown for some bar action.
Tbone rides with me in the truck, and we listen to NPR doing a segment on the Higgs Boson.
European nuclear research scientists say they are close to discovering the elusive God Particle.
T is fascinated: The meaning and origin of life, explained finally by subatomic particle?
T points out that it really doesn’t have any bearing on his precious String Theory, and I can only agree with a shrug.
I’m riding goddamned Anaheim Boulevard with Santa in the front seat, a can of malt Liquor between his legs.
And you still want the meaning of life?
We get out in front of Steiner’s, and the cars start honking.
“Santa! Yo Santa! What up bitch?”
T flips them off and dances in the street.
An Ecuadoran family packed into a ’89 Tercel slows and stops in front of Santa.
They hold out a toddler to pull on Santa’s beard.
The suit, it has him now.
He’s seeing adoration he hasn’t seen, well…….. it’s been a while: We’ll put it that way.
He’s still and always will be our lil Eric.
But the beer gut, The tattoos crawling up his neck?
The Devil Clown lurking just beneath his boxers?
But now, enveloped in something warm and familiar, he’s brightening up the day.
Coloring the book.
A young woman comes up to him on the sidewalk: Clearly, she’s been crying.
It’s fuckin’ magic.
Now it’s time to get into that dark bar and escape the fuckin’ magic.
It’s no use.
People see him, see that suit, and they can’t stop smiling.
Tbone does a few shuffling dance steps, pinches the bartender’s ass.
He drinks freely from the regulars’ glasses, and they can’t get enough of it.
Things start to get sloppy.
They always do.
Santa’s beard is smudged now, the white fur on his suit tells the story of multiple trips to the pavement.
I worry that the welcome is exhausted, the crew will see past the Suit and look into a darker, far more familiar fairytale.
As long as he has on some sort of combination of beard, hat and jacket, he can do no wrong.
People are filling the joint.
The word’s out on Facebook:
You gotta get down here! This Santa…he is a riot!!
And we pack up the gear and leave.
We leave Santa there, he doesn’t belong to us, not any more.
An ocean away, men huddle in the control room of a super collider, and they smash atoms against eachother.
They fall upon the leftover matter like crows on roadkill.
To see what it’s all about, see what makes man tick, is that it?
Yeah, well. They should’ve just asked us.