Well Ho Ho Ho, people. Guess who I ran into the other day in Manhattan? Good old Kris Kringle himself, Santa Claus! He was in town making some last minute preparations for his big night on Christmas Eve when he loads up his sleigh with toys for all the good little boys and girls, hitches up his reindeer and flies off through the night from his headquarters in the North Pole, completing his journey around the world by Christmas morning. Pretty impressive if you ask me. I’ve often wondered how Santa manages this miraculous task with an old sleigh and what must be some pretty old reindeer at this point.

He’s been doing this routine for centuries now and the old guy’s still got a nimble spring in his step. He’s a little short, maybe around five-two, five-three, tops, and as round as you’d expect. His snow white beard is immaculately groomed and the trademark twinkle in his eye is still gleaming with delight. The only disconcerting thing about him when we met for the interview is that he wasn’t sporting the red suit and fur-lined cap, instead wearing a smart corduroy blazer over a turtleneck and a pair of jeans. On his feet were a pair of Gucci loafers and he wore no cap at all. He explained that the red suit was for Christmas night only and besides, he was here on business, doing a final field test on his new GPS system.

BC: “Santa, you use a satellite navigation system?

SC: “Of course. What’s the point of being Santa if you can’t get all the latest toys?”

BC: “Oh. How did you used to do it?”

SC: “By the stars, just like the old sailors. It was a real hassle but I was younger then and a bit of a cowboy at the reins, if you know what I mean. The reindeer were younger too so we really put the pedal to the metal.”

BC: “You still have the same reindeer?”

SC: “Sure. We’re magic, you know. How else could we do what we do on Christmas Eve? And how else could I have the same reindeer for centuries?”

BC: “Makes sense. How about the elves? Are they magic, too?”

SC: “I wish. No, they’re mortals, regular elves with regular life spans. Elves are the only ones willing to live and work at the North Pole. Those people don’t mind the cold at all, and they’re darn good craftsmen. If only they didn’t drink so much…”

BC: “The elves are drunks?”

SC: “Not much else to do in the frozen north, my friend. I try to keep them occupied, you know. I’ve got a bowling alley, a heated pool, ball fields, a billiards hall and a couple of gymnasiums up there for them. But then that darned long polar night descends, six months of darkness… That’s when the drinking and the fist fights start, and then they start hitting on each others’ old ladies… it gets pretty ugly sometimes.”

BC: “Ever think of relocating?”

SC: “Sure, lots of times, but the price of real estate is sky high. You have no idea how big an operation I’m running up there; toy factories, electronics assemblies, a whole division just for doll’s clothes, a leather works for baseball gloves and footballs, to say nothing of the housing I need for all the elves and Mrs. Claus and myself and the stables for the reindeer.”

BC: “I can see where a move might be a major undertaking.”

“SC: “You said it. Sometimes I’m tempted to just contract it all out to China like Wal-Mart and chill out all year.”

BC: “Santa, you can’t be serious!”

SC: “Just dreaming out loud, my friend. No, Santa’s got to do things like Santa does things and that’s that. It just wouldn’t be the same.”

BC: “That’s a relief. The elves still make everything by hand?”

SC: “Heck, no! I certainly don’t go overboard with tradition. State of the art, Santa’s workshop is, state of the art! We’ve got laser-guided power tools, computer-coordinated assembly lines, robot welders like in the car factories, automated gift wrapping machines, all sorts of modern gizmos!”

BC: “When did all this happen?”

SC: “Son, there’s been a population explosion these past few centuries in case you haven’t noticed. Elves are not exactly rabbits when it comes to breeding so I only have a small workforce. Automation was the only way to go.

BC: “But you still read the letters from the kids and make a list of who’s naughty and nice, right?”

SC: “Bob, you’ve been hitting the egg nog and brandy again, haven’t you? Didn’t I tell you there’s been a population explosion? Nowadays I have a computerized database to keep track of who’s naughty and who’s nice and which kid wants what presents and where they live nowadays. Don’t forget that plenty of people move around a lot these days. Years ago I had Bill Gates’ people work me up a foolproof program that keeps track of all that.”

BC: “That must have cost you a pretty penny.”

SC: “No way. Gates did it for old Santa, just doing his part for Christmas. Who do you think got him started in the computer business in the first place by giving him his first electronics kit for Christmas?”

BC: “I guess that was you, Santa.”

SC: “Bingo! The same with all the factory components. If it wasn’t for my Elf Research and Development Division half of these new inventions wouldn’t exist. These billionaire industrialists owe me big time and it’s the least they can do to retool Santa’s workshop every so often. Besides their help, I own a lot of patents for a lot of handy inventions. Ever hear of Velcro? That’s my personal invention. It’s made me a fortune.”

BC: “You invented Velcro? For what?”

SC: “Yep. I needed a way to keep all the presents from falling off the sleigh without having to tie them down and waste time untying the knots at every stop. It works wonders.”

BC: “I love velcro! What else did you invent?”

SC: “It’s a long list, my friend. Let me put it this way, Edison and Bell were amateurs. by comparison. Everything I’ve invented has been an effort to streamline my operation and, as it turns out, a lot of these inventions have practical uses for home and industry. NASA used a bunch of them for their space program and Steve Jobs actually owes the success of the iMac to a couple of little doohickeys Santa invented. Apple computers has donated hundreds of computers to my operation, with all the bells and whistles. The royalties on the toothpaste tube alone have funded a generous benefits and retirement package for the Elves.”

BC: “You invented that? But what good is the toothpaste tube to running a toy factory?”

SC: “That was strictly for Christmas Eve. The truth is I didn’t invent it for toothpaste but for Preparation H. All that sleigh riding is murder on the old hemorrhoids and the tube was much handier than the jar.”

BC: “Okay, so much for your inventions, Santa. tell me about Mrs. Claus.”

SC: ” Which one?”

BC: “Your wife, Mrs. Claus! The kindly looking little old lady with the white hair and the glasses we see in all the pictures…”

SC: “That would be Emma, God rest her soul, my first wife. She’s like a company logo today, sort of a tribute to my first love. She died three hundred and fifty years ago and I’ve been married a dozen more times, had a few live-in girlfriends too. The current Mrs. Clause is Sandi, a real hottie, let me tell you…”

BC: “Santa, you mean Mrs. Clause is dead? How can that be?”

SC: “My wives are mortal, Bob. It’s only me and the reindeer who are magic. It’s a sad truth, but that’s how it is. It’s not all sugarplums and candy canes being Santa.”

BC: “You buried a dozen wives? How sad…”

SC: “No, not all of them. Some of them divorced me.”

BC: “They divorced Santa Clause?”

SC: “It’s not easy living in the North Pole, Bob. Just me and around 500 alcoholic elves. If you’re really not completely committed to Christmas, it’s no life for a gorgeous babe.”

BC: “Where do you meet these gorgeous babes, Santa?”

SC: “I must confess that a couple of them I found dancing on a pole in ‘gentlemen’s  clubs.’ Others I met in various nightclubs around the world, art galleries or restaurants. I may be magic, but I have my desires too, you know. And I figure for all I give to mankind I’m entitled to a little good clean fun with pretty lady. Emma, the first Mrs. Clause was a serving wench in a wild pub in Bristol, England. She was a real firecracker, she was…”

BC: “Santa, you’re blowing my mind. here!”

SC: “Whoa, don’t be judging, pal. Don’t forget that I know all about you, what’s naughty and nice about your taste in women too! And we both know it leans more towards the naughty, if you know what I mean. Which isn’t a bad thing, mind you. Why, me and the current Mrs. Clause often like to …”

BC: “Easy, Santa, kids might be reading this.”

SC: “My bad, Bob. But now that you’ve got me thinking about Sandi I can’t wait to get back to the pole. The North Pole, that is.”

BC: “Of course. So Santa, since you know all about me and have since I was a little kid, how’d I turn out?”

SC: “Quite frankly, Bob, I’m disappointed in you.”

BC: “But Santa, I’ve been trying to do my best…”

SC: “Gotcha! Just messing with your head, Bob. You’re fine. Now you can tell your buddies you were punk’d by Santa.”

BC: “Gee, Santa, you’re not anything like what I expected.”

SC: “Just goes to show where you can stick most expectations, no?”

BC: “I guess so, Santa. Well, Merry Christmas and have a good trip on Christmas Eve.”

SC: “And a Merry Christmas to you, Bob! Ho, Ho Ho!”

And he was off in a flash. No, not on his sled with the eight tiny reindeer but in a cab to take him to the airport where his private jet would take him back to the North Pole to get ready for Christmas. A pretty nice guy, Santa, and more down to earth than you might expect. Quite earthy, actually. Well, good for him. Santa has done a lot of good for a lot of people over the years. If he wants to kick back in a gentlemen’s club with a stiff whiskey and some gorgeous babes running their fingers through his beard after flying all over the world giving toys to children, well he’s earned it. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

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