|As you can see, he does, and he doesn’t look like Santa Claus.|
I had the opportunity the other day to sit down and chat with a man who was quick to correct me in my thinking that he was Santa Claus.
“I am not Santa Claus. There is no one person who can claim that name. I am in fact merely a member of a vast and world wide organization called The Order of the Santa’s Claus. Since we all look relatively the same, as do members of any distinctive service organization, people erroneously think that there is only one of us, despite the clear evidence that this cannot be. So please, if we accomplish nothing else during this interview, lets clear that up right from the start, shall we?”
I was surprised at how serious this man seemed. No trace of the jolly, ho, ho, ho that I’d expected. Some things resembled the myth I was brought up on, but others were jarringly different.
This member was dressed in fur trimmed red woolens. Not a hint of felt anywhere. The cap, so famous in literature and advertising, was not of felt, but instead was intricately crocheted of a deep red, almost burgundy tweed. It was quite impressive. He said that the fur was real, rabbit fur, he said, but quickly assured me that the bunnies used were not killed for their skins and fur – there were raised, he said, and sheared like sheep, and lived on a delightful free range where they led happy and well fed lives. His beard was long, and impeccably groomed, and his moustache was waxed at the tips and curved up his cheeks. Despite the fact that his hair was a stark white, he looked to be in his middle-to-late forties, not an old man by any account. He smelled faintly of pipe tobacco, and on the shelf behind his stately cherry wood desk was a collection of intricately carved Meershaums. I was once a pipe smoker myself, and the odor brought back pleasant memories of tampers and pouches of Captain Black Gold, and smoke rings hovering in the smoking lounge.
On the lapels of his jacket were eight brass bells, which, he explained, were actually significant of his rank. Within the organization, he said, eight brass bells made him an officer, but not a highly ranking one. “Equivalent, perhaps, to an Ensign in your Navy” he said, “Though not graduate of any college. In the Order, it is only experience and merit that permits advancement.”
When I asked how long it took to achieve his rank, he vehemently shook his head and said “That is for other members only to know!”
I opened my case and took out my camera. He’d promised me that I could take a picture. When he saw the camera, he cringed, and shaking his head told me that members of his Order were not permitted to be photographed when, as today, they were in uniform.
“If you meet me in my street clothes, you can photograph me to your heart’s content,” he said. “But not in uniform. That rule is clear: When in uniform, we must only be depicted by hand methods, such as drawing or painting.”
Rather than put him off by asking him to break the rules, I went out to my vehicle and brought in paper and gouache paint. Making the picture was not difficult, and the time it took allowed us to have a long and deeply informative conversation.
He couldn’t tell me his real name, nor whether the office he met me in was owned by him or a rental. He cautioned me that if I tried to find out, I’d be wasting my time “We are very good,” he said, “At remaining hidden when we wish to.”
The Interview, Part One
E.T: How did you become a member of the Order of Santa’s Claus?
S: I was working on a farm in the northern part of the state. It was a harsh winter, not unlike this year in fact. I slept in the Pole Barn on the farm, and had to wake up several times during the night in order to feed the fires to keep warm.
One night, I was having difficulty sleeping. I got out of bed, stoked the wood in the stove, took a pee, and then went over to look out the window. It was snowing like heck out there, and the city lights reflecting off the low clouds made it eerily bright outside. In that light I saw a sleigh with a reindeer yoked to it. And I heard a voice in my head, saying that it was time to take the reins of the sleigh. Convinced I was dreaming, I went back to sleep. In the morning, I found deer prints, and could distinctly see an impression in the snow where the sleigh had been. That morning, Herman, my boss, told me that I was fired and that I’d have to find someplace else to live. I got in my jeep and drove to town, not knowing what to do next. I stopped at the grocery store, and bought a lottery ticket along with my groceries. Lets just say I won a modest sum, and that is how it all started.
.E.T: A modest sum? Might I ask how much a modest sum is?
S: No, I really shouldn’t tell you the amount. Moving on, I can say that it was enough to live quite comfortably on for a very long time, if I was careful. Well, when I collected my earnings, I moved out of that Pole Barn and moved into a house not far from there, which seemed to call to me. It was in a part of the state where, between the angle of the sun, and the high ridge of rocks around it, the place is always cold. In fact, there is nearly always snow on the ground.
Since I’d been living in the Pole Barn at the farm, and since I’d been dreaming of sleighs and reindeer, I decided to call my cold property the North Pole. After that, things started happening quite fast, you know.
S: Yes. I had more dreams about the reindeer. Later on I realized that the deer wasn’t a real reindeer, it was a manifestation of something very, very different, but I’ll get to that later. When we move in other circles, sometimes its hard to understand what we see, and our eyes show us something we understand so that we don’t go mad. That is what that reindeer was – a substitute for a concept that I wasn’t ready to grasp yet.
S: Then is the Sleigh a concept too?
Not in the same way. There is a physical manifestation which one could definitely call a sleigh – lets just say that the reindeer represents a higher concept/power/entity, but the sleigh is a real sleigh with certain unusual properties.
E.T: Such as?
S: Well this much I can tell you: it can take me anywhere, if the job requires it, but it never leaves my workshop.
E.T: I have to ask – and I’m possibly getting ahead of myself. Are there elves in your workshop?
S: No, I’m a more modern officer of the order. Some of the traditionals and other older members hold on to the whole elf thing, but I’ve found other ways of doing my work. I do have a network of people in mundane jobs that help me determine who’s naughty and nice, but I wouldn’t call them elves really, except perhaps in the way that some people consider EMT’s to be angels. Lets just say that my network is very very helpful.
E.T: Do you make toys and such in your workshop?
S: I’m not a toy monger. The toy mongers aren’t officers. I’d call them more lay-brothers, if you’ll, excuse the catholic vernacular. My job involves much more convoluted and devious gifting, which is well beyond the scope of this interview. Nice people need not fear my gifts. Nice people are always better off after receiving my gifts. Naughty folks get gifts from me too, but they never like what I bring them.
E.T: Are you married?
Yes. All members of the Order are required to marry before the end of their first training year. He name isn’t Mrs. Claus, that’s something else the myths got wrong. We married as normal US citizens, under our own names. She does get to wear a badge for being married to a Seneschal, but everyone thinks its just a pretty locket.
E.T: How were you invited into the Order?
After I won the lottery and bought the North Pole, I started using my money to do nice things for people I knew. When I ran out of people I knew, I started doing nice things for other people too. The invitation came after I donated a bunch of computers to an impoverished school up in Portsmouth. A few days later, a man knocked at my door. He was bearded, and wore a very elegant burgundy tweed suit, which isn’t identical to this one – but is similar enough to meet the uniform code.
He told me some small secrets about the order, and asked if I’d experienced any changes in my life recently. I explained to him about the loss of pigment in my skin and hair, of my attachment to my new home at the north pole. I told him about my dream of the reindeer, and the voice I heard telling me to take the reins of the sleigh. He already knew about the lottery winnings, and asked what I intended to do with them.
After hearing my own plans, he said that if I became affiliated with his group, I would learn how to make those plans happen, much more efficiently and quickly. He said that my newfound wealth was not an accident and that he knew because of what I’d been doing with it. And he explained a few things to show me how to increase the wealth, and to make it work for me so that I could continue to give nice gifts to deserving people – forever if I so desired.
Six months later, I’d earned my first bells. Oh – I’d better be careful. If I say anything else about time in the organization, I’ll be in breach of the Uniform Code of Giftgiving Conduct.
E.T: You say that you are a regional Seneschal. Can you tell me what region you are assigned to?
S: My physical ailment requires that I remain within five hundred miles of the North Pole. If I travel beyond that, I will lose my enhancements, and cease to be a gifter. So, although I can’t be more specific, you know that I can’t be further than five hundred miles from here. There are two others in this district too. I don’t have to do it alone, you see.
E.T: You said that there are strict guidelines for uniforms, but you have a certain leeway?
S: Well, yes. I choose my own clothing. The color is important and I can’t stray from that. There is a certain look we are going for, but we can vary the theme, within reason.
E.T: In the Navy, some of the other sailors wore uniforms they bought in the orient – especially dress uniforms of silk, or sharkskin, which looked identical to the official dress uniform, but were much more comfortable. You mean something like that?
S: Yes, that’s right!
To Be Continued
There is a lot more to our conversations, but I haven’t transcribed them all yet. I will add the rest as I finish it up. I am shocked that the organization he described has remained so well hidden over the years.
He told me that the Order tolerates the whimsical, vapid version of themselves because it adds a veil to their concealment.
He explained that there are those who, if they knew the full extent of the Order, would seek to end it.
He told me that he could only travel up to 500 miles from his North Pole, but later on in an unguarded moment, he showed me a picture of himself and his wife on a boat, somewhere in the Caribbean, so I know that he isn’t being entirely truthful with me.
I wonder whether his deceptions are just to conceal specifics about the Order.
During the next session: I have to remember to ask him why he has granted me this interview, if the Order is so worried about concealment. Maybe he assumes that nobody reads these blogs. In that, mostly, he’d be right. I’m not exactly the New York Times.
‘(before I left, he let me choose a Pipe to take home with me. I selected one carved to look like a gargoyle. It will look nice on my computer desk, next to my Star Wars figurines.)