Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Santa's helper

Merry Christmas Folks!!!

 When I was a kid, the nearest enclosed Mall to us was The Pontiac Mall. Opening in 1963, just a year after yours truly arrived on this good green earth, it was a fantastic place! Decorated, as it was in late 50's post-modern/futuristic design. Lots of tile and metal sculptures!
Fountains ran the length of the main concourse, which to us were seen as wishing wells, we'd throw in coins and cast our wishes to the fates.

The main fountain was right in the middle of the mall, in front of the S.S. Kresge store. The special thing about this fountain was, every year at Christmas became the home of Santa's Igloo!
The fountain was covered, Metal trees removed and a huge flocked half dome was erected over
Main Fountain viewed from S.S. Kresge
it, resembling a giant igloo. Decorated with animated elves, hammering away or sawing wood for toys. Candy canes, and a seal balancing a brightly wrapped present on its nose! Stairs on one side led up to Santa's throne, where we would tell him our fondest wishes. 
It was THE place to see Santa as I was growing up, and I made more than my share of trips up to see that jolly old elf.

Fast forward to 1981, I had graduated High School earlier that year.
I had spent what free time I'd had from school and my part-time job at the sporting goods store in drama, debate and speech and acting competitions. Things that don't translate well out of school, other than I could argue your socks a convincing Russian accent! Lol

That November, I was strolling through the mall doing some Christmas shopping when a fellow about my age stopped me.
"Hey, you went to Kettering didn't you?"
"Yeah," I said looking him over. About my height, maybe 40 lbs. or so heavier, red hair and freckles.
"You were in drama, right?" He asked.
"I was," I told him. Looking closer, I had no idea who he was. "I'm sorry, what was your name?"
"Oh, you don't know me. I went to Mott (our rival school), but I've seen you in're pretty good. You looking for a little extra Christmas money?" He asked.
"I've got a job over at Gell's, behind the mall...why?"
"I'm one of the Santa's they hire for the mall, and we just had a guy quit, you'd be perfect, and I know they'll work around your schedule. Whatdaya say?"
"I don't know..." I hemmed.
"Come on, I'll introduce you to the boss!" He said, starting off towards an "employees only" door.

 In short order, I was in front of the "Head Elf" herself! Money was discussed, I tried on the suit and accouterment, and she said
"Ok, let's hear your best Santa..."
So I lowered my voice, projected from my diaphragm, gave some
"Ho Ho Ho's" and my best "Merry Christmas!" 
The boss lady nodded her approval and said, "You're hired, when can you start?"

Thus started my career as a mall Santa!
What a blast I had! I still have a box with Christmas lists; pictures kids had drawn for Santa, and little men, candies, handmade ornaments and the like. One big drawback to being know how Santa seems to take a lot of breaks? Well, it's not so we can sneak back for a nip of Christmas cheer, oh no!!! Nor is it because the job is so taxing. It's because some overzealous parent forced little Tommy to sit on Santa's lap when he really, REALLY didn't want to...

What he wanted to do is use the bathroom...and he did, right on Santa's lap! Each Santa has one coat, but four pairs of pants to change into that are laundered nightly. 

So when you see Santa taking a break, chances are good that he just got peed on!!!

My favorite story happened about halfway through my tenure there.
In between kids you were encouraged to wave to the passing shoppers...give a hearty "Merry Christmas", maybe even call out a "Hello Billy..." on the odd chance that a "Billy" was walking by with his parents.
 So, Friday night. The Mall is full of people bustling home with their treasures, when what to my wondering eyes should appear?
Why two girls from school, they're practically here!
"Ho Ho Ho, Merry Christmas Lisa Meyers! Oh, and there's Gretchen! Have you two been good this year?!?" I called out.
They stopped dead in their tracks, wondering I'm sure, just how in the Hell this mall Santa knew their names? A quick moment of whispered discussion and they got in line to see me; it was just Killing them! When at last it was their turn, they each took a knee.
"High Santa!!!" They beamed brightly, then under their breath "Who are you???" I gave them some hints, but I was too well disguised. When I finally whispered it in their ears, they gave a delighted squeal and posed for a picture with each kissing one of Santa's cheeks! Well, word went out and before long I had one or two girls from school each night...I could get into this!!!

But alas, all good things come to an it got closer and closer to Christmas the line of kids dwindled down to but a few and the powers that be, called it quits. I got fond hugs from all the elves I worked with (good looking College girls all), and we each got a commemorative picture of us as Santa. I'd include it if I knew exactly where that box was at.

But every Christmas I'm reminded of those magical days and the unreserved love of children I'd never met, who looked at me with eyes full of wonder and belief in the magic of Christmas. Why it's enough to keep this old Grinch going each year.
 Be Well Folks!
And a Very Merry Christmas from The Beastly Bear!

Friday, December 18, 2015

You're kidding me, right?

Hi Folks, I know it's been a while...sorry!

 Back when Mama Bear and I were just dating, back in the archaic 80's, we went out to eat a lot. One of our favorite places to go was for a pan pizza at a chain restaurant that rhymes with Pizza Slut.
You could sit down, order a beer (or Pepsi in Mamas Bear's case) and enjoy an appetizer while you waited for your piping hot pizza to be delivered right to your table. We went probably once a month, but when that craving hit, nothing else would do.

 One particular evening, I had picked up Mama Bear and we drove to the closest location of the chain. For a delicious Meat Lover's pizza. The lot was not particularly full when we arrived, which was somewhat unusual as they were quite popular at the
time. There were several around, and though not as common as say McDonalds they were plentiful, but we had our favorite. We walked in and waited by the obligatory "Please Wait to be Seated"
sign, though it was clear we had our pick of seating locations. After a brief wait, a bubbly waitress came and seated us and took our drink orders.

 I had to be up early the next day so we just went with a pitcher of Pepsi. She brought us to full glasses and the pitcher, then asked if we wanted an appetizer. We ordered our normal garlic toast, half with cheese half without. She left us with our drinks and went to turn in the appetizer order. Small talk about work ensued until she returned to take our actual order.
"All right, what can I get you folks?" she bubbled.
"I think we're gonna get a medium meat lovers pan pizza..."
"Oh, I'm sorry..." she seemed to deflate and adopted the pookey lip. 
"We're out of pizza."
"I beg your pardon?" I asked skeptically unsure if I had heard correctly.
"Yeah," She explained "our truck didn't come in today so we don't have any dough." Then she brightened again and said, "But we do have salads...and pasta, so what can I get you?"
"I'm confused," I said "the sign outside doesn't say Salad Hut or Pasta Hut...we came here for pizza, and that's what we want."
"Well we don't have any, so you'll have to order something else."
She said, a little snip to her voice.
"No, I don' fact, you should have told us as soon as we walked in that door that you didn't have pizza, instead of seating us, taking our drink and appetizer order. So we're leaving!"
"But you already ordered can't just leave!"
"Watch me!" I said, as we got up to leave I peeled off $3 for the pops we drank and we walked out.

 As we got in the car we looked at each other and burst out laughing, shaking our heads at the absurdity of it all. 
"Well," I asked "what now?"
"Still craving a meat lovers pizza..." Mama Bear said.
"Ok, we'll try another!" So we drove the 4 miles to another location. This one had more cars in the parking lot and was noticeably busier. We walked in and waited behind a family of four that had walked in ahead of us, as the waitress came and showed them to their seats. She came back, welcomed us and then said,
"Before I seat you, I need to let you know that we aren't serving pizza tonight. We do still have salads and pasta though if you'd like."
"Lot of that going around," I said, "we just left your Walton Blvd. location and they had the same problem. Except they seated us and took our drink and garlic bread order before letting us know..."
"That's just wrong..." She said shaking her head.
"That's why we left..." I assured her. 
"OK, well thanks for letting us know. We're gonna try somewhere else."

 Outside the door, we looked at each other and started cracking up, again...what are the chances? When we settled in the car, I asked
"Now what?"
"I still want pizza!" She said.
"We can try the one on the other side of town..." I offered.
"Let's do it!" She replied emphatically.

 So we drove all the way to the other side of town, parked and walked in. We stood by yet another "Please wait to be seated" sign, and waited for the Hostess.
"Just the two of you tonight?" She asked, menus in hand.
"Yeah," I said. "before you seat us, can I ask if you're serving pizza tonight?"
She looked at me as if I were a world-class moron.
"Ummmm, yeeeeaaaahhhh."
"Hey, if you'd had our night so far, you'd know that question is not out of line..."

Here's hoping you all get what you want...with a little less effort.

Be Well Folks, 

Beastly Bear