Sunday, December 20, 2009
Santa was a grillman
Before the house at the pole, and the marriage to Mrs. Clause, Santa was grillman at this diner; "The Nickel 524" off Linden and Church street, Brooklyn, New York. He would serve an all day breakfast to local riff raff and down n' outers. The odd business folk would come in and they would ask if "King" was working the grill. Eddie King, that was Santa's real name before he left the trade and got a job as a more diplomatic figure, some might even say, the Christ-archetype. Bringing good fortune and blessings to those who "were good" and withholding blessings from those who had "been bad." A Messianic figure no doubt, with his portly stature, beard and omnipotent knowledge. For many, he was and is the only "God" they will ever know. Santa became the official symbol of the eye-in-the-sky sailing through the wintery night pulled by the will of his creatures, bestowing good fortune on the innocent sheep, and their children, below. His symbol is everywhere, people hang his picture and wear his official clothes. They write songs about him and teach young ones about his moral observance. We make penance to him with every Christmas card, donation to a food bank and cheerful Christmas handshake. But "Santa" as we know him, was a Christ-figure long before he became Santa. Long before the FBI told him that he was going to be taking a new position and would be working in tandem with roving units of Santa teams. Yah, back when he was Eddie King at the 524, that's when he did good. True good. When he fried up some eggs for a shivering crack head, when he would help Mrs. Miller push her grocery cart through the door for a hot cup of coffee, when he would sit and listen to Tuck Harbour, a local lonely old drunk, tell him about the daughter he never had. King would sit and listen, puffing away on a Newport light, an upper arm tattoo of two naked women kissing, lightly visible beneath a sweaty t-shirt and greasy apron. Eventually, old Tuck would fall asleep in the diner chair, with a half-bottle of Bud and partially eaten burger and fries in front of him. King would would sweep up, cover old snoring Tuck with a blanket, and sit down at the bar and read the paper. Outside it was cold and the streets were peppered with punks and winos. The moon sat high above the clouds. He could feel something calling to him. It was his mission to help the broken and the vermin. Before he took a job rewarding "the good."