Dear Santa —
I’ve been a very good boy in 2003. Well, it’s all relative, right? Compared to Kobe Bryant and Paul Wolfowitz I look like #1 eagle scout with unsurpassed fire making and knot-tying skills. But I’ll be honest, Santa: I’m not sure I believe in you, yet as I get older I’m hedging my bets, and am considering changing my name to Zacariah Mustafa Lao-Tze Patel Jesus Black Elk O’Andersonstein II. Sure, it seems like a silly, almost barbaric thing to do. But what if God does exist (whichever way He swings)? Wasn’t it a burp of fate that the first chimp-man decided it was easier to haul ass RUNNING ON TWO FEET away from the lion rather than dragging his knuckles over the Sahara? How in the heck did we get from that monkey act of self-preservation to the Rose Bowl Parade? See, it doesn’t make any sense! So like I said, if you’re handing out goodies or insight into mystic secrets to eternity, then don’t forget about me. Here’s what I’m looking for at the dirty end of the chimney.
1) I don’t know what it is exactly, but here’s the general theme: get rid of the Republicans and the Democrats too. After watching Bush mangle every other word in his first two live (though carefully scripted) press conferences, I stopped watching him altogether. It was making my physically ill, like witnessing Joe Montana pick lice out of a baboon’s hide on a new cable channel called Gridiron Greats vs. Animal Planet. After the Supreme Court, Jeb Bush and Al Gore conspired to hand Ashcroft and Rumsfeld the White House, I rashly vowed that I’d vote for anyone who had a chance to beat Bush in 2004. But then came the S.F. mayor’s race, and the same old gutless, rudderless gang of sell-out jerk-offs named Clinton, Gore and Jesse Jackson landed their private jets at SFO for a quick photo op for the anointed savior of the corpse called liberalism: Gavin Newsom, a man nicely suited to selling timeshare condos, which makes him the perfect vanilla latté for the industrial-war-TV complex that calls the plays and fixes the scores. They give us spectator sports so poor kids have false hopes of riches and fame, and everyone else experiences the occasional delusion of victory (hey, even the Cubs make the playoffs once a decade). Scared by the greenish specter of Matt Gonzalez, the Democratic Party machine opened up its coffers for a silver hammer to pound another nail into its own coffin. I’m tired of holding my nose and voting; maybe I’ll just stay at home in November and hold something else, Santa, unless you figure it out.
2) A Kalashnikov rifle with extra ammo clips.
3) A guest appearance on Hollywood Squares, seated on the top row between Gary Coleman and Manute Bol.
4) A general lessening of noise, i.e., Christmas isn’t Christmas anymore due to the barrage of ad jingles and special offers and pharmaceutical cons masquerading as news programs and Mideast peace plans. April means that Home Depot has all of its formica and mildew-free shower curtains at prices too low to mention, just in time for your spring cleaning and three state murder binge. Come summer it’s the Ford Sale-A-Thon or the Sears’ Tire Blowout. In autumn Banana Republic has the year’s most fashionable cashmere available at last year’s prices — great looks never cost so little! Cold, plastic materialism isn’t just a theme, it’s one’s patriotic duty slash raison d’etre.
Starting before Thanksgiving and getting more insane each day is the volume: the pitches are louder, more garish, more frantic, more maudlin, more pseudo-scientific with the major networks solemnly reporting the retail sales numbers as if they were our daily prayers, which I guess they are. Open the paper and know in sixty seconds everything you’re supposed to: electronic gizmos moving fast, fantasy violence a hot ticket, tractor sales down, Saddam debriefed at undisclosed location, and the wire service clipping about the hundreds dead in Philippine mudslide faces a full-page color ad of man-child and accompanying monstro-schlong stuffed into thong-bikini briefs the color of Santa’s ruddy cheeks — ho ho ho, it’s a cold one at the North Pole tonight, kiddies!
But “Miracle On 34th Street” is on in an hour, and in a trance I move the twelve-pack into the freezer and watch bad college football and wonder if you, Santa, have ever felt like going back to sleep at two in the afternoon but decide to stay up and get drunk instead and flip through all 179 channels (assuming you have the Dish Network™) faster and faster until all you’re watching is the blip-blip of meta-images like fender reindeer tropical isle machine gun chickenhawks legal drugs Canadian dollars look there’s someone you went to school with gushing about the valet parking at the new mall, free with purchases over $500 not including tax and it’s too much, it makes you sick inside, you know... So I suppose what I’m asking for is a respite from the hawkers and the liars, to maybe find a place in the world where the profane has not steamrolled the sacred or even the quotidian, Is that too much to ask?
5) Erase from my memory banks Jose Cruz Jr. dropping a routine fly ball in A CRITICAL PLAYOFF GAME against the Marlins. Ditto all lingering recollections of Atlee Hammaker, Chris Washburn, Todd Fuller, Yanni, experiments with cannibalism, rabbit paw key chains, and the time I accidentally saw Newt Gingrich naked in a dream, which like really freaked me out.
5b) Everlasting destruction at the hand of God of Richard Perle, Charles Krauthammer et al, Bill Parcells, Hillary Clinton, ultimate frisbee and its cult-like adherents, Tom Arnold, and adults who take their shirts off in public spaces during lunch breaks while eating three slices of liquid pepperoni pizza in 95-degree heat then rub themselsves down with suntan oil.
6) More off-the-radar surprise cinematic gems like the great Brazilian film “City of God” and Ken Loach’s “Sweet Sixteen” (note: if renting the DVD, put the English subtitles on, as my Glaswegian cousin said he could barely understand the rough and tumble Scottish accents himself).
7) Shelter, health care, food and books for everyone, including free university for anyone bored enough to stick it out.
8) The collected fiction of Angela Carter.
9) A 98 mile-an-hour fastball that moves like Josephine Baker.
I won’t hold my breath.
PS. One more thing, Santa: Saturday night and a hard rain. I go outside to feel the storm, the power and myth of the dark, broken night. The electricity is out in large parts of the city, a great lake of shadow surrounded by neon signs and a shiny strap of glittering headlights. I walk to the Presidio, through the stone gates toward the bay, stand against a eucalyptus and listen to the sky fall in fresh melodies through the branches and the leaves. For a moment, beneath the sweet-scented canopy and feet firmly sinking into the soft ground, I let my fingertips linger on curls of wet tree skin, and anything seems possible. Anything at all.