I met Santa last week. He lives in Nashville.
It was Symposium Week. The Ingram Lab playwrights worked on our plays with this year's fellow, Donald Margulies (not God, but a delightful guy). I learned a lot about Air Space, fought with it a bunch of times, woke up early/late to finish Batman rewrites, and ate a lot of raw animal products (on purpose) (in restaurants). It was a great week.
And then. The last night in town. One shining moment rose above the others. I met Santa. You may not know this, but Santa does not live on the North Pole or in your heart or, as David Sedaris would have it, in Spain.
Santa lives here, in a double-wide-plywood-trailer-karaoke-bar that could go up in flames at any second. He stands behind a counter, handing out PBR to hipsters and hill people alike. Santa has no prejudices, but he's a stickler for politeness. Someone says they once got their pin confiscated by leaving the swear words in a karaoke Ben Folds song and had to earn it back. It's a family place, Santa's. I guess, in some ways, Santa is like God. He smokes. He likes trailers and cheap beer and free choice and karaoke. He wants you to have a good time, and he loves Tiffany and Whitney equally, but he does worry that, at any moment, a 5th grader might wander in, and he doesn't want it to have to grow up too fast. Or, he's just a super creepy dude. Or not. I like to think not.
As we wait in line, for our moment with Santa at the bar, I wonder what he'll say. If he'll like me. If I'll get a button. I want to say something endearing, but I forget how, so I just ask for a "Negra Modelo," please. And an O'Doul's for my pregnant friend. He smiles, a twinkle decking his eye (I mean, he's fucking Santa), and he says, "Stuff'll kill you." Like, not this stuff. Just stuff. In general. "We know," we say. And he reaches under the bar and pulls out two bottles and two pins.
I look around at the bare bulb lights and the plywood and the cigarette machine and a lady with big hair pouring her soul into "Don't Stop Believing." And I think, yeah, Santa's right. We could totally die in here. The whole place could go up in flames any second, and that would be it. Or not. I like to think not. I like to think it's more like waiting in line for a PBR and a button from a guy in a flannel with a twinkle in his eye and a button for everyone.