Requiem For A Santa

Sunday last it was close to 90 degrees when we held the funeral for Santa at the Jewish Temple.

If that sentence doesn’t cause some cognitive dissonance, you are probably as warped as I am. I revel in strange things, even sad things, that have some poetic beauty if you look long and hard. There was plenty about this event to bring beauty.

The late Santa Dale

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As recently noted on this blog, one of my fellow Santa members died of a massive stroke. Dale Tetzlaff was one of those guys who chose to be Santa every day of the year. To some extent all men who are Santa live the life throughout the year, but each of us takes it to a different level. In my case, I have the beard all year, and when I get “that look” from a child who is clearly wondering if I am Santa, I smile, give a finger waggle, and often will hand a “You’ve met Santa and this proves it” card to the parent. But for the most part, I’m mistaken for a biker thug or a homeless guy. My wardrobe needs improvement. When I occasionally dress in a black suit, I am mistaken for an Orthodox Rabbi. But most of the time I’m just Joe with the blue eyes and the shaved head.

Dale, like many of my friends in the business, kept his personality geared to being Santa. Creepy, right? Not at all. It meant that like Nicholas of Myra he maintained a love of mankind that was sometimes bordering on the naive, but never short on faith in his God. He brought a little bit of Christmas to his every interaction with the public. Outside of work hours (*he was working in a job that required a uniform*) he was to be found in a red outfit. Even in the summer, it was a red shirt at
a minimum. Nobody that met Dale ever wondered if he was Santa. Not even the adults. All things considered, there are far worse ways to go through your life than being “out” as Santa 365.

A professor (who’s also a Santa, and a preacher) led the funeral service. He started out the service by pulling out a model of the human brain and showing us where Dale’s stroke took place. He told us that when that let loose, you were effectively dead and that was that. Dale managed to make it for a long time, and he was conscious when he was brought into the emergency room. His sense of humor hadn’t left him, and he told the doctors and nurses that he’d “wrecked the sleigh.” Not bad words to number among your last.

Why a Jewish temple? Darned if I know, but it is hard to find a big space to hold a memorial service, and we’d outgrown the park pavilion where it was originally scheduled. It is a beautiful building, and the stained glass is breathtaking. I’ve never seen a window that was so large and thin and colored so beautifully. Along the wall we had an American and an Israeli flag. Not at all conventional for a memorial service for a non-Jew, but I liked it.

Gary Mumaugh, our professor/pastor/Santa, did an excellent job delivering a eulogy. He also was gracious in his inclusion of the family in the service. Nicely done, Good Sir.There were moments, however, when I found myself looking around for Rod Serling. The entrance processional (as such) was a Christmas Hymn, Silent Night. The audience was a mix of garb ranging from suits to shorts (it was very hot outside this weekend) but the predominant color was red. Lots of red, for his fellow Santas showed up in large numbers to remember one of their own. Not the full suit you see in the movies, but an assortment of garb that we wear as “casual wear” to some Santa visits. I sported more formal attire, and a red beret with a candy cane pin.

Things got a little strange when the “recessional” turned out to be Santa Claus Is Coming To Town. A great song, and since we were in the community room of the temple and not the sanctuary, strangely appropriate to recognize the fact that Dale had left this Earth and was already arrived in Heaven. The problem is, even with the words in the program we struggled with the song. Not that we can’t sing, but none of us has ever done two verses of that song that I know about. In my case, it’s used as the “cue” music that I am to emerge from wherever they’ve hidden me away at an event. I don’t pay attention to the words because I’m greeting people, hoisting children up for a hug, or waving to the cameras. This year I will be paying closer attention to the lyrics. But we struggled through two runs of the song and were told not to give up our day jobs. Feh – Santa works at night!

At this point Mr. Serling hopped out of the closet and moved directly into our midst. There is a salute in the fraternity of Santa Claus that we use sparingly. It goes like this:
“Give me a Ho!” which is responded to by the crowd with a resounding shout of “Ho!”
“Give me a Ho, Ho.”
“Ho, Ho!”
“Give me a Ho, Ho, Ho.”
“Ho, Ho, Ho!”
“What’s that spell?”
“Merry Christmas.”

It’s not quite a secret handshake, but it’s close enough. In the community room of a Jewish temple. On a Sunday. In the 90s. To memorialize Santa Dale.

Yep. That’s strange. And yet beautiful. For we sent our friend off with the Santa equivalent of a 21 gun salute. And we will keep his memory alive as long as we’re around in those red suits.

Footnote: Dale and I are the same age. I’m actually slightly older. And it struck me that I am ready to meet my maker at this point on a spiritual level, but is my family ready to deal with the exit? Yes. I verified that my wife can access all my scheduled visits for the Christmas season on the computer and get word to the people that Santa will not be coming that year when my time comes. Also, I’d like to suggest that they not play Santa Claus Is Coming To Town – instead, The Star Spangled Banner as performed by Marvin Gaye.

I don’t know if Dale’s wife is going to be able to find all of his dates, as she’s not sure how his computer notes and dates are set up. I am relieved that I will not be leaving that burden in my wake. But once we crack that computer for her, we’ll make sure every child has a visit from one of us. It’s the right thing to do.

Dale is gone, but Santa lives on.

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When you finish reading any book (especially mine) please review it at www.amazon.com, www.barnesandnoble.com, and www.goodreads.com. Your review increases the chances of someone looking for a new book greatly. Authors appreciate your review, even if it is just “I thought this was a good read and will give it to my dog to chew. I especially liked the ending, because it made me feel better when he killed all of the main characters. (no spoilers, please)” Those few words (more than 20, fewer than 1,000 is ideal), and a 1-5 rating, make or break how the search engines find us. Thanks in advance.

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I Warned You: I’m Back.

I’m back.

Yes, that might be bad news if you’ve been rooting for my demise, but very few people who despise me take the time to read this blog.

I took a couple of weeks off from all my vocations to heal up a bit after some surgery. Nothing major, but one of those things that you have to do to keep your eyesight clear and sparkly.

The background is simple: about 7 years ago I had surgery to remove part of my eyelids and pin my eyebrows up a tad. The advancing forehead that comes with age for men in my family had caught up – it was a landslide in favor of the forehead, and as a result it had pushed down into the space reserved for my eyes. I lost quite a bit of peripheral vision, and was constantly tired from holding my eyes wide open. As an experiment, take the next minute to hold your eyes wide open and then when the clock on your screen ticks over to the next minute, multiply that by 60 minutes per hour, 17 hours a day. Yup, gets mighty tiring and contributes to my migrain headaches.

Unfortunately, while the eyelid portion was still working just fine, the eyebrows had continued to migrate toward the tip of my nose. Thus the look below:

If you look closely, other than a fat guy, you will note the eyebrows are basically a straight line, and they are pushing down on the lids. This took away a big chunk of my peripheral vision to the upper part of the eyes.

Last March, during my V.A. physical, we got to the end of the physical and my provider asked if there was anything else we had to do. I mentioned the eyebrows were drooping again. “No problem.”

Now I get to say something you need to hear: God Bless President Donald Trump. My provider has always been good, but the Veterans Choice program has kicked in hard, and combined with an attitude change on the part of many employees, there is a sense of urgency in getting us the care we’ve earned. The new law passed recently codifies it, but I was in under the old law – and the massive attitude change mandated by an angry President Trump.

What’s the big deal? Now, instead of blowing off patients for years, the VA has to get you in to a civilian provider if they can’t handle it in-house within 30 days. I was sent to the Saint Paul Eye Clinic, Dr. Douglas Dworak. Within two weeks. Not six months, not a year, two weeks and they were setting up the appointment at Veterans Choice.

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I love the way the staff, and Doctor Dworak, have treated me. Super clean facilities, extremely friendly, professional, honest, and some great cutting. Every single person I met along the way treated me with great respect and courtesy. Each also provide straight answers and dealt with me as an adult. No lectures, no talking down to me, no condescension. And while it’s early days (less than a month since the surgery) the results look great so far. The key is ice packs the first week, and lots of ointment. I did the ointment, but my beloved spouse kept the pressure on me to use ice packs throughout the first week. My forehead is still thawing.

What does this look like? I’ll let you search the web for videos, but mine was a bit different, in that I had no hairline to hide the scars. Also, most of these surgeries just do the outer third of the brow. Mine was a full browplasty because the whole thing was too low. So Dr. Dworak did the incisions right above the brow, and it looks like my bushy brows will hide the very minimal scarring nicely. Further treatment is planned to take care of any scars, but as long as I keep out of the sun, use sunshade, and avoid any boxing matches I should be an easy fix with just a few injections at most.

Because I know some of you are morbidly curious, click on the “below the …” thingy and you will see pictures from the day of until today. Not pretty, but interesting in a strange sort of way. If you have this problem, it’s a good idea to get checked out. It’s considered medically necessary by most health plans. I abhor plastic surgery for cosmetic purposes, but this is a very useful procedure if you want a quality of life improvement for your vision and fatigue issues.

Before you click the link to look, it ain’t pretty. You’ve been warned. Continue reading

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#HelpahomelessSantafamily

Yeah. I went with a hashtag # on the blog, so that it would flow into the search and twitter engines.

Sorry I’ve been A.W.O.L. for 10 days, but I have a bunch of good reasons I’ll explain next week.

In the meantime, I need your help. A fellow Santa that I knew well passed away this week. What I didn’t know was that his family had become homeless in the last few months. So my friend dies in the hospital, his wife (who is handicapped) is now truly homeless, and they don’t even have the scratch for a memorial service.

I’m asking you, gentle readers, to hit the link below and drop $20 bucks in the kitty if you’ve ever read this blog and gotten something out of it. But only if you can spare it. God has been abundantly good to me, so I dropped in the proceeds from my best Santa event last year. But we need many more people.

$20 isn’t a lot of cash- that’s bagels for the office on Monday. In a small office. It’s what I spend in a month at Tim Hortons. It’s all we need to do if everyone who reads this blog kicks in a donation. Yes, that would find his wife a place to live, give her a new start, and hold a memorial for my friend.

So, if you’d be so kind, here’s the link: https://www.gofundme.com/5r0jb88
I’ll see you all next week with some gory pictures of me. Promise. (And, yes Doug, they are all gory when I’m captured on film.)

Many thanks for your soon-to-be-astounding generosity.

Santa thanks you.

The late Santa Dale

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Let Me Splain This Clearly

This post is for all of my friends who are distraught over families being separated at the border when they are captured breaking the law. Yes, illegal immigrants. The legal ones come in through ports of entry with documentation. Now that we’ve established the difference, we need to break another line out for you: if you show up with your whole family as a refugee on the border, and are here for economic purposes, you’re faking that as well. Especially if you’re from Honduras, Belize, Guatemala, etc. You had other countries in which to take refugee status on the way here. And, economic gain is not a reason for refugee status.

Now that we’ve eliminated about 99% percent of the people in focus here as having bad reasons, what about the 1% who are real refugees? They are unfortunately buried by the wave of others. Sometimes bad things happen, relatively speaking. But it’s not quite so awful as you might think, so read on… there is a price for everything in this world.

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All of this is because Donald Trump hates brown people, right? Wrong. It’s the law. Has been for years. But he’s especially harsh on foreigners because he’s a xenophobe. Right? Wrong. And I’ll tell you why.

Essentially the people in question are homeless persons with no place to stay while awaiting adjudication. What if a similarly homeless woman in Kenosha, Wisconsin, was arrested for setting abandoned dumpsters on fire. Much like the silly argument that entering the country illegally hurts nobody, we now have a woman who has forced the police and fire department (like the Customs Border Patrol) to respond to the blazing dumpster. She has no address, she’s created a problem, and because you can’t just issue her a ticket and expect her to show up, you arrest her.

What about the kids? Well, some of my evangelical friends, and those on the left, think we should put them all up in the nearest Super 8 hotel and give them free waffles until we can hear the case and determine their fate. Uh, no. You put her in jail, and the kids in foster care if available. But what if you have 5,000 dumpster fires in Kenosha? Not that many foster care facilities. So you put the kids in a converted Walmart that has the facilities to care for them while 5,000 arsonists hang out in jail.

You see, putting children in correctional facilities with their parents is a bad idea. We used to do it in the previous centuries, and it led to horrible crimes against the children. This is for their protection. It’s also part of a straw-man argument that we face: it’s wrong to detain the parents because the children must be detained as well. Let’s not enforce this because it’s bad for the kids.

How about don’t drag your kids across the desert and break into my country in hopes that you will beat our laws and find a new life. How about you follow the immigration process, like everyone should, and then I’ll gladly welcome you in to become a citizen. Don’t want to be a citizen? Then I don’t really want you here. I want people around me that want to be my brother and sister Americans.

But back to the baby being torn from mom’s breast in the evil concentration camp. Not so much a real thing. Hyperbole. Maybe happened once or twice, but if you would like to see the irrational things people do when they are about to be put in custody, just watch three hours of Live PD on Saturday night.

It might change your frame of reference. I hope it does.

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When you finish reading any book (especially mine) please review it at www.amazon.com, www.barnesandnoble.com, and www.goodreads.com. Your review increases the chances of someone looking for a new book greatly. Authors appreciate your review, even if it is just “I thought this was a good read and will give it to my dog to chew. I especially liked the ending, because it made me feel better when he killed all of the main characters. (no spoilers, please)” Those few words (more than 20, fewer than 1,000 is ideal), and a 1-5 rating, make or break how the search engines find us. Thanks in advance.

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Then There Was That Other Thing…

For those of you who have been along on this ride for a while, the next line is redundant. For the newcomers, it is safe to say that I have a busy life. In the past 17 days I signed a contract to record a new audio book, I put a novel in the hands of my editor for revisions, I have gardened almost daily, I have been working on a ghost-writing project, I have been taking care of a sick friend, I canned 6 different kinds of jam, I made reservations for a writers conference, I worked full-time at the day job, emceed a Memorial Day service for 1200 people, walked to work almost every day, annoyed hundreds on Facebook & Twitter, worked to organize my church’s mission trip to Haiti, and I agreed to coauthor a children’s book.

Please follow me on Twitter, and “Like” the Facebook author page. Don’t forget to subscribe (the box is on the right side of the page) to be eligible for free e-books and other benefits! Oh yeah – grab a copy of Assault on Saint Agnes if you’re of a mind.

Why? Because I’m happiest when I’m there’s something cooking. That drives my wife nuts, but this winter there was a period of enforced inactivity (relatively speaking) and it started to get to me. I got itchy. I fixed that with a trip the range, and after convincing myself that I am still the greatest shot in my household (Stormy can’t hit a barn with a pistol – no thumbs) I embarked on the current raft of activity.

The new children’s book will be co-authored by the most brilliant writer in the greater Buffalo area: my niece. She called me on Thursday and asked if I would write a book for people her age. I agreed, but only if she’ll help me write it. I need the help, she’s way smarter than I ever was, or will be. My niece and nephew are both great youngsters, and I am more in awe of them with each day. The elder of the pair is already able to deliver graduate level lectures on character development and plot as it relates to the Marvel Universe, and I have no doubt that his younger sibling will drag me along on the writing ride of my life.

Jane, I am so looking forward to our working together.

Now, If I can only get Stormy to put that pistol down…

“Who me?

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When you finish reading any book (especially mine) please review it at www.amazon.com, www.barnesandnoble.com, and www.goodreads.com. Your review increases the chances of someone looking for a new book greatly. Authors appreciate your review, even if it is just “I thought this was a good read and will give it to my dog to chew. I especially liked the ending, because it made me feel better when he killed all of the main characters. (no spoilers, please)” Those few words (more than 20, fewer than 1,000 is ideal), and a 1-5 rating, make or break how the search engines find us. Thanks in advance.

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