My sources tipped me off. After a night of bending both time and space, delivering presents and/or lumps of coal to all of the good/bad little boys and girls, making merry around the globe (for all the Christians, anyway), drinking ungodly amounts of milk and chomping down gout-inducing quantities of cookies of all stripes, our man Kris Kringle made an annual pit stop on his way back to the North Pole – where else? – in Hamtramck.
Of course! Wasn’t Santa, after all, just an overworked, third-shift laborer? Didn’t he deserve to unwind a bit in Poletown after his globetrotting?
According to my source (we’ll call him Deep Stocking), the jolly fat man had scoped out Hamtown during Pope John Paul II’s visit in 1987. Disguised as a PR lackey for His Holiness, the man in the red suit negotiated with a bar along Holbrook (which must remain anonymous) to open its doors for a "very special client" (in the Godfather-esque words of the Pope’s handlers) when most other businesses were observing the holy day.
So, I in my security guard outfit and GM cap knocked on the door for a little winter’s chat (apologies to Clement Clarke Moore).
Well, to be truthful, I was on a trophy mission: I wanted to be the only civilian in Detroit to buy Santa Claus a drink. It was 9 a.m. and, as usual on Christmas Eve, I had stayed up all night (a habit I’ve been unable to break since I was a tot) nursing highballs to get in the proper frame of mind.
I parked the Nova and ambled to the door, trying to peek through the bar’s glass-block windows. I saw a manatee-sized outline of a man through the distortion of the glass.
"Santa?!" I yelped, knocking on the door (so much for keeping my cool).
The portal cracked open and a red nose poked its way into the morning chill: "Whuddya want?"
"A beer, same as the big guy," I said, pointing to the hunched figure of a recuperating Father Christmas.
I was granted admittance grudgingly when the man saw that I was alone, obviously already in my cups and apparently getting off work from keeping the automotive world safe from Xmas vandals.
Santa had Wanda Jackson’s "Let’s Have A Party" on the jukebox. His pipe lay idle next to a half-smoked pack of Parliaments.
"What’re you drinking, big guy?" I piped up.
"Ain’t you Santa? Yeah, sure you are. We met in ’87. What’re you doing here?"
"Tipping an elbow, just like you, son. Ho Ho HO!" he chuckled, belly ajiggle.
He must have realized his mistake when my eyes lit up with all the wonder of a kid who finds the My Little Pony doll he wished for but would never dare put on his Christmas list under the family tree.
"You’re getting low, Santa. Lemme get you a fill-up. Two scotches, my man," I cheered before St. Nick could refuse.
I was ready to go in for the kill. All the questions I’d obsessed over, ever since I spent waaay too much of my parents’ money on the Santa hotline 1-900 number, came flooding into my booze-addled brain.
"How do you get to everyone in one night, really? Does your neck hurt from looking down at the elves all year? How do you feel about Tim Allen portraying you in the The Santa Clause? Admit it, you and Burl Ives are really the same person, aren’t you? When the reindeer have to, you know, poo, can they do it in midair? Where do you get your wrapping paper?"
You know, the big questions.
The sound of his Zippo interrupted my reverie and he took a long drag on his smoke. After an appreciative tip of his rocks glass, we both quaffed our scotch.
I couldn’t go in for the kill. We spent the next three hours putting back drinks and arguing over Peggy Lee vs. Loretta Lynn.
The next thing I remember, I woke up on my roof, surrounded by tiny hoof prints, an "I Saw the Pope" button pinned to my chest and a lump of coal stuffed in my shirt pocket. I guess he was more of a Loretta Lynn fan than I thought.