It's not every day I get to play elf to a Santa whose sleigh is a motorcycle.
So I couldn't resist the offer from Kim Airs, who let me ride along on Sunday as she tooled around in her Santa Claus gear, handing out gifts to strangers.
I might have declined if I'd seen the dorky outfit I'd be wearing: a billowy green velour jacket, huge red-and-white striped pants, and bells attached to my helmet. It's an elf costume created by her sister to match Airs' customized Santa suit, fake eyebrows and beard.
We boarded her green-and-white Honda Shadow outside Airs' Culver City apartment. I squeezed between Santa and a red-flannel-covered box packed with toys that she accumulated this year from friends, co-workers and countless visits to 99 Cents Only stores.
As soon as we hit a main street, before we'd passed out a single toy, the celebration began.
Pedestrians waved, children stared, motorists shouted and honked. A truckload of gardeners gave us thumbs up, a pair of teenage girls stopped alongside us at a light and snapped photos with their iPhones.
I was glad we weren't on Air's other motorcycle, the one she rides on her day job. It's plastered with decals of condoms, vibrators and unmentionable sexual accouterments.
That's because when she's not passing out Christmas toys, Airs is "an adult industry toy consultant and sexuality specialist." She used to own a store in Boston that sold sex toys and gear; now she helps doctors and therapists work with patients who need the devices.
I didn't know that when I agreed to the elf gig. I was in the market for a feel-good column when her email about Santa landed. I thought Kim was a man.
I presumed I'd be riding behind a brawny, big-hearted guy ... because that's what Santa is, right?
When I Googled "Kim Airs" before our ride, I felt as dumb as that Fox newscaster ought to feel for saying Santa can only be white.
Airs said she doesn't want to creep anyone out about her day job.
"Let's just forget Kim, the sex toy entrepreneur. This is Kim, the Santa Claus," she said, as we sipped coffee after a 90-minute ride that emptied our toy box. "This is from my heart."
Kim the Santa is a middle-aged white woman from New Jersey; divorced with no kids, she got tired of celebrating Christmas with activities for grown-ups.
She'd played a roller-skating Santa in 1979, promoting a no-nukes concert at the Christmas-tree lighting on New York City's Rockefeller Plaza. She never forgot how good it felt to see children's faces light up when she rolled by.
In 2006, she moved to Los Angeles, where she could ride her motorcycle year-round. "I decided to join my holiday passions and load the back of my bike with toys," she said.
She goes out almost every weekend in December, visiting neighborhoods from Pico-Union south to Watts.
There weren't many kids along Crenshaw Boulevard when we cruised through on Sunday. Airs pulled to the curb and called out in her Santa voice whenever she spotted a child.
A little boy walking with his grandmother to the bus stop got a mini-basketball; his grandma got a ribboned set of lotion and cologne. "I carry a few gifts for adults," Airs whispered. Grandma's smile was almost as big as the child's.