Unclassified Info: Here's the scoop with jolly old St. Nick

A couple of weeks ago I was in the Glendale Galleria when I heard a little boy utter one of the most sinister phrases of the holiday: “There is no such thing as Santa Claus!”

As soon as I heard that terrible string of words, I knew I had to use my journalistic superpowers to stop the spread of this annual vicious rumor. This week's topic is for you parents with kids who are unsure what to believe. I urge you to make this column mandatory reading, because I pulled off a literary coup. I got an interview with the real Santa Claus. That's right, kids. The Big Man himself sat down for a little one-on-one chat.

It's not often that jolly old St. Nick grants the press access to his secret hideout up in the North Pole. In fact, in order to get there, I had to submit to being blindfolded throughout the five-minute trip. Evidently, Santa and his merry little band of elves have the ability to get anywhere in the world at near light speed, which would seem to explain how he manages to get from store to store before Christmas and house to house on the big night.

I sat down with Santa in his office overlooking the toy factory assembly line. Outside his window, hundreds of thousands of elves were busy filling out orders from children all over the world.

Gary Huerta: Santa, I'm wondering how you are able to get everything delivered to all those kids in one night?

Santa Claus: A lot goes into it. Beyond the elves and the toys, I've got a legal team like you can't believe. I need licensing agreements from all the toy manufacturers. And God forbid if one of the reindeer decides to get temperamental on someone's property. It's a headache, but to see the looks on all those little faces makes it all worth it.

GH: I've always been curious why you use reindeer as you method of transportation?

SC: This isn't going to turn into an animal rights editorial, is it? I've been watching your city's Rose Parade float thing. What a fiasco! Lemme tell you, the reindeer are paid very well. They have medical and a nice retirement plan. Besides, I tried using other animals. Horses felt too “Wild, Wild, West.” Zebras? Way too flashy. Ostriches were amusing but had no sense of direction. Personally, I think reindeer make a nice statement.

GH: And the suit?

SC: What can I say? I'd like something a little more slimming, but I need to be completely recognizable, especially in the Midwest where every other yahoo has an assault rifle. The last thing I need is to be mistaken for a common thief. The red suit helps although it's not very stylish. And the hat gets in the way once in a while. But that's the price one pays to avoid having a gun pointed at your head.

GH: What's you favorite part about Christmas?

SC: The cookies. The wife has me on the South Beach diet 364 days of the year. By the time Christmas rolls around, I am so ready to hit those plates of cookies, you have no idea.

GH: Do you have a favorite type?

SC: Do I look like I'm picky? I like everything. Except fruitcake. I swear the only thing that stuff is good for is regifting.

GH: What's been the biggest challenge through the years?

SC: It's always something. I've got all those public appearances to make during the busiest time of the year. There's the unpleasant duty of deciding who is naughty. I have to manage a staff of high-strung elves — their union representative is a real pain, if you know what I mean. But on the upside, technology has made my job a lot easier, too. The iPods and Flip cameras are a heck of a lot easier to haul around than the gifts of old. Back in the ‘50s, things were a lot more cumbersome. Do you have any idea how hard it is to shove a Shetland Pony down a chimney? I really earned my money back in the day.

GH: So what's Santa's favorite holiday?

SC: New Year’s. The wife and I head down to Barbados. We've got a timeshare down there. We relax for a couple of weeks, do some scuba diving and then it's back to the grindstone.

GH: Is there anything you'd like to say to the kids in Glendale?

SC: Christmas isn't about what you get under the tree. It's about how you feel inside. Glendale drivers are lousy. Look both ways when you cross the street and everything will be OK.

GH: Any words of wisdom for those of us who want to stay young at heart?

SC: Yeah. Exfoliate.

GARY HUERTA is a Glendale resident and author. He is currently working on his second novel and the second half of his life. Gary may be reached at gh@garyhuerta.com.

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