Saturday, December 6, 2014


The show I reviewed tonight was David Sedaris' very funny "The Santaland Diaries," the story of a 30 year old man arriving in New York, expecting to be welcomed into the "One Life to Live" family, instead finding himself working as an elf ("Crumpet") in Macy*s Santaland.

David gives all the behind the scenes information of a department store's adventure for young children in meeting Santa, perhaps for the first time.  He takes us through the various parts of "The Maze," what they call the switchbacks children go through before seeing Santa.  There is, for example, the "magic window" where you can look through and see Santa off in the distance, the "oh my god" corner where parents see how long the line is for the first time, and "vomit corner" where nervous children throw up.

This is the third time I've seen this show and each time I sit in the audience, partly transported back to The Emporium department store in San Francisco.

How well I remember The Emporium at Christmas time.  First of all, they had the very best window displays, with animated characters and wonderful old fashioned Christmas scenes.  Everyone went downtown to look at the Emporium's windows.

Santaland was on the fourth floor, off in a corner near the toy department (in case parents had some kind of impulse buys to make!).

Children lined up and went up a switchback ramp. I can still see it with white railings accented in red.  I knew that at the end of the ramp, out of sight, was The Man himself, in all of his stuffed redness. 
We didn't have a "vomit corner" at The Emporium, but could have used a pee tree or something.  When nervous, I tended to pee.  And I was never more nervous than when I was about to meet Santa.  I wonder how many department store Santas sit there all day with urine soaked knees.

No matter how jolly he was, he was darn scary, in that red suit and white beard and that hearty Ho-ho-ho. 
Then there was the whole performance anxiety thing.  Would I remember to give him my list?  Or would I leave off some key toy gift that I was hoping he'd give me and ruin my chances for getting it?

When I had finally met Santa, told him my hopes for this Christmas and had my photo taken we were guided to the set of dark steps that took us up to the roof.

The roof rides were legendary in the 1940s and 50s.  I know there were a lot of carnival rides, but the only one I remember distinctly was the ferris wheel.  I don't know how big it was (obviously not as big as my childhood remembers), but when you got to the top and looked down, you were not looking down at the roof, but down past the roof five stories to the ground.  That was pretty darn scary.  But we loved it every time.

Once we'd been to see Santa and visit the Roof Rides, we knew that the Christmas season was really in full swing.

I'm having a little trouble getting this Christmas season in full swing, but seeing Santaland Diaries was a good start.  I also made a pumpkin pie this afternoon, to take care of the one I didn't get at Thanksgiving.
We came home from the show and had a big slice of pie while we watched Jeopardy.

It may not have made me want to rush out and put on the Bing Crosby Christmas album, but it was a good start.

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