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Sunday, December 14, 2003
By Paul Ford
A throng of drunken Santas, rampaging.
Saturday in the late afternoon, walking aimlessly around Manhattan, I stumbled upon 200 people dressed as Santa, around and inside Katz's Delicatessen. Most wore stickers that said “naughty,” and were drunk. I watched a Santa fill a rubber bottle with whisky and strap it to her back. A tube ran from the bottle. “Bite and suck,” she said, and several Santas gulped appreciatively in turn.
Variations on the theme: Elvis Santa, Santa/Satan with red horns, Elves, reindeer, Hanukkah Santa in royal blue. An older Santa sat on the sidewalk, mouth open under a cottony white beard, weeping. A man in a black coat and purple hat, with a long white beard, looking at first like part of the procession, spoke briefly with some Santas—I couldn't hear what he was saying—then began to search through a trash can for food.
“Does anyone have a light for Santa?” asked an elf-sized woman. Some Santas were belligerent, swearing at passerby. One, looking at my big body, asked why I was not among them. “A missed opportunity,” said that Santa's friend, shaking her red-hatted head, white pom-pom swinging. A mother with two little girls passed; the little girls looked around, confused, then afraid, and one began to cry.
I followed the red-suited mass into a bar, where Santas danced and stripped. A St. Nick with a bullhorn screamed something at the group. In response they filed out, leaving me behind, and headed north, towards the pole.