Monday, December 20, 2004

Santa Goes Golfing

No Christmas goes by without fond memories - or what little remain of them after the hangover that attended them- of those Christmas' that occured in my early twenties. It is actually inaccurate to say that I think of Christmas day itself - instead, I think of the Santa "Suck-Em" Saturday events that occurred for three years running on a December Saturday preceding Christmas.

The "Suck Em" referred to beers for all of you with minds in the gutter out there, and the term was grafted by the events founder, Dusty Eggs, from "Suck Em Sundays," which consisted of runners from the St. Joe's University Cross Country team spending their Sunday afternoons, early evenings, and late evenings, drinking enough beers to make up for staying sober on Friday nights in preparation for Saturday meets. My knowledge on the history of Suck-Em Sundays is not as complete, but my guess is that Dusty Eggs founded that weekly fall event, and that anyone who would counter that history could not possibly have been sober enough in those days to be trusted.

The Suck-Em Santa event consisted of approximately 20 irredeemable guys in their early twenties, scraping (at least in my case) $80 together to rent a Santa suit, and heading out en masse to conquer 18 bars in Philadelphia, one at a time. There may have even been a security deposit that went with the rentals, but when you set out to drink at 18 different bars, starting at 2 in the afternoon, it is wise to treat the security deposit as merely part of the rental cost. The format for the event was a "golf course", where par for a bar was a beer consumed in the thirty minute time alloted, and birdies could be had with a shot or two beers. Of course, eagles and ... I don't even know what is better than an eagle ... were feasible as well, as too many of us found out too early in the first Suck Em Santa event. That first event ended with only a handful or guys making the final hole.

Year 2 of the event involved approximately the same number of Santas - but we were one year older and a world wiser. Pacing became the mantra of the early portion of the day, with each of us restraining the early adrenaline offered by a good game of beer golf. This year I had brought along Joe McGrath, a guy I guarded with in Stone Harbor - he knew only me within the group, not much of Philly, and even less of the train system that brought our jovial band over from the working class suburbs of South Jersey to the Gemorrah of the Philadelphia bar scene. One of the innovations of this year was a full one hour stop at the ninth hole, where everyone had time to get some fuel in them by ordering some food.

The group remained well intact until hole 15 or 16, I am not sure, when all hell broke loose. We were filing in to a long thin bar, one at a time. When the last of the Santas, and a few tag-along women who had become volunteer elfs along the way, came into the bar as some South Philly tough guys were leaving, one of the tough guys muttered to our elves something to the effect that Santa cannot give you what you need, come sit on my lap. Such comments are even more out of line with the Spirit of Christmas than 20 drunken Santa Clauses, and no self-respecting Santa with beer muscles could abide such a comment. Words were exchanged, and word filtered up the line of Santas that a melee was threatening to ensue.

Like most would-be barroom brawls, this one was looking like it would end without blows being struck, when all of a sudden a tag-along Santa wannabe (a friend of a Santa) came from the innards of the bar to the scene of the showdown and threw a punch without any idea of the context and significant progress being made in the negotiations. Then all hell broke loose, with bouncers flying from all corners to get to the fight.

I was in the last third of Santas to have entered the bar, so I stood just inside the bar, about five feet away from the fracas. Aware that there were Santa's potentially being pummelled in the pile, I made an effort to pull one rather large man from the pit, and gave up after realizing two things - I wasn't capable of budging him, and I couldn't see any Santa Claus in the pile. Turns out the one Santa Claus involved - Chris Murrary - had managed to crawl beneath the fight and out into the main section of the bar relatively unmolested. Seeing him safe, drunk, and happy, I was content to think that all Santas were OK and that there was no need to risk my neck, a decision that was heavily reinforced when the bouncer I had one moment before tried to peel from the pile turned around in a considerable rage asking me who was touching him. "Ne Ne Ne Not Me!"

And then came the decision of the bar's management, in a unilaterally unfair move, to kick out the Santa Claus brigade as the source of all the trouble. Dutifully we filed out of the bar one by one, only to see several cop cars speeding to our location. It is impossible to convey the fog of being a drunken Santa Claus, except to say that I suspect it mimics the fog of war - you are not quite sure about the sequence of events, or when you realize what you are actually seeing. As one of the last Santa Clauses to enter the bar, I was one of the first to leave, but I didn't see the first arrest being made. There was Bob-O, probably no stranger to his Miranda rights, up against the car. Bad Richie, upon seeing his good friend, started laughing uncontrollably under the assumption that Bob-O must have done something truly memorable, and the thought of what it might be was enough to make him laugh. He should have stopped there. Instead, he yelled to Bob-O to tell the cops they'd be getting coal for Christmas. That, apparently, is against the law, as Bad Richie was quickly apprehended.

Now no one had seen the cause of Bob-O's arrest, but at the same time those who knew him did not see such an arrest as outside the realm of possibility. But we had all witnessed Bad Richie get cuffed for more or less nothing. Still, with as many beers as we had, it didn't quite register that we were all guilty - guilty of being Santa. It finally registered with the third arrest - when Dusty Eggs, event founder, came out of the bar as the last Santa, completely ignorant of the fight that caused us to be tossed and the subsequent arrests, the cops siezed him at once. It was starting to sink in ... and when a cop with a billy club came walking toward our group, the remaining 17 of us had fully learned the lesson, and started sprinting down South Street in Philadelphia.

I sometimes wish I was merely a patron on South Street that night, not carrying the heavy burden of spreading Christmas cheer, because the sight of seventeen Santa Clauses sprinting down the street at 10:30 at night, with the cops in close pursuit, must have been for those blessed to see it one of the most comic things they've ever seen. For us - well, we were being chased for no damn reason! Some Santas were ducking into allies where they could take off the Santa suit, others were darting into the first bar they came across, and all instinctively knew that the safest route was to split into small groups of no more than three Santas. In the confusion, Joe McGrath and I were separated.

Our three "alleged" criminals were brought to the "Roundhouse," a prison so named for its circular shape. Dusty Eggs was asked to remove his Santa suit, which he steadfastly refused to do. He was asked again, and responded that it probably wasn't a good idea. When finally told to remove the suit, he complied, and about 200 peanuts stashed into his coat at hole 14 (Maco's) tumbled to the floor. The three of them were then thrown into a cell that neighbored one filled with teen-age skinheads, who started taunting our Santas by saying that Santa Claus is a bleeping Jew. That was not entirely untrue, as our ranks did include at least one Jewish Santa Claus, but it was not anyone of these three. Bob-O and Bad Richie responded by questioning the sexuality of said skinheads, who took great offense at that notion and great pride in their efforts to bash homosexuals.

I somehow made it back to South Jersey that night, safely to my parent's home. The next afternoon Joe McGrath showed up at my door to return the suit, minus the hat. It seems he hit a few more bars with some other fugitive Santas, and then found his way to the subway. He fell asleep on the train, and estimates that he travelled back and forth between Philly and South Jersey at least twice before someone finally woke him. He woke to find that someone had stolen his Santa hat and his shoes.

I have it on authority from the Giant that he, Dusty Eggs, and G-No-Money all agreed to meet with their wives for dinner in Philly recently. They didn't recognize the locale at first, but soon Dusty Eggs identified it as the location of the bar wherein he was found guilty of being dressed as Santa Claus. He made it through dinner without another complimentary trip back to the Roundhouse.


Blogger the giant said...

Nothing funnier than watching Bad Ritchie standing in South Street yelling to the cops "You can't arrest Santa Claus!!" except watching the cops cuff him and put him in the patty-wagon. The funniest part is when the pushed his head down to put him in, his Santa hat fell off. He then pleaded with the cop, telling him that he would loose his deposit again this year if he didn't have it. When the cop paid him no attention and started slamming the door, and Bad Ritchie told him he would get coal in his stocking!

I forgot about the Skinheads. I can definitely picture The O pushing their buttons with the homo accusation. Pretty funny stuff.

Lesson learned: Buy your own Santa suit at Franks for about $30. Low-quality - yes, but perfect for any occassion........

8:12 AM  
Blogger Incredible Dirigible said...

What an excellent story. I remember hearing about this, but never before in such detail.

Wow, the cops sure were angry. Not in the Christmas spirit.

Do you know what year this event occurred? Just curious. I know it was in the early 1990s, but I'm curious as to the specifics.

8:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can say with authority that I am one of two individuals who made it to all 18 bars in the Suck'em Santa debut. Much like in real golf, I did so by cheating...

When Santa got pushed up against the police van, I, much like Chris Kringle when the Burgher Meister Meister Burgher's troops began pursuit in that old Christmas special, took off running. I still have the suit. (It smells bad.)

Nothing quite like the sight of 20 Santas climbing up out of the subway at 2 PM on a Saturday...except maybe 15 Santas booking away from a police van 8 hours later.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night (urp)

10:02 AM  

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