Santas I Have Known (part 2 of 4)

Let’s just call him Lenny. It is not his real name, but it’s close enough. How can I best describe Lenny? Let’s start with his vast storehouse of knowledge. Lenny knew everything about everything. There was no subject on which he didn’t have an opinion, and he was quite happy to prove it on any occasion.

Lenny was also a musician as he told anyone who would listen. He was constantly on the verge of a new gig and was a constant visitor at a local music store. I was the store’s guitar technician back then. I did a little of everything: restringing guitars, customizing electric guitars, fixing broken guitars, etc., so I had the chance to see Lenny in action. He’d buy some equipment one day, bring it back for a refund in 48 hours (the equipment never “worked right”). And the equipment he tried to sell was just as sad. He swore to the store buyer that his cheap, worn out student line sax he hauiled in one day was worth “at least a grand” and he only wanted $100.00 for it. Then he reminded them he could always drive to New York and get top dollar.

The fact is, a box full of horns like his wouldn’t have been worth a grand. And he never made the drive to the Big Apple.

A few weeks after his attempt to sell the pitiful horn I saw Lenny. And Mrs. Lenny. They were in a run down K-Mart dressed as Santa and Mrs. Claus. And the brash know-it-all with the questionable talent was nowhere to be seen. Oh sure, it looked like Lenny in a cheap Santa suit.

But he sounded like Santa. And he acted like Santa. He treated each child as if he or she was the only child in the room. And his “Ho, Ho, Ho” was infectious.

With all that, to the kids waiting in what passed for a line waiting to be the next to sit on his lap, he was Santa Claus. The real deal. Straight from the North Pole. And you know something? For a few minutes, I couldn’t see Lenny in the suit at all.

When the line thinned out I went over and said hello to Santa/Lenny.

“Hey Smitty boy. What’s new?”

Yep … Lenny was back. And we chatted for a while, talking about Christmas, his next gig, and just before I walked away, he asked me a question.

“Smitty, tell me something. Where can I sell my horn? I can’t pawn it for a hundred bucks, and that store you do the guitar stuff for won’t buy it. Can you use it?” I told him I didn’t really need a sax, and then I asked what he needed the hundred for.

“Man, take a look at this crappy suit. It’s cheap and just about worn out. And there’s a costume store that has a used one that they’ll sell me for a hundred bucks if they still have it when I come back.” He sniffed and wiped his nose on the back of his hand (I told you Lenny was back). “Look, this ain’t a fancy store, and we just volunteer to do this because we can’t have kids of our own, and me and my wife really love them. Yeah, I know most of these kids are poor and any old Santa will do. But they deserve better than this. I mean %$#@ man, it’s Christmas.”

I’m not sure that’s the way Santa would put it, but he had a point.

I saw a couple of kids making their way to Santa’s chair, so I told him very quickly to come back by the store the next day. I had a feeling they might be interested in his sax.

Sure enough when he came in the next day he sold that raggedy sax, and that night Santa showed up at his chair with a new and improved suit.

Oddly enough, five people at the store had $20 less each to spend on Christmas gifts.

But, I mean %$#@ man, it’s Christmas.


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