He sees you when you’re sleeping.
He knows when you’re awake.
He knows when you’ve been bad or good
so shop the endcap for goodness sake.
Those are foam stickers, Santas, presents, stockings and trees. They have the thin white peel-back paper and will stick pleasingly onto some clean surface for exactly four days, three if there is any curvature of the stuck upon surface, 36 hours if you do it more than a week before Christmas.
There’s something about that Santa Claus’ face that is unnerving. How can he see me? How can he knows? His eyes are closed. And yet he still has that wan smile. Maybe it is the economy. The strain of it all is probably getting to him too. Like in this story:
The result is a Christmas season in which Santas — including the 115 of them in this year’s graduating class of the Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School — must learn to swiftly size up families’ financial circumstances, gently scale back children’s Christmas gift requests and even how to answer the wish some say they have been hearing with more frequency — “Can you bring my parent a job?”
Santas here tell of children who appear on their laps with lists that include the latest, most expensive toys and their parents, standing off to the side, stealthily but imploringly shaking their heads no. On the flip side, some, like Fred Honerkamp, have been visited by children whose expectations seem to have sunk to match the gloom; not long ago, a boy asked him for only one item — a pair of sneakers that actually fit.
“In the end, Santas have to be sure to never promise anything,” said Mr. Honerkamp, an alumnus of the school who also lectures here. He has devised his own tale about a wayward elf and slowed toy production at the North Pole for children who are requesting a gift clearly beyond their family’s price range. “It’s hard to watch sometimes because the children are like little barometers, mirrors on what the country has been through.”
The 33-year-old Prichard native says that it takes a lot to keep them smiling. And even as she battles sickle cell anemia and struggles to support Ashley, 7, and Michael, 14, she believes that with a few key breaks, her household will come out OK.
Cooking, for example, is an issue since Coleman has only a microwave and hot plate, but no regular stove.
Or the Hodges …
In June, 51-year-old Norman Hodges saw a doctor for what he thought was a pulled muscle. Testing revealed lung cancer.
The five months that followed were filled with chemotherapy and radiation treatments, sudden paralysis, long hospital stays and severe complications from infection. The father of two passed away at home on Nov. 2.
It’s not even December yet, and those stories just grow more and more heart-rending. I read them all when I worked at al.com. I’ve read them all every year since.
The building in which I work, the best I know, is now 54 years old.
Not much has changed over the years. This shot was from last fall:
There’s probably no way of knowing how many roofs have been on the building in those decades, but there’s no getting around the need to fix at least portions of it now.
The layout is a bit unusual. As the building stretches back out of the frame there are second-floor wings on both sides. Those roofs are flat, which does not promote drainage. And water freezes nicely on it too, as you might have noticed if you were on the site last February:
My office, on the third floor, commands a view of the second-floor wing roof on one side. Walking to the stairs on the front end of the building shows the other side, where the leaks are.
Today they’ve been destroying the old roof coating, which appeared to be a tar-based material. There’s been precisely rhythmic hammering — you could gesture, like a conductor, and keep perfect time with the worker — and some sort of mechanized tool. If anyone on that side of the building got any work done this morning you should be impressed.
But we worked anyway.
Later. The promotional sticker on the CD case calls it the “greatest Muppets soundtrack ever.” Track 11 is “We Built This City,” so I doubt that claim.
To your everlasting amusement, however, the Muppets Barbershop Quartet covers “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”
You should be singing that for a day or two. You’re welcome.