Tuesday, December 9, 2008

My First Santa Gig

I've never run into a bathroom more excited.

I locked the door behind me, hung the suit on the hook and just stared at it.

A plush red jacket with snowball-like trim, a wildly curly beard, and roomy read velvet pants.

I wasn't just looking over a Christmas outfit, I was about to transform myself into a rockstar: the one and only Santa Claus.

Now before you think my first Santa appearance was going to my head, I had plenty of stage fright. I was going to walk into a cafeteria just down the hall that was full of kids with lofty, and entrenched expectations.

I also had to live up to my grandfather's classic portrayal of Santa. He is the one I would be channeling for the next two hours.

I looked in the mirror as I suited up. My face went from a befuddled, "Will this suit fit?" to an excited "Holy (expletive) I really do look like Santa!" expression.

As I slid my boots over my shoes, and placed the cap on my head, I no longer saw the guy who is stressed out that business is slow, or is wondering how he's going to accomplish his to-do list before the family comes for Christmas. I saw Santa Claus . . . a jolly big guy who's purpose in life is to bring a smile to the face of one person at a time.

All I had to do was be myself.

As I strolled in to the Kemba Credit Union Christmas Party and belted out my grandfather's "Ho Ho Ho," I knew the toddlers and the adults were mine.

I swear I could hear "Sharp Dressed Man," by ZZ TOP playing on the boom box, but I think it was "Christmas in Hollis" by RUN-DMC.

But not everyone lit up when I walked in the room. The 'tweens who were just discovering the apathy they would later master as teens were not waiting there to hop on my knee and share their wishes and dreams. They had questions.

Their arms folded, eyes squinted and heads cocked when I sat down on my elevated throne. They looked like they were were about to impanel a grand jury.

"Is this the real Santa?" they thought. "Santa isn't for real, or is he?" they would wonder.
Anyway . . . I invited my share of tots and grandmas to sit on my lap. "So now's your chance, Brandon, why don't you tell Santa what you want for Christmas?"

"Uh . . . Uh . . ." he said.

"You came all the way here in this snow to tell me that?" I responded.

"Uh . . .Uh . . ."

"How about an 'Omnitrix' from Ben 10 or an iPod,?"

Brandon lit up, I looked at his mother for a little personal affirmation, instead she was feverishly giving me the choke sign. I probably reached with the iPod. Just because everyone wants one doesn't mean they are getting one.

"So you like Ben 10?" He shook his head timidly in agreement. Whew, we were back in the $20 range and Mom seemed happy again.

When I asked the same question to eight-year-old Jessica, she said, "I don't know, I want it to be a surprise."

I didn't expect that one!

Another toddler kept coming up and asking for a hug every 15 minutes or so.

I received two drawings from the kids, one that read 'Merry Christmas Santa, Love Jenny."
So it went for another two hours or so. Near the end of my visit, one of the 'tweens and her siblings gathered around me for a picture.

"So, what do you want for Christmas sweetheart?" I asked.

She didn't answer but she was thinking, "I don't know, what's on sale this week at Walmart?"

"How about one of the books in the Twilight series?" I countered. I have an 11 year-old daughter and the romantic vampire book and movie is her singular focus right now.

"You know about Twilight?" she asked excitedly. From there we made some small talk and she admitted she hasn't been good "all the time" this year.

"That's pretty difficult when you are constantly kicking your brother out of your room," I said.

"Exactly," she smiled.

She returned to the table and her family. And eventually I had to say that I'd be in trouble with Mrs. Claus if I didn't get back to the North Pole by noon.

As I returned to the bathroom and pulled off the suit, I reflected on what had been a great experience. People of all ages love Santa -- not just because he comes bearing gifts or represents the holidays. Everyone wants to be loved, and whether they want to admit it or not, they want to love others. It's instinctive for humans to care for and love others.

I was lucky to both give and receive this love last Saturday as an agent of Santa Claus.

My First Santa Gig from Mike Magan on Vimeo.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

"Never In My Lifetime" REALLY?!

I've believed, as long as I can remember, that black people and white people are equal in the eyes of God. Of course that has not always been the case in the eyes of the law or white America.

While my view of African-Americans has become more enlightened since my childhood days in Southern Indiana, if you would have asked me when I was 5, 15, or 30 if I would live to see a black man become president, I honestly can't imagine answering "no."

While I may have been naive about racism and didn't know what is was like to grow up a black kid, at my core, I've always believed any person can achieve in America whatever they set their mind to. I can thank my first black friend, Reggie Williams, for that.

I rode bus "D-1" to school from 1st through 8th grade and Reggie, one grade older, rode it with me. While I always maintained a class-clown persona, Reggie was always admired and respected. He was a good buddy, a school leader, a peacemaker and someone I always looked up to. He graduated Harvard Law, married (and divorced) a Guggenheim, and is at MTV Networks today.
He was there the first time I ever saw a Playboy. The class perv brought one aboard "D-1" and instead of it being a watershed moment for me, Reggie ruined it by saying the models were being disrespectful to themselves and that mags like Playboy were immoral.

"She must make a lot of money to do that," I said.
"Not as much as you would think," Reggie said, in disgust.

In junior high, Reggie was at the top of the leadership rung of the D-1 kids. He always sat in that right side seat in the very back of the bus because those were the choice seats. The minute he stepped off the bus, everyone scurried to get their butt into it.

I'm introducing you to Reggie as the reason why I've always thought a black man could become president in my lifetime. Simplistic, perhaps, but I had looked up to a black kid as long as I can remember and there was nothing at home or school to contradict that belief.

So I was taken back last night as I watched election coverage. So many people "never thought they'd see this day, when a black man would become president."

I've never been on the receiving end of a racist threat. I've never been denied an opportunity because of the color of my skin. But the white Tom Brokaw, Andrea Mitchell, Brian Williams and even Luke Russert kept beating that "never in my lifetime" drum over and over again. A talking head on CNN this morning said "this is the realization of what the founding fathers meant by all men are created equal."

Shocking. It's taken us 232 years to verify that? Apparently this person never believed it in the first place.

Someone post a response to this question: Am I showing my ignorance or is it the pundits' prejudice rearing its ugly head?

Another shocking statement: Obama's election was now "PROOF you can be anyone or do anything in America."
- I don't need proof that I will die a happy man.
- I don't need proof that I will raise my kids right.
- I don't need proof that I will become successful.
- The proof to me there is a God is not that a Santa Claus-like figure verifies his existence, but because I see His works through the good deeds and loving actions of people in my church.

I BELIEVE in these things, because I have faith they will happen if I put the appropriate effort in to make them happen. A majority of Americans BELIEVED in Obama will tackle our challenges without PROOF.

Obama's victory is indeed historical not just because he is the first black president, but because he was a state Senator 4 years ago! He threw a wrench into the black political machine, Chicago political machine, the Clinton political machine, and the Republican political machine. When he ran out of wrenches, he reached into that tool box and pulled out a hammer and saw. He and advisors built grassroots support from that foundation upward.

Never in our lifetimes? Obama's supporters are already selling him short.

photo credit: Cassie Shell for Time

Friday, October 24, 2008

Discounting McCain's military experience

Searching for a response to an electric convention, pro-Obama bloggers and editorial writers are discounting McCain's military experiences: "how do McCain's sufferings in a tiny, squalid cell 40 years ago logically translate into presidential aptitude in the 21st century? Cast him a statue or slap his name on a ship, and let's turn the damned page," writes Camille Paglia of Salon.

If you do not believe John McCain would make a good president, I can understand why you discount his military credentials. His greatest strength bugs you the most and Obama has no answer for it.

While I respect but disagree with opinions discounting McCain's military experience pas preparing him to lead our nation, I think those who do are looking through the wrong prism.

In a way, McCain's experiences in the Hanoi Hilton stopped being military service and became human suffering the first day he was shackled. While this may not specifically help him in hand-picking the next RNC chair, aren't we all the sum of our experiences? Someone who can not only survive his torture, but doing it willingly can not be intimidated easily. There are times the president must have nuts of steel.

If anything, I'm glad McCain has softened. I'm glad he's been dealing with a kinder gentler place and come to terms with his experience. To me, McCain's legacy is not what he endured in 'Nam, but how he managed to avoided complete insanity.

The fact that the GOP touts his war experience does seem patronizing, but after all, they were trying to make viewers patrons of a McCain presidency.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Do they have recess at College

My 9 year-old son Charlie is a lot like other boys: loves sports, loves activities that ruin clothing, loves Star Wars, etc. He is a very physical kid and seems to tolerate academics of third grade but loves the social aspect of it.

All three of my kids have posed interesting questions that have made me pause or forced me to Wikipedia before I answered. But Charlie, who runs on a starch-only diet has a brain that is pure protein. He consistently zings us with a one liner or poses a question that triggers a multi-layered analysis. I envy not his intellect or his voracious curiosity, but his perspective.

After all, it's our perspective that focuses the lens from which we view and interpret life. Alright enough metaphysics and onto two questions he asked my wife and I that have stuck in my mind:

1. Do you wear underwear in heaven?
2. Is there recess in College?

Wow! I marvel at a brain that fuses together the electronic pulses and comes up with those questions. How cool would it be to somehow take those brain pulses, capture them in some kind of helmet and link it to your brain like a virtual reality device from 1993.

Now, there would be some impracticalities to using Charlie's brain 24/7. I would eat mac and cheese or sausage pizza every night and the Disney Channel and ESPN would be my sole contact with the outside world. If I bothered to pay bills, it would probably be with a SHARP AS HELL pencil. But if I could use the Charlie Brain Helmet for, say, a brainstorming meeting, to cure writers block or when I'm trying to come up with a new logo . . .think of the possible outcomes!

So you're probably wondering how I answered questions one and two? I said, "I don't know, what do you think?"

For me there was no right or wrong answer, it was the one Charlie had that mattered.