Demitasse #12

 

Demitasse:  a sip of the Compendium

Santa Season 1999

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Demitasse is a free sip of the sardonic social commentary and reports of real life weird that fill the Ladies' Fetish & Taboo Society Compendium of Urban Anthropology (the Compendium).

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(c) copyright Kathy Biehl 1999

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Three stories in honor of St. Nicholas Day:

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Late one evening I was zigzagging a path across a well-populated sidewalk in the Indian section of Jackson Heights, Queens. My destination was the subway station, but movement in shop window made me stop. In the window of a CD store was a mechanical figure swinging its hips back and forth. It had big black boots with enormous buckles, rosy cheeks and a thick white beard and hair. A torn piece of muslin was wrapped around its frame in a sort of sarong, and another piece formed a cap like a knotted spiral. It was Santa Sikh! A smile stayed with me to the end of the block.


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A friend and her daughter used to celebrate this holiday in the heart of Texas, but with a twist: They'd assemble packages for the girl's playmates and go out the night of Dec. 5 to leave them on doorsteps. A few years back, while they were making their preparations, the girl started gloating about how funny it was that her girlfriends think that St. Nicholas visits them only he doesn't; it's really her and her mom. "But the real one visits me!" she announced, radiantly.


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Even more years back, my family took a stab at celebrating St. Nicholas Day ourselves.  We were living in Munich, where my dad was on sabbatical, and had the middle floor in a three-family house. Early in the evening, my mother pulled off some approximation of a visit from the saint himself, which involved depositing a bag at the door and tricking us into finding it. I'm sure it had candy, and I'm sure we'd ripped into it and long since put it aside by the knock came.


Or maybe it was the interior doorbell: I can't be sure. What I do know for certain was that it was not the outside doorbell, which you had to ring to be let into the gate and then the front door of the house. This came from the hallway just outside our door.


I went to the door and opened it. On the landing was a man in a red bishop's outfit, wearing an enormous oval hat and carrying a crook. He said he was St. Nicholas, and said it in English. I asked him to wait, ran to the bathroom and started yelling at my mother, who was behind the door in the bath: "MOM! ST NICHOLAS IS HERE!"


The next thing I remember is the sight of him in the dining room, which was crammed with dark, ornately carved cabinetry covered with demonic, pointy-tongued heads. He was slowly, solemnly proclaiming in pretty decent English that our names were in his book of good children. He opened a huge book and showed us, and damned if there wasn't an entry for the Biehl children. He gave us a bag of fruit and nuts and took his leave. Our jaws were still hanging. The landlady's little girl ran out of their downstairs apartment and looked down the street after him.


Our landlady told us that he was a university student who'd been hired by families in the neighborhood to pay a visit on their children. Somebody had gone to the trouble -- I'm guessing she was the culprit -- to include the pack of American kids on the second floor.


May your holiday season be filled with unexpected delights!


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(who also answer to Rick Mantler & Kathy Biehl)


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