The last time I saw Santa Claus, it was Christmas night 2006, and he was telling me about how disappointed he was with what seemed to be a diminished holiday spirit along the Bricktown Canal.
The Christmas lights had disappeared and while some Downtown in December events were still going strong, something seemed off. I was thrilled to see Santa again Sunday night, though I was a bit concerned that so close to his big night, he was simply out having fun.
I wasn't even sure it was him at first — a quick blur of red sped past me as I was walking along Sheridan Avenue. “Santa?!” I cried out. “Is that you?”
Indeed, the old man himself was cruising downtown on a Segway, and he was definitely back to being his cheery self.
He was thrilled at the return of Christmas cheer in Bricktown. The big tree was back where it belonged, overlooking a brightly lit Bricktown Canal. Earlier that day he had taken in a morning showing of “The Hobbit” (“excellent, but it needs an intermission,” he quipped), followed up with lunch at Earl's Rib Palace and some frames with the elves at Red Pin Bowling Alley. He showed off photos of himself snow tubing at the Brick.
Everywhere Santa looked, he saw people celebrating the holidays and enjoying their new downtown. It didn't take him long to realize that some Christmas wishes asked of him during my last encounter had come true: a downtown grocery. He waited on line as Native Roots Market clerks kept busy with last-minute requests for special spice mixes, fresh vegetables, meats and produce.
“Aren't you going to get behind preparing for Christmas Eve?” I asked.
Santa then let out a hearty laugh and flashed a red and green “North Pole Savings and Loan” credit card.
“This is the year I'm giving the elves a break, ho, ho, ho,” Santa explained. “My reindeer are hauling an eighteen-wheeler packed with bikes from Schlegal Bicycles. Did you know I was able to get just about every gift imaginable along Automobile Alley? At Rawhide we got some great jewelry, clothing and furniture, and the specialty gifts and house ware at Plenty Mercantile made Mrs. Claus very, very happy.”
Old Kriss Kringle's brows seemed to furl a bit — a confused look — as he mentioned his visit to Blue Water Divers. “They're selling scuba gear in downtown Oklahoma City,” he said rather abruptly.
Santa then leaned forward and whispered to me; “There's a lot of cool stuff for sale as well at Shop Good and Dwelling Spaces just off Broadway along Ninth Street. I love what Steve Mason has done with the block. But what's up with The Womb?”
I then explained to Santa about the closing of The Womb gallery this time last year and the always colorful antics of its patron, Flaming Lips lead singer Wayne Coyne.
“Oh, that Wayne,” Santa laughed. “Some folks want me to put him on the bad list because he can be so naughty at times. But his heart is good, and creativity sometimes gets a bit crazy. He stays on the good list.”
Santa shared a bit more about his “good list,” but I promised to keep it confidential. Let's just say this should be a very good Christmas for people named Kevin, Russell, Thabo, Serge and someone he laughingly referred to as “Perk.”
Santa and I approached a packed Devon Ice Rink as I walked along with him into the Myriad Gardens. He stood in stunned silence as he gazed up at the new 50-story Devon Energy Center decked out with larger-than-life Christmas ornaments. He was truly speechless.
I began to explain to Santa just how wonderful corporate citizens like Devon Energy, Chesapeake Energy, Continental Resources, SandRidge Energy, Sonic, BancFirst, OU Medicine, One Main Financial, Tinker Federal Credit Union and other corporate contributors had helped make this best Christmas yet for downtown Oklahoma City. An incredible crew at Downtown Oklahoma City Inc. had worked hard all year to bring it all together.
When I paused speaking, I realized that I was speaking to an empty Segway. Santa was already strapping on some ice skates to get on the ice rink. I didn't have the heart to stop him and explain he needed to wait his turn. And the kids seemed happy to see the old guy.
I'm not sure what happened next. My memory is a bit fuzzy and even the details I've shared so far could have been influenced by indulging in too much eggnog. Merry Christmas, wonderful Oklahoma City. And thanks for making this Christmas one to remember for Santa and me.