Saving Christmas

The following passage is by Joe “Metal Cowboy” Kurmaskie, whose Holiday Spectacular takes place at the Seattle Flagship REI Store on Tuesday, Dec. 14 at 7 p.m. through the Cascade Presentation Series.

The excerpt, which offers a preview of the Metal Cowboy’s storytelling humor, describes the time he pedaled down the East Coast with a toy Santa that he “rescued” from a frat house.


Given the choice, never bike camp behind a frat house during pledge week.

Breaking glass and drunken stabs at Loverboy’s Working For The Weekend brought me around. I heard young men hollering for more beer between giggling pleas of a girl instructing someone to “keep it above the waist.” When a Singing Santa broke into Jingle Bells, I felt myself going down the rabbit hole.

And Santa would not shut up. Apparently, someone else had qualms with the holiday keepsake on a song loop.

“Is this a sword?” a pledge asked, slurring his words.

“Sure is. Samurai! I bought it at the mall.”

The Fat Man was a goner.

“Gimme that sword.”

Lots of laughter.

“Any last words, Santa?”

While his singing was torture to someone trapped in a tent, did Father Christmas really deserve execution? The porch door bounced opened.

“Hey. Totally uncool. Shelly’s mom lent us these decorations. You want to hack something, there’s trees all over New England.”

Fraternity brother to the rescue.

First light found me cold, tired and surrounded by beer cans. I packed up. That should have been the end of it. But curiosity and all....

I tiptoed up the steps. What did I hope to find?

At least Santa's presence out of season was explained. Someone majoring in sloth had decorated for all the holidays at once: colorful lights, plastic pumpkins, a green leprechaun resting in the nativity manger with Mary and Joseph kneeling over him, no doubt praying for answers as to why the son of God was a wild-eyed gnome swinging a pot of gold. It took me a moment to locate singing Nick. Someone had thrown the Twister mat over him. Only his black boots and the cuff of his red suit were exposed.

I removed the mat. He looked a bit rough. His pipe was hacked clean off, leaving only a small black nub. This gave him the appearance of a cigar-chewing crime boss or a rough and ready Yukon explorer. Also sliced was the top of his trademark cap, adding to the working class look. Think Santa Brando in On The Waterfront. When I pulled away the Twister mat, he broke into song.

I was holding him up to locate an off switch when I heard the pack of dogs.

Working a bicycle up to speed with a two-foot plastic Santa stinking of beer balanced between one's knees, well, that's no picnic. I'd fidgeted on Santa's lap plenty of times as a child, but this was the first time he'd returned the favor.

Once you’ve saved a life you are responsible for it. I lashed Santa to the back rack with a bungee cord.

He had speakers in the back of his head and his belly so I was getting the holiday spirit from all sides. When a good size truck blew by, Santa detected motion and broke into song. Why not just turn him off when I wasn't in the mood? He had no off switch! No discernible latch, secret hatch or hidden nest for batteries.

Strapped across the rack, Santa looked to be cloud gazing, working on his tan or counting birds for the Audubon Society. Fine if we'd been pedaling across a desert, but every telephone line of starlings set him to song. Shifting my butt would cost me a Feliz Navidad or a few verses of White Christmas.

By New Hampshire we'd worked some things out. For starters, I'd located his sensors. They were behind his eyes.

I moved him from the rack to one of the rear panniers. His top half sticking over the rim of the bag put me in mind of an old sailor scanning for land. If only he knew a few shanties. If I didn't want to hear from my fat friend, I'd blindfold him with a bandana. Granted, this made him look like a condemned man awaiting the firing squad, but when I pulled the sash up to his forehead, he became a swashbuckler performing a giddy holiday medley.

In my secret heart, I liked having a sidekick to egg me on, even if we drew stares.

But let's face it, Santa was a conversation starter. Who can resist dancing to a rowdy rendering of Holly Jolly Christmas? Not a pack of hacky sack playing teens on the courthouse lawn in Hartford, I'll tell you that.

Roadside diner waitresses asked if Santa would like an order of cookies and milk, or a carrot for his reindeer. He was worth his weight at scoring me free desserts and veggies.

Another use: security. I'd assign Santa night patrol outside my tent when renegade camping. If anything breached the darkness he'd go off like a holiday-theme alarm system.

In the years since, I’ve had many riding partners. And every single one of them has been better company than a two-foot chunk of singing plastic.

But I’ll say this, no one ever pulled me through a lonely little patch in my life with more flare and musicality.

All along I thought I'd rescued Father Christmas. It turns out, it was him saving me.

Come hear Joe tell the rest of the story at the Seattle Flagship REI Store on Tuesday, Dec. 14 at 7 p.m. through the Cascade Presentation Series.