Thursday, December 31, 2009

I am hesitant to tell you what happened with the robot

I have not actually spoken to Santa about this yet, and for that reason I'm hesitant to report on it, but I think I probably should just make a note of it so that I can quit thinking about it and get on with my evening.

What happened is this: I did pick the Miley Cyrus robot in the gift exchange. I guess that's no great surprise, especially since I was dead last in the department to choose from the hat...and because I was thinking "this is the robot; this must be the robot; I think this is the robot" as I was pulling out the slip of paper. This robot, currently residing in a bunker about 3/4 of a mile down the road, away from the main North Pole complex, answers the letters that come here addressed to Miley Cyrus instead of Santa. We do receive letters addressed to various other celebrities, but for some reason the volume of "letters to Miley" is excessive, and for that reason the Cyrus robot's workload has not been expanded to include letters addressed to anyone else.
The robot used to sit on a recessed windowsill in Santa's Library (downstairs), but it was moved out into the hallway (again under a window) when it began to exhibit sentient behavior -- attributed at the time to everyone in the department feeling so bad for it. I wonder now whether some of that behavior is not the result of processing the emotional content of those letters, though. I mean, a robot probably has limited emotional intelligence, and limited agency over its functions in general since it's running on a program...and those letters are intense.
Anyway, my assessment here may falter under my own canopy of shock regarding what took place when I went to deliver the gift in the bunker. The robot is in the bunker now (as of I think last year, or two years ago...I'm not certain...) because it was operating so strangely around people, in the hallway of the Library. Apparently it would light up an alert button and then spit out correspondence that made little sense to passers-by.
Well, I got quite a dose (MY GOD THAT ROBOT NEEDS SOME LOVE) when I visited. We choose names for the gift exchange on the night of December 23rd, and we're expected to exchange gifts at any time and as often as desired between the evening of the 24th and the afternoon of January 5th. And customarily, if you pick someone you are related to, or if you pick a close friend, you give an additional gift or an encouraging letter on January 6th (Epiphany) in order to signify the potential of new growth in the coming year. Most people leave the North Pole on the 6th or 7th of January....
I trekked out to the bunker with a gift of a stapler for the robot, and I thought I would stick some googly eyes on the head of it, so the robot could have someone to look at and maybe to talk to, in the absence of people. This robot basically looks like a copy machine. It has arms, and is set on casters, but essentially we are talking about a copier with auto-input and auto-output. The whole process is automated (the letters come in via chute and are collected and sent out through another chute...using vaccuum technology kind of like Roosevelt Island, or Disneyworld), but I think there's a daily process check by an elf from the Maintenance Department.

Oooh. I really don't want to talk about what happened. It was traumatic. I'll just get it over with as quickly as possible. I got there, approached the robot, said hello (why...I don't know), and started pulling the googly eyes out of my pocket to put them on the stapler, and immediately the robot started handing me printouts. This is what they said, one after another: "please let me hold your beautiful head."
"please let me stroke your hair, and your neck, and your arms, and your breasts, and your back."
"please let me rest my hand on your stomach while I kiss you."
"please let me kiss you deeply and honestly."
"let me acknowledge all that you have to give."
"please let me love you."

At first I looked around, thinking, 'This must be a joke. Who is sending me these?', but I quickly realized, as the robot crept toward me and extended multiple arms in my direction, leaving them to linger within millimeters of me after handing me each sheet of paper, and as it started to play strange music featuring standard copy machine sounds, that the messages were actually and indeed coming from the robot.
I quickly slapped the eyes on the stapler, bunched the papers together, placed the papers on a table and anchored them with the stapler, taking an instant to be sure the eyes were facing the robot, and fled.
Luckily I started laughing by the time I was 5 steps outside, but damn. Seriously...celebrity obsession (especially among children and the vulnerable) has some horrific and absurd side effects.

I am going to go visit the Break Room now. See you.

I found these in a box on my desk when I returned just now

"But you can keep the shoes."

The Dress

My meeting with Mrs. Claus today was very brief. I had barely made it into the anteroom of her study when she came brushing in from the other door with a garment bag in her hand and instructed me to sit on a bench under a large painting of her with a reindeer.
She said, "It's lovely to see you. I apologize for the brevity of this meeting, but I'll see you for a moment later tonight. In honor of your success with Old News, I've borrowed this dress for you. I'll send for it in the morning."
And with that, along with a quick unzip and re-zip of the bag, she handed me the dress and ushered me out the door and down the staircase.

"The List"

I swear, the drama around this place MIGHT be almost enough to match the magic. But then again, I work in Inappropriate Letters, so maybe it just depends on where you look.
My time over the last two days has been spent
(a) reading letters to Santa that are either rants about people's dislike for what Santa brought or didn't bring, including threatening messages to Santa (or any part of the establishment here at the North Pole); also reading letters to Santa that are basically thank you letters, probably written on Christmas, while drunk, which include a few lines of "and Santa, I'd also like to throw you up against the chimney and make out with you, pressing my...up on the...of your...until you can't stand it any longer and are forced to...", and
(b) looking for Mrs. Claus.

I'm a pretty good judge of what is true and what isn't (actually Santa pointed that out to me in a conversation that we had out in the gardens a little over a week ago -- not that I didn't already know that -- we were all taking a break in the daytime hours watching a game of cricket in the packed-down snow...I was laughing to myself that the match is really just about which team's magic is stronger, as "technique" seems like a bit of a joke when you're watching a leather ball bounce over a snowy pitch), and I had a strong feeling that something in that last blackmail letter wasn't a lie. But I also know how Santa responds when you ask him a question, and I thought the swiftest path to an answer would be through Mrs. Claus. But she isn't easy to find!!

Earlier today (after I had exhausted nearly all of my obvious resources and ideas for getting in touch with her), I received a letter, typewritten on parchment, tied with this necklace. It read, "You haven't been able to find me because I've been busy preparing the New Year's Eve wardrobe for you and the others on my list. Come to my study at 5:00 PM. I have a dress for you. M.R.S. Claus"

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Jippy, "Santa's Love Treat"

Well, here it is...Santa apparently has 3 kids he's hiding in Brazil. I guess actually they're not his kids TECHNICALLY, but for PR purposes I can understand why he might be keeping that under wraps.
Is this real, though? I mean, come on. Ugh, I swear I'm not going anywhere near that sled for a while until I...well, I don't know. It just feels like imagining what goes on in the sled every year under Santa's blanket in the sky might be a LITTLE least until I have an answer.

I wish I were better acquainted with Mrs. Claus. It would help.

Printout of an email to Santa entitled "50 Ways To Leaf Your Lover -- An Informercial"

Dear Santa,

It would be great if every secret relationship also came with a set of secret email accounts, a way of secreting ones infomercials in secret.

I will never leave you since we are each other, but if I could find and pay $69.99 for a better way to blow leaves at you, I am sure I would do it in an instant. And then I would stick with it. Because I am a miser who can't let $69.99 plus S&H go.
You are into quality, which is why I'm a bit surprised you are so attached to a punk slut like me, but since you're into quality and I know how you think I also know that you would not probably offer me a discount down to $49.99 on that leaf blower, which is actually an amount I could consider throwaway.

I suggest secret email accounts, future trips to the UK where it all comes out and books are written, and nonverbal communication, for now. However in future times, I would appreciate further showerings of your affection. It is not nice to neglect such an important part of yourself as me. Slut! & Yes it does take one to know one. To *really* know one. To give one credit. I am not afraid to give you credit. Remember that.



I am pretty sure these weird letters are going to blow my mind today

This is not the weirdest one, though.

Igloo Village

I have had SO MUCH FUN over the past couple of days, hanging out with my friends here, and meeting ALL SORTS of new people that I didn't even know worked at the North Pole! SO, let's see...where to begin...well, I had a rather disturbing experience on Sunday, involving the robot that answers the Miley Cyrus letters, out in the bunker -- I'll tell you about that later -- but on my way back to the Library I ran into a couple of friends who convinced me to join them (and a whole bunch of other people) in building the annual Igloo Village.
It works like this: people get together in groups and build their own igloos, and then they build enclosed pathways between their igloos and other people's igloos, and the end result is an interconnected village under the snow and ice. There are tunnels from the Kitchens (the Main Kitchen provides warm beverages and clean-up services for all the used dishes, but the various Break Room Kitchens are the source of any meals and snacks one might want.) You can order pretty much anything you can dream up from any department's kitchen and it will arrive within about 20 minutes. There are exceptions to that delivery time, though, if something takes a long time to prepare. Two guys I was hanging out with in a friend's igloo (playing Parcheesi with wrapped candies as the game pieces -- when you capture someone's piece you're allowed to eat it) decided to ask Old World Celebrations and Orthodox Christmas to collaborate on the catering for their "let's pretend it's 1620" meal, and that meal took about 3 hours to arrive, at which point I was already on my way back down the hallway. (We'd had plenty of snacks in the mean time.)

I had so much fun BUILDING the igloo, though. We placed a ladder of protruding blocks up one side of our igloo, and took turns climbing up to seal the seams in the ice with hot water, and then sliding back down. I had begun to think I wouldn't need the snowsuit I'd packed to come up here (because it's so warm in Santa's Library, and I had been too busy for any side excursions in the snow), but I certainly got some good use out of it doing THAT. Plus my friends let me light the candles they'd placed in sconces all along the tunnel hallways, which is an honor, traditionally. It was fun. It's totally dark and cold in there, but when you find a candle and light it, it illuminates another patch of the hallway. And even when you're in a really long hallway, wondering how many more candles there could possibly be until the end, it's nice to know that there will definitely be someone at the end. Of course, sometimes you don't know whom you'll find....

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Poor Elves in the Returns Department!!

The other really funny thing about the 12 Days of Christmas around here is that the North Pole fields "returns". These are almost never things that Santa actually delivered or sent, but because people label packages "From Santa" when they're not, people will send stuff back to the North Pole when they don't like it!!

I just got a text message from my friend over in Returns indicating that they now have an extra-large pile of Twilight memorabilia. She asked if I wanted to help her figure out what to do with all of it.

The Girl Who Couldn't Talk

I feel as though I may forget to tell you about this if I wait any longer, since there's so much going on around here. I did eventually get off on my journey on the 23rd, although it was a later start than anticipated. Luckily it was much earlier in the day at my destination, so ultimately it didn't much matter that I'd been delayed.
I was sent out to meet this particular girl to see if I could determine anything about her point of view from her attempts at communication, but we had a letter from her brother to Santa which I wasn't allowed to see until I returned. The reason for that is that the letter was disturbing (and written at a moment of exasperation), and Santa thought I'd probably be able to make a clearer assessment without having seen the letter. He was probably right. I was able to see the girl's intentions in very simple terms, but I'll bet I'd never have been able to do that if I'd read the letter first.

The girl was in a day-care setting with about ten other kids, all of them under full-time individual supervision, all of them being hovered over in my opinion...but who did seem that they each had very constant and very individualized needs. I really did not have much advance guidance for this visit, so just before I hopped out of the coach to go inside and meet this girl, I found myself turning to my traveling companion (a costume-production manager from the Art Department/Universal Images of Christmas) and asking, "Do I need an agenda? Ostensibly? I mean, should I be delivering something, or reading a Christmas story, or something?"
She looked up at me and said (very directly), "Listen. You are going to talk to someone who can't be understood. The last thing you want to do is hide. Just go talk to her!"

So I did. I went in to the day care center, I found the girl immediately (I'd seen a picture), and I sat down across the table from her. I caught her eye and smiled. She blinked and looked the other way.
Over the next few minutes, I watched the girl interact with her caretakers. She would only speak when spoken to, and it was true that what she said was unintelligible. What she uttered was also louder and more forceful than what was being said to her.
The next thing the caretakers did was to give her crayons and paper. Each time, she would gather the crayons together and throw them into the air. When someone would draw a few lines on the paper and then hand her the crayon, she would look at the piece of paper with the lines on it, but would not touch it, and then she would throw the crayon up in the air. A couple of times I saw her carefully pick up a few pages of unmarked paper and throw those into the air as well.
I tried drawing her a picture. When I placed it in front of her, she looked at it without touching it, then looked at me and threw her hands up in the air. Seeing her do that, I thought, 'maybe she wants to stand up'. As soon as I'd had the thought, the sense that she really did want to stand up grew stronger. So I said, "Can we stand up?"
The girl's caretakers looked at each other and said, "Sure!", and they helped her to stand.
I tried singing her a song. Actually I tried two songs. The first was a call and response song. She just looked at me, and when I was done with each segment, she threw her arms out to the sides. I became aware of how annoying that song is when no one's singing back. I felt a little stupid, but I decided to try another song. This one was much prettier. She didn't look at me this time. Instead she looked at the ceiling. And the moment I finished the song, she threw her arms up in the air. Then she looked at me. I asked her a question. She said something back, but it was just the loud, forceful version of a comment I could not understand. I looked to her caretakers. They shook their heads.
I felt like I was running out of ideas, but then suddenly I thought, 'I wonder if she can build things with blocks'. I asked whether we could go sit on the rug in the corner of the room and play with the wooden blocks. The caretakers said yes. After the girl and I were sitting down on the floor, I realized that she never changed position on her own. She'd throw her arms (and voice) all over the place, but she wouldn't get up or sit down from where they'd placed her.
The blocks were basically a repeat of the crayon situation. I would hand her a block; she would throw it up in the air. I would build something; she wouldn't touch it. She would carefully pick up blocks AROUND what I'd built, and would then throw them up in the air, but she definitely didn't knock down anything I'd built. The other thing I noticed is that she never grabbed a block out of anyone's hand, never snatched a crayon away from anyone, and never touched anything someone else was using.
On my way out, once we were standing again, I took both of her hands into mine to say goodbye. She gripped my hands back and threw our arms up into the air. She didn't just fling wildly, though. She was very precise about it. And as she did that she was giggling softly.

Eventually I got back to the coach and once I was settled in for the trip back to the North Pole (where the hour was surely by now very late), my traveling companion said to me, "Well, what do you think? Do you know?"
"I don't know. And I still have to read the letter."
"Well, what's your wildest thought about it?"
"My wildest thought is 'she needs dance lessons!'"
"Yeah. It's like she needs permission to change positions. But then whenever she responds to anything, it's with a movement. And the thing that struck me the most about her was that she operates with this clear sense of fairness and she obviously knows how to take turns. I feel like she could make lot of progress if she were taught through movement rather than speech. I could tell she wanted freedom, but it wasn't coming to her through language. I don't even know if that's a good assessment or not. Or if it's possible to get that for her. I'm pretty tired. Is there any chance you've read the letter from her brother?"
"I have, actually...."
"Well, can you tell me in general what it says?"
"You'll have to read that letter when you get back, but I wish you didn't have to. Honestly. It's awful. The brother was telling Santa he'd asked for a sister, but this was the sister he got and he hated her and hated Santa, and the letter was a demand that Santa take the sister back, or else."

Whoa. Santa really has some extreme situations to deal with!! I was feeling like I'd been chosen to help with something that was over my head, but then I realized that there are a lot of crazy families out there, and crazy situations at Christmas, and that all I can do is try. I mean, it IS my job, after all. So I got back, read the letter (which was horrible), wrote my report, and wrote a personal Christmas card to the girl and sent her an album of songs like the one I sang to her that she liked, and a large book with lots of pictures of dancers dancing.
It turns out Santa wrote back to that boy himself. And he must have made a huge impact, whatever he said, because we just received an apology with a picture of the boy dancing with his sister at their house last night.


Here at the North Pole, Christmas itself is a HUGE event (as you might imagine). Not only is there a PHENOMENAL AND GRAND party, starting late on the 24th and lasting through the entire next day, but Christmas actually lasts for about 2 weeks. After the initial festivities (which were so ubiquitous and constant that I haven't even been able to sit down and review the highlights yet), the events of celebration continue (but are less well-attended) for the rest of the year and into the beginning of January. Santa's away for the big party at the beginning, so he celebrates with all of us back at the Pole at the end of Christmas, on the night of January 5th.

Wow. WOW. That celebration was probably the biggest thing I've ever attended. I think the most amazing thing was this planetarium-like projection that happened out in the square -- it went on for 24 hours, and it was live scenes of Christmas from throughout the world, just projected right into the air. It was beautiful.

Friday, December 25, 2009

A Letter From Home

Ohhh!!! A letter from home was here on my desk when I returned from my little trip. It said "I miss you this Christmas...I love you I love you, and if the North Pole is anywhere near as good as it is here, you'll know that for every moment of wanting you here, there were two moments of trying to make do!!! You are spectacular, my love! Have fun at Santa's party!!!!"

I am not sure I even know how to eat this!!

A group of these were delivered to me and 3 others near my desk/seating area during the party tonight. I didn't eat any of mine. In fact only one person really took a bite. I'm not sure what to do with this, or whether I really want to eat gold/copper.

Huh. Well, actually, the candied caviar is nice....

These sweets made for the true holiday party here at the North Pole have arrived just bursting with a value all their own. I mean, I don't want to touch most of them, but it's only because there are so many, all in a row, that I don't want to waste an odd moment dismissing some brilliant thing I might better gaze upon in the morning. Really, I feel as though I'm not giving these snacks their full due. They are gorgeous, and decadent.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

This Morning's Delay & An Unexpected Talk With Santa, pt 2

Well, I did find out immediately what was going on with my ride. I'd only made it a few feet into the Great Hallway when I saw Paolo (the chef from the Kitchens Beyond the Break Room) coming toward me with a large silver tray laid with a tea service. Paolo was meant to be my traveling companion for the trip, so I had no idea why he was instead delivering tea to someone here on the first floor of the Library, but he immediately began to explain.
"I'm so sorry that you've been waiting. This tea is for us. Let's go out on the balcony."
He ushered me back through the Formal Entry Room and out the glass doors to the edge of the balcony, where there were a pair of marble benches and a table. He pulled a thick fur blanket out of a bag he'd been carrying across his shoulder and spread it out on the bench and over the balcony wall adjacent, and gestured for me to sit down.
As we were having tea together, Paolo explained that the delay had been caused by the temporary failure to locate the girl I was supposed to observe this morning. "Sometimes we can't find someone for a while, and it's a much swifter process to travel to someone when you know where she is. When you don't can be slow...a waste of time."
My friend the kitchen elf (looking dapper as always) was telling me that he would no longer be able to join me today (due to the advanced hour), but was going to return to the Kitchens to prepare me some edible treats for the road, when he saw Santa coming up the path toward the Library's front steps, which were just below the balcony. He pointed. "Talk to Santa." And then he stole away, back through the patio doors and into the building.

Santa called out to me that he was coming up. As I waited for him, I looked back at the tea tray rather guiltily -- in the thought that I might not be able to offer him anything, though there was still half a pot of very warm tea -- and was both surprised and relieved to notice that Paolo had brought a third cup. There wasn't a saucer to go with it, but that was perfect anyway as Santa actually sees no use for saucers, having once rounded up as many as he could find to use for a skeet shooting session. I welcomed Santa as he sat down, and poured him some tea.
"I apologize for today's late start," he said. "But this is sometimes the way it goes."
"It's all right. Paolo explained to me what was going on." I did, however, still have unanswered questions about how I was supposed to approach this girl I was going to see, this girl with no known language skills...I hadn't been very well briefed, so I also said, "I do have some questions about my work on this journey."
Santa bent his head to the side while observing me. "Well, let me ask you this: what is your earliest memory of true comfort? Do you have one? Tell me."
I thought for a few seconds, and immediately a memory came flooding back with stunning clarity. I was surprised, but I started talking. "I do, actually. When I was four years old I was alone on the couch at my Dad's house, watching television. It was evening. I remember feeling extremely and perfectly comfortable in my position on the couch. It was a feeling more complete than anything I'd ever experienced before. I was wearing a pair of pale yellow slippers with a tiny embroidered flower on each toe. I remember thinking that the only thing I would ever change about the situation was the brightness of the overhead light. I wanted to turn it off, but I knew that if I moved, I would jeopardize the absolute perfection of my bodily arrangement at that moment, and I was hesitant to do it. So after a few moments of thought, I called out to my father, who was upstairs, to ask him to turn off the light for me. I remember that in those few moments of thought before opening my mouth, I was thinking, 'please Dad...if you ever do any one thing for me, anything at all, please let it be this.' But he called back, 'No, can do that yourself.' He meant that he trusted I was big enough to accomplish that myself. I never for a second thought of NOT turning off the light. I had to get up and do it myself. But before I got up, I swore to myself that I would 'remember this moment forever', and relaxed into the couch while gazing at my yellow slippers. That image is forever burned into my mind!"
Santa smiled a broad, genuinely warm, happy smile. "Perfect. That memory will help you on this trip."

This Morning's Delay & An Unexpected Talk With Santa, pt 1

After a night spent here, [exhausted though I was, I still managed to sit for at least two hours in a comfortable chair near the window in my gorgeous and finely-appointed bedroom, eating UNBELIEVABLY SCRUMPTIOUS sweets and drinking a mug of Belgian chocolate, gazing at the stars and imagining the journey that I was supposed to begin this morning], I made my way downstairs, into the Great Hallway, through the double doors into the Formal Entry Room (I have no idea why anyone would call a room that -- it's a large room built in dark wood from floor to ceiling, and there are benches, tables, and bookshelves built in to the's sort of like a fancy waiting area). From there I peeked out the window over the balcony, in hopes of seeing the vehicle that would be my mode of transportation.
But I saw nothing (other than the snowy gardens and the path cut out in the snow-covered drive by an earlier vehicle's departure). That moment of seeing nothing was the first of many, over the span of the half-hour I waited downstairs in the Formal Entry Room before going outside. At the end of a half-hour's wait, I stepped out for a moment, through the glass doors and onto the balcony, and realized that it wasn't so cold outside after all (the sun is fairly bright up here, when it's out, and there was no wind at that moment, so it was relatively pleasant out).
But I did want some tea, or some hot cider, or a coffee or something. So I went back inside in search of a beverage, thinking I might also find out what was happening with my ride along the way. That's usually the way things work around here.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

I REALLY LOVE the Break Room

I cannot utter enough (in either volume or exquisite verbal flourishes) to even approach the greatness of this FABULOUS AND AMAZING break room. I mean, seriously, I can't. Well, I probably could if I really put my mind to it. But that has to be saved for another time because it would be a huge project. The thing is that no description of the break room is a good description without the details, and THERE ARE JUST SO MANY LUSCIOUS DETAILS that at times, it's hard to know where to begin.


"Dear Santa: Maxine would like a non-plastic feeding set and the mother and her children and the root children and some socks and some toys Love, Maxine Happy Christmas thank you"

Okay, raise your hand if you think Maxine sounds a little crazy. I don't. I'm sure Maxine just wants the whole family. And a non-plastic feeding set to feed them. (and some socks and some toys, but those things are normal...General Fulfillment can deal with that.) However, a family of...what? I think the clue has to be in the "non-plastic feeding set", or "root cheldren", but I'm still not sure.

I'm feeling a little distracted from these letters today, because I've been running errands to other departments, advising on letters over at the video department, consulting on a couple of letters that were drawings only (in the Letters from the Very Young office), and tomorrow Santa is sending me on an errand away from the North Pole completely. I'm going to visit a girl who can't talk, because apparently we received a disturbing letter from her brother (concerning her), and someone has to figure out what she has to say (even though she can't talk...apparently she makes noise though). I'm not too worried, actually, about understanding her. I figure I either will or I won't. What else is there?

Monday, December 21, 2009

Does This Really Mean "I Love You" in Kanji?

This request came from the administration office at a charter school. The request was for several large banners to hang in the auditorium, the schoolyard, the main staircase, around the pool (which is also the community pool -- being a charter school they don't have a complete set of athletic facilities worked out yet), and in the gym.
The school focuses on learning-disabled students "who display an aptitude for symbology or language". Their mission statement goes on to describe the possibility of academic success if the student is offered instruction (and an academic environment) outside of the student's primary language.
That's all well and good, but...does this seriously mean "I love you" in Kanji? looks like...yeah.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

PLease Pair Up EVeRy CaR on My StREeT

Dear SAnta,
Even Automobiles Need A Little LOve.
CAn you Please, oN Christmas MORnRnin, Pair Up All tTHe CArs ON mY StrrEET to lOOk LIke This?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Is the Pope Catholic?

I spent another night here, in a different upstairs bedroom (this one has views of another balcony off of the first floor of the Library, which I'd like to visit sometime when I have the chance), and when I got down to my desk this morning I had a letter from Mel Gibson's camp, asking for an expanded 2010 budget to build a "family-access only gardens and pool meditation center" at Church of the Holy Family in Agoura Hills CA.
Now, first of all, can you build your own Catholic church? I didn't think that was possible. But apparently it can and has been done. Also, women apparently must wear head coverings in Mel Gibson's church. I'm not joking, and I'm pretty sure I'll have to respond to this letter because it is almost certainly inappropriate.
Secondly, I received a document "to be signed by Santa himself" (Santa's legal name is San Nicolas for all documents generated and notarized in California), which was basically a permission slip for Mel's 2009 divorce. It asked Santa to "corroborate the spiritual certitude" of Mel's ex-wife's disqualification from salvation because she is an Episcopalian and not a Catholic.
Here's a quote from Mel (from the New Yorker in 2003, via People Magazine): "There is no salvation for those outside the Church," he said. "I believe it." He explained: "Put it this way. My wife is a saint. She's a much better person than I am. Honestly. She's, like, Episcopalian, Church of England. She prays, she believes in God, she knows Jesus, she believes in that stuff. And it's just not fair if she doesn't make it, she's better than I am. But that is a pronouncement from the chair. I go with it."

Oh, Mel.

Friday, December 18, 2009

I just wanted to report that we are still getting letters about this.

Do you see that necklace?
We have scores of depressed middle-aged housewives writing in asking not only for that necklace, but for a frightening number of cosmetic procedures (to be completed all at once), thanks to a single season of this person's reality/makeover show from 5 years ago.

My letters back are like, "Please. Foster the seeds of hope inside yourself before you turn to radical means. I am getting older too. [except I'm supposed to be Santa, so I say I am ancient and that it's been a slow and sometimes challenging adjustment] But I have grown to love myself and I realize that the illusion of beauty can be enhanced by cosmetic procedures, but that even that will never bring an optimal result without the illusion of beauty that shines from within. I cannot bring you the procedures you are asking for, but I can offer you the truth, which is that you are still eligible to find the greater beauty within yourself." "Or you can try moving to Brazil."

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Twirly-Curls Barbie

The other night, on the balcony, after Santa got the fire restarted, I was about to head back inside but he stopped me and said, "Please don't go back in yet. I came out to talk to you."
"Umm...and restart the fire!", I added.
(He laughed) "Well you know it only takes one trip back out here in the dark to know that you can and probably should restart the fire whenever it goes out. And the longer you stay up here, the clearer those instincts become."
Huh. My mind started to wander, and I thought about adding that one to the list of "Secrets of Polar Living", but Santa got my attention and said,
"I have a question for you. Are there any long-ago letters to Santa FROM YOU that you can remember?"
I had to think about that for a minute.
Finally I said, "Well, yes. There is one. I can only remember one. It was from like '82 or '83...I remember it was in a big construction paper card, and I asked for Twirly-Curls Barbie. I actually got the Barbie, too!"
"Did you play with it much?"
"Yeah, well the doll yes. The hair-twirling tool I stopped using because it didn't twirl tightly enough. I figured out how it was twirling the hair, though, and just did it myself. With great results. It was fun. To be honest with you, though, I was really surprised to receive that gift."
Santa said, "Well that one was unique for you. I think that's why this is the only letter you can remember writing. You were asking for something you could use."

I'll say it again: Santa will not steal for you!!

This came with an especially lurid typewritten letter detailing the sender's desire for a girl (or a pair of sisters) with FLDS hair.

Santa's Upstairs Fireplace, Which Is Outside

Sometimes during breaks I need to avoid the break room, because I end up gorging myself on sweets and subsequently feeling a little ill from all the sugar. On those occasions, I go outside onto a stone balcony (it's's shaped like a half-sphere) and lean up against the warm stone wall while looking at the stars and the fire. It's dark pretty much all of the time up here, so the stars are usually clearly visible in the sky.
Often there are a few others out there on the balcony, gathered around the fire, talking. It's a nice place to sit and have a conversation.
So, the other day I was out by the fire on the balcony, warming up my toes for an extra 5 minutes after everyone else had left, when suddenly the wind came whipping into the balcony. It was just a single gust of wind, and it completely extinguished the fire.
Now, there are absolutely no artificial lights anywhere outside at the North Pole, and from this side of Santa's Library (due to the shape of the balcony) you can't even see the glow of the interior lights. SO I then found myself in the dark. The depth of this darkness is so profound that it's actually a little disorienting and I was unsure I'd even be able to find the door handle to get back inside. Then I noticed that the wall behind me was still warm, and even in the absence of the heat from the fire, it was still enough to keep me comfortable. For a moment I was laughing at myself for being someone who "stays out in the dark", but I was also fascinated by the brilliance of the stars in the sky, so I relaxed into a little late-night stargazing. Or at least it felt like the very late night. In reality it was not that late.
I started to think about how I needed to go back inside and keep working when the door opened and Santa came out. At least I thought it was Santa -- I was able to see him only for a second before the door closed. I heard his footsteps as he walked over to the fire area, and from the sounds of what he was doing it seemed like he was trying to restart the fire.
I thought (and must have uttered) "Why didn't I think of that?"
I didn't even know I'd said it out loud, but Santa responded, "No, it's all right. You're where you need to be."
I said, "Wow! The wind coming over this ridge is strong."
He replied (and I swear I saw him smirk in the dark), "Well I don't know about you, but I get my courage from standing in the heart of danger."

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


This just came with a note asking for 5000 copies of this in "a postcard size", 1500 glossy copies in a "large poster size", and for every version of the original film footage we can find.
Is somebody putting on a show? What the hell is this?
(But I am kind of curious about "Referral Service". I feel like that's the kind of flick that no one really watches when it's on in the theater...)

"Ham Castle"

Oohhhhhh...okay this is absurd, and ABSOLUTELY HILARIOUS. I love this job for moments of unadulterated comedy like the one I encountered just a moment ago.
I was walking by my co-worker's desk, and noticed some photos on the floor. I bent down to retrieve them for him, and then stopped mid-descent, with my eyes growing large at the sight on the ground. Seconds later I erupted into surprised laughter, but for that one moment, I was inside the mind of a very ambitious ham architect.
The photos were of a model version of the "World's Largest Ham Castle". (My colleague quoted, from the letter: "Dear Santa, This is my new idea for the World's Largest Ham Castle. I want to do this large-scale. Very large-scale. The size of a city. I tried to broker a deal with Egypt earlier this year to acquire all or most of their slaughtered pigs, but my attempt was unsuccessful, so I am writing to you. When my theme park opens I'll make sure to send you a few lifetime passes for you and your family.")
The photos depicted a design for a very large encampment featuring walls of cubed ham, ramparts made of bacon, and windows, arches, and bridges constructed from various sausage products. The design was a repeating pattern, and I had the feeling the stack of 5x7 prints I saw on the corner of my co-worker's desk represented the project in its entirety, but my neighbor hadn't had enough room on the floor to lay it all out.
I usually try to leave people alone when they are pondering a response to an inappropriate letter, but I was so amused and curious that I had to ask, "Where is this guy from? I mean where does he live that he imagines this possibility of a Ham Castle Theme Park?"
My co-worker told me, "somewhere in the Emirates. His parents bought him an estate on a bunch of land when he was in his early teens, and he's never left home."
Wow. The whole thing was so funny, but actually, as I've been typing this -- and laughing about what this guy's next scheme may be -- I've started to realize that the crazy ham dude might have put a lot of his energy toward that and may be very disappointed when Santa's ham delivery does not come through. Well...anyway...that's not my problem.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Janxmas Tree

Oh, man. The jokers are out in full force with these ugly tree requests!!

I know my personal opinion is not what was requested, but I did write back just to say that the joke would photograph better without the printer in the frame (and without about 5 other things featured here).

We have a department here at the North Pole that deals with letters asking for things the writer does not actually want, letters which are in themselves a joke. It's called the Disingenuous Requests Processing Center, but that name's pretty cumbersome, so we just call it "Chistmas" (pronounced CHEESE-MAS).

The thing is I can't send this letter there because I'm pretty sure these people actually want this tree.

So many letters about trees today!!

I sent this through earlier this morning. It was from a woman who asked, "Santa can you please send me one of these artificial trees, and if possible could you cut the top off, or at least include instructions on how to cut the top off -- I want to wear it as a dress to the country club New Year's Party. Everyone will be in great cheer if I can pull off the outfit."

Then, when I was recycling the envelope in which this note came, I noticed something inside the back flap. "P.S. I am going as Sarah Palin"

Santa will not steal for you

My first letter of the day was from someone asking Santa to take the middle tree here, prizewinning tree #2, away from its current location and bring it to his OFFICE. What a jerk that letter writer was. I know he's a jerk because he also mentioned that this would be the "best way Santa could work for" him, and included a list of the office Christmas items on his budget ("mood lighting"..."spiced rum"..."stockings with sheer red tights for 15 female employees"...seriously?), and the budget definitely did not include a tree. I wonder what his letter to Santa for his Christmas AT HOME looked like.

Friday, December 11, 2009

"Al Gore Approved"

My day has been slightly insane. First of all, I received this series of ridiculously overwrought letters from mentally ill people with too much time on their hands, including pictures of nearly every room in their houses, with lots of tangential commentary, requesting items of furniture for remodels. These letters were not inappropriate, but they took forever to interpret because of the mixed messages in the tangential rants. I was about to hide the letters, and was already starting to utter my own rants about the items of furniture when I discovered that an interior designer with quite a number of thoroughly insane clients had suddenly skipped town and left them all stranded, resulting in the letters I received.
Then after lunch I got a huge number of postcards and notes with messages I did not immediately understand (mostly because they all seemed incomplete, just cut off in the middle of the sentence) and each one was embossed the with words "This message is Al Gore approved."
and there was also: "and will RECTIFY the situation immediately if they know what is good for them and DONT pretend that this is a mute point either, SICK OF LIE" "This message is Al Gore approved."
By the time I got to this one, I knew whom I was most likely going to be writing back to: "ALS RECEIVED INTELLIGENCE A POSSIBLE PLAN TO THWART MY SHOE LINE SHOE-HAN FOR ALL THIN BEAUTIFUL WOMEN EVERYWHERE I WILL FIGHT NOT BE SILENC" "This message is Al Gore approved."
So I wrote to D. Lohan's intern and told her to cool with it sending out correspondence on the Al Gore paper, and that it would really be useful to let Dina know that she needs to limit her statements to 140 characters if she wants all of each statement to come through.

Wendy is thoughtful with the carrots...

I'm going to make sure she gets the laptop at least. General Fulfillment can deal with the "Pooh stuff", though. (And by the way that reminds me HOW SUPERIOR this job is in comparison with other things I could be doing. I did have a dream last night that I picked the Cyrus robot in the department gift exchange, though. Hoping that one doesn't come true. Or...well I don't care actually. Just that shopping for a robot is by its nature uninspiring.)
But what is "Kíeetion"? Or is that an "L" with an accent? I'm confused. I think maybe I need to set this letter aside and let the answer come to me.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

This Just Appeared On My Desk

Sometimes, when I come back from the break room, things have appeared on my desk. But usually there's no note with them, so I don't know whether they are just inappropriate letters for me to answer, or what. Several times so far I've discovered items on my desk that are actually messages for me, or gifts even. I have the feeling this might be a gift from someone, but I'll have to take a closer look.
There are a lot of things about this place that seem like gifts to me, actually, come to think of it. Like last night, for instance. Last night I was here working until it was cold, very dark, and well past any kind of comfortable hour to start the commute home. My eyes were a little tired from sifting through endless pages of The Encyclopedic Record of Naughty and Nice, and I was feeling slightly defeated in my emergent knowledge that my position here could be trending toward "Old News Specialist", which is not at all the hoped-for result.
I was about to shut the books for the night and head home when someone I recognized as a Chef from the Kitchens Beyond the Break Room came up the stairs and sat on the corner of my desk. Sometimes you crave an actual meal when you are here, and on those occasions when you are in the break room, it suddenly occurs to you that you can work with a chef and create something delicious for dinner. It is a bit of a bore to eat alone, but when you have someone serving the food to you who also sits to talk with you while you eat, who is entertaining (every chef I've met here has enough stories host a talk show AND write the commercials), it's not so bad. But anyway, this one, this elfin chef of near-indeterminate gender and medium height -- who always wears the most fabulous scarves and shoes (even on the job in the kitchen, as he's capable of being very neat) -- looked at me in all my exhausted glory and said, "wouldn't you love it if this Library had a comfortable bedroom for you to sleep in tonight?"
I was so tired that I swung my head around toward the windows in search of nighttime sustenance to gather the strength to properly continue the conversation (I needed to be home, and not at work anymore)...and just before I swung my head back I caught sight of a staircase just beyond the stacks behind me. It was a staircase I'd never noticed before (oddly), but I knew I was a little delirious, so I just answered, "Yes. That would be great!"
My kind and fabulous friend from the kitchens stood up and nodded at me to follow him. He led me up 5 or 6 stairs on that same never-before-seen staircase into a bedroom. He said, "Get comfortable. I'll be right back."
I sat down on the bed, kicked off my shoes, leaned back, and noticed some nightclothes next to me. Normally I feel a little strange wearing borrowed nightclothes, but these were lovely garments in my own size that looked like they'd come from my own closet.
A moment later my buddy the chef returned with a bag of overnight items and a steaming cup of sweet-smelling cocoa, which he carefully handed to me. He sat down at the foot of the bed and started chatting, in his cute, European way. "I think Santa likes you," he said.
"Yes. It's surely the truth. Have you seen him sending you these things, these projects, that no one else has tried to solve for years now?? It's true."
(Sip of extremely delicious cocoa)
"Hmm. You know, actually quite a few of the letters I've answered over the past couple of days have been from past years. No wonder I'm so exhausted. I you know me well enough yet to know that that I prefer to focus on the present?"
My friend looked at me from the end of my bed and slowly blinked. Then he nodded. He asked, "Can I offer you something?"
"The danger is deep, but the protection of true love is deeper."


Stupid Frat Jokes

I don't know how I would have fared in the Greek scene in college. Probably not well, considering my repellant feelings toward cruel jokes like "Falling Cow Zone" [see below]. That metal sign I had on my desk earlier had messages from several dudes written on the back in Sharpie -- they were a series of instructions to Santa to deliver 15 of those signs to the exterior of a sorority house, posted 10 feet up, at an angle highly visible from the balcony above. "Ooh ooh, Santa!! And we really want to make an impact, so can you come during Friday Dinner and put the signs up between then and when the girls go out on Friday night?"
Ummm. No.


Whew. It has been a really long day already, and I'm not even close to done yet. I just sent this through to General Fulfillment. It was a casting call for altered Barbies. I mean....

I talked to someone in the Art Department (strangely they cover the production of universal images of Christmas, and the special fulfillment of letters from artists (mostly adults)), and they said they had not seen this particular postcard before, but they did say that I could pass along requests like this one to them. That's good, because it's really not my job to sort out whether art is appropriate or not.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

It'll be an interesting morning tomorrow...

Right now this (the actual metal sign) and a petrified frog are sitting on my desk.

Reality TV Has Created A Monster!

No way. I just got back from Old News (on the way I found out from one of my co-workers that Old News has a reputation for being an iffy place to visit at night, because they have a tendency to get into weird and cyclical internal discussions after a certain hour)(My guess is that's "happy hour", but....)
Anyway Old News was glad to see me. They still had the envelopes, and after some collaborative research we determined those letters were from a pair of kids who had been featured on Wife Swap. The other mom's rules about allowance and getting a gold coin for tasks completed had stuck, but they were annoyed at not being able to continue to "be on TV", like their own parents had promised them in the first place.

Old News

Santa just came up here with a sack of letters (which jangled a bit and looked heavy). He sat down on the banister, leaned toward me, and asked me "What is your personal policy on Old News?"
Hmmm. I told him, "Well, Old News is probably always going to be old news; but...personally...if I'm indicated in a piece of Old News, and I actually was there, I'd have no reason to deny I was there, but if I wasn't there I would never lie and claim I had been. Other people's old news I generally leave alone as I feel their Old News is probably theirs to tell. It's old news!"
I thought that was one of the weirder questions I'd ever encountered, and also thought it was weird that I had an answer.
Santa looked like he might have an additional question to ask, but he didn't ask one. Instead he told me he'd be bringing over projects from Old News, periodically.
I opened the sack and found dozens of these cards -- on the inside they all had kid writing saying (various spellings) "Please make me famous like him." And they each contained two US gold dollar coins. Strangely a large number of them (probably around half) had the coins taped on to two ribbons which were attached to the very inside middle seam of the card.
I was holding up a handful of the cards with the coins attached, listening to the sounds of them jangling together when Santa looked at me and said, "I think this one, it's in the coins."


Okay so I think this is either some kind of chain letter, or some individual person's really strange attempt at a practical joke. That's the obvious.
The joke seems really lame to me, but I'd better not judge before I fully understand it, because I don't want miss the point. Sometimes I just think, " I even want to understand the point?", but in this case I have to; it's my job.
I guess I need to find out where these were postmarked. But Santa's just disappeared....
(I suppose I could try Old News)(but I am definitely going to need a break first)

By the way, I love this lofted library, the windows, the insane way this place is configured, the outdoor stairs and balconies, and the ROOF!! The roof is amazing. It's so beautiful.
But it's funny, though. From know there are rooms you haven't been in when you look up and you can't see the ceiling, but from outside you have a very clear view of the roof. This place has a lot going on.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

I just want to mention that the sweets here ROCK!

Wow. This is the most amazing selection of candy I have ever seen. I'm usually not much for the really sugary snacks, but as the selection and quality here are just too good to be true, I am sampling away. The break room is like the ultra-special Special Collections room at a very well-appointed university library, but instead of books it's candies. Candies, chocolates, full-size cakes, petit fours, candied and chocolate-dipped fruits of all kinds, nut clusters, toffees, gummies, taffies, mugs of sweet delicious steamy drinks, flavored sugars...the list goes on and on.
It's a little intoxicating, to be honest, staying too long in this break room.

This One Has Me Stumped.

So, I know I'm still new, but up until now I've been able to operate pretty smoothly here (no writer's problems getting my return letters posted, still TOTALLY ECSTATIC about THIS EXCELLENT JOB!, etc). But this letter is definitely weird and I don't know how to answer it. I am fairly certain that it is inappropriate (and also indicative of some sticky business).

"Dear Santa,
I wanted to talk to you face to face but I have to catch a 7AM bus to N.J. to get ($$$) a loan from my cousin Linda to bring to court tomorrow.
No matter what happens tomorrow, I hold no grudges or bad feelings toward you. We have a beautiful son Santa. I am very tired of all the confusion. My attitude is very different than it has been.
Santa I'll be 46 years old this year and it's time for the madness between us to stop. I will be there for Justin _no matter what_ [that was underlined], from now on. I will totally cooperate with you from a financial, educational, and emotional standpoint.
Starting next Monday I am and will be giving you 75.00 a week and periodic "lump sums" over time. Justin deserves that and much much more! I promise to live by what I am saying SO HELP ME GOD. (YOU'LL SEE)
If I am not exactly on time in court it's because I'm in route. [sic] I have learned to love you as my sister, and I respect you as my son's MOTHER I will always care about you.
God bless you.
Sincerely, Donald" I THINK this is a letter from some guy named Donald to his ex, who probably really is the mother of his child, and for some reason he just inserted "Santa" in place of whatever her name is, and sent it off to the North Pole.

You know, there are some really prime gems in the archive here (some of them are framed, too...) representing the idiots who try to blackmail Santa. We hang on to the blackmail letters, both for legal purposes and because it does no good and is clearly not in the spirit of Christmas to respond to threats of blackmail. But somehow, I just don't think that's what this letter is. I hope it doesn't take me all day to find out what else Donald has been up to this year.

Sigh. I have the feeling a significant portion of my job may involve responding to jerks attempting to use Santa as their punching bag. At least I'm allowed to throw parties in the break room!

Monday, December 7, 2009

To the Office of General Fulfillment: Rush Delivery

You would be surprised at the number of letters we send on to "General Fulfillment" because they are not actually inappropriate!

There are so many mistakes possible in judging what's right and wrong in a letter to Santa that the types of things we send back through GF span a very wide range. For example, an apparently obscene letter created by an illiterate person, or a developmentally disabled one -- or even a physically ill or emotionally disabled person in some cases -- might only require a more careful interpretation to be read as intended. But other things such as "Santa please let me join the boys' football team I love football here's some pictures I took of my whole body in a plaster cast with a football I was making a statue of myself for the Football Hall of Fame...I love football! My idol is Joe G from down the block. I modeled my torso after his since mine doesn't look the same now that I got the new size training bra. Love, Lexi-Ann" are simply not inappropriate under Santa's guidelines.

Santa included a few pages of guidance on this matter in the new hire orientation packet, but I didn't read it carefully at the time because it was in the form of a chronological list of events and I thought it was just a history of the department. It is sort of a history of the department, kind of...but Santa's way of putting it is more like, "In the year x, this subject came to my attention, I made a determination, and this theme is hereafter not inappropriate." Santa's so formal sometimes, in the way he writes!! But then, not one sentence and a paragraph break later, he gets down and dirty describing the themes of requests he would send back to General Fulfillment. I mean, and actually, he's so progressive it's inspiring...but you have to remember he's spent the last 100-some years broadening his spiritual development through the practice of accepting human eccentricities.

Since my position covers eccentricities, evidence of genius creativity in overdrive, thwarted development, misconstrued body image, post-traumatic stress, linguistic limbo, internalized social judgment, transformations of cultural identity, transformations of gender, documentation of mystical experiences, transformations of religious identity, ghetto fabulousness, audio-format letters that no one can understand, and extremes of fashion (this is a partial list), Santa saw it fit to place stars next to a few paragraphs in the Guidance Packet.
I still haven't fully realized why there is a star next to "letters on the subject of Amelia Earhart", but perhaps my understanding of that is yet to come.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

My Coworker's Job Might Be Funnier

Okay, so MY JOB is GREAT. There's no doubt about it. But the specific position I was hired for is not the one that sorts the letters (actually right now there are I think 3 people doing that job), and the only thing better about that position than mine is that in that job you're authorized to make up categories. Furthermore, if the new category is an area in which you have expertise, you're allowed take the job of answering those letters once there are enough of them. (This does not happen very often, but when it does it's usually a major victory for the department and for the individual involved.)
My coworker just anointed himself the "Ham Specialist". I'm not even sure I want to know what that means.... Well, either that or getting inappropriate in a letter to Santa on the subject of ham is just way beyond my scope.

So Funny!!

I just spent at least 10 minutes looking at this crazy book-letter to Santa, filled with pornographic images and excerpts from this poem that looked sort of familiar, even though it was incredibly skanky. I finally realized it was the lyrics to the Kelis song [Let's Get It On] "In Public".

The Lay of the Land

St. Nick's in Europe today, so I have a little more time than usual to get online and tell you about the situation this job is GREAT!!!
Okay, so first of all let me just mention that I UNDERSTAND NOW why this is such a coveted position. Santa is a forward thinker, and you'd never see that better than by being in his library. His collection is astounding, and I'm only lucky I get to peruse the relatively few titles applicable to my work here! However, as my job involves surfing the frontiers of psychology and popular culture across the world (as well as the abysses and everything in between)...I do have access to almost everything.

A few notes you might find interesting:
--This department sees a disproportionate number of letters addressed to people who are not Santa. A couple of years ago Santa's staff installed a robot to answer the Miley Cyrus letters (since there were so many), but the robot had to be moved out in to the hallway (eventually to the basement, and then to a bunker down the road) because it had started to take on sentient characteristics as a result of the entire department feeling so bad for it.
--Santa has funny musical tastes
--This department definitely has the comfiest chairs and the best reading lamps
--Apparently, reading your employee file after the interview process to get hired in this dept has the capacity to change your life (I guess knowing how Santa sees you gives you unbelievable perspective)
--The break room appears magically whenever you need a break or a snack, and the supplies refill themselves

How Did I Get So Lucky?

This job is freaking AWESOME. All I do is hang out in the loft in Santa's Library, reading and answering inappropriate letters to Santa. This is hysterically funny, Santa's really nice (such a cooler dude than I ever imagined...), the snacks are QUALITY, and I'm just sad the job will be over in 3 weeks. But oh well. I am absolutely certain this will be good while it lasts.