Tuesday, December 30, 2014
Several months ago I got an e-mail from Greg Dobbs, a photographer who had read my post from last year as I tried to sketch Santa Claus from afar. He was one of the photographers from Theme Street Pictures, (The official photographers at The Mall at Millenia), who shoots these treasured portraits with Saint Nick.
"Dear Mr. Thorspecken, just found your letter,
the poem was brilliant, the artwork much better.
It hurt me to hear of the problem you had
when visiting Santa, and then leaving mad.
But we can't have you artists with sketch pads in hand,
disrupting the calm over Hollyville land.
Your a rowdy, anarchists, a most dangerous bunch,
when I think of you drawing there I belch up my lunch.
It's not that the rules here were made by a Grinch.
The malls not really like that........... well maybe a pinch.
They get carried away every now and again,
looking out for the children, the women, the men.
But we're not with the mall, we're a separate group;
dear Santa, his helpers and photography troupe.
We work endless hours, for the children you see,
to make Christmas special, the way it should it be.
And then after all of our efforts we find
a person like you that was treated unkind.
It's not the way we want you to remember,
your visit to Hollyville any given December.
So here is an invitation to you
to come spend an hour, three, four or two!
Not in the rafters, like Elf on The Shelf,
but down in the trenches, with St. Nick himself!
Please bring your sketch pad your pencils or chalk,
don't waver, or hesitate, don't you dare balk.
You'll be our guest, a welcome addition
to the most crazy world of our Christmas tradition.
Join us up close you have nothing to fear,
Except maybe grandmothers, babies and tears.
Just bring this e-mail so I'll know you on site,
You'll recognize me, with the "bobble and light".
Hope to meet you this season."
When I got to the Millenia Mall on Christmas Eve, I found a sign at Hollyville that announced that Santa would be leaving at 5pm. I only had one hour to sketch. Greg greeted me warmly and explained that this final hour would be a mad rush. The line of children and parents snaked all the wan around Holyville in a nautilus pattern. It was hard to believe that all these people could meet Saint Nick in one hour. The first child I drew started screaming in terror when his mom backed away. Greg's job was to catch the child's attention. He used a multi colored glowing orb that he lightly tapped on the baby's tummy. Startled and amazed by the glowing orb, the child stopped crying. Greg would quickly pull back the orb towards the camera lens and the child smiled with delight as the shutter clicked.
The action never stopped. Some parents insisted on shooting their own iPhone photos but that held up the line possibly meaning some people would not get a chance to meet Santa even after standing in line. Greg offered me a drink and made it impossible for me to refuse his hospitality. I asked his assistant for my usual battery acid, Mountain Dew. She couldn't find d Dew but came back with a custom high end soda that she suspected might be similar lemon lime flavor. She hit the nail on the head because the drink was delicious, I wish I knew what it was called. Santa and his staff got through this mad rush with chocolates, chocolate chip cookies and caffeine. I essentially became part of the staff since I often had to direct parents out of the maze after they had visited Santa.
Santa stayed for some overtime in order to be sure everyone in line could meet him. When my sketch was done I waited to thank Greg for letting me experience the Christmas Eve rush. He said that Santa wanted to meet me. His beard is real and his expression was sincere. Suddenly I felt like a shy child. He gave me a warm hand shake and told me he has seen my work and loves it. With people still waiting in line I didn't want to take time to dig out my sketchbook. I know he will get to see the sketch, he sees everything. I was so flustered, I forgot to tell him what I wanted for Christmas this year.