2016-12-16 / Opinion

Bar trek, holiday edition

By JEFF LAGASSE
Columnist

Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny are sitting at a bar. Both look dispirited. St. Nick is idly sipping a Sea Breeze; the rabbit’s nursing a whiskey and Coke, lost in thought as he stares in the general direction of a college football game being broadcast on a flat-screen TV. There’s also a horse at the bar, but nobody seems to know who he is or why he’s there. It should be noted that this is a very strange bar.

“So,” says the Easter Bunny to Santa, “what’s got you looking so blue?”

Claus expels a long, watery sigh. “It’s Christmas, man,” he says in between sips. “It’s really dragging me down this year. I mean, I should be happy right? It’s my busy time, with the toys and the malls and the ho-ho-hoing, and normally I look forward to it. Spreading goodwill and cheer and all that. But this year…”

Easter Bunny glances sideways at his red-clad compatriot. It’s the first time in half an hour he’s taken his eyes off Notre Dame. “What’s different this time around?” he asks, squinting as if bracing for the answer.

“Oh, you know. Everything. Look at the world, dude. Nobody can agree on anything. People bicker and argue and shout each other down over the stupidest things. They spend more time looking at their social media feeds than at each other. Meanwhile climate change is threatening their very existence, and the only people in a position to do anything about it deny it’s even happening. It’s like the human race is hardwired to self-destruct. Kinda hard to be jolly when the world is such a scary place.”

“And that’s why you’re drinking a Sea Breeze at three in the afternoon?”

Santa considers for a moment. “Well, I’ve also got this rash that’s bothering me. You spend all day walking around the North Pole’s toy factory and you start sweating a lot on the insides of your thighs.”

“For crying out loud, you really shouldn’t have told me that.”

“Sorry.”

A moment of silence passes. Santa Claus is twirling the remnants of his drink around the bottom of his glass, contemplating ordering a second round, but Easter Bunny has been eyeing him steadily, interested in something other than the game for the first time all day.

“I’m not buying it,” says Easter Bunny.

“Pardon me?”

“I’m not buying it.” Bunny shifts in his seat. “You’ve been doing this for a long time, right? Playing the whole ‘Christmas ambassador’ role? Generations have lived and died, and still you load up your sleigh and travel the globe and bring joy to millions. Think about all the crap that’s happened in the world since you first started doing your thing. A couple of World Wars, that whole Vietnam debacle, market crashes, military coups, terrorism this and that. The rise and fall of Pauly Shore. ‘Keeping Up with the Kardashians.’ It’s been one disaster after another. And that’s just in the last hundred years or so.”

“OK. So what’s your point?”

“My point,” said Easter Bunny, fully engaged now, “is that the world is always in crisis. Civilization is always on the verge of collapse. I’m a rabbit, so I’ve got sort of an outsider’s perspective on the human race, OK? Humans, as far as I can tell, are generally a self-destructive lot … to a point. It’s always two steps forward, one step back, two steps forward, one step back with these people. It’s frustrating, but they do eventually make progress. You just have to give them time. They can always be counted on to do the wrong thing. Until they do the right thing.”

Santa considers this for a moment. He slides his empty drink across the bar and taps on the glass. The bartender fills him up.

“I see what you’re saying,” says Santa. “I do. But it just feels like everything is coming to a head. Divisions are deeper. The stakes are higher. This past year…”

Easter Bunny nods. “Yeah, this past year was a stinker. Prince and David Bowie are dead and ISIS is still alive and kicking. It’s not what you’d call fair. But see, that’s exactly why we need you right now.” Bunny sticks out a paw and pokes Santa in his jelly belly. “You’re a powerful symbol, don’t you get it? Even people who don’t consider themselves Christians see your face and associate it with with good things -- family, friends, warm feelings, all that fuzzy stuff. The world is complicated. You’re not. That’s your appeal. You exist for one reason, and that’s giving. It’s a lesson we all could use right about now. You want my advice, you need to quit your whining and hop back on that sleigh. And tell Prancer to give me a call. Dude owes me 50 bucks, no pun intended.”

Santa nods and pushes his unfinished drink back across the bar. The beginning of a smile plays at the corners of his mouth.

“You know what, Bunny, you’re right. What am I doing here? I should be making toys, and lists, and hawking iPhones in TV commercials! I should be drinking bottles of Coca-Cola with the label facing outward! I should be gathering my sugarplums and roasting my--”

“Yeah, we get it.”

“Right. Well. Off I go to spread some Christmas cheer, then. Only a matter of days now. Happy Friday to all, and to all a good night!”

Santa leaves his barstool wobbling as he abruptly bounds for the door, letting in a draft of cold air as it opens to the pre-twilight world beyond. A few faintly shimmering motes -- pixie dust? -- are left in his wake, slowly settling on the bar and at Easter Bunny’s feet. He brushes some off his shoulder and smiles. His job is typically easy, just hide a few colored eggs in someone’s backyard (as if that even makes any sense), and so he puffs out his chest a little at the thought that he had a hand in a successful Christmas this year. It wasn’t in his job description, but darned if it didn’t make him feel good. Sometimes the holiday blues afflict the best of us. We just need a little push, thinks Bunny. Someone to reach out and let us know they care.

Feeling accomplished, Bunny turns his attention to the horse, who’s been at the end of the bar listening silently the whole time. He shoots his equine friend a smile and a wink.

“So,” says Bunny. “Why the long face?”

-- A priest, a rabbi and Jeff Lagasse are all editors at a Portland media company. Wait, strike that. Just Jeff is. And he can be contacted at jelagasse@gmail.com.



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