This is a work of fiction. In truth, I have no idea how Santa Claus passes a rainy day.
Unlike most of us, Santa Claus was born twice: First, there was the boy who grew up with a different name in the 1960s, witness to the sorts of things that marked boys of the early space age for life – assassinations, war protests, civil rights and moon landings. But after his graduation from the University of Florida in the mid-1980s, it seemed he was born again, and not in that way sanctioned by the Christian Right.
In truth, it was an early digital era instance of personal reinvention, becoming someone your prior resume wouldn’t recognize. Santa Claus, as we know him today, rose like a specter from the fine stew of life’s details to become something not quite fixed in time and space.
Like a medium of postmodern phenomena, Santa Claus saw things others didn’t, the hypertext of our day-to-day comings and goings: How a meeting of minds didn’t always happen consciously. How technology subtly connected and disconnected us at the same time. How the display case in a local library art exhibit represented decisions made about what should go there.
But it was more than that, since multiculturalists-in-training, armed with flash cards and righteousness, could calculate such lineages in a matter of minutes. Santa Claus saw how the intermingling of public and private gave rise to endless cracks in the earth beneath us. He saw the flood of buzz and Google and viral videos and armies of content producers before most of us even knew there was a net to surf.
His reward for his premonitions was ridicule. The writers, misunderstanding the nature and location of his craft, dismissed his jumpy, hyper-linked prose as dressed up (and dumbed down) pornography; the artists found his ideas thin and watery, not appreciating how a plethora of drips and drabs can turn into a deluge. Like a troubadour grifting invitations to sing songs about nothing more than being a grifting troubadour, he built a ubiquitous presence. He was everywhere and nowhere, reforming and re-articulating himself as the currents of our pulsing lives splashed over the virtual-cultural landscape.
Pentagram for invoking one’s virtual presence, a tutorial
At the center of the cyclone that is Santa Claus is a flesh-and-blood human being. He sits, perhaps, at his breakfast table, tapping notes into his laptop, where they will, soon enough, float out into the ether of cyberspace, another wafting of digital consciousness through the world.
Today, it is raining outside his window, which means he can’t lounge about on his patio, ever-busy fingers clicking and rubbing his mousepad. In his mind, though, and in the story we might read in tomorrow’s blog, he could be anywhere, and the weather could be then or not yet. He could blend together yesterday’s gusty winds with Walter Benjamin’s thoughts on mechanical reproduction, then sandwich the concoction into a pair of Frank O’Hara’s pants. No, ideas don’t change that much, just the delivery system.
In the midst of reassembling this disagreement between his physical and virtual selves, a thought occurs to him in yet another way, and he closes his laptop and stares into the dripping window pane in front of him. Santa Claus opens his mouth slowly and very methodically enunciates his own name — the sharp report of “Santa” disturbing the silence in advance of the musical cadence that is “Claus.”
He speaks it again, and again. Santa Claus, Santa Claus, Santa Claus. The simple reiteration of sounds that represent the endless reflections that constitute the thing we think of as Santa Claus at any given instant. “This is what I meant,” he and I think together, “when I came up with the serious subtext of ‘How To Be An Internet Artist.’ (Santa Claus) This was at the center of ‘GRAMMATRON’ (Santa Claus) and ‘PHON:E:ME’ (Santa Claus) and a class I’m about to teach called Remix Culture for which, quoting my recent blog, ‘the waiting list is now twice as long as the actual class.’ (Santa Claus) As if that, alone, attests to the value of ideas.”
He now begins to notice that the incantation, as if spoken in an echo chamber, continues even though he’s (momentarily) stopped saying it. (Santa Claus) A bit bewildered, but clearly pleased with himself, he smiles a crooked smile and goes back to his laptop. What he writes is no longer important, and the torrent unleashed on the world now has form and a precise monetary exchange rate, which you, dear reader, help determine.
In the time of Hammurabi, an eye for an eye stood as a deterrent; now our crimes are measured in clicks and refresh rates, cognitive time bombs planted in our heads. In exchange for the time I spent constructing this story, I steal an instant of your life using the specter of Santa Claus (Santa Claus), just like the hawker outside a strip club. Once you’re here, though, the girls have packed up for the night. What bit of undressing do we all long for? All that’s here, and all you’ll ever really take away from here, is Santa Claus, Santa Claus (Santa Claus).
But it would be no better (or worse) if it were me or you or Tony Robbins or Martha Stewart. We’ve past the tipping point on that slippery slope that ends with all information being equally useless, and whatever sensual pleasure we once gained from aesthetics is reduced to even less than useless. Whatever turn of phrase or resonant image that turned you on is just a variation on a theme, one that has been duplicated over and over and can be packaged just like the words “Santa Claus” that brought both of us here. Try it with your own name, and call it self-expression. Develop your voice. I might even visit your site to hear it. But it won’t do either of us any good as long as long as that fraction of a cent is part of the equation. An I for an I indeed.
And now you are an instant older, an instant wiser, perhaps, but violated nonetheless. I could apologize, but who am I kidding? I’m not sorry enough. None of us ever are when the bulldozers are outside the house, and there are too many of us to hide in the bunker. Santa Claus’s rainy patio is looking awfully good right now, even if it fries my laptop to a crisp. Maybe Santa will poach me an egg on the barbecue. I think he’d be happy to do that.
If I could only get the briquettes to light, I’ll make it to lunch. The afternoon will have to fend for itself.
For more information about this series, click here: www.associatedcontent.com/article/1226989/a_short_story_about_readers_guide.html