Thursday, December 17, 2009


by Bob Speck, Director of Sales

I’m a Christmas person. So I surprised myself a little a few days ago when my partner Jeffrey asked, “What about Christmas do you like so much?” It was while I was trying to find an answer to this question that I had something of an epiphany: my love of all things Christmas has a great deal to do with "A Christmas Carol." It’s Charles Dickens and the story he tells— a story of ghostly figures, overworked clerks, lame children, the unwashed masses and the possibility of redemption for cold hearted, unrepentant misers –that fills me with joy this time of year.

I seem to be clinging to this highly romanticized version of Christmases long past more than ever this year. In all truth I have no affinity for things Victorian or any era prior to the advent of indoor plumbing and antibiotics. However the elements that make up a traditional Yule seem all the more dear to me as I attempt to celebrate the holidays Los Angeles style. I relocated to L.A. this past May, and this is my first Christmas season away from the Northeast. Contrary to the belief I held as a New York chauvinist, L.A. does indeed “do Christmas.” But like much else I’ve found here, the rules of the rest of America simply do not apply. A certain amount of the strangeness that is an L.A. Christmas has to do with the local landscape and fauna. Palm trees wrapped in string lights and festooned with stars are lovely but loose a little something when they line the more rundown parts of Santa Monica Blvd. The bright red tree of light bulbs atop the Capitol Records Building is the closest thing L.A. has to a symbol of the season. Of course, the stores are decorated (some beautifully) and that helps. One of the things I’ve always loved about Christmas in big cities is its ability to transform mundane store fronts and office towers into things of wonder.

And then there’s Santa.

Unlike New York where the “real” Santa can be found on the eighth floor of a department store on the corner of 34th Street and 7th Avenue, there doesn’t seem to be any one place to locate Kris Kringle here in the Southland. He could be any number of places and in any number of guises. For sheer authenticity, my vote goes to the Santa at The Grove (an outdoor shopping complex near The Farmer’s Market); he certainly looks the part— big, real beard, and he’s got the jolly thing down to a t. For sheer shamelessness, the upscale Beverly Center’s “Hunky Santa and his Candy Cane Dancers” replace “Classic Santa” in the evening hours. Hunky Santa’s young and buff and oh yeah … shirtless.

But for sheer only-in-L.A. strange, nothing tops the “Scientology Santa” at L. Ron Hubbard’s Winter Wonderland just down our own Hollywood Blvd. This Santa lords over a beautiful re-creation of his famed Artic village and workshop worthy of any film in a usually vacant lot adjacent to one of the church’s Hollywood office buildings.
I have no doubt that my trials over Christmas, like Scrooge’s, will cause me to love the holiday even more. Until then, I’ll play my Christmas music, light my tree, eat too many cookies, drink a good deal more than I should and read Mr. Dickens’ “ghostly little book” again and again.

And so to answer my beloved Jeffrey’s question, “What about Christmas do you like so much?”

I turn to Boz and his "Christmas Carol":

“There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say… Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round… as a good time: a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, … though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!”

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