Between making lists and checking them twice, St. Nick talked about what it's like having to work every Christmas.
Add Santa Claus to the growing list of this nation's crime victims. According to the rotund man in red, sometime Saturday night vandals broke one of the windows in his trailer hut parked in front of Mercantile Bank at 900 Mass. The broken window was boarded up on Sunday, when Santa was kind enough to grant this interview. Locally, this Santa also goes by the name Larry Freeman, a 51-year-old who runs a lawn maintenance business in Lawrence.
Q: Are you the real Santa Claus?
A: Of course. He wouldn't let an imitation show up.
Q: Where are your elves?
A: The elves are still building toys. Actually, they're probably not building toys right now because whenever I leave the North Pole they start playing with the toys. Mrs. Claus is supposed to watch over them, but it gets a little busy.
Q: Shouldn't you be working with the elves to get all the toys built for Christmas?
A: Should be. But I have to be out checking -- there's the naughty and the nice list and I have to be sure. We don't run things by computer at the North Pole. The kids don't need to worry -- it will all get done.
Q: What's the percentage of good children to bad?
A: The percentage of truly bad kids is real small. There's really not that many bad ones. There are some that need a little guidance.
Q: Do you have to haul much coal when you make your rounds?
A: It seems like in the last few years I've had to increase that a little, but not that much.
Q: What's the cutoff age for a visit by Santa?
A: There isn't one. It's a state of mind. You can believe in Santa Claus and be 100 years old. They may reach an age when they don't believe in me, but I still believe in them. There's a little kid in all of us. Proof of that is watching all these adults that walk by and wave to me. I've had adults sit on my lap and tell me what they want for Christmas.
Q: Do you know the Tooth Fairy, or the Easter Bunny?
A: I'm not personally acquainted with them. But I have certainly heard nothing but good about both of them.
Q: Which is colder, the North Pole, or Lillehammer, Norway, site of the 1994 Winter Olympics?
A: Cold is one of those relative things. I get busy up there at the North Pole and don't mind it any more than someone sitting on the beach in Florida.
Q: Thinking of moving someplace warmer?
A: No. If I did, they'd turn it into a tourist attraction. We'll stay right up at the North Pole. There's not many places you can have an ice castle, and that's where I live.
Q: How do you manage to visit so many children in one night?
A: If you start around the Earth in one direction it stays night. You can do it in 24 hours. There are ways to do it in less than that now. Between the reindeer and the sleigh and a little magic it's possible.
Q: What do you do if a house doesn't have a chimney?
A: Santa's got ways of getting in. I don't ever break a door down. Parents are real good to me. They'll leave a door open so I can get in because they know it's important that I get in.
Q: Who gave you a gift when you were a child?
A: Actually, this Santa Claus business has been handed down. My father started it a long, long time ago. He passed it on to me and told me I could give gifts to people all over the world. That's what Christmas is about: the business of giving and sharing with other people.
Q: Is there a downside to being Santa Claus, like post-holiday depression?
A: I sometimes get a little disappointed by some of the things I hear and read in the newspaper. I noticed today that somebody didn't have anything better to do than break a window in Santa's house. But you can't get down this time of year, especially when you see the kids' faces.
Q: What do you think of all the Santa impostors sitting in malls around the nation?
A: Well, really I'm pretty disappointed with most of them. If they're going to try to imitate me they should be a little more careful, a little better with the imitations. They could get more of the spirit of Christmas in them. Being a Santa impostor is more of a responsibility than just a job. It's not just another job.