Tag Archives: Santa Claus

How to Kiss Atop Mount Kilimanjaro

Mt. Kilimanjaro


I was certain Santa Claus was real.

That’s why I argued with my friend Bill about it in second grade even though he had four older siblings who had exposed the whole racket by actually showing him where their parents hid the presents.

Whatever, bitch! I thought in much nicer little-kid language. If my parents say it’s true, and I get presents that say “From Santa,” and I believe it, then it’s obviously true!

True story: When I was 4, the seeds of doubt were planted RE: Santa’s existence when I received a note from St. Nick thanking me for the milk and cookies as well as the carrots I’d set out for the reindeer, in which Rudolph’s name was spelled “Rudolf.” Dad didn’t have Google in 1983, and maybe wouldn’t have double-checked the spelling anyway.

Because I was a little smarty back then before all the marijuana and alcohol contamination in high school and college, it didn’t take me long on Christmas morning to notice the discrepancy on Santa’s note versus my little paperback copy of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” which I’d probably leafed through a half-million times that week.

Maybe I thought the book was wrong. Maybe I thought Santa was a bad speller. Maybe I was in denial because all the Star Wars toys were magically filling up my new snap-shut Darth Vader action figure carrying case like a Yuletide miracle.

I was still certain Santa Claus was real. And that my friend Bill and all his siblings were dumb and wrong. Kris Kringle and his magic sleigh probably just skipped them for being naughty Santa-deniers who thrived on the destruction of childhood dreams.

We just couldn’t agree because he was a stubborn little thing in second grade.

“Dude. You’re not getting it. I KNOW Santa’s real. Here’s how: 1. I get presents from him. 2. He eats the cookies. 3. He leaves me signed notes. 4. He magically finds me Christmas morning, no matter which of my divorced parents I am with, or what state I’m in. 5. My parents told me and they’re never wrong and they never lie!” I rationally explained to him.

There was only one way to settle it: Asking Bill’s mom, because she’s an awesome lady who also is never wrong and never lies.

“Mrs. O! Bill is saying there’s no Santa Claus and he’s clearly wrong! Please correct him and then spank him or something!”

Bill retorted with some blah-blibbity-blah crap and reminded her of a previous admission that she and his father did, in fact, buy all the “Santa” gifts for him and his siblings. He thought that was his ace in the hole.

Not so fast, sucka!

His mother, ever steady and wise, calmly explained to him how the supernatural capabilities of St. Nick allowed him to deliver Christmas presents to me and children throughout the world while also having agreements with certain parents in certain families to take care of gift giving themselves.

He was speechless.

That’s right! Total ownage!

His mother settled it, proving that my totally smart and awesome friend was, in this rare instance, a stupid, low-information moron.

It feels good to be right and know everything, doesn’t it?

The Thinking Problem

I pride myself on being thoughtful. I don’t mean “thoughtful,” the adjective, where I’m always anticipating others’ needs and tending to them, which would be nice. I just mean I think a lot. Many would tell you I overthink things, and I’d say they’re correct.

If I have to choose between being an imbecile or being someone who thinks a lot, my gut instinct is to be as I am. Always thinking. Always imagining. Always asking questions.

I’m a far cry from being the intellectual I’d like to be. But I’m also not dribbling milk down my chin and eating generic Apple Jacks cereal on my smelly, stained couch high on meth and watching A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila in sweatpants and holey socks.

Even though I’m reasonably smart, read non-fiction, and went to college and stuff, and there’s an actual guy somewhere doing the meth-smoking, stained-couch thing while I type this; if he grew up not believing in Santa, I could throw all my evidence and reasoning at him, and still lose an argument to the meth head by virtue of me being wrong.

There’s a healthy amount of skepticism needed to not get hoodwinked by scam artists. To not be suckered by people trying to manipulate us. To make good, informed decisions in every facet of our lives.

Anyone who has changed their mind about anything, ever, knows we’re capable of believing things which aren’t true, no matter how intelligent we are.

While this applies to life’s most controversial subjects like theology, political science and Adele, this “thinking problem” also hampers us in every other area of life.

Here’s another true story: I won’t date anyone seriously I perceive to be a bad long-term match. Live too far away? Practice a different faith? Have an opposing political ideology? Root for the Pittsburgh Steelers? Have a bunch of different hobbies, tastes and interests?

I write her name on the People I Can’t Marry, Thus Shouldn’t Date list.

Point of clarification: This only applies to me being a father to a young child, or to the me from several years ago who aspired to have children with whoever I married. In today’s terms, it mostly applies to divorced single parents interested in long-term relationships. This is less of an issue for non-parents or those planning on never having children.

I’ve had several women tell me they think it’s a bullshit philosophy. Each time they said so I got the sense they thought I was saying they weren’t good enough, and since Must Be This Tall To Ride is the ironic and metaphorical theme of my entire life, I can appreciate how bad that feels, even though it wasn’t true.

It’s not because I don’t think they’re good enough.

It’s because I’m REALLY sensitive about divorce, since my parents did it, and then I did it, and it was fun zero of those times.

There are probably a million instances of better people than me making it work, but I can’t figure out what it looks like when my atheist girlfriend answers my son’s questions about God, or when my Jewish fiancée’s daughter asks me why Catholics pray to Jesus, or when my vegan wife bans taco night and I stop speaking to her for the rest of my life while steadfastly maintaining semi-regular taco consumption.

Critical thinking, analysis and healthy skepticism are important to good decision making.

But, excessive doubt? Particularly self-doubt?

It paralyzes us, preventing us from living fully, and leads to procrastination, feelings of permanent limbo, loneliness, depression and social anxiety, according to researchers with much better evidence than I had about Santa.

I believe I’m smart, and maybe I am, but because I believe I’m smart, I trust my judgment EVEN WHEN IT’S WRONG. Like the Santa thing.

And it works the other way, too. There’s a chance that—because I’m fairly smart and capable and devilishly charming—I could succeed in all of these life pursuits I avoid out of fear of failure, ranging from writing and business opportunities to my dating and family life.

Everything in life is either true or false. Right or wrong. Or somewhere in the middle and constantly changing relative to whatever conditions apply to that particular subject or thing.

I hate to admit it, but I make mistakes. I’m wrong, sometimes. I make errors in judgment, or I blatantly believe something that eventually proves false.

My entire life is about being the best version of myself I can be moving forward. I mess up in several areas. There’s no reason to believe my assumptions and decisions and doubts aren’t among them.

Say it with me:

I am not perfect. I make mistakes. I get things wrong.

Maybe things I believe about myself aren’t true. Maybe things I believe about life aren’t true. Maybe I actually can do that. Maybe I am strong enough. Maybe I am good enough.

Sometimes I doubt things. And because I trust that I’m smart, I let doubt paralyze me.

But what if I doubted my doubt? What if I challenged my own assumptions and beliefs?

“OMG! I can’t do this!…

“Wait a minute. Sometimes I’m wrong! Maybe I should doubt this self-doubt.

“Hey, self-doubt! I’m totally doubting you right now!”

And then you bring down the house singing outside your car or shower for the first time. And then you start a new business and your life gets better. And then you experience inner peace. And then you stand on top of Mt. Kilimanjaro. And then you publish that book. And then you kiss the girl.

And then you realize you’re not an imposter. That you really can do it.

And then you change the world.

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‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

 With apologies to Clement Clarke Moore.

With apologies to Clement Clarke Moore.

‘Twas the night before Christmas and I was at home, totally alone, and writing a poem. The house is a mess. I don’t really care. My friends coming over, can lick my…

Christmas balls, brownies and cranberry dips! The beer tastes so good when the head hits your lips! There will be shots of tequila! Rum and eggnog! Ensuring this night that we’ll sleep like Yule logs.

The house has a chimney where squirrels once nested, baby squirrels rained down, and my patience was tested. So I installed a cage to keep the rats out, a cage that’s likely to make Santa shout.

“WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS SHIT?!?!” the old man might yell, frightening the reindeer who will jingle their bells, before flying away and stranding St. Nick, who will stand there dumbfounded, feeling like a dick.

With the chimney shut tight, and the reindeer aflight, Santa will sneak like a thief in the night, to my back door and let himself in, and that’s when he’ll hear it: The sounds of our sins:

Laughter and swearing and off-color joking. Eating and drinking and probably smoking. The Mowgli’s, Cake, Of Monsters and Men. Walk the Moon, Volbeat, and Radiohead. Imagine Dragons, Beck, and Lana Del Ray. Childish Gambino and then Hot Chelle Rae.

“Holy shit, Hot Chelle Rae!” Santa will say. “This song’s gayer than Freddie Mercury’s pants!” before involuntarily starting to dance.

He’ll stomp down the stairs to my basement bar, but no one will notice; we’re not seeing far.

Faster than magic reindeer, his angry voice will come, and he’ll scowl and he’ll point and make us feel dumb: “Now, Scott! Now, Angel! Now, David and Connie! On, Joel! On, Mindy! On, Pam and on Johnny!”

He’ll flash a quick smile, do a quick whirl, point right at me, and wink at the jewelry store girl.

“The idiot reindeer left and now I’m in trouble, please pour me a drink, in fact, make that a double!”

Obliging the man, I’ll pour a tall glass. “I can control time! I’m getting drunk off my ass!”

His eyes will not twinkle though his dimples will be merry. His cheeks—like roses. His nose? Like a cherry.

We’ll party. We’ll laugh. We’ll dance and we’ll sing. Only God knows what the evening will bring.

“Sonofabitch! Would you look at the time! Lord, where are my reindeer? Please show me a sign.”

And just then on the stereo—Bullet for my Valentine.

Santa will slam down his drink with a thunderous THRAP. “Happy birthday, Jesus! I hope you like crap!”

He’ll stand up and stumble—a drunken Kriss Kringle. Scott will leave early; his keys, he will jingle.

The noise will draw reindeer back to my home; and here I thought I’d spend this evening alone.

We’ll laugh and we’ll hug and become Facebook friends, then he’ll climb in his sleigh where the time always bends.

He’ll put his hands on my shoulders: “Thanks for the shots. You’ve been naughty this year. But when have you not?”

I’ll shrug and I’ll nod because that’s what I do.

“Look under your tree. I left you a few.”

The magic is back, this Christmas, you see, with the promise of treasures in 2014.

If the presents are late or the gifts too confusing, I apologize, sincerely, for adult-drink abusing.

A visit from Santa. A visit from friends. An abundance of blessings where fun never ends.

Be thankful for fun and for laughs and for life. Be thankful for friends, your family, your wife. Be thankful for children, for adventure—live free. Be thankful for wine and barrel-aged whiskey.

I’m thankful for you. You give my life light.

Merry Christmas, everyone. Please have a fun night.

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The Tooth Fairy: An Economic Analysis


What’s a tooth worth? I’m about to set the precedent, so I’ve got to get it right.

My five-year-old son has loose teeth. Three of them.

One may come out as soon as today.

He’s pretty excited about it. Made me call mom this morning to tell her.

I quickly realized: Oh, shit. I’m the Tooth Fairy now!

I almost never have cash laying around because I don’t listen to my father.

So, I need to make sure I have money on hand for situations such as this moving forward.

But, how much to give?!

A great question, it turns out. I started thinking about my childhood. Growing up with next to nothing.

How much did I get?

As memory serves, $1-$2 per tooth. I might have even approached little-kid baller status with a $3 molar a time or two.

That was 25-30 years ago. So, my initial reaction was to give $5 per tooth. Which is almost enough to go buy something cool when you’re a little kid.

A couple of my co-workers thought I might be overdoing it.

And while I value their opinions, I tend to do what I want. And what I want is whatever the best-possible thing is. And what’s the best-possible thing?

Let’s discuss with an economic review.

Make the Money. Don’t Let the Money Make You.

I’m pretty sure I lost my first tooth in 1984.

The equivalent buying power of $1 in 1984 is $2.25 in 2013 due to inflation. You can check my math here.

Which means me getting $2 or so in the 1980s is not far off from $5 in today’s dollars ($4.51, to be exact) if we want to maintain Tooth Fairy equity three decades later. And fairness totally matters to me.

It pisses me off when people who stay at the same job for several years can’t even keep up with inflation with their annual “cost-of-living” wage increases.

It pisses me off when I see colleges and universities raising tuition 6 percent or whatever the maximum cap is every year and saddling generations of young professionals with enormous debts that take more than a decade sometimes to pay off—even with high-paying jobs in the legal and medical sectors.

My little man isn’t savvy enough to know better. He may be equally happy with $1 as he would with $5. I don’t anticipate him getting online and researching today’s going rate for lost teeth.

But the Tooth Fairy can’t be reckless. Not on the cheap side. And not on the excessive side. Certainly not the first time.

The Santa Parallel

This is something my ex-wife and I used to disagree about. Very respectfully. No fighting. But we’re both products of our respective upbringings.

At Christmas throughout our childhoods, the perceived value of the gifts under the tree were not consistent with one another.

At my house, Santa Claus brought me most of my best, high-value items. Almost all of my favorite gifts growing up were from Santa. My Nintendo Entertainment System Action Set in 1987, being my all-time favorite gift. There were a thousand other things. And I always did everything twice, because I would have a “Christmas morning” with both my mom and stepdad, and then again with dad and stepmom a day or two later.

I always got a lot of awesome stuff from both Santa and my parents. But the real standout stuff came from Santa.

At my ex-wife’s house, Santa would only bring four or five gifts. Not anything shitty. But still lower-value items. Huge gifts? Like video game systems, or family four-wheelers or whatever, were given by the parents.

The thinking is that you don’t want your kid running off to school talking about what Santa brought them and mentioning big-ticket items, or to have another kid run home and ask mom and dad why she only got a board game and a crappy book with a public library sticker still stuck to the inside back cover while her friend got a new pony.

That makes sense to me. I grew up with a higher-percentage of wealthy friends maybe than the average kid due to attending a small Catholic school. However, I was never jealous of my friends. I don’t really get jealous of people having “things.” Never have. And also, I had such a magical time at Christmas every year—TWICE—that I just didn’t waste any energy wondering why someone else might have got something that I didn’t. My brain didn’t work that way.

But still, I don’t want to make other children feel bad, or put unneeded pressure on other parents due to the stories our children might swap at school. I’ll be sensitive about that at Christmas (though an abundance of cash will most certainly not be a problem this year!) as I am now with this Tooth Fairy situation.

C.R.E.A.M. Get the money. Dolla, dolla bills, ya’ll.

One dollar is not enough. I’m sorry. It’s not.

But $10-$20? That seems outrageous. That’s not happening either.

I think I’ve convinced myself that $5 is the right monetary ceiling here.

And I think I’ve convinced myself that lessons in money management (which I could certainly use a refresher on as its perhaps my greatest personal weakness) might be in order for my little man.

I am not financially disciplined. I want to be. But I’m not. I might even be a little reckless. Not majorly. But a little bit.

I think if you had a heart-to-heart with my ex-wife, she would tell you that this is in her top three of Matt’s Most-Undesirable Traits.

And I’d be quick to agree with her.

On a human-relations level, I very much want my son to be like me. I think I know how to treat others, and I think his observations of how I treat others over time will give him a blueprint for appropriate manners and decorum, depending on the audience. I hope so, anyway.

But on the money-management level? I have some very serious changes to make in my life before I can be a credible teacher.

But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try.



So, maybe the Tooth Fairy gives $5, with the caveat being my son has to put $2 of it into his savings account. Otherwise, he only gets $3 next time.

I’m going to consult the Tooth Fairy’s ex-spouse to see if she co-signs on this strategy. Because we must still be a team. Even on matters related to dental folklore.

My guess is she’ll think this is a decent plan.

Which means I have two new chores for today:

  1. Build a Tooth Fairy emergency fund.
  2. Write a note to my son from the magical little wealthy tooth collector.

I’ve certainly had worse jobs to do.


The Tooth Fairy

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