The Santa Suit


I. Our first Christmas Party!

On Saturday evening in early December of 1997 while circled in an ACOA {ACA} Group in Las Vegas, Nevada someone suggested that we have a Christmas Party. One thing led to another and it was decided that I would host the party at my new pad at 905 Neil Armstrong Lane one block due east of the ever popular Hush Puppy Restaurant. Everyone would bring a dish and that was the end of the conversation.

I was elated to be hosting the party at my new rental which was a home leased to me by a fireman and his family who departed the state for Colorado seeking greener pastures. The home was probably built in the fifties or early sixties and it came with bars on the windows. The backyard consisted almost exclusively of a pool and Jacuzzi and the supporting concrete and block wall which when built met applicable fortress standards.

I rented both bedrooms to other men in recovery and lived in the recently added addition and bedroom upstairs over the garage. I arrived and departed via the stairwell behind the kitchen. It was oh so clandestine and tight but I was attempting to regain my financial footing and with my new found sobriety I was essentially starting over from scratch after renting a room from a friend and working out of the garage of her condo. Though she lived only a few blocks from my new address we almost never spoke after my departure though I recently learned that she eventually lost her condo in bankruptcy and moved back in with her mother at the tender age of fifty.


The night came for our big meeting and our first official Christmas Party. Everyone arrived on schedule not getting lost on the commute from the church to my front door and each and every person arrived with a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken, no mashed potatoes, no gravy, no macaroni and cheese, or corn on the cob or biscuits just ten buckets of chicken.

With the arrival of each new addition to our abundant supply of poultry we laughed all the harder and then stood around the counter and the kitchen table and ate chicken and drank coca colas. The party didn’t last very long but it was my first one since my drinking days and although not having a plethora of whiskey, rum, wine and other assortment of intoxicants presented in their seductive packaging with open bottles at the ready we had our fun and each person left the way they came except hopefully a little less lonely that Christmas.


The next year 1998 my lot in life continued to improve and I opted to lease a four bedroom two thousand square ft. plus home just behind the Lakes on the West Side. I moved in around April of that year and immediately placed an ad for roommates in the local newspaper the Las Vegas Review Journal. I had no shortage of takers and within a few months my monthly rent of $1,800.00 was reduced to almost nothing with appreciative tenants who accepted cleaning assignments in addition to making rent payments too.


That Christmas I hosted our second party and this time opened the guest lists up to include my other home group too. A friend of mine, Maile Austraw a local renowned artist lent me two of her large abstract paintings to hang on the wall. I really wanted to own them but couldn’t afford her asking price so a few days after staging her art work on my walls she came and retrieved both pieces. I don’t really remember anything else about the party except how cool it was to have an original anything in my possession and that no one brought chicken that year as we prepared and served a small buffet instead.


In 1999 we hosted our best party yet as my future wife to be arrived just in time for our Christmas Party from the San Francisco Bay area. Together we delivered on a buffet menu that kept our burgeoning crowd satisfied. We added a doorman who opted to welcome our guests in a tuxedo. We rented a helium tank and launched hundreds of balloons throughout the house and our artificial Christmas tree with built in rotating stand turned in circles all night long captivating those gathered as every hung ornament eventually rotated by the onlookers. But the best investment made that season was in my purchase of a brand new Santa Suit for about $300.00 which included a deep and luxurious feel to the coat and matching pants which felt like velvet. 


Santa arrived compliments of one of our newer roommates Craig Ripley who at one time was subjected to exploratory surgery and had the cross on his chest to prove it. Craig was a perfect Santa as he probably tipped the scales at 350+. We arranged for Santa to appear on a stool in front of the tree for photos and nearly everyone at the party including the heavily tattooed biker recovery dudes on probation or parole posed with Santa.


Later in the evening I walked upstairs to locate the Santa Suit only to find a new Santa posing in the suit in the back bedroom with a nude woman in his lap. Somehow the models photos leaked out into a few of the CD’s sent to our guests. Of course my future wife’s friend and lawyer for the school board received one of the first copies and immediately called us to inform us of our error which we were able to contain without much additional damage.



II. Santa Visits Infirmed Children

The next year 2000 Kyle our other roommate agreed to a request presented to us from the Make a Wish Foundation to ride around in an ambulance with a fire truck escort dressed as Santa and meet children with gifts at their homes. He told us upon arriving home that the paramedics greeted him in a brand new ambulance that was not fitted or equipped yet for service but loaded with toys.


They made their way around town from one selected home to another. He was a changed person when he arrived home as he conveyed his story of meeting these children many of whom had difficult if not terminal prognosis’s and how it made him feel to be Santa Clause to them at such a critical moment in their lives.


We sat quietly in the backyard listening to him describe each and every detail of his afternoon in community service as Santa Clause.


The next year 2001 we moved from the rental into our own brand new Pardee built Montana style home with a four car garage bay and four bays of storage for our Christmas Stuff built after purchase by a union carpenter new to recovery and in need of work.


Not only did Jeff complete a massive shelving project inside the garage above the bays and attached to the frame of the house but he also added a four bay bridge for our overstock so we could still garage four cars unlike our neighbors many of whom parked in their driveways exposing their high end vehicles to the unrelenting sun or the Chicago style wind and dust storms that would roll through Las Vegas haphazardly.


That year we had one of our largest Christmas gatherings ever with almost four hundred guests served and many toys collected for our first ever Toys for Tots Christmas Party including Craig Ripley the Santa from a previous year who arrived on his moped with a .99 hot wheels car and proceeded to devour almost a whole ham and a six pack or two of cokes all by himself; No complaints from us though as we love former Santa’s too!


Chicago-O Christmas Three-2011.14


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Chicago O Christmas Three


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Our First Christmas Party

The Santa Suit page 1

The Santa Suit

A Christmas Story

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