III. Darcy Spears wishes us a
Each successive year a new Santa was ordained and ultimately served as the life of the party. Through the music, the conversations, our precious Marine including many arriving in dress uniforms, the aroma of the prime meats, vegetable sides, mushrooms and other delicacies warmed in the chaffing dishes displayed above their warming elements exuding a crystal blue flame and the Christmas tree that still rotated a full 360 degrees illuminating a radiant collection of antique to contemporary hand painted and family history ornaments; nothing topped the brief sit down photo op with Santa.
Then sometime in the summer of 2005 trouble lurked when local media hack Darcy Spears called us at home and wanted to quote my wife for something she didn’t say. Soon after that we were subjected to multiple intrusions by door to door art salesman working out of the back of their Van.
Then one evening the Art Van appeared and parked across the street just prior to our sit down dinner and recovery meeting. We had received a tip earlier in the day and had cancelled our meeting wanting to protect the anonymity of our guests from prying hidden video taping morons. I pondered for a moment if I was living a Jack Lemmon type of life in Good Neighbor Sam.
Later as we were videotaping the Van conducting surveillance on us from across the street Metro arrived and used their cruisers to block the van from both the front and rear. They spent a long time interviewing the occupants, reviewing their paperwork and then departed. Sometime later a tow truck appeared and after a brief exchange hurled some insults at the driver and sped off. Then the Van drove off their mechanical failure reasoning for parking on this back street no longer necessary as their cover was blown.
Was my photography, art and writing to extreme for of all places Las Vegas? Or was Darcy Spears confused and seeking to settle a score on behalf of one of her friends and model we tested who didn’t quite make the grade but demanded we meet her with a briefcase full of cash at a local check cashing shop anyway. We declined.
The sweltering summer continued and then the fall and a respite from the heat arrived. We hosted two recovery dinners a month and an open house for Halloween and Thanksgiving. The invitations were sent for our 4th annual Toys for Tots Christmas Drive and open house. We expected it to be the best ever. Each preceding year the Marines arrived with a larger truck than the prior year and which our guests managed to fill with more unwrapped toys than ever before.
The year was 2005 and our Party was set for December 3rd. Then on November 29th a special promotional add featuring Darcy Spears aired every thirty minutes of the day and featured my booking photo from ten year prior in 1995. The next evening and only three days prior to our toys for tots party I was subjected to a five or six minute hate piece replete with innumerable acts of defamation masquerading as investigative journalism airing on the once vaunted local affiliate of NBC owned by local wise guy Jim Rogers.
The excruciating effect of her Anti-Christian themed investigative report of me was one of the most painful moments in my life. Her special report was regurgitated during each cycle and finally concluded with the eleven o’clock news. We realized that these things retain a half life for awhile anyway and now the vile hatred of Darcy Spears directed at someone she had never met in person would cause substantial collateral damage to our cause. Why was her impeccable timing not in August, September or October? Did she mean to inflict as much damage as possible on the tots at Christmas time? Of course she knew as one of her sources was a homeless man who previously lived with us. She ran the story three days prior to our big event with the blessings of station management.
We knew and continue to believe that her hate will be deflected back to her but now we had to hope for the best that our party and the kids counting on us would not be disappointed as we agreed that their open house like the show must go on.
IV. The Marines Stand Tall
The very next day the Marines phoned and asked Tammy if the party was still on. She said: “Yes” and they said that they would be there. Then we received a phone call from our Santa appointed for this year and fellow parishioner who said he would keep his commitment but may never speak to us again after the party. Tammy thanked him for not begging off.
Then on party day our crew of kitchen staff and chefs arrived from Samaritan House the home for newly recovered men. Shortly thereafter the balloon lady appeared as did the valet service. Then Santa and his wife arrived and shortly thereafter what seemed like an entire platoon of Marines some in uniform but many arriving as guests with their wives and children in a show of community support. Then our friends and guests from church and recovery like the river flowed in and around the huge elephant seated in the middle of the room. Almost everyone tip toed around and only a few hardened soldiers like Sam, a Vietnam Army Veteran who I met after an AA meeting when he challenged me regarding the topic of Chaplains, ever broached the subject of the Darcy Spears airing and only as I walked him to his car.
Sam and his platoon had flown by Helicopter into a forward operating base that immediately was shelled by North Vietnamese regulars. A Chaplain had arrived at their base a day or so later and was so terrified by the intermittent incoming mortar fire that he wanted to leave right then and there without completing the service or hearing confessions.
Sam had carried this resentment since the war and now found himself at a crossroads in AA. When I related that I served as a Hospice Chaplain he jumped at the opportunity to deal with this seeming cowardly act by a man of God. I suggested that the Chaplain was a man too and he should not be blamed for wanting to leave a situation in which he was terrified. I then added: “Just because we serve the Lord in any capacity doesn’t mean we won’t fail or be afraid.” He accepted my observation and from that day forward and we were friends.
V. Father Joseph & the Dominicans
After walking Sam to his car a van rolled into the driveway and Father Joseph jumped out and we walked into the party together.
Fr. Joseph ran the local Catholic HIV outreach center and was constantly seeking donations of food and sellable items to convert to cash for his ever increasing clientele.
We helped him load his van with all the food and donations and off he went. Father Joseph a Dominican Priests remains a very special person in our lives though we have not worked with him since 2008 as he left a retreat to check on us that night of our Christmas Party and lend his support to the rehabilitation of a reputation. The evening ended with our first fire line organized by the Marines. Our guests lined up from Our Christmas Tree through the foyer and outside to the back of the Rental Truck.
The Gunnery Sergeant received the gifts passed from one well attired guest to another and stacked each toy from the front to the back of the truck until full and then the extras were loaded into the cab. Off they drove into the night after receiving envelopes stuffed with cash or a bottle of gifted whiskey set aside for them in this non drinking household.
Jethro Tull-The Jethro Tull Christmas Album-2003.3
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The Santa Suit page 2
A Christmas Story