Man About Town: At Christmastime, some snow jobs

I come from a family that puts eggnog in our coffee and whiskey in our rum.

So when I set out to attempt a few holiday jobs, I felt this ancestral ebullience over Christmas gave me a bit of an edge. I could lug a tree or deliver UPS packages with the best of them, right?

The goal: to experience the holidays through the eyes of those who deliver it to us each year, physically, emotionally, even spiritually.

Welcome to my long slog across the desert.

The mall elf

The first thing you need to know about elves is that our toes curl. We also lie a lot, and lie about how much we lie.

Did I mention that we lie? We don't.

Mostly we work seasonal retail. At the Glendale Galleria Santa exhibit, the tools of my trade are an Elmo puppet, bells that jingle and a feather duster — all designed to pry camera-friendly smiles from stubborn little lips.

PHOTOS: Man About Town: A Christmas special delivery

No, I don't understand the feather duster either, but when I whack Elmo over the head with it, the parents laugh.

The kids, not so much.

After an hour as Santa's elf, I don't know whom to sympathize with the most, the Santa who smiles no matter what or the Santa photographers who wait-wait-wait for that miserly microsecond when the adorable 14-month-old in the red velvet dress isn't screaming as if bitten by a bat.

All the photog needs is that nano-pause when, disoriented from all the fussing of the tense mom and the over-ripe man in the velvet suit, and me, his goofy, middle-aged elf with the hairy legs, she hesitates, hiccups and quits screaming just long enough — the flutter of an eyelid, the passing of a wee bit of gas — for the photographer to get the impossible shot.

There should be a special Pulitzer for mall Santa photogs, who earn minimum age for maximum effort.

And Santa himself should win the Nobel Prize.

Grunting at the tree lot

By temperament, I am drawn to sad little tree lots that stay open all night, staffed by world-weary types who sit around flaming trash cans telling stories of the road.

South Pasadena has no such tree lots.

Yet, at the corner of Mission and Fremont, there is a fine little forest, full of fat imports from the rainy Northwest.

Sure, after my tree lot shift, I Velcro to everything — fabric, fuzzy kids, passing clouds.

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