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You better watch out 

Christmas is like a penny dropped off of the Empire State Building, zooming faster and faster until it smacks you in the head and splits your skull open, making your brains leak out all over the place.

That's how I like to think of the holiday, anyway - when I do think about it, which I wouldn't do very often if not for all the decorations up in shop windows around town already. I'm just biding my time for Thanksgiving, still eating leftover Halloween candy, and local merchants are visually force-feeding me snow and reindeer and red-and-green tinsel, sticking spoonful after spoonful of sickeningly sweet Christmas cheer directly into my eye sockets.

If you think I'm making the season sound more painful than it actually is, you need to pull the spoons out of your own eyes and take a good look around. All the Whos here in Whoville have started stringing lights and digging out their roast beast recipes already. Construction crews have been busily building Santa's Central Coast vacation home, set to open in Mission Plaza on Nov. 25.

This year's winter wonderland will be a bit different than previous years' incarnations, mainly because Santa's house was broken into five times last year. Vandals marked it with graffiti, kicked in the door, stole suits, looted, and took the camera - yes, the camera that captures so beautifully the gleaming, consumer-driven eyes of the greedy little kids who come to plead for more toys each year.

Is this how the Christmas spirit is treated these days? Is nothing sacred anymore? Jesus must be rolling over in his ... no, wait a minute. His holiday is Easter. My mistake.

Also last year, a homeless man found a fairly dry place to sleep under Santa's shanty, but the man in red apparently dislikes squatters as much as he does naughty children. Yes, Virginia, that is booze and body odor that you smell.

The new, improved Santa compound will feature several state-of-the art security measures, including motion sensors, security cameras, and another feature or two that I'll leave unmentioned for surprise's sake. Let's just say that water balloons filled with several-year-old eggnog can be quite a deterrent if aimed properly, and you may start hearing the name "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Rottweiler" dropped in casual conversation. Or you might not.

Either way, the new anti-vandal equipment better work. A state-of-the-art Santa compound doesn't come cheap, though I hear that most of the people involved in the project are donating their time. In that case, the structure's $16,000 price tag must be paying for permits and other red tape. After all, they're making Santa's new house compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, probably in case Jarek Molski wheels by and decides that he wants a turn on Santa's lap.

I wouldn't put it past Jarek to sue the jolly man for injuries sustained while pulling himself up to whisper in St. Nick's ear. He could work his way around the coastal parades and malls throughout the season, hurting his arm and suffering mental anguish in surprisingly similar ways at each visit to the fake North Pole. Santa's got deep pockets - or at least he did, before his home was broken into.

Santa's House in SLO also includes a trailer this year, so Mr. Claus can tote his gingerbread palace over to the coast for a couple well-earned vacation days after the buzz dies down, which, considering how early the hype started this year, may be Dec. 15 or so. Then again, all this pre-holiday momentum could carry the spirit well into 2006. I'm no good at gauging exactly when holiday cheer is supposed to stop, which is why I leave my Christmas lights up all year long. The dead Christmas tree in my front yard is just because I'm lazy.

The official end date for Santa's local visit is Christmas Eve, which still gives Santa a few hours in which to deliver all his toys. I'm expecting a robotic dinosaur, but don't worry. I'll tell him myself, once his house is finished. I had planned on camping out underneath in order to ensure a front-of-the-line spot, but with security at his place tighter than security at SLO Airport, I may just have to shove kids out of the way like I do at Disneyland.


You better not cry

In the true spirit of the season, Los Osos is gearing up for its annual holiday parade, an event that encourages locals to set aside differences and walk through the streets together in harmony. The Chamber of Commerce announced that this year's theme is "Hollywood Holiday," so participants can decorate their floats and cars in the style of Christmas movies. I'm sure Hanukkah and Kwanzaa movies would also be tolerated, if there were any.

Until the State Water Board recently shot down the CSD's compromise proposal, I was ready to back off on my near-weekly taunt of the tangled mess that is Los Osos. Now, however, with the sewer's funding up in the air in a sort of damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't way, I'll be damned if I don't think that unity and harmony in that place will come about courtesy of anything less than a Christmas miracle. Too bad there's no 34th Street in their town.

If I were CSD President Lisa Schicker, I'd make my next move a vote to get a 34th Street installed. Then I'd try to get the sewer moved there.

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