Gut Instinct: Ho, Ho, Oh No!

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“Please, please don’t wear the mask,” my girlfriend begged.

“But it makes me beautiful,” I said, fondling the blue ski mask with crimson stitching outlining eyes, snout and deformed maw—camouflage for a mutated survivor of a nuclear apocalypse.

“Wasn’t it enough to wear the mask during the Black Label Bike Kill?” “That was an appetizer to today’s main course.” “But…it’s terrifying,” she said, shaking her head in the slow manner of parents whose children have failed them. I pulled on the mask, the rotten cherry crowning my Kris Kringle outfit. “And it wouldn’t be Santacon without terror.”

Each December, hooched-up St. Nicks maraud NYC streets, passing out candy canes and pornography, holiday cheer and fright. For bystanders, Santacon can be hell: Clauses impede traffic, croon bastardized carols (“Deck My Balls” is particularly delightful) and clog subway cars. “You’re spitting on the holidays,” my friend Jose tells me. “It’s despicable.”

True, true. But for subversive sumbitches (what atheist or Jew doesn’t want to thumb his big ol’ nose at December 25?), Santacon’s a drunken dream. The id runs roughshod, smashing sacred cows. Take the case of the Jewish Chicken: Several Santacons ago, my girlfriend and I bumped into the Jewish Chicken, wearing a clucker suit, yarmulke and Stars of David aplenty.

“Bring me your shiksas,” he commanded, seeking goyish gals dating Jewish men. “There’s a shiksa,” I said, motioning to my girlfriend.

“Meet the shiksa paddle,” he said, thwacking her backside with perverse, reddening pleasure. Lord, it’s a deepening mystery why she still loves me. And I love Santacon too. It’s tough to create rituals in New York. Jobs, friends, families and relationships engage in a tug of war for time. Santacon, though, has become my twisted tradition. I anticipate it as eagerly as my birthday—and not just because I can belt Jameson before noon. Last Saturday’s Santacon, like every Santacon, was a clusterfuck from the start: Santas clogged 36th Street, sardined into a.m. dives such as Blarney Rock and Hickey’s. Santas climbed atop trucks and did cartwheels, then slammed brownbagged Bud Lights. Others dispensed candy canes to confused kids. “Those Santas aren’t real, Sally,” said one sweater-wearing dad, shielding his pig-tailed daughter’s eyes. Ostensibly, Santacon is unorganized.

Like a late-July thunderstorm, thousands of Santas supposedly spontaneously appear. If anyone asks what’s going on, the response is, “Santa convention.”Where are we going? “The North Pole.” It’s marvelously maddening, especially for police unwilling to risk the public-relations nightmare of arresting Santa Claus. “You should be ashamed of yourself,” a cop chided me, using his only weapon: yenta power.

Soon, hordes headed to West 34th Street’s grand General Post Office steps, then it was off to Grand Central, then Rockefeller Center, where Santa packs split into rogue factions. Some serenaded tourists at the tree, while others stormed to Times Square. Santas spread across the city like an unchecked, idiotic virus.

“Don’t dry-hump Mr. Hanky,” my girlfriend pleaded at South Street Seaport, where I rubbed my well-padded extremities against the Christmas-loving South Park turd’s leg. “I think it’s time to go and get dinner.”Needing nourishment, my Santacon crew hit Vietnamese eatery Nha Trang (87 Baxter St. betw. Bayard & Walker Sts., 212- 233-5948) for fragrant pho soup and crispy, seaweed-thin pork chops.Was Santa KO’d ? Ho, no. We had one final stop: a birthday party at subterranean tavern Botanica (47 E. Houston St. betw. Mulberry & Mott Sts., 212-343-7251).

Before I wished my friend Alex a happy 33, I saw her. “Super Mario Santa, what are you doing here?” I asked a young woman dressed as the video game plumber—overalls and mustache, natch. Every Santacon, I’ve fought SMS: in a pizza parlor, throwing snowballs in Central Park, riding the subway, each confrontation devolving into a drunken screaming match.

“Screw you,” SMS said. “I’m not here to fight. Truce?” I extended my gloved hand, covered with white Santa-beard strands. “You know,” she began, her voice tinged with liquor-aided melancholy, “every year for Santacon, I think, Will someone remember me?” “Well, I remember you, Super Mario Santa.” In this anonymous city, the urge to be acknowledged can be maddeningly consuming.

“And just my luck—the only person that remembers me is an asshole.” “That’s Santa Asshole.” Super Mario Santa glared, a plush invincibility star poking from her overalls. Her star would provide scant protection for Sunday’s crushing hangover, but tomorrow’s regrets could wait. “Until next year, Santa,” she said, stumbling off to prolong the long day’s fantasy. “I need some champagne for my water bottle. Because that’s how Santa parties.”

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