This past weekend, we went on our annual jaunt to San Francisco with my husband’s family. It’s a combination celebration—Chris’s birthday and Christmas. We used to make the trek in one day. We’d meet in Larkspur, ferry over to the city, have lunch at Lefty O’Doul’s, check out Union Square and head back home. About six hours of driving for Chris and me with only a couple hours in the city. No matter how we’d shake it, it didn’t make a lot of sense.
This year we decided to spend the night—and what an experience it was! Chris and I often go to the city for a night. His parents were born and raised there, and he was born there, as well, so he has a personal history. I grew up in Alameda, just across the Bay, and spent many a day wandering around the city when my mom worked across the street from the famous Bank of America building. That was at a time when pre-teens could hang out around the financial district without fear of being kidnapped.
Union Square at Christmas time is a sight to behold with sky-high decorated Christmas trees (or “holiday trees” as they’re now called), an outdoor skating rink and SPCA-supplied puppies and kittens romping in Macy’s windows. But this year, there was an added dimension of Christmas cheer—SantaCon. Also known as Santarchy, Santa Rampage, the Red Menace and Santapalooza. The titles alone should give you a clear idea of what we faced on Saturday as we entered Lefty O’Doul’s. The event was described by The New York Times as “a daylong bar crawl that begins with good cheer and, for many, inevitably ends in a blurry, booze-soaked haze.” Click here if you’re interested in learning about its history.
It seemed innocent enough early in the day—aside from the crush of Santa’s crowding the bar at Lefty’s. In fact, my mother-in-law thought it was cute, bless her heart. But it didn’t take long to realize that this was not an innocent group of Santa wannabes—these red-coated young men and women were on a party fest. Rising voices, off-key singing, massive drinking and lots of stumbling. And I have to say, I’ve never seen Mrs. Claus quite so exposed before!
After we dropped the parental units off at the hotel for a rest, Chris, his sister, brother-in-law and I, roamed the streets surrounding Union Square in search of dinner reservations—not an easy feat with the influx of Christmas brawlers who were aware before we that it would be a hot time in the old town that night. Everywhere we went, red-suited (and some partially unsuited) frolickers partied the day away. As the hours passed, the Santa situation deteriorated. I thought for sure they’d be passed out before the dinner hour. How wrong I was. By ten O’clock, the party was just beginning.
Even from our fifth-floor hotel room, windows shut tight, it sounded as if five hundred crazy party animals surrounded our building. They partied. And partied. And partied. Bleary-eyed and ready for retribution, I awoke at seven with little more than three hours of sleep. If only I knew where they were staying, I’d have reverted to a ten-year-old and done a little doorbell ditch. Instead, Chris and I headed down the street for a strong cup of coffee, to be met with a scowling young barista who informed us, “I’m not a fan. The wreak havoc and cause trouble.”
Sometimes, I think I’m getting old. Or maybe I’m just tired of seeing even the most innocent of things being perverted in the name of fun. As my husband pointed out, the young children visiting the city with their parents on Saturday will never see Santa Claus the same. Take Bad Santa and multiply it by thousands. Whether you think children should be allowed to believe the fantasy for a few short years or not, it’s a clear testament of where, as a nation, we’re heading. Praise God that He has a better plan!