Howdy! Grab a chair an’ a beer! Well, are ya ready for all the toy runs between now an’ Christmas? Yeah, me too. It’s my favorite time of year, an’ Reggie an’ I usually go all out. She decorates inside the house, puttin’ little elves, candles, Santas an’ every other kind of knick-knack imaginable wherever there’s an empty space. With all the stuff she puts out it invariably turns into an Easter-egg hunt, with us findin’ forgotten an’ overlooked elves, Santas an’ reindeer ’til at least April. I get to decorate the outside of the house, so I pulled out our inflatable Santa on a hog an’ got him all staked down an’ plugged in before hangin’ up the outdoor lights. This year I even took the time to untangle some of ’em! For the last several years we’ve been wantin’ to replace the old outdoor lights with most of the paint scratched off them, but it never seems to happen. Those old lights use a lotta power an’ they can really run your power bill up, so I stretched an extension cord over to my “prepper” neighbor’s yard, plugged it into the outlet by his underground bunker an’ covered it with leaves. Now all I’ve gotta do is distract him from rakin’ leaves ’til after Christmas. Maybe I’ll send him some of the doomsday stuff I see on Facebook; that should keep ’em all in the bunker till at least next June!
This year is the 15th annual Hell’s Angels Toy Run in Fresno. I don’t think Reggie an’ I have missed one since we’ve been together. Merl, who runs things at the toy run, collects donations all year long an’ then spends the night on Black Friday at Walmart buyin’ as many bikes as he can. (It’s usually about 100.) They also have a truckload of toys of all types to hand out to the kids at the Poverello House. For most of these kids, it’s the only present they’ll get. I’m never sure who gets the most enjoyment out of the day, Merl or the kids, but it doesn’t matter because everybody has a good time. Although Christmas parades are pretty much ancient history, several dozen leather-clad bikers roarin’ through town with toys strapped to their bikes comes pretty close, an’ people always gather on the sidewalks to watch the pack roll past on our way to the Poverello House. The toy run is on December 7 this year, an’ if you want more info, shoot me an e-mail!
Another toy run we try not to miss is put on by Mathews Harley-Davidson. They used to gather donations all year, then take the toys by truck to the poor neighborhoods an’ hand them out to the kids, escorted by dozens of roarin’ Harleys. They coordinated with the local elementary schools to find out where the greatest need is, then planned the stops accordingly. Unfortunately, they always got swamped with kids, an’ though they tried to save enough toys for at least a couple of stops, the mob always cleaned them out. Last year they handed the toys out at the dealership an’ used a lottery system for the bicycles, which worked out better than the mob scene that always happens in the surroundin’ neighborhoods. There are other local toy runs, an’ we try to make as many of them as we can. Seein’ the happy kids as they run off clutchin’ their toy is great, but I wonder what their memories of Christmas will be as they grow older. Will they think about the reason for Christmas, an’ the spirit of givin’, or just gettin’ a toy in a parkin’ lot on a blustery winter day?
For me, the toy runs bring back some of what’s been lost from the Christmas season, as tradition has fallen out of favor with a lot of Americans. “Merry Christmas!” has been traded for the homogeneous “Happy Holidays,” an’ the lights, glitter an’ pageantry of Christmas is nearly a thing of the past. I remember as a kid bein’ taken downtown at Christmastime by my mom an’ dad, an’ bein’ fascinated by colored strings of lights that stretched as far as I could see, the store window displays with their mechanical Santas, elaborate electric trains steamin’ through miniature towns with lights in every tiny window, the life-like Nativity scenes an’ bein’ wished a “Merry Christmas” by salespeople an’ strangers on the street. Christmas carols played through speakers on the street, an’ in every store. It seemed to me that everyone pushed aside their problems an’ just enjoyed the season, shoppin’ for that perfect gift for that special person. It’s sad that our grandchildren will never know that happy, delightful time. Now, when I go shoppin’, an’ the salespeople wish me “Happy Holidays,” I always smile an’ say, “Merry Christmas!” I always get a smile an’ a “Merry Christmas” in return, though it’s sometimes in a conspiratorial whisper, with a quick look over their shoulder first. I have to chuckle at that. Do I care who’s offended? Awww, hell no; you know me better ’n’ that! Anyway, I’m off to do some last-minute shoppin’, so from me an’ Reggie, here’s a big Merry Christmas! An’ have a happy new year while yer at it!