(first posted 12/9/2015) Certain things will always bring a smile to my face, no matter what. When two or more of those things combine in a serendipitous way, my camera usually whips out as if in an involuntary action. On this particular night, I was meeting up with good friends for a little pre-Thanksgiving revelry before we all went our separate ways for the holidays. The neighborhood around historic Wrigley Field has an abundance of great people-watching, restaurants, bars, sports memorabilia, and also an unusually high concentration of interesting cars – during any time of year. A big, red, RWD Coupe DeVille with a matching leather interior and a white landau roof? Yes, please. This one was tastier than a stick of Wrigley’s own Big Red chewing gum.
It was only around Thanksgiving and still weeks from Christmas, but there’s no doubt in my mind that this was St. Nick’s whip. Even ol’ Kris Kringle must need to blow off a little steam once in a while. Seriously, the next time you want to complain about your job, think about the extremely high-pressure, time-sensitive nature of this guy’s occupation, even if he delivers only once a year. Maybe he was in Wrigleyville on this night contemplating all the business travel he was about to take on in just four short weeks. Maybe Mrs. Claus was getting on his nerves and he felt the need to get out of the house for a while. Or, perhaps he had a yen for some loaded tater-tots from Merkle’s Bar & Grill and conspicuously parked his pride and joy in front to see if anyone would take notice. Stranger things have happened in this neighborhood.
I didn’t see any “Diesel” markings anywhere on this car (some badges were missing), so I’m assuming Santa made do with the (also) slow, unreliable, heinous 4.1L V8 with all of 135 hp to lug around two full tons of car. I doubt he cares very much, though. He’s got his reindeer and an actual sleigh to get his day (night) job done, and I’m sure the EPA ratings on that rig are through the roof. So there’s that. The Caddy is more his showboat. Despite his advanced age, the dude is nowhere near retirement, so I can’t blame him for owning a car now that he wants – one that even matches his attire. After all, if that concept was good enough for Superfly, it’s good enough for him.
I’ll tell you one thing (and this from personal experience): Wrigleyville – especially on weekends – is one place where Mr. Claus would have easy access to see who’s being naughty and who’s being nice. This scenario comes to mind: “Santa, bring me a great work bonus this year!” One month later: “Sorry, Susie. Remember that night in Wrigleyville when you loudly cursed out the bartender after doing your fifth Jägerbomb shot right before you threw your plastic tumbler of icewater in his face? Enjoy your lump of coal.” (Don’t worry, Susie. There’s always next year.)
Santa’s CDV was just a little rough around the edges. I imagine that its fine, red leather interior was probably saturated with his pipe smoke, but I wasn’t mad at that – I liked the lived-in quality of his ride. Let’s face it – he has other priorities besides maintaining his prized Cadillac. The man has his hands full with spying on people all year, keeping Mrs. Claus’ house in good repair (in the frigid North Pole, for crying out loud), and feeding and cleaning up after a small herd of reindeer. I’m sure the Cadillac isn’t anywhere near the top of his “Honey-do” list.
No doubt Facebook has made his life a lot easier. I don’t care what anyone says about privacy settings. If Santa already knew your business years before social media, he certainly knows it now, and then some – probably more than he wants to know. I wonder how many times he’s said to himself, “Dang it, Johnny. I’m just going to pretend I didn’t see that post. I guess you can still have that thing you wanted.”
I had wanted to stick around to wait for Santa to ask him some questions. I was feeling pretty good, and not at all confrontational (i.e. “Really, Santa? A box of fake Legos that one year?”). His car, while not remotely pristine, was still in pretty amazing shape for a then-27 year old car – in a bodystyle and color combo I’m pretty sure I had never seen before. I wanted some details, and maybe even a few interior shots.
Talking with my friends, I kept one eye on the bar’s front row of windows, looking to see if I’d see the Man With The Bag walking back to his crimson-hued chariot. But alas, One O’Clock AM had already come and gone, and I realized I should probably just go home so I could attempt to have a productive day on Saturday. Riding my northbound CTA Red Line train back to my neighborhood, I couldn’t keep the grin off my face at the idea of Santa Claus being a Brougham Man. For all of his annual multi-tasking (and at such a frantic pace), he certainly deserves all that luxury.
All photos were as taken by the author in Wrigleyville, Chicago, Illinois on (early) Saturday morning, November 19, 2011.