Saturday, December 31, 2011

TOM SUGERLAND’S LAST MEMORABLE CHRISTMAS / By Ray Ramos / Copyright Ray Ramos / Page 15

“I bet she’s down there at Victoria Secret picking out something to wear?” Yasmine was giving Tom a hard time over his upcoming party appearance over at Tiffany Shaw’s that evening. But Tom was taking it all in stride.
“I’m sure I’ll be in and out.”
“That’s what she’s afraid of,” Rockquin chimed in, as Yasmine smacked his on the back.
The two didn’t notice the tall brunette and the stylish man in the expensive black Italian suit standing before them. The man looked at Tom with an almost x-ray stare. He whispered something to the tall woman who was at least 6’4 in her Italian high heels. Rockquin’s jaw dropped.
“Oh my god! Someone pinch me!”
Both Yasmine and Tom looked over at Rockquin and then over at the dramatic looking duo.
“Hi would you folks be interested in taking a picture with Santa Clau---“
Rockquin cut Yazmine off at the quick.
“Your highness, it is a pleasure to meet you and your queen… How can we serve you?”
Tom had know idea what the heck Rockquin was talking about? He just figured he was just being his usual flamboyant self.
Yasmine suddenly realized that the woman was a model, one of the major ones. She thought she was Brazilian. But she couldn’t remember her damn name? She’d had recently been liked to a big movie star but she couldn’t remember who? She had no idea who the man was, but the dark sunglasses man him look important.
"It is Buffalo Bill," the man said to the woman in a serious tone.

He snapped his fingers at Tom and with a European accent said, “You, Santa Claus! Please stand up!” Tom looked at the guy; he wasn’t used to being ordered around like a chimp, even if the guy did say please. He slowly stood up in all his red velvet glory.
Tom looked at the two, “Have you been naughty or nice?”
The man in the suit nodded in approval. He than said something in the Brazilian model’s ear, and she approached Tom like she was walking on a runway. Then the man went over to the camera and before she could react, elbowed Yasmine away from it. The flash started popping as the model shoved Tom back on the couch and threw her long legs over him and began to straddle him and give high fashion poses, much to the shock of several passers by. As fun as it was to be straddled by this most gorgeous creature; Tom knew he had to get this chaos under control.
“Okay what the hell’s going on here?!”
Rockquin who had be frozen with awe suddenly jumped in.
“Tom we are blessed to in the presence of the great fashion photographer Efren Wallenda and the most beautiful woman in the world Zara Mia!”
Yasmine looked at them astonished; the Fellini surrealness of it all. She didn’t notice the crowd that was about to gather as Efren Wallenda and Zara Mia studied the photos they had just snapped on the monitor.
“This is good… very good,” he said to her. She stood there with her hands on her hips in agreement. Tom, Yasmine and Rockquin had lost control of the set… at least momentarily.
“I wish I could see him without that silly suit,” Efren Wallenda said as he pressed his finger to his lips. Before another thought came out of his European brain, Rockquin ran over to where Yasmine’s bag that was hidden under the counter and pulled out a large manila envelope.
Before Yasmine could get a word out, Rockquin pulled out several black & white photos that Yasmine had taken of Tom at the beach that one day; looking like the old surf king that she saw him.
"Tom's a well known west coast surfer," Yasmine said.
"Really?" Efren looked over at Mia who licking her lips, while she was examining Tom photo carefully.
"Who took this photos?" Efren said.
"Yasmine did, she's an excellent photographer," Tom said.
Efren looked at Yasmine, with a bit of a scoff.
"I don't want to you someone's who been over shot!"
"No worries with that. I shot Tom just for fun. Those have never been published Mister Wallenda."
"Very well." Efren was so excited, that Yasmine could swear that he had farted
Zara Mia pointed at the picture in Efren Wallenda’s hands, “You see if I hadn’t wanted my Hot Dog on Stick lemonade you would not have found that!”
“I will buy you dinner tonight at Mister Chow’s, okay Mia? Do you mind if I take these?"
Efren did wait for a answer from and put the photos in the envlope and under his arm.
Efren Wallenda looked at Tom, “I will need a contact number for you. Where I can reach you twenty-four- seven, if you don’t mind?”
Tom still hadn’t grasped the whirlwind that had just blown his way.
Efren Wallenda threw up his hands to the heavens.
“He's very interested in using you for one of my very upcoming shoots. Older model are all the rage these days,” said Zara Mia.
“I’m not really a ---“
Before Tom could finish Yasmine gave him an elbow in the side and Rockquin had Tom’s information in Zara Mia’s hands.
“If this happens, it will happen fast. What is your name?”
Efren Wallenda extended his hand to Tom. Tom firmly shook the hand that was softer than that of Yasmine's he thought.
“Tom Sugerland, please to meet you.”
“That’s such a sweet name,” Zara Mia said with a little flirt in her Brazilian voice.
“Enough! You’re getting fucking lemonade, then we can get out of the wretched place… it reminds me of the Fucking catacombs of Paris… only not as interesting. I hope we can find our Fucking car,” Efren Wallenda said as he walked away with his super model in tow.

Tom looked at Yasmine and Rockquin,“What was that?”
“He farted,” said Yasmine.
“No, that was me… when I get excited… I have issues sometimes. It happened once when I met Susan Lucci at the AMC in Century City.”
“Well we got a little line going on gang,” said Tom as he looked over at about ten people who were in line to get a photo with him.
“I can’t wait to go home and write about this in my diary,” Rockquin said with glee.
“That was HUGE! I think that’s in the running for thee moment of the season,” Yasmine said shaking her head in disbelief.  

Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer was playing on the radio when Tom arrived in his Santa suit at the address that Tiffany Shaw had given him in the scented envelope. Miss Shaw also lived in Cheviot Hills, like Yazmine’s family, but on the other side.
“Well this should be more than a little interesting.”
As Tom got out of his truck, he noticed that there didn’t seem to be many cars parked on the street for a party… but, he though maybe Tiffany was just a small gathering. He walked up the door and rang the bell. At first he heard nothing, so then he decided to knock. From the inside he heard Tiffany’s voice.
“It’s open Santa, come in.”
Tom opened the door cautiously and walked in the house. It was a very nice, like something out of a magazine. Everything looked just right, the tree, the lights, even a small half carved turkey on the sideboard, it all looked very tis the season.
“You’re right Santa, Tiffany has been very bad.”
Tom turned around to see Tiffany standing there looking dressed in a red silk robe, holding a half-filled highball glass.
“And I’m gonna get even badder.
“Will wonders never cease,” said Tom.
"So whatever you do; do not pick-up if Mrs. Claus calls!”
A million things might have gone through Tom’s mind at that moment, not seeing Tiffany Shaw bare- assed in a few minutes was not one of them.
“So do you like my little ruse?”
“I’m not complaining, if that’s what you’re asking?”
“Let’s get you out of that suit, you must be roasting?”
Tiffany hands went for Santa’s big brass belt buckle straight away.
“You go straight for the launch pad, don’t you lady.”
“Damn right! You got the right stuff, cowboy? I got some blue pills if you need it?’
“Don’t worry Santa hasn't found a need for them yet… you got all I need to me out in the stars.”
Becoming impatient Tiffany started to get a little rough.
“Easy baby, Santa still needs to wear the suit for a few days!”
"Just don't come to town too soon is all I ask," she said as she yanked on his suit pants.
The two were soon undressed. Tom picked up Tiffany’s naked body and threw her over his shoulder. In a nearby mirror he could see the faint tan line on that amazing beautiful behind of hers.
“Which way to the bedroom?”
She kicked her legs in excitement and pointed.
“No! Over by the tree!”
Tom’s sure and surgical like hands were all ready giving Tiffany pleasure. He could tell by her excessive panting, that he had not forgotten how to touch a woman in a way that made them plumb loco. Tom remembered he had also been called as the Sugerland Express by the ladies for reasons other than surfing back in the day.
Once down by the tree, Tom let loose and let the heavens fall were they may. Maybe it was because of the surfing, but Tom had stamina, add in all of his hours he’d clocked in making love over the years. Tom just became unleashed… like that phantom wave that broke Tom's collarbone that day on the beach; Miss Tiffany Shaw never new what hit her... but she enjoyed every minute of it.  Long after that night in December Tiffany would walk by certain parts of the house, and would immediately become flush thinking of Tom Sugerland. 
After several insane hours of going at it with a couple meal breaks in between; Tiffany was naked on the bed, just sprawled out like a bag of bones that just hit the pavement from a tenth floor swan dive. In fact worried, Tom checked to make sure if she was still breathing... which of course... thank God she was. He covered her and then gave her a kiss on her forehead and made himself a turkey sandwich to go before he split; it was 4:09 AM. Santa likes milk and cookies… but Tom thought this was way more fun... he wasn't as young as he used to be... but if his heart had exploded in his chest while making love to Tiffany Shaw... well, then he'd gone out like the Big Kahuna.

TOM SUGERLAND’S LAST MEMORABLE CHRISTMAS / By Ray Ramos / Copyright Ray Ramos / Page 14

It was the first day of Hanukah, and Christmas was a little over a week away. With the exception of a couple little things, Tom pretty much had the Santa gig down. On this afternoon, Tiffany Shaw sashayed her way up to the Santa set. She was wearing a leopard print blouse and a skin tight black skirt. Tom noticed her, and did his best to coolly finish up with his current visitors; a couple twin tween girls who looked right out of The Shining.
“Santa, I’m personally delivering you my letter… I ran out of stamps.”
Tom smiled and pointed over an actual U.S. Post Office that was sitting less than fifty feet away. Tiffany playfully put her had up to her lips.
“Well who put that there?”
Tiffany handed over to Tom an envelope, which defiantly had a hint of her memorable perfume.
“It’s all in the envelope Santa,” Tiffany purred.
The two looked deep in to each others eyes, as they both held on to the envelope for a moment.
“Well okay,” said Tom.
Tiffany smiled and gave a little bye-bye wave and turned around and walked away, giving all looking in her direction the memorable sight of her tight black skirt from behind.
“Man, she got booty on her,” said Beatrice with an impressive tone in her voice.
“Really? I didn’t notice.”
“Uh huh Santa,” Beatrice said.
When Tom had his break, he opened up Tiffany’s scented envelope. What he found was a request for Santa to come to a private party tomorrow evening, with directions. The job paid five bills.

“Barukh atah Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha’olam.” Tom recited the prayer with Yasmine as he watched her light the menorah. After she lit the last candle, he looked at her in the soft candle light. “She smiled. “Thank you for doing this with me, Tom. I was so bummed not having my parents around for the holidays.”
“My pleasure Yaz. I’m an old hand at Chanukah,” said Tom.
Tiffany got a cute animated look on her pretty face.
 “Hey, this is kind of another Marlon Brando scenario?”
“I think you’re right! But we're missing the ton of Chinese food?”
Yasmine snapped his finger in a mock gesture, that made them both chuckle. Then Yasmine held out her palms out in front of Tom.
“Hold on a minute.”
Yasmine excused herself and ran into the other room. Tom thought to himself; "She is pulling a Brando."
Tom leaned up against the kitchen counter and patiently waited for her to return. She came back twice as animated, with a little box gift wrapped in blue and silver and put it in Tom’s hands.
“What’s this?”
“We give gifts too,” she said playfully.
“You do? Well, now it’s your turn to excuse me.”
Tom walk over to the front door and opened it, stepped out for a moment and brought in a wrapped gift himself.
Yazmine’s put her hands up to her mouth in delight.
“What’s this?”
“Just a little something for my special little friend.”
“Tom you are such a rascal! You shouldn’t have. How do we do this? One at a time? Or should we open them at the same time?”
“You go first kid.”
“Okay,” she said.
Yasmine started to rip the paper ever so carefully.
“I think it’s a book.”
“Just tear it,” said Tom.
Yasmine did just that, and found a copy of Robert Frank’s The Americans.
“It supposed to be a classic photography book… a must have photo book the guy at the book store told me.”
“This is so cool! Thank you Tom,” she said as she open the book and started studying them.
“Yeah, this photographer Robert Frank went all across the U.S. back and the fifties and shot all these black & white candid pictures… amazing stuff… anyway I thought so… I hope you like it.”
“It’s wonderful, thank you so much! I love black & white photos.”
Yasmine let loose and gave Tom a great big hug.
“Okay, now your turn!”
Tom picked up his present and proceeded to open it. He could tell that Yasmine was excited for him to see what it was. And in a moment he would know why. In the tiny box Tom found himself looking at a Cub Scout pocket knife. He could tell by the patina on the knife that it was old... vintage, it was very much as the one he remembered owning as a kid. He looked at it, and was speechless for a moment. He was very surprised by the gift; touched in fact.
“Where the heck? My knife…"
"Found it at the flea market in Santa Monica... it was just waiting for me in a glass case."
Tom held it in his palm, feeling its weight.
"Well, this is incredibly… thoughtful Yaz. Thank you”
"Open it. Look on the blade."
Tom did just that, and found his name engraved on.
"Maybe, you won't lose it if your name's on it?"
 Yasmine looked up at Tom; the tip of her little tounge peeked out from between her teeth as she smiled playfully.
“I remember the little things… Happy Hanukah.”
“That’s important gift, believe me… never lose that; Happy Hanukah,” Tom said as he continued to look at his gift.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

TOM SUGERLAND’S LAST MEMORABLE CHRISTMAS / By Ray Ramos / Copyright Ray Ramos / Page 13

It was a chilly December morning at El Porto Beach, which was down south from Venice, Playa and Dockweiler Beach. It was considered be many to be the best local beach for surfing because beneath it was an underwater canyon, this created consistently larger waves than other beaches. Tom stood there in his wetsuit, holding one of his favorite surfboards; Tom called this particular one “ol’ Lisa”, after a girl he had loved long ago… in fact that’s how he named all his boards, after his lost loves. He explained to Yasmine, who stood there in the chill holding her cup of coffee. Yasmine looking ever so lovely bundled up in her wool southwest patterned coat. He wished he had a camera to photograph her, but it was he that was there to be photographed, by her this morning... he wouldn't know how to work her fancy camera anyway he thought.
“Tom, I’m so excited to shoot you that I almost forget how cold it is," she said,
“Well that’s good, cuz it’s pretty wintery out here even in my wetsuit.”

I few minutes later Yasmine had to in the viewfinder of her digital Olympus SLR camera and was snapping away. She thought Tom was truly a wonderful subject. The lined face, the white long white hair and beard, set against the crashing waves in the background. Trade the surfboard for a trident and her could have been mistaken for Poseidon himself.
“I hope your getting what you want kid?” Tom said with his rumble of a voice.
“This is great… but, if I could get you in the water… that would be so epic.”
Tom looked at her for a moment. He thought to himself, how could he not see this request coming?…the  truth was he did.
“Damn, you’re a pain in the ass.”
“I’m sorry; please it would just be such a good shot. Even if it’s just you walking out of the water… it would be so dramatic.”
Tom thought she was right; it had been too damn long since he'd stepped in the sea.
“You want dramatic?”
Tom looked at her; he felt the admiration that she felt for him, even though he didn’t understand it.
“Slap on your most powerful lense. This old bastard is going in!”
Yasmine smiled but she didn’t care for the way that Tom had referred to himself. In her eyes this veteran beachcomber was gallant. He was the living breathing embodiment of the California dream.

The water was freezing as he remembered, but it felt good. He’d give his little love a show, he do it also in honor of that sick child that he had met, and most of all he’d do it for himself. Tom paddled out, where he’d met up with several other young surfers. They were no faces he’d recognized. They looked over at Tom not knowing what to make of him?
“How are the surf gods treating you this morning fellas?” “Cranking!” one of the young guys said braking the ice between them. Tom gave them one of his Santa winks from the mall, and then waited for his turn as he watched them all begin to ride the waves.
“Like Winston Churchill said…”
Tom jumped on the wave; it had the power of Moby Dick. His feet were on the board soon and he was riding the Pacific just like old times. He became at one with the fiberglass and it was a smooth damn ride... just like old times.When he got to the beach Yasmine was there…snapping away.  that made him feel good. He had to admit that she had an effect on him, like a box of puppies did to a child.
“Was that epic enough for you, my dear?”
“Tom, that was so awesome, are you gonna go out again?"
"I'm gonna quit while I'm ahead this morning."
Tom put his arm around her.
“It felt good. Come on, I’m gonna buy you breakfast!”

Tom took Yasmine to his favorite little café, that was in the front of a bowling alley in Mar Vista. It was always crowded, but the wait was never more than ten minutes. Cops loved the joint too, so fat chance of the place ever being robbed. Tom ordered a Denver omelet and Yasmine had a stack of blueberry pancakes.
“Thanks for the push today,” said Tom.
“I don’t think you needed me to push you back in the water… but I’m glad you did it while I was there.”
“Well, you helped. Things can sometimes get in your head… and pardon my Portuguese; fuck you up. Either way you did me a service.”
“Tell me more about yourself Tom.”
“It’s not much. I worked as a tow truck driver for most of my life. All the money and time off I had, I used to travel the worlds beaches to surf… that was the life I chose, that was happiness to me.”
“Can I ask you a personal question?”
“Sure, go a head.”
“You must have made love a lot of the native women?”
Tom laughed, "Who am I? Paul Gauguin? Is that the question?”
Yazmine blushed and looked down at her pancakes.
“In those kinda situations you have too… it would be insulting not too.”
Tom laughed and took a sip of hi tea.
“Let’s just say I have many wonderful memories to get me through my old age.”
“What about Christmas?”
“What about it?” Tom said.
“Do you have any special memories that you can remember? You are Santa Claus.”
"That's right, I am." Tom thought about it, and thought about it.
“When I was a kid, my folks got me this beautiful Cub Scout pocket knife that I had really wanted… I remember that… that meant a lot to me as a boy.”
“I bet you still have the knife,” said Yasmine.
“I wish I did. I lost it years ago.” Yasmine could tell that Tom really meant it.
Tom asked for some more hot water for his tea.
“I got a memorable Christmas tale for you… in fact it’s kinda bizarre you might say? It was when I was towing… It was Christmas Eve 1979 I think it was? My dispatch calls me and says that I have to make a call to this house up on Mulholland dispatch’s says; whatever this guy needs… I think “what ever?” I didn't exactly know what he meant by that?”
Yasmine’s eyes get big, “This sounds good!”
“It is, trust me. So I drive up to this gate and press the buzzer, I say who I am… the strange voice on the other end says; “Drive in but stay in the truck what ever you do.”
Tom took another sip of his tea.
“So I drive in, and this guys not kidding three huge guard dogs rush out and surround my truck… so I’m sitting there thing what the hell is this? All of a sudden this large figure appears at the door of the house… and when I say large, I mean wide! He says something and the dogs disappear. Its dark remember, the only light is from the house. So as mysterious this figure gets closer and closer; I realize this wide guy with the dogs is Marlon Brando.

Yazmine said, “Marlon Brando, why do I know that name?”
Tom just gives her a huh look? “Well if you don’t know who Marlon Brandon is… and why don’t you? This story’s not gonna be that entertaining to you.”
“He’s an actor right?”
“An actor?... I just might have to spank you right here... he was thee actor! The shit! The Godfather! On the Waterfront! Last Tango in Paris!”
Yasmine giggled as her checks turned crimson.
“Tom Stop! Go on with your story!"
Yasmine motioned with his elegant hands for him to go a head.
“So, remember this was Christmas Eve… and I’m on top of Mulholland with one of the most famous guys in the world.”
Again Tom looks over at Yasmine.
“Trust me on that. So he says he’s got a truck; an old International that won’t turn over… Why he needs this old truck to start at 10 PM on Christmas Eve, I don’t know? But I get it going which takes me all of twenty minutes. During this time we’re talking, and he’s asking me about myself… and mind you, I’ve not even acknowledged that he’s fucken’ Marlon Brando! He tells me his name is Bud. He’s asking about my truck, he’s asking about this and that… somehow I tell him that I surf… he tells me that he’s got an island… excuse me, he owns his own island in Tahiti. He invites me to go there and surf, he says there’s a spot on the island were the wave break perfectly. I’m thinking is this guy for real? By the way at this point we’re in the house, sitting at the kitchen table… for a big movie star his place was pretty average… I swear the shittiest little star around these days would have a place a million times fancier than Brando’s place. But damn, did he have a great view... just wonderous. Anyway we shoot the shit a little bit longer. And he's telling me stuff like, the best friend he ever had was his pet raccoon named Russell! All kinds of nutty stuff.”
Yasmine laughs, “You're starting to make things up now!”
Tom raises his hand like a Boy Scout.

“ This is all true, then Brando asks me if I’m hungry? I said, sure I guess? So he gets on the phone and finds the only Chinese’s restaurant that’s open on Christmas Eve and orders a shit load of Chinese food for just the two of us: chow mien, chop suey,  egg rolls, foil wrapped chicken, sweet and sour this and that, friend rice, white rice… it’s the craziest thing. Here we are sitting with a dozen of these white Chinese food cartons in front of us… I wish I had a picture of that moment. And all this time I still haven’t copped up to the fact that he’s Marlon Brando.”
“That’s so crazy,” Yasmine said.
“So midnight comes and Brando says, Merry Christmas! Then he excuses himself for about ten minutes, I’m thinking should I leave? What? Then he comes back with a thin black box… leather a bit frayed and hands it to me. He says Merry Christmas Tom. Then he says for be to open the box. I open it to find a pristine Gruen watch from the 1950’s it looks like... its even got a diamond in it! I say thank you, but I can’t take this… Brando tells me; take it, he had many material things that he didn’t have much use for… but he wanted to give me something in the spirit of Christmas… the spirit that he had felt once as a boy in Nebraska. He said even though he didn’t believe in keeping time himself… a watch was still one of the most noble inventions of mankind. Brando laughs and said, besides if I didn’t take the watch someday someone he never met would end up with it.”
“Wow that’s amazing”
“Here’s the kicker, I never took it out of the box, I just put it away… when he passed a few years ago I dug it up, and pulled it out and slapped it on… just to remember that wild night. Then I noticed an inscription on the back of the watch, it said; Marlon, with love Marilyn.”
“Marilyn Monroe? You have a watch to Marlon Brando from Marilyn Monroe?”
Tom raised an eyebrow.
“I gotta feelin? Pretty epic huh?”
“Yeah! So did you ever go to his island and surf?”
“Naw, another missed opportunity… I was dumb back in those days… too shy about that kinda stuff. So learn a lesson from me kid, when you get a chance to do something cool, do it because the door’s only open for a brief moment.”
“So how did the night end… did you ever say; hey you’re Marlon Brando?”
“Funny you should say that, when I left, he pinched my checks like an old woman would and says; you know who I am, don’t you? I said of course I did. Brando tells me thank you for letting me be "Bud" again for a few hours… and that was it... and I never saw the guy again. The guy had it all... you would think? But there he was alone on the top of his mountain. Brando seemed like the loneliest dude on the planet... he had to have been? To wanna to hang out with a greasy tow truck driver like me on Christmas Eve."
“But you were there for him... that's so awesome; you were right, was that’s pretty damn memorable,” Yasmine said.
Tom smiled, "and pretty damn epic."

Monday, December 19, 2011

TOM SUGERLAND’S LAST MEMORABLE CHRISTMAS / By Ray Ramos / Copyright Ray Ramos / Page 12

Black Friday at the Westside Wonder Mall came and went with no real great events… with the exception of several visits from Dottie Dolen. The Santa picture business was steady, but not booming as Tom had heard it had been in years past. That next Saturday it started pretty much as usual, up until around 2:00 PM. Beatrice being the greeter and Yasmine was behind the camera. Tom saw a young boy, maybe ten years of age walking up with his mother. At first he thought of them as  average mall people, but as they got closer he noticed the boy, he had a slight limp to his walk and held his arm kind of like the mummy had done in the old monster movies. When the got up to the counter the stopped, Beatrice asked her if they were interested in a photo with Santa or a visit? The mother said, “I think just a visit today.” Tom starred at the boy, his hair was cut short, and it had a kind of gray-ish tone to it… kinda like the color of a mouse. Tom observed the mother step close and speak in Beatrice’s ear quietly. Tom noticed Beatrice, just listening and shaking her head to what the woman was saying to her.  Then Beatrice walked over to speak to Tom, her eyes looked watery. “Santa, this is Andrew, he wants to visits... its special” she said with a quiver to her voice. Tom rose up to greet the lad who was slowly was walking to him. “Welcome Andrew,” said Tom assuredly. He gently escorted the boy over to the red couch that was his base of operations. The boy sat down and Tom took a seat next to him. The boys’ mother stood back and watched them quietly. Tom looked at the boy, he was very fragile,  his eyes intense and hollow; he reminded Tom of images he’d seen of the Holocaust. Tom really wasn’t sure how to handle this situation? All that could come out of Tom’s mouth was, “What do you want for Christmas?” Tom knew that was not the real thing to say at this time… but he was at a loss. He looked at the child in all his physical weakness. He tried to sing a Christmas song with the boy; the only one he knew all the words to was, The Little St. Nick by The Beach Boys... unfortunately the kid didn't know it.
“Santa, I know that you really just give gives toys to kids, when they’re good… but I don’t need a toy… I just want to be cancer free… I don’t know if you can help with that?” Tom felt the wind knocked out of him… something a kin to a bad, bad wipeout… worse he even felt. Tom white cotton gloves reached for the little boys’ hand. “Santa knows what a wonderful boy you are Andrew, and he’s going to pray hard for you. The only wish that Santa has this Christmas, is that you get better… and to get stronger.” Tom knew that he had to give more to this brave child… Tom raised his index finger to his lips.
“I’m gonna tell you a secret... that only a few trusted people know; Santa had cancer once.”
Suddenly the boys’ eyes became more alive. Tom looked deep into them… he knew how important that this damn silly job had become at this moment… Tom felt that he would give anything for this poor sick child to live a healthy life the way he had.
“That’s why I’m not fat anymore... you see.” A smile appeared on the boys’ face; he seemed to come back to life, like Pinocchio.
“I thought so Santa! Because, you're so skinny now! Are you cancer free?” Tom gave Andrew a wink and touched his face gently. “I know that it’s been scary… and it’s been painful… for both you and your mom… and everyone who loves you... but you must be strong, for both you and her… you have to be strong and brave, and no matter what, don't give up! I promise to be right here next year... so you can tell me you’re cancer free, just like Santa.” Tom looked over at Andrew’s mother, Yasmine and Beatrice who were both holding back tears… as was the mighty Tom Sugerland.
“Let’s take a picture, please. Santa wants a picture with you, Andrew. It would be an honor for me” said Tom. Yasmine’s nose was running as she snapped of shots. After they finished taking the photos, Andrew’s mother came over and hugged Tom. She whispered in his ear, “He saw you and said, “Santa’s like me, mommy… Thank you, Santa.” The boy smiled and waved as his mom led him away. When the boy was out of site, Tom stepped away for a moment to compose himself… he’s never felt so human… at least, it had been a long time that he’d felt such a raw feeling…the girls both stood there, teary eyed… they thought that Tom had given the little boy courage… but in truth, it was the other way around; and Tom knew it.

Friday, December 16, 2011

TOM SUGERLAND’S LAST MEMORABLE CHRISTMAS / By Ray Ramos / Copyright Ray Ramos / Page 11

Tom and Yasmine walked up to the front door of the lime green house off Braddock Drive
in Culver City. They could hear the all the commotion on the other side of the door of a family gathering. Tom gave the door a good rap. Rockquin opened the door with great panache, as expected.
“Welcome and Happy Thanksgiving!” The air was kind of smokey when Tom and Yasmine walked in the house, like somethig had been in the oven too long. Rockquin turned to his family. “These are my friends from the mall, beautiful Yasmine, and the sexiest, Santa Claus who ever came to town Tom!” Rockquin’s family all a waved at the two, then continued on to whatever they were doing. “Can I get you a Sprite?”
“We also brought a couple bottles of wine,” said Yasmine.
“Oh, how lovely,” said Rockquin.

Rockquin, walked the two over to a table loaded with various dishes of food; traditional Thanksgiving fare, but also traditional Filipino dishes.
“I hope you don’t mind we’re serving buffet style, too many people to have a formal sit down dinner.”
“This is fine; I did a little surfing down in Philippines,”said Tom.
Yasmine and Rockquin both looked at Tom impressed. Then Rockquin repeated in Filipino what Tom had said to his family, who all looked at the tall and leathery white man impressed.
“Very beautiful beaches there… nice break in the waves,” Tom said loudly over the Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants game that was playing in the living room on TV. Rockquin’s family all smiled, but probably had no idea what he was talking about?

Rockquin handed Yasmine a plate.
“It all looks so exotic,” said Yasmine.
Yasmine noticed that a lot of the native food was just a little over cooked for her taste… a little on the charred side. She noticed some fish on the plate that reminded her kinda of what Fred Flintstone used to use as a comb. She tried to fill her plate with a lot of white rice. When Yasmine went to serve herself what she thought was beef, Rockquin smiled and said.
“I hope you like “little black dog Yasmine?”
Yasmine froze for a moment and looked confused.
Rockquin laughed; “old Filipino joke!”
“You ever had it?” Tom asked.
“Gross!” said Rockquin with a face.
“I had some in the Philippines… I didn’t know, I was eating at the time,” Tom laughed.
It was Rockquin who now froze;
"That's true? They really do eat little balck dogs?"!

After dinner Tom and Yasmine, got to know Rockquin’s family a little better. His father had pasted away ten years ago. He lived with his mother and his younger sister and brother. His mother said that he was good son, but she also tended to shake her head and roll her eyes when he got a little too flamboyant for her taste. Tom even heard her call him "little Liberace," once. Tom and Yasmine left Rockquin’s after about three hours and several glasses of white wine. It was a enjoyable evening, Tom looked over at Yasmine and smiled, he was truly was thankful he wasn't eating Boston Market takeout in his apartment tonight.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

TOM SUGERLAND’S LAST MEMORABLE CHRISTMAS / By Ray Ramos / Copyright Ray Ramos / Page 10

Tom laughed. He though she was joking.
“I’m serious Santa baby. Here’s my card Tiffany Shaw, I’m very local… I’m in here a lot.”
Excuse me, your shots are ready for you to choose,” said Yasmine.
 “Let me go look at our pictures, before little missy gets too upset with me. But, write your number down and give it to me before I go,” she said with a wink. Tom watched her prance over to the photo monitor... she left Santa momentarily unable to stand for certain obvious reasons. Tom asked Rockquin for a pen and a piece of paper, it was a good way to end a Wednesday night if you asked him.

Yasmine had asked Rockquin if she could bring Tom to his family’s Thanksgiving dinner. Rockquin was delighted to have another Thanksgiving orphan joining in the festivities. Tom drove his pickup to over to Yasmine place. She lived in an apartment close to the U.C.L.A. campus, but she was currently spending most of her time at her parent’s home in nearby Cheviot Hills while they were away. He found the house and parked; he felt a little weird going up to her front door, so he grabbed his cell and dialed her. It was all for not, Yasmine told him that she wanted him to come in for a minute. As he walked up the brick walkway in his cowboy boots and brown corduroy sports coat, Yasmine opened the front door, a red lab was standing next to her wagging its tail. Happy Thanksgiving,” she said. Yasmine looked lovely, in what he could only describe as some sort of flower print vintage dress. 
“Well ain’t you something to look at, nice looking dog too.”
Yasmine was just too damn cute; Tom had to admit to himself.
“That's Lola, come in, we have a little time don’t we?”
Even though they we just friends, Tom felt just a little weary about being alone with her… especially in her parents home.
“Nice place. You’re folk must do pretty well?”
“Yeah, do you want a beer?”
“Oh, maybe I should have asked you…”
“Asked what?”
“Well… I know that a lot of people your age tend to be in AA.”
Tom couldn’t help but laugh at that.
“You got a point there, but beer for me is just something I use to wet my whistle now and then… the only thing I was ever really addicted to was surfing.”
"That's just so epic!"
She smiled and motioned Tom to follow her.
"I actually had a girlfriend years ago who lived around here... down the street from Ray Bradbury."
"Oh, yeah he lives on the next block.... do you know who Charles Bronson is?"
"Oh course, " said Tom.
" I knew you would; Well this used to be his old house in the 50's, we're told."
Tom followed Yasmine into the spacious kitchen, featuring large stainless steel appliances. Yasmine swung open the refrigerator. “We have a Corona, Heineken and some other weird looking Trader Joe's kinda beer.”
“Heineken, if you don’t mind.”
“Why would I mind? It’s my dad’s beer.”
Yasmine handed him his cold Heineken.
Tom leaned on the kitchen counter and took a drink of the beer.
“Can I ask you a question?”
Yasmine made her eyes big… in a comical way.
“Sure,” she said.
“Don’t think that I don’t appreciate our new little friendship… but Yaz, don’t you have any friends your own age to do Thanksgiving with? Not that I’m not happy, not having to dine alone at Boston Market again this year. But you get my drift; right?”
Yasmine blushed a bit.
“I don’t know? I just find you interesting… I think it’s good to appreciated people of all ages. That how you learn things, right?”
“True, but... ”
“Tom, are you uncomfortable being alone here with me?”
“Well, maybe just a little… you shouldn't invite strange men in your house... besides, I kinda feel like I’m in high school or something?”
“I’m sorry, strange man... ha, ha, I don’t want you to feel weird, and I just thought it would be cool to have a beer with you.”
Tom gave her his Gary Cooper awe shucks look, looking down at his old cowboy boots.
“To be honest, I can’t remember the last time I made a new friend... and many women think I am strange.”
“Looks like you might have made a new friend last night... with what was her name...Tiffany what’s her name?”
“That’s what you call a possible business opportunity,” said Tom.
 “I gotta admit; I was kinda getting annoyed the way she went over the top, pawing you and ridding your knee like she was on a merry-go-round horse.”
Tom just smiled, and that annoyed Yasmine.
“You liked it didn’t you?”
“Santa’s just a piece of the furniture on the set… but sometimes, it’s nice to be the chair… we should get goin’ kiddo. We might miss the deviled eggs.”
Tom put his empty Heineken bottle down on the kitchen counter.

Friday, December 9, 2011

TOM SUGERLAND’S LAST MEMORABLE CHRISTMAS / By Ray Ramos / Copyright Ray Ramos / Page 9

It was about an hour till closing and Elvis’ voice echoed through the cavernous mall singing Blue Christmas. Tom was just finishing up with a lively family that had came to take their annual holiday picture with Santa, as he looked up he saw that  thoroughbred blonde from the other day standing at the counter. She was wearing a tight red knit dress with a tunic neck and a pair of sassy black leather boots. She smiled his way. The elf suited Rocquin jumped over to the counter to help her… the bells on his hat jingled.
“Hi there, are you interested in having your picture taken with Santa?”
“It’s my mission for the evening. Can’t you tell?”
The woman smiled and then spun around like a Price is Right girl.
“Oh, very stylish… Santa is gonna like you,” Rockquin said.
“I’m think I’m gonna like Santa,” she said almost under her breath.
Over the crowd of departing people, Tom could see Rockquin talking to the blond and then start to bring her over. Yazmine who was finishing up helping a lady from the last group pick out her digital shots, turned to see the blonde walking over to her Santa. Her eye got wide. She looked over at Tom as if to say; “It’s her! It’s her!” But by that time, the blonde was already in the Tom’s zone.
“Are you ready for me, Santa baby?”  
Before Tom could answer the blonde was nestled on Tom’s lap, and her ass felt good there. Tom wasn’t a big lover of perfume on women; but she smelled damn good he thought.
“Santa is always ready. How else could I deliver all those toys in one night?”
“I want you to know, that I usually go see the Santa at the other mall, but I saw you the other day and thought… kinda skinny for Santa, but sexy… you kinda remind me of that one cowboy actor,” she said.
Tom smiled.
“Okay, lets take some sexy Santa pictures, ready Yasmine,” Rocquin said.
“Give me a sec… yeah, okay."
Yasmine looked through the camera viewfinder at the hot blond sitting on Tom’s lap, and she began to snap away. She was amused, but for some reason she found herself just a little jealous at the same time.
The blonde moved over to Tom’s other knee, and wrapped her arms around his neck a puckered up and kissed his check.
“Oh, Santa,” said Rocquin.
Tom looked at the blonde, “I have a feelin’ that you’re more on Santa’s naughty list?”
The blonde threw her head back and laughed.
“I have a feeling you’re right Santa. Your hair is so pretty.”
The blonde got more animated and she then started to run her fingers through Tom’s long white hair.
“I’m spoiled, don’t think that I can go back to a fat Santa ever again,” she said.
Yasmine felt she’d actually had witnessed enough yuletide flirtation.
“Okay, I think we’ve got it,” she said.
“Awe, we were having fun,” said the blonde.
“Rockquin, bring her over to look at her pictures,” Yasmine said.
Rockquin looked at her a bit annoyed and smunched up his face at her.
“Well you have yourself a Merry Christmas,” Tom said
“My name’s Tiffany,” she said her ass still firmly perched on Tom’s lap.
“Santa do you do private parties?”

Sunday, December 4, 2011

TOM SUGERLAND’S LAST MEMORABLE CHRISTMAS / By Ray Ramos / Copyright Ray Ramos / Page 8

The two sat in the break room having lunch. Tom speared his orange chicken with a chopstick, while Yasmine ate her slice of pepperoni pizza.
“Is that pepperoni Kosher?” Tom joked.
“I know… I’m a bad Jew… I love all the stuff that I shouldn’t. Have you ever had one of those bacon maple donuts?”
Tom raised an eyebrow.
“Bacon… on a donut?”
Yasmine’s eye lit up.
“Yes! With maple frosting, they are so yummy! Of course my mom would have a cow if she saw me eating one,” Yasmine giggled.
Tom finished his last piece of orange chicken, and then stretched out on the chair.
“A few more mall meals like that and I won’t need that Santa padding anymore.”
“You have nothing to worry about Tom. You seem to be in great shape for a man your age.”
“Gee thanks,” said Tom.
“I didn’t mean it like that… well maybe I did? But I can’t believe how great of shape you’re in."
Tom pretended to flex his muscles like Popeye in the old cartoons.
 "You remind me more of Jesus, than Santa... actually, if you morphed the two”
“Jesus? Tom tilted his head like the RCA Victor dog.
"We'll I guess... to be compared to the son of God... no offence... is pretty good."
“I mean because you’re so lean, and with all that hair… I don’t know? You have a look."
Suddenly, Yasmine felt  a little embarrassed.
Tom smiled.
“So Yaz, got big plans for Thanksgiving? We got the whole day off.”
Yasmine put her head down.
“My folks just left last week on a cruise, they’re gonna be gone till January… I feel so abandoned right now. I know that I’m grown, but I love the holidays… I feel kinda bummed. Rockquin actually invited me to Thanksgiving with his family… I don’t know if I’m gonna go… I’d feel kind of weird… what about you, what are your plans?”
“Well I’m supposed to dine with Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt on their yatch in Marina Del Rey.”
“Wait… you actually know them?”
Tom broke out laughing.
“I’m such an idiot.” Yasmine’s face became flush with embarrassment.
“No, you’re just not familiar with my silly sense of humor… actually, I can, as they said in the old west; bull shit.
Yasmine looked at Tom sitting there across from her… she was fascinated that such an old guy could still have such a twinkle in his eye… he thought to herself that he must have been a real rascal in his youth. And that’s why despite the color of his hair, he seemed so boyish to her.
“Would you do me a favor?”
Tom shrugged.
"You need to borrow a couple bucks till payday?"
“Would you let me take your picture sometime?”
“Don’t you get enough pictures of me down on the set?”
 “Not you in your silly Santa suit. I’m studying photography… I think you’d be great subject to shoot."
This time, Tom was the one feeling a bit embarrassed.
"You pulling my skinny leg?"
"No really. My camera's gonna love you."
Tom thought about it for a moment and looked at
Yasmine... she had a look too, he was a born sucker for a darling face such as hers.
"Sure. Why not," said Tom.
"Yes!" She said almost sounding exactly like sports commentator Marv Albert.
Tom thought her excitement was sweet... if not a little over the top.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

TOM SUGERLAND’S LAST MEMORABLE CHRISTMAS / By Ray Ramos / Copyright Ray Ramos / Page 7

The first kid Tom dealt with was a cake he thought. A sweet, little golden haired girl around five, she rattled off the name of some toy, he'd never heard of. All that came out of Tom’s lips was; “I’ll have my elves get on that right away.” Then pretty Yasmine snapped off a few quick digital images… it was painless. Tom thought; “If nobody I know sees me…this really ain’t too bad?” His next little visitor almost changed his mind… a three month old baby. When the mom handed the baby off to Tom for the shot, he tensed up. Tom couldn’t even remember the last time he held a baby… he thought perhaps, maybe he never really had? He couldn’t believe how light it was… a football he thought, had more weight to it. He looked at the baby, here was this little bitty life that some mother had entrusted in the hands of a bearded stranger in a silly red suit. Tom was also relieved the baby didn’t start crying, but he was more relieved when mom retrieved it from his hands. As the next few days rolled by, Tom started to notice little patterns with the little visitors, such as; babies a year or younger, were really just little pooping machines, which paid him no mind what so ever. But children from about two to three usually wanted nothing to do with him. No matter what kind of pleading, paddy cake and baby talking the parents did for them. He was a big strange creature that was being put before them; he might as well have been an extraterrestrial with the big black eyes he thought.

As Thanksgiving and the ominous shopping day, Black Friday approached; Tom never would have guessed that he was starting to get a little groove going with this Santa thing. Then one slow moving afternoon, Tom noticed what he could only describe as a thoroughbred of a blond walking by. She had some of the most incredible legs he could ever remember seeing this far inland. The blond was wearing what he thought must have been an expensive little off white dress, but he soon found himself picturing her in a bikini walking across the sand on a sweltering summer day. That was painted in his mind, as he was sitting there in the middle of a photo session with a little tyke on his knee.
“Santa, over look here,” said Yasmine.
Tom had no choice… but to let the blond go on her merry way.
After the little tyke and his parents also went on there merry way, Yasmine came over Tom’s way.
“So Santa, you liked that one huh?”
Tom played dumb.
“What are you insinuating elf?”
“I saw you checking out that hot blond in the Dolce dress. I’m gonna tell Mrs. Claus.”
“Santa can look, can’t he?”
“She was pretty hot. I’ll give her that. She either works here or she shops here a lot? I’ve seen her before.”
“Well that don’t matter to me. Like Santa said, “Just looking.”
Yasmine looked at Tom and smiled, she knew that when it came to mall Santa’s; hers was the “hottest,” but she thought that was just so wrong to think of a Santa in that kind of fashion... but she did anyway.
Tom was about to take his lunch break. Since he couldn’t eat in the mall food court, Yasmine or one of the other crew would do a run for him, then meet him in the break room. It gave him a chance to eat in piece and take off his heavy hot suit.
“Tell you what Yaz, get me an order of orange chicken and Dr. Pepper, and then you get yourself whatever you want. Santa’s buying today kid.”
Tom handed his pretty helper a twenty.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

TOM SUGERLAND’S LAST MEMORABLE CHRISTMAS By Ray Ramos / Copyright Ray Ramos / Page 6

“I’m sorry. I have so much to remember these days… Rockquin,” Dottie said a bit flustered.
“Well, it's nice to meet you, R-o-c-kquin,” said Tom. Rockquin gave Tom the once over twice. “Damn, what are you the Santa from Men’s Health magazine?”  He said with almost a sexual growl.
The attractive black girl chimed in “You too skinny to be Santa… you like Marlboro Man Santa Claus or something?... oh, my name’s Beatrice by the way… Beatrice De Longpre.”
“Like that street in Hollywood?” Tom said.
“Yeah, I can’t believe you knew that,” Beatrice said.
Tom winked at her.
“I’ve been driving around this town a long time, I know the names of all the streets.”
Tom turned his attention to the other young girl in the little sexy red Santa suit.
“And what might your name be?” Tom said, unintentionally sounding like Santa Claus talking to a little tot.
“I’m Yasmine,” she said with a little giggle. “I’m actually Jewish, but I love Christmas time, and I can use the extra cash for the holidays,” Yasmine said.
"Santa enjoys Hunakkah too."
 Tom extended his hand out to her.
“I bet you go to UCLA?”
Yasmine let out a tiny gasp. “How did you know?”
“Santa knows things… even about Jewish girls,” Tom said.
Yamine blushed a bit.
Truth was, Tom had many Jewish girlfriends over the years, and they had all went to UCLA as he recalled.
Yasmine took a good look at this tall, wild haired dude who stood in front of her dressed as Santa Claus. She thought he was beautiful in some strange way that she could't quite process.
“Are you a biker guy?” Yasmine said with a girlish fascination.
“No. This Santa’s a surfer,” Tom said.
Yasmine smiled and said, “That's so epic!”
“Epic huh?” Tom smiled.
“We’ll I’ve never done this kinda thing before… and never thought I would, for that matter. I hope that you guys will be patient with me," Said Tom.
“Don’t worry sexy Santa, you’ll be safe in my hands,” Rockquin said flirtatiously.
Working all those years as a tow truck driver, Tom had interacted with many gay men. Usually helping them open their car doors, after they’d leave a club and found that they’d locked their keys in their cars… where they’d always unsuccessfully  hit on him before he drove off into the night. Tom knew that Rockquin was a harmless sort, he just hoped that he wasn’t gonna be too much of a pain. The other two as he sized up shouldn’t be bad either. He figured that he’d probably hit it off with Yasmine the best. Dottie jumped in,
“I want you guys to help Santa anyway you can. He’s our superstar as far as I’m concerned. He’s bigger than Elvis, Michael Jackson and Justin Bieber combined!”
Tom looked at her and thought... and then there was Dottie. It looked like she’d be floating it and out of the Santa set periodically. She seemed like a sweet person… but Tom thought, so did Kathy Bates in that movie, Misery… he had a sudden vision of being black and blue, all busted to pieces in a bed, unable to move in some dingy little hidden apartment somewhere… and then Dottie coming in with a tray of tomoto soup to spoon feed him… the hairs on the back of his neck stood up. Tom knew that he had to get that thought out of his head… or this wasn’t gonna work.

Friday, November 25, 2011


Tom stood there in the mall storage room looking at himself in the mirror. He felt pretty ridiculous in the baggy red velvet suit. “Ho, ho, ho,” he said.  A knock on the door. “Can I see how you look?” The voice of Dottie said from the other side. Tom opened the door; Dottie smiled and gushed, “Wonderful, just wonderful!”
“You really think so, huh?” Said Tom.
“Oh, my yes!”
“This suit kinda just hangs on me… people are gonna think your Santa’s got an eating disorder or something?”
“Nonsense, we’ll give you a little padding. It’ll be fine, just fine.”
Tom thought he’d give her and him another out… but she didn’t go for it. He felt that he looked like an old surfer in a Santa suit… how could the mall people really go for this, he wondered?
“So, we’ll have a soft opening tomorrow…really just to meet this year’s fantastic staff you'll be working with; just get our feet wet…. Can you meet me here tomorrow at 11:00 AM?”
“Twenty-five bucks an hour?”
“Don’t forget about the free parking,” Dottie smiled and handed him a parking plastic pass.
“When you drive out, put that in right after the regular parking ticket,” Dottie said.
“Well, it ain’t what they call you, it’s what you answer to, I guess?" Said Tom.
Dottie looked at Tom confused; “Excuse me?”
“Ah, nothing… just some old saying. I thought it might have applied?”

11:10 AM, dressed as Santa, Tom and Dottie walked to the little Santa village on the second floor of the mall, that was going to be his main hub for the duration of this gig. Tom had already learned to tune out Dottie’s ramblings; how meeting Santa was such a lasting memory for the children, and not being in the Christmas spirit at all times was against company rules, and so on. Tom thought back to when he was a child. He was just like every other kid who loved Santa Claus. He remembered his mom taking him to the local department store; he couldn’t recall whether it was Sears or Pennys… one of the two? He chuckled to himself about how excited he’d be to see a fat, old man and how snowballed he was to think he was real goods. It was right there, in that memory that Tom, thought he’s give this silly charade his best shot.

As the two walked to the Santa set, there were three people waiting for them. A Filipino fella in his late 20’s, dressed like an elf, and two females dressed in little sexy red Santa outfits. The first female was white, in her early twenties, very pretty with thick dark hair, and the other was a black girl also attractive, but he couldn’t make out her age. He could see them sizing him up as he approached. Dottie rushed to make the introductions.
“Well crew, I want you to meet our Santa for this year,” Dottie said.
“How do you do, I’m Tom… but you can call me Santa,” Tom said with a smile.
He extended his white cotten gloved hand to Joaquin Romero.
“This is Joaquin, he’s my assistant,” said Dottie.
Joaquin put his hands on his hips.
“Dottie, I told you that I don’t go by that name anymore. My new name is Rockquin! Please respect that,” He said rather flamboyantly to Tom’s amusement.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


Tom Sugerland soon found himself in the confusing as hell, parking structure of the Westside Wonder Mall. The Hughes Corporation sang, Don’t Rock the Boat baby; courtesy of the local oldies station on his car radio. “Mister S-u-g-e-r-l-a-n-d"... Tom said mimicking Mrs. Dollo, "What are you doing here?” He slowed down and brought his car to a stop, he noticed the detour arrow to the Pico Blvd. exit.  He sat there for a moment frozen. HONK! HONK! Barked the car behind him. Tom looked in his rear view mirror to see an annoyed thirty-something looking woman and her two bratty kids behind him in their SUV. Tom let off the brake and gave it some gas, a BMW pulled out a few spaces ahead and Tom snaked the spot, just as Olivia Newton John started singing Let’s Get Physical… “Okay, let’s do it,” said Tom. He shut the radio off and got out of his truck.

Tom scribbled his parking info on his parking ticket and then proceeded to take the dead mans walk into the Westside Wonder Mall… a place that he had never dared venture before… he had surfed the big, killer waves at Waimea with less anxiety then this. It was just that concrete shopping tombs weren’t his deal, on a board; Tom was fluid… "The Sugerland Express" they called him in the old days at Toes Beach. But here at the mall... there was nothing fluid about him. And it was just as bad as he imagined, not a bit of outside light in the place… he imagined that he was in the below deck of the Titanic. He was just about to turn around and haul ass out off there, when an attractive Middle Eastern looking woman in her thirties bounced right past him… it somehow gave him the strength to continue on his journey up the escalator to the food court to meet Dottie Dolen, his mall contact.

Tom couldn’t miss her… and not in a good way. There she was sitting in the food court, the straw of a large mall drink in her mouth in mid-suck… somehow, she knew him? Mrs. Dollo must have described him to a tee to her. Dottie hoisted her large body from her seat and began to flaying her thick arms in the air like a drunken runway flagman at LAX. “Are you Tom?! Tom Sugerland?!” Dottie screamed across the food court. People stopped in mid-chew to gaze at the tall white haired man coming their way. Any cover Tom might of thought he had, was blown; all he could do was put on his best face and walk over greet, Dottie Dolen.

“Hi. You must be Miss Dolen---“
“Call me Dottie. Can you start tomorrow?” She said out of breath, almost like she was in the midst of an asthma attack.
“Ah, I…” Tom couldn’t get his words out fast enough.
“I need you!” Dottie said… Tom eyes darted around, to see the food court folks staring their way again. He was kicking himself, that he hadn’t taken that Pico Blvd. escape route in the parking structure.

“Look, Miss Dolen… Dottie… I just don’t know, if I’m really Santa material?”
“Mister Sugerland” Dottie reached out and eagle clawed Tom arm.
 I’m not gonna lie to you. If you don’t help me, I’m in deep pooh!”
“Deep pooh?” Tom repeated.
“Up to my neck!”
Tom just stared at her... for what seemed like an eternity.
“I’ll give you twenty-five dollars an hour. And free parking!” She said in one final act of desperation.

John F. Kennedy ask not what your country can do for you ask what you ca...

Monday, November 21, 2011


“Mister S-u-g-e-r-l-a-n-d, how would you like to be Santa Claus at The Westside Wonder Mall?”
Tom looked at her and thought to himself, “Are you fucking nuts lady?"

Or at least, Tom thought he said it to himself.
 “Mister S-u-g-e-r-l-a-n-d, I don’t appreciate such profanity… especially aimed at me. You can just leave if you don’t care for my professional services?”
“I apologize, Mrs. Dollo. That just came out of my mouth.”
“You have that turrets syndrome, do you?” Mrs. Dollo said sarcastically.
Mrs. Dollo just looked at Tom, giving him her evil eye.
“No. Not at all.”
“I don’t need that kind of disrespect, Mister S-u-g-e-r-l-a-n-d… especially after I gave you that compliment on how pretty your hair is.”
“And I appreciate that Mrs. Dollo, and all the time you’ve taken… I just thought you were serious for a second.”
“I was.”
“Excuse me, but Santa Claus is fat and jolly... and old?"
Tom thought certainly he wasn't old enought to play fucking Santa Claus?
“I know that. Look, The Westside Wonder Mall lost their regular Santa Claus. Their desperate for someone right now. Thanksgiving's next week… and the day after Thanksgiving is Black Friday… "
Tom’s still was not getting her reasoning for him being Santa Claus.
"The number one shopping day of the year... look all you do... is ask  the kids what they want for Christmas? Then take picture with them... simple. Look you know and I know that, you’re not fat, or jolly for that matter. But you do have the right color hair. Just don’t shave your beard, I bet it grows pretty fast. I bet you’d be a good Santa.”
Tom laughs.
“You’re really serious, I thought you were joking… but you’re really, really serious about this job.”
“They'd take a Chinese Santa Claus right about now… six weeks... easy money. You like kids don’t you?”
Tom thought; I like them maybe sprinkled with some Tabasco sauce. Then he looked at Mrs. Dollo’s reaction to see if he’d said that out loud as well?
“I really appreciate all your help---
“Mister S-u-g-e-r-l-a-n-d just go down there at check it out… I’m sure that there worse ways to make a few bucks?”
Tom thought, well I’m sure she’s right about that. But at this moment he couldn’t think of any?  So, he thought what the hell… he didn’t have anything else to do that afternoon… and no other job prospects, and he certainly didn’t know Photoshop.
Then Mrs. Dollo starred at him real good and said, “Mister S-u-g-e-r-l-a-n-d, anybody ever tell you that you look like that actor… the one who plays them cowboys… the one with the real deep voice. Sam… Sam Elliott?”
Tom had been told that a few times… especially since his hair went gray. Truth was, he had copped the way he tied back his hair from Sam Elliott in the movie, Road House.
“Yeah, once or twice,” he said.
“I think that white man is damn sexy… oh, did I say just say that out loud?”
Mrs. Dollo giggled and turned back to her computer screen.

Sunday, November 20, 2011


TOM SUGERLAND’S LAST MEMORABLE CHRISTMAS / By Ray Ramos / Copyrite Ray Ramos / Page 2

Tom drove to his appointment with an employment agency that afternoon and was hopeful they'd give him a lead on something. He thought he was still in good shape, reasonably intelligent, he did pretty well answering questions on Jeopardy. He kicked ass against the eggheads on that show quite frequently. Usually while leaning against his kitchen counter drinking a beer. If only he had a way to buzz in from his apartment, he’d be in the money. So surely the employment agency could find something for him. Help an old surfer out in his time in need... before he ended up desperate, like Hemingway's old Cuban fisherman in that book he was assigned read back in high school.
“So your name is S-u-g-e-r-l-a-n-d… Thomas S-u-g-e-r-l-a-n-d? What kinda name is that?” said Mrs. Dollo, the heavyset black woman at the employment office.  “A sweet one,” Tom said.. Mrs. Dollo looked at him smiled. “It reminds me of some sort of children’s game,” she said. Tom tried hard not to roll his eyes too much, “you’re thinking about C-a-n-d-y-l-a-n-d.”"Yes," Mrs. Dollo flapped her meaty little hands up and down like a penguin might do.“Yes, that’s it! So Mister S-u-g-a-r-l-a-n-d, how are you with computers? Do you know Photoshop by any chance?” Tom looked at Mrs. Dollo, as if she was from the planet Jupiter.“I have an email address… every once in a while I’ll check out some surfing videos on You Tube… that’s the extent of my computer skills I’m afraid.”“Hmm.” Mrs. Dollo looked at Tom and then back at her computer screen.“What about retail experience?”Tom scratched his scruffy white beard, “Nope… afraid not. I’m a tow-truck driver who used to surf.”“Okay,” Mrs. Dollo said “Hold on, let me take another go around here.”Mrs. Dollo turned back again to the computer and started to gracefully tap away on her key board, “You got some real pretty hair Mister S-u-g-e-r-l-a-n-d.”Tom thought that was a rather odd question, but thanked her anyway. Mrs. Dollo turned back his way.“Well the reason I asked is, I do have something… it’s temporary… only for the holidays. But it might be something to get you started until we find you something you’re more suited for? "Tom shrugged, “What’s it pay? "Seventeen – fifty an hour… not bad. It starts this Friday. Six weeks, all the way up until Christmas Eve. Could you stand up for a minute Mister S-u-g-e-r-l-a-n-d?” Tom complies with the odd request.“Huh, you are kinda skinny though,” Mrs. Dollo said.As someone who was I was heavily influenced by the adventures of Tarzan as a youth, Tom couldn’t help but take umbrage with her remark. “I kinda like it like that…not too many fat surf --- “ Tom caught himself. “Sorry, I used to surf and I believe in trying staying in good… shape.” Tom can’t help but notice the big bag of nacho flavored Doritos and the 7-11 Big Gulp on her desk. Mrs. Dollo pursed her lips together and said “Uh huh.”Tom figured he’s stepped in it now with this woman, so he’d better just cut to the chase. “Now what exactly would I be doing in this job?”
“Mister S-u-g-e-r-l-a-n-d, how would you like to be Santa Claus at The Westside Wonder Mall?” Tom just looked at her and thought to himself; “Are you fucking nuts lady?”

Saturday, November 19, 2011


Tom Sugerland sat on the sand watching the morning surf, drinking coffee out of the plastic cup from his thermos. The air was crisp, the sky sunny, it was a perfect November morning in Los Angeles. Tom was a man that could smell bullshit a mile away, but here he could only smell the salty sea air and his coffee. He was three months shy of fifty-nine; he hadn’t been out in the water with his board in over a year, not since busting his collarbone that day out in the surf. He missed it, but he figured that his time on the board was over, let the young guys and now gals, have their time on the beach. No need for an old man out there, getting in their way. It was ironic, that it was surfing that brought him from Sacramento to L.A., after watching all of those Frankie and Annette beach party movies, not to mention all those Beach Boys and Jan and Dean tunes that he used to listen to on his little plastic transistor radio. Putting his foot in the Pacific Ocean was the one thing that he’d promised himself he’d do, before he had to report to basic training in Fort Lewis, Washington, his last stop before Vietnam. And he spent all his money on a Greyhound bus ticket to do so. Funny as fate would have it, he barley set foot in South East Asia, when they pulled the plug on the whole damn mess. Not that he complained about it. When he returned to the States, he only went back to Sacramento to tell his family he was moving down to L.A. to be a surfer.

Tom squinted as the morning sun became brighter, he finished his last sip of coffee and screwed the cup on top of the thermos bottle and stood up. He was a rangy looking fellow, and his once dark hair, had gone from a pepper to now almost a snow white. It was so long; he often kept it in a samurai-style pony-tail. Tom walked back to his Chevy S 10 pickup; it looked empty and incomplete without a surfboard laying in the back. As Tom walked around the front of his truck, he notice parking ticket slapped on his windshield. “Damn it," he said. He stood there looking at it; fuming. Tom always tried not to sweat the small shit in life when possible. But something about parking tickets got his goat, made him rage in fact. To cool down his anger, he figured that the sixty-eight dollar fine, was just somehow the price that he had to pay for such perfect November weather. He remembered when beach living was casual and cheap, a thing of the past like those old cowboy movies he loved. But he was still mad at himself, for letting them get him again. “Damn, like I have sixty-eight dollars to throw away right now.” Tom took the ticket and stuffed in his glove box, then got in his pickup and started it. As he drove down Pacific Avenue,
He turned on the radio and pressed his programmed station buttons to find the proper tune that would momentarily take away the sting he felt from that parking ticket . Tom found it in “Spirit in the Sky," a song about Jesus, sung by a guy with an incredibly Jewish sounding name; Norman Greenbaum… he laughed to himself, as he wondered; what was with that?  Jewish name or not, that was cool with Tom. He felt he could use a friend in Jesus anyway; it couldn’t hurt, he figured.

It had been a year since his injury, which started the domino effect in his life; him losing his job as a tow-truck driver. He was pretty broke these days, but broke was better than poor… broke was temporary, but poor to Tom was something else all together.

Gene Kelly to Beatles Ob-la-Di-Ob-la-da


Joe Ely at The Mint
All Photos Copyrite Ray Ramos
I'm not a music critic, but I know what I like and I like; Joe Ely! He's cool! The Texas rocker-troubadour, who's played with such artists as; The Clash, John Mellencamp and Bruce Springsteen and opened for the likes of Tom Petty and the Heartbreaks, Linda Ronstadt and even The Rolling Stones themselves, made one of his rare visits to The City of Angeles this past Thursday night. When Joe Ely's boots are planted in your town (like fellow Texan, Billy Joe Shaver) you don't want to miss him ... cuz, he's the real deal! The legend that you might never of heard of? I caught him at West L.A.'s classic club; The Mint... and I brought my camera with me!
Joe Ely: Satisfied At Last
When I first heard of Joe Ely, he was being labeled as a country punk rocker from Texas, he's out-lived those days, and has worn many different sombreros since then... from Buddy Holly country, Lubbock, Texas, Ely remains one of the best singer-songwriters in music. A Joe Ely tune, is not unlike reading Larry McMutry novel; sometimes stoic, sometimes romantic, always Texas, and that other place south of the boarder (I know for a fact, he speaks a lot more Spanish than I do.) If you want to take a road trip across the southwest, Joe Ely's music is the perfect companion (one fine day I hope to make a little western, and I dream of only Joe Ely to write the music for it.)

When Joe Ely Comes To Town; GO!
Ely's set at The Mint consisted of many songs from his new CD; SATISFIED AT LAST. His new stuff did not disappoint... you know when you go see an artist and you get disappointed when he plays the new stuff? Well, his new stuff was just as good as his old stuff! Cuts such as: The Highway Is My Home, Not Much Has Changed, Mockingbird Hill, I'm A Man... not to mention the title track" Satisfied At Last (as Joe joked... satisfied at last... for now!) Joe even included a damn good Billy Joe Shaver song; Live Forever, a tune made famous by The Highwaymen (Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson & Kris Kristofferson.) Also in his set was a haunting rendition of Butch Hancock's, beautiful tune; If You Were A Blue Bird.

Joe Ely: Texas Music Legend
For an encore song, Ely took the cue from a certain man from Venice and played his classic; Me And Billy The Kid. Which was only fitting, after I read an article in this weeks Los Angeles Times on him, where Ely described his first trip to Los Angeles back in the late 60's, he had one friend living out in L.A., in Venice of all places! Ely described walking from LAX to his buddy's place in Venice, lugging his big guitar all the way down Lincoln Blvd ( and making one arm longer than the other in the process... or so he says?) thus the beginning of the life of a true troubadour.

Tony Brockert, Joe Ely & Me
The Classic Sign