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

Thursday, November 17, 2011

There is Something About Mary Dog And Man Fight Funny

I'm Going To Write Us: A Short Christmas Story.

Greetings Friends,
As some of you know, I have a little blog here... lately, I haven't had the time to do much writing on it. Well, excuses, excuses I know. So, I'm going to put myself out on a limb here. I'm going to attempt to use my blog to write a little Christmas story (for whoever cares to read it?) Which, I'll then repost on Facebook. I'll shoot for a page (maybe more) every other day or so. It'll be a very rough draft (and you know me, I'm sure you'll see a type-o or two and there) but you'll be able to watch the story grow, as I put it together. And please, feel free to put my feet to the fire, if I start to fluff off and don't get my page out on time. This as an exercise, but also a way for myself to get into the holiday spirit. So who knows where this will go?

Peace & wish me luck,