For two Saturdays this month I was fortunate enough to be the one taking the "photos with Santa" at his Winter Wonderland headquarters in Brookings. When Santa wasn't busy answering the childrens' questions, he was answering a few of my own.

Me: Why are you hanging out so much in Brookings?

Santa: I love Brookings! The fishing is great this time of year and its much warmer than the North Pole.

Me: Where are the reindeer?

Santa: Hidden in a secret location.

Me: Azalea Park?

Santa: (whispering): Shhh, don't tell.

Me: Have you ever thought of retiring?

Santa: Only since I started visiting Brookings. In fact, I'm having a hard time going back to the North Pole this year.

Me: Yes, that happens to many folks who visit, and then they move here. Do you think you'll move here?

Santa: It's possible. I just bought a second home, and I'm thinking of moving the whole toy operation here.

Me: That would help boost the local employment rate.

Santa: How? Do any elves live in Brookings?

Me: Uh, no. You only employ elves?

Santa: Correctomundo!

Me: How about short people with pointy ears?

Santa: Nope. It has to be the real deal.

Me: Darn!

(Santa chuckles.)

Me: So, I've been busy typing in letters to Santa from local school children for a special Holiday Greetings section going in the Dec. 23 issue.

Santa: Oh! I love that section!

Me: You've seen it before?

Santa: Yes! We have a mail subscription to the Pilot at the North Pole. Mrs. Claus loves to read the classifieds, especially the Bargain Corner. Me? I like the Letters to the Editor.

Me: Why?

Santa: Helps me keep track of who's been naughty and nice.

Me: In the letters to Santa the most popular gift requests are for MP3 and video game players and other high-tech items. Any thoughts?

Santa: Well, I'm a little concerned that children may be tuning out the real world by plugging into their iPods and playing video games too much. But then again, people once thought Elvis and the Beatles were a bad influence. So who's to say?

Me: What else is big on children's wish lists?

Santa: Bikes and skateboards. Which is good, because those get the children off the couch and outside for some exercise. And puppies, too. Many puppies are going to find good homes this Christmas!

Me: The childrens' letters I've received have some great questions for you. Mind if I ask you a few?

Santa: Fire away!

Me: Is Mrs. Claus pregnant?

Santa: Ha! Ha! .. (choke, cough) ... Ha! Ha!. That's a good one. Nope. No little Santas in our future.

Me: Is the sleigh ride scary?

Santa: It's a hoot! In fact, I take it for a spin a least once a week all year long.

Me: Have you ever crashed?

Santa: Nope. Magic things don't crash. I fell out once, but the sleigh didn't crash.

Me: Why are the elves ears pointy?

Santa: Well, we first thought it was because they were from Vulcan. But they're not that logical, so now we think they might be Romulans.

Me: Do you really go down chimneys?

Santa: Yes. With more and more people locking their doors andndash; which can really slow down the delivery process andndash; the chimney is the best way to go.

Me: One girl said her brother wants a cow for Christmas. How are you going to pull that one off?

Santa: It depends. The Jerseys are real mellow, but the Holsteins put up a fight when we try to get them in the gift sack.

Me: Have you ever thought of replacing Rudolph?

Santa: It's tempting, what with all the cool GPS technology out there. But no. It just wouldn't be Christmas without good, old Rudy. Plus, children are always looking for that glowing nose on Christmas eve!

Me: Speaking of Christmas eve. How do you get around the world in one night?

Santa: I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you. Ho! Ho! Ho! I'm just kidding. It is possible, but some people think it's not because scientists haven't figured it out yet.

Me: And you have?

Santa: Of course! Just think, 30 years ago nobody knew about string theories and quantum physics. Heck, people once thought the world was flat! One day, science will show that a man can fly around the world in one night but, for now, it's my little secret. And I'm not telling.

Me: Fair enough. What about all the cookies and milk children set out for you? Do you eat them all?

Santa: Man, that's the best part of the job! I eat and drink most of it, but I do share some with the reindeer andndash; the sugar rush on top of the pixie dust kicks them into hyperdrive! I also bring some home for Mrs. Claus and the elves.

Me: Do you have a Christmas wish list?

Santa: Certainly! I don't always get everything on my list, but that doesn't stop me from asking.

Me: What sort of things?

Santa: I want every boy and girl to be with somebody they love on Christmas. I wish for a safe return for everyone serving overseas in the U.S. military. I want jobs for everyone who is unemployed. Good health for all who are sick and afflicted. Homes for the homeless and ...

Me: Wow! That's quite a list.

Santa: Yes. I'm the eternal optimist.

Me: That you are! Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. It's been great. Merry Christmas!

Santa: Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas to you and all Curry Coastal Pilot readers!