My first ever job was also my best ever job. I was an elf. But I was not like a lame shopping mall elf, this was a cool elf gig, and it was at Casa Loma in Toronto, which is one of those castles that was brought over brick-by-brick from Europe. And the elf gig there was that you were like a free-range elf. You were just supposed to be wandering around the castle, entertaining people and doing whatever.
And to audition for this job, you had to come up with an elf persona, and an elf shtick, and your own elf costume. Mine was, I had this little mini skirt that was green felt and gold lamé and blue taffeta leaves, and this little gold chainmail shirt, and these elf boots I made which were grey, they were camel skin on the bottom with bells and they looped up. I would teach children how to write their names in Tolkien Elvish and do cartwheels and juggle.
One of my other elves was this Grateful Dead dude, and he had this whole shtick which maybe you have heard: about how Santa and the whole Christmas thing came from the Amanita muscaria. So he had a traditional red and white elf costume. His reasoning, and again, perhaps you’ve heard this story, of the Amanita muscaria that grows under pine trees, and the shaman who would take it would often dress in red and white as the mushroom was given as a gift on the winter solstice. The reindeer would eat the mushrooms, and they would drink the reindeer piss, and so thus, flying reindeer. His thing was that he would play the guitar for the kids and sing little songs, and the place where they had all the snacks for the kids he would make little signs that said “Magic Reindeer Juice”, which he would leave up there.
Our Santa was this guy named Chenai, which means “grandfather” in the Haida language. And Chenai spent a lot of the year living in what was then called the Queen Charlotte’s (it has a different name now) with the Haida, participating in their sacraments. And he was in a 40’s swing band, and during Christmas he would go into Santa gigs because he had long white hair and a big white beard and he was a fat guy.
You know, at the time I remember thinking “We’re really getting away with something. Jeez, if only the management knew what freaks we were.” In retrospect, I’m like, they hired us all, clearly they knew what freaks we were. They must have been freaks themselves. If any of you have children, you know that when you’re growing up you think you’re getting away with stuff, but now I’m around my friend’s children and I’m like, yeah, your parents know, they’re just tracking it to make sure you’re not going too far with it.
The gig went from November to the end of December, and just before Christmas Chenai said “Okay, it’s time for the little elves to come and sit in my lap and get their Christmas presents. So I sat on Chenai’s lap, and Chenai gave me a chocolate. It was not quite as big as a hockey puck, maybe a little smaller. I thought “That was very nice of him.”
I was there in the lunch room and I had eaten a quarter of my chocolate. I had it sitting on the table and Chenai came in and said “You’re not eating that now, are you?” So there had been a little communication cross, I had not realized that this was a mushroom chocolate that Chenai had given me as I was sitting there on his lap… ho ho ho.
And I got very high. I still had half the day left to run around Casa Loma being the sparkly elf, so I ended up spending a lot of the day outside, and keep in mind this is Toronto at the end of December. It was very snowy and very cold, and I’m in this little mini-skirt with these little felt boots. But I was a wood elf, so I would go and hide in bushes, and there was a lot of windows, and then I would run by the windows and wave at the kids, and go hide in some more bushes and jump out at the tourists, and then occasionally come in and get warm, and escape again.
I think this story probably should end in some way of like the great revelation of gift-giving, or frostbite, but it really doesn’t. It really ends in something that I’m guessing a lot of us have done, which is to manage to get through a day of work when you’re really way too high. It is a game I like playing now, though, when I’m at places and I’m watching people working, which is like “are they way too high?” So now you all know and you can play my mushroom elf game. Thank you.
Jennifer Dumpert is a San Francisco-based writer and lecturer, and the founder of the Oneironauticum, an international organization that explores the phenomenological experience of dreams as a means of experimenting with mind.
Pin It on Pinterest
Psymposia focuses on emerging science, stories, & social issues of psychedelics and drug reform,
with our magazine, podcast, & events.