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HOLIDAY CHEER
Painting the town red
BY CHRIS WRIGHT

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

Recently, a truncated version of Francis Churchís celebrated editorial has been appearing on sidewalks all over Greater Boston. For some, the many red, spray-painted SANTA IS REAL tags have provided comic relief from the fretful reveries of the holiday season. The authorities, though, are not amused. " The heat, man, " explains " Tagger, " the person responsible for the project. " They are hunting me down. " Accordingly, Tagger will agree only to an e-mail interview, and only on condition that his/her identity is kept secret. " I need you to swear not to reveal who I am, " Tagger writes, adding, " and if you can correct all grammar and type-os. Thanks. "

Q: What gave you the idea for this?

A: I was in a car that almost crashed and the weirdest thing happened. Instead of saying, " Thank God we didnít crash, " instead of praying to Jesus, all I kept saying was, " Santa is real, Santa is real. " Weird, huh?

Q: Who pays for the paint?

A: Me. And I am enjoying my ramen-noodle diet, thank you very much.

Q: Is this your first foray into tagging?

A: Why no, it isnít. I was a punk rocker way back when, spraying for bands, but nothing was as rewarding and satisfying as this. Basically, I am using a punk-rock tactic to expose a universal message that all types of people can agree with, or at least get a little smile from.

Q: Do you do this alone?

A: Yes. I find it very peaceful. Many want to come, but I love wandering the city late at night or really early in the morning. There is nothing like having the city to yourself.

Q: How do you pick your spots?

A: I try to do tags on the sidewalk, so they are there for people who are sad with their eyes on the ground. I want to cheer them up the most. Once in a while there is a gorgeous empty space that is just begging for a liíl SANTA IS REAL action ó a blank wall. I really do try to keep the tags low, though, for those folks who arenít holding their heads high. They seem to need the message the most.

Q: Youíve said that this campaign is " semi-legal " ó isnít it actually illegal?

A: The SANTA IS REAL project is extremely illegal.

Q: Are you generally a law-abiding citizen?

A: Yes, very, very much so.

Q: Do you have fun doing this?

A: Itís the most amazing high. Nothing has ever come close to the thrill of running into the middle of a crowd, people screaming, " Yaah! I believe in Santa! " It creates a conversation. Now that the project is getting known, people keep an eye out for cops for me ó I hear people screaming across the street, " Hey! Santa-is-real graffiti person! " I even had an old lady look out for me in Copley Square. She said my message was " cute. " Man, that lady was cool. People ask questions, " What does it mean? " , and I say that Santa is in all of us. Most agree, but some like to challenge the existence of Claus. But that isnít what the message is about. SANTA IS REAL is about recapturing the magical moment when we were young and believed that a giant white-bearded man had mystical powers, was able to hear our most secret wishes, and wanted to make them come true.

Q: Is it ever scary?

A: Yes, extremely, but thatís part of the thrill, running from cops, firemen, and meter maids. Dude, they are hunting my ass. I have been chased by a few cops. One was real fast. He said that if it wasnít a message that he too believed in, he would " run my ass to jail, now get going. " I owe that officer a dozen Dunkiní Donuts, for sure.

Q: Are there any other dangers ó run-ins with unsavory characters, say?

A: Nope, not yet. I donít think anyone wants to come near me, because I reek so badly of fumes.

Q: Can you give us a clue as to your identity?

A: Have you been sniffing my paint fumes? Are you high? No way.

Q: Do you belong to an organization?

A: I have a library card. Does that count?

Issue Date: December 12 - 19, 2002
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