By Gil Gadabout
THE NORTH POLE (DP) -- A little confused but mostly relieved to be headed for a short vacation, Kris Kringle -- aka Santa Claus -- loosened his belt before sitting at the press table.
"The 'missus' keeps threatening to enforce an Atkins Diet around the house," he joked to terse laughter from the gathered press horde. "I guess I've moved beyond 'jolly' to 'wobbly.' "
That Kringle can still crack jokes at 350 years of age is a medical marvel few care to attempt to explain. Kringle said carrying the burden of Christmas giving is not getting any easier, and humor is his only recourse.
"I probably have the only sleigh in the world with missile radar, but even that doesn't protect us against some whack job with a ground-to-air portable missile launcher," he said.
North Pole officials hinted Rudolph was off the reindeer lineup this year out of fear his nose might create a signature over Middle Eastern skies. One senior elf insider believes reindeer will eventually be phased out because of the potential for harm.
No official from Kringle's inner circle would confirm or deny the rumor.
When asked about the best of the good and worst of the bad, Kringle would only shake his head.
"There are men with no shame out there, but I know you're more interested in celebrities and politicians," he said with a finger wag at the hundred or so in the audience.
Elf Iben Isen, Naught List adviser, said a sliding scale for people in the media has always been part of the process.
"We can't really penalize actors and athletes for public indiscretions," he said. "They're already doubly punished by media scrutiny. And, let's face it, these are not among the brighter professionals. Santa has a big heart for the mentally challenged."
Gift tracker Ollie Oxenfree said gifts for the ultra-rich are quite a bit different than standard fare.
"We wish we could give out things like a charitable heart or good sense, but those gifts even exceed our unlimited budget," he said. "So we stick with things like out-of-season fish or a good pair of shoes."
Kringle expressed concern about the growing North Pole compound, with high-tech taking over, and the concern about the condition of the nearby water plume.
"Wooden dolls aren't even a novelty these days. It's getting to the point where maybe kids would prefer Santa was robot and the sleigh was a drone."