IN EARLY November, a new banner across the Orpheum Theater went up saying: Welcome to Christmas, the happiest time of the year. Coming soon.

Far as I could tell, Christmas was when children danced around like clowns on crack. Besotted parents cavorted around them like ninnies in the stupid race. And the rest of us stood back waiting for the inevitable explosion.

Despite how it started, Christmas had been morphed by the rich into a season of greed. It had nothing to do with whether a kid was good or bad, but how much money his folks had. Take the kids I knew down at the shelter. Shit, they could be as good as little angels, and the best they’d ever get was someone’s cast-off pity, which wasn’t going to do them a damned bit of good when the holiday parade of who-got-what started at school.

All Christmas did, as far as I was concerned, was make poor kids feel worse and rich kids feel more powerful and more ready to rub everyone else’s nose in their misfortune. And we all knew, where you started was pretty much where you ended up in life. The Christmas miracle was a lie that should have been shot in the head and buried eons ago.

Fortunately, here in the bowels of the old Orpheum Theater, the only Christmas merry-makers left were ghosts of vaudevillians, chorus girls, and corrupt managers, and the live help. Those of us who weren’t going from office party to cocktail land were left here to sweep the floors, squeegee jizz off bathroom walls, pry gum from under seats, and oust anything that moved after the doors were closed and locked.

I’ve been called cynical, a Scrooge, a vulture perched and ready to rip the eyes out of the season. It wasn’t true. I was as big a sap as the next guy.

I was working here at the Orpheum, wasn’t I?