Hello, friends. The holidays are upon us. Everyone is busy running around trying not to forget anyone on their list. I for one don't want to forget to thank all of you wonderful people who have supported me during these past seven months. Your letters, cards, chats and especially your blog comments have been insightful and a constant source of energy and inspiration in my humble work. You remind me that it is a privilege to be able to do what I do. Also, a big thank-you to Gina from NBC publicity, who started this whole blog thing with me and has since moved to New York to take another job in the company. Happy holidays, Gina!

My last blog brought on an unexpected deluge of Tootsie Pops. It was a total surprise when I started receiving box after box of Tootsie Pops. The Tootsie Pops brought on scores of inquiries from my coworkers at the studio. Like this one from our mail dude at work:

Wendy (short for a really long name I can't spell) came a-sauntering down the hall after the first week of the Great Tootsie Pop Avalanche of 2006 and asked, "Stephen, what's up with the Tootsie Pops, did you mention you like them or something?" I said, "Uh, something like that." Wendy said, "Next time ask for steak and maybe lobster." If I had been smarter I would have come up with an iPod metaphor or one involving high-end video/audio equipment. Someone tipped me off that it was Sherry who organized the whole thing. Thanks, Sherry McCutcheon, for coming up with the silly idea to send them. You Tootsie Pop senders are keeping our makeup room supplied with suckers.

So, speaking of that particular metaphor, how was that chewy chocolate center, anyway? Was it all you had hoped for? I'd like to hear from you. Mary Beth [Evans] and I took those scenes by the horns and wrestled them down as hard as we could.

Coming up: in their newfound bliss, Steve surprises Kayla with tickets to a Clay Aiken concert, but Steve's reading of the Christmas story at the hospital runs late, so he and Kayla miss the concert. Steve runs into Clay on his way out and talks him into doing a private Christmas concert. There were so many people at the studio who are fans of Clay - the excitement was palpable. Josh Taylor said he was a big fan, and Clay's best friend and roommate, Christy, is a huge fan of Days, so I asked Josh if he could introduce Christy to the rest of the cast. He was happy to do it. Clay was very gracious, taking photos and signing autographs.

When we got to rehearsal and tape, Clay asked if he needed to stick to the script because he would "never remember the lines." I told him I had tweaked my lines around a bit and we could just play and not worry about the script. He was happy to improvise with me. In this situation, Clay just being himself worked well and it didn't have that staid feeling of something scripted. Kudos to our director, Roger Inman, for always being there to get the shots. The song was very sweet and quite apropos for Steve to offer Kayla. All in all, I think the day was a success. (You can see all photos at stephennichols.net.

My friend Denise (see photo), who works up in the production office, runs a holiday toy drive for The Sycamores www.sycamores.org, which is a child- and family-services facility that has been in business for many years, helping children in the organization's residential treatment facilities. They also have foster-care programs and in-home adoption services. Days' actors and staff have purchased lots of toys for the kids this year, and I will be Santa at the studio this week when the kids come to get the gifts.

Renée [Jones] and Rhasaan [Orange]'s last day was Friday. It is always bittersweet (see photos). Renée has been with the show 13 years, so she was understandably emotional. I have to say that the news of her departure sent a shockwave around the studio. It was plain to see that she is loved around there. I hugged them both. I can empathize, believe me.

[Executive producer] Ken [Corday] also made a point of saying, "We had ice cream yesterday." This puzzled Mary Beth. She said she saw everyone walking around with Baskin Robbin's cups and wondered what that was about. Ken told her they pass out ice cream when we are No. 1 in the demographics, which we were last week. Mary Beth said, "When this happens, they should do a big announcement over the PA. It would be big morale booster." Believe me, Mary Beth is the biggest morale booster we have around here. They should let her do the announcement.

Funny story: today, one of our stunt coordinators, Mike Adams, came to me and said he got a call from a fellow stuntman, Alan, inquiring about me. I had worked with Alan this past Friday. Alan asked Mike how well he knew me. Mike said he had worked with me for several years. Mike stunt-coordinated on Days back in the '80s, and I asked him to choreograph the fight scene in my presentation pilot, Wild Horses. Alan went on to say that he thought I was "a bit crazy." He said, "The guy had a look in his eye that scared me." It's true that I go a bit bonkers in the story and I was "acting" a bit crazy on stage, but this Alan dude thought that was the real me. I got the biggest kick out of this. I told our director Albert Alarr and he laughed and said he had just been discussing with another crew member how everyone is afraid to ask me to do another take now, for fear that I will flip out and try to kill them. I said, "Are you kidding? I'm the one who is always begging to do another take!" Man, do we have fun!

I recently heard Gore Vidal say something to the effect that the act of writing is the act of finding out what you think. That is definitely a benefit of this exercise in blogging; I wish I could find more time to do it. Happy holidays, everyone. See you in 2007.

World Peace Out!
The Patch Man