Giving Thanks

Wednesday, November 26, 2008 /by

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Mornin', everyone. It's a quiet Wednesday in New York, as it always is before Thanksgiving. Half the office is out, and as all's quiet on the tennis front. Tomorrow, bright and early, Lisa, Luke and I pull out for the eastern shore of Maryland, to visit with her side of the family.

We're going out for Thanksgiving dinner, about which I feel ambivalent. It doesn't exactly conform to what I think of as the holiday spirit (there's supposed to by a hysterical mom running around, sobbing because she's convinced she ruined the gravy, right?). On the other hand, one of the things that always bothered me about Thanksgiving with my own family is the obscene amounts of food that was prepared and cooked - ironically, my experience is that the last thing I want to do by the time the turkey comes out of the over on Thanksgiving Day is. . . eat.

So instead of eating, I usually picked a fight with whichever family member presented the biggest target.

Oh well. I was somewhat reassured when, at drop-off at Luke's school the other day, another parent told me that Thanksgiving was supposed to be a three day feast - hence the orgy of cooking and baking, because a family can consume a lot of turkey and the fixings over that span. I don't know if that's true, but it certainly alleviated any guilt I had, although "irritation" is a better word than guilt because hey - it wasn't me insisting that we need eight kinds of designer cheese plus smoked oysters and pate made from some poor duck that was force-fed on some French farm with its cute little webbed feet nailed to the floor. . .

Thanksgiving may be an orgy, but it's not as distasteful as the consumer blowout (also known as Christmas). I'm as much a consumer as anyone, at least on a day to day basis. But I hate shopping (except for a single item I decided I must have, which usually has something to do with firearms or some article of clothing in the color camo), and I especially hate shopping for a slew of people while all around me others are doing the same.

So the good things about Thanksgiving for me are, not necessarily in order: it's a present-free zone; the weather is usually really nice, in a somber, autumnal way; there's NFL football on TV; I like turkey and cranberry sauce (out of the can please; I like the squishy, sucking sound the jelly makes when you slide it out of the can, and my aim is always to keep those rings intact on the cylindrical blob you end up with); it's a one-day deal, with three more-or-less free days attached, which allow you to whatever you danged well please (if you can still move your carcass out of the Lazy-Boy by dawn on Friday) - although having to spend most of the long weekend at someone else's home puts a damper on things, and hosting Thanksgiving presents its own problems, mostly having to do with getting everyone to leave.

Having been a reporter/writer most of my life, I've spent Thanksgiving Day in some odd places, if hotel restaurants can be called that. It wasn't so much sitting down to a Thanksgiving meal alone as much as pushing back and returning to a hotel room, alone, or going out to some ballpark. It's easy to forget the extent to which the Thanksgiving menu only works in the appropriate setting of family and friends.

I mean, when did you last go to a fine restaurant and order roasted turkey, with mashed potatoes, stuffing and brussel sprouts or creamed spinach?  It's not a big problem for me, because I don't care that much about eating in fine restaurants, and I actually like turkey. But the most appropriate venue for it is the kind of diner where you get giant, full-color menus laminated in plastic, or the kind of old-fashioned New York coffee shop that is fast disappearing thanks to places that have scowling baristas with rings in their noses instead of long-suffering waitresses who smoke and call you "hon."

Hey, that reminds me - anyone out there ever read A Fine Madness, by Elliott Baker? The story of a poet (not the suffering kind, but the lazy, crafty sort), Samson Shillitoe and his beleaguered common-law wife, a waitress named Rhoda. It's second only in the niche (I confess to being bored to tears by serious, sensitive novels about artists) to one of my all-time favorites,  Joyce Cary's  The Horse's Mouth. Highly-regarded movies were made of both books, although both of them are a better experience in print. Where were we?

Yes, I am advancing into curmudgeon-hood quite nicely, thank you very much.

Our own Thanksgiving has become a kind of double-barreled holiday, because it's loco cowboy Luke's birthday (sixth) on Sunday. We kind of dropped the ball on an organized party at some kiddie gym or bowling alley this year, but we'll have a party Sunday night with my side of the family, most of whom are in or around New York City.

Luke has gone around the bend for Star Wars; I think it's mostly because this kid he looks up to in his class is into the vibe, full on. Just three or four weeks ago, my wife Lisa had been reading that excellent children's Little House on the Prairie series to Luke, but now all he wants to read is books that are part of the Star Wars "brand." It wouldn't be so bad if they weren't so poorly written, and I also have reservations about the entire Star Wars gestalt - it seems lacking in charm, beauty, even. . . stillness. It's all so industrial, metallic and, odd as it may seem, and for lack of a better word, un-green.

Of course, I caved on all that and Luke is going to bag the Star Wars X-Wing Fighter, some light sabers, and other Star Wars regalia, because he's lobbied everyone for them for weeks.

Well, what colleagues of mine did come around today have been drifting out and I'm just about alone here. Didn't mean to ramble above, but we don't get that much of a chance to talk anymore, because of the way this blog has grown and evolved. I'm very thankful to where we've traveled, as a TWibe, and I've even grown accustomed to the way life tugs so many of you this way and that, causing you to drop out, move on, pull the plug, whatever. . .  I do get a nice surge of satisfaction when one or another of the regulars who have been MIA suddenly pop up to post a comment.

I realize as I write this that I have a surprisingly strong feeling for the personalities of so many of our frequent posters of the past and present, and I'm also gratified that so many of you in the ever-evolving core group are so astute, witty, good-natured and, well, reliable. A long time ago, I realized that it was perilous to name names when I'm thinking along these lines, simply because it's so easy to omit this, that or the other one when I want to acknowledge those whom I feel have particularly embodied the spirit we've tried to create here. So you shall remain nameless, but not forgotten.

I'd also like to thank the Mod Squad, who work so hard to help keep this a free, open site without the bad bits - the taunting and vulgarity and general nastiness that plague some otherwise useful sites.

Rosangel will be providing some Your Call posts (although there's nothing to call, really) for the next two days, and I'm hoping she publishes some of her original photos with them. Jackie-oh is preparing a Deuce Club post for tomorrow. I'll be back with red-meat posts next week, but mostly we'll have Rosangel keeping us abreast of the action at the BlackRock Masters. And I'm around for a little bit yet today, if anybody wants to chat a little. I'd like to know what y 'all are doing for Thanksgiving and, of course, hoping you have a good one.

-- Pete

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