Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Wild Indians and the Guests Who Wouldn't Leave

Since the first Thanksgiving, Americans have celebrated with turkey and stuffing and goodhearted bickering. And booze. Traditionally, women and indentured servants prepared the bird while men drank like fish and watched football on television. Occasionally, a vegan was burned at the stake, usually after bringing a tofurkey, something that looks like a turkey and tastes like a football thereby combining both major elements of Thanksgiving.

Ideally, Thanksgiving is the perfect holiday--but as Plato told us wisely, the Ideal exists only in the mind. Expectations run high, and quarreling often bubbles just below the surface like the ptomaine in Aunt Anita's oyster stuffing that year everyone became so violently ill. When she slammed that terrified blancmange on the table, a long line of stomachs turned in unison. Just as you would avoid such poisonous stuffing, ignore the holiday boors who talk only of themselves and don't give a fig for others. Remember, some people may act strangely because they feel uncomfortable in a group, or because they lack basic social skills. Then again, they could simply hate you.

Surviving Thanksgiving, especially with the family, requires special skills. The pressure is on. You drive for hours in bumper to bumper traffic, and then--exhausted and irritable--you accidentally trip a half dozen landmines entering the parents' house. The dogs seethe with resentment. You drink to relax, and that helps up to a point, and then you flip on the game because it's Thanksgiving and you feel obligated to join the rest of your nation, but you quickly discover that football is just as boring as you remember it. You try. Giants on anabolic steroids collide in slow-mo, then again in instant replay, and you suddenly need another drink. Guests start arriving. Dogs are barking. Children are crying. The brothers-in-law are itching for trouble. Take a deep breath.

Perhaps you don't recognize yourself in these vignettes. Surely these are worst case scenarios. Then again, you may be in denial. Remember when all the relatives came over, the cousins and their significant others, who apparently hadn't eaten in weeks--how they ate you out of house and home, ransacked the liquor cabinet and the medicine chest, and then left with the pies? Remember when the kids gave each other black eyes, and their parents did the same? Remember when one brother-in-law said turkeys are the smartest animal on earth? When the other brother-in-law insisted you praise his new camera, and car, and selection of wine...that lyrical but not sarcastic Brunello di Montalcino? Remember when the drapes caught fire, and Dad ran off into the stormy night? Ah, Thanksgiving! It was like King Lear with leftovers.

Have a nice Thanksgiving! Good luck, too!

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