Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Keepin' it Turkey

Tomorrow is what for many Americans must be a favorite holiday.  I'm not sure Christians would completely feel comfortable saying it, but Thanksgiving is an awfully fun and easy time.  And even for the cook, what could be more fun than an entire day of pigging out (and watching football.)

Some families have lavish meals with ham, turkey, and god knows what variation on the usual table sagging feast.  Some people fill the turkey with oysters (which sounds like a great thing to try.  How could, provided the oysters were fresh, it taste BAD?)   Some people have a complicated "stuffing" mix (a sort of bread mixture that is put into the turkey.  Health officials have been warning the public for years to keep it out of the bird, and bake it in a pan instead, due to the fact that Americans routinely eat Turkeys that through the process of slaughter are infected with human pathogens.  The stuffing keeps the turkey much cooler, and absorbs the germs, protecting them from the killing heat of the oven.  It's part of the fun of the American "feed," be it BBQ, or Thanksgiving, to cheat death, break the rules, and give grandma a kiss all at the same goddamn time.  Hey!

I'm not really in the mood to ask a lot of questions about Thanksgiving.  I never really thought it meant anything but the enjoyment of family, anyway.  One thing you always notice on Thanksgiving is that every driveway is absolutely filled with cars of visitors, and people are packed in every house.  Of course, some people go to a restaurant, and order a depressing variation on what grandma can't cook anymore.  It's a great measure of the difference between what commercial establishments promise, and what, at the end of the day, even the finest can really deliver.  Savor for a shilling; but only at the right time, and never over the boundary of the sacred.  Blackened redfish for Thanksgiving, at least in Indiana, is roughly equivalent to having sex on a churches altar.  Even if nobody but God knows.  It's simply a fact.

Very few holidays in America, are about America.  Sure, the fourth of July, is supposedly about America... but if you bring that up at the BBQ, people will tolerate you, as opposed to welcome any sort of conversation.  You could say instead, "Have you seen that cat video, on You Tube, where the cat is inside a pair of underpants (even if you are making it up!) and the entire table, or patio of people will laugh and tell you their own You Tube obsession.  Just don't discuss the fourth of July in the context of American history.  It's like, fifth grade history, or something.  Know what I mean?  (say "know what I mean" with no spaces between the words, and you are getting close to sounding like a Hoosier.  Be sure to really ring that "mean."  MEEEEEEEN!)

Thanksgiving, however, sort of beats the crap out of you if you don't sort of realize its significance where the coming together of family and friends is concerned.  Always at the back of your mind, even if you're a surly redneck, is that this was the holiday that sort of nods at that tiresome, and none the less slightly true fact that America is that idiotic country where people break bread together who have absolutely nothing in common.  Of course, there are many other countries that merge many different cultures probably far more effectively than America.  But still... I more or less have no ethnicity, and it's been a long time since a date even asked me, "where do you come from."  It completely doesn't matter.  That I write poetry is perhaps twenty times more important to someone I meet than the fact that I am Polish, French, German, and Irish.

So, it's probably the case that at Thanksgiving, we sit with the ghosts of our grandparents and ask them, "why didn't you notice your husband had that funny accent... couldn't you have married a person from the home country?"  Then someone asks you to pass the gravy, and grandma's passions sort of make sense.  She was probably eating something, and noticed the guy with the hot-dog.  It was the hot-dog that made her do it.  We're Americans.  Hot dogs are important.  Pass the gravy.  "Let's talk Turkey."  Nowadays you'd say, if you were my age, "keep it real."  Same difference.  In America.  But do people say in France, "Let's talk Turkey."  I doubt it.  They probably say, "Lets boil a frog in the river it was born."  I could well imagine that.  Of course the kids in France, due to the global passion for the artform of the African American, say, to their parents total shock and illness, "keepin' it real."  Ribbit.

I  told you I wasn't going to consider this thing critically.  I refuse.  I'm going to my aunt and uncles tomorrow, and we're going to eat a lot, play Charades, probably go to a movie, and drink to the point where driving is a real bad idea.  And halfway through the meal a litmus test of a persons true American mirth will be dipped in each person at the tables soul.  What's this?  Well... my uncle, a great lover of obvious questions and I think a close observer of human behavior, though he'd never really make you feel analyzed or anything, typically asks everyone at the table, to go in a circle and state what they are thankful for.  This is generally not done, in case you aren't aware of this, in America, since like everywhere else, "what I am thankful for" runs somewhat counter to the basic observation that today is, as it were, "another day in paradise."  As in, one more goddamn day.  So my uncle ignores this basic tenant of the typical modern individual and asks you anyway.  And everyone says something.  It's a nice tradition, and like most such things, drives the sufferers of particularly bad humours rather nuts.  Which is perhaps its true appeal for me.  I could easily get away with saying, "I'm thankful that the Seinfeld cast is going to be together on this months episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, at eight PM eastern standard time on HBO!"  and everyone would giggle, but nod politely, and more or less mean it.  I could as easily say that I was thankful that I lived for twenty two years of Mother Teresa's life, before she died some eleven or twelve years ago.  Way to go Mother!  I miss you.  Thanks!  And my family would nod sagely, there being at this sacred table, no particularly jarring difference between Mother Teresa and the television listings (or for that matter, my appetite for either of them.)  This can drive a philosopher crazy. But for me, it goes really well with cranberries, mashed potatoes, and corn bread all mixed together, cold, in the middle of the night, my feet bones aching on the tile floor of a dark midnight... giggling with my cousins.  Let the philosopher have the aria of his or her convictions, and I'll take the simple, concentrated animal feeding operation of my truly thankful people.


Midnight Whisperer said...

The celebration of Thanksgiving, a tradition dating back to the Ancient Hebrews and their feasts of Succoth. Regardless of what individuals claim as tradition, as long as it is true to something worth celebrating. Cold turkey and leftovers at midnight with giggling cousins sounds plenty worthy enough. Happy Thanksgiving Andy... What ARE you really thankful for?

Harlequin said...

Canadian thanksgiving is much less elaborate ... but my home province,Newfoundland, can find as more ways to celebrate family than you can shake a stick at... and that's a good thing.
My spouse is a dual citizen, and so we shall also be cooking and eating bird and, of course, watching football.
Happy thanksgiving to you, Andy :)

Anonymous said...

people are celebrating thanksgiving in my community. as a young man I thought the only people who didn't celebrate thanksgiving were liberals and communists. i remember the 80s and these intellectuals in miserable cloths, always debating if something was right or not. you seem like a sensible man, andy. quite alike a man in my community. he is working in the service business and have to listen to my ramblings. i am a rambling man. oh shit now i dropped some cigarette ash on the keyboard. maybe the plastic will start to melt, shit. i often spill coffee on it. not coffey, i noted your name hahaha. do you pronounce it coffee? well the eighties, these were high times for my community. it was rich back then and my country was something to be proud of. lately this old man has began to view things as you young liberals do however. it began with me noticing the streets outside my house was in a horrible condition. it turned out that the city couldn't afford to fix the asphalt. i paid for it myself (outside my house of course). i was mighty upset. do you celebrate thanksgiving, andy? you do look like a man who like to eat his turkey. I don't mean you look like a man who likes to eat a lot but you look like a man who is alive and well and out and about. and i saw that you are a carpenter. so you need a lot of meat to be up and about. i don't understand the pale nose skinny vegetarians. i tried to be one myself in the 70s at college but i needed my meat. sorry for an old man's ramblings. i'm 58 but i sure look and feel like 85. i have false teeth.

Andy Coffey said...


I certainly didn't know about the Ancient Hebrews, though I suppose I have read the word Succoth. After I have responded here, I am leaving myself a note to learn more about this lineage of tradition. Your erudition surprises this Hoosier Hayseed. Book learning! It'll spoil us all..
Yeah, true to form, I was laughing like crazy with my cousins, and some of their children, and two aunts and three uncles, over cold turkey, and warmed cassaroles. One of my cousins went to Steak N Shake (for a snack) and this would be a family joke, since, I kid you not, every time my family comes back to Indiana, we'll go out to dinner and someone will, on the trip back home, pull into Steak N Shake, for a chocolate malt, some fries and a soda. I believe Steak N Shake is not only headquartered in Indiana, but is mostly just a midwestern chain. It's all grease, all the time. And apparently many many Hoosiers outside of my family suffer from this affliction.
So, it isn't just leftovers. Though, there was plenty of that.
When we couldn't get into the extremely intellectual Ninja movie that we were going to go to, since I absolutely refused to see the new Sandra Bullock movie,for completely superficial and frankly embarrassing reasons; we decided to rent a movie instead, so a few of the cousins went and got THE International, a Clive Owen and Naomie Watts movie. Lovely cast, somewhat ridiculous role for Naomie, and Clive was his usual macho cadaver. Alikable actor, if not really in closeup. Though most women I know seem to regard him in the opposite manner. What's wrong with them?
What I loved seeing in close up, was my family. Fifteen beautiful, smiling, sighing, slightly intoxicated, more or less lovely souls, absolutely, en mass, giving the devil his due. For they are a descent bunch, and got little use for temptation.
Besides, we always say grace, since two of us consider such a thing, a necessity: my Uncle Tom and Aunt Anne.
The Colts football led the roster, as the most popular item to be thankful for.
I simply was thankful for my parents, as they have provided me these last two years with a truly large amount of emotional stuff to think about. And such a burden is so great a pleasure for me, that they rose to the top of a list, that they will always be on anyways. I am not thankful for the Colts.
What am I really thankful for, Midnight?
I sometimes come out of a theatre after a play, or a Hall after a recital, or an Auditorium after an Opera, or a Movie theatre, after a Ninja movie: and you know how it is. THERE was a story, a narrative, a beginning, and hopefully an end that may not be happy, but demands some sort of reckoning. And there I stand, like I stood with my Grandfather's "people" at the tip of the living, and the edge of some fiction. There I stand in the common boundary between the unbelievable world, and the Make Believe of human artifice... God bless its many facets. If the play is say, Thornton Wilder's "Our Town" I look at my people descending, slowly to the theaters foyer, and exiting gloriously perfumed in leather and eau de toliette, hissing the hydraulics of the doors, and thinking still of Emily, the simultaneously victim of history, and life... but also love, and hope, and hopelessly pedestrian, domestic, realms that would make a grad student shudder at the middle class stink of it all.
Well... there I stand with the people of my town. We living and dying, and hoping and despairing. We, watching and waiting... We walking toward home. And if the snowflakes were falling that night as I remember them, and the light of my town, held the darkness where I remember, still, it hung; would you guess that I'm thankful to live, Midnight, and love such a group as these people?

Andy Coffey said...

You know.... I guess Harlequin it goes to the fact that we are half body and half spirit (just to simplify the matter of actually quantifying such a ratio!) So at Thanksgiving, we sorta got to give the Peter and Paul, something EACH, and that's going to involve something more than a weekend retreat at the local monastery. We're sacred and profane/ and so is our favorite, lipsmacking, pious, family centered, total blowout, sports and cinema, biggest travel day of the year. Sacred. Profane.
Newfoundland is probably a place I should avoid, since, every time you mention it, it sounds to me like my beloved Madison on steroids. History, geography, weather, stoicism, family...the confluence of circulatory systems of the earth buh, buh. Buh, buh. The sternum of our hemisphere.
Did I mention that Indiana is a mild and temperate place where corn grows well? My standards are much higher than my description... promise!
Sounds like you got the best of both worlds in your [wont go there] half. I'm glad you are cooking bird. In World War Two I believe they cooked garlands of Cardinals. What kind of birds are you submitting to the flame?
Thanks Harlequin; Happy Thanksgiving to you as well.

By the way, three of my relatives reside in Toronto, and two of them, for now, are Canadian citizens. All three were with me last night. We are all fans of Canada, in liberal land. "Blame Canada" for being the "golden child" of the western hemisphere. It's hurtin' our self esteem. Thanks.

Midnight Whisperer said...

Traditions of gathering for the purpose of giving thanks range back eons and eras. I think that no matter the setting, activities planned or unplanned, and company you choose to keep at such a celebration are irrelevant to the purpose of the gathering. That we as humans set aside a day to celebrate the fortunes that have been bestowed upon us is the true heart of something worth being thankful for. That no matter our differences or backgrounds or religious affiliations, we can come together and give gratitude for whatever it is we are grateful for. It is something that goes beyond celebrating a pilgrims feast. And life (as you said) is more than worthy a reason to give thanks. Add some chocolate malts and greasy food, what could be better? ; )

Andy Coffey said...


A lot of true believers look like they have a florescent light right above their arched brows, giving a particular relief to their mandatory sack cloth (and poor hair styles.) But I love them anyway. The dark corners of their eyes, bespeaking of sleepless nights, and restless lives. The notion that there are groups of people worrying about truth and justice, despite the overwhelming evidence from nature that such worry amounts to an abject belief in ghosts who tend not to reveal themselves until you are so old that real people are what haunt you. It's kinda delightful watching people piss there pants for what they have decided is right. And it's even more delightful when those people are more or less correct in the spirit of their critical faculty, but who refuse to see the monolith with which they joust. A windmill, by comparison, is but a pittance.

Ah the mountains inspire... for no real good reason. Why "they take us up where we belong!" you might allude, your life stretching back to the 1980's and perhaps a trip of days, into the bosom of the earth, that is but one way to put those shapely geographical features.

And yet we love them all the same: we can't help ourselves. Why love twenty thousand tons of rock more than a handful of dust? I'm reasonably certain such a question is rarely considered. And yet...

Ideology is much like the mountains. It feels good to employ, and great to lasso your comrade with. Of course, the fact that the first thing you'll confess to your comrade is, "in fact, I think I might have lost my faith," is irrelevant. It's the pure fun of the thing, the "knowledge" and certainty of being "confident"; with the truth.

Yet love is not an ideology. Love does not care for the truth nearly as much as it cares for the being straight before you. They are a broken mess (compare them to a mountain sometime: your spouse will say, "I am up to here, sick of smelling your breathe. Why can't you smell like a pine forested slope of Mt Shasta?" It's a good question, but has nothing to do with love.)

The shocking truth, to the fool who wishes we all were joined at the hip (comrades to say the least) is that it doesn't matter a god damned bit, whether someone conforms to your ideals or not. What matters... the only thing that matters... is whether you love them or not.

God, what a painful, and utterly inconvenient thing to realize, when you've had your friend over a barrel for some time, eh?

Mule, your comments are filled with a humorous dry wit, and the words of a lovely soul who continues to suffer this world, and almost can't bear to be seen enjoying himself. I relate to this. The warmest, best things in life, are oftentimes the last things I ASK for, as I probably lack the confidence to take what might belong to anyone. It's a subtle insecurity, but there it is.
Your conviction that you are a fifty something geriatric is terribly interesting, and might be heartbreaking, depending on how painful you find each day.

And yet, your pliant perspectives on the changes in your life, cry out to be asked after. Why why why, and perhaps a little crying as well.

There's just something about the way you write and confess, and exclaim that is so likable to me. And yeah, I guess I am a sucker for the elderly: so your "advanced age" is probably prejudicing me. Sorry.

Mule: thank you. And whether you stand on the Mountain, or wonder sometimes, where love will come from again... I think it is not the obligation, but the privilege of everyone you have ever known to love you. And occasionally to brush the ash from your keyboard, as a friend might, a tear from your eye.
Happy Thanksgiving.

PS yes you say my name like the warm beverage.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

thank you for your kind words, Andy. i think a lifetime in the department leaves a man aged. I have always been conservative, andy. lately, as i said, i have been thinking about how important my community is. it started with me getting invited to a neighbor. kind decent people. her husband is away at evenings and i started visiting the wife when her husband works. she told me i was welcome any time. she always gave me delicious food every time i visited. turkey, cheese, hamburgers, you name it man. she told me a lot about her life. her husband was apparently an asshole, never made enough money for her. i told her about my wife who left me fifteen years ago for another man. and my children who never visit. this old man sits at home by himself with only a cleaning lady who visits daily. and some friends from my job. so i suggested she should get over to my house now and then and use my swimming pole. she was overjoyed. my house is her house, i told her. we had a hell of a time for a while. i felt twenty years younger and started to putting on weight. we ate a lot, andy. and drank. it was a true paradise. then she told me half a year ago they had to move. why? i asked. turns out the worthless husband had lost his job. alright, i said. this country doesn't protect is citizens. i never thought about it before but when looking at this beautiful, innocent forty year old woman with long black hair, i felt what the fuck. i may be turning into a socialist or communist but i will protect my community. i would not accept this. i went over to the husband. he was smoking. i told him right there and then the poor man had a job as a handy man to help me with things. i payed him 1400$. more than nothing, the man was in tears as he accepted. you see, andy, i look after my community. 
the husband is often travelling in my service, while his wife continues her trouble free life. swimming in my pool. because my home is hers.
lately i realized this country should do the same! people with money should help the poor. next time it could be me. or you my friend. we aimed for a shining temple upon a hill, but this temple shall include all of us. we should we be proud of being Americans. i voted for the democrats in the last election. not because i like them (i never trust democrats). but this country is supposed to be free. freedom is more than words, don't you think? its bread and butter. ham on rye, its the poor man who looks a fellow citizen who ears more than 4000000 $ a year in the eyes. that is the nation i wanted to live in as a young man, andy.
sorry for this old mules shrieking. something about your writing and your generous comments makes me want to talk. but just tell me to shut up and i will

Andy Coffey said...


Were you to shut up, methinks the lights would go out. You are neither at my service, beck and call, or required in any sense at all to please me. I cannot call you a friend, as I barely know you, and consider the word worth careful application.

As to the relevance and quality of your comment: I think you have inspired me to write a post on it, rather then just a comment. Would you mind, Mule, if I quoted your brilliant exposition of what a republic's concerns might be, should it stumble into a patch of sunlight? Your words are, of course, about love: but mine, Mule, are going to be about you. And a few other things.... (I'm Andy, after all...)
Now for my new post...