Tag Archives: Thanksgiving

I’m so grateful

I’m so grateful on Thanksgiving. I’m grateful for Thanksgiving. I hate going to work on Thursdays, so it’s really nice to not have to show up. I’m really grateful for all of the gratitude I feel, mostly just today, because it’s Thanksgiving, and I really want to be true to the spirit of the holiday, extra thankful. I always say thank you, in general, but on Thanksgiving, I say it at least three times, sometimes more. Like even though I hate the idea of shopping on Thanksgiving or consumerism on Thanksgiving, there’s always at least one part of the day where I’m either driving to my in-laws’ house, or to my grandfather’s house, I always stop at Dunkin’ Donuts, probably because it’s the only place that’s really open for business, I get an extra large coffee, some donuts, even though I don’t need donuts at all, it’s just that I love Dunkin’ Donuts’ donuts, I’m so grateful for them, and after I pay, I tell the cashier, “Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you …” at least a dozen times, a baker’s dozen, even though Dunkin’ Donuts only gives you a regular, non-baker’s dozen, but whatever, I’m grateful for that too, knowing that, at Dunkin’ Donuts, you know exactly what you’re getting when you say, “Give me a dozen, thanks.” Extra thanks.


I’m grateful for the twist ties on the loaves of bread that you buy at the grocery store. I know it seems like a pretty trivial thing to be thankful for, but I’m thankful for everything, especially the little stuff, especially on Thanksgiving, and even more especially since I started buying six-packs of Thomas’ English muffins. They’re awesome, I’m so grateful to be able to go out and buy them, to have them for breakfast, I’m grateful for my toaster, it’s so reliable, I remember when we were shopping for a toaster, I told my wife, “It has to be an Oster brand appliance,” which, I don’t really know where I got that from. Did I mention that I’m really grateful for my wife? It’s just that, somewhere along the line, the idea planted itself in my head that, if I buy any appliance, it has to be Oster. It’s the gold standard of all appliances. And so my wife wanted this Kitchen-Aid toaster, it had a lot more functions, it was cheaper. But no, I insisted on the classic Oster toaster, exactly what you’d imagine a toaster to look like. Like, if you went into any random kindergarten class and told the kids, “All right kids, draw a picture of a toaster,” they’d all draw it more or less looking exactly like ours. Except there’s usually that one kid that insists on drawing Batman or Spider-Man, but whatever.

Wasn’t I talked about twist ties? I’m grateful for them. They’re super useful. I’m not grateful for the plastic tabs that come with the English muffins. I can never bunch up the plastic in such a way as to get it fully cinched, it’s impossible, and the more I try to maneuver everything in place, it starts bending, finally it loses its structural integrity, so even if you somehow manage to get it closed up, it all slowly starts to unfold. Whatever, that’s a petty thing to bring up on a Thanksgiving blog post, all of this stuff about gratitude. I guess I should just say that I’m grateful that I know the difference between twist ties and tab ties, and that I’m thankful that I understand that the twist ties are awesome and the tab ties are terrible.

Going back to Oster appliances for just one second, I was thinking about this one time we needed to buy a blender, and even though I kept saying, listen to me, it has to be Oster, you’ll be grateful later, I lost the argument, we bought some off brand. It lasted like a month, not even, I think we made half a round of margaritas before it broke, no warranty, nothing. I always used to get so mad thinking back on that experience, but it’s Thanksgiving, and I’m trying to be grateful, and so yeah, I guess I am thankful we bought that piece of garbage, if only to prove my point that you simply have to buy Oster, every single time. So yeah, I’m very grateful. I’m so lucky and thankful to be able to be so grateful and appreciative.

Happy Thanksgiving.

My cousin spent some time in a Russian prison

One of my cousins got into some trouble years ago while he was backpacking overseas. I’m not too close with him, that is, he was never really too close with the family, once every couple of years he’d show up for Thanksgiving, but besides that, nothing, I didn’t have his cell phone number, he wasn’t on Facebook. Anyway I was in high school when my mom announced at the dinner table that Chris “fucked up really bad, got himself sent to some Russian prison.”

And everybody at the table was like, “What do you mean? Russia? When did Chris go to Russia?” but maybe we were all a little too enthusiastic, bombarding my mom with a bunch of questions she wasn’t really ready to answer, “I don’t know,” was all she would say, “Well what do you mean you don’t know? He’s in Russia?” and she’d say, “That’s what I said, Russia.”

“But how did he get to Russia? What did he get arrested for? Was it guns? Or drugs? Is he involved in some sort of organized crime? Does Chris speak Russian? What did Uncle Steve say? Is he going to go to Russia to try and bail him out?” And my mom was like, “I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t … I don’t … I couldn’t tell you … I … I don’t know! All right? OK? I don’t know! Why don’t you call up your Uncle Steve and ask him?”

That was it, really, everybody got quiet after that. Call up Uncle Steve? That would have been nuts. As it was, we all saw Uncle Steve a little more regularly than we did Chris, but what I mean by that is that Uncle Steve actually showed up to Thanksgiving every single year whereas with Chris it was always, “I don’t know if Chris’ll be here. Ask Uncle Steve,” and Uncle Steve would just be sitting in the corner drinking a Manhattan, so nobody ever went over to ask Uncle Steve.

And that was that, for a while anyway, I went away to college, I graduated, I got a bunch of boring jobs. Every once in a while my dad would say something at the dinner table like, “I wonder how your cousin Chris is holding up in Russia,” and we’d all get a little excited, “Did you hear something about Chris? Did you ever figure out how he wound up in Russia?” but I think my dad must have only brought that up as a way to get under my mom’s skin, like maybe they were fighting or something before dinner and they didn’t get a chance to resolve anything, so they’d both be sitting there, my dad would drop the bomb, “I wonder what Chris is up to …” and my mom would get fed up with everyone, “I don’t know! Stop asking me about Chris! I haven’t heard from your cousin in years!”

A couple of months ago my grandfather died, it wasn’t anything sudden, and he was really old, so it was kind of just like, you know, everyone was sad, but it was more of a lament over humanity, over old age than it was over a tragic death in the family. I called out of work, they were like, “How much time do you think you’ll need?” like even they were thinking, grandfather? That doesn’t sound too devastating, like everybody’s grandparents die, can you be back the day after tomorrow?

So we’re all at the second wake, and like an hour before the funeral home was about to close up shop, guess who walked in? Yeah, it was Chris. And everyone went crazy, “Chris! Oh my God Chris! What’s up man? Where have you been? Were you really in a Russian prison? Jesus Christ, look, mom, Chris is here!”

And it was pretty crazy to see him. For the first time all day, it didn’t feel like that weird death-in-the-family feeling, and it’s like, he was standing there surrounded by everybody, in those first few seconds before he really had a chance to say anything, I was trying to piece it together, how I got from a few minutes ago to where I was right now, and I must have been embellishing it already in my head, but I played it back, it’s like I pictured him leaping through those doors, “Hey guys! I’m back!”

It was unbelievable, Chris, right here, finally, everyone let him catch his breath, gave him a little room to explain himself, “Yeah it’s true,” he told us, “I got sentenced to prison while I was in Russia. I didn’t know I was in Russia exactly, I was backpacking through Eastern Europe with some friends, and then we were on a train, and I couldn’t understand anything, I thought we were in Poland or something, so these guards start getting all up in our business one night, we were just having a good time, they start pushing us around, and here I am, I’m thinking this is Poland, or Prague, I’m thinking, these guys won’t do shit, I’m an American, what a power trip, so I’m laughing and joking and not really cooperating at all, and then finally these guys take their guns out, and you know, I don’t understand a word, nothing, so I just put my hands up, we all get carted off, the next thing I know I’m before a judge, there’s a big bag of cocaine on the table, I swear, I have no idea, but what am I going to do? How can I get in touch with the ambassador? I never figured it out. That night they had us on a train to Siberia. Fucking crazy right?” and my mom shot him a look, like what are you cursing for, you idiot? And he saw it, he said sorry for cursing.

I said, “Chris? How’d you make it out?” “What,” he said, “Out of the prison? I got out. The maximum sentence in any Russian prison is like eight years. Didn’t you ever read Crime and Punishment?” and no, I never read Crime and Punishment, I think I was supposed to one year for school, but I don’t even think that the teacher read Crime and Punishment.

“Did you get beat up or anything like that? I can’t believe you still have all of your teeth. You actually look pretty good.” And he said, “Why wouldn’t I look good? Those Russian prisons have a bad rap. Those guys aren’t so bad. You just have to know how to deal with them, all of those prisoners, criminals, political prisoners, they’re all so used to being pushed around by the state, bullied their entire lives. You know how you deal with someone like that? You stare them down. You hold your ground. No, nobody messed with me over there. I was like an honorary guard. Let me tell you something about Russians …”

“Chris!” it was Uncle Steve. I hadn’t even said hi to him, “Let’s go. Now.” And that was it, they both said goodbye and left, we all hung around until they blinked the lights off and on and kicked us out. Afterward we went back to my parents’, we were all still going crazy about Chris, talking about Chris, “Mom! When did Chris get back? Did you know he was coming? Did Uncle Steve ever tell you anything about any of that prison stuff? Did that really happen? When did he get out? Mom? Mom!” but she wasn’t having it, it was all, “I don’t know. Look. I don’t know. You should’ve asked Uncle Steve, because I don’t know.”

And my dad was finally like, “Enough already, enough, leave your mother alone, she’s got a lot to deal with the funeral tomorrow, her dad just died, enough about Chris!” and everyone got quiet, but after a couple of minutes, my brother Phil breaks the silence, “Is he coming for Thanksgiving?” and I had his back, I said, “Yeah mom, did you ask him about Thanksgiving?”

Rethinking the holidays

I’ve got a bad case of the post holiday blues. Christmas is over. No more presents left to open. I always used to hide like half of my presents away, saving them for February, March, something to get me through the cold, wet winter. If it got so bad that I couldn’t take the dismal stretch of time expanding outward in front of me, I’d open a Christmas present and let myself bask in a fleeting moment of joy. But the people who give you gifts, they want to see you open them up right away, on Christmas, not two months later, and so people just stopped giving me presents. Or they’d stop wrapping them, just handing me a foot massager or a brand new pair of windshield wiper blades.

Everybody has so much fun at Christmas. The best part is taking off the day before, and depending on what day of the week it falls, you might get the day before that off as well, a four, maybe five day weekend. And then sure, you’ll go back to work the next day, but nobody does any work in between Christmas and New Years. It’s all a big joke. Show up at the office but just kind of hang out and talk about presents and go out for drinks during lunch.

But then it’s New Years and then it’s over. What’s next? Three months of winter. Valentine’s Day isn’t a real holiday. I propose that we move Christmas to the end of February. We could still do the old holiday season, but this would now be exclusively for New Years. Think about it. You just get done with Thanksgiving and a month later you get the Christmas/New Years knock out punch. Let’s spread it out. Let’s give ourselves something to look forward to.

Christmas in February makes so much more sense. Just as everybody would start winding down from the New Years celebrations, you’d start hearing Christmas music and seeing Christmas decorations in the mall. Some of your killjoy friends would complain, stuff like, “I don’t see why there has to be Christmas decorations in December! Can’t we at least wait until January?” and then your secular friends would say stuff like, “There’s nothing in the Bible that says anything about Christmas being in February! That’s not even when Jesus was born!” and your traditionalist friends would pipe in with, “We need to move Christmas back to December! This an outrage!”

As a country, we don’t have that many holidays. Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, Fourth of July. What else? Sure you get your days off for Labor Day, Presidents Day, a bunch of other whatever days. I think we need to rethink the holidays. We need to have it so no two months go by without a holiday. I’m talking like holiday, holiday. Like two days off from work, at least. And we’ll spread them out so there’s always something relatively close to look forward to.

Just think about the winter months. It’s so depressing, nothing ahead. Easter is kind of losing its secular appeal, if it ever even had any. And it’s on a Sunday, so nobody gets off work.

This fits in with my whole theory that we need a lot less work, as a country. We need a three-day, four-day work week, tops. We should only be working five hours a day at the maximum. And we need lots more holidays. Tons more days off.

And we need to start including the service industry in these holidays. I always hate that whenever ninety percent of the country is off having a good time, there’s always one or two people selling tickets at the movies, or pumping gas. Let’s stagger it out so that they can join in the holiday spirit also.

I thought writing about this would cheer me up, but it didn’t. We’re still in January. It’s really, really cold. I wish I had a week off to look forward to. Remember that stuff I said about the three-day work week? Make it a two-day work week. I promise I’ll shut up and stop complaining if I can just get a two-day work week. I’ll work really hard. I promise. Seriously, those will be some of the most productive ten hours you’ll ever see.

Happy Thanksgiving Everybody

It goes without saying, but I’ll start off with it anyway: Thanksgiving is great. Besides Flag Day, it has to be the best holiday of the year. I’m not really comfortable writing these themed blog posts, because all I naturally want to do is just state the obvious, the turkey, the booze, the no work, etc. So I’ll try to attack Thanksgiving from a couple different perspectives.

One reason why I love Thanksgiving so much more than any other American holiday is because it’s the one time of the year where we get to celebrate without having to express our celebration via the giving and receiving of gifts. Christmas is too stressful, and way too commercial. I’ve never, ever had that perfect balance of giving a great gift and receiving a great gift. They’ve both happened at various Christmases in my life, but never at the same time, and never of equal quality. And the buying, buying, shopping, buying of Christmas, to me, sucks a majority of the festivity out of the holiday, out of the whole season.

But this is supposed to be about how much I love Thanksgiving, not about how much I hate Christmas. And I don’t really hate Christmas. Not really. But Thanksgiving. It definitely gets better and better as you get older. It’s nice to see everyone in the same place at the same time, something that doesn’t happen as often as we’d all like now that everyone’s out of the house, living on our own. And being an adult, even if I don’t exactly feel like an adult, it really lets me appreciate going home, not having to work, and being able to stuff my face all day.

When my wife and I were in the Peace Corps, we spent two Thanksgivings away from home. The first one was tough, because we had only been in Ecuador for about five months. Our Spanish wasn’t yet where we wanted it to be, and we were still going through the roughest parts of the culture shock. The Peace Corps office in Quito offered all the volunteers a trip to the capital to have a real Thanksgiving dinner with various embassy staff and their families. My wife and I wound up getting assigned to dine at the Ambassador’s mansion.

It was a formal Thanksgiving, like ties and dress shirts. There were waiters passing out drinks and assigned seats at the table. All of the cutlery and plates were engraved with the seal of the United States Department of State. It was a good time, but it didn’t really feel like Thanksgiving. That feeling intensified when we took turns calling our families back home, listening to everyone having fun in the background, Thanksgiving as usual.

The next year a group of volunteers met up at our site for Thanksgiving. In preparation, my wife and I bought a live turkey to raise a couple months before the big day. The whole process was quite the ordeal, seeing as how the two of us had absolutely no idea what we were doing. We lived in the mountains in a very rural town, and we took a ride in the back of a pickup truck to buy the turkey in slightly larger town about an hour away.

When we finally found somebody with a turkey for sale, they just kind of pointed to it, this animal, “there you go, it’s yours.” I was like, “uh, so, how do I take it? How do I get it back to our house?” And the people who sold it just held their hands up in the air. “I don’t know. Just don’t get too close, because it’ll peck your eyes out.”

After standing there, totally clueless for a little while, someone finally gave us a big sack and helped us put the turkey inside. Then it was back in the pickup truck. When we got back to site, we set up some chicken wire in the backyard and put out some dried corn for it to eat. I didn’t want to get attached to the animal, but to condense the two months that we raised this animal into somewhat of a short story, we wound up naming him Tony, building him a little turkey house in the backyard, and cooking him all sorts of different foods because we felt bad that he might not be too enthusiastic about eating dried corn everyday.

Tony became kind of a second pet for us. Our first dog Gladys had just died and Tony became an unlikely replacement to fill that void. And maybe it was all in my head, I mean, I never thought poultry would be able to reciprocate these types of feelings, but I really do think Tony felt some sort of attachment towards us. Whenever I went out to the back yard, he would come running over to me, his giant wings extended as if he wanted to give me a big turkey hug. When I went inside, he would jump up on top of his little turkey house and cry out. I’d imagine him saying, “Rob! Stay outside with me! I love you!”

But then turkey day arrived and I had to shove any sentimentalities out of my head to get ready for the big day. I invested a solid fifteen minutes of Internet research on the most humane way to go about doing the deed. Martha Stewart told me to get Tony drunk first. Different hunting web sites talked about which guns I should use, or even maybe finding a good bow and arrow. Finally I went with a neighbor’s advice: shoving Tony into a rice sack, cutting a hole in the corner of the sack so only his head would pop out, and then (warning: it’s going to get graphic) slicing his neck open and holding him upside down to bleed out into a trough.

I maintain that the plan was decent and humane, but you know how it is the first time you try anything. There’s always a learning curve. So yeah, Tony probably suffered a little more than I’d have liked. I should have used a bigger knife. I probably should have gotten him a little drunk. After the last signs of life flickered from his beady little eyes, we had to dip the carcass in boiling water to get the feathers off. And then we had to gut him. Somewhere after cutting his neck open but before cleaning out his insides my brain automatically stopped referring to him as Tony.

Hey, I told you it was graphic. But that Thanksgiving was amazing. We were the only Americans celebrating Thanksgiving in a completely foreign environment. We had great friends, great food. We bought a Chinese satellite dish that somehow broadcast a pirated stream of American football. Among my memories of Thanksgiving, 2010 definitely stands out among the rest.

But it’s a great holiday every year. That’s what I’m getting at here. It’s Thanksgiving so I had to put up a Thanksgiving blog post. I hope everybody is making great memories, eating great food, and taking it real easy, just enjoying the time off and spending it with great people. I don’t know about everybody else, but I’m really thankful for everything in my life. I think about the majority of humans who have lived or are currently living on this planet, and I feel grateful for every single second that I get to be alive, living here, part of this experience, part of people’s lives.

Happy Thanksgiving everybody.