Even though I wasn't asked to do so, I thought I might steal the meme on Dave's blog from a few days ago. But then I decided I didn't really like the particular meme, so I've just made up my own:
What were you doing 10 years ago?
Nov. 23, 1995, was Thanksgiving Day. My girlfriend at the time, Sara, and I had Thanksgiving in Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y., at the orchard where she worked.
This is where that Steely Dan song comes in. Annandale-on-Hudson consists of little more than Bard College, a tiny liberal institution of higher learning tucked away in farming country. Steely Dan originally formed at Bard, with Chevy Chase as their drummer. The group (sans Chevy) eventually went on to immortalize Annandale-on-Hudson with their song "My Old School" in their 1973 album "Countdown to Ecstasy."
As indicated by my seven years of marriage to Rachel, things with Sara didn't turn out as well as perhaps they could have and for comedic effect I have a habit of playing up how pear-shaped it all went (conveniently ignoring my own culpability). As such, I am particularly fond of "My Old School" and the lyrics: "California tumbles into the sea -- that'll be the day I go back to Annandale."
Interestingly, oleanders used to grow just outside the window of her dorm room.
Anyway, 10 years ago, I took time from my busy schedule of failing all my classes at Moorhead State University to spend Thanksgiving and Sara's birthday (Nov. 26) with her.
The dinner was hosted in a barn, with two or three massive tables stretching from end to end. Both sides of the family that ran the orchard were there; they had more family members than I had to that point thought could exist in a family. With Sara and I and another girl who worked the orchard serving as the only non-family members, there were at least 70 people at the dinner. Normally when I tell this story, I put the number at about 85 to 100, but Sara occasionally reads this blog, so I am trying to be conservative in my estimate. No doubt I am still off -- I have a horrible memory. If she were telling you this story, she would name everyone there and tell you what each person ate.
Before dinner, a number of people went on a hayride that went around the orchard, and Sara and I walked around in the cold for a while. I have always thought, and continue to think, that miserable cold weather is romantic. There is not a woman alive who agrees with me on this, so Sara sniffled and swore at the cold until she could stand no more.
The barn was warm and alive with all the people. Sara's letters to me used to read like menus, so she would, of course, remember better all the food that was available, but I do remember that there was a lot of it -- turkeys and venison that had been killed that day; a whole table of pies; and loads of wine. It's probably odd that I remember the wine. To put it very politely, my attitude toward alcohol at the time was priggish*, but I remember that I tried a very small amount of strawberry wine and wished that I could drink more. My stupid drama king pride refused to allow me to do so.
This was the year that Thanksgiving became my favorite holiday. Before then, the holiday hadn't meant a whole lot to me. I come from what my cousin, Shawn, once described as "a dysfunctional family where everyone likes each other." We achieved this happy state by not forcing ourselves to spend a whole lot of time with one another, so Thanksgivings growing up were sporadic. When my family moved to Minnesota, my mother decided that just the four of us -- her, my dad, my brother and me -- weren't worth the trouble of making a turkey. Our tradition became that I would barbecue a rack of ribs.
That Thanksgiving at Annandale-on-Hudson was amazing to me, though. I felt as if I were in some film or book. Like when you see one of those Jane Austen films and everyone is at the ball and you think: "Who did that really?"
Who actually has a Thanksgiving like the one in "Avalon?" We did, motherfucker, and it was bigger.
What were you doing five years ago?
Nov. 23, 2000, was the day before Thanksgiving. I was working at a now-defunct Internet company that paid me to do little more than eat Rice Krispie treats and teach myself Welsh.
Being a media hack, I was not able to leave town for Thanksgiving, so Rachel and I had dinner with a few other media hacks -- Jim "Landeros" Landrith and Gene Vance. Continuing the Steely Dan theme, Landeros has a habit of analyzing the band's lyrics when he is drunk:
"'Gonna strike all the big red words from my little black book' -- That is great, my friend. That, Mr. Cope, is fucking genius!"
Landeros now produces a show in Sacramento, Calif., and Gene has gone back to being a photographer in Reno, Nev., but at the time we were all living and suffering in San Diego.
The dinner was hosted at Landeros' house in Tierrasanta and he did the brunt of the work -- fixing the turkey and the stuffing. Rachel did everything else and Gene, strangely, brought a 5-pound ham that he had bought at Boston Market. I did nothing but sit there and drink Corona.
There was far too much food, the warm Southern California weather made it feel terribly un-Thanksgiving-like, and I had to leave early to get to work, but its still ranks up there as one of my favorite Thanksgivings. It's very hard for me to explain why I like Thanksgiving without sounding like the blog equivalent of a Precious Moments figurine, but that Thanksgiving had all the necessary elements for me.
What were you doing last year?
Nov. 23, 2004, was two days before Thanksgiving. I wasn't doing a whole hell of a lot -- I was at the same job, putting the same useless crap on my blog. The only difference, I suppose, is that the creator of Stove Top stuffing was still alive.
One year ago I was, as is the case this year, looking forward to Thanksgiving at my parents' house in the suburban wonderland that is Bloomington, Minn. Rachel woke up early on Thanksgiving morning to make a delicious, task-intensive turkey; my dad made the stuffing; my brother and his wife brought desert; and my mother and I sat around drinking beer. As will be the case this year.
The only real difference between this year and last year will be that my brother and his concubine will bring desert. Jon separated from his wife, Erica (whom he now calls "Ex-ica"), shortly after Christmas last year. Replacing her will be Vanessa, whom I refer to as "the concubine" because Jon is still legally married. The concubine is smarter and bigger breasted than Jon's wife, so I guess things are moving forward.
What will you be doing one year from now?
Nov. 23, 2006 will be Thanksgiving Day. The child bride and I will be living in Cardiff, hosting a dinner for all the poor souls who do not usually celebrate Thanksgiving. Britons regularly criticize the fact that Americans seem to have a holiday for everything, but this is one that's worth carrying over. It has no real religious or patriotic association and no one expects gifts -- the sole purpose is to get together, eat, drink, and say: "Here's to livin'."
If you can get there, you are invited to join us.
*If you are one of the people who is able to expound on my duplicitous stances on alcohol consumption, please remember that this is my blog -- I can delete comments.