Thanksgiving is probably my favorite holiday. It's not about anyone's religion or birthday or nationalism or commercialism: it's about family. And food. And being with your loved ones, and as many of them as possible.
But I won't be home for this particular holiday. I will be back east, a guest at my Brother-in-Law's house, which means that I will be "gastdruck." Pronounced gahst-drook. This is a German expression for the exhausting effort of being a good houseguest. Literally – "guest pressure."
No, I won't be cooking this Thanksgiving. I won't make my semi-famous almond-grape stuffing. I won't buy a back-up, spiral-cut ham from Honeybaked Ham. I won't stock up on wine, beer, and other beverages. I won't buy everything that the TG needs to set the table and decorate the house. The pressure of cooking the big meal(s) will all be on my Brother-and-Sister-in-Law.
But I will try to be the best guest possible and do the following during the holiday:
-- I will clean up after myself and dress appropriately for all occasions.
-- I will help out as much as possible, which includes staying out of the way when that is required. Helpful, but not too helpful. (See what I mean about "gastdruck?")
-- I will drive people around as necessary. I'm going to rent a car when I arrive, and I'm already committed to one very early morning airport pick-up and a few hotel pick-ups.
-- I will try not to be too dogmatic or be Mr. Know-It-All in any and all discussions, especially political discussions. (This will be a big challenge for me, an old Ivy-League-New-York-Jew-cum-Hollywood-Liberal.)
-- I will play all party games – charades, Password, Banangrams, Heads-Up -- hard, but not too hard.
-- I will be on the clean-up committee.
-- I will help Calder's Father and Calder's Mother in all ways possible to take care of the baby.
-- I will try to stay up later at night with the young people. I am cursed with Crack-of-Dawn Syndrome, and my Brother-in-Law's house runs late, especially during holiday season.
-- I will pick up a couple of checks.
-- I will try to talk to everyone there. Three of my lovely nieces have new boyfriends who need vetting. (Only kidding!)
-- I will stand by as my Brother-in-Law deep-fries the turkey on the patio and make sure that nothing blows up or catches on fire.
-- I won't whine about the coldness of the weather – even though the temperatures will be THIRTY OR FORTY FUCKING DEGREES COLDER THAN AT MY HOME IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA!!!
Maybe the best thing about the whole weekend is that I'll get to see more of my very own daughter The Flower who lives in the other side of LA but has the normal, busy schedule of a young, attractive, single adult and has better things to do than see her Old Man. I'm thankful for just that.
(A big thank you to Ben Schott for his delightful book SCHOTTENFREUDE, a compendium of German words for the human condition, for introducing me to the wonderful world of complex German compounds. I took French and Latin.)
Here's some Thanksgiving stuffing:
The Thanksgiving Pageant from "ADDAMS FAMILY VALUES" – by Paul Rudnick, one of the funnier writers around
How to Carve a Turkey
The History of the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade
The strange special trailer for the original "MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET" – with Rex Harrison, Anne Baxter, and Peggy Ann Garner
Arlo Guthrie – "Alice's Restaurant" – the entire eighteen minute masacree – with subtitles