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Posts Tagged ‘Thanksgiving’

I’ve been MIA for a few days.

I went to visit friends for Thanksgiving.  It was an excellent break and a joy to be in the company of some of my favorite people for no better reason than going off my diet and making each other laugh so hard pumpkin pie came out of our noses.

But that’s only half the story.  I have a problem and if you can’t talk about your personal problems on the internet, then what is blogging for?

Saturday, I got back from my Thanksgiving holiday back east – Palm Springs is east of here.

Since returning though, I’ve been secreted away in my house, lost in a nightmare of glitter, fir and glass beads.  I can’t seem to stop decorating for Christmas.

There is a walk-in closet in my office the size of many of the bedrooms I’ve had over the years.  The little room is literally filled to the ceiling with Christmas decorations (and unsigned copies of my second book with what’s-her-name that didn’t get handed out after she sabotaged our book tour so she could go live in a trailer and not pay her taxes.)  But mostly, it’s full of Christmas decorations.  There are also a fair amount of Christmas baubles in the office and cleaning supply closets, in the pantry, under my bed, in the linen chest, the kitchen cabinets, the sideboard drawers and this year they’ve even begun filling up the leg well under my desk.

At the current rate, I’m going to need a second apartment soon just to accommodate my Christmas ornaments.

I always get my tree on the Sunday after Thanksgiving.  My friend Dan locates the nearest Delancey Street Mission tree lot – I like that the money I’m blowing on a dead tree at least helps out people whose concerns are a little more urgent than snarled garlands.  Dan and I meet for a strategy brunch, establish tree objectives for choosing a more perfect conifer than last year’s and then we launch our assault on the lot.  We used to stuff the evergreen giants, stand and all, into the back of my two-seater convertible and muscle the prickly pine up four stories from the parking garage to my modest manse.  Okay, there’s an elevator, but still, it’s a tree.

These days we go with the delivery option – Dan is getting older and for some reason the trees we pick keep getting larger.

This year, it rained the night before our tree lot invasion so they didn’t have as many out to choose from.  With selection limited, we convinced them to open some fresh trees, still bound after their journey from the Christmas Tree Mountains, north of here somewhere.  In the confusion, I identified the perfect candidate before I realized it was a Blue rather than my traditional Noble fir.  It was the perfect shape and seemed a reasonable height – last year’s was literally bent against the ceiling of my apartment.  In a moment of uncertainty, I agreed to the unfamiliar holiday flora.

By the time we were in the car on the way back to my apartment, I was a basket case.

It was blue, for god’s sake.  And would it be dried out in a week? The branches seemed soft.  Would they support my decorations? Can you return a dead tree? Could I afford a replacement? Christmas was ruined and we weren’t back from the tree lot.  It wasn’t even December.

The tree was delivered in due course.  I bravely soldiered on.  The tree lighting and decoration took a day.  The Christmas Village took one day to unpack and layout and another day to wire, light and blanket with the essential glimmer snow.  In truth, what was once a village has grown.  Incorporating Bedford Falls, Mistletoe Mountain, Victorian Village and Christmas in New York, I now call it Greater Christmasville.  My friends call it completely out of control.  Mine is catchier.

Then there’s a day of final touches as I cover the rest of the house and balcony with lights and various and sundry Christmas ornamentations.  Later, I have to go out for more because somehow there’s never quite enough.  And of course I need fresh poinsettias.  At some point I stop decorating.  Usually around the time I leave to spend Christmas at points east – that’s right I don’t actually do Christmas here.  I take the tree and all but the New York part of the Greater Christmasville down before Christmas.  That way the house is predecorated for New Years.

I can’t seem to stop.

The worse the year I’ve had, the more tenacious and fanatical my decorating.  This year, I became so obsessed with what I perceived as a possible shortage in the glimmer snow market that I actually became short of breath and had to lie down.  This was weeks before Thanksgiving.  Of course the day the holiday Kleenex Christmas ovals came out, I returned from the grocery store with bags full of flocked foil tissue boxes and no actual food.

It’s as though somewhere deep down, left over from childhood, I believe that Christmas will fix it.  I’m not even clear on what “it” is.  Still, I pursue my decorating with a superstitious fervor driven by a belief that if I get everything just right, the tumblers will drop and all my dreams will at last come true.  I’ve spent my life waiting for my Susan Boyle moment and each year I pin my hopes on Christmas.

My favorite Christmas carol is the tearjerker Just in Time for Christmas.  Bathed in the manmade holiday glow of Greater Christmasville, I belt out the holiday ballad alone but hopeful.

Now, I’m not a primitive.  I’m writing this essay with a certain amount of intellectual detachment observing my behavior with an anthropological cool.  Yet, even knowing what I’m doing doesn’t diminish my need to do it.  I guess to some degree it’s Santa Claus based.  Early on, I imprinted on the persistent Christmas notion that if I wish hard enough that this year I really will get what I asked Santa for at the mall, in letters and each night on my knees.  And what if I do get it all this year? Would I stop decorating or just hope for more?

I’m not sure if there’s a cure for my Christmas mania or if I’d even be interested.

On the plus side, I love doing it.  Decorating keeps the holiday blues at bay.  The house looks amazing.  Whether or not my Christmas spirit is sincere or self-induced, all the fuss lifts my spirits and stops me worrying about the many, many thing I could be wasting my time worrying about.  Two things I know for sure.  One, worry has never solved a single one of my problems.  And two, sometimes if I pretend that everything’s great, I forget that I’m pretending.

Now, excuse me, I’ve got to go make the perfect Christmas cookies.

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Thankful

Thanksgiving challenges my better self.

It’s been a tough year.  My life has not been what I’d hoped for a lot longer than just since the banks robbed us to pay off their gambling debts.

When times are hard it’s hard to find things that I’m thankful for in my life.  I’ve kind of given up on dating.  I haven’t sold a book in a long time.   I’m faced with the prospect of looking for work in ten percent plus unemployment as a partially blind, fifty one year old man whose skills include clever, some philosophy and acting.  I’ve written a series of books that I can’t get agents excited about and the publishers for whom I’ve written successes and best sellers in the past are MIA and likely looking for work themselves.  My prayers have not been answered this year or in any in recent memory.

My mood would not best be characterized as thankful.  I get the sense that I’m not alone these days.  I manage to stay in good spirits for the most part.  If you came by the house and searched, you’d be hard pressed to find the tough year I had.

And then Thanksgiving comes along and calls the question.

My first reaction is to place the back of my hand dramatically on my forehead and demand of the ceiling – cause that’s where god is, don’t you know – “What do I have to be thankful for?”

God doesn’t answer those kinds of prayer from me either.  Let me know if you get different results.  I’ve got a few questions I’m dying to get answers for.

Meanwhile, I’m faced with this holiday that puts my screwed up life right in my face.  Inevitably, as I lamented my pitiful state, I started to think of the pilgrims and those hats with the buckles on them and their dinner with the native people they probably ended up screwing over until the casino opened to even the score.

Those first at the table a couple hundred years ago were celebrating because they hadn’t starved to death or died from exposure.  Woo-hoo! That’s really what they were celebrating.  They were still alive.

When was the last time I celebrated that?

I think that maybe I start my thank you list too far along to get any real traction.  I tend to be thankful when I get what I want, but “Woo-hoo, I’m still alive and anything’s possible” is not where my mind goes when I think about gratitude.

I’m not only alive, I’m in great health and great shape.  I’m still a little too well fed, in fact, but I’ve managed to move down two sizes since this past Memorial Day weekend, thank you very much.  I’m kind of looking forward to eating what I want.  I’m taking the big day off the diet – something else to be thankful for.   And I’m crazy about the friends I’m having Turkey with, so there’s that.

Times are tough but I’ve managed, even just barely, to keep body and soul together, so far.  Not everyone can say that.  I didn’t do it the way I’d have picked, but it still happened.  Maybe my prayers were kinda sorta answered.

But most of all I’m alive.  That’s the big gift from which all others flow.  There was less around to distract those at the first Thanksgiving from that big blessing and maybe with less around, I can see it better, too.

It’s been a bad year in paradise.  We’re a little bruised following our greed orgy but we still have the two ingredients that make everything else possible:  Hope and Life.

That’s something even an ingrate like me can be thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving!  Thank you for reading my blog.  It means a lot to me.  I’m truly thankful for you.

 

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Next week is Thanksgiving.  That means one of my favorite annual events.

Not the parade or the turkey or the sheer joy of hanging out with some of my favorite people for no better reason than eating too much pie.  I love all that, but the event I’m speaking of has become every bit as much a Thanksgiving tradition as those balloons making their way from Columbus Circle to Herald Square.

Each year, on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, the TV news crews go to the airport.  There, whichever reporter is newest or drew the short straw asks people about their holiday travel experience.  It’s genius.  Every year, as thought is the first time it’s ever happened, people are furious that everyone in America can’t fly at the same time.  And if, since winter is upon us, weather is bad? Well-heh-hell the interviews are Oscar worthy.

I never cease to be amazed.  And yet, it’s somehow the perfect metaphor for the day the country sets aside each year for Thanksgiving.

As Americans, we expect everything.  When we don’t get it, we are not only disappointed, we’re enraged.  How could “they” not have built a fleet of airplanes big enough for everyone in the America to fly on the same day even though we won’t be able to use them the rest of the year? How could “they?” This year promises to be especially entertaining since we are adding the unreasonable expectation that we fly in absolute safety but without enforcing security measures because they’re “too personal” and “a hassle.”

That’s correct, people are calling for civil disobedience over security scans designed to keep bombs, like the one last Christmas, off the planes.  I wonder if anyone on the flights from Boston on 9/11 would mind if someone “touched their junk” to avoid plowing into the Twin Towers or the Pentagon? Some jerk actually threatened to have airport security arrested over “his junk” when they gave him a pat down after he refused the security screening.  The outrage is priceless and sooooooo American, as if flying is a right or something.

We want there to be planes enough to fly all of us simultaneously but we want to fly with $5 tickets we got at cheapsk8s.com in perfect security without having to have our underwear checked for bombs even though that’s where the last one was.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Rather than being thankful that we can make the journey across the country in a matter of hours that took weeks or months only a hundred years ago, we line up for the cameras to bitch about the miracle.  Drowning in blessings, even in tough times, we complain about the package that our gifts came in rather than saying thank you.  Americans could have a bad time at an orgy.

I think we have in mind a version of holidays — and life for that matter – that we compiled out of storybooks, movies and TV specials.  We have our hearts set on things being the way we’d hoped or worse yet, the way we remember they used to be even though they never were.  Then no matter what happens, when it is reality and not fantasy, we cannot help be let down.

More holidays and lives are ruined by expectations than anything that actually happens.

We are a country built on rising expectations.  We expect life to be better with each successive generation.  It’s served us well.  We work very hard and we have achieved so much.  Yet unsated expectation keeps happiness always at bay.

I think the problem may be with our bettermometers.  Each degree of our success is measured materially.  For things to be “better” we must have bigger houses, or incomes, or just more and more stuff.  I’m not really sure, beyond the process of modernization, how much better we can live than we do.  Yet our expectations of success, as measured by our broken bettermometers, tell us that no matter how far we’ve come, its’ not far enough.  No matter how much I have there’s always more that I don’t.

It’s the expectations that keep us unsatisfied, even after our massive turkey dinners.

What if we chose to measure “better” in the number of homeless we got off the street? What if we took pride in how many poor kids we fed or how lavish the educations we provided all children? What if we congratulated ourselves for great the healthcare we provided for everyone no matter what? I think we might actually make room to “feel” thankful if we jettisoned a little of our overstock of selfish.  If we look for what we can give or are just grateful to be able to give what we’re already giving instead of obsessing with we can get, we take expectation and disappointment out of the equation.

That might be something to be thankful for while we’re waiting to be frisked.

 

 

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