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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

That Time of Year

Ah yes it is upon us once again. That magic marvelous time of the year. Over the turnpike and through the six mile long security line to grandmother’s house we go. Today and tomorrow are the two biggest travel days of the year and highways, airports and choo-choo trains will be packed to the absolute gills with happy travelers heading home for Thanksgiving. Nothing says the holidays like being stuck on the New Jersey Turnpike or DC Beltway with a car full of kids and their twerping, beeping electronic devices and loud arguments over battery chargers and seat space. Nothing, and I mean nothing, invokes the Holiday spirit like inhaling the delicious seasonal odor of exhaust fumes tempered with McDonalds and full diaper from the nether reaches of the back of the minivan. A body scan and a strip search get the holidays started off the right way. It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

But it is worth to gather with loved ones and make memories that last a lifetime. Remember last year when Aunt Ethel got shit canned on Gin gimlets and wondered constantly throughout dinner why Cousin Mary, a Lesbian rights activist, had not found some nice boy and settled down? Or the year Uncle Frank, reeking of burnt hemp and stopping only to shovel in the Fritos, insisted on telling the little ones all about his ear collecting adventures in The Republic of Viet God-damned Nam? Maybe your younger brother can show up in an Armani Suit and new 5 series Mercedes again this year and the whole family can go batshit crazy comparing all his great achievements to your piddling efforts. If you are real lucky he will also once again pull you aside later and ask to borrow a few grand until his next deal settles. No big deal, just needs to get the credit card companies off his back for a bit. Perhaps you will once again wonder how in the hell your Mom can cook such an incredible dinner when she starts drinking white wine about five minutes after the first guests show up and stays in the kitchen in order to avoid the madness as long as possible?

We here at Chez Melvin decided long ago that we were not traveling ANYHWERE over the Thanksgiving Holiday and we have a tightly controlled guest list. All are welcome until you screw up. This policy makes for the type of fun, loud, laughter filled Holidays we prefer. Thanksgiving is my slam dunk, winner by a wide margin, favorite Holiday. There is plenty of food, lots of booze, great wines and of course pie. Lots of Pie. There is football to watch, stories to tell and I do not have to buy one single damn gift for a soul. No bow, no ribbons, no bells. Just food, drink and good times. I get to spend a couple of days cooking and prepping and no one will complain too much about the mess I make in the kitchen. Did I mention Pie?

In the midst of all this we really should stop and take time to give thanks. Even if you have had a shitty year and are a victim of the non-recession we are experiencing, there is a lot to be thankful for. Look around the table . If you are surrounded by friends and loved ones enjoying the day you still have a lot of good things in your life. If you are at a Dennys by yourself with the Turkey Platter (and yes I have done exactly that) special, you are still alive and at least they were open. Even when it sucks, life can be like a poker tournament. As long as you have a chip and a chair you still have a shot. If you have the basics it is time to be grateful. Most of us have far, far more than that and should be extremely grateful for all we have. This year has not gone as planned but when I look around the table at my wife on our second Thanksgiving together and all the kids, family and friends gathered there I will be blinking away silent tears of gratitude for just how spectacular life can really be.

Every year at this time I give thanks for the country in which we live. Most of the time we have a sort of semi democratic capitalist society, that in spite of the best attempts of those with good intentions, can still offer us the opportunity to chase and reach our dreams. They will tax you, regulate and discourage you every step of the way but they have not yet figure out how to take away the chance or dim, much less extinguish, the brightness with which a dream can burn. The United States is not perfect and may appear to be less so every day but it is still the land opportunity and if you squint and peer deeply into the fabric of America you can still see the outline of the bright shining city on the hill that we are still capable of becoming.

On cannot be grateful for the land in which we dwell without expressing our thanks for those who have defended her and kept her free to stumble towards that which was intended by the founding father. Every man and woman who has put on the uniform of the United States of America from Valley Forge to Fallujah deserves our gratitude. Our peaceful dinner gathering is won for us by hard men and women willing to commit extreme violence on our behalf. I do not always agree with the reasoning the half brained self-proclaimed genius fuckwads inside the beltway use to send our best and brightest into harm’s way but I am grateful that they are there and willing to defend the hard earned freedoms we enjoy in this country.

I am grateful for books. They teach, inspire, educate, entertain, inform, relax, inform, inflame. My love of reading has been responsible for any measure of success I have enjoyed in this life. I love great books, bad books, technical books, funny books, sad books, whimsical books and lyrical books. Every book you read from the thickest text book to the basest novel contains some kernel of information and knowledge. Books make my life better. I learned to invest, to write, to cook, to drink, to be a better father, to not kill the puppy, to value a company, to laugh at my own humanity, all from books. To everyone who ever stuck a pen to paper or finger to keyboard and bled their thoughts, knowledge laughter and tears onto a page, I am grateful.

There is so much in today’s world for which to be grateful. Car Seats that warm your ass cheeks on a January morning. Cable TV Channels with 24-7 baseball coverage even in the offseason. The world of information available at your fingertips. Wireless technology that allows me…oops I mean You, to pretend to be at work when you are really on the beach. Cell Phones that allow you to be in touch around the clock. The off button on cell phones. Libraries. A world of music on a little box that fits in your shirt pocket. Microwave ovens. Wine. Pennant races. Flat screen TV’s for less than a decent radio used to cost. E Readers. Look around you and this amazing world we live in and you have to take a second or two to be grateful for it all.

Most to fall of course I am grateful for my family. My daughter who has through sheer determination and will overcome the difficulties of health problems and constant setbacks to fight her way towards her dreams. One semester left and she will joined the ranks of the chronically over worked and underpaid and become a teacher. She tells me she wants to keep going and eventually be a professor of literature. I know she will achieve it, talking too loud and laughing too much all the way. My son the businessman and well on his way to executive son. He has a drive and determination to succeed that never fails to impress me. The little shit refuses to read but he soaks up knowledge like a sponge. He has turned into such a great young man I am glad I didn’t beat him to death all those times in his teens when I was sorely tempted. My hyper intelligent stepdaughter with her runaway imagination and creative spirit absent mindedly stepping along the path out of childhood and into, dear god and sweet Jesus protect us all, the next stage of girlhood. She is 8 going on 19 and has an extraordinary future ahead of her. My wife, my partner, my best friend. I never expected to find a partner especially one like Erin who is just the perfect fit for my life. She is my other half and makes me believe in things I never did before. I never knew how much I missed having someone who makes my life whole until I found her.

I am not an idiot. There is a lot about life that sucks right now. Bailing out dishonest bankers . Now it looks like we will use the IMF to bail out Europes dishonest bankers in an act of sheer stupendous stupidity. Taxing away productivity. Shitty little misguided wars in stupid little countries we should just bomb into fucking oblivion and forget about or ignore. Democrats. Republicans. Hangovers. The Boston Red Sox and Pittsburgh Steelers. Traffic jams. BCS Rankings. Foreign aid when we are technically broke. High frequency trading. Hybrid cars with bigger carbon footprints than conventional cars. A reliance on political dogma instead of common sense. Peter Angelos still owns the Orioles.

Heres the truth of it all. There has always been a lot wrong in the world at any given point in time. However there is usually far more right than there is wrong. No matter what time period in which one lives the thing to be most grateful for is life itself. Be it a divine plan or accidental biological collision of groins that produced you, you are alive. You are here for however long to taste the tears, feel the kisses, breathe the air, read the books, hear the music. No matter what else you are hear and alive with a chance to succeed, to fail, to make love, to get your heart broken, to fall in love to walk in the rain and sit in the shade. We are alive and there are people who love us, people who like us and we get to share this with them, this being alive. Sometimes it is glorious and sometimes it hurts like hell but we are alive. For that and that alone we should be grateful. The rest is a huge bonus.

On Thursday I will lift my glass and give thanks for being alive, being with the ones I love and who love me , or at least tolerate me most of the time, for all the adventures, for the laughter, the kisses, the books, the music and the opportunity to be . And for Pie.

Happy Thanksgiving my friends.


Terry said...

So very well written, mirrors a lot of my thoughts exactly (well, except for the Red Sox comment!). Hope you enjoy the day!

Along the reading thoughts, I think it was you who turned me onto Web Griffin & Randy W White. Any suggestions of writers along the same lines?

TIA & Happy Thanksgiving,
Terry Littell
Boston Guy

tim said...

You might try the James hall "Thorn" series. There is a new one out but go back and start at the beginning. Also the standiford John deal books are classic florida tought guy stuff...the shaara books on wwi and wwii are classic historical fiction and well worth reading...surprisngly so are newt gingrichs wwwii novels....