Thursday, November 27 2003
setting: Hurley, Ulster County, New York
This year's Thanksgiving was to be spent at Gretchen's brother's new house in Pittsburgh. I haven't spent a Thanksgiving with my own family in years, probably because they don't make any big deal about it. Still, it might be refreshing to spend some hypothetical future Thanksgiving with them.
To get to Pittsburgh, Gretchen and I drove the entire way. A mile from our home, we took a right at Hurley Mountain Road, a left on Tongore, and then a right onto US 209, which we took all the way to Matamoras, a town on the Pennsylvania shore of the Delaware River. From there we traveled down I-84, I-81, I-80, and finally State Route 28 into Pittsburgh.
Some months ago I'd found an old radar detector in my boxes of stuff; originally it had been given to me back in 1995 as a free item in the aftermath of a yard sale held in Charlottesville by a number of people, including both Pierce and Nelly of Pierce and Nelly fame. Gretchen was very excited about it, because it would allow us to get to Pittsburgh in record time. The newly-installed CB radio ended up being just as helpful, though. Listening in on channel 19 (the de facto east-west public channel), we could hear truckers revealing the positions of hidden "bears." Gretchen enjoyed talking on the CB radio as much as listening to it. She's much more extroverted and less of a chickenshit than I am, so I let her do all the talking. Besides, most truckers seem to love talking to the ladies. Gretchen was sure to warn everybody about every bear we saw, but there were only a handful of them to report on the entire route.
With the combination of the CB radio and the radar detector, we had a heightened awareness of the world we were traveling through. We also had an unusual empathy for the truckers, who had regained the humanity normally lost by wrapping themselves in 18 wheeled rigs. True, we couldn't make out what they were saying most of the time (do they all speak with southern accents?), but they could be funny, helpful, and at times wickedly profane. We overheard one say to another, "Why don't you go fuck yourself - you'd get some pussy that way." The many-to-many communication style and largely anonymous nature of the information flow was reminiscent of using the internet, though one constrained by broadcast capabilities to a several-mile radius. Being able to instantly research conditions, localities, and even certain legal questions (Question: "Are radar detectors legal in Pennsylvania?" Answer: "They are for you but not for us.") wasn't too different from having Google at our disposal.
A few months ago, after much time and money spent improving it, Gretchen's brother Brian and his wife Jen moved into a much bigger house in Squirrel Hill. Interestingly, Brian hired contractors to do all of the work except for the tiling, which he undertook to do himself. By contrast, Gretchen and I did at least some of everything except for tiling, which we left entirely up to contractors. The new house is a fairly big one, with three finished stories on top of a finished basement.
During the entirety of this ostensibly hedonistic holiday, the only glimmer of "fuck it, I'm having some fun" came from Jen's mother, who lives up on the third floor (her husband died late this winter, so she's moved in with her daughter and son-in-law). Well before dinner Jen's mother was seen with some sort of vodka drink in her hand. Later the gentleman I took to be her current suitor showed up, and he unabashedly ordered a Scotch on the rocks. He was the only person there besides myself who wasn't Jewish.
Despite an unusually warm rain, we all went on a walk around the neighborhood before dinner. We all carried unfurled umbrellas as if we were headed to a movie funeral. I don't remember what the reason was - everything was closed except for Zen Garden, the unconvincing Chinese restaurant that only serves bad fake meat.
Thanksgiving dinner included turkey and at least two different forms of cranberry sauce. The wine (a Merlot) tasted a little like celery juice for some reason.
After dinner, there was an exchange of gifts out in the living room. I don't know what the occasion was exactly; perhaps it was an early Chanukah. Anyway, it gave me the satisfaction of seeing my fabulous copper menorahs unveiled. Also received a number of interesting presents, including a rustic picture frame, a navigational compass, and a flashlight whose bulb consisted of two high-output LEDs. Later we all ate a second meal of desserts. This included two different pumpkin pies, a brownie injected with goops of molten chocolate, and a third version of the gingerbread cake Gretchen had made for David the rabbi's wedding. A couple friends of the family visited briefly and brought with them a bread pudding, a species of food I never had actually seen before about a month ago. It grossed me out then and it grossed me out tonight as well.
a walk down memory lane with Thanksgivings passed:
1991: a stolen turkey in Oberlin, OH.
1996: turkey both in Staunton and Charlottesville, VA.
1997: dextromethorphan in Charlottesville, VA.
1998: turkey with rich folks in San Diego, CA.
1999: deep-fried turkey in San Diego, CA.
2000: salmon with my housemate and his sister in Los Angeles, CA.
2001: turkey southwest of Pittsburgh, PA.
2002: Greek food in Silver Spring, MD.
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