Well! Yesterday I had the prototypical Thanksgivin’ Dinner That Couldn’t Be Beat. This time it was with my family and it was up there with the greatest.
Holidays are a teensy bit weird when you have lots of siblings and then both of your parents have passed away. We grow up, we move out, we start our own families, but the folks remain the sun around which our planets orbit. On holidays, Mom and Dad become like the Olympic site selection committee. Whether it’s Thanksgiving or Christmas or National Poached Egg On A Waffle Day, the house where they choose to spend the holiday becomes the location of The Family Holiday.
So what happens when that center goes away? Do the planets spin off in directions that take them farther and farther away from each other? Does one of them become the new center?
It’s been several years since we lost our parents, and we seem to have settled into a good system: “it’ll all work out.” There are plenty of siblings to go around and nobody feels pressured into getting locked into a non-negotiable tradition, whether as a host or as a guest. This year, I spent Thanksgiving with two sisters and their accompanying retinues of spouses and kids. I was looking forward to it and the experience delivered. Other years, I’ve done Thanksgiving with friends, or even spent it alone, and the siblings never interpreted it as a middle finger extended heartily in their direction, no more than I did when they had plans that didn’t include Andy at the table.
(Note: Your Mileage May Vary. Some of you are saddled with families that play those kind of games. And some of you have made the choice that if absence doesn’t precisely make the heart grow fonder, it at least prevents you from heeding that little voice that says “Do it. At most they can charge you with misdemeanor battery and holy cow, does your brother deserve it after what he just said about you.”)
(Note(2): If you’ve never done “Thanksgiving alone/Thanksgiving with just your partner” oh wow yes try it at least once. It’s never been a sad and lonely experience for me. On the contrary! I get to cook a full Thanksgiving dinner with all of the sides and desserts, exactly the way I like them. I get to stay in my pajamas. I can take seconds and thirds without doing that bit of polite math about how many rolls are left in the basket and how far it’s gone around the table so far. If I want to eat a bit later, I can eat a bit later. And all the while, I’ve got my iPad at hand, enjoying friends’ and family’s Thanksgiving in something akin to realtime.)
Overall, I have the luxury of making my own choices for the holidays. I know that not everybody has that kind of freedom and I’m grateful for it.
Is it appropriate to say “Happy Black Friday”? Probably not. Big business has done what it does best: they’ve taken a tradition that grew organically out of a collective semi-pleasurable desire, and turned it into a giant Nerf gun of stress-darts.
Before Black Friday became a thing, my own tradition was to head to the big mall at 6 or 7 AM — hours before any of the stores were open — and get a great parking space. Sure, I’d spend the day Christmas shopping, but the best part of the day was always walking out with my bags, immediately attracting a long line of cars trailing me to what would be the only available parking space within five acres of Radio Shack, tossing my bags in the trunk…
…And then closing the trunk and returning to the mall.
I was younger and much less mature.
Also, Massachusetts has strict gun laws.
Anyway, I’ve a new Black Friday tradition: I tweet out links to Amazon deals I find for products I can recommend, and I do it like a madman.
Yes, I have an affiliate account on Amazon. Every time someone clicks on one of those links and buys something — anything, not even the thing I linked to — I get a little kickback in the form of Amazon store credits. I never use affiliate links for tech items. I don’t think it’s unethical to use affiliate links that way. The Wirecutter has done that since the beginning, and there’s no reviews/recommendations site that I respect more.
I just don’t think it’s the right choice for me. I’m not a website with a whole editorial board and other staff. I’m just this one guy, and I’m trying to do good tech journalism and reviews in a world where (and I wish I was kidding about this) a guy on a YouTube tech site gets a freebie $800 video gadget and he’s so grateful and so excited about how superawesomesaucewonderful the thing is that he licks it.
In such an environment, it pleases me if I’ve given my readers/listeners as few reasons as possible to suspect my motives. And not accepting affiliate money for anything tech-related falls under that umbrella.
(Which isn’t to say that my hands are as clean as they could possibly be. That would mean buying everything I write about, just for starters. But at least everything I do goes through a basic smell test. “Would I be comfortable defending this choice in public, in person?” cuts to the heart of the matter quickly, I find.)
But books? Movies? Music? The awesome razor I bought a few years ago that I utterly love? Sure! Fair game.
So I apologize to anybody who (correctly) thinks that my Twitter feed is cluttered with material goods for the next week or so.
Would it help if I told you that it’s all towards a higher purpose?
Yes: an awesome new TV for my living room.
(Oh, sorry: I bet you thought I was going to say something like “Puerto Rico hurricane relief.” No. But that’s still a great cause. Maria hit the island months ago and your fellow Americans are still soldiering on to rebuild. Charity Navigator can help you find honest charities that put the most of your money to the best use. Operation USA has received four stars and they do great work, spending more than 96% of the money they raise on their actual charitable mission as opposed to salaries, offices, and the cost of fundraising.)
See, usually, my Amazon Affiliates bucks don’t amount to much. It’s not a business. I don’t even consider it a sideline. Generally speaking, the monthly credits mean that if a book or a movie catches my eye, I don’t have to think too much about buying it. But in January, when the Black Friday credits are applied to my account…YAHOOO CLEMENTINE!!!! IT’S BISCUITS AND GRAVY FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY!!!!!
(smoothing hair back into place as I put the chair I was sitting in back on its legs.)
When I need a new laptop, I spend the money and don’t think twice. It’s a tool I need for my livelihood. But when (say) the backlighting on the good TV in the living room is starting to go south and “Blade Runner” looks like it’s had a not-good Instagram filter applied to every frame…well, I mean, it’s still working, right? It’s in 1080 HD and color, isn’t it? Is it smart to blow a lot of cash on a new one?
And so it goes. In the back of my mind, I’m thinking “if it’s still annoying me at the end of the year, then that’s what I’ll buy with my holiday Amazon associate credits in January or February.”
Yeah, it’s still annoying me. I want a new TV.
And I want one that will serve the role of “The Good TV In the Living Room” for close to ten years, as this one did. Which means: 4K! HDR! A wireless remote control! The whole nine yards.
I’m sorry and not sorry for having so many Amazon links in my Twitter feed. If it helps, imagine me in a few months, watching a movie that you deeply approve of, on a bitchin’ cinema screen without a grey halo around it for the first time in almost a whole year.
If you’ve been moved to tears by the tale of this poor orphan boy, here’s an Amazon link to one of my favorite books. Anything you buy after clicking that link will count toward Andy’s Bitchin’ TV Amazon Kickback Fund.