Tag Archives: Thanksgiving

Fun Prez

Obama pardons the White House Thanksgiving turkeys. Scrub ahead to about 42:50 to get past the title card.

I think this is the first time I’ve ever willfully watched this annual video. I’m glad I did because it put a big smile on my face.

I can’t remember another President who seems to sincerely enjoy his job as much as Obama. He acknowledges that this is a pointless photo op, but not as a way of trying to make himself look cool. He seems to be saying that it’s a relief and a pleasure to be addressing the nation about something light and fun, after the past couple of weeks.

I know that Obama is going to make an awesome ex-President. I also know that this sentiment is shared by the most vocal GOP supporters, but I’m coming at it from a different angle. A President leaves the White House with his title, his stature, and his influence mostly intact. All he loses is the house and the staff and all of the worst parts of the job. Starting on Friday, January 20 2017, he gets to choose his own missions from the rest of his life.

Becoming an ex-President is like becoming a grandparent. You get of the fun of playing with and nurturing and spoiling a kid, with none of the diaper cleanup or the higher car insurance premiums. Carter and Clinton have gone to do great work after leaving office and I’m eager to see what Obama will choose to do.

This video is also charming just to for the reactions of his kids. You can be the President of the United States. You can even be acknowledged as the coolest President we’ve ever had. But your kids will still think you’re a lovable but mildly-embarrasing doofus.

Studs recalls Thanksgiving at the Wells-Grand, 1933 – YouTube

Studs recalls Thanksgiving at the Wells-Grand, 1933 – YouTube:

(Via @jbenton.)

“Once upon a time…once upon a time! This was a bookie shop. Once upon a time, I was young. And once upon a time, Thanksgiving was celebrated by a bunch of guys in the lobby of the Wells-Grand Hotel.”

I’ve watched this three times since I saw it on Twitter fifteen minutes ago. And now I think I’ll be playing it every Thanksgiving for the rest of my life.

I hung out with Studs Terkel (and Ebert) one evening in Chicago years ago. It was one of those experiences that made a young man want to live long enough to be an old man, if all old men were at least half as cool as Studs.

“Coming Home” by John Legend (Amazon Advent Calendar day 7)

Album Art

Coming Home

John Legend

Once Again

Genre: R&B/Soul

This is a masterful song. No other observation or rumination should go ahead of that statement. It stopped me dead when I heard Legend perform it on TV, and then after I bought it (immediately following the show) I kept tapping a button in iTunes to hear it again.

Legend’s singing and production on this song remind me of one of Aesop’s fables. The wind and the sun are arguing about which one is stronger. Actually, the wind is doing most of the arguing. He sees a man walking along a road below and demonstrates his power by lashing down at him with full force, trying to blow his cloak off of his back. He doubles and redoubles his force, which only makes the man hold his cloak around himself even more tightly.

The wind is spent. The Sun makes his point by simply radiating. The traveler walks a few hundred yards, and releases his grip on the cloak. A few hundred more, and he undoes the clasps. And soon, he’s taken it off entirely and slung it over his shoulder.

John Legend’s performance here is all about radiance, not force. It’s simple and unadorned and maybe because of that, you open yourself up to it. It’s a very moving piece about a soldier worrying about his family back home and hoping that he lives to return to them. Failing that, he hopes that they’ll carry on without him. It brings the stakes of war home to you in a way that no hammy flag-waving eagle-soaring power-anthem, nor any smug and heavy-handed hippie ballad, ever could.

I’m sure that it resonates personally with just about everybody. “Coming Home” is an intensely personal meme. A sufficiently advanced and exotic method of observing and mapping brain activity would rely on this phrase as a trigger. “Think of coming home,” the technician tells the subject. The scanner can ride that thought through the entire operating system.

I’m thinking of that concept a lot at the moment. Thanksgiving, I’ve come to understand, serves as a clear map to a defining issue for you and your stage in life. If you’re traveling somewhere for Thanksgiving, is “home” the place you’re traveling to at the start of the four-day weekend, or is it the place where you land at the very end of it?

Turn that thought over in your head. When was the year when you felt like you were leaving your home and traveling to your folks’ house? Even if you were staying put, there were many years when you described it as “I’m not going home for Thanksgiving this year.”

I suppose everyone would define this differently. You kind of automatically make the switch when you get married. Even if there are a few fuzzy years after you start co-habitating, it almost certainly happens by the time you have kids.

It’s fuzzier still when you’re single. I tend to define “home” as that place where I have access to (in alphabetical order, to show no favoritism) my family, my friends and my Mac. Which actually means that if I have the third thing, I’m practically 80% there.

Every year of my life (at least since 1989, when I got my first Mac) I’ve spent Thanksgiving with one of the first two groups. This year, I spent it with the third. I didn’t discourage Thanksgiving invitations, nor did I fish for them. For reasons that would be dull to discuss, I felt like this would be a good year to spend the holiday alone in thought. By Wednesday morning, my options still seemed to be open, so I committed…by purchasing a quarter-turkey and the other required elements of a Thanksgiving dinner.

I did receive a couple of invitations late in the game, but I politely declined them. I made a pie Wednesday night at 2 AM. While it baked, I snuck outside with my SLR on a tripod to take photos of an absolutely brilliantly-clear starry sky. I got to bed very late, but I woke up early enough to watch the parade. I started on the bread dough. I watched a movie during the first rise. After I got the bread started on its second rise, I went for a long drive. When I got back, I prepped the turkey and got it in the oven. Kipped on the sofa for another movie on Netflix. Started shuttling pans of rolls through the toaster oven and got started on the beans.

Everything came out great. I spent the rest of the night reading a new book, and iChatting with friends to compare notes on their own Thanksgivings. At 1 AM, I had a turkey and cranberry sauce sandwich, on homemade bread. This, I’m sure you realize, is the whole reason why I bothered to cook a full, proper Thanksgiving dinner instead of just making a pot of pasta.

I wouldn’t say that it was the very best Thanksgiving I’ve ever had. But it was up there in the top five, and the reason is pretty simple: I was Home. I can’t say that I stopped at any point to explicitly enumerate all of my many blessings in life. I didn’t really need to. They were all around me.

Today’s another one of those Worst Travel Days Of The Year. Or so the many press releases in my Inbox tell me. Whether you’re spending Sunday leaving home or returning to it…safe travels to you.

Coming Home

“Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” by Arlo Guthrie (Amazon Advent Calendar day 4)

Album Art

Alice’s Restaurant Massacree

Arlo Guthrie

Alice’s Restaurant

Genre: Folk

Finally, after going back and forth on this for a while I thought “**** it: I’m going with ‘Obvious’.”

Of course I love this song: I’m a thoughtful American. It’s gone beyond “like” and made into part of my user interface to the world. When I’m facing down the maw of a deadline and confronted by a piece of equipment that refuses to do something simple that it’s done a million times in non-critical situations, I find myself quoting this song to my monitor.

I adopt an incredulous, slightly high-pitched tone.

“I mean,” I say. “I meannnn, I’m just sittin’ here on a bench. I’m just SITTIN’ here on the Group-dubbya bench…”

This song is so well-known that my computer immediately recognizes what I’m getting at. It acknowledges that it’s being silly and petulant. It immediately cuts the crap and starts behaving in a rational manner.

So how does a song make it to this spot in the cultural consciousness? It’s a tricky road for a song to navigate. It needs to become successful enough that everybody’s heard of it, but not so over-played that everyone’s sick of it. I guess the smartest thing Guthrie did here was make the song run for about 18 minutes. That’s a mighty long time to expect a radio station not to run an ad for a tire store.

The other key move is to file the right paperwork with the appropriate government office to register your song as a Beloved Holiday Tradition. That $40 filing fee money well-spent: once you’ve set your commercial hooks into somebody’s childhood, you’ve got ’em for life. I’m doing a slow 180-degree pan of my living right now and the Boba Fett cold-cast minibust, the Chewbacca Rumph Originals milk mug and the big R2-D2 cookie jar silently agree with me on this point.

(They also remind me that the new “Clone Wars” Lego figures are pretty cool and shouldn’t I keep an eye peeled for them the next time I’m at the mall?)

I’m sure that nearly everybody can remember hearing this on the radio every Thanksgiving. As soon as that acoustic guitar starts to ramble, you immediately get a mental image of your parents’ stereo, or the car stereo, or the radio in your room, and the floor you sat on while you listened to the whole thing from start to finish.

“Alice’s Restaurant” is the great American cultural equalizer. If you had a great childhood, you associate this with memories of the whole family pausing during a hectic morning to smile at this enduring tale of a Sixties Antiestablishment Thanksgiving. If you had a tough one, you cherish the memory of those lone 20 minutes of solace you had upstairs in your room, pressing your Walkman headphones deep, deep against your ears to blot out the noise of your Dad and his drunken new girlfriend arguing about who left a carton of cigarettes in the oven and forgot to take it out before putting in the turkey.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve heard lots of people — lots of little, whiney people — shouting that the only way to Send A Message to the TSA about how The People Shan’t Stand For Their Tyrrany, etc, is to stage a massive slowdown at all TSA checkpoints on the busiest travel weekend of the year.

I say thee Nay. For one, the TSA won’t notice if an additional 3 out of every 10,000 people ask to opt-out of the backscatter-imaging scanner. For another, delaying allllll of your fellow passengers just to make a flaccid and unnoticed point is silly and selfish.

No, if you’re really upset with the new “scanner or patdown” rules, here’s what you should do:

Step into the scanner, put your arms above your head as requested, and then do what Arlo did at the induction center. Sing a bar of “Alice’s Restaurant”…and walk out.

(Er, after the TSA has cleared you, obviously).

If just one person does it, they’ll think he’s crazy. But if fifty people do it, why, it might be recognized as a movement. The Alice’s Restaurant Massacree Anti-TSA Advanced Screening Movement…

One note about the following song link: there are two versions of this tune on Amazon. You really want the live version. It just plays so much better when Guthrie is working with an audience. (“I’ve been singing this song for 25 minutes. I could sing it for another 25 minutes. I’m not proud…”). Alas, it’s only available with the purchase of the whole album.

(Which, I needn’t remind you, is exactly the sort of crap that The Man is always pulling on us.)

Maybe you should just go ahead and buy the whole album, though. I mean, c’mon: like getting another eight dollars into debt is really going to matter at this point. It’s a $7.99 album. Plus, Amazon is doing a special deal where you get $5 in credits toward video-on-demand titles with an album purchase.

Preview “Alice’s Restaurant” on the Amazon MP3 Store.

Furthermore, Amazon is offering $3 in free MP3 credits to anybody who claims a code and makes their purchases before Monday. You could actually wind up in profit. Click here for the details.

As usual, any Amazon purchases you make after clicking these links will result in my getting a small kickback, in the form of Amazon gift credits. Keep that in mind if you were planning on buying your grandparents something pricey this holiday season.