Monday, November 27, 2017

Monday: Thanksgiving means love, turkey skin and Willem Dafoe.

Thanksgiving gives us time-off (maybe), family(yay?), and loads of food.

However, let's be honest about that Turkey-day dinner. Outside the staples of the bird, mashed-potatoes, gravy and rolls some of the fare can seem downright weird. Squished fruit suspended in green gelatin? Cream covered green beans paired with peas, almonds and onions? If you're a kid or a person unfamiliar with a particular clan-related food tradition much of the dinner can seem like a form of punishment.

Hey, with all that time off maybe you'll cuddle on the couch and watch lots of movies with loved ones. Are there any Thanksgiving movies other than Planes, Trains, and Automobiles and Dutch?

And family? Well that's a concept far too complicated for a four-day holiday. Yes, the brown and orange celebration is very nice, but it's no Christmas or Halloween.

Or, is Thanksgiving perfect because the magic that happens is, perhaps, small and completely unexpected? A few of my favorite writers and artists shared some special Thanksgiving memories. Take a look.

Kent Gowran is author of the Pushcart nominated short ".44 Blues." Former Editor at Shotgun Honey webzine and editor for Shotgun Presents: Both Barrels.

My initial thought when Marietta asked me to write a bit about what Thanksgiving means to me was to go into great detail about the year my Aunt Pat poisoned the whole family. After thinking about it a bit more, I knew the story, though there’s no need for visuals, really can’t be told without sound effects.

A little more thought and it seemed there’s one thing I associate more than anything else with the holiday, and that’s going to the movies. I don’t suppose it was sustained for enough years to call it a tradition, but in 1983, on the night before Thanksgiving, we went to the movies and saw A Christmas Story. Yeah, even back then Santa was horning in on the dead bird and potatoes action.

In ’85, like a lot of people, the night before Thanksgiving, we jammed into the beautiful Plitt movie theater in Aurora, Illinois and saw Rocky IV, none of us suspecting that, within the next 24 hours, we’d all be poisoned. Feeling overwhelmed with patriotism, my cousin and I bought tickets to see the movie again.

Tickets for a repeat of Rocky IV in hand, we made sure the coast was clear, and went into the neighboring auditorium to check out a movie called To Live And Die In L.A., a movie we knew nothing about. I can’t speak for my cousin, he slept through most of it, but my mind was blown, and the movie remains one of my favorites to this day. 

I’m sitting here writing this, thinking about how I still can’t stand the smell or taste of turkey, and, for the first time in 32 years, I’ll be going to the lobby on the night before Thanksgiving. We’re going to check out Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, which, yeah, may be no To Live And Die In L.A., but I’m thinking it’s going to be good.

Greg Barth is the author of Selena, Diesel Therapy, Suicide Lounge, Road Carnage, and Everglade.
I met my wife on Thanksgiving Day. Actually it was that night, and it was in 1993. I worked a third shift at a convenience store that had a laundromat attached.

My wife came by to wash clothes. She came to the store for cigarettes and we talked for hours. It was a slow night due to the holiday.

Now, every year, we get to celebrate the anniversary of the night we met with a big traditional holiday feast.

Sarah Gee is a notorious squirrel watcher. Known for her opinions on GWAR and Chicago politics, she is also a talented visual artist and writer.

The day my family started cutting cherry tomatoes in half.

“Ya gotta wait til the bubbles on the edge pop- that’s how you know when to flip ‘em.”
My grandpa had been making these sourdough pancakes for ages, so I knew the advice was good. Something in his delivery of the advice made it more palatable to my deeply ingrained “question everything” mentality.  

The rest of the day the men would be soaking up vitamin TV in the living room with me relegated to the kitchen- a powerless interloper in the Battle of the Martha Stewarts that was about to be fought.

The tale of the tape went something like this:

Grandma had seen plenty, survived plenty. The Great Depression chewed up little girls and spat out women like her; steel-eyed women of gristle and thrift. She could feed 30 people with a green bean, I swear. She stunk of periodontitis masked with Scope. The smell of years of self-neglect in her quest for martyrdom.

Her advice was given in frustrated asides and always kicked my “reject everything” lever into overdrive. “Line the beans up three at a time so you can go 3x as fasss- ach, here, let me.” “Peel these over the compost bin so you don’t have to scoop out the scraps from the sink.”

My mom in the other corner of the ring. She’s an artist; tall and gorgeous, and full of anxieties and thoughts of inadequacies.  Really only a kid herself, but a perfectionist. A total Martha doing her best in a critical and hostile environment. 

Time came to set the table, and there’s my mom setting out the plates. I notice she’s put a plate that has a chipped footing at the head of the table where my grandpa would soon be sat. I say nothing and keep plucking the rehydrated green beans off of the baking sheet, putting them into the pan. Mom is now being instructed to leave the cherry tomatoes whole, because that’s how men like them. 

The bird is set out at the center of the table and the feast begins. Split pea soup with ham hocks to start off, and some minor bickering.  I can see my very young brother eyeing up the skin of the bird, but we aren’t touching the bird until the soup has been cleared. Grandpa escalates the tension by noticing loudly “Lou, I’ve got the rocker.” He loudly accuses my mother of insulting him by setting this particular plate in that particular position.  

Little bro is now getting more and more excited with talk of Christmas coming soon. He’s bouncing in his seat and drinking kelly green Kool-Aid from a goblet. My grandpa’s made everyone uncomfortable by now so it is time for the salad and the turkey. They put a salad in front of my little brother. I see him pluck a cherry tomato from the top, expecting it to be a maraschino probably, and pop it into his tiny mouth.

My mom starts to call him by his other name “Jesse be careful” as he bites down hard. A tiny, precise beam of tomato juice and seeds hit his uvula. This is the signal for full on projectile vomiting to his liquid-swollen belly. He unleashes this emerald geyser of soup and bile straight at the object of his affection, the beautiful turkey, smothering it in no more than 3 bursts.

And that is why my family always cuts cherry tomatoes in half now.

Yup. Pure holiday magic.

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