Friday, November 25, 2005

Even Lone Rangers Have to Spend Thanksgiving SOMEwhere

(Almost everything else on this blog is political satire & commentary. But this is a personal letter to a friend, Dave of Connecticut, about my Thanksgiving Day. I hope you all, even Dick Cheney & Idi Amin & Saddam Hussein, found something to be grateful for yesterday. Maybe it's fond memories of a pre-emptive invasion, or an especially gratifying decapitation, or enemies fed to crocodiles, or a Swiss bank account full to bursting. And Dick, if you're reading this, it's OK to turn off your pacemaker now. If only you had been fitted with a PEACEmaker, instead.)

Thanks Dave, for your kind T-giving wishes. It was an odd but pleasant day, which included a bike ride down the beach in a fog so heavy that great flocks of seagulls grounded themselves on the sand--socked in. T-giving is the most peaceful day of the year in this warlike city, especially when it's swaddled in fog. Even the din of the freeways settles to a low moan, and they are truly free, working the way their builders naively imagined they would when they built them 40 or 50 years ago. As the sun settled beneath the Pacific, interiors of overpriced little bungalows glowed with a warm yellow light; from my passing bike I could see diorama-like showcases: families taking their seats for the greatest feast of the year. For once, Angelenos were out of their cars, away from their cellphones, and were together and at peace.

A friend who didn't want me stewing in my juices dragged me to Thanksgiving Dinner at his cousin's house----a family I hadn't visited in 20 years. In the meantime, they had moved from a tiny cramped dwelling to a really beautiful 2-storey hacienda in a select Westside enclave. She's an interior decorator and her remarkable touches were everywhere. They had had two tiny sons at the time of the last visit, this time they had a brilliant graduate student (and former national 1500 meter track champ) running a 2 million dollar research project at Berkeley, an earth science major and former all city soccer star at UCSB, and a third son (who hadn't existed the first time) who is a budding all-arounder & high school sophomore. Three handsome, well-spoken, lads---any one of them enough to make any parent's heart burst with pride & love. I had feared the evening would involve a lot of draining socializing, but instead I felt perfectly comfortable with everyone, including mossbacked, senile old Republican ancestors, and richly enjoyed house, neighborhood, family, liquor, talk, food, and even myself. At one point, the hostess had to remind me and the boys to stop talking about the terrible things happening to American labor because it was upsetting her ancient, wealthy, rockribbed parents. We apologized and changed the topic to Kobe Bryant's personal soap opera. After dinner but before dessert, the men took a walk around the block, passing houses manicured within an inch of their lives. My garrulous host offered me a Cuban cigarillo. This was the first, and hopefully will be the last, time in my life I actually enjoyed smoking tobacco. The Cuban leaf tasted that good. We talked about how grand it would be to visit Cuba while it was still a time capsule, we wondered how the States could so ignore the tiny, impoverished, nation's amazing strides in universal healthcare & education, and he offered a charming anecdote about Che.

When we returned to the house we ate four kinds of home made pie with whipped cream & vanlla ice cream. Then we gathered in the kitchen and admired the hostess's gleaming, industrial-strength Viking stove, so big she could use it for professional catering, should she so desire.

There remained, and remains, the vexed question of what I had been doing during those same 20 years, what I had to show for it, and what was wrong with me that I didn't pull a wonderful family* and house to house them in out of MY hat. But I'll be the first to concede that some people know how to live better than others, and that I'm clearly in the latter camp. Am, in fact, clueless.

I reached my mother by phone. She is the most peripatetic resident of a memory care unit in Ft Myers, FL. When I phone, there're always a couple minutes while they corral her. When she's finally found she fumbles, sometimes interminably, with the phone, which seems to have become an alien and almost unfathomable device for her. Once she got the earpiece near her ear and the mouthpiece near her mouth and began to hear my repeated greetings she was cheerful, spoke, as usual, about 85% gibberish, but sounded fine. She's been much happier since she lost most of her mind. She's lost so much of it she's stopped trying to retrieve it----presumably the last secret of happiness. Or the secret of lasting happiness. I told her repeatedly that I loved her & missed her. That much, I hope, she understood. Did she know which son she was speaking to? Maybe.

I imagine you had a truly autumnal T-giving, in a charmingly quaint former farmhouse set among trees relentlessly, neverendingly, furiously shedding brown & red leaves, in still-half-rural exurbia. I hope you and those you love found plenty to be grateful for.

Hi-o Silver and away!

Gregor Samsa

*I was so completely comfortable & sociable with these folk that it seemed a bit mysterious why I hadn't successfully built a clan of my own instead of becoming The Lone Ranger. My multiply-divorced friend was similarly struck by our hosts' cheerful industry, fertility, providence, & continuity and joked about a recent New Yorker cartoon in which the main character laments that he should have combined his many divorces into "one big marriage."


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