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Much like last year, I got invited to spend this Thanksgiving at P.J.'s place (P.J. is a friend-of-a-friend) over on the lake in Kirkland. We did the deep-fried turkey thing again, which was as gastronomically perfect as ever, even if the social setting was occasionally awkward.

But since Thanksgiving is supposed to be about family, my thoughts remained elsewhere pretty much all day. First thing in the morning, I called my sister Carmen, asking how her holiday was shaping up. She was still in her PJs at noon, Eastern, although she would be hosting basically everyone, that night. (She'd already started cooking, though, naturally.) She ran down the menu for me, which sounded pretty special, even if it didn't involve anything deep-fried. She asked what I'd be doing, and I mentioned the house on the lake, the deep fryer, the bottle of red wine I was bringing. Carmen laughed out loud, asking why she couldn't just bring the wine, next time.

Feeling a little more connected to home, I washed up and dressed and headed out. I walked through an eerily empty downtown Seattle to catch a bus to the Eastside a couple hours early. I tried to make conversation with a young woman at the bus stop who was carrying a fancy-looking dessert and reading Wilde's Picture of Dorian Gray, without much success.

Anyway, the bus finally showed, and we were off. Except that, as soon as we were on the highway, it broke down. So we spent twenty minutes stranded between a retaining wall and the crowded northbound lanes, waiting for a replacement.

The next bus was of course overcrowded, despite being one of those jointed, double-coach affairs, as it was carrying what amounted to two sets of passengers. I suppose that the driver was trying to make up lost time, too. Once we broke out of the I-5 traffic, she just floored it, whipping around the 520 exit, sending passengers lurching toward the aisles. I saw the Oscar Wilde woman sitting in the swiveling joint section in the middle, tightly clutching her Saran-wrapped dessert. Out on Lake Washington, the waters south of the floating bridge were all chop, throwing up white spray.

Once in Kirkland, I still had some time to kill, so I called Carmen's house again. Only by now, other relatives were arriving. The phone got passed to my brother Abey, who asked me how we celebrated Thanksgiving in Seattle. He wondered how we worked Kurt Cobain into the whole thing.

Jen, a friend bearing an uncannily close resemblance to Parker Posey, picked me up at the South Kirkland P&R, apprising me of the complicated social situation awaiting us at P.J.'s. P.J. had a new girlfriend, who was coaxing him toward domesticity at what Jen considered an alarmingly rapid rate. In a fresh demonstration of P.J.'s abrupt abandonment of carefree bachelorhood, the girlfriend's family had at the last minute been invited to join us.

Despite these signs of imminent social disaster, though, everyone behaved reasonably well--or at least as expected. Most of the male guests congregated on the couch watching football. P.J. busied himself outside with the turkey and deep fryer, while P.J.'s girlfriend (sorry, still don't remember her name ...) and Jen and the other female guests put the rest of dinner together in the kitchen. Painfully bored by football and anxious to feel useful, I persuaded Jen to let me chop some vegetables. I felt like Keith Olbermann on Martha Stewart.

Finally, as I got to know people, I managed to direct conversation around to some favorite topics: P.J.'s girlfriend's mom and sister heard I had a literature degree, and so decided to pick my brains about favorite novels. I self-indulgently pointed them toward things like Jeffrey Eugenides' Middlesex, Salman Rushdie's Shalimar the Clown, Faulkner's As I Lay Dying, Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian. The sister won me over when conversation swung around to Shakespeare, as she described Iago in Othello as "the best villain" and spontaneously confirmed my longstanding reading of his motives: "narcissism, paranoia, jealousy." Her husband, a music industry guy, wanted to know what I listened to, so I whipped out the iPod and introduced him to some Hip-Hop-inflected Flamenco Nuevo that he hadn't heard of. And then I discovered that the father was from Philadelphia, so we reminisced about Philly fans' legendary obnoxiousness, the Jersey shore, etc.

At some point, I went out on P.J.'s deck (with its dramatic lake view) and called my niece to wish her a Happy Thanksgiving, too. But she was busy and the phone got passed to my other brother, Victor. For some reason, I didn't immediately recognize his voice. He sounded kind of off. Mildly offended, Victor started giving me a hard time about my being amnesiac, deaf, or in denial, which immediately ruled out his being anyone else. I consequently decided to be a pain in the ass, too, assuring Victor that he couldn't be Victor because "my brother is way funnier than you." After the ritual putdowns were out of our respective systems, I told him "ten cuidado" and went back to the party.

The evening's next big amusement came over dinner when I discovered that another guest used to work for my company. In between her departure and my arrival, the firm had undergone nearly 100% staff turnover, so the times before were a little mysterious to me. My new source indulged my curiosity by breathlessly recounting stories from the bad old days and letting me in on the sordid histories of the two or three people who've managed to stick around since then. I returned the favor by bringing her up to date about their subsequent misadventures.

After dinner, people's defenses came further down and holiday etiquette went out the window, with conversation veering into the minefield of politics. Now, if you're reading this, you know that I love reading, writing, and talking about politics, like virtually nothing else. And I do sometimes get a lot out of talking people with drastically different viewpoints, at least to the extent that they manage to talk about what they're for, and why. That's usually at least sociologically interesting, and sometimes on a more philosophical level, too. Food for thought and all that.

But it developed that I was surrounded by disgruntled Rossi supporters who now felt the need to hold forth on everything they despised about Washington State Democrats. Hell, I even agreed with a few of their complaints (e.g., Seattle's propensity to elect schlubs for mayor). But, seriously, I'd worked to help Gregoire get re-elected, I thought Rossi would have been a disaster, and I just wasn't in the mood. So I mostly sat back and listened, fighting off the food coma.

Then it came time to receive bags of leftovers, thank P.J. and everyone for their efforts, say pleased to meet you all, and head back to Seattle.

I lucked out on the ride home--kind of: As the party wound down, a couple of other guests invited me to go see Slumdog Millionaire, which was playing at a theater about a dozen blocks from my house. So I eagerly agreed, at least to the ride part. But overcome by the combination of all that gluttony, a long winding ride home via stick shift, and toxic levels of irony, I became too sick to seriously consider the movie. So I made them let me out on Broadway, tottered home gulping cold air, gave away half my leftovers to a guy with a sign outside of Dick's, and went to bed.


saavedra77: Back to the byte mines ... (Default)
Anthony Diaz

December 2014

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