In the end, the bathroom was the most popular spot that holiday, because the dishes got mixed up (or purposefully ignored) and the dairy-free people ate the real mashed potatoes, a green bean accidentally grazed a piece of dead fowl, and the rolls and the hummus went absolutely untouched. Then someone announced they were allergic to wine and did we have any Martinelli's?

Allergic to wine?

I made a vow then that if we were ever going to host another Thanksgiving, it was simply going to be a platter of Lactaid and Imodium AD.

Luster kaboom
Luster kaboom

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To get Julie Peterson's recipe for San Antonio eggnog and read about other Thanksgiving exploits from the likes of Robrt L. Pela, Eric Schaefer, and Sativa Peterson, visit our food blog, Chow Bella, at www.phxfood.com.

So when Louise asked us to her house for the holiday, I breathed a sigh of relief. She had just saved me a big trip to the pharmacy and the urge to bludgeon a sulfite-adverse hippie with a wine bottle.

"We'll come to Thanksgiving," I told Louise. "If we can somehow find out how to add meat to pumpkin pie."

Laurie Notaro's latest book,It Looked Different on the Model, is probably still available at bookstores. Hopefully. Fingers crossed. Raised in Phoenix, she now lives in Oregon.In addition to curative incense burning.


Tania Katan's Gasoline-Soaked Thanksgiving

In a small rental car due back the next day at the same time, we sped toward Morenci, Arizona. It was Thanksgiving Day, and my new girlfriend (who looked like a cross between Roma Downey and a real angel) held my hand as it rested gently on the emergency brake. Within the first few minutes of hitting the road she said, "Tania, it smells like gasoline. Do you smell it?" I didn't smell anything except for new love and my mother's chestnut-sausage stuffing beckoning us to drive faster. "Nope. No gasoline here!"

It's weird how quickly an angel can morph into your mother when constant, unsubstantiated nagging emits from her lips. "I'm serious, Tania, it smells like gasoline. You really don't smell it?"

"I really don't smell it, because it's really nonexistent."

Every 15 minutes her verbal tic spit out some new analysis of the phantom smell. "It's gas. I'm sure of it. Gasoline. It's in the car!" 

Eventually, I pulled over, bought some incense and lit a match to fix the situation. "See. It's fine. Now it smells like cedar chips, not gasoline. Are you happy?"

We were late and getting later for our 24-hour Thanksgiving road trip.

The problem was that Jack gave us directions. As a welder for Phelps Dodge, my mother's new husband, Jack, spent most of his time avoiding sparks. So when asked for directions, he made sure to cover all the bases. "Well, you see, when you get on the 191, you're gonna get off at Burro Alley. In about 13 — nope, 14 — miles, you're gonna get to a fork in the road by the old gas station that used to be a supermarket; when you get to that gas station, you'll wanna turn left. That's what I always wanna do, but that ain't right. You turn right and . . ." Thank God they called it Mapquest and not Jackquest.

 We made it to my mom's house, popped open the trunk, and a cloud of gasoline smacked me in the face! The trunk was drenched in gasoline. I could have killed us with cedar-chip incense! I apologized to my new love.

"I am such an idiot, I'm sorry." Her angel wings wrapped around me, we tongue-kissed, greeted my family, and called the rental car company.

 It wasn't so much a knock on the front door as a thud and the sound of metal scraping across concrete. In a town of a thousand people, you don't ask who it is; you just open the door. So Mom did. He stood at about seven feet tall with every part of him overflowing. His beard, hair, belly. A rusted metal crowbar was his makeshift cane. "I'm with the towing company," he said flatly, as if getting his tow-truck-driving certification required him to impale his frontal lobe with a J-hook.

My sister sneaked out of the living room and stage-whispered for my brother, girlfriend and me to join her in the kitchen. "You guys, I saw him on America's Most Wanted! He killed his entire family!"

Mom yelled from the living room, "We have another guest for Thanksgiving! Will you guys please warm up a plate?!"

We sat in a circle, like a support group for any number of reasons: alarmists, pyromaniacs, lobotomy survivors. He ate, never looking down at his plate, maintaining perfect eye contact with each one of us, like the Mona Lisa; wherever our eyes moved, his followed. We asked him some questions to make him, and us, feel more at home.

Us: So, it must be hard working on Thanksgiving, huh?

Him: No.

Us: I'm sure your family is missing you tonight, right?

Him: Don't have any.

Us: You ever watch America's Most Wanted?

Him: (Silence.)

When questions failed, our family did what we do best: ignored him. We played Trivial Pursuit. After several hours of placing tiny plastic pie-wedges in our respective wheels of genius, we realized that he was still there. Finally, he creaked out of his chair, grabbed his crowbar, and said, "You guys are . . . funny. Like, weird."

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