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My Fantasy Thanksgiving

This year we're giving thanks to some of our favorite writers for sharing tales of Thanksgiving woes -- and joys. Today, here's my story of a true Thanksgiving escape. For more great Turkey Day tales, go here.

For most adults, running away from family commitments and responsibilities, especially on major holidays, is merely a fantasy -- conjured up in the mind to escape the realities of impending personality clashes, expectations of joy that never will be realized, and someone's sorry excuse for a dish to pass.

On the first Thanksgiving after we were married, my husband and I, being childless and adult children ourselves, made a snap decision to play out the dream of family-free holiday freedom by ignoring all invitations to Turkey Day dinners and hightailing it to San Diego with little more than the clothes on our backs and a pack of Red Vines on the dashboard. When we arrived, the eighth-largest city in the United States was a mere ghost town, its inhabitants no doubt giving up a day of perfect outdoor weather to exercise their holiday rights of tryptophan, television, and two-hours-later leftovers.

We scored a sweet room at the downtown Westin on Thanksgiving Eve and, for a few hours, kept the skeleton staff busy by ordering room-service hot fudge sundaes and running back and forth from the pool to the hot tub to our room, and in reverse order, until the sugar rush wore off and the management stopped calling to see if we were okay.

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Logically, our next stop was the San Diego Zoo, which also was mostly devoid of humans, but happily, still had all its animals on hand, most of whom were enjoying some Thanksgiving Day treats of their own. With a front-row seat to all attractions, we watched with delight as brown bears chowed down on giant bones, giant tortoises ate salads of lettuce, and petting zoo goats and sheep ate kibble from our hands along with a portion of my camera strap.

The San Diego sunset came sooner than we expected and we found ourselves suddenly hungry and trolling the Gaslamp Quarter in search of a Thanksgiving Day meal from the sea. With few options, we settled on a seafood bistro whose staff couldn't wait to leave and whose food was both expensive and forgettable, but we gorged ourselves nonetheless, drinking enough wine to fuel our windy walk to the waterfront, where we listened to the waves and tried not to think about what our families might be up to, or what we would tell them when we returned.

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