For reasons too complicated to explain right now and entirely unrelated to the rest of the story at hand, I found myself in my early twenties having made a declaration that from that moment forward, my Thanksgiving Days would be my own. (This was when the thought that I might be in a long-term relationship with a pretty somebody who'd have a family and Thanksgiving plans of her own had not, as Douglas Adams wrote, even begun to speculate about the merest possibility of crossing my mind.) I would not shuttle between houses and dance the divorce child waltz. I would go places and visit people and generally spend my Thanksgiving giving thanks for mobilty, inexpensive airfares and for friends willing to give me a place to crash.
This worked out well enough for a while. I spent my first independent Thanksgiving traveling through Northern California with my friend Steve. I remember that Thanksgiving dinner was spent in a buffet-style restaurant-- on the order of a Sizzler or a Ponderosa-- somewhere in the greater San Jose area. The food was mediocre but plentiful, with turkey to spare back when I ate such things and when Tofurkey was not yet the punchline to a lame joke nor a near-staple of my diet. There we were, world travelers sampling the finest local cuisine and staying at the plush & refined Motel 6 down the highway, celebrating Thanksgving with a crew of EMT's a couple of tables over, and large families dressed in Sunday-go-to-meetin' finery, wearing gravy as ties and mashed potatoes as brooches and arguing loudly over whether the kids should be allowed to go to the dessert bar yet another time.
Another year I spent in the Bronx with my friend Eddie's family, after Eddie and I had gone into Manhattan to see the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Television does not do justice to the balloons. And Eddie's family fed me very well and put up with me at their family gathering which, y'know, is saying something.
Then there was 1992, the year I spent in Colorado.
It should have been fantastic. My friend Mike and his then-fiancée lived in Boulder. We'd all gone to college together. My friend Violet lived up in Fort Collins. (Violet is not her real name. Mike's real name is Mike, however. But Mike isn't really the subject of this story so just in case somebody who knows Violet stumbles over the page, I'm calling her Violet. Why? Because I just saw the name somewhere.) Violet did not go to college with me (or, you might surmise, Mike or his then-fiancée.) I knew Violet through this organization I belonged to in high school and college, the Senior Classical League.
I spent the first couple of days in Colorado with Mike and crashed at his place, hung out in Boulder, and saw the local sights. (The local sights consist of a) bars with dirt cheap specials, b) gorgeous mountains, and c) the house used for the exterior shots on Mork & Mindy.) And we ate crazy meals like buying a bag of 20 McDonald's hamburgers (again, back when I ate McDonald's food) because the local McDonald's was running a special "26 cents for a Hamburger" promotion. Then Mike drove me up to Fort Collins.
The game plan was simple: Violet and I were supposed to go on a road trip. Drive to the Grand Canyon, see the sights. When I arrived, there was a small problem; Violet's studies had unexpectedly spilled into the Thanksgiving break. A long road trip was not feasible. Which was fine-- I had no place to be as such so what did I care? We'd do something else.
Then it snowed.
24 inches in a day.
Then it snowed again, after a short break.
This time, another 20 inches.
So if I recall correctly, it was something like 44 inches of snow in a 36-hour period. Now we're snowbound in an apartment in Fort Collins, the roads are not fully plowed so we can't drive much of anywhere, and we can't walk anywhere yet either. All of this, of course, would have been fan-fucking-tastic if Violet had been a very attractive, intelligent and personable woman with an unbridled desire for me.
In reality, that sentence stopped after "very attractive, intelligent and personable woman." And this was all taking place when I was still in my "I really like you but rather than actually say anything about it or act upon it I will say nothing and act like a kicked puppy when you show the slightest bit of interest or affection toward anybody who's not me", a phase which lasted, more or less... uh, from the onset of puberty until the spiritual ass-kicking that was the summer of 1994 when I worked on a festival rock tour and grew the fuck up. (A side benefit of this was learning to give my phases much shorter names.)
You can already smell disaster. Oh, but here's the wild card: Violet, who as we've established was very attractive, intelligent and personable, had recently started a new form of birth control. A form of birth control that involved getting small sticks full of about 5 years worth of hormones planted subcutaneously. As you might imagine, there's a short adjustment period while the body gets used to all those hormones. I arrived smack-dab in the midst of this adjustment period.
So with this recipe for fun already churning, Violet and I proceeded to do nothing but annoy the hell out of each other for the next few days, though I do recall we made it to a movie theater at one point to see two very long movies (Malcolm X and Bram Stoker's Dracula) which provided the illusion of being social while allowing us to ignore each other for much of the experience. (This is why going to the movies is so popular for first dates and very old married couples.)
Which brings us to Thanksgiving Day. Violet had a friend one apartment over from her, who's name I don't recall but who I will call Cheyenne because it's a city in Wyoming and I have the vaguest recollection that her name was also a place name like Georgia or Carmel. Cheyenne was cooking a turkey for the gathering of wastrels and orphans who had no place to go on Thanksgiving. Cheyenne also had a gorgeous pet cockatoo that never shut up for the days I was there... until the smell of cooking turkey filled the apartment, when the bird suddenly went mute and didn't talk for a day. I suppose that were I trapped in a cage in an apartment filled with the smell of burning human flesh, I'd probably keep my damn mouth shut too.
We all went over to somebody's house, though I cannot recall the name of the host. Nor do I remember much of the meal other than somebody bringing cheese enchiladas (which as we all know were served at the original Thanksgiving, and are served each year at Plimoth Plantation).
What I most remember is this: there was some movement, post-meal, to playing board games or some equally convivial activity. Slow movement, but movement. Then somebody turned on the television, and I remember hearing these words: "18 hours of Eastwood!"
And at that, every male in the house emptied into the room with the television, as "Where Eagles Dare" began.
It is still among my favorite holiday memories.
The next day, I called Mike. I was supposed to spent another few days in Fort Collins. "Please, for the love of all that is good and holy, Mike, come up here and get me out of here." Ironically, that was also the first "fun" day that I had with Violet, but by that time it was clear that getting the hell out of Dodge was the wisest course of action.
Violet, being no less attractive, intelligent and personable now than she was then, is married. As am I. And Mike is on his way. Thankfully, Violet and I have made peace with the weekend from hell.