Category Archives: Thanksgiving

Blow Your Horn…of Plenty!

horn 123rf.comHopefully Dear Reader is enjoying his horn of plenty during this, the season of thanks.

I’m not sure why the horn of plenty amuses the modern brain. Maybe its cutesy “The people of the Land had enough to eat!” artistic rendering looks generally corny. And that old-tymey wording, “horn of plenty.” Whatever the reason, a horn of plenty is a wondrous and comical thing.

For it we give thanks. As a people of many nations, we are thankful together for the bounty of this yearly American feast. And for old movies we will watch afterwards with lines like, “It’s just not right, I tell you!” sputtering from earnest and exasperated men in hats fighting for justice with the charming naïveté of tymes gone by. Who knows if tymes were ever really like that…let us think so and be content. We are thankful for every moment of contentment we can squeeze out of anxiety-provoking modern tymes. Those of us entering the Big Jewelry Years (due to growing knuckles, noses, ears) are grateful for a holiday function whereat we can wear same. And that we’re getting old enough for such parts to grow, which means we are in fact still alive.

There is much about gratitude in print these days. So I conducted an informal poll of the Land. The query, “What are you thankful for?” reaped interesting and heartfelt responses, largely from strangers, including:

Family; my cozy bed; the farmers who grow our food, especially the organics; books; my companion, janbrett dot comThe Schluffer (a cat); snow; the community in my church; that I’m able to walk; people blowing horns; how humans can overlook their differences for the sake of community; my family both at school and at home; the parents’ wallet; I have a hot husband; gluten; the opportunity to immigrate to the United States and my happy life here; that my son has a dog; girl scouts; my beautiful wife; “to eat”; my family; the pleasure of making the letters J and F in cursive, which may become obsolete; that spiritually bankrupt people have consumerism to fill the void; sarcasm; young faces eager to learn; my beautiful daughters and that I have a job; my health; my ear muffs; music. The front runners? Family and community.

maplerose dot deviantart dot comMy family and community includes the crazed nutters I call friends, including the illustrious and sharp-dressing Viscomte de Villainy, who have stuck by me through thick and very, verrry thin. I am thankful for them, and for how people’s faces change when they smile. And for my blood family, who are definitely nuts. And for a special chipmunk at Silver Lake this summer, an alert little feller named Scamp who roamed the grounds freely with a cheerful, magical insouciance in broad daylight– no shady rock walls for him! We are not thankful for the raptor that likely picked Scamp off, loveable easy target that he was.

With the holidays approaching, I am among those thankful for the opp to spend money. It’s always scrimping and saving in modern tymes, isn’t it? Wondering if the income will stop, what new disaster will cripple us monetarily. Gift giving becomes an even more guilty boggler when in magazines and TV and radio, it’s all, “Have less stuff. Get rid of your stuff. Stop having stuff. No stuff!” I for one like to wrap stuff. And give it. As a present. My solution? Gift people with experiences (tickets to a show, a subscription to something) and other stuff that can be used up. I’ll stop or Dear Reader might guess his gift. Can’t have that.

I add in closing sincere thanks that humans can’t think of everything all the time, try as we might. So some bad things get little air time. Like that tiff at work or the altercation at the dump. When we think on it, it’s galling (Treated unfairly? Flubbed a reply? Acted rudely?), but eventually, well, other thots encroach. Thank you, Lord. Because we do not need to dwell on dumb garbage.

We prefer pleasant thots. Thots about…cornucopias. Or: Maybe I won’t dress so shabby for the big meal this year. Make an effort. Do something new. A new charitable effort. Giant earrings. Angel food cake instead of pie. Something.

Wherever you are, blow your horn – with a charming naïveté, a magical insouciance…however you want to play it. Blow a few notes my way. I’ll be listening for you. Good birdin’ and good day.

Come to Vermont

cometovermontAfter a fresh dumping by Mother Nature, your ski weekend awaits. Or just drive up for a post-T-day recovery weekend at an inn and sleep — or snowshoe off your holiday blubber — in our winter wonderland. Vacation states are for doing what you want. And nothing you don’t want.

Have You Read a Ford Lately?

nothing is realBehold the craftsmanship that went, letter by letter, into the spreading of this important message. Truer words were never, um, self-adhesived onto a bumper.

While each Ford has its own mystique, it’s not every Ford that serves as a reminder to dig out your cheery Floyd and Death Rattle CDs for family gatherings during this, the season of thanks. Oh and by the way, Peace to you, fellow motorists!

Whodathunksgiving – That Was It?


My Buddy

This time of year, when I’m not buying battalion-sized Christmas wrap at BJ’s Club, shaving years off my birth date when paying for the fine wines of Rite-Aid, or standing on a snow-peaked mountain drinking a green wellness nectar in a thermal yoga costume, I’m girding myself for the family brawl at Thanksgiving. I have an idea what might fire it up this year.

Yes, it was a tight race, folks and no one knew just how it was gonna unfold. What boggled was the speed of it. Everyone went, “That was it?” Imagine, Florida not slowing us down for once, like the granny in a Cadillac Fleetwood that she is, who for unknown reasons, despite 20 cylinders and a giant grille on her land yacht, just can’t manage to keep up with the others. Whodathunk?!   I can’t touch the lambasting of Flo on NPR’s Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, so podcast the 11/11 show for that thorough hosing.  But some of my best friends are Republican, or Floridian, so I move quickly on.

I have a (proven!) theory that it’s not what you are prepared to endure that will go wrong. It’s something out of the blue that will blindside you and ruin everything. The holiday family brawl is a thing we’re prepared to endure that actually probably will go wrong.  On the rare occasion that it doesn’t—no heated argument or fisticuffs about politics, nuclear power, or a family member’s bad behavior—a kind of uncertain, almost disappointed apprehension hangs in the air. Like when sparks spew out of a volcano but no lava follows. Just a collective and baffled, “That was it?!”

I’ve never seen so many rodents in my life, have you? What with them so abundant due to soft winters and fewer predators, it’s like Willard out there. Good menu items for T-day could be roast squirrel for the entrée (they can stuff a quail, can’t they?) with spicy battered mice poppers for the first course or as a passed app. Both cheap, plentiful, and eminently deep-fryable. People who deep fry turkeys and eat rodents are unafraid to make a statement—even if that statement is “We crazy!”—in a way that I for one have come to admire. Don’t fret, the baby mice caught in my Havahart® trap are too cute to eat. I asked my sister-in-law why babies are so cute. Her texted answer: “Survival.”  The alternative amuses as it horrifies: “I’ve had it with this ugly little thing; let’s drop it off on the loading dock at Costco.”

Which reminds me: ado is being duly made about Black Friday having moved up via fake holiday creep to Thursday night, thereby ruining big box employees’ holidays. I’ll tell you what the Aikens family will be doing Thanksgiving night: watching Planes, Trains and Automobiles for the eleven hundredth time, followed by movies on TCM with charming olde-tymey dialogue (“It’s no good, I tell ya. It’s just no good!”) A spanking for retailers’ management, I say. A spanking! And not the good kind.

Now for some Turkey Day Sniglets®, some old some new.

Bloatilla – The fleet of bloated corpses littering the living room post-meal

Candensation – Glistening moisture layer that forms on canberry sauce

Exconversation – Labored dinner conversation with your sister’s creepy new “boyfriend”

Goo-goo Goggles – What your son must be wearing to see any merit in his new “girlfriend”

Coochie Cool – The appeal of your niece’s cute new squeeze

Loonesta – The boring postulate posed by a crazy relative so late in the meal it puts you to sleep

Yankee Panky – What the Pilgrims did after the feast to increase their number.

Which reminds me: I have a somewhat macabre and expressionless decorative light-up pilgrim I bought years ago at, you guess it, Rite-Aid.  Should have bought the entire family but I just got the man.  He’s gotten dirty and I had a good laugh washing his little plastic fanny a few days ago. I also enjoyed strapping him into the passenger seat for the ride to New York, not unlike people who have scammed their way into the carpool lane with a plastic “passenger”.  I grew fond of my inanimate co-pilot. Fellow motorists dug him.

Which reminds me: years ago, my waiter friends shared an apartment on the lower east side of Manhattan which, though probably quite tony now, was a dangerous hellhole back then.  As a “security measure,” they placed My Buddy in the window to make it look like someone was home. My Buddy was a large male doll marketed to boys.  That my friends, one of whom died tragically not long afterwards, actually believed an unmoving rendering of a boy positioned  in a window would deter burglars (read: desperate junkies looking to fix), and that it was called My Buddy, is as silly—yet dear—as the childish signature on your original Social Security card.

Well, whodathunk? In the end, this column is to me what Thanksgiving is mostly about. Plastic fannies, cheap wine, doomed attempts at innovative menu items, and remembering people now gone, possibly with inanimate friends, that were once unspeakably beloved. And funny. And twisted.  Who shall forever remain unforgotten.  At least while we’re around. Good eatin’ and good day.

Pulling the Envelope inside the Box

One thing exhausting us can be undone: the overuse of tiresome modern expressions. Rather than risk coining another irksome term, I’ll call them isms—expressions beaten to death by people unwilling or unable to come up with less hackneyed terms. You can fill in your own prefix.  Trite-isms. Annoying-isms. Tool-isms. Have at it.

There are two ismal varieties: conversational and corporate. No way you’ve escaped the conversational ones. Some were funny to begin with and lost their luster, others never funny:  Don’t go there (initially sassy, then grating); too much information (with dumb caboose, “TMI!”); been there, done that (listener thinks with fake smile, “I’m supposed laugh at this…again?”) A person or animal of desirable qualities referred to as a keeper is another groaner.

My peeves: It is what it is. You do the math. Reach out. Shout out. I hear ya, girlfriend. Pick his brain. Face time. Me time. MehPanties in a bunch [wad]. Hilarious misapplications of What happens in [wherever] stays in [wherever].  No one tells you anything anymore, they share it. Ick.

Aha! moment: The Aha! Effect, coined by psychologists in 1979, mutated into a “moment”— based less on cognition than on personal growth—on Oprah. I love Oprah but it reeks of yourselfness when you use your own ism a lot. (There I go again: Ism!) Or was it Dr. Phil’s? Same thing.

I requested isms from friends. Their vitriol, largely unprintable, was the usual high comedy. Some hate yada yada yada and blah blah blah; others not so much. One loathes “young people saying back in the day.  You’re 25, back in what day?” A polite friend detests whatever, and “no problem as a response to ‘thank you.’” An old friend dislikes partner; also epic, as in an epic failure, fight, or concert experience. Uh-oh “concert experience” could be one. You have to watch yourself. It’s Ism Bewareness Month.

 The more noxious variety is the corporate ism. In meetings, an Orwellian Newspeak quality makes the ism-adverse colleague wonder, “Does he really think I’m falling for this?” Like when obstacles and problems suddenly became challenges. Sometimes I’ll say “problem” in a meeting just to see if anyone bites. That can be fun. Not fun is how now we’re supposed to be embracing things (like diversity and transparency) while still pushing the envelope and thinking outside the box, then using our skill sets to facilitate it all. Much of this idiocy started in corporate management books, and spread like Fluff® over the white bread of our lives. By white bread I mean meetings, pop-up ads, and e-mail forwards by contagiously dull-witted people. It’s causing the doltification of America. We’re like monkeys with a 37-phrase vocabulary and hand signals.

My list of banalities is topped by the stale robust (as in “robust platform”) and leverage (as in “leveraging our robust platform”), followed closely by on the same page, ROI, win-win, and pushback.

My rankled friends despise: knowledge transfer, synergy, buy-in, talking points, getting energized around [a subject] , the New Normal, at the end of the day, cohort, walk me through the document, coming late to the party, drill down, carrying the water, sound bite, we have a good story to tell, kicking the can down the road, invite as a noun, and “impact as a verb…in the name of trying to make what we’re doing sound more important than it is.”

Yes, corporate isms are worse because they are (1) designed to increase productivity by minimizing time spent on original thought and (2) mingled with jargony buzzwords in a sad attempt to (a) elevate one’s dim or under-researched presentation to a higher level of importance or (b) to disguise meaningless blather as something of actual value. That is, to impress—when there’s no there there or, at the least, precious little. Apologies to Gertrude Stein.

E-mail and texting have their own shopworn abbreviations. I can’t stand LOL but dig her longer cousins. I add my own initials on with no explanation—say, “ADASD” for “and dying a slow death”—and let the recipient figure it out. Try it, you’ll like it (<–still funny).

IMHO It’s all TMI, friends. We’re LOLAPOBO [and puking our brains out].  If isms taint the family argument at your Thanksgiving dinner table, why not wait for a lull, say, “You know, Cuz, the great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink’  – George Orwell, Politics and the English Language, 1946”…and see what happens?

Good eatin’, good conversin’, and good day.

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