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Late Night: Giving Thanks

Napa, California.

For most of my young life, I dreaded Thanksgiving.  Not that I don’t love eating to excess (and in later years, drinking…), but because of my family.  I had America’s Worst Grandmother, Etta, who was a torment under the best of circumstances, but was even more horrifying on holidays, and after she died when I was fifteen, my aunt Jicky proved more than ready to take up her mantle, with unseemly relish.

For some reason, rather than having dinner at our house, we went to Lake Oswego, to be berated by Jicky and her surly husband Frank for the evening, the only high point of which would be being finally shunted off to the kid’s table for a moment’s peace while eating.

In my younger years, I thought Frank and Jicky were beasts, of course, but just in the usual way adults were when they were stressed out and drinking.  They ruled their house with an iron fist, and were endlessly critical of our manners, academic achievements, and appearance, but that could be attributed to sibling rivalry between Jicky and my mother, who was the prettier one, which Jicky never got over.

But in later years, their politics came out. You see, the reason Frank and Jicky moved from Portland to Lake Oswego in the first place was to flee the teeming ghetto of Portland (!), and because Frank worked for Publisher’s Paper, he was steeped in the union-busting and anti-environmentalism of that industry long before the Koch brothers got their first super-pac.

It trickled out slowly at first, when they derided my brother’s college Pell Grants as socialist freeloading; but by the time Clinton was elected, Frank could have given Rush Limbaugh a run for his money.  Long before that, though, I had ceased to be a fixture on the shores of Lake Nonegro, as it is locally known.

I hosted my first Thanksgiving in 1988, when I worked for the local ballet company.  Most of the dancers couldn’t afford to go home for the holidays, so I was able to present skipping out on Frank and Jicky as a charitable act, and I was amazed to discover that turkey day could be, well, fun.  And free of my mother’s green Jello salad, to boot.

In later years, I spent most holidays with my surrogate family, that of my friend Rebecca, in Seattle, Los Angeles, and elsewhere.  This year, they’re in Napa, as am I, where, aside from a forced march hike in the hills nearby, I’m able to loaf in the sunshine, do nothing, and avoid all contact with dyspeptic right-wingers.

Happy Thanksgiving, fellow Firepups, and thanks for reading.

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