Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving: As Comfortable as Stuffing

On Hanukkah, which my family and I celebrate, the world doesn't stop because not everyone is Jewish.

On Christmas, most of the world feels like it stops, but not all, because I'm not Christian or any other denomination that celebrates Christmas.

But on Thanksgiving, the entire world feels like it stops. There is no work for anyone to do, but I say this because neither I nor any other member of my family is an employee at the mercy of any of the corporations and companies that do their damndest to squeeze the ever-loving profits out of Black Friday, with some stores already open during Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving here is just me, Meridith, Mom, Dad, Tigger, Kitty, and our finches, Mr. Chips and Gizmo. We don't have to cook a great deal since it's just us, so there's one big dish of stuffing, two dishes of candied yams with marshmallows (since Mom likes them a lot), and either a turkey or the massive breast of a Butterball turkey, as it was this year. This also means that there's nothing to catch up on because we know each other, every day.

When I got up past 11 this morning, Mom and Meridith were watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in the master bedroom, and Dad was out looking for an L.A. Times. Before I even had a late breakfast, I got on the computer to see what Thanksgiving detritus there was, holiday wishes from good friends on Facebook and by e-mail, including one from Sara, always nice to see.

This day is as comfortable as stuffing. I was ticked off last night about how Sony packaged the complete series set of Married with Children, and decided right then to get a DVD storage binder for the discs so I didn't have to constantly take out DVDs to get the one I wanted and then stack them one on top of each other again. Today, I decided to go further: I'm going to get a huge DVD storage binder, perhaps with the capacity for 420 DVDs, so I can store 90% of my DVDs that way, get rid of cases I don't think I need beyond booklets that come with a few of the DVDs, so when we move, I can bring more books with me to Henderson.

There will be some exceptions, such as the complete series sets of I Love Lucy and M*A*S*H, because those are uniquely packaged, and my James Bond DVD sets, four volumes. But for movies like Unstrung Heroes, Murphy's Romance, Adventureland, My Blueberry Nights, and 84 Charing Cross Road, I don't need the DVD cases. All I want is what's on those discs. That's it. Why let those cases take up space in boxes? That's a waste, and in the new apartment, I can use that space that those DVD cases would have taken up for my books. For now, I'm researching various binders, received a strong recommendation from a Facebook acquaintance who knows what it is to store DVDs since he has hundreds, and I'll see what looks strong enough and will last for years.

Before dinner began, I finished reading the final three pages of Hopscotch and Handbags: The Essential Guide to Being a Girl by Guardian columnist Lucy Mangan, who is one of the funniest writers I've ever read, possibly the funniest, but very much in my top three. She doesn't strive to be funny, reaching for the laughs like Dave Barry does. Her thoughts are sometimes outlandish, but the laughs emanate from whatever she writes about, including womanhood in this case. Before the holiday, I thought that I would take these days to read all of that as well as My Family and Other Disasters (A collection of her columns in The Guardian) and The Reluctant Bride: One Woman's Journey (Kicking and Screaming) Down the Aisle, also by her.

But I looked at one stack of books across from the foot of my bed, on the right side of my room, and there at the top was Stranger on a Train: Daydreaming and Smoking Around America with Interruptions by Jenny Diski, about the two Amtrak trips she took throughout the United States. I decided that I wanted to travel in a book for a while. And under that one was The River Queen: A Memoir by Mary Morris, who traveled down the Mississippi in a houseboat called the River Queen. That will come after Stranger on a Train.

I don't brood as much as Jenny Diski does in the early pages of this book, but reading her descriptions of her childhood and teenage years, her reasons for being on a cargo ship from the U.K. to Tampa, Florida, the people she meets that she describes so well, I realized that I am exactly who I want to be. I am a passionate, voracious bibliophile with a job I love that I want to make full time so I can keep on reading and writing like I do now. I have books I want to write and see published, there's always movies throughout the year that I want to see (including Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, the 3D release of Beauty and the Beast, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, and many more throughout next year), I love to play Galaga on the Nintendo DS whenever I find the time and especially when I find an arcade machine, I love pinball, I love basketball, and I feel, even with Henderson and Las Vegas coming up in due time, that if I find someone to share my life, that'd be nice, but if not, that's ok. I don't want to push for it. I don't have that drive. I'm very comfortable with who I am. I've figured out the right blend for my life and it suits me perfectly.

In that same vein, I found that I want to read a lot more travel books (by travel writers, not the guidebooks, not yet anyway) about China, Mexico, and New Mexico. Las Vegas is a given what with the stack of books I have about it already, and hopefully being a resident soon, which will give me the most welcome opportunity to ransack the Nevada history sections at the Henderson and Clark County libraries so I can learn all about where I live and the state that I can proudly call home.

My interest in China began after reading The Last Chinese Chef by Nicole Mones and wanting to know more about its culinary history and so much more about its history in general, as well as its literature. I wanted more about Mexico after reading about Anthony Bourdain's experiences in food there in his The Nasty Bits. New Mexico is because of The Secret of Everything by Barbara O'Neal. It's because of that wonderful, wonderful novel that I want to visit there one day.

However, I recently learned that the influence of New Mexico has been in my life far longer than this past September, when I read The Secret of Everything. After Andy Rooney had put squarely in my mind the notion of becoming a writer, I discovered in my early teens a book called Wild Mind: Living the Writer's Life by Natalie Goldberg. Goldberg's advice about writing and the prompts she provided in order to provide fuel for writing made it feel like writing was about freedom, about writing whatever you wanted and not being afraid to do so. In that book, I remember reading about Taos, not even knowing where that is, though I do now. And I found out that Goldberg lives in northern New Mexico.

I need places that don't just talk about freedom, but live it. Las Vegas feels that way to me, even under the constraints of the economy right now. To me, it is about hedonism; it is about finding the pleasures that can enrich your life every day. Whatever weirdness you might be into, you could find it in Las Vegas, and you're part of keeping that freedom going there.

New Mexico feels the same way to me, but with more of a spiritual bent, more of an expansion of heart and mind through the scenery and the culture. I've got a lot more to learn about it, but it feels right to me. I don't think I want to live there, but I like knowing that it's there, and one day I will see it, greedily gulping all of it. And I hope that travel will coincide with my one major goal in life: To visit all the presidential libraries in the nation.

I didn't think about Thanksgiving like this last year because I was just rising from the dark pit of the anxiety that had so overwhelmed me from being vastly overweight, which was also brought on by so much caffeine consumption that I could have become an alternative energy source, and I had begun losing weight, but was still watching my own body so closely that I didn't consider anything else in my life.

These last months of this year and the beginning of next year are different because there is a future ahead, finally a future after eight years of living here, where there's no vivid color, no personality, no feeling that you're living well. I think more and more about Las Vegas, about Henderson, about our new apartment complex, about the Pinball Hall of Fame, about those casinos on the Strip that I haven't visited yet, about the libraries in the area, about my future career, about the Hacienda Hotel and Casino near Hoover Dam, about all that there is that will make my life better. It's pretty good now with the books I have on hand, but I want more. And Las Vegas and Henderson is more, much more.

I'm thankful for everything that you've read here, and Thanksgiving itself, the one day of the year in which the nation feels silent enough in order to do some considerable thinking, and center yourself fully, understanding who you truly are, and finally embracing it entirely, without uncertainty.