Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Eve

parade prep
On this eve of Thanksgiving, my thoughts center on recollections of my traditional multiple-hour, exhausting drive to New York City for the holiday. It began in 1979 while I was living in North Conway, NH, the normally six and a half hour drive would usually take about seven or more hours, and on this evening in November, the traffic always is outrageous. I can remember some trips in the 8-9 hour range, sitting in traffic jams in Massachusetts and Connecticut, waiting in line for an hour to get across the Whitestone Bridge.

One year, I had to attend a meeting up “above the notch” – Pinkham Notch, that is - on Turkey Day eve. I chose to leave for New York directly from the meeting taking a route that would bring me over more mountains and into the snowy upper Connecticut River valley. Driving down US 2 to I-91, ambling between the border of New Hampshire and Vermont, I recall with fondness the image of a group of young school children waving goodbye to their teachers as their school bus left some small rural Vermont schoolyard. Norman Rockwell couldn’t have painted a more tender scene.

During the next few years I lived in southern Maine and the trip was slightly easier since I lived close to the Interstate and did not have to begin and end my journey with a 60-mile drive through the narrow, dark, winding roads of the New Hampshire countryside. That annual trip lasted for about ten years and then one memorable Thanksgiving I made the annual trip to NYC from Indiana, Pennsylvania. That eight-hour event was made more memorable by the sudden development of a choking, acrid, smoky smell inundating my car as I approached the George Washington Bridge on I-80. I would discover, three days and $300 later that the smell was due to the accumulation of pine needles collected inside the heater core that had wrapped around the heater fan. I was assured by the Mazda dealer that the there was at no time any danger of fire being caused by the pine needles. This provided little comfort to my pocketbook.

The annual Thanksgiving sojourn to New York City was always a cause for family celebration. I would often be greeted like the Prodigal Son, winning the prize every year as the relative who had traveled the longest to join the family. Every family member would ask if we’d “had any snow” yet, and marvel at the thought - and insanity - of spending eight hours alone in the car.

For a number of years the Thanksgiving Eve celebration required a trip down to Northern Boulevard to visit one of the local drinking establishments and a round of beers and an early bit of turkey tasting. The Little Neck Tavern, legendary for its pre-Thanksgiving, turkey-with-all-the-fixing event was a magnet for local drunks and the college-age crowd home for the holiday. By the time I'd arrive there was often little left but turkey sandwiches; but boy were they good.

In the later years, Turkey Day Eve usually meant just sitting around the house with family and friends getting up-to-date on local happenings and trivia. I remember countless times watching the evening news replete with live reports from Central Park West where the Macy’s Day Parade balloons were being inflated. Yes, I said “Macy’s Day” as that was what it was called in the good old days. Somehow, Mr. Macy apparently believed that his store was more important than the Thanksgiving holiday (a fact confirmed by Wikipedia!). Usually it was Al Roker reporting from in front of the Museum of Natural History with the up-to-the-minute drama and weather forecast. Countless New Yorkers, some with small children, would wave and gawk at the rising balloons – and TV cameras - as one of the more banal and bothersome parts of the New York City Thanksgiving tradition.

My annual drive to New York ended sometime in the early 2000’s. My father’s death in 1996 and stepmother’s slow mental decline brought on by the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease made the trips to New York more painful. Eventually I stopped going altogether.

For a few years I tried something different. One year, my sister and I decided to meet half way - in Sturbridge, Massachusetts - to celebrate Thanksgiving Pilgrim-style. It was nice. . .different. But we ended up only doing it once. The restaurant where we had Thanksgiving dinner served turkey roll instead of the real thing. Pretty disappointing.

The next year, I convinced my sister that Thanksgiving in Maine was the way to celebrate. She dutifully drove up from New Jersey on a dark cold Thanksgiving Eve night after having spent the day teaching kindergarteners. She was not happy with the experience and declined the offer to do it again. Somehow it was okay for me to drive 6-10 hours to see family, but…well, I don’t want to complain.

In 2003, the tradition changed completely. My stepmother had died and I decided to stay home in Maine for Thanksgiving Day. The new Turkey Day Eve tradition now involves watching the local Channel 6 sportscaster Bruce Glazier providing his report and rebroadcast of newsreels and home movies highlighting the annual Deering/Portland HS football game played in Portland for almost a century. The black and white production is meaningless to me personally, but does represent things that are obviously important to the local gentry.

Tomorrow morning I will gather myself in front of the living room and watch the Macy’s Day Parade with the gang from NBC’s Today Show. Al Roker will be there and I’ll drink my coffee and wait for Santa to arrive. In the afternoon, I’ll watch some football and spend the evening dining with my friends, Bob and Gail, savoring free-range turkey and organically grown veggies from Gail’s garden. We’ll top it off with my Swedish Apple Pie and maybe something special this year made with pumpkins. All will be yummy.

I will give thanks for good health and friendships, to family present and past, to old memories and the promise of the future.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. Gobble gobble.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The butterfly effect?

What's that thing about the "butterfly effect?" You know, that thing about the butterfly in the jungle of Brazil that moves it's wings and sets of a series of events that leads to a tornado in Texas. Oh yeah, chaos theory.

So what is the relationship between a late night, a blue ink pen and a free battery for my iPod? Here's the story:

I came home late last night from a college basketball game in Boston. In my fatigue, I accidentally threw the t-shirt I was wearing into the laundry basket without remembering to take a blue ink pen out of my pocket. This noon, when I put the laundry into the washer, I neglected to notice the pen, and into the wash it went. The ink stained a blue oxford shirt, one of my favorites, and a white pillowcase. With a combination of anger, feelings of stupidity and hopefulness directed at the magic of chemicals, I brought the soiled clothes back into the kitchen and praying that some OxiClean (TM) and hot water would release the stains. But to do this correctly I needed a wash basin to let things soak.

Under the counters I went in search of the old wash basin that was of course in the very back of the bottom shelf of the most hard-to-reach cabinet. As I pulled out the basin, I noticed, crammed in the corner, a Best Buy receipt attached to an extended warranty. It was for my iPod, the one that was purchased in March of 2009. The extended warranty is good for two years.

Now the back story is that this same iPod Touch which I've used faithfully all this time as my PDA, has developed a weak, dying battery. It will not hold a charge for no more than 24 hours meaning I have to keep it plugging in most of the time; defeating the whole idea of it being a mobile device. But, according to my receipt, battery replacement is covered by the extended warranty.

I had completely forgotten about the extended warranty; something that probably brings pleasure to the Best Buy people. And I would never gave found it if I wasn't crawling around under the cabinets looking for the wash basin. You see, the receipt and the extended warranty had slipped out and fallen into the cabinet down below essentially disappearing until today.

I'll let you make know how I make out when I visit Best Buy tomorrow. Let's hope the butterfly does its thing.

Oh, and the OxiClean was able to remove the ink stains.
By Nevit Dilmen (Photograph) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons