Thursday, November 20, 2008

Thanksgiving, an American Tradition Since a Long Time Ago

(The First Thanksgiving, painting by J.L.G. Farris. Can you spot the cowboy?)

It’s 1621. You’re a pilgrim. According to Wikipedia, you live in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Your Native American buddy, Squanto, who you refer to as “Redskin” because you’re racist, has dropped by to give you more eel fishing lessons. Before Squanto showed you something called a “net” the barehanded eel squeeze was your best wrangling method. But now, you're up to your neck in eels and dreading that night’s meal of eel pudding, your wife’s latest desperate attempt to prepare eel in a way that makes it stay down.

You gaze at Squanto, his bare back muscles sweaty and glistening in the evening sunset. Then you suppress those feelings because you don’t want to be burned at the stake, nor do you want your life to become an eventual Oscar contender.

Squanto looks at his watch. He tells you he has to go because he’s hanging out with some of his Indian friends that night at the local branch of the Wampanoag Club. They’re preparing gift bags for the annual Harvest Festival. This year’s theme is “dead turkey.”

“Hey,” you say, trying not to sound too desperate, “we’ve got a Harvest Festival too. Why don’t we potluck it? I’ll bring eel.”

And thus, since potluck was cheaper than catering anyway, the first Thanksgiving was born. William Bradford, in Plymouth Plantation, describes the preparations for the feast:

“They began now to gather in the small harvest they had, and to fit up their houses and dwellings against winter, being all well recovered in health and strength and had all things in good plenty. For as some were thus employed in affairs abroad, others were exercised in fishing, about cod and bass and other fish, of which they took good store, of which every family had their portion, except the Mansfields because no one liked them. All the summer there was no want; and now began to come in store of fowl, as winter approached, of which this place did abound when they came first (but afterward decreased by degrees). And besides waterfowl there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, muskrat, and Sasquatch. Besides, they had about a peck a meal a week to a person, or now since harvest, Indian corn to the proportion. Which made many afterwards write so largely of their plenty here to their friends in England, which were not feigned but true reports; Ha, Ha. We have food. Have fun starving in England, assholes.

And feast the pilgrims and Indians did. It was after this grand celebration that Larry, the most annoying of the Pilgrims, said, “Let us all give thanks for all that ye be thankful for.” And so began the tradition of each guest proclaiming what they were grateful for after Thanksgiving dinner. (The other post-meal tradition, started by Larry’s bulimic wife, Sally, is still practiced in entertainment-industry circles).

After the meal was finished, the Pilgrims remembered that they had to get home and check on the dogs, leaving the Indians to clean up the mess. The Pilgrims really just went to Target to get in line for fantastic deals on televisions.

And that, my friends, is the story of Thanksgiving. Have yourself a wonderful one.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

An Apology to Nebraska

Wouldn’t you know it? The one person who reads my blog that I don’t personally know lives in Nebraska. Last week, I named Nebraska one of my three least favorite states, and I made some rather snide comments about the non-existent population. (I’m just glad that West Virginia doesn’t have the Internet yet.) A fellow blogger named Greenthumb left a comment below my post that said, “I live in Nebraska... Omaha, actually, as do over 1 million other people. Ya jerk.”

Mr. Greenthumb, please do accept my apologies. My intention was never to offend, but to simply point out that Nebraska is not really a state I enjoy driving through or flying over. And while I have yet to verify that this “Omaha” place exists, I realize that without a respectable amount of research on my part, my comments merely sounded ignorant and short-sighted.

So this weekend I decided to hop on a plane and visit our 30th-something state. My first pleasant surprise was that Nebraska had an airport and there was no need to assume the crash position upon landing. The airport even seemed to be made of sturdy materials.

Once I collected my luggage from Ken, the airport security guard/air-traffic controller, I had no trouble waving down a cab. I asked the cab driver if he had heard of this Omaha place. He told me to take off my watch, as the technology was spooking his horses.

I had reservations for that night at a nice little bed and breakfast in a town called Gatlin, but my cab driver informed me that all of the children there had murdered the adults and were into some weird cult stuff, so we set about finding a more suitable place for my big Nebraska weekend.

It turns out there is a town in Nebraska called Lincoln. It’s quite a nice city really. The townsfolk are pleasant enough, and upon arrival I was gifted with numerous baked goods and over twenty invitations to “come over and watch According to Jim.” And so that mystery is solved.

Over the weekend I learned many facts about Nebraska. For instance, did you know that the state slogan is “Nebraska. We Have Laundry to do this Weekend?” Here’s another fun fact: Nebraska is bordered by six other states, which gives every person in the US roughly a 12% chance that they may be unknowingly living right next to it. Check your maps! Also, Nebraska gave us Arbor Day which is the most important day for trees in the calendar year.

I spent most of the weekend talking to locals, learning what an “acre” was, and watching lots of television. Overall, I had a very pleasant time in the Cornhusker State. I may have even seen a unicorn on Sunday, but then again, that may have been the opium.

So, I’m happy to announce that I am removing Nebraska from my list of worst three states and replacing it with Alaska, a state whose greatest natural resource is Sarah Palin. And I am going to personally write a letter of apology to every single citizen of Nebraska, even if it takes me most of the afternoon.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

My Least Favorite States

There were a couple of things that I realized as I watched this year’s presidential election. The first was that an entire evening can be ruined by the advent of new technology, proven by CNN’s inexplicable decision to destroy a perfectly entertaining presidential election with the unveiling of hologram technology. Was it really necessary to bring into the news studio in 3-D? While both anchorman and guest blathered on and on about how amazing this new technology was, all I kept thinking was, “Hey, guys. He’s still in 2D to me because I’m watching him on freakin’ television.”

The second thing I realized was that West Virginia was still a state. I had forgotten all about it quite honestly. My only knowledge of the Mountaineer state is limited to a small section of the panhandle that is inconveniently placed between Ohio and Pittsburgh. This is where I once lost $100 in a slot machine at the Wheeling Downs Racetrack and Casino. To give you some perspective on my perspective of West Virginia.... I was born and raised in Indiana. Every state in the north makes fun of Indiana, so we make fun of people from Kentucky. And people from Kentucky make fun of West Virginia. It’s sort of the redneck joke pecking order. I have no idea who the people of West Virginia make fun of, but I suspect it’s probably people who went to college.

Now I’m sure there are a lot of intelligent, cultured people who live in West Virginia. And I’m also pretty sure those people want to move. It’s not that I dislike West Virginia. It’s just that if you were to force me to visit every state in the US, I would visit West Virginia first and get it over with. And I’d probably just go back to the casino and try to win my $100 back.

The second state I would visit on my hypothetical forced tour of all the Unites States is Nebraska. I’ve driven through Nebraska before, and it was the longest three years of my life. I have to check my facts, but I’m pretty sure no one actually lives there. It’s big and boring-- this coming from someone whose favorite past time is listening to baseball on the radio.

The choice for my third state gets tougher, because West Virginia and Nebraska are pretty much the only states I want to avoid completely. There are plenty of states that I don’t really care about either way. I’ll call these the “shrug states.”

Vermont, for example. Now, I’ve never been to Vermont, and I don’t know anything about it. But when I imagine Vermont, I imagine one gigantic gated community where everyone wears turtleneck sweaters and smokes pipes while cross-country skiing. The capital is a place called Montpelier for Christ's sake. Just the thought of Vermont reminds me of those Hallmark stores at the mall where you are scared to move around because you might inadvertently bump into a shelf and send a million overpriced glass figurines crashing onto the floor. And I’m pretty sure Vermont has that new candle smell everywhere you go.

There are plenty of other shrug states-- Iowa, Kansas, pretty much the entire Bible Belt, but the reality is that I’m poor and stuck in California, so I won’t be visiting any of these places anytime soon. But I will say I’m proud of Indiana for voting Democrat for the first time since the talking pictures have been invented. And really, in the end, your home state is always the best.