Thursday, November 27, 2008

Things to Do Other Than Kill Yourself: Thanksgiving Edition

Yes, the time has come for us huddled masses yearning to let that gut breathe free. The wonder that is Thanksgiving has come upon us, and with that a well deserved break to enjoy and give thanks for the fruits of our arduous labor, uniting with family and friends to rejoice in the glorious experience of being alive, healthy, and surrounded by all the food and love your heart could possibly contain.

Or you could just drink. ALOT.

In lieu of the always enjoyable lonely alcohol poisoning that has defined many an anti-social heart, here are some things to do on this gluttonous American pastime that in recent years has merely served as a front for the poultry industry and the ever expanding evil that is Christmas shopping:

Help your fellow man. Seriously. I know the idea of charity on Thanksgiving sounds disingenuous to some. And no, I'm not disparaging that five year-old case of canned corn from Costco that you found in the basement and dumped on your local parish for a tax write-off. But actual volunteering-and-the-helping-the-needy-charity.

Try it. It doesn't actually hurt as much as you think. And god knows helping serve soup at a soup kitchen or passing out coats at a shelter beats watching those god awful Detroit Lions get trounced for the umpteenth time, or listening to your Aunt Marie ramble on about how your cousin Joseph could get you a job in real estate once you're done wasting time with that 'artsy writing thing.'

Ask your local parish or place of worship, look some up, and if you're in the New York area, check out City Harvest or NYCares for more info.

Get Creative. If you're lucky enough to not be cooking or busy soberly entertaining guests who you secretly loathe, take some time out and get your craft on. Knit, paint, silkscreen, sketch, compose, write, or origami the shit out of something. It's Thanksgiving, the first big holiday of the winter season so filled with sharing, caring, and the highest rate of suicide. See what crumble of creativity spawns forth from your mind, and hope like hell it doesn't look like a turducken (above).

Catch a flick. Yes, I recommend films for damn near every holiday, but that's cause it's what I do, and what better way to avoid the painfully awkward interaction of family members who only see each other bi-annually than by drowning yourself in the sorrows of cinema?

A Christmas Tale (Un conte de Noël): Family dysfunction! Heartbreak! A prodigal black sheep son returning as a mother lies on her death bed! Catherine Deneuve being all classy and hot! Mathieu Amalric (the bad guy from Quantum of Solace) being all funny, sad, and drunk! Chiara Mastroianni being all kinda slutty and hot! And did I mention it's French?!

Let the Right One In (Låt den rätte komma in)
: While the rest of the known universe goes gaga over a teenybopper friendly vampire lovefest, try your hand at this scary sweet and sad Swedish horror romance. A 12 year-old boy seeks revenge against the bullies that torment him, and makes a connection with a shy young girl who happens to be a vampire. It's dark, violent, and stark in its reality, with no shiny glossy coating to cover the loneliness of youth and isolation. Beautifully shot and restrained, it defies conventional horror cliché and finds nuance in a form that badly needs one. I'm far from a horror fan, but this is well worth the effort.

I've Loved You So Long (Il y a longtemps que je t'aime)
: A woman returns from prison and struggles to reconnect with the world, a sister she barely knows, and the inescapable memory of a sin committed long ago. Yes, it's a downer, but a pretty good one (save for the ridiculousness of the final act) and Kristen Scott Thomas is phenomenal, nor even remotely as boring as the English Patient we were all once forced to sit through. A good one to drink and think through.

Rachel Getting Married: A conservative's worst nightmare of a wedding comes to life, as a woman returns from a treatment facility to see her sister get married, instigating a weekend of marital joy, heartbreak, and enough family dysfunction to make all feel right with the world. It's been a bit over hyped, but once you get over the hurdle of accepting the character Kym, Hathaway's performance strikes a very real, painful chord and is beautifully balanced by Rosemarie DeWitt and Debra Winger. The hipsters, hippies, and long drawn out sequences really get you lost in the world of this wedding, which is a wonderful credit to the filmmakers, but can make it a difficult journey for people that really hate weddings. All in all, one of the year's best in escapism.

Fake It. If you're fortunate enough to be part of one of those big families where no one knows what the hell you do and barely know who the hell you are (besides what remnants their dementia ravaged minds can recall of your childhood) then look at this joyous occasion to have some fun and see whether or not your ashamed parents will publicly call you on it. I like to break up my holiday caricatures into different personas:

The Golden Child. Inside you may be dying, yearning for the sweet satisfaction that is death. Outside, smile that great ol' smile, hop, skip, and jump and be extra, extra, extra exuberant. Religious family? Lead the prayer service like the Rapture's a-coming and you want to lead the welcome wagon to greet big JC as he descends upon our destruction from the skies. Family into dancing/karaoke/board games/sports? Reach into the deepest darkest part of your almost completely dead psyche and fake that shit like there's no tomorrow (Which there won't be. But they don't know that). Oh, how the surprised adulation shall rain down for your newly beloved enthusiasm, which will only make your unexpected demise that much sweeter.

The Culture Maven. Regale the familia with faux-stories of your transcontinental exploits, whether it be photoshopping trips to the Far East, Cloverfielding the shit out of beach side footage to resemble the Outback, or using that one wild night with the those U.N. students to fill up your past year's sexual itinerary. Make that asshole family member who bragged about going to that one place that one time cower in deficient shame, as you bask in the wonderful (albeit horribly fake) glory.

The Go-Getter. You're busy. You're always busy. You are always busy with being busy. So being so busy with being busy, you don't have time to waste trying to make idle conversation with relatives since you're always so busy. Bring the Blackberry, the MacBook Pro, the iPhone (cause damn it you're so busy you need another phone) and spend at least 95% of your time there bitching about how there's no WiFi, or if there is WiFi, bitch about how the WiFi signal isn't as strong as it should be for someone as busy and important as you. Should be a nice way of keeping people from bothering you, allowing you to catch up on that game of Turkey Shoot you've been dying to get back to.

The Death Bed. Illness has a great way of keeping people at a distance. Cough, spit, vomit, scratch, moan, groan, gurgle, or mimic any sort of action or sound resembling that of a dying animal. When even the faintest inkling of an attempt to initiate conversation occurs, turn away and get those fingers down that windpipe like you're life (or at least your sanity) depends on it. Should be a nice cover for a well earned nap or, if necessary, a short hospital stay.

If you're not fortunate enough to be in a family that rarely ever knows of your doings and whereabouts, just plop down in a corner somewhere, drink to mind numbing belligerence, and guard those wine bottles with your life.

And enjoy.

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