More Turkey, Less Talk

When gathered with heads bowed around the gleaming turkey carcass this holiday, it is customary to mute the football game for a sec and tally up all the spiritual and emotional wampum in your life, all the things you are truly thankful for. If blunt brutal honesty is your bag, or if someone spiked the punch with a zesty truth serum, right at the top of the list should be Corporate Retailers. Were it not for their aggressive efforts to commercialize Christmas, most of us would never get through Thanksgiving alive.

Old timers may recall that there once was a season called autumn. It fell between the Back to School sales and the return of Daylight Savings Time. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a staggering economic suckhole since weeks went by without anyone making impulse buys except maybe a sweater and some Halloween candy. So, through a visionary marketing program launched by the greeting card-wrapping paper-retail-industrial complex, that autumnal malaise was smooshed into a single, handy Christmas-Hanukah-Kwanzaa gift-buying cluster.

Nativity scenes were dragged out of mall storage right after Labor Day and Santa�s lap was squeegeed off. Plastic trees were draped with tinsel and lights and barbecue tongs. Christmas carols were piped in between baseball scores. Anything that might encourage the frenzied purchase of animatronic wall-mounted singing fish or matching Isotoner glove and gaucho combos RIGHT NOW because time seems to be running out, was set in motion. Today, this heightened sense of consumer anxiety is the only thing holding most families together.

Before the implementation of these calendar changes, Thanksgiving was viewed almost as a holiday unto itself. A sprawling, uninterrupted stretch of family face time with lots of inter-generation interaction, which is a guaranteed shortcut to disaster.

For anyone not named John-boy Walton, the family unit is a wonderful pod of potential kidney donors. They are to be savored and loved and admired. From a distance. In moderation.

Cooped up like villagers in a hut over a four-day weekend with no distractions except full-contact Pictionary and slapping together yet another freakin� turkey and mashed potato sandwich is so not moderation. It is a slow-motion spiral of petty bickering, sniping and �Nam-like childhood flashbacks. It is blunt force trauma to the nervous system. No one walks away unscathed.

Now it�s different. Families still gather during Thanksgiving, but mostly so they can carpool to the mall. No more guilt-slinging boozy brawls, rehashing the past, retracing the dysfunctional time line till all hours of the night. No more painstaking recreations of exact moments when lives were derailed. People are now trained to hit the rack right after dinner, so they can make the pre-dawn sales energized and focused on shopping.

The rest of the weekend is just a frenetic blur of parking lots, stores, crowds, surly clerks, traffic jams, packing, more parking lots, airports, crowds, surly sky caps and teary good-byes. It is almost poignant. We bond with our parents and siblings at 25-50 percent off nearly every item.

Still, even with all the retailing opportunities presented this Thanksgiving it is inevitable that some time will be spent engaging in conversation with your family. On Mt. Everest, this is known as the entering the Death Zone.

Try to keep yourself safe this holiday. Whenever your yam-hole is opened, monitor carefully what comes out. Steer clear of controversy. Also, avoid opinions, notions or thoughts. Keep the conversation flowing through safe and predictable channels. Weather, sports, or sports that are affected by the weather are all good.

The list of conversational no-nos is more extensive. What follows are just a few remarks, statements, questions and topics that should be avoided at the Thanksgiving dinner table at all costs. No doubt others will occur to you as well.

--Your plan to drop out of graduate school to pursue a career on the professional karaoke circuit.

--Interesting theories your therapist has about why all your relationships are with either emotionally unavailable control freaks or nameless hobos.

--Dreams where you�re naked.

--Times when you�re naked but it feels dream-like.

--Whether or not Uncle Lou�s face seems to be melting.

--The evil acts your hamster is encouraging you to commit via mind rays.

--Some of the crazy shit you�ve seen go down while in the drunk tank.

--Porn films you don�t think you�ll ever get tired of.

--Potential humorous epitaphs for Grampa�s tombstone.

--Your newly acquired fetish for Snapple enemas.

--The first time you discovered the surprisingly smoky flavor of slow roasted human flesh.

--The ungodly amount of pus you imagine Aunt Fran must drain from that thing on her neck every couple of days.

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