Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Chuck Spencer, Kay Johnson, Virginia Cooke, John Bader and myself, Thanksgiving, 1984, Old Creamery Theater. 'The Fantastiks' tour.

Our Thanksgiving plans are always the same - very traditional - we wander over to Manhattan Beach every year to our dear friend's Mark and Tammy Lipps. Tammy owns and operates an exclusive, high-end, boutique catering company. Needless to say her Thanksgiving spreads are sort of extraordinary. They live in a picturesque two-story cottage a couple blocks from the ocean and have a back deck/porch area that back in my college days would be described as 'party real estate.' It's a magazine home, frankly.

In any event, we have an amazing dinner with friends, some we don't see often and some we talk to constantly, and afterwards we play a spirited game of 'Celebrity.' At least we have the last two Thanksgivings.

We like this tradition. We look forward to it. Not only because it's relaxing and fun and terrific eats, but because we genuinely enjoy ourselves. Tammy and Mark are wonderful hosts.

I've had some doozies over the years, Thanksgivings. Many alone in Chicago, many on the road giving thanks with a bunch of actors (see above), some in New York (there was a great Irish pub that opened 'only for regulars' on 35th street - called BREWS - on Thanksgiving...wonderful food, lots of beer, all free - those days are long gone - but I hit that spot a few times).

For awhile in Chicago I volunteered every year in a shelter and dished up food for the homeless on Thanksgiving but I finally realized how hypocritical this was of me...yeah, I helped hand out with one meal. Where was I the other 1,094 meals in the year? Besides, there were always dozens of other liberal-minded, bone-deep guilty, middle class schmucks like me vying for the same mashed potato scooping job. I suppose it never occurred to any of us to come back the next day, Friday, when they didn't have enough people in the shelter for the mashed potato scooping job.

Even in this economy (good Lord I'm sounding more and more like my parents every day) I have much to be thankful for. And not just the obvious things: my wife, my dogs, my comfortable and perfect home, my friends (I don't make friends easily so I only have a few 'close' friends - but they're VERY close because of that), my lifestyle, the fact that I get to make a living doing what I love, my health (I can be thankful for this even with the diabetes - because it's being treated - I do not suffer because of it - I am in a constant state of irritation, but suffer? No.), my wife's health (arguable some days, he says smiling, smiling), my adopted family on my wife's side, all good, honest and sincere people...these things, these items to be thankful for are self-evident.

There is an old saying, "Religion is for people afraid to go to Hell. Spirituality is for people who've already been there." I find that old chestnut useful on Thanksgiving. And apropos. For those of us, a larger group across this country on this singularly American holiday than might be imagined probably, that have spent suffocatingly lonely Thanksgivings in the past, for whatever reason, self-imposed or not, well, the physical reality of a home and hearth-warming, traditional, sincere Thanksgiving is bliss. Absolute bliss.

My wife is putting together an exotic salad of some sort...I'm not exactly sure what it is but it involves kale and pine nuts and a 'ginger sauce.' Anything involving kale and pine nuts is usually something I pass straight to the next guy on my right when at table. And I prefer the 'Mary Ann sauce' to the 'Ginger sauce.' But I'm sure it will be really good despite my protestations. She rarely, if ever, makes anything I'm not sort of dazzled by.

And finally we're coming up on nearly a week without smoking. It's not getting easier for me. I still think of smoking roughly 23 out of every 24 hours. Maybe this whole 'cold turkey' approach was ill-advised. I don't know. What I do know is I don't think this is supposed to be this hard, I mean it's been a week and I'm still right...on...the...edge. Quitting drinking was a piece of cake compared to this mini-nightmare.

Happy Thanksgiving. Be thankful if you can. If you can't, have a cigarette for me.

See you tomorrow.

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