We’re having Thanksgiving dinner today, but it’s not Thanksgiving. This is a totally bogus holiday, culminating in the partaking of the jive turkey. Today we celebrate the Totally Bogus in all its many vestiges, from the deviously “counterfeit” to the flat-out “wiggity-wiggity-whack.” Jive Turkey Thanksgiving is so Totally Bogus, it’s the Courtney Love of holidays: a holiday that stands before us in tattered evening wear, confronting us with face smeared out of focus with streaked makeup and multiple plastic surgeries, a holiday that declaims from the top of its rattling lungs: “I fake it so real I am beyond fake.” Jive Turkey Thanksgiving is, in fact, the only real way to celebrate Thanksgiving, a holiday that is in itself notoriously jive-ass from top to bottom.
The day began, lamely enough, with the delivery of the lab results from my latest doctor’s visit. Or at least, I think it was my last doctor’s visit, for you see, the name on the envelope was not exactly my own. The surname was correct, as was the mailing address, but the first name was an “Ermahgerd” approximation of the one my mother gave me. While my readers (love ya both!) may know me as Hellraisin, to my doctor and her staff, I’m apparently “Merlinda.” The name connotes a troubling cocktail of wizardry and banjo pickin’, so it’s perfect. Getting past the envelope, I saw that the hillbilly sorcerer who resides at my address is in the peak of health. “Hormone levels are fine, Merlinda!” says the doctor’s ballpoint jot at the bottom, which would be good news, except that it eliminated the obvious explanation for the fact that Merlinda has spent most of this year in a nearly continual shark week tsunami. So calling the contents of this envelope “lab results” is a misnomer as bad as the one on the front of it; what the doctor actually sent Merlinda was an invitation for future testing. How utterly “wiggity-wiggity-whack.”
With this veritable squish of a blackened banana passing itself off as the crack of a starting gun, the unbelievably bogus household chores farted out of the staring blocks. Tasked with the mission of cleaning the kindergarten-girl equivalent of the Augean Stables,
Mabel tidied up her room with the resentful pokiness of a pretty little slack machine fuelled by a steady diet of death threats. Hollering said threats was Kate, who clung with arachnoid grace to the window frames as she hung winterizing plastic around the wheezing, 100 year old windows. For my part, I divided my time between a sink filled with a week’s worth of dishes and a fussy infant. An inhabitant of the planet for less than two months, our daughter Lucy possesses a congenital bogue-detector so sensitive, she can only tolerate the company of the ceiling fan.
I can’t quite remember when I shifted gears from the cleaning of dishes to the dirtying of them, but the transition seemed to be attended by the cessation of the death threats, which were apparently directed at me as well. What I do remember is, I made cranberry sauce for the first time. The experience was both memorable and nostalgic, and for that reason I’ve named my recipe Memory Lane Cranberry Sauce.
Memory Lane Cranberry Sauce
This recipe is a hybrid of an actual recipe and memories I have of watching my mom making cranberry sauce. Please do not actually attempt this recipe.
1 cup of water Mom used the biggest pot in the cupboard. Fill ‘er up!
1 cup of sugar
4 cups of cranberries
Zest of one orange
- Cook til boiling. Savor the pop and sizzle of the cranberries. The steam rising from the pot has an aroma that can only be described as zingy and tart. Breathe in the memory of your mom’s kitchen back in Ohio, of you being small enough to squeeze in between the stove and the “spirit of 76” paneled wall, wearing the play apron she sewed for you as your passport to the best room in the house.
- React with defensive outrage when your spouse points out that you’ve used way too much water in said biggest pot in the cupboard. Concede defeat when it is pointed out to you that regardless of how you remember your mom made her cranberry sauce, what you have swimming in that ridiculously enormous pot is barely suited for the start-up ingredients of prison wine.
- Drain cranberries, and then dump them in the garbage as you come to terms with the realization that you were a dumb kid then and you’re an even dumber adult now.
- Start over with the frozen cranberries hoarded by your spouse who must have in some way anticipated this would happen because she really does know you best.
- Follow actual recipe this time, with the addition of the zest of your self-loathing and left pinkie.
With the cranberries cooling safely in the refrigerator, I embarked upon the preparation of the Jive Turkey. The following recipe, also a hybrid, is incomplete, for reasons that will become apparent.
All Work And No Play Makes Jack A Very Jive Turkey
This recipe is even more bogus than the last one. In fact, it isn’t even a recipe at all.
1 turkey, thawed, still in its wrapper and net.
A familiarity with Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece “The Shining”
The intestinal fortitude to listen to at least 30 seconds of Joni Mitchell’s “The Jungle Line”
- Use knife to cut net bag containing turkey, discard net.
- Place turkey in kitchen sink. Use knife to cut open wrapper. Recoil in horror when a geyser of blood spurts out. For a second there, it looked just like that part of “The Shining” where the waves of blood come roaring out of the elevator shafts, didn’t it? Well, almost like it, if “The Shining” was set in a stainless steel sink instead of a hotel, I guess. Wow, that was pretty gross. That scene was phenomenal, though. That entire movie is incredible. Kubrick was a genius. I watched it again last month, and for some reason, I can’t stop thinking about it. It’s not just the famous flat-out pants-shitter scenes ( like the ghostly twins or that elevator) that have been sticking with me it’s the incidentals. Like the opening shot. It’s just a VW bug driving on a mountain road—the scenery is beautiful, actually—absolutely gorgeous, the kind of place a person might go to borrow a sense of freedom in a deep breath of blue sky…and yet the mountains somehow seem to close in around the road as the car passes, like there’s no chance of ever going back. And the road doesn’t stop winding. It’s confusing and claustrophobic as any trip down any rabbit hole of your choice.
- Or how about the part where the tennis ball rolls across the floor, right in the precise middle of where Danny is playing with his toy cars?
Jesus, even the colors and the pattern of that carpet creep me out. Where the hell did Kubrick get that thing? I think if I ever ran across that carpet in real life, they’d have to call Stanley Steamer after they carried me out. Jesus.
- Remove the turkey from the wrapper and rinse it under running tap water. Check out that pale, wrinkly, baggy, slimy skin as it emerges from its bath. Remind you of anyone? Jesus. What’s wrong with me? I can’t stop thinking about this movie. It’s not like I’m enjoying myself here. I mean, sometimes it actually keeps me awake at night. Those images unspool in my imagination, and they’re always accompanied by Joni Mitchell’s absolutely awful “The Jungle Line” as a soundtrack, of all things. Don’t ask me why. I’ve even found myself reading up on various theories regarding the “true meaning” of the film. My current favorite is the one by the guy who honed in on every single mention, both verbal and visual, of Native American culture in the film. Everything from the chieftains on the cans of Calumet baking soda in the hotel kitchen to the Apache-inspired painting on the wall that Jack Nicholson kept throwing a tennis ball at—all supporting evidence of his conviction that “The Shining” isn’t just trying to scare us, it’s trying to tell us with the secret language of symbolism, that America was “built on an Indian graveyard,” just like the Overlook Hotel.
- Mention this theory to your spouse, and suggest that “The Shining” should be re-run on the networks as a Thanksgiving special. After all, what could be a more fitting way to celebrate a holiday rooted in “what we did to the Native Americans?” You say “what we did to the Native Americans” because you can’t bring yourself to say “genocide” with a five year old pretending to clean her room within earshot. She’ll want to know what you’re talking about, and your spouse really will kill you if you actually tell her. When your spouse tries to trot that old bogus chestnut about the holiday being a time to be thankful, you snap back “Yeah! Thankful we got away with stealing a whole country!”
- Flail helplessly as the turkey that reminds you of the bathtub zombie grandma from Room 237 is wrestled out of your hands. “The Shining,” your spouse reminds you, is about a man and his son, who both like to talk to imaginary people, so how can it seriously be about anything else? You concede that okay, maybe the theory is a bit on the bogus side, but so is Thanksgiving itself. At the very least, Thanksgiving is racist as hell, you say, and to prove your point, you summon up the etymology of the term “jive turkey.” If Thanksgiving wasn’t about honkeys pulling one over on people of color, then why do people say “jive turkey” and not “jive hoagie” or “jive Chicago deep dish pizza”?
- You are summarily dispatched from the best room of the house, ostensibly to cool down. You are no longer allowed to have any more coffee for the rest of the day. Women: can’t live with ‘em, can’t live without ‘em. Words of wisdom, eh? Words of wisdom!
With the controversial jive turkey brining safely in the refrigerator, my family and I adjourned to the great outdoors for “a little fresh air” (as Kate called it) and to do some shopping. On this day dedicated to all things jive-ass, how could we not go shopping? And this being our inside-out Black Friday, our White Sunday, we chose to shop at the whitest place in the suburbs: the Boutique District in nearby Quaintners Grove.
The Boutique District looks like the fascist triumph of an all-grandma city planning committee intent upon a Precious World Order. It’s an old timey architecture wonderland, a mishmash of Doric columns, widow’s watches, ornamental finials, and more gingerbreading than a hooker has hickeys. The streets are paved with a kind of brick that makes your tires somehow sound like the clip-clopping hooves of a dappled mare with a name like Sally Old Girl. The sky above it is a miraculous pre-pollution blue, and the breeze is perfumed with crumpets. The Boutique District is the very soul of Quaintners Grove.
As we stroll amid the disarmingly charming homes repurposed as purveyors of chic apparel, delicious bath and beauty products, and glamorous accessories, it occurs to me that this would be a great place to shop, if the person we were shopping for, (who in this case happened to be my four year-old nephew Owen), was actually a pre-menopausal upper middle class white lady.
“Maybe Owen would like a handbag,” I say to no one in particular.
“With guns and bulldozers on it!” Mabel chimes in, “And toilets!”
Kate had no response to these suggestions, struggling as she was to calm the screaming Lucy, whose internal bogusity detector had spiked upon arrival at The Boutique District, waking her from a deep sleep.
“Aaaa-LAAAME!” she cried, “Ahhhh-LAAAAAAME!!!!”
We did everything we knew to console Lucy, but we might as well have been swaddling, cradling, and pacifier-plugging a smoke alarm in a burning house. I carried her against my chest and led the way as Kate and Mabel fell in behind us, and the blurring began again. How we ended up looking at squirrel underpants at a shop called Life’s A Bowl Of Cheeries!, I really can’t say. I can say that when you walk around with a screaming baby tangled up in your hair, people get out of your way. They avoid you like you were ambulance, but not just any old ambulance: a flaming ambulance driven by the pariah dream team of Vanilla Ice AND George Zimmerman.
Suffice it to say, our White Sunday Quainters Grove foray was as fruitless as the loins of the typical Boutique District shopper. Had we stayed long enough, perhaps we could have retrieved a present for Owen amid the lacy geegaws and potpourri-reeking whatnots packed ceiling to floor at Life’s A Bowl Of Cheeries! But I started worrying that the walls were actually made of merchandise, and if the wrong geegaw was plucked from the architecture, it would cause the entire building to collapse into a veritable white woman burial ground. I remember how Lucy had quieted to the audio levels of distant thunder at that point. I remember how her little eyebrow foundations were pulled down into angry arches over her stormy grey eyes. She clearly shared my concern for our safety. I don’t remember how her pacifier somehow popped out of her mouth like a cork from a screaming champagne bottle, and flew across the room and landed in a bin of Snowbabies. But I remember the four of us moving, the hardwood floor rolling beneath us, the pre-polution sky greeting our eyes and lungs when we escaped Life’s A Bowl Of Cheeries! and its jive-turkey white privilege as it closed in behind us like the mountains in “The Shining.”