I can’t recall the last Thanksgiving I attended back home. I believe it was four years ago and my dad served us MREs in lieu of a traditional turkey dinner. Though I knew something was awry when my mom said dad was in charge of cooking, I was completely flummoxed when he carried steaming tins of ambiguous lunch meat to the table with his oven mitts. It was a lesson about appreciating all that we had and all that the troops abroad did not. No one complained about how the MREs were somehow salty and tasteless and strangely filling at the same time. The cookies were the best part.
Now, my father’s culinary skills have nothing to do with the fact that I haven’t returned home for the holiday since. I just live really far away now.
And truthfully, this was the first Thanksgiving for my family with two empty seats at the table. And I will admit, I was a little relieved to be driving down to LA to celebrate the holiday with Emily’s family instead. For a few days I was able to pretend that everything was normal back home. But I am not going to write about that. I am going to write about how after two years of attending Thanksgiving in LA, I think I’m finally getting a handle on the city, the holiday, and how to make the most out of being stuck in traffic for 10 hours. Here’s what I learned from the latest road trip with Emily.
1. Offer to do the dishes. At your family’s house you look like a schmuck if you don’t scoop the last of the poultry fat from the serving tray. At a friend’s house, you are damn hero for even asking.
2. Always bring a pie. You never hear, ‘Oh, that kale casserole you slaved over for four hours was a-maz-ing’. So save yourself the trouble and get some cans of condensed milk and pumpkin filling, a pie crust from Safeway and call it homemade. No one cares.
3. Make sure the car you rent has at least a CD player or an iPod dock. And actually bring CDs. Otherwise, you’re going to be stuck listening to Jesus music, mariachi bands, or slow jams for the duration of the trip along highway 5. Unless you have an Emily. In that case, you will be serenaded to soft rock from the early 90s.
Side note: Why do we need DJs on the radio anymore? We have computers. You can make playlists on them. And they don’t talk. I like that.
4. Visit the Getty. It is free. Even if you don’t like art. Or architecture. Or pretty things. You will come out on top every time.
5. And the beach. There is a reason people think attractive people live in LA. They do …
6. Consider changing occupations. You will inevitably meet people who work on sets of movies and television shows that you actually watch or wish you did. You will think, hey, that sounds cool. I want to write screenplays. I could produce stuff. But then you realize, you don’t have any ideas and you don’t write fiction. Then move on.
7. Appreciate the cost of food. It’s cheap(er than SF). And tasty.
8. Appreciate the moments you aren’t stuck in traffic.
9. Appreciate the moments you are. You can listen to Emily sing.
10. Fly. And complain about how you should have driven. Drive. And complain about you should have flown. Then watch Louis CK’s ‘Everything’s Amazing’ on Youtube from your cell phone while bitching about the traffic, how your iPhone has limited reception in the valley, your bag of rasinettes is too small, and how your life is totally unfair. And then look out the window. The view is amazing.