Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Pride of the Pilgrims

Once upon a time - way back when in the halcyon days when turkey only cost a nickel - there was a holiday that occupied a prominent place on the calendar. It held sway on its day - affixed like road rash to the fourth Thursday of November. People got genuinely excited about it. A large New York-based department store chain sponsored a parade even. I am not entirely sure but I think if I was to dust off the history books good and true I might be able to make out its name. Ahh there it is....Thanksgiving.

The United States has been - well, the United States - for less than three hundred years. Thanksgiving's roots in what became these United States predate the nation's birth by approximately one hundred and fifty years. The "first Thanksgiving" is traditionally considered to have occurred in 1621 when the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast. This harvest meal has become a symbol of cooperation and interaction between English colonists and Native Americans. It would be followed eventually by other sterling examples of cross-cultural cooperation such as The Sand Creek Massacre, Little Big Horn and, eventually, Mohegan Sun.

But somewhere along the line, Thanksgiving lost its swagger. Its panache disappeared. What once was a national day of celebration - a true American holiday - has now dissolved into a speed bump on the freeway between Halloween's sugary treats and the shopping excesses of Christmas. This year, Halloween fell on a Saturday. On Sunday, November 1 I did what I do every Sunday morning (No - I did not go to church and F*** Y** for merely chuckling at the thought), which was go to the grocery store. With Halloween Aught-Nine safely ensconced in history's dust heap, the grocery store where I shop had kicked all of its Halloween decor to the curb in favor of - wait for it - its Christmas decor. On the first of November, one would have thought simply by walking through the automatic doors of the supermarket that K-Krin's arrival was imminent.

We have yet to reach the mid-point of November - Hell, we have not yet reached Veteran's Day and the Sunday newspapers have already been jammed to the gunwales with one retailer or another's Christmas catalog. You have to love the mercenaries who run Toys R Us. The 2009 Big Book was a Sunday insert on November 1st. What a delightful Sunday morning that must have made for any and all parents of little ones who had been out trick-or-treating the day and night before. Happiness is your six-year-old jacked up to levels of steroidal intensity from the gross of Kit Kats he inhaled less than twelve hours earlier laying his eyeballs and shaky little hands on that bad boy, huh?

Society has become infected by the reluctance to let anything breathe. Attempt to sit through a professional basketball or hockey game in any arena and see if you do not find yourself, by intermission, volunteering to put together a posse to hunt down and string up the the whole Funky Bunch - as if they are to blame for the incessant habit of blaring that damn tune into the arena's atmosphere during every stoppage of play. Although Mark Wahlberg is to blame for that overly hyped bit of tripe known as Entourage so maybe the rest of the Bunch will be pardoned while he stands and answers for his other, unrelated sins?

The infection has spread from arenas and stadiums to the world at large. The thought of consciously putting a lull in the action between the sugar high that is Halloween and the relentless consumerism that is Christmas by enjoying a day that compels us to enjoy nothing more or less complex than one another's company and - if you are lucky - some kick ass stuffing, has gone the way of the $1.00 gallon of gas and Andre Agassi's collection of hair pieces.

A lifetime ago I sat with my father and watched Iona Prep battle New Rochelle High School every Thanksgiving on Channel 11. The Gaels' schedule no longer even includes their cross-town rival. Damn you Sandler. Once you mocked The Candy Man, Thanksgiving was living on borrowed time. Nicely done, dumb ass.


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