In less than a fortnight that horrid event will occur. And, for several days before, people will be happily burbling about their plans, while for more than a week after, the same people and others will be recounting what a totally splendid time they all had, what they did, and how much they ate.
Then they will memory belch, and ease their stomachs.
No, I'm not talking about vacationing in a small pilgrim town in the Pennines, waking up late, reading the Times over tea and buttered toast, then wandering around the village green or under the stately chestnut trees before noshing on tea, hot scones, clotted cream, and preserves at The Tay Cottage, with an array of goodies arrayed on spotless damask, followed by gin and tonics plus lawn bowling at twilight, then a delicious curry dinner around nine o'clock, prepared by an ex-major in the Indian Army at the Taj Mahal Restaurant, and afterwards a long stroll back to the Angler's Rest Hotel on the bank of the river Swythe.
The lunch buffet is terrific.
From Frodekker's "Guide To Holiday Destinations of England":
"The settlement of Saint Bulgar On The Swythe dates to Roman times, though by the middle-ages the beautiful market town on the road to Hadrian's Wall had shrunk to a shadow of its former glory. The discovery of iron tongs said to have been wielded by Saint Cuthbert The Pincher (now housed in the Old Bulgarian Museum, formerly the parish school 'De Pravitatis Rectum') brought notoriety to the town, and the subsequent entombing of Saint Bulgar The Very Pious (who founded a seminary for sons of local farmers in the nearby forests) led a few years later to the establishment of the renunciant order of Saeva Verberibus Pro Fide, whose missionaries brought literacy and cold bathing to many areas of West Africa during the age of sail.
The picturesque baroque church in the centre of the gas district (the 'Mediaeval Quarter') is surrounded by groves of chestnut trees that extend to the river Swythe, where festive boating parties overturn in early summer, when the trees are in bloom along both banks. During Autumn, from early October to late November, visitors come especially for the local culinary marvel, chestnut meringue, which is sold in dense bricks of one to two kilos, and is said to keep for several months. It is also available in decorative enamel tins.
The town boasts several fine restaurants."
That is actually a very nice fantasy, and hot fresh scones are indeed something to celebrate, even if you aren't going up north for the season. They're rather like southern biscuits, which make an excellent substitute, and here in San Francisco clotted cream can nowadays be found. If you like fruit preserves, there are several excellent recipes on the internet, and the markets are filled with autumn produce right now. Pitted plums in gingered syrup is good, for instance, and a compote of quartered skinned peach with a touch of orange zest speaks for itself.
For a smoke afterwards, pop open a tin of Rattray's Old Gowrie, or even Marlin Flake, and load up a Peterson pipe. I'm sure you have a full-bent army mount somewhere, the classic Peterson System Standard (typically, shape 307
, 308, or 312). Everyone does, we all bought one at some point.
It would be a little slice of perfect paradise, you can be certain.
Wandering alone through the fallen leaves.
Growling at icky little lap dogs.
Or swatting them.
But that is not the point of this essay.
I'm talking about the turkeys.
Which, as the acknowledged eccentric uncle of all my friends, I do not celebrate. What with not being a family friendly sort of guy and all that. Apparently I eat little children or worship Satan or something.
TURKEY DAY OF THE DAMNED
So instead, here is a pre-emptive description of what my Thanksgiving will probably end up being. In which you must imagine the author (me) in the persona of a somewhat anti-social badger wandering around with pipe and tobacco in the wilds of Nob and Telegraph, before heading down into Chinatown for some roast duck or roast goose at a place where they will charge me less than ten dollars, then perhaps having a cup of Hong Kong style milk tea and some pie at a local bakery while listening to middle-aged Toishanese gentlemen gossiping.
I'm getting pretty good at understanding Toishanese, especially if it's larded with swear words or Hong Kong slang.
The roast duck (or goose) will have a shiny warm mahogany-hued skin, crispy-juicy, with rich tender flesh underneath. It will have leaked some of its grease into the bed of vegetables underneath -- usually freshly blanched lettuce, as the sweetness goes well with fowl -- and along with soup, rice, and globs of hotsauce, it will have been a perfect meal.
Far far nicer than that dry bird most folks will have.
And, even better, there won't a ballgame on!
Or whiny brats demanding stuffing.
Supermarket pumpkin pie.
And cool whip!
For afters, I may stuff some Orlik Golden Sliced (a beautiful blonde pressed Virginia with a touch of Perique) into a Peterson shape 150, before heading down to the cigar bar to see what the other holiday losers have been up to.
The sane single individual is rather remarkably badger-like.
Peterson shape 150
is the classic straight bulldog, though like some other shapes there has been variation over the years. The one I'm thinking of does not have the characteristic long heel, and there's a bevel to the inner rim. It is aesthetically extremely satisfying, though somewhat small, and I've cut a piss-elegant taper stem for it, to replace the saddle, which was visually not as exciting. It was the first quality pipe I could afford, and I have had it for a very long time.
[Other shapes that I would like to eventually acquire are the chubby 999, that being a fat little Rhodesian, and shape 356, which is a system standard (full bent, military mount) with an amusing severity to the bowl. Plus, of course, the type of squat bulldog that the Irish haven't made in years. It used to be so popular.]
My apartment mate will probably take over the kitchen early in the morning, clattering around preparing a Thanksgiving feast for her boyfriend with the sensitive digestion, then, having gotten all tense and frustrated because of time constraints, she'll take over the bathroom, bring the car around by mid-afternoon, and rush off, first to Wheelie Boy's place, then to one or other relative's house for a family dinner with her various kin.
Her Thanksgiving will be tense and fraught.
Boyfriend and brothers, separately.
And a store-bought pie.
Mine will be calm, musteloidal
, and Cantonese-ish.
Good tobacco, duck, and hot milk tea.
Then a little whiskey.
The closer it gets to Thanksgiving, the more I will avoid humans. There will be a definite badgerlike solitariness afterwards too, till Xmas.
I really do not want to hear about it.
In the years before I bought my first Peterson pipe, I did rather enjoy Thanksgiving and other holidays. Warmth, good cheer, and fine food. But those were family events. My father, mother, and older brother are gone now, and I failed to develop a thanksgiving habit of my own since returning to the States. Life intervened, and I don't really like turkey.
Duck is fine, though. I like duck.
At this moment I am eating gooey brie, crackers, and Sriracha hot sauce. And drinking a cup of really strong tea. In another few moments I shall load up a Peterson with a tangy red Virginia flake and head out. There's a stretch with crunchy fallen leaves further up the hill where it would be pleasant to spend a while.
A man should have a good selection of Peterson pipes. In addition to five Peterson System Standards, there are also several straight billiards, a few Canadians, a bulldog or two, and an Oom Paul.
I also really like Comoys.
Unlike turkey, brie with hotsauce does not lead to fitful dozing.
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