Thanks: Given 1

I’m back. Please note that this is a bit long, but there’s some stuff that’s quite funny despite the necessary elaborate setups, since I don’t talk much about my family here. I’ve sort of parceled it out into sections for easier reading.

Thanksgiving was bearable, thanks in most part to Mark coming down and keeping me from losing it a little with my stepmother. It wasn’t that bad, but I probably would have been a lot more stressed had he not been there.

My stepmom can be cool, but when trying to coordinate large numbers of people (by which I mean more than her, me, and my dad) she can get a little…overbearing.

I flew out on the redeye, which is not fun when:

1. There’s a lot of turbulence, and the captian decides to keep updating the turbulence progress instead of just shutting the fuck up and letting people sleep along with the gentle rolls.

2. Either the old man next to you, the baby behind you, or the lavatory a bit further behind the baby really, really, really reek, so much so that you can’t sleep, but you can’t tell which one reeks more.

I was initially supposed to meet Mark on the train, but like every elaborate plan that somehow involves Greyhound, this one went totally to crap, and my dad and I ended up picking him up at the bus station, an hour after he was initially supposed to arrive.

We came back to the house to find my very cranky stepsister and her husband and my stepnieces, who had come in from Kansas City. But it could not possibly be that simple. Oh no.

A man on the flight had a health episode (probably a heart attack). Fred, my stepbrother-in-law, was the only doctor on the flight. He is some form of advanced eye doctor. Above Optometrist, below Eye Surgeon, but I’m not sure where.

So the flight ended up landing in Nashville for an hour while they got the sick guy and his wife and all their bags off the plane. They ended up not getting to bed until 2am. With three very loud children under 10, you can imagine how delightful that was.

So Mark and I came in, I introduced him to my stepfamily, and then I proceeded to fall asleep in the middle of a conversation with my father. Then I decided to go into the second apartment to take a five-hour nap.

Let me back up a second. My dad and Ray Ann live in a big apartment building (“Condos, hon. They’re loft-style condos.”) in central Buckhead, a major party district in Atlanta. I’m dead fucking serious about that last part, which in my book is hilarious.

However, the apartment next to them hasn’t been sold. Ray Ann still had keys from when she and my dad had to move out for a couple weeks when a flood caused by the construction company working on units upstairs ruined their hardwood floor and it had to be replaced.

So basically, Mark and I ended up squatting in the empty apartment. We had air mattresses and heat and a refrigerator full of food, soda, and beer, but we were still technically squatting, since the building manager had no idea we were in there.

The other thing the empty apartment was used for was: tag. My stepnieces and stepnephews (hereafter refered to without the step because I don’t feel like typing it) ran and ran and ran and ran and screamed their little hearts out playing tag.

After I took about a five hour nap and Mark did assorted loud things to try and wake me up (none of which succeeded, I’m told), I finally woke up and we began eating.

My stepmother is not always the Traditional Jewish Mother, but there are some ways that she is. The “Eat, eat, eat!” stereotype is one of them. I swear, I did nothing but eat and sleep from when I arrived in Atlanta until I left, with a turkey sandwich in my bag.

Anyway, Thanksgiving day was nice, especially because we ate Thanksgiving dinner at 5pm instead of 1pm, so we got to watch the first football game (and most of the second, because my stepbrother Doug’s family was an hour late, but were excused on account of having a six-month-old boy).

We were at my stepbrother Rob’s house, and his boys have always taken a lot better to me than my nieces have. Although now he’s got a daughter, so I’ll have to start grouping my nieces and nephews into Ones Who Like Me vs. Ones Who Run Away From Me and not just boys vs. girls.

Kids are quite funny. I don’t know about having kids (I think it’s the actual having process I’m caught up on), but I like hanging out with kids if it’s just for a few hours. Especially babies.

Emma, Rob’s nine-month-old daughter, has learned “Da-da!”, and refers to everything by this name. Me, Mark, the dog, my dad, and even, occasionally, Rob.

The food was great, and I can say with conviction that free-range turkey tastes exactly the goddamn same as regular turkey. Only probably significantly more expensive, although Rob claimed to have covered the turkey in his football bets.

The kids were all relatively good for most of the night, although (screeching) “SHE BIT ME!” (/screeching) was heard towards the end, and there was one slightly odd incident.

Justin, the younger of my nephews (who will be three this week), found a fake plastic pirate sword, and was whacking an inflatable frog with it. He then had each of us watching take a whack in turn, then he took the sword back and whacked the frog again.

Reading that paragraph, I realize it sounds slightly disturbing. But I couldn’t help laughing, because even though one of my nephews may have slightly violent tendencies, he does know how to share, and do so in an organized fashion. Also, he’s three, and three year olds doing anything with gusto is funny.

After we went back to my dad and Ray Ann’s place, Mark and I watched the special Thanksgiving presentation (at 1am) of a completely uncensored South Park Movie, desperately trying not to wake the small children in the house to the strains of “Uncle Fucka,” which echoes terribly in those loft-style condos.

We awoke the next moring to the strains of my dad trying to impersonate an alarm clock, and I think I may have told him to shut up, but I’m not sure.

Today’s schedule actually allowed a choice: We could go with the kids to a kid-centric Cezanne exhibit, or we could go to a movie where things blow up. Take a wild guess what me, Mark, and my dad chose.

We ended up seeing Master and Commander, which does have some impressive blowing-up scenes, but it wasn’t really a terribly good movie either. It was an okay way to kill two and a half hours, but I wouldn’t recommend it as a movie.

When we went back, we pretty much turned right back around to go visit my dad’s cousin and her husband. I’m not sure why, exactly we did this, other than my dad’s desire to try and maintain ties with more of his family since his sister died a few months ago.

It was fun though. Mark came along because a) did I mention what a good sport he is? and b) it was either that or be left with five screaming children. The people were very nice and funny and I learned that my grandfather was apparently quite the gambler.

Ultimately it was a bit odd, though, since I’ve never met these people and likely never will see them again, but you never know.

Anyway, we then went and had a big wine/beer and pasta dinner with just the adults (all of whom except me and Mark seemed terribly relieved to be away from their children for a nights) at a nice Italian place near my dad and Ray Ann’s.

The conversation was alcohol-soaked and a little weird, especially when it turned to “when was the first time you ever smoked pot?” and I ended up telling my pot story to my dad, who I made promise on pain of death not to tell my mother. A promise that I predict will last about two weeks, but never mind.

We eventually went back to the apartment, and after all the wee kiddies had gone to sleep (including my dad and Ray Ann) Mark and I decided to “borrow” the car and sneak out to Waffle House, a southern tradition that cannot be missed.

We ended up having to borrow Ray Ann’s car, since her keys were accessible and my dad’s were not. When I turned it on, I saw the lights were on, but I (much) later realized that these were the daytime running lights and not the actual headlights.

Which would account for why there were no interior lights telling me how fast I was going when driving to the Waffle House. After existential conversation over smothered hash browns, grits, and (of course) waffles, we decided to go for a brief drive around.

Which we definitely would not have done had I pulled my head out of my ass earlier and realized that the daytime running lights were on, and gotten an interior cabin light. Because then I would have realized that the car’s odometer was close to rolling over 35,000 miles.

You can sort of write off getting closer to 35,000 without noticing. But rolling past it? Fuhgeddaboudit.

We didn’t even realize until it was far too late, and we had somehow passed an “Entering DeKalb County” sign (which is bad, since my dad lives in Fulton County), and were at least ten miles from my dad’s with about three to go before the odometer rolled over.

We had about five minutes of “FUCK!” “I KNOW!” and flashbacks to earlier that day, when we were watching the scene in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off where Cameron unsuccsessfully tries to take the miles off his dad’s Porsche.

Then I realized my stepmom pays little attention to her car, and crossed my fingers and hoped she wouldn’t notice that it rolled over, or at least hoped she’d think it happened while she had three granddaughters in the car distracting her.

If we got busted, we had the benefit of the rehearsed but honest excuse: We just went to Waffle House, it’s not like we went drinking or something, the car is fine, we’re fine, and we didn’t want to wake you up because we were hungry at 1am.

Karma, however, decided to take its revenge on me the next day.

My stepmom had set up a photo shoot so we could get her whole family in one shot, taken by a professional photographer. Ray Ann told everyone to wear black, and constantly reminded me to bring my Nice Black Outfit to Atlanta. Nobody, however, said anything about shoes.

So of course, when I got in, she told me that she really was happy to finally be getting a picture of me with my shoes on, since you either can’t see my feet or I’m barefoot in most pictures she has of me.

Shit, I thought. I’d rather just go to Payless and buy shoes than argue with her about this. You can’t argue with Ray Ann over something you don’t care passionately about, because she’s thoroughly convinced she’s almost never wrong. Sometimes it’s better to put up and shut up with folks like her.

So after the movie Friday, we stopped by a Payless and I bought shoes. Not expensive, but it was still a pain to go hunting for a Payless and I fucking hate shoe shopping.

So of course you can guess the first command of the photographer: “Okay, everybody please take off your shoes!”

My dad and Mark (who was along because for some reason, Ray Ann thought she wanted someone to take snapshots…at the studio of a professional photographer…), who were in the car while I shoe-shopped, tried desperately to stifle their laughter.

After about two solid hours of pictures being taken, we finally left. When I ducked back into the second apartment to change back into my jeans, Mark informed me that since both my dad (ski trip) and I (back to California) were leaving, he was not going to stay the evening at my dad’s.

I’ve always said Mark’s a smart guy.

My father insisted on leaving for the airport three hours before his plane left, which is early even by his standards. He felt the need to allow for traffic leaving the Georgia-Georgia Tech game taking place along the route to the airport, and for dropping Mark off at the bus station.

When we dropped Mark off, I told him I owed him for saving my sanity this trip. Really, if you’re going home to family, bring a friend. It helps you immensely. Mark, however, might have a better comment on how it effects the sanity of the friend.

In any case, my dad and I arrived at the airport with over two hours to spare, so we did what we do (or at least what we do since I turned 21): We got a drink.

Overall, the visit to Atlanta was good, and it was good to see my dad and stepmom stepsiblings and nieces and nephews and meet a new niece and a new nephew.

It’s been a bit weird making the transition from Only Child to stepsibling, but I think I’m doing all right, mostly because my youngest stepsibling was married with one kid and another on the way when I first met him. We’re all old enough to understand what’s going on, and that’s a huge plus.

And now: On to Connecticut, where I’ll be fighting the good fight with mom’s side of the family at Christmas…for a week. God help us all.

One comment on “Thanks: Given

  1. Reply Mark Dec 2,2003 8:32 pm

    Atlanta….what’s the point?

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