Such a strange holiday Thanksgiving is. Three hundred million of us, give or take a dozen, sit down to the same meal this Thursday. We eat and drink until we're crapulous (great word, look it up) with family and friends whose company we cherish….. or barely put up with. Considering the rivalry of siblings, festering grudges, generational divides, crazy uncles, bores and vulgarians it seems like a good time to plan my fantasy guest list......dead or alive.
I'd probably be tongue-tied if I sat down with Shakespeare, Mozart or Einstein. Jesus and I may not hit it off either. I'll let him and Marx chew on some communal scraps in the kitchen
Bill Clinton sends his regrets but says he agrees with everybody.
Orson Welles says he agrees with nobody but felt there wasn’t room at the table for another genius.
Sylvia Plath arrives late having been in the oven with the bird.
Sammy Davis Jr. was afraid the turkey wasn’t Kosher. Phillip Roth was afraid it was.
Tom Lehrer sits down at the piano and sings our benediction:
We gather together to ask the lord's blessing
For turkey and dressing and cranberry sauce.
It was slightly distressing but now we're convalescing
So sing praises to his name and forget not to floss.
Oscar Wilde is here after getting through immigration telling officials, all he has to declare is his genius. Mark Twain accepts the invitation when he sees the opportunity to violate at least a couple of the deadly sins….gluttony and sloth. Pass the Chardonnay.
Dorothy Parker is disappointed that the table isn’t round but sits between them because she always wanted the twain to meet They chat it up over all the stuffing they’ve known along the way. I let Yeats and Keats carve the bird and settle the white and dark meat as they figure out how to rhyme their names. Peggy supplies the contemporary poet's voice to bring them up to speed. Tom Lehrer tells John Keats that when the poet was his age he’d been dead for 56 years. Open the Merlot.
John Prine gets his gravy and lets loose with, it makes no sense that common sense don't make no sense no more just to bring the conversation down to my level. Molly Ivins passes the dark meat to keep us honest. If anyone’s a Vegan she reminds them of all that land out there God made good for nothing but grazing. Everyone digs in including Chief Seattle who hopes we haven’t forgotten how our ancestors came over here, undocumented, stole the land, killed their hosts and never left. Always forgive your enemies, Wilde chimes in, nothing annoys them so much. At that point Keats interrupts his ode to a turkey breast (thinking of Fanny) and injects his Negative Capability idea that we can hold opposing views without seeking resolution. He gets no argument about that nor is there any broken treaty over pumpkin pie. More white wine?
When Twain lights his cigar and starts raconteuring about those stiffs of the Gilded Age, Molly Ivins tops him with a description of Ronald Reagan who was so moribund that if he got any duller she’d have him watered twice a week. As to those Robber Barons she tells about the new barons of the 21st century who are so far up on the pyramid they can’t see folks on the bottom. Parker adds that if you want to know what God thinks about money just look at the people he gave it to.
D. P. asks to fill her chardonnay. She says she’d rather have a bottle in front of me, than a frontal lobotomy. She knows she’s among friends and doesn’t care what’s said about her as long as it isn’t true. Oscar has found a kindred spirit. He tells her that a little sincerity is a dangerous thing, and a great deal of it is absolutely fatal. Everyone’s feeling a bit crapulous. Yeats mumbles something about the center not holding as he slouches under the table asking which way is Bethlehem. Twain says he doubts what he reads in health books. One can die of a misprint. He remarks that all generalizations are false including that one as he disappears into his cigar smoke.
John Prine says he’s going to plant a little garden / eat a lot of peaches / try to find Jesus / on his own. Wilde stares at the tablecloth and says, one of us has got to go. Keats, in his cockney voice, says something about consumption. No one disagrees.
It’ll never get as good as this but Happy Thanksgiving.