Friday, November 24, 2006

Thanks...... For The Memories

Yesterday was Thanksgiving here. I typed a large post during the evening but didn't save it to draft as I went along and the laptop powered down when the temp rose in here - and I lost the lot. I was a bit upset and said so......several times in fact !!

My post was all about Thanksgiving, Christmas and all things American so I'll try and recreate my thoughts.

Thanksgiving is BIG here and not just because most workers get the day off work. I say 'most' workers cause every year less and less stores close down and it's easy to see why. Black Friday. But more of that later.

I was trying to imagine what the first Thanksgiving meal would've been like. If indeed it ever took place at all, it's been so covered in non historical nonsence that just about any record of it has to be taken with a pinch of the proverbial. The pilgrims came over from jolly olde England and after a few months of killing the natives and building up the McDonalds franchise, they decided to have a nosh up to celebrate the good times. So they took a break from giving baubles in exchange for pieces of land, like Delaware and Virginia, and carved the first turkey - which up until then had been used as beasts of burden. It's all true, y'know !

Anyhooo, four thousand or so years later, Americans drive from all over the place to get home for a replica of that first Thanksgiving meal and I went to a very different version of it yesterday. Over the last 15 years I've spent more Novembers in America than in the UK so I've had a lot of Thanksgiving meals - but they've been with my American family (friends really but after so many years spent with them, hell, we're all family now).

This year, being that we're down here in sunny Florida for the winter, we went to a community meal partially laid on by the owners of the park, bless their cotton socks. The main fixings, so to speak, were cooked by park volunteers and included the turkey, mashed taters, gravy, stuffing and sweet potatoes. Everyone who went had signed up to take something to add like veggies and dessert and rolls and so on. Given the ages of us all, you can imagine the collective culinary experience on display.

We went down early to set up and find our places. There were 12 to a table and we were on table 15. I know of a table 17 so that would be over 200 sitting down to eat.

I loved seeing the row of golf carts and this photo only shows those at the bottom of our road in the park as it leads directly to the hall where the meal was being prepared. There were loads more surrounding the other sides of the building. Awesome.

We were due to eat at 2pm but things were running a bit late and we actually started at 2:30 or so. Deb/Den had volunteered to take meals to 2 'shut ins' who were couples who couldn't make it to the hall. It turned out that one of them had managed to make it after all so that was a wasted trip but the other couple were so pleased to get their Thanksgiving meal on wheels !

It was a party atmosphere inside and many tables were decorated. Those who were old hands at this fixture had thought to bring everything from candles to wine glasses to pep up their tables and the food/drink.

We were a table of newbees so had no such goodies but that meant more room for the food. Always a good thing.

This shot shows everyone mingling with their table friends before settling down to eat. It was fun and it was so weird as even though people put their names on table lists totally at random, 10 of the 12 at our table were from Michigan. What a small world.

A couple of the residents were celebrating birthdays and their friends had made special cakes for them called kitty litter cakes. Two of these cakes were taken between the tables to be presented to them and I didn't think I'd get to see why they were called kitty litter cakes. Just before we started eating (great timing really), one of the cakes was passed around so we could all see it.

The name was pretty apt really but I never got the opportunity to ask what were the ingredients. I was assured though that it was an 100% edible cake - but the litter scoop was real and so not to be eaten. Glad they told me.

And so we all tucked into our Thanksgiving meal and not one word about the origins of it was ever mentioned. No words about the pilgrims. Nothing at all about giving thanks. Not a sausage about the first turkey all those centuries ago.

But no words were really needed. Over 200 people had come together to share food prepared by all of them. These people gave of themselves and is this materialistic world, what could possibly be a better way to honour and remember those hardy souls who came over to start a new life in a new world. They'd have been proud.

Did I say materialistic ? Ah yes, well that brings me to Black Friday......a day not known to many folks outside of America and for good reason. It's a bit like The World Series as only America takes part in it. Sorry, but it's been a while since I got in a dig about that.

Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving when for a few hours when most of us are tucked up in bed, those retail junkies who just can't bear to miss a sale opportunity, stand dutifully in line outside stores and wait for the 5am opening. From 5am until 11am (these are the usual BF sale hours) most big stores have crazy price reductions to tempt the punters to fight their way inside to try and find the one or two products actually at those prices. It's a zoo and not for the faint-hearted.

These days, the stores all have web sites and those in the know can let their fingers do the shopping and can even do it from the warmth and comfort of their beds.........the best place to be at 5am in my mind. A dvd recorder/vcr recorder combo for $99 ? Yea sure but you try getting your sticky (frozen) fingers on one. You've more chance of finding a call center agent without an Indian accent. I admit I was tempted to try for a $49.99 digital camcorder but what were the chances ? Yep. Slim to Indian.

Actually the utility company down here and other non related events did their best to get me out of my bed in time for the BF sale. First of all the electricity went off at 11:30pm on Thursday and stayed off till about 12:30am. This is when I realised just how much I rely on light to get into bed in this trailer. Remember I'm on a blow up mattress with not much walking room (or stumbling room in this case) around it. I groped for my torch but had to give up and just feel my way into the sleeping bag. Thankfully the fridge/freezer switched automatically to gas and back again when electric power was restored. Then it went off again and I fell asleep before it came back so I've no idea how long it was out for. This process happened a third time and the units powering up woke me at some crazy hour.

At 4:20am some trash collection noises from the park next to ours woke me again and then at 5:15am Deb's cell phone decided to let me know it needed recharging - it was on the table near my bed - and made a nasty noise every 3 or 4 minutes until I got up and plugged it in. Although while standing there in the pre dawn darkness I thought about Black Friday, I'm glad to report that I stood firm against that $49.99 digital camcorder.

Now if only more people would do the same, then the retailers might wise up and start these stupid sales at a reasonable 9am. The people who line up at 5am would still line up at 9am - and many more would join them. Shouldn't that be what the retailers want ? I'm obviously missing something here and the whole thinking behind having all the big stores starting their sales at the same daft hour is beyond me. If I got up at 3am to get to a store to stand in line to get that big sale item at 5:10am, I'd then be heading home to drop back into bed to catch up on my sleep. Now if I had a good nights sleep and got into that same line in time for the start of a 9am sale, I'd probably stay and shop for a lot longer AFTER I'd got my hot sale item......maybe even have lunch in the store restaurant or the food court and make a day of it. Lots more money in the store tills and everyone is happy........and nobody is cranky and tired.

Having said that, I guess I'm a two time loser as not only did I not get any sale items but I also woke up cranky and tired due to all the interruptions to my sleep.

A Black Friday indeed.

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