THERE’S NO DOUBT the world keeps getting weirder. As always, what matters is how you respond, which as Hunter S. Thompson indicated, means “going pro,” getting paid somehow to jump ass-first into the river.
This isn’t, as they say, without sacrifice, which for me has meant among other things, being away from friends and family and querencias (Southern Appalachian Mountains) during this time of year. For the past decade I was either traveling or living out West, and when November came I’d invariably look at the cloudforest or the aspens and see instead the white pines and tulip poplars (with predictable leaves-floating-down scenario) I was missing back home. In stronger moments of reflection (depression) I could actually smell smoke / hear rivers flowing.
For the first few years of exile my Jewish guilt was also cranked up in the mix. Lord I wouldn’t be there again for the Thanksgiving family roll-call! (Plus pop quiz on college / career trajectories with and bonus exam on any gadget, clothing, and vehicle purchases.)
Certainly I wasn’t thinking about the food which had taken a severe nosedive over the years (butterball), an inverse function of our family’s levels of affluence. This unfortunately is the general trend vís-à-vís time spent cooking versus the default mode of ‘ordering,’ however, it should be noted that my mom’s pumpkin bread and Momo’s gravy always delivered.
I can’t pretend that on some levels the guilt isn’t still there (‘hardwired’ as the phrase goes), or if not guilt then just a feeling of ‘damn, I wonder how everyone is.’ Is it enough then, for me to celebrate Thanksgiving like this, remembering them, writing about them, all the way down here in Patagonia?
I wonder what Uncle Rob, himself an inimitable pro (who ended up moving to Hawaii, where, now that I think of it, I could totally see a Thanksgiving feast of wild pig someday) might say. He’d probably just want to see Layla, and maybe later throw the football, as good a response as any.
In a call last night with TV producer Misty Tosh and Matador jefe Ross Borden we tried to describe that element in Matador that inspired us the most, and somehow locked onto the phrase “people breaking free,” perhaps another way to verbalize what Hunter S. Thompson was advocating.
Yesterday a family of Mapuche Indians stopped me in the street (addressing me, damnit, as Usted Señor) and asked me if I lived here. I realized that as of 3 days (long enough for me to stop pulling in on the front gate to go out) this was technically true.
I didn’t know the address they were looking for, but for a few seconds I was somehow both in the scene and watching it from somewhere else (that future place you go in your mind when you think ‘I’ll write about this?’) as the old man pointed through the rain and said he’d heard it was más p’allá.
Of course this scene shouldn’t ‘stand for’ anything more than itself, as this way of thinking has led people to do weird and evil shit (like decimate the very people who helped them survive their first seasons after arriving in the Americas, then set up a national holiday “giving thanks”) since the beginning of time. This was just one man asking another for directions as has happened and will continue to happened in stadiums and forests and bus terminals and above rapids and in muddy streets everywhere in the world forever.
Try to ‘draw out’ this direction-giving into a spiritual thing or a religion or anything else and you’ve gone from pro to amateur. Keep it at ground level and just give the man directions or smile and tell him you don’t know but you’re sure he’ll find it up there más p’allá.
Going back through the archives the other day I realized the Notebook has now been around just over 2 years. I think from the very beginning, helping people go pro was part of the vision. Giving people info and stories. Of course you still have to make the jump yourself.
And if you’re still at home, offer to help this year in the kitchen. Learn a recipe from your mom. Then go write about it. Happy Thanksgiving.