What Thanksgiving Means to Me by Way of Monty Python, Industrial Strength Aerosol Lubricant and CHILDREN OF ENDWORLD

Believe what you will, this blog post is NOT going to be all about the once-sequel to the novel I’ve been working on for the last six to seven months, CHILDREN OF ENDWORLD. I say “once-sequel” because as of the last… oh, few days, CHILDREN is no longer the sequel to the novel I’ve been diligently plugging away at since the end of April, 2011. It’s been subjugated to Book Three status. It will still be called CHILDREN but the NEW direct sequel to ENDWORLD is just that: A direct sequel, i.e. it takes place directly after ENDWORLD concludes and not three years later. Anyone familiar with the original trilogy that is disappointed with that eventuality I’m sorry, but in light of certain… developments it makes more sense to NOT break up the continuity of the story.

No, friends. My reason for bringing it up is this: There is a scene roughly 50% of the way through the original draft of CHILDREN in which Roland err… William MacNuff (sorry; old habits and all that) is reunited with his surviving companions from the first book in a location that I will NOT divulge here (it’s ‘kinda a surprise) on a cold and snowy morning (hint, HINT: Where might it be snowing in late November?) over coffee and a home-grown breakfast. That morning has always been and will remain Thanksgiving morning, and while I only briefly allude to it in the original draft of CHILDREN I intend to elaborate upon it in the re-write. As you may have figured out, I’ve done a great deal of elaborating on THE ENDWORLD CHRONICLE already, so much so that the title “chronicle” no longer is sufficient to the scope of what I am intending. It’s more of a cycle, actually. THE ENDWORLD CYCLE, perhaps? Or is that to Piers Morgan? No idea, yet. I haven’t even formulated a title for the new sequel though admittedly, I ‘kinda like RED-HEADED STEPCHILDREN OF ENDWORLD (thank you, @mattiasmaximus, AKA my buddy Matt, AKA Matt O’Brien in THE ENDWORLD… whatever).

But I digress. That scene has always held a special place in my heart, soul and mind because of something I wholeheartedly believe in. Something that is, for me, an underlying theme of this time of year. Not just Thanksgiving but the you-know-what season that follows it (sorry, but I’m predisposed to NOT mention that particular C-word until AFTER I’ve eaten until it hurts and watched football-related programming for 24 hours). So I’ll stick with Thanksgiving, which is all about family and friends. It’s about uniting as a unit/as one to celebrate all that you… that WE are thankful for. And I have A LOT to be thankful for this year, friends. I would list everything but to do so would be ‘kinda tedious (seems like I’m using “‘kinda” a lot in this post, doesn’t it?) and I don’t want to give away any… as Doctor River Song from “Doctor Who” would say, “spoilers” before I’m allowed to. But I would be remiss if I didn’t list a few things.

This Thanksgiving more than others I feel very, VERY blessed. I have a wonderful family and wonderful friends; I’m once again “pot committed” to something that I love doing: Writing; I have a steady job, something that many around the world and specifically here on, as William MacNuff would say, “The Continent” can not claim. I have a renewed sense of purpose, something that I’ve been sorely lacking for the last couple of years. And that? That is where I’ll leave it. ‘Cause really, this little blog post is NOT meant to be a generic, “What Thanksgiving Means To Me” elementary school-style essay. After all, the title of this little ditty is “What Thanksgiving Means To Me (by way of Monty Python, industrial strength aerosol lubricant and CHILDREN OF ENDWORLD).” So my approach is to look at Thanksgiving from a few… uncharacteristic viewpoints. So without further adieu…

In 1983, the almost (but not quite) defunct Monty Python’s Flying Circus (though I don’t think they called themselves that at that point) put out their last movie of original material. “The Meaning of Life” was JUST THAT: A series of sketches about the meaning of life. Everything from birth through death. While the overall movie itself was, for me, a bit LESS hysterical than the previous three (others may think differently), there were a few parts that had me in tears of hysteria. And I’m NOT referring to “Find The Fish” which was, to employ an Anglophile term, “bloody awful.” I’m specifically referring to the one minute long skit about suicidal leaves. Those of you reading this that HAVEN’T seen the movie or more specifically that scene please check out THIS LINK before reading any further. I promise you that you won’t be disappointed.

While suicide is never funny–and it isn’t, friends, I’ll be the first to say that–that skit has, for me, always signified something different. Every time I see it I think of the end of Fall/Thanksgiving time. While that may seem somewhat demented to some of you reading this consider it before calling me a twisted f*ck. View it again with that thought in mind. Then think of the scene today in and around the Philadelphia area: Gray, cloudy skies; a howling wind; and as my one co-worker observed without the benefit of ever having seen “The Meaning of Life,” the last of the season’s leaves plunging to their respective deaths from the trees lining Green Street in Royersford, PA. It works, doesn’t it? While some might consider gray skies and trees shedding the last of their patchwork, seasonal coats about the furthest thing from “warm and fuzzy” I don’t. Gray skies and barren trees make me think happy thoughts. Like snuggling beneath a comforter with my wife and my daughter watching “Caillou” and “Pajanimals.” Like snuggling under the same comforter and reading “Goldilicious” to my daughter a half a dozen times before she finally concedes that she’s exhausted and says, “read ‘Goldie’ upstairs, daddy” and I concede, “okay, sweetheart. Read ‘Goldie’ upstairs,” thereafter tucking her in with “Goldie,” her stuffed Cookie Monster, stuffed Kermit, stuffed Clifford and EVERY OTHER stuffed animal she keeps in her harem of a crib (you should see it: It’s a wonder she can even sleep in it it’s so full with her “babies”). Like retiring downstairs and snuggling with my wife beneath that same, gosh-darned comforter and watching a movie while the cold, north wind howls outside and time moves onward aimlessly, and without check throughout my… throughout OUR subjective universes. I am thankful for moments like these, friends. And that IS what Thanksgiving is all about, is it not?

Fast forward from 1983 to 2011. This afternoon whilst (whilst = better than ‘kinda… or worse?) I was at work trying to get caught up before my mini, four day vacation from the world of Hydraulic and Pneumatic Distribution I received a phone call from a customer who shall remain nameless for fear of a libel lawsuit. Said customer asked me if I could supply him with an aerosol can of industrial strength lubricant for delivery tomorrow morning. UPS RED, EARLY AM… on Thanksgiving. Admittedly, my FIRST instinct was to either laugh in his ear or ask him if he was intending on having intercourse with a turkey tomorrow morning but being that one of the things that I’m thankful for is my steady job, career suicide? Probably NOT the best idea. So I bit back my initially considered snarky retort and informed him that I did not have any of what he was looking for in-house (which I didn’t) and that the lone source that I had for said-lubricant had already left for the day (which they had). I even checked my inventory though I knew the answer to his question without doing so. The customer understood, thanked me for my time and wished me a Happy Thanksgiving. I wished him the same and we went our separate ways. But that phone call? Well, it ‘kinda got me to thinking. It got me to thinking about said customer’s situation and the fact that instead of being at home with his family tomorrow morning he will likely be holed up in some dusty, dreary, cold warehouse somewhere waiting for a courier to drop off an aerosol can of industrial strength lubricant, AKA WD-40 on steroids from a company in either Canada or Mexico. I feel for that man… I feel horrible for him. Sh*t, guys, I feel terrible for ANYONE that has to work tomorrow in ANY capacity. I mean, I did it for years. 13 to be exact: A decade plus of slaving away in first, lower and then upper Retail Management. It sucks. My own wife has to work until 2:00 tomorrow afternoon and I feel for her. But do you know what? I’m thankful… I’m DAMN thankful that while I am not always the biggest fan of my job, it provides me and HAS provided me with a luxury that–up until six years ago–I never enjoyed: Holidays. Not just Thanksgiving but ALL holidays. I get to spend them with my loved ones, now. As it should be. And while the younger version of myself enjoyed the OT and the free lunches that he got for working holidays, the OLDER version of my same-self? Well heck. Who needs a hoagie platter or a couple of extra bucks when I can spend Thanksgiving morning playing “Peoples” (Fisher Price Little People for those of you unfamiliar with the term) or “Babies” with my daughter while the 6ABC Thanksgiving Day Parade plays in the background. I can witness her “ooh” and “aah” and say things like “look, daddy! ‘Is Santa Claus!” when he arrives despite the fact that when Nicole and I take her to see him this weekend she will likely freak out (as most two and a half year olds do). I am thankful for moments like these–when I get to wonder at my daughter’s innocent fascination with concepts that have grown slightly jaded for me due to time and age, and a day later comfort her when she is scared of those SAME concepts. And that TOO is what Thanksgiving is all about, is it not?

Circle back around to how I began this blog post, AKA the idea that originally inspired it: The scene in CHILDREN OF ENDWORLD so near and always dear to my heart, mind and soul in which William MacNuff is reunited with the family (’cause that IS what they become over the course of the “chronicle,” “cycle” or WHATEVER I end up calling it) he left behind at the end of Book One. While coffee and a combination of rations and homegrown food-stuffs like potatoes, carrots and the like don’t exactly equal a Thanksgiving Day feast with turkey, stuffing, mashed and sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, pineapple bread, pumpkin bread, crescent rolls and various sundry pies and cakes, in a post-apocalyptic world run by a totalitarian “Administration” of machines in which most human beings are little more than mindless pawns in an ongoing chess game against… well, against the futuristic 1%–the few human beings that resist and fight the “Administration”–it’s about the best my hero and his “peoples” can ask for. And in that scene he–William–is thankful not only for the food and the company but for his life. I repeat: HIS LIFE. When I originally wrote that scene some 15 odd (and yes, they HAVE BEEN odd, friends) years ago I didn’t quite understand that. Admittedly I was pretty f*cking miserable. Those of you reading this who knew me back then know the gory details so I’m not going to go in to them here but the prospect of THIS life, i.e. the life I lead now was non-existent. Back then, I called myself a living, breathing facsimile of a smiley face. Now? The grin suffusing my face as I write these words is not a forced one, nor is it a facade that I am putting on for my wife, Nicole, who… having returned home from work… now sits across from me beneath a comforter watching “Mythbusters.” My thankfulness this year is not some BS excuse I came up with to convince my family at dinner tomorrow night that I’m happy. I AM happy, friends. I’m happy for my family and my friends. I’m happy for ENDWORLD, working title RED-HEADED STEPCHILDREN OF ENDWORLD and CHILDREN OF ENDWORLD, not to mention THE [overarching] ENDWORLD… whatever. I’m happy for Monty Python, even skits as “bloody awful” as “Find the Fish” and I’m happy for gray skies and barren trees. I’m happy for cuddling beneath a blanket with my loving wife and my wonderful daughter as the chill outside attempts and fails to impinge upon our happy home. I’m thankful for regular strength WD-40 (it keeps the hinges on the doors in my house from squeaking) and I’m thankful that I’ve never used the phrase “intercourse with a turkey” until today. I’m thankful for “Peoples” and “Babies” and parades and yes, I’m EVEN thankful for the you-know-what season that follows Thanksgiving. And GOD am I thankful for the privilege of seeing my semi-jaded subjective universe through the eyes of a child again.

But MOST importantly, friends? I’m thankful for my life. I repeat: MY life. And THAT is what Thanksgiving means to me. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Now stop reading this and go eat until it hurts/watch football related programming for the next 24 hours.

F.

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