This article is for those of us who aren't spirited away to some remote 'burb in the U.S. to split turkey wishbones with 3rd 2nd cousins. This is for that magical time of year when us few find ourselves feeling like survivors of some armageddon on Thanksgiving day. The ones significantly bereft of significant others, whose love life transcription has more question marks than exclamation points, and whose family tree has become a bunch of geographically scattered branches.
Like most years since I made the 3k mile leap to LA, I forgot this day was even happening. That changed right away after getting that un-raptured feeling of waking up this morning in a city of imports suddenly exported. Even with CNN on mute, I can't think of any other reason Obama would be photo-opping with a turkey. On top of that, my roommate's girlfriend greeted me today with a Tupperware full of yams. And while I couldn't identify a yam in a lineup of other starchy tubers, this was a decent way to usher in the impending holiday.
Growing up, I remember biscuit-eating competitions with my cousin, Chanin, my grandmother's Ice Box cake and turkey-hopping (sort of like a Thanksgiving bar crawl) with my good friend Andy. But those people aren't here with me in LA.
The only crowds in town are at the supermarkets, yet somehow I found parking right away. This drew bloodlust stares from a woman nearby in a bright green VW Bug whose holiday spirit was obviously on hold pending groceries. The cashiers at Gelson's formed a "happy holidays" chorus, and unless your ears have tuned out the frequency of the trees falling in your own forest, you too have somehow become aware of the general Thanksgivingness all around you.
In Annie Hall, Woody Allen said that he "would never want to belong to any club that would have someone like [him] for a member." Barring any of your own potential self deprecation or other misanthropic tendencies, here is my simple survival guide for making it feel like you are member of the Thanksgiving club in some small way:
This first one is the most obvious. You need to discover the other survivors, and treat this event like a game of desert island. Identify the strengths of each of your fellow left-behinders. Some people are simply better at turkey than others. And if you have a special gift for preparing banana pudding, by all means contribute that to the potluck.
For my event, I am in charge of bread. I'm no bread-maker, and leave all the hard work to Porto's Bakery in Glendale. One could interpret the given responsibility of bread as a poor reflection, a low value of your perceived ability to contribute culinarily. But I don't. I see myself as a proud, staple part of the diet. Glutens be damned.
Even now, through the miracle of Likes and Tweets, it's not too late to find a group of orphans in your adopted city.
Make sure your Thanksgiving soundtrack is appropriately upbeat. Music plays a fundamental roll in setting the tone of every day, but it's significantly more important on days when the wrong tune can put you down a nostalgic path you know you shouldn't travel. To each their own, of course. If Kate and Leo's theme from Titanic, um, floats your boat, drag that track into your playlist. However, I think it wise to stay away from angsty songs like AWOLNATION's "Sail," anything from Bon Iver or Mumford & Sons, or music that generally breaks you in half like The Tallest Man on Earth's "Like the Wheel." Keep it light. Find your auditory happy place.
I was lucky with this one, as my roommate's girlfriend left me the aforementioned yams. She took care of this step for me. But if you find yourself yamless, get out and fill your home with a small reminder of the holiday. Get a spice-scented candle, some fall-flavored coffee, or any other accouterment that calls to memory that Pilgrim feast.
Even if you're not into Football, you kind of have to be on Thanksgiving. Embrace it. The origins of this holiday are sort of murky, so modern-day consumer trivialities like Football and Black Friday put a less genocidal spin on it. And if you know nothing about the sport, you now have a hero in Denver quarterback, Tim Tebow that you'll have that in common with.
A healthy dose of do-goodery always lifts the spirits. Get out there and donate some time to the less fortunate. And while a solid argument could be made that pure altruism doesn't exist and that we all give for narcissistic reasons, the people benefiting don't really give a damn about your intentions. I'd recommend some organizations, but that's why God created Google. My good friends at GiV LA usually have something fun for you burgeoning philanthropists looking for a little charitable staycation: www.givla.com.
Ignore those Luddite urges and use it. I know it throws a curveball at tradition, but we're lucky to have it. From LA, I'll find my folks in Philly and brother in Japan all on one screen. And while you can't literally pass the cranberry sauce, you can at least share in some kind of cyber feast.
Skip the Chuck and treat yourself to a bottle of the $10+ stuff. Hard alcohol has no place at the T-day table, and beer will just make it harder to fill yourself with turkey, argue about the actual significance of tryptophan and then fall asleep on the couch watching football.
And that's it. These things, in conjunction, should help you feel like a member of Thanksgiving society.
Now if you'll excuse me, I've got a Tupperware full of yams to attend to.