There have been only two instances in my life when I have not been at home with my extended family for Thanksgiving. Two years ago, I made the grievous mistake of attending Thanksgiving dinner at my then-girlfriend’s stepfather’s home in Concord, New Hampshire. It was a bad drive topped by one of the more uncomfortably confrontational family dinners I’ve ever been a party to, in which a slice of pumpkin pie was, I kid you not, thrown at someone’s face. That was the last straw for several situations, including that particular relationship, but most of all, it reaffirmed that the only place I really wanted to be on Thanksgiving was upstate with my family, as much as the idea of staying home and doing some freelance NYC handyman work to make some extra dough allures me.
Indeed, the only other time I ever abstained from my annual November trip upstate was my junior year of college, which I have surpassingly fond memories of. Not of the food, mind you: the turkey came out drier than plywood, the mashed potatoes were served as a type of soup essentially, and the stuffing was like gobbling down a plate of salad croutons. The preparation for the meal is what I remember, especially since it put me in contact with a lifelong friend, currently a general contractor for a NYC handyman outfit out of Jackson Heights.
By preparation, I mean less the strewning of festive colored paper and cardboard turkey cutouts, and more the repairs to this particular apartment. See, the apartment we decided to hold it in was very tiny and we had a lot of people who were staying at college, due largely to the clash between slim college-kid budgets and somewhat unreasonable travel costs. So, we had to get a larger table into a living room about the size of a dorm bedroom, and also had to move around furniture. This may have been an easy task if the group of men responsible for this, my NYC handyman friend and myself included, weren’t stone-cold drunk at the time we performed this miraculous move around.
As you may expect, there were more than a few holes in the drywall by the time we were done wedging the long dinner table, which we had borrowed from a friend of a friend who worked as part of the janitorial staff in the compute science building. The relief that we would indeed be able to feed all 20-odd people was immediately replaced by the burden of having to convincingly repair these holes. We may have been able to wait a few days to make repairs but the girl whose apartment we were using had what might kindly be referred to as a hissy fit. To be fair, she was a few glasses of dirt-cheap white wine in as well but still, her complaints rang louder and more routinely than even those god-forsaken college fire alarms.
So, we walked across campus to my NYC handyman friend’s dorm and picked up some extra spackle he had brought home from the studio, and newspaper for the bigger holes. It turned out to be a simple fix when we returned: most of the holes needed only a little spackle, followed by some sanding a day or two later, and only one of the holes required a layer of newspaper to fill it. What I have a very vivid and happy memory of is the rest of our friends, happy enough to crack a few more beers and relax while we did the work, commentating on our job as if they were announcers for the NFL. Until you have a drunk philosophy major remark that you have “stepped up [your] spackling game since last season” and “must have really worked on [your] sanding during the off season”, you really haven’t lived.
But as much as I have fond memories of these days, this year I’m thankful to be getting home for a few days and getting a breather from city life. I imagine my short time spent at Penn Station tomorrow will be a hell not worth remembering, but it’s worth it in the long run. Happy Thanksgiving, everybody.