Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Turkey Day

November 24, 1981

Thanksgiving is one of those difficult holidays, a prelude to Christmas, but never really as important.
In 1969, I slept completely through the day, hiding from the police in an East LA apartment like one of those b-movie gangsters, thinking the FBI or the mob might kick down my door at any moment.
I never saw myself as an anti-hero, just a scared kid a few months out of the army, in love with some girl everybody warned me not to get involved with and yet I got involved with her anyway.
In love enough to throw away whatever life I had at home, steal some numbers money from a safe in my uncles’ house and head west to try to find her.
I went to LA first and stayed there for a few months, waiting for things to cool down and for my uncles, the law or the gangsters to bypass Boulder where she lived so I could go there.
I remembering eating bad Mexican food out of a can, and smoking a lot of dope, waiting for the holiday to come and then waking up nearly 24 hours later with the clock ticking down not onto a new year but the end of Thanksgiving.
I was so damned lonely, I went out to the public phone the next day in the back of the Chicano bodega and called her, telling her that I was coming to get her, and asked it that was all right.
I heard doubt in her voice, I didn’t realize until I got there was regret over another man, someone she was in love with the way I was in love with her, but she couldn’t have, and so she settled for me.
In doubt when I hung up the phone, I wondered if maybe I had made a mistake, and felt this strong longing for home, the missed Thanksgiving turkey I knew my family had devoured, and now doubt still picked the bones of even as I stood in that rainy LA air, 3000 miles west.
I wasn’t even sure what I really missed since I’d spent most of my younger days doing everything I could to escape them and the madness, and yet, I ached none the less, and didn’t try to cure the ache by smoking it away.
I just sat on the stoop of the apartment building, drawing dirty looks from the land lady, who said she hated hippies, Mexicans and bums – and though I didn’t look like a bum with my army crew cut still fresh, I acted like one.
And maybe I was a bum.
And maybe I was grateful for being anything at all.

The next day I went down to the Trailways station downtown, got on a bus with a newly purchased motorcycle jacket (against the expected cold) and headed off to Colorado, vowing not to miss Christmas the way I had Thanksgiving.

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