Thursday, November 26, 2009

Food for Thought

I was wide awake at four am this morning, worried about, among other things, whether or not my turkey was defrosting properly. Sleep seemed elusive and my thoughts slowly wound their way through the food preparations I would need to orchestrate with the talents of a symphony conductor to ensure dinner is both fully cooked and on time, a feat in my small kitchen. As my futile attempts to shut down my brain for a few more hours of much needed rest continued to fail, I started to think about the Thanksgiving holiday itself, how it all started and what it represents to me. And somewhere in there, I finally fell asleep.

According to my very cursory internet research this morning and what I remember from elementary school, besides the fact that you can make a paper turkey by tracing your hand, the first Thanksgiving occurred in 1621, a product of the newly settled Pilgrims and the Native Americans working together over the year to evade sickness and ensure a bountiful harvest. The gist I get from all this, is that the real point of Thanksgiving is to celebrate and remember three important things: that sometimes you need a little help from an outside source - call it whatever you like - Mother Nature, Acts of God or just sheer dumb luck, that through our own hard work and perseverance we can accomplish and experience great things and that as much as we can do on our own, we can do so much more when we work together.

I've seen a small share of "miracles," for lack of a better word over the past year, worthy of receiving thanks. Some are big - like the unprecedented recovery of an extended family member we were all certain was staring down the face of death, and some are so small, I might have failed to notice them if I wasn't actively thinking about them, like the serendipity moment I had last week which gave me a chance to spend time with an old friend. Call these things what you will - kismet, fate, God, even magic, it's all good with me. It's not about what religion you believe in or if you believe in one at all. It's just about believing in the fact that sometimes, when you need it, this world will help you out in little and unexplained ways. Who needs to explain it anyway, that's the good kind of mystery, and I for one, am thankful for it, because it keeps me hopeful, that even when I am at a loss, things can still take a turn for the better.

Life is hard. I think we've all got that by now. So take a moment to give yourself a little thanks for all the things that you've accomplished on your own this year and for the things that you like about you. It's not narcissistic, especially not today, to give yourself a little pat on the back. I'm proud that I've started writing this blog, even though I know it needs some work and I should write more often. But it was a big step to put my own thoughts out in the public forum and I'm happy I finally found the courage to do it. And while I haven't completed triathlons this year like I have the past, I've worked hard to stay healthy and athletic, no small feat in a busy world full of tasty treats and easy distractions. I've worked hard on my creative endeavors, I've helped my friends when I can, and I've loved those close to me - all things that are both challenging and rewarding and worthy of being proud of and giving thanks for. Now go on, it's your turn. Thank yourself for your accomplishments this year, even the little ones. Sometimes those are the ones that matter most.

And after you're done with a little well-deserved self-gratitude, turn and hug the person next to you, or the next one you see if you're alone when you read this, and by all means, your loved ones and friends when you join them later for turkey and all the trimmings. Because despite all you do on your own, you couldn't have done it nearly as well without the help of the people around you. The friends and family and special people who love and support you and make it easier to get through the day. You live your life fuller and richer because you share it with them. The colleagues you work with, not all the ones you work with, but the ones you really mesh with, your teammates. You do your job better because you do it together. And you might want to send up a little thank you to even the folks you don't know, or don't know well, who surprise and help you in little ways, seen and unseen, throughout the year. They make a difference, for sure, and as is often the case, strangers can turn into friends.

In the end, we're not all that different from those first Thanksgivingers long long ago, save for a much better wardrobe and a less smelly mode of transportation. So as you stuff your face with turkey and mashed potatoes, which is reminding me that I need to stop writing and start cooking, remember what it's really all about. Enjoy the magic life brings, tell someone you love that they made your life better this year by being in it and then go look in a mirror and say it again. And THEN go eat some turkey.

Happy Thanksgiving to all MY friends, family, loved ones and those of you that I don't know but who have helped me get through the year.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


An unfortunate by-product of living in a sprawling metropolis like Los Angeles is that often the places you need to get to are not just down the way. Giving those of us who inhabit the city of angels ample time behind the wheels of our cars, amidst the commuter crush. And no, this isn't an essay about traffic. It's about the fact that as I drive around this fair city, I'm constantly reminded that some people have an inexplicable need to convey some sort of message that is of great importance to them via their automobile. That is, if you can actually decipher said message. I'm talking about the aptly named vanity plate.

Now, I'm the first to admit that as a burgeoning teenager, I deeply coveted the personalized licensed plate bolted to the front and back of my best friend's older sister's car, proudly proclaiming the phrase "88 GRAD." I now suspect that a lot of it had to do with the fact that she was a senior in high school and had her own car, but regardless, I was only thirteen at the time, so I think that buys me a free pass. And I'll certainly concede that it sometimes passes the time when I'm doing zero miles per hour on the 405 if I have a car in front of me with some illegible but clearly vitally important cipher I am expected to decode. Though it begs the question, if I can't understand what you are trying to say, what exactly was the point of the hours you spent coming up with your secret spy message? Not to mention the time and energy it takes to apply for one of those suckers.

And what about the ones that are easy to read, if usually poorly mispelled, bastardized versions of your favorite catch phrase? If you've tacked one of those on the back of your car for the sole purpose of making people laugh, then bravo. You win, and I'll happily tip my hat to you. But I'm guessing most of you take those little messages seriously. Too bad for you, I don't. Like the one I saw the other day as I was headed down the 101. "KEPUSHN." Okay, I got it. Keep pushing. If I go with the theory that the name "vanity plate" has any bearing, then this statement is about you. Are you an obstetrician? Do you really need to advertise if you are? Or is this your big motivational self mantra? And if so, why the hell is it on the outside of your car, where you usually aren't looking? And if we forget the whole vanity theory, maybe you're just offering me some friendly advice, in case I'm a little constipated. Seriously.

Then there was the black Mustang, again on the 101, I spend a lot of time on the 101, with a plate that read "O BEHAVE." Props for actually using some correct spelling, but what are you trying to say? Because you are clearly not Austin Powers. I know, because I drove up next to you and looked in the window to check. Finally, because things are always good in threes, I recently saw a plate that read "MMMMGRL." I don't even know how to say that without the image of someone in a dress and a jock strap and size eleven high heels snapping her fingers at me coming to mind. So my assumption is that you're a drag queen. Which does not bode well for your dating career if you're the straight-looking guy who was actually driving the car and you are, in fact, heterosexual. And for the love of pete, all of my gay friends have more class that that, so as far as I'm concerned, unless you are RuPaul, there's just no excuse.

Vanity plates are entertaining, and deciphering them is a hell of a lot more fun than playing the alphabet game when you're stuck in some serious traffic or on a long road trip. But if you have one, you need to understand that most of us, other vanity plate owners aside, are either laughing at you or just shaking our heads in confusion and wonderment at the phenomenon. So if you want to take the piss out of your fellow highway goers, by all means, pull out all the stops, give us a plate to laugh at and laugh along with us. But if it's true vanity your after, just buy yourself a mirror and stay home.