Thanksgiving day was such a relaxing day and I didn't go near the computer once. We spent the morning pottering about the house and then went to dinner at the home of friends. The night before we'd gone with L&L to the Ottsville Inn, a local restaurant which we hadn't tried that changed hands six months ago. It now belongs to a commercial pilot who has an arrangement to fly in his fish fresh from all over the United States, though on this occasion I tried the duck which was seasoned in a German rub and simply delicious. Larry wasn't quite so enamored with his Delmonico steak which was topped with spinach and mozzarella (quite a tasteless cheese unless eaten in Italy, I find) because it was altogether too 'spinachy.'
A survey of the wine list raised eye brows and tightened lips when we noticed the American wines started at $39.00; so we ordered glasses (generously poured, it turned out) of Australian wine, imagining they were probably $10.00 a pop--an image guaranteed to give an unpleasant edge to the alcohol 'lift' we were desirous of achieving, and were pleasantly surprised--if not actually stunned--when the bill came and we saw they had been only $5.00 each. (I must say the Australians have been very shrewd in their attempt to gain dominance in the American wine market; their wines are very good, particularly the Shiraz and Cabernets, well-priced, and I love the quirkiness of their bottle labels.) All in all, we'll definitely go back to the restaurant.
Thanksgiving is such a singular American holiday, a special time to spend in the company of family and friends without the obligation to rush out and hustle up a gift because you know you're going to receive one and don't want to stand there looking like a prat because you didn't buy one for them in return, etc, etc. I despise having to give 'expected gifts' Where's the surprise in the act of gift-giving? Thanksgiving is also a holiday that hasn't been commercialized by the corporate marketing 'gurus' scouring for yet another opportunity to claw yet more dollars from out wallets, and I applaud the good sense of my fellow Americans for keeping it that way, though we do, of course, get bombarded by the shrill bray of 'Black Friday' advertisements proclaiming wondrous deals that inevitably turn out to be duds.
On Friday, I did some work on Act 1 of the play and then in the early evening went out fishing for a new laser printer and needless to say didn't buy one. The sales staff at our local Staples really needs to get their act together because one chap praised HP printers and lacerated all Brother offerings, and another guy ten minutes later, after I popped in to ask a question I'd forgotten to ask, praised Brother and lacerated HP. Either that, or first time I got the chap whose remit is to sell all things HP, and second time I got the chappie with the Brother remit. In any event, I've decided to wait until the depths of January when aforementioned corporate marketing gurus toiling in the fields of silicon-dom are feeling the heat from weak sales and decide to do some genuine price mark-downs.
On our return home, there was a message on our answering machine from our neighbor across the woods whom Larry had sold a house (I lived in it for ten years) to nearly four years ago. She sounded agitated and asked us to call her back on her cell phone as she had news. When we did, we were devastated to learn Karen's husband Larry had died at two o'clock that morning of a massive heart attack. Larry was a New Yorker, Karen from California, and they have a cute three-and-a-half year old daughter, Alexandra. We became friends after the house changed hands and I always appreciated that he would always ask about my novel as it was winding its way toward publication, and they came to a reading, and he always wanted to know what I was currently working on. Such is the busyness of life, we hadn't spoken for a while and then he called the day before Thanksgiving and told us his mother had passed away two weeks previously.
Needless to say, his premature death reminded me of my own mortality and I attacked my cardio routine at the gym this morning like a man possessed, whipping my heart into a frenzy of pumping muscle. Quite frankly, a regimented program of exercise is the only hope of preventing heart problems.
As Larry was Jewish, his body had to be interred within 24 hours, but due to the Sabbath, the funeral took place on Sunday morning. Two neighbors, Larry and I attended the service in North New Jersey, and it was the first time I'd ever been to a Jewish funeral. The service took place at the Beth Israel cemetery and I put on one of the yalmukes provided--another first. As I listened, I was struck by the simplicity of the service, by the raw honesty as family members eulogized him, and by the cantor's singing and the saying of Kaddish at the columbarium. It left me with a feeling that Catholic and Protestant funeral rites could borrow a little from the Reform Judaism rites, most particularly the eulogizing of the deceased. I had the distinct feeling we have surrendered too much of the intensely personal to our clergy and ritual. I can't remember a priest ever delivering a thought-provoking, interesting eulogy in all the funerals I've attended. Surely it's the place of family and friends to eulogize someone they've loved, someone whose flaws, qualities and humanity they've known and lived with daily. I can't speak to Protestant funeral rites, but I will say that Catholic funerals should be far less about scripture and sermon and more about goodbye.
[technorati: Reform Judaism, Thanksgiving, Roman Catholic, Protestant