Serving 3 . . .

Enjoy your Thanksgiving feast :-)

Happy Thanksgiving!

Not much commentary today, just my sincere best wishes for a happy holiday and a hope this final serving of Stuffed will encourage everyone to reflect upon what they have to be thankful for.

Hopefully that will include a smile or two if I’ve done the task well and this final serving of our Thanksgiving feast touches your heart.

I want to encourage everyone to come back next Thursday, December 3, 2015, for a special postscript to Stuffed.

In the meantime, enjoy your meal and what I hope will be a most delicious dessert.

Chapter 17 . . .

Need a lawyer :-)

Tom and Ray Magliozzi were a couple of car mechanics born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who achieved fame in life for a radio show called Car Talk. Although I never listened to it or was even aware of it for that matter, their show apparently ran on National Public Radio in the United States for many years and had a cult following.

From what I gather, people would call in from all over the country while the show was on the air and ask the brothers for help in diagnosing and repairing problems they were having with their cars; or ask about how to maintain their vehicles in good running order if they weren’t having problems.

The brothers would use those calls to offer a running commentary on whatever happened to be on their minds at the moment, usually a mixture of advice and jokes directed at their callers and themselves.

Like I said, Car Talk had a devoted following and ran on the radio for many years. Eventually the brothers retired although original episodes are apparently still in syndication in various places. There’s also still an official web site devoted to the program. Tom, the older of the two brothers, died in 2014, but Ray is still alive, at least as of this writing.

The reason I mention this is that the brothers named their business corporation Dewey, Cheetham & Howe, which is also traditionally the name of a crooked but fictional American law firm. There are a number of variants of the name, all of which sum up traditional American views about lawyers. It’s a long-running gag that’s been used in many different books, shows, movies, and jokes.

More to the point, the brothers housed their corporate offices in a third-floor office at the corner of Brattle and JFK Streets in Cambridge and over the years it’s become something of a legendary local landmark. If you ever get to Harvard Square, look up, literally, and you’ll see the name of this mythical law firm above you. You’ll also find a reference to it in tonight’s chapter.

Last week, after spending the weekend together and discussing the problems Sean was having with the men he works for, the boys visited Professor Jeffords’ office. Sean was delighted with all the Red Sox memorabilia, but the real purpose of the visit was to give the Professor a chance to persuade Sean to apply to Harvard.

That caught Sean by surprise. But after Professor Jeffords was able to address a bunch of his concerns, Sean decided to fill out the necessary paperwork, which Holden then returned to Professor Jeffords the following morning.

Having done so, Holden was on his way back to Wigglesworth when he ran into Roger and spilled the beans about what was afoot. Roger seemed delighted with the good news, but the comments suggest you’re not buying that so we’ll have to see.

We’re moving into the final stages of the story and that means tying up all the loose ends still outstanding. We’ll do some of that tonight in Chapter 17, which is now up at The Annex. Have fun reading and be sure to come back on Thursday for the final serving of Stuffed.

By the way, I’m going to try to schedule that for an earlier appearance on Thanksgiving Day, perhaps around noon, as I’ll be celebrating the day with friends. I hope the day is a happy one for my American friends and that everyone will take a few moments to reflect on what you have to thankful for after finishing the story.

The Game . . .

Harvard beats Yale ... still again

A season that began with significant hype ended, as the last eight seasons have, in disappointment. With a 38–19 loss on Saturday, the Yale football team fell to Harvard for the ninth-straight time.

With the win, the Crimson (9–1, 6–1 Ivy) earned a share of the Ivy title for the third year in a row, joining Penn and Dartmouth atop the league. One season removed from a third-place finish, Yale (6–4, 3–4) finished tied for fourth with a sub-0.500 record in conference play.

That was the lead from the Yale Daily News story yesterday reporting still another Yale defeat in what the two sides refer to simply as The Game. Here’s the Harvard Crimson’s take on the same event.

Not quite as dramatic an outcome as the 1968 game between Harvard and Yale. That’s the one in which the Crimson proclaimed victory with one of the greatest newspaper headlines of all time: Harvard Beats Yale 29-29. It’s a headline that spawned a film documentary as well

Still, being the ninth in a row, perhaps the defeat was just as crushing as the 1968 loss.

Ah, well, there’s always next year my Bulldog friends :-D

Serving 2 . . .

In solidarity with the people of France ...

I'm thankful for readers like you among other things . . .

Last week’s introduction to Serving 1 of Stuffed focused primarily on the story. This week I guess I should say a few words about the day itself, Thanksgiving, but what I should say is harder to figure out.

There’s the obvious. Thanksgiving is a national holiday, one celebrated in North America. In Canada it takes place on the second Monday of October while it has traditionally been celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November in the United States.

And there’s the symbolism and history, both usually connected to Plymouth in the state of Massachusetts. Although no one knows the exact date, the first Thanksgiving was a harvest celebration that took place in Plymouth in 1621. Two years later the first recorded religious thanksgiving day occurred in the same place.

After that, days of thanks were celebrated at different times and places in the different colonies and states. The first national day of thanks in the United States was apparently celebrated at the urging of President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. But it wasn’t until December 26, 1941, that President Franklin Roosevelt signed a bill into law setting the fourth Thursday of November as the official date.

But here I’m mostly just repeating what can easily be found on Wikipedia. What you may be wondering is what Thanksgiving means for Americans; and, as with many things, it’s not always easy to say these days.

As everything becomes more commercialized in America, some people will tell you Thanksgiving’s the day Black Friday sales begin; or the traditional kickoff to the Christmas season and all the buying and selling that comes with that. For children Thanksgiving may be best known as the day when American Presidents pardon the national turkey.

By the way, that may not happen this year because it’s hard to know which turkey President Obama should be pardoning: Donald Trump, Ben Carson, or one of the lesser Republican turkeys seeking to replace him. We use to think both turkeys and Republicans were dumb. These days that’s much in dispute when it comes to turkeys, but perhaps I digress.

More traditionally, Thanksgiving is a day when families gather together to catch up with loved ones they may not have seen in a while; to talk a little politics or to watch a parade, usually on television (the first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was held in 1924); to view multiple games of American football over the course of the day; and to eat lots of food, with turkey being the traditional centerpiece of the dining table.

Yes, you heard me right; not all turkeys are granted a Presidential pardon on Thanksgiving Day :-D

While it’s happy day for most Americans, there are some for whom the day is bittersweet indeed. Native Americans are one such group. Often, as in last week’s image, they’re depicted as celebrating the first Thanksgiving Day with the Pilgrims at Plymouth Plantation; and while that almost certainly happened, the relationship between them and the English settlers soon deteriorated into conflict and war.

Those wars pretty much foretold the fate of all Native Americans as settlers pushed across the continent relentlessly. Today one wonders what Native Americans would celebrate other than their own demise at the hands of the English colonists who seized their lands and kept pushing them further west and north until there was no place left for them?

LGBTQ folk are another community with mixed feelings about the holiday, especially some of the older members of the community I’ve talked to. For many of them Thanksgiving was nothing more than a time to recall how they were the black sheep of the family, the outcasts; the people other members of the family tolerated that one day but generally refused to acknowledge or accept because of their sexuality.

And yet, having suggested Thanksgiving is a much more complex holiday than we like to think, it’s also a holiday I love; less for the food, entertainment, and sales than for the opportunity to get together with friends and loved ones.

That’s one of the reasons I wrote Stuffed, to remind everyone all of us do have things to give thanks for each year whether or not we celebrate them with a holiday. Want to know more about Thanksgiving? In addition to the links above, take a look at this site and this one. They should provide enough details to satisfy anyone.

In the meantime, Serving 2 of the story is available for consumption at The Annex. Have fun reading and be sure to let me know what you think.

An inconvenient truth . . .

say no to demagogues

It’s a wretched yet predictable ritual after each new terrorist attack: Certain politicians and government officials waste no time exploiting the tragedy for their own ends. The remarks on Monday by John Brennan, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, took that to a new and disgraceful low.

Read more here.

Let me add one or two thoughts to this most excellent editorial from the New York Times.

People like Brennan want to have their cake and eat it too. On the one hand, they tell us again and again how they’ve disrupted numerous terrorist attacks on America through the illegal and unconstitutional activities they engage in daily. Usually they don’t provide very much detail to back up their claims, counting on us to take their word for it.

But then, when it becomes obvious the emperior has no clothes and a plane is blown out of the sky over the Sinai or people are killed in Paris or watching the Boston Marathon, they like nothing more than to wring their hands and blame their failings on the restraints they operate under.

It’s not their fault. It’s never their fault even though we lavish tens of billions of dollars on them every year. It’s our fault for making life difficult for them by asking them to honor our Constitution, not twist it into whatever is convenient for them.

Their contempt for the very things that have made America great is hard to swallow.

Harder to swallow still are people like Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican running for President who has called the conflict with ISIS a “clash of civilizations” and proclaimed that “either they win or we win.”

These days politicians like to pander rather than tell the truth. The truth is “we cannot eradicate terrorism any more than we can eradicate armed robbery,” as Andrew Bacevich has put it.

That’s not a comforting truth nor an excuse for inaction. But like the war on drugs or the war on poverty or any of the other wars America’s so-called leaders like to proclaim, the war on terrorism is an on-going war that will never be won.

If we allow ourselves to abandon our principles as a nation in a false quest to win a war that cannot be won, it is the terrorists who will win; an inconvenient truth to be sure, but the truth nonetheless.

Chapter 16 . . .

In solidarity with the people of France ...

In case you're wondering, he did get accepted :-)

Harvard’s application for admission was three pages long when John F. Kennedy applied back in 1935; and as that image above suggests, the whole process of getting into college was much simpler back then. Asked to explain why he wished to attend Harvard, five sentences were enough to do it for Kennedy.

Hard to believe, isn’t it? But then again Harvard didn’t give him very much room on the form to provide a more compelling answer.

To say the least, getting into college these days is a bit more challenging. In addition to maintaining a high grade point average in high school and doing well on standardized tests like the ACT and the SAT, students are required to write multiple essays on a variety of topics that range from the sublime to the ridiculous.

My personal favorite? Kermit the Frog famously lamented, ‘It’s not easy being green.’ Do you agree? That was an actual question Tufts University asked students to comment on as part of their quest for admission.

Given how competitive the process is these days, an entire industry has sprung up to help students write essays that are creative, serious, funny, profound or whatever else may be required. But for all the help they get, students often end up driving themselves crazy trying to set themselves apart from their peers.

Is the end result any better?

Who knows? Kennedy’s response looks pretty underwhelming today, but he got admitted and graduated from Harvard and then went on to play an important role in the American saga. However elaborate the process of gaining admission to college may have become, the four or more years you end up putting in is still mostly about figuring out who you are as a person and what you want to do with your life.

Those are questions Sean will soon have to face in the remaining chapters. But now, like Landon Bridges, I’m getting ahead of myself so let’s briefly recap where things stand.

As you’ll recall, Sean and Holden spent some time together in last week’s chapter doing a variety of things before making their way to Professor Jeffords’ place in Boston. To Sean’s surprise and delight, the good Professor served up a delicious meal, one Sean thoroughly enjoyed.

Later Professor Jeffords and the boys took in the Red Sox game at Fenway Park. It turns out Sean and the Professor have slightly different ways of looking at the game, not surprising I suppose given the difference in age between them. But their playful arguments seem to have helped them to get to know one another better and that may turn out to be a good thing for both of them.

Returning to Cambridge, Sean and Holden were nervous about the night ahead. However, an unplanned wrestling match that produced lots of giggles allowed them to overcome their nervousness and finally share their feelings for one another.

They did so in a way that will hopefully provide fond memories later in life. But the story is far from over and there’s still more for us to learn about the boys. That’s just another way of saying Chapter 16 is up. Enjoy!

And keep in mind I’ll be back with another serving of Stuffed on Thursday evening.

Serving 1 . . .

This is NOT how it went down, people :-)

The First Thanksgiving 1621 by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris

Tonight we begin Stuffed, a little morsel of a tale about Thanksgiving I hope you’ll enjoy. I wrote the story for a number of reasons; to celebrate the holiday, of course, but for other reasons as well.

For one thing, I wanted to write something uplifting that would bring a smile to your face and give hope to those who may be struggling one way or another this holiday season. I also wanted to call attention to a certain type of person, the type of person all too easily shunned because they’re odd or different or just don’t fit in for whatever reason.

As anyone in the LGBTQ community should understand, it’s easy to be belittled and ridiculed if you’re an outsider. And yet even within our own community there are people who are treated the same way all too often by the rest of us because they don’t fit into our perception of what a gay person should be.

That’s a shame; being different doesn’t mean you’re not a good person, an honorable person, someone we would actually like and admire if we took the time to get to know you better. Stuffed will give you a chance to meet a person like that and to decide for yourself what you think of him.

Stuffed is also more than just a celebration of an American holiday. It’s a tribute to the English language. We know the same word can have different meanings at different times, in different circumstances, or depending upon the context in which it is uttered.

Knowing that, it’s not surprising words have consequences depending on how they’re used; consequences large and small, intended and unintended. As a storyteller, words are important to me and I like playing with them. Indeed, much of the humor in this story depends on the ambiguous meaning of words.

While gay and homosexual are synonymous today, for example, that wasn’t always the case. Years ago the word gay was used more to mean carefree and happy, not as a way of describing one’s sexual preference. Similarly, bread was a slang term for money, not just something you eat.

There are many other words like that in the English language and you’ll meet some of them in this story.

I think older readers may get how I use words in the story better than younger ones although I hope that won’t be the case. But whether older or younger, do feel free to ask if you find yourself puzzling over a particular word or reference and wondering why I chose to use it rather something more common.

Although being narrated by someone much older in contemporary America, Stuffed mostly takes place years ago . The specific year I had in mind for the events described in the story was 1970. We’ll be spending a lot of time in the seventies over the course of the next year for reasons I’ll have more to say about later.

As for this story, I chose to set it in 1970 for a number of reasons. For one thing, it was the only year in the decade when there was a Friday the 13th in November; a small detail to be sure, but one an aspiring writer needs to pay attention to.

More importantly, 1970 was the year after the Stonewall riots took place in New York City. Stonewall is traditionally considered the coming out story for homosexuals in America; and yet, although things were beginning to change, the process was a very slow one indeed.

Not even many homosexuals used the term gay to describe themselves in 1970; at least that’s what I’ve been told.

Originally I had intended to say a few words about Thanksgiving itself in this post, but a few became many and I decided it might be better to postpone my comments about the holiday until next Thursday. The one thing I would say is that the image above by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris is NOT anything like how the first Thanksgiving actually looked.

It’s a highly romanticized version that captures a lot of the myths about the day, but one that has very little connection to reality. The English settlers of Massachusetts didn’t call themselves Pilgrims, for example, or typically wear the kind of somber, black clothing depicted in the image; and they certainly didn’t wear silver buckles on their shoes as often portrayed.

The Native Americans who participated in the first Thanksgiving, the Wampanoag, did not get their food from attentive women while sitting on the ground. Nor did they wear the type of blankets and feathered headdresses depicted in the image. Indeed, they are shown dressed more in the style of Native Americans from the Great Plains of America, not New England.

But Americans love the image nonetheless precisely because of the benevolent myth it perpetuates; that the so-called Pilgrims and Native Americans lived in peace and harmony. They did, but only for a very brief period.

By the way, I strongly encourage you to click on that image. You’ll get a much better view of the painting in all its rich detail.

I’ll have more to say about myth and reality next Thursday. For now, I’ll just reiterate my hope you enjoy the story, the first serving of which is now available for your consumption over at The Annex.

Have fun reading as we put the basic elements of the story in place.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 64 other followers