Amy Bennett

I came across Amy Bennet and thought I’d share. These are paintings, by the way.

Someday You'll Long for This
We Can Never Go Home Again
Coming to Grips
Losing It
Every Second Counts

From her bio,

Two years ago, I contsructed a 1:87 scale model neighborhood, a fictitious cluster of eleven houses depicted through model railroading miniatures, styrofoam, cardboard, and plastic, complete with string telephone wires and working lights. The process of designing and assembling the setting over several months triggered my imagination to develop characters to populate the place along with a loose timeline of events that would culminate in the neighborhood’s history. I considered who lived in each home, their family dramas, and the way their private lives might spill into view of their neighbors. The model became a stage on which to develop the psychological implications of belonging to a particular family, with all of its dramas, struggles and familiar routines. I thought: this tree will be taken down after an old man crashes into it; a father will transform this lawn into an ice skating rink; this house will be abandoned after its residents are scandalized on the evening news.

Kaxil Kiuic

My step-father is Indiana Jones.

Seriously.

Well, OK. His name is actually George Bey, but he’s like Indiana Jones.

He’s Dean of Sciences and Professor of Anthropology at Millsaps College in Jackson Mississippi and is currently on a whirlwind tour of Southeast Asia looking for gold and secret mystical skulls that will vanquish tyranny from the face of the earth and give the New Orleans Saints a Superbowl victory.

Well, OK. So maybe that’s impossible; the Saints will always stink. But he really is in Southeast Asia right now and he really is a Dean and a Professor and an archeologist, and he even owned a whip, and although he’s too young to have ever actually fought Nazis, if he did meet some Nazis, he would seriously kick their butts.

He’s a fantastic teacher and a wonderful father and he runs this totally freaking AWESOME biocultural reserve, Kaxil Kiuic: The Helen Moyers Biocultural Reserve.

Located in the Bolonchen District of the Puuc region of Yucatan, Mexico, the Helen Moyers Biocultural Reserve is a privately owned entity managed by Kaxil Kiuic, A.C. It consists of 4,000 acres of dry tropical forest and contains within it the ancient Maya center of Kiuic as well as the remains of the historic community of San Sebastian. The abundant and diverse flora and fauna found within the reserve make it one of the best remaining zones of dry tropical forest in the Yucatan Peninsula. The ecological and cultural resources of the reserve are protected, and 50 hectares of the Maya center of Kiuic have been officially donated by Kaxil Kiuic to the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH). Kiuic is one of the first archaeological sites that has been acquired officially by the INAH in Yucatan and will be preserved in its entirety within the protection of the biocultural reserve that surrounds it. This initiative represents a new model for development in Mexico to manage its ecological and cultural resources.

It’s a private organization, on privately owned land and supports a growing number of research projects, educational programs, and efforts to contribute to the development of long-term productivity and sustainability for nearby communities.

USA Today did an article on him and the site in Kaxil Liuic last June. (There’s a great photo gallery that accompanies the article too.)

I say he’s Indiana Jones, but the truth is, he’s cooler than Indiana Jones. He’s cooler because he’s real and because I know him and love him and grew up with him and because, well… because he’s a searching for meaning and truth. USA Today also interviewed him and they asked him about Indiana Jones. This was his answer,

Indiana Jones is a myth about archaeology and archaeologists. And like most great myths, it does at some level reflect a truth about what we do and our identity. Maya archaeology has a great history of adventure and most Maya archaeologists can tell you at least one hair raising tale that might find its way into an Indiana Jones film. And I don’t think we would be living and working in the jungle if we didn’t at some level enjoy the whole idea of exploration and adventure. Yesterday morning as I was leaving Stairway to Heaven, I put my hand on a tree only to find it occupied by a very long tree living snake looking me in the eye. Its skin perfectly mimicked the color and texture of tree it occupied. However, although the moment was Indiana Jones-esque, my reaction was not to yell or curse the beast and kill it, but pull out my dvd recorder and record the snake’s movement from tree to tree. I am a scientist and the moment was thrilling both because snakes are a little bit scary, but also because it was very cool to see this type of snake close up and have a chance to record what I was seeing.

I think this is one of the main things that distinguish the myth from the reality, the thrill is based on a combination of discovery and exploration from a scientific perspective. The moment of discovery, whether of an ancient tomb, or building or cache of pottery is one of the things that drive us to do what we do. It is a rush, no doubt about it. But the rush comes from unearthing a piece of the past that will aid us in understanding the questions of the past, not about cosmic powers or aliens, but about things like, how did the economic system operate, or what evidence is there for changing patterns of elite political organization. So, unlike Indy, we don’t grab things and run, we spend weeks and months and years, carefully unearthing things, most of which are very mundane. My team is out in the field excavating houses, and garbage dumps and plaza floors, systematically recording the data with cameras, and drawings. Carefully bagging and tagging each set of artifacts from a particular context. Others are collecting soil samples to try and extract information on plant and animal remains that might tell what an object was used for or what the Maya diet consisted of. These field archaeologists then send the work back to our field lab for analysis, so we can find out the dates for our buildings, or plazas and what they might have been used for. From there select material is sent to professional laboratories for chemical analysis or C14 dating. The end result are papers and presentations and books that interpret all the data in an effort to answer both the small and large questions that drive our discipline. It is from this data that our project is rewriting the history of Maya civilization in the Puuc region.

Photos from the Kaxil Kiuic website:

Whatever

About a week ago, I stumbled across Whatever, John Scalzi’s blog. It’s my new favorite. I’ve been reading and sifting through back posts with the same gusto that I normally reserve for James Lileks.

I even went out and bought two of Scalzi’s novels: Old Man’s War and The Ghost Brigades. I finished the first in two days and am eagerly working through the second. They’re great fun. The first is a love letter to Robert Heinlein; it’s essentially a less pedantic and much funnier rewrite of Starship Troopers. The second is a sequel to the first. It’s good too.

Every so often, my perspective engine runs down a little and my sense of my relationship with the universe degrades. The world seems unduly oppressive and unfair, every thing’s a trial, there’s not enough money in the bank, the kids are whiny, the car’s a mess, the beer’s not cold, etc… etc…. A couple of weeks ago, my perspective had seriously down-shifted. I’d gone from “Relatively-Appreciative-And-Happy” right through “Tired-And-A-Little-Crabby” all the way down to “Consumed-With-Irritation-At-The-Injustice-Of-It-All-And-Taking-It-Out-On-Idiot-Blockbuster-Employees” when I happened across Scalzi’s site and his post, “Being Poor.” My perspective was immediately reset to “Deeply-Appreciative-Of-How-Wonderful-My-Life-Is-And-How-Lucky-I-Am.”

It’s a great post and well worth reading:

http://www.scalzi.com/whatever/003704.html

Sister Jean Marie

James Lileks has a post up at buzz.mn, “Who was your favorite elementary school teacher?” It got me thinking about the Catholic school I went to for fifth, sixth and seventh grades.

I remember Sister Jean Marie most of all. I had her for sixth and seventh grade math. Other teachers called her “an institution.” We called her old. We figured she’d probably taught Galileo math. We also figured she was probably the person who turned him in to the church.

She was mean. I don’t just mean strict, although she was certainly that. She enforced a rigid discipline in her class that no kid dared to defy. And we had some serious trouble-makers. We had one kid, Chester (no, that’s not his real name. I’ve changed the names of all the kids.), who was… troubled. Chester had a real-life pinball machine in his bedroom and lived in the French Quarter with his mother and our cross-dressing school music teacher, Mr. X (Maude to his good friends). Chester’s Mom and Mr. X didn’t live together so much as share rent. And I don’t mean to imply that Chester’s mom didn’t enjoy the company of men, because she did… extensively, maybe even professionally. (I do mean to imply that Mr. X also enjoyed the company of men, very much.) It was an odd house.

Chester was the kind of kid who, when the class was tasked with coloring in pretty little bunnies on Easter cards for the Children’s Hospital, would fill the bunnies on his cards entirely with black crayon and black magic marker . “Jungle Bunnies,” he called them. (Nice. I know. He had a lot of jokes that ran along similar lines; I’m unlucky enough to remember a few of them.) I remember that Mrs. L disapproved strongly. I’m pretty sure Chester got whacked with a ruler for that one. Of course, I think the cards still went out. There was a quota, after all.

Chester tortured poor Mrs. L. She was an old woman (aren’t they all when you’re in sixth grade?) with a giant, slate gray beehive hairdo. She wore giant faded muumuus with brown and yellow floral prints and taught history and social studies. And she had a glass eye. The eye would wander. Sometimes you couldn’t tell who Mrs. L was yelling at. It could just as easily be you or the kid across the room… there was no telling who she was looking at because she was staring both of you in the eye. Sometimes the glass eye would roll up toward the beehive… and then just keep on rolling on back until it was looking out the back of Mrs. Ls head. Then she’d stare at us with the one pale white eye, looking completely alien and vaguely reptilian. Until Chester would gently point it out, “Hey Miz L, yer eye has gone all freaky. Y’a looks kinda like a gater.”

But Chester was quiet as a mouse in Sister Jean Marie’s class.

Sister Jean Marie was mean. Not just hard and tough and stern–although she was all of those things too. A dog that’s been beaten all its life can get mean: all spite and venom and filled up with a nasty desire to hurt. Sister Jean Marie was like that. Especially at the blackboard. Doing problems in front of the rest of class is never fun, but in her class it was torture and humiliation. “What’s wrong Lucy?” “It’s an easy problem, Lucy.” “God you are so stupid, Lucy.” “You have a brain like a sieve, Lucy.” “It’s a wonder you can remember how to stand up, Lucy.” “Go sit down Lucy. Let someone else do it right.”

I remember a friend and I going back to visit her when we were in High School. Well, OK. We didn’t go back to visit her so much as visit generally, but she was there and we spoke to her. It had been four years since we’d been in her class. She asked about Lucy. Lucy had gone to a different high school, neither of us knew her anymore. Sister Jean Marie told us again that Lucy was the stupidest girl she’d ever seen.

I know. It’s not funny anymore, I’m sorry.

I remember when Bobby didn’t do his homework. “Where’s your homework, Bobby?” “Lost it or forgot it, Bobby?” “Don’t lie to me, Bobby.” “Forgot it or didn’t do it, Bobby?” “I thought so.” “Do you think I’m stupid, Bobby?” “Of course you do.” “Now you’re crying?” “Why are you crying, Bobby?” “Are you a little baby, Bobby? “Crybaby Bobby.” “Don’t be a little crybaby.” “Crybaby Bobby. Why don’t you go sit in the corner and cry, crybaby?” “Of course you are. Go sit in the corner if you’re going to cry. Crybaby.”

There was a chair that faced a corner in the back of the room. It was where crybabies went to sit until they stopped crying. When they were done they had to ask permission to return to their desk. I sat in that chair. Not as much as Lucy or Bobby did, but I sat there. We all did. It wasn’t really math class unless some poor kid, desperate, humiliated, and mocked by the teacher, broke down sobbing; Lucy was usually the first to break. But at some point, we all did.

Sister Jean Marie had supernatural reflexes. She could stop a hulking 12 year-old boy charging at a dead run with one hand and flip him around like a paper doll. I saw her do it. The kid’s name was was Biff (no, not really), and he was charging at me with evil intent. I can’t remember why, maybe it was a Tuesday. Sister plucked him neatly out the air with one hand and dropped him, meek and quivering, down in front of her. She spoke quietly, but firmly. It was at least a week before Biff bloodied my nose again–and never again anywhere near Sister Jean Marie. Not that I was a teacher’s pet, mind you. Sister Jean Marie was discipline incarnate, and running in the halls was simply not allowed. She didn’t care if I got beaten, so long as it was a neat and orderly beating… with no running.

I had her for homeroom in sixth grade too. Some mornings she’d come in with little pieces of toilet paper stuck to her chin and cheeks. I kid you not, the woman shaved. She was tall, maybe six feet and rail thin. Her hands were like vice grips and her stare was hot and furious. She was lighting quick and razor sharp. And she was old school; she wore the habit and the blue dress. Always. Some of the other nuns, like Sister Dee, wore the habit at school, but took it off when they went… wherever it is that nuns go. Hied back to the nunnery, I suppose. Sister Dee was fun. She taught religion and drove a black Firebird Trans-am (complete with giant decal). She called me “Red” for an entire year. Sister Jean Marie didn’t drive a car. We all figured that she lived in the cloakroom and ate spiders.

But she taught me math. I remember once I failed a quiz. As punishment, Sister Jean Marie told me to write out the names of all fifty States and their capitals. I didn’t do it. So she doubled it. “Write them all out twice.” I didn’t do it. “Double it.” This went on daily for some time. It was like a ritual, we’d all file into class and sit down. She’d read attendance, (Yes, that’s right. She’d read attendance. There was no calling out at any time in Sister Jean Marie’s class.) she’d double my punishment. The days wore on. It was a kind of math lesson. By the end of the year, my punishment was to write out the States and their capitals over 16 million times. I remember figuring it out with a friend. If I wrote one word a second, nonstop, 24-hours a day, everyday for fifty years, I still wouldn’t finish.

I learned more math in her class than in any math class I’ve ever taken. She scared it into us. She made us fear her like I imagine she feared God. Or as God feared her. She instilled in us a biblical, old-testament kind of fear. We quaked in her presence and we obeyed, and we did what she said and we learned the Law and we lived the Law. If she said to sit the corner, we sat in the corner. If she had told us to wander the desert for forty years, we’d have done that too.

My favorite High School math teacher was Miss P. Miss P was the nicest, kindest, sweetest teacher I ever had. She was about four feet, six inches tall tall and must have weighed eighty pounds soaking wet. She ran the math club and carried a pearl-handled single-shot .22 in her purse. She was the math teacher that made me like math. She made math fun, and she made it exciting and competitive and entertaining. Heck, I went on out-of-state math club trips with her; I looked forward to the annual math convention every year. I played inter-scholastic math games every Tuesday and I liked it. (We played On-Sets and Equations… I’d love to hear from anyone else who’s played these games!)

Miss P had taken high school math from Sister Jean Marie. She said the same thing everyone said, that she’d learned more in those classes than anywhere else. She also said she owed her life’s work to Sister Jean Marie. She said that after that class she’d never wanted to do anything but teach high school math.

I’m glad I had Miss P for math. And I’m happy that she’s still teaching; she runs the math department in my old high school. I’m sure that that Sister Jean Marie must have retired from teaching by now.

I think of my children and I think of their teachers. They’re all Miss Ps (packing less firepower) and Sister Mary Dees (without the hot ride). I haven’t seen any of their music teachers, male or female, stumble drunkenly down the street wearing a pink wig, stilettos and a wedding dress. There have been no reports of glass eyes or beehives. And there’s been nothing to compare to Sister Jean Marie. I’m very grateful for that. As much as there is that bothers me in modern pedagogy (the incessant, pointless testing; the political correctness; the lack of academic rigor), I am happy to consign the systematic humiliation and ridicule of eleven-year olds to history.

I haven’t seen Lucy or Bobby in well over 20 years; I hope they’re both well and happy and healthy.

And I don’t care how much math they learned.  They should not have had to deal with that.

F.O.R.D.

Ages ago, when men were men and women were shorter, automobiles inspired the kind of unabashed allegiance and partisan fervor that we now reserve for computer operating systems. Entire families would align themselves behind a giant mega-conglomerate from Detroit and forswear ever buyin’, ridin’, fixin’, or otherwisen’ any so-called cars made by the competition. Dadgummit.

Ford clans would wage war on Chevy clans and Chevy clans would wage war on Chrysler clans, and so on and so on. Well, OK… “war” was hanging a sign with a pithy saying in the garage and maybe buying a pair of branded pair of fuzzy dice. And these were clans with a “c” not a “k.” White sheets were for chamois and not much else. Occasionally things would escalate when that no-good brother-in-law would show up for Thanksgiving in a car made by the Evil Competition, and Dad would mutter under his breath about the godawful indignity of it all until he passed out during the football game and the brother-in-law would change the channel.

In those days, Brothers-in-law were always no good bums and lousy moochers. It wasn’t until they passed of the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Extended Families Act that Brothers-in-law were required to be given equal standing. The Act reads in part, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of a sibling’s marital status, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination by any relation-in-law.”

Aficionados for the various car clans would rally in garages across the country and make up derisive and mocking jeers that they would hurl–always with great relish and while holding a warm can of PBR–at the competition. These jeers were always, always acronyms.

The wittiest (it’s a low bar) were always directed at Ford owners, Found On Road Dead, Fix Or Repair Daily, Ford Owners Recommend Dodge, Full Of Rust Deposits, For Old Retired Drunks, etc… GM came in for its share: General Maintenance, General Mistakes, Generally Malfunctions, and General Misery. But my favorite is one for Chevy: Can’t Have Everything Vern, YaknowwhatImean? Not only is it peculiarly specific, it’s also a wonderfully tortured acronym. Plus, my Grandfather’s name is Vern.

Foreign jeers? There really weren’t any. For a long time, no decent self-respecting American would buy a foreign car (except maybe someone’s no-good, lousy, mooching, bum of a brother-in-law). And by the time foreign cars actually started to become popular, creating an acronym that made sense was kind of hard. Toyota: Runs For a Long Time with Low Maintenance Costs.There’s just no zing to that. It doesn’t flow like Darn Old Dirty Gas Eater does.

Chrysler has recently tried to reinvigorate this lost sense of Americana with the attempted reinvigoration of pseudo-brands. “That thing got a Hemi, Bob? Why of course it does, Earl! I’d no sooner buy a truck without a Hemi than loan money to my wife’s no-account brother!” (So… I actually had to do some research on this one. “Hemi” means that the engine has hemispherical combustion chambers–I suppose instead of those pesky rhomboid chambers. It’s an engine style that was used in 1912 by… wait for it… Peugeot! Peugeot! They’re French!) Aside from insipid product placements in movies and television, “It’s got a Hemi!” doesn’t seem to have caught fire with the public. (Chrysler lost $2.9 billion in 2007. Peugeot made $2.7 billion in 2007.)

My Dad was a Chevy guy. Well, sorta. He has this really cool old 1947 Ford logging truck that’s pretty slick (looks like this). But it doesn’t run anymore. He had a lot of old Chevy trucks over the years too. Most of them ran sporadically. Except for the one with the Ooogah horn. (I loved that horn.) It was a 56 (or a 57 or 58… I can’t remember). It ran for a long time. Had a pinto wagon too. That doesn’t run anymore either–but it also didn’t blow up, which is suppose can be considered a positive in the Pinto. Mostly we were poor so whatever car was actually running was the one we rallied behind.

Me? We have a Jeep Cherokee and a Ford Contour. The Jeep is great. It’s a two-wheel drive Jeep (I know.) so it stinks in the snow, but otherwise it’s great. The Contour on the other hand…. well, it’s Dead in the Driveway right now. It was Dead on the Road a few hours ago, and it’s quite frequently in and out of the shop. It’s loud, it shakes like Lindsey Lohan in rehab if you push it past 45, there’s a broken seatbelt in the back, and it’s once lustrous silver (I’m assuming it was lustrous once) is now the color of dirty road slush ice. It’s a truly craptacular car.

But I’m no car-maker fanboy. If and when we go out to buy a new (heavily used) car from a reputable dealer (Jimbo’s CrazyLot), I’ll do my research and select the car that best matches the family’s needs (is cheap) regardless of who makes it (Yugo). In the meantime, I’ll reserve my allegiances for the contests that my generation finds compelling. I’ve even got some acronyms: Most Annoying Cult, Annoying People Playing with Little Electronics, Defunct Operating System, Vastly Inferior Software To Apple’s, and my personal favorite: Vastly Improved Solitaire Tiling Algorithms.

***Note: I realize that I seem to be picking on Lindsey Lohan a lot lately. Well, in the last two posts at any rate. I’d pick on other people, but the problem is that I need druggie references and I’ve become such an old man that I don’t really know who’s hip and with it (and consequently in and out of rehab) anymore. My wife thinks that the very fact that I use the words “hip” and “with it” means that I’m hopelessly “square.” I was tempted to go with Gary Busey yesterday… I mean, he must be on drugs, right? But he was too scary. Britney might be a druggie, but she also might be insane and, regardless, she just seems kind of sad now. Plus, with Lohan, there’s the added schadenfreude of watching a former child star (and the star of The Parent Trap, for goodness sake!) go all loopy–doin’ the Bonaducci as it were.

***Note: How about Patsy T. Mink joke! I was very proud. (I know, I know.) Look her up. It still won’t be very funny, but at least it will make sense.)

Thanksgiving

Would it be too corny to say that I give thanks for Thanksgiving? Probably.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It’s an American holiday and that’s cool. We live in the land of plenty and we know it. It’s also a capitalist holiday (or at the very least, it’s a celebration of the end of collectivist deprivation). Thanksgiving is secular too. Which means there’s no midnight mass, no morning mass, no afternoon mass, and no threat of a mass at any other time.

Thanksgiving is the start of the Christmas Season. I know that the malls and department stores have been in full Christmas swing since September, but Thanksgiving is when you can finally pull out your favorite Christmas CD without worrying about violent reprisal. And even though it’s the start of the Christmas Season, it has none of the pressure of Christmas; there are no presents to buy, there’s nothing to wrap, and the afternoon isn’t quite so boring. (One of my favorite lyrics of all time is, “And every day’s like Christmas Day without you. It’s cold and there’s nothing to do .”)

Plus, there’s lot’s and lot’s of really good food. It’s not Thanksgiving unless you can feed the square of the number of people at your table. And really, what’s better than sharing a meal with the people you love?

Thanksgiving has always been good to me. There have been few family fights and lots of good eats. Even when I was away at school or young and on my own, my friends and I would gather and we’d feast on what we could. We’d have Thanksgivings filled with dishes I’d learned growing up with my mother in New Orleans: shrimp Creole, crawfish etoufee, gumbo, and jambalya. The Thanksgiving meal is traditional for a reason; the ritualized menu reminds us of home and helps us remember. Even when I was thousands of miles from home, making a big pot of jambalya or etoufee helped bring a part of my family’s Thanksgiving to my table.

But it’s not always Creole and Cajun. I’ve made vegan mushroom paté, dozens of pecan pies, Thai spring rolls, and once I even made a lavish tortellini pie. It had meatballs, cheese, tortellini, a wonderful ragu bolognese, and a sweet custard. It turned out great and I loved it. Everyone else smiled and swallowed, but no one was as taken by it as I was. That was Thanksgiving in the Brown House in Portland. We called it the brown house because every ceiling, wall, and rail was brown wood. the floors were brown carpet. It was perpetually dark. You needed a flashlight to read in the living room. But it had a great stove.

We had a lot to drink at those Thanksgivings in Portland. They’re my “lost” Thanksgivings–holidays where we’d eat 12 pounds of turkey and drink 20 pounds of Beaujolais Nouveau. But they were all good days. I think. My memories are a bit hazy. We have photos, and everyone’s smiling, but you can’t tell what we ate for all the bottles on the table. One year we rented out the rec room in a friend’s apartment complex. Eric made six gallons of gumbo, and I made sweet-potato dim sum. We also had turkey, potatoes, cranberries and two cases of wine. There were 8 adults.

But I’m older and wiser and considerably more moderate now. I’ll be spending this thanksgiving with my wife’s family. There will be more than 20 of us. The chairs will be mismatched, the tables will be borrowed and crammed onto porches, and there will be games of touch football in the backyard. With any luck there will be a platter or two of deviled eggs. Of course, I’ll only have one or two. Now I drink less wine and worry more about cholesterol. But the dinner will be grand and the company will be better.

It will be my third Thanksgiving with Jamie’s family, and just my second with our kids. I know how much fun I’ll have, but I’ll still miss all of my family and friends that won’t be joining us. I’ll give my thanks and I’ll think aboutholidays gone by.

I remember the year of the bunnies.

My father lives in the Jemez Mountains in northern New Mexico. The house is halfway up a mountain with state forest on two sides and very distant neighbors on the others. It’s remote and beautiful and very pet friendly. The fish stay indoors, but the scores of cats and dogs are free to come and go as they please. My favorite dog of all time, Tucker, lived in that house for many years. Tucker was a mutt. He must have been mostly Collie and German Shepherd because he was full-sized, Shepherd colored, and had some Collie in his face. There must also have been a gutsy Dachshund somewhere back down the line, because his legs were only three inches long. He ran like an inchworm and he couldn’t jump into a truck without help, but he was as smart and loyal and loving as any dog ever was.

One year, now several years ago, my father had rabbits. I don’t remember how or why they came to live at the house, but they were there at Thanksgiving. As was I. It was a year I had made it home to family. Tucker had died years prior, and had been replaced by Todd and Chewbaca. Chewy is long gone, but Todd is still alive. Old and fat, he looks like a giant sausage that’s been stuffed into a dog costume.

My father had built pens in the garden by the house, and the bunnies lived very happily. They were, as bunnies must be, segregated by sex and so I presume they weren’t living as happily as they might have wished, but they seemed comfortable. And cute. And large and fat. They weren’t food bunnies; they were pet bunnies. And they were much loved by my little sister and brother.

On that Thanksgiving we had a traditional New Mexican spread: yams, cranberries, potatoes, stuffing, and green chile galore. And of course, we had a beautiful turkey. But as Ralphie Parker can well attest, all dogs — including the Bumpuses’ hounds — love turkey. So the dogs had been banished outside as the turkey was cooked, prepared, cooled and sliced.

We all sat down, and had just packed our plates… I’m sure I was just beginning to pour some gravy over my mounded pile of turkey goodness. My father had probably just finished singing along with the full version of Alice’s Restaurant; our meal had barely begun. We heard the mewling cries, and we wondered what they were. Then we heard the shrieks and we knew. Todd and Chewy were having a feast of their own. Apparently driven mad by turkey lust, they had finally found their way into the rabbit pen.

That Thanksgiving went to the dogs. But that’s as bad a Thanksgiving as I’ve ever had.

And I guess that’s my point. Thanksgiving is great because it’s simple. Get together. Eat. Laugh. Nap.

A bad Thanksgiving is spent alone in a box under an overpass. And thankfully, I’ve never been there. I have been blessed with such wonderful friends and such a wonderful family, my life is filled with joy and laughter and love. And that’s what I’m thankful for on the last Thursday in November and on every other day too.

Although I can’t sit down with everyone I love this Thursday, I’ll think of all of you as I say my thanks and pour my gravy.

Thanks to all of you for filling my life with wonder and joy.
May your Thanksgiving tables always be too crowded and your chairs mismatched.
May your turkey be large and brown with crispy skin and may your gravy be smooth and rich.
And may you always have one non-traditional dish–whether it’s a vegan tofu stew or a selection of fresh sushi.
May you drink and eat your fill, and may you nap peacefully after dinner.
May you play touch football in the fallen leaves and finally put on that Christmas music.
May you remember to tell everyone how much you love them.
May you always keep those you love close to your heart, no matter how far away they might live.

And may you keep your bunnies safe and warm.