“Thanksgiving Day originated in New England when the Puritans realized they had succeeded in exterminating their neighbors, the Indians, instead of getting exterminated by their neighbors, the Indians.” Mark Twain
“Gratitude is a fruit of great cultivation; you do not find it among gross people.” Samuel Johnson
“Beggar that I am, I am even poor in thanks.” Shakespeare, Hamlet
“Gratitude is characteristic only of the humble. The egotistic are so impressed by their own importance that they take everything given them as if it were their due. They have no room in their hearts for recollection of the undeserved favors they received.” Fulton Sheen
“Gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” G.K. Chesterton
“Giving thank is not weakness but strength, for it involves self-repression.” Fulton Sheen
“How wonderful it would be if we could help our children and grandchildren to learn thanksgiving at an early age. Thanksgiving opens the doors. It changes a child’s personality. A child is resentful, negative—or thankful. Thankful children want to give, they radiate happiness, they draw people.” Sir John Templeton
“Gratitude is a species of justice.” Samuel Johnson
“If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, “thank you,” that would suffice.” Meister Eckhart
“When the stomach is full, it is easy to talk of fasting.” St. Jerome
The hardest part about writing about Black Wednesday from a Catholic perspective is the, um, Catholic part.
Let’s face it: Black Wednesday is occasionally referred to as “black out Wednesday.” It’s not exactly a celebration of moderation. Chesterton’s famous quote from Orthodoxy about drinking is especially relevant on Thanksgiving Eve: “[T]he proper form of thanks . . . is some form of humility and restraint: we should thank God for beer and Burgundy by not drinking too much of them.”
Tonight is, first and foremost, the beginning of the thankfulness season, and if you’ve ever spent a moment thinking about thanks, you realize it implies God, and if there’s a God who cares enough to bless you, the proper response is humility and the restraint that comes with it. Of these things, entertain no doubt.
But those lofty things whirl ferociously with some powerful mundane things that create a vortex of drunken celebration: college kids converging on the local bars scene, the four-day weekend, high spirits, the holiday season kicking off.
The challenge as a Catholic is to embrace all of it without falling with it. That’s quite a challenge, and one, I fear, I’ve flunked on more than one occasion. It no doubt doesn’t help that I start drinking at 3:00, but that’s what my traditional itinerary calls for. I might need to keep my Breviary in my pocket to remind me about what’s truly important, but from that 3:00 tradition, I cannot–and will not–depart.
I will, however, strive to start slowly this afternoon. I have a growing reason to keep myself sober and reasonably alert as dusk gives way to dark.
My older kids are now joining me at the bar.
I am, to be honest, incredibly nostalgic today. To the point of tears? No, but close.
You see, Black Wednesday was my tradition with my Dad. When I was in college, we would drink when I got home for Thanksgiving. I can’t remember whether we went to the bars, but I know we drank. When I moved back home in 1992, we started the tradition of going to the Hillcrest on this day. We would plan and talk about it:
“Me: We should get there by 3:00 so we’re sure to get a table.”
“Mel: Do we really want to start drinking that early? How about 3:15?”
“Mom: Guys! You can’t start drinking at 3:15! People are coming from out of town to meet you there later that night. You’ll be too smashed.”
“Me: Mom’s right. How about 3:18?”
My Dad has passed on. My brothers and I have continued the tradition, with full support of nephews and friends. And for that I’m greatly, greatly appreciative (rather, thankful).
But now my kids are coming of age. Alex (22) and Abbie (21) will be joining me tonight. Alex was there last year and it was great. I didn’t even realize at the time that he was continuing a tradition that spans over a quarter century, but it hit me today as I put together this post. And now that two of my kids are joining me, with Jack just two years away, it makes me think of Dad and the march of time.
It makes me even more thankful.
And even more concerned about how I’m going to surf that vortex of drunken celebration that is Black Wednesday.
Wish me well. Say a prayer for me. Light a candle.
But know, first and foremost: If, God willing, all goes as planned, I’ll be thankful and happy.
My final “outdoor” (i.e., “non-coldframe”) harvest of the year. I brought it in Thursday evening. Big batches of lettuce, kale, and spinach. It’s probably more than we can eat.
I took these two pics of some of my coldframe spinach Sunday afternoon, after the sun had heated them up for two hours. It looks like they survived the light snow dusting they got Saturday morning before I got the cold frame lids on:
Whew. Quite the storm on Saturday. That was one of the top 5 weather turns in my lifetime. And now it’s supposed to melt away. * * * * * * * Even though I forgot to put the cover on the cold frames Friday night, I got them on Saturday morning after only a bit of snow had fallen. The spinach was coated with snow, but hopefully they’ll be fine. Those spinach greens are supposed to get us through to Christmas. * * * * * * * This might be my favorite week of the year (it battles with Christmas week for that honor). I will bust my hump today at the office, probably working over ten hours. I’ll work an ordinary day tomorrow, but laid back and peppered with light errands out of the office. Older kids start arriving home that evening. On Wednesday, I start to screw off: stop in to check mail, go to morning Mass, deal with a few client calls, leave at noon to take older kids out to lunch, then join my friend Mark for our annual tradition of drinking at a client’s in a neighboring village then heading to the Hillcrest for an evening of friends, family, and drinking. * * * * * * * Speaking of which, expect the Black Wednesday BYCU in two days. I’m not sure what I’ll write about, but it’ll be good (relatively–by TDE standards–speaking).
I greatly enjoyed the first Zoolander, and I seem to recall that our funniest Catholic writer today, John Zmirak, ranks it among his favorite comedies of all time. This only increases my desire to see part two:
An online petition created by Sarah Rose is urging for a boycott of the Ben Stiller film because of a new character played by Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch, a supermodel named “All.”
Rose writes, “In the Zoolander 2 trailer, an androgynous character played by Benedict Cumberbatch is asked by Zoolander and Hansel if he is a ‘male or female model,’ and if they ‘have a hot dog or a bun.’ Additionally, Cumberbatch’s character is clearly portrayed as an over-the-top, cartoonish mockery of androgyne/trans/non-binary individuals. This is the modern equivalent of using blackface to represent a minority.”
And I saw that an animal rights group is suing an amusement park in Louisiana for letting a chimpanzee named Candy drink soda and smoke cigarettes. Meanwhile, the chimp was like, “You nerds need to mind your own business!”
Having grown a bit tired of tonic water, I’ve started experimenting with classic mixed drinks. My first target: The Tom Collins.
I started with the basic recipe: three shots of gin, one shot of lemon juice concentrate, one shot of simple syrup. Shake well. Fill the Collins glass with ice. Pour in the mix, top off with soda water (about 2-3 shots worth). It was pretty good.
I then tried it with lemon juice that I squeezed myself, and it was much better.
I then added a dash of grenadine, and it was fabulous. I highly recommend it. I’m guessing it has half the calories of a gin and tonic (depending, of course, how much tonic water you use and since I typically use about three shots of tonic for every shot of gin, my Tom Collins probably lops off about half the calories).
A few things to keep in mind:
1. Shake the mix. The simple syrup won’t dissolve properly with stirring.
2. Be sure you shake the mix . . . not the mix with the soda water. (I hope the reason is obvious, but if not, you probably shouldn’t be drinking in the first place.)
3. Although I highly recommend New Amsterdam gin, I think you’re probably better off getting a very dry gin. That’s what the classic drink manuals recommend, and I think it’s a little better that way. I’m just using Seagram’s Extra Dry and it’s doing the trick just fine.
4. My Collins glasses are about 16 ounces. That’s a little large, but they seem to be about perfect for this concoction in the amounts mentioned above.
5. I have no opinion about whether you need to use a Collins glass. I used to incline to the view that the type of glass couldn’t possibly make a difference, but as I get older, I grow more skeptical about such rash conclusions. If tradition recommends a tall glass, I use a tall glass. (This, btw, is very Edward Burke-ian of me, but there’s no reason to ruin this fun post with a detour into the conservative intellectual tradition.)
6. The classic drink recipes recommend filling the glass 3/4ths with ice. My Collins glasses are bigger than conventional Collins glasses, and I like my drinks cold, so I fill it almost to the top with ice.
7. I suggest avoiding the Tom Collins mixes. I’m told they typically contain loads of sugar and corn syrup. You don’t need that. Use the simple syrup so you control the sugar amount (45 calories per shot) and avoid the corn syrup altogether (although the dash of grenadine adds a miniscule amount of corn syrup). If you have a shaker (I use my kids’ protein shake shaker), it’s easy to make your own mix. And besides, by the time you start making your third Tom Collins, it’s comically fun to shake it while dancing to the music.
You can find all these ingredients at Kroger, incidentally, The simple syrup is in the liquor section and it’s pretty cheap: $2.99 a bottle, which makes about 12 drinks.
Each drink probably costs a little under $2.00: $1.20 for the three shots of gin, 25 cents for the lemon, 25 cents for the simple syrup shot, 15 cents for the dash of grenadine, 10 cents for the soda water. I don’t buy ice and I charge nothing for my shaking skills.
Speaking of Tom Collins glasses. When I started on this new skill, I asked Marie if we had any Tom Collins glasses. She said we didn’t, but I then remembered that I had bought a set of Tom Collins glasses (or at least, “Collins-like glasses”) at a garage sale about 25 years ago. I didn’t buy them to make Tom Collins, but rather because they were cheap and cool and antique-looking. Here’s a pic of them:
A 50-year-old Washington man is facing assault charges after his neighbor says he swung a Klingon sword at him during an argument about trash. Man, if there was any time you’d think two neighbors would get along, it’s when they both know what a Klingon sword looks like.
I often try something new with my fall garden. One year, I experimented with containing vegetable gardening, had a good experience, then went full throttle with containers the following spring. This year, I experimented with new weeding techniques.
And have had a great experience.
Carol Deppe points out in one of her books that there are two approaches to effective weeding: You either put in enormous effort up front: churning, putting down layers of newspaper covered by many inches of mulch, etc. Or you put in a little bit of effort throughout the season by going out weekly and taking out the weeds before they get strong.
She prefers the latter approach, and she recommends the stirrup hoe, collinear hoe, and/or the diamond hoe for this purpose. After much research, I splurged and bought a long-handled diamond hoe (cost: $90; I about choked) and a stirrup hoe ($45). I then carefully planted kale, peas, and spinach for fall in areas where weeds had invaded strongly. I then went out every week with the diamond hoe and scraped off the weed seedlings.
It worked out great. My kale crop was the best I’ve ever gotten (we are still getting lots) and weeds in general never gained a foothold.
I know weeds grow faster in the spring, but I see no reason this approach won’t work in the spring. I just have to be careful to know where exactly I plant, so I can distinguish the vegetables from the weeks. For this purpose, I use plastic forks: I put white plastic forks into the ground with the proper spacing, then plant the seeds right in front of them. As the seeds and the weeds start to come up together, I run the diamond hoe around the forks, slicing the weeds off a centimeter under the soil and leaving the vegetable seedlings unscathed.
Sure, it takes a little more time to plant kale, lettuce, and spinach seeds this way (instead of my preferred method: broadcasting, sprinkling compost dust over them, and walking away), but the result is a prettier vegetable bed and easy weed control.
I told a friend of mine, “With this diamond hoe, I feel like I did when I first bought the Gillette Fusion: I was kinda looking forward to shaving, it was so effective. I’m kinda looking forward to using the diamond hoe on a much larger scale next spring.”
And what about the stirrup hoe? I like it, too, but I use it more for wide-open spaces and harder weeds. I prefer the diamond hoe for gentle and measured weeding around the plants.
(BTW: I no longer use the Gillette Fusion. It’s simply too expensive. I get the same quality blade through the mail from Dorco . . . at less than half the price of the Fusion. It’s a win-win-win: I don’t patronize Madison Avenue, I don’t patronize the evil Procter and Gamble, and I save money.)
There is a new Barbie doll called Hello Barbie that is a high-tech interactive version of the toy. The Hello Barbie has more than 8,000 phrases she uses to keep up conversation with you. In order for it to work, you have to speak right into her breasts. For 37 years, women have been telling me not to do that.
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