When that turkey died, it had no idea that death was a sweet mercy compared to what happened to it next. While our turkey is enjoying a rather extreme sauna, the neighbours have produced the modern day cauldron: a stainless steel tub is brought out and set on the lawn at what I can only describe as “outside of fireball range” of their house. Gallons of oil are added, the gas beneath is turned on, alcohol is consumed in case this event wasn’t exciting enough. It’s not some Blumenthal-esque cooking experiment, it’s Thanksgiving in Clinton, New York.
As I’ve spent the last few days in Pilgrim central, I’d like to explain to you the origins of this American festivity (step one: ignoring Canadian Thanksgiving). [L: Since you’re meant to be learning on your adventure, you can’t just check your notes for this.] Fair enough. Okay. So, from what I remember from the Pilgrim Museum, Provincetown, etc.:
The Pilgrims came over from England and Holland, fleeing religious persecution and wooden clogs respectively. They found Provincetown, declared it, “verily, a bit gay”, headed up the coast and found a rock on which to land. Unfortunately for them they didn’t land in the bit to which they had a patent. Knowing, however, that international patent law wouldn’t get batshit stupid for a couple of centuries, they said, “Sod it (verily)” and landed there anyway. Also, whatever you think the Pilgrims were wearing, they weren’t wearing that, you thicko, they were wearing … something else. The Pilgrim Museum sort of trails off after it’s finished insulting you.
Okay, so, the Pilgrims found some dudes who were already there. Often a new neighbour will ask for a cup of sugar, to borrow a kettle or a Massachusetts and the Pilgrims were no different. It was tough for the Pilgrims to make a start in the new world, as they had all their Ikea furniture, but no Allen key. They had also run low on food and the nearest McDonalds was 320 years away. The Natives took pity on them and gave them eels, deer and potpourri. There was also something about a turkey.
[L: … When I said don’t use your notes, I didn’t mean use Sarah Palin’s.]
Yes, well, in the meantime, the turkey time-bomb has managed not to engulf the entire family in flames. They have brought the resultant bird inside to … enjoy, I suppose. And while they presumably wrapped the turkey in yesterday’s newspaper and tucked in, I sat down with a friend and her family and enjoyed such American traditions as eating your own body weight in food and camp British TV shows of dubious quality.
The day after Thanksgiving is known as Black Friday, which is the one day during the year when it’s socially acceptable to be in blackface. There are also some shopping deals. These deals tend to make people just ever so slightly excited:
It’s like the bulls at Pamplona, but without the civility.
Of course, this excitement does take its toll on some people, who faint, collapse or throw up. These people are weak, and should be crushed (and sometimes are…). To be a true shopper, you need dedication, strength, intelligence, and if you have none of those, pepper spray.
(No seriously, what the hell is with this?)
Still suffering from a post-Thanksgiving food-coma, I sadly missed the festivities (I did shove an old lady to the ground, y’know, just to blend in). Wracked with the agony of having 90% of your annual food consumption in one meal, I was informed of the only logical solution:
Dinosaur Bar-B-Que in Syracuse is half-biker bar, half-restaurant, all food. Mounds of food. Food mounds. Founds—wait, Mouod—hm, this isn’t working. The point is, you eat until you hear a Scotsman in your stomach yelling ‘She cannae take it capt’n.’
As your abdomen’s warning klaxons sound on the way back home, you see a somewhat threatening billboard which asks you: “If you die tonight, where are you going? Heaven [damp clouds]? Hell [nice warm fire]?” Fortunately you don’t have to take this moment to consider deep philosophical quandaries, as you can just phone the number they provide and find out. Of course, if you phone them while you’re driving, you pretty much remove the “if” element of their question.
It’s been snowing the last few days in central New York and I’m driving along straight roads that never end, passing some magnificent vistas and this house:
It’s hardly a unique part of America: although urban areas have plenty of abandoned buildings, the scattered remains in the rural parts stand out a lot more. Perhaps it is because their decay is so much more apparent or that their history feels both more personal and more inaccessible. Standing by a boarded up apartment block or shut up factory conjures easy images of what had been, but standing beside this empty house feels intrusive. And also: what the hell happened to it? Enquiring nosy buggers want to know how it collapsed in the middle.
As I continue going north east through New York towards Vermont, I’m quite surprised by how much the rural abandoned buildings have collapsed. Ireland has its fair share of houses that are no longer used, but aside from smashed/boarded up windows, most of them stay relatively intact. Houses over here, however, go downhill quickly.
Speaking of, the weather has reminded me of the constant warning signs that point out that bridges may be icy, as if they’re all secretly spraying themselves with hoses when no-one is looking. Most of the other warnings in this part of the world promise much more than they can deliver: for miles I’m warned to look out for moose, but no matter how often I swerve violently across several lanes as I stare out at the barren fields, I see nary an antler. But that was nothing compared to the promise other warning signs made and left unfulfilled. The signs that told me that more of nature’s majestic creatures were nearby:
Perhaps my nature-spotting will be more successful when I get to Vermont, which, as I understand it, is primarily made out of rivers of maple syrup.