Archive for November, 2003

The Best Holiday

My opinion, which counts to no one except myself, is that Thanksgiving ranks as the greatest holiday of all. Perhaps if I were the one who had to stick my hand up the turkey’s hindquarters, I would feel differently about the whole situation, but any holiday based upon food and football is guaranteed to be at the top of my list. Food and football aren’t the only positive qualities of my favorite holiday, however. Thanksgiving (which someone thoughtfully positioned on a Thursday, providing most people with a long weekend) does not involve mandatory gift giving, unlike some other wildly popular holidays, which will remain nameless. I am not required to supply gifts to people on Thanksgiving as proof of my love; I am simply required to show up and eat. And eat. And eat.

Last year, we almost didn’t eat. At about 5am, my sister put the turkey pan in the oven with two paper shopping bags wrapped around it, as my family has been doing for quite a long time. My mother tells me that the paper bags help the turkey to baste itself. I’m not sure how this process hasn’t managed to burn down all of my family’s houses, but the bags seem to work really well to keep the turkey moist. After putting the turkey in the oven, my sister was about to go back to bed when the comforting scream of the smoke alarm filled the house. She ran downstairs, with her husband right behind her (I’m going to pretend for this story that he was wearing pants), to see what was happening.

Upon reaching the kitchen, they saw billowing clouds of smoke streaming from the oven. It appeared that the paper bag’s streak of no fires had come to an exciting end. My sister opened the door to the oven, allowing oxygen to reach the fire, and WHOOSH…flames shot out of the oven towards the general area of my sister’s face. My brother-in-law, thinking quickly, did what just about any man I know would have done; he unloaded some serious fire extinguisher action on that turkey.

Well, it put out the fire. It also ruined the turkey. I know that for at least one second, both my sister and her husband must have considered the ramifications of rinsing the deadly fire extinguisher chemicals from the bird and popping it back into the oven (I would have considered it). Sanity ruled the day, thank goodness, and they decided that the trash barrel was the only acceptable home for the desecrated bird. This realization led to an understandable panic: A number of guests fully expected to enjoy Thanksgiving Dinner at their house, and the turkey which had been expected to fill that role was currently a smoking mass in the trash barrel, so WHERE IN GOD’S NAME WOULD THEY FIND A TURKEY?

This question did not take long to answer because Boston Market, as it turned out, was open on Thanksgiving. This gave me joy because: 1) we would indeed have turkey for Thanksgiving (although at retail prices), and 2) I do not work at Boston Market. I am sorry that there are people who must work on Thanksgiving, never mind having to work at serving dinner to people who go to Boston Market for Thanksgiving dinner. My only experience along those lines was the year I was stuck in Biloxi, Mississippi on Thanksgiving because the Air Force needed me to defend the Gulf of Mexico. The memories of the military turkey and gravy have not faded, despite the many years that have passed. For whatever small comfort it will give Boston Market’s shareholders, their company’s turkey is far and away superior to that of the United States Air Force.

The death of the turkey also meant the death of a significant amount of the Traditional Family Stuffing, created with a recipe that has been in my family for many, many years. I suspect that some secret ingredient has been lost during those years, although I guess there is the possibility that my ancestors really enjoyed the taste of plain crackers and onions. I did not mourn the burial of this bland mix in its turkey casket. My brother, however, was not very happy about the death of the Traditional Family Stuffing. He is not very happy about anything that varies from tradition. Had he been alive in times past, I’m sure he would have fought against the concept of indoor plumbing. He would, however, have thought to write down whatever %$#@#$ secret ingredient made the stuffing recipe worth handing down.

Amazingly enough, this year my sister has not decided to abandon the old paper bag method. She has promised that this year, the bags will fit around the pan, and will not hang down onto the heating element. My brother-in-law has promised that if there is a fire, he will close the oven door and shut off the heat instead of resorting to Old Foamy. The Traditional Family Stuffing will creep safely out of the turkey to make its annual appearance, and I will once again try to enjoy it. Thanksgiving will return to normal, and hopefully there will be no excitement, just eating, football, and happiness with my family. One question: Is Boston Market’s stuffing any good?

Back in the Day Tim 21 Nov 2003 No Comments

Hot Flashes

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but winter will be here soon.  I thought that winter had already arrived in the form of the little white flakes that keep falling from the sky.  Wrong.  All of this wonderful ice and snow is just the opening act for winter.  The days are still getting shorter, and will continue to do so until December 22nd, when winter officially begins.  With that depressing bit of information out of the way, here are some other thoughts that struck me while I was watching my car get plowed in: 

…The entire process of leaving one job for another is probably as close as most people get to being a spy.  There are secret documents, private phone calls, and people sneaking off to clandestine meetings (known in the spy community as “dentist appointments”).  Anyone who has printed a résumé at work understands the definition of “covert operation”…

…So far this winter, my commutes to Boston have featured two nor’easters, a thin layer of ice that disrupted every commute in the state, and an excruciatingly long wait while a rollover was cleared on Rte 495.  In all that time waiting in traffic, I still haven’t managed to come up with a snappy comeback for the question, “How long was YOUR commute today?”…

…During these morning commutes, I sometimes listen to a sports radio station whose programming has been described as nitwit radio.  For the past month or so, every time I have tuned in, the same two commentators have been having the same argument about whether the Red Sox should trade Nomar Garciaparra and Manny Ramirez.  They continue to argue the same points over and over again, yet I continue to tune in.  I’m guessing that I shouldn’t mention this on my MENSA interview… 

…Every year I try to catch “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” on television.  It is a holiday classic, but some of the lines are pretty funny in today’s world of political correctness.  For example, when Mrs. Donner wants to go along to help in the search for Rudolph, her husband emphatically tells her, “No!  This is man’s work.”  It happens again later, when the main characters escape from Bumbles and narrator Sam the Snowman says that, “…they realize that the best thing to do, is to get the women back to Christmas Town.”  Something tells me that Gloria Steinem wasn’t consulted on the script… 

…Speaking of “Rudolph”, my favorite scenes involve Mrs. Claus telling Santa to “Eat, Papa, eat.”  At one point, Santa tells Mrs. Claus that the reason why he won’t eat is because “…that silly elf song is driving me crazy.”  Despite his claims, I suspect that the real reason for his lack of appetite is the fact that all of Santa’s food and utensils, as well as his dinner table, are purple.  Santa apparently cannot live on black raspberry ice cream alone…

 With that, I will leave you to enjoy the rest of the fall.  Please remember that when shoveling fall snow, lift with your legs and not with your back

The Day to Day Grind Tim 14 Nov 2003 No Comments

Aim High

On Veteran’s Day this coming Tuesday, I recommend that you find a veteran and give them a hug.  My own military experience consisted of 6 years in the Massachusetts Air National Guard.  My time as a “weekend warrior” doesn’t qualify me for all of the honors and benefits (such as hugs) accorded to veterans.  I do, however share one thing in common with everyone else that has worn the uniform.  I survived basic training.

Air Force basic training is not exactly Paris Island.  In fact, my friends who are Marines openly laugh in my face when I tell them that I graduated from Air Force basic training.  I would defend the honor of the Air Force, but these people are Marines, after all.  They have been trained to kill.   I was trained to install electronics, so I just smile at their taunts.

That reminds me of a story.  A friend of mine in the regular Air Force told me that on his base they would announce the time.  He told me that the announcements would say, “The time is now 1300 hours.  For any civilians in the building, that is one o’clock in the afternoon.  For any Marines in the building, that is when the big hand is on the twelve and the little hand is on the one.”

If anyone is thinking about joining the Air Force, my advice is to first acquire the skill most necessary to survival in basic training.  Ironing.  Really.  The most difficult part of Air Force basic training was that we were required to iron our t-shirts into 6-inch squares with the edges perfectly lined up. We also had to carefully iron our socks and underwear into special designs.  We were not allowed to use starch.  The Air Force is very particular about their underwear.

Most people think of basic training as a group of people doing pushups and running through mud.  Air Force basic training for me was a group of unhappy bald men walking around with one eye shut and their lips pursed, trying desperately to line up the edges of their 6-inch t-shirts with tweezers.  Aim high, indeed.

Before you get the idea that my basic training experience was all about tweezers and t-shirts, allow me to explain that we also got yelled at quite a bit.  The person officially designated by the Air Force to yell at us had the job title of Technical Instructor (TI).  Our TI went by the name “Sir”, and he affectionately called us “Maggots”.  I still remember the first time we met; our TI swaggered onto our bus wearing his Smokey the Bear hat and politely asked, “WHY ARE YOU MAGGOTS STILL ON THIS BUS?”

Getting yelled at by the TI while attempting to iron was very stressful.  The stress caused quite a few of my fellow airmen to begin walking and talking in their sleep.  One night at about 2am, one of the trainees stood up on his bed and shattered the silence by angrily shouting, “HEY!  THERE’S A LOT OF MILK ON THE FLOOR OVER HERE!  COME PICK IT UP WITH YOUR BOTTLES!”  He then dropped violently into the prone position and began to snore.  Mystified, a few of us wandered over to his bunk, but there was no milk to be found, nor did any of us have bottles if there had been milk.

I graduated basic training at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas in September of 1989.  Joining the military was one of the best decisions I have ever made.  I would like to wish every veteran out there a happy Veteran’s Day and to thank them for defending my country.  I would especially like to thank the Marines, even if they can’t iron.

Back in the Day Tim 07 Nov 2003 No Comments

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