Saturday, November 29th, 1997
Ah, nothing like a bad pun to start out opening remarks…especially one that has seasonal relevance. Hi there from here, and here, as often is the case, is the Virginia-Highland neighborhood in Atlanta on a rainy Saturday afternoon. It’s warm, certainly by up-north standards, and the outside has that soupy, sound-deadening quality that, when combined with the indirect light of overcast skies, gives one the urge to hunker down, clean house a bit, eat soup, and play a CD or two.
The soup part was easy–for me, at least. Thanks to Sammy’s early-morning potato-peeling and a rubbermaid-container-full of turkey parts from when she made soup for me on Monday, we had a life-sustaining turkey and potato broth to begin our actual weekend, after that ersatz-weekend we call Thanksgiving and…uh..what do we call that day afterward? Turkey boxing day?
Bob Beasley’s young son Sam knew it was more than just your generic Friday, because he wasn’t whisked off to school. But because it didn’t have a name attached, the holiday/non-holiday just served to confuse him. We should appoint a commission to name it as soon as possible.
On the other hand, we had good ol’ reliable USPS mail service on Friday (the satisfying ker-plop of unwanted catalogs through the mail-slot) and I hear the stock market was open for half-a-day, so what the heck kind of day is it? More strange contra-indicators: the TV news shows were staffed with second and third-string anchors, a sure sign that a) the November sweeps are over and b) there is no news worth reporting on that unnamed day-after-T-day…(so they all end up glomming onto a story I’ll mention in a paragraph or so.)
I keep thinking about Thanksgiving’s roots as a harvest festival, and how Canada celebrates it a month or so earlier, as befits their higher latitudes…and it makes me want to propose to yet another nonexistant commission that we turn our Thanksgiving into a roving day that is celebrated on different Thursdays in November, based on latitude. Kids in Miami would celebrate it the second Thursday in December.
This of course would cause all kinds of trouble with the marketers and television reporters who have defined the Official Start of the Christmas Shopping Season (hey, maybe that’s the name of the holiday!) as a big story worth over-reporting. We’ve reached a point (have we?) where we need to see helicopter shots of clogged mall parking lots? Save your jet fuel, guys. These pre-ordained stories, noted in red ink in the assignment desk’s daybook months in advance, are the screaming yellow zonkers of contemporary TV journalism. There’s absolutely nothing good for you in them, and they leave you with a slightly sick feeling afterwards. Perhaps what’s the most frightening is the way any non-story these days…and yes, I’m thinking of the one that came out of Des Moines of late…can be slam-reported, over-covered, smothered, run-into-the-ground, blathered over…in short, done over and over-done. A woman has seven kids? Oh, please send my congratulations, but that’s one day’s story, and hardly the lead. News consultant weasels will tell you that using the water-cooler theory of news management, it deserved all that it got. I’m hoping against hope that we still deserve better journalism than that.
A week ago Sam and I were dodging raindrops and jumping into and out of Washington DC’s subway at the end of a quick visit for the annual American Anthropological Association conference. For me, it was a chance to see a friend from college and her thriving one-person design business, to almost see one other friend from school, and, well, to wander around our nation’s visual clichés with my DV video camera, grabbing images I can use in my work in all kinds of ways.
We had some good food and dropped into some wonderful bookstores in DC, and I came away again with the feeling that as wonderful as Positively This Town Here is, Atlanta is, especially now, bookstore-deprived…and maybe the muttered put-down is true: people here don’t read.
Maybe there’s some kudzu-derived energy-field that dampens literacy down here. We should appoint a commission for this one, too.
Most of the time in DC (and a good chunk of this Thanksgiving week) I’ve been exhibiting the remnants of a November’s bout with cold and flu ("Bronchitis," Sammy diagnoses quickly and with certainty.) Finally today I’m mostly cough-free, but it’s been a brutal month for me health-karma-wise, and no picnic, I’m sure, for my spouse to put up with, especially at 3 am. Turkey soup makes a difference, though, let me tell you.
But today, it’s better. And looking out at the damp leaves makes me want to stroll through the neighborhood on what’s left of this afternoon. And as soon as I fire this off to where you can read it, I will.
Enjoy your holidays.