chapter 37: Thinksgiving

any day above ground is a good day.  i’ve said that for many years.  and i’ve believed it.

i spent Thanksgiving day at an apartment adjacent to the home of one of the world’s great minds–Gary Busey.  in fact, i went outside to use the phone at some point, and when i returned, i accidentally tried to enter the illustrious Mr. Busey’s humble abode.  fortunately, it was locked and he was away; so neither of us were surprised.

Gary’s mental disposition is a myriad of perplexing and sometimes impressive displays of original thought.  and the fact that i could process that, the fact that i was a cognizant being at all, was the thing i was most thankful for, as i sat around a table adorned with festive staples of culinary delight.  there was talk of everyone verbalizing the things in life for which they were grateful; but i was grateful for life itself.  it had been over 6 months since my brain hemorrhage, and i was still in the midst of determining what lay ahead at hospitals and neurosurgery offices.  but the unknown–that which cannot be determined at all–had at the very least granted me the survival i needed thus far, in order to make it to a terrific day of gluttonous recognition, the fattest day of the year, the big-meal-around-the-big-table celebration of the pilgrims and the indians, the horn of plenty, the multicolored turkey, and all the other images i remember from elementary school.  at Greenwood Jr. High, they were on bulletin boards framed with wavy borders, and all along the walls of our classroom.  we made pilgrim hats and indian headdresses, and i distinctly recall making my Plymouth settler costume for a program our class participated in.  call me a Plymouth Rocker, ’cause we had to sing.  and even though the audience couldn’t see my feet, i wanted some of those shoes with the single buckle; but i never got ’em.  a musket would’ve been nice, too; but at least i had my frock, and some head-feathered friends to pass the time with.  in the present, in Sherman Oaks, i enjoyed the giblet gravy and dressing sans colonial garb.  but i was happy to have Thanksgiving just the same, just to be there, just to be alive and appreciate that privilege.

as i looked onward into december, my future was unclear.

some things in life are guaranteed.



like a morning routine–

during my first semester in college, i lived at home, sharing a bathroom with my 14-year-old sister.  i’m not sure what classes she was taking in 9th grade, but i’m fairly certain one of them WASN’T called “How to Flush the Toilet.”  she always awoke before me, and always left me a “gift.”  it became something i could count on.  day after day, my procedure was the same:  wake up, step out of bed, and stumble into the bathroom; enter the tiled room just beyond the carpet-and-counter half of our upstairs inner sanctum; look down.  and there it was.  should’ve had a bow on it.  my sister was Santa Claus, the toilet was the tree, and whether i liked it or not, every day was Christmas.  sometimes i could imagine the contents of the bowl spelling out “Season’s Greetings.”

other things are not so dependable.  like romance–

in 1995, while attending college in Tennessee, i called my mother and told her i’d met a girl.  at church.  Ashley

…i’d been talking to her every Sunday.  and i really liked her.  more than that, the truth–which i kept to myself–was, i filled monday through saturday with thoughts of her, my racing mind barely able to wait ’til our next meeting.  seeing my bleach blonde beauty each week was THE highlight.  at 27, she was 5 years older than me, but i staked my claim nonetheless.  every 7th day, i would shower for her; shave for her; get dressed just for her.  and sit near her, to ensure ample time for a conversation before she had to leave with her family.  i was a man on a mission, dedicated to the girl with perfect lips and a great yellow dress which she’d someday wear just for me.  i imagined our future, and it was BRIGHT–we’d eventually spend time at the park; go to movies; have great adventures; and live happily ever after.  or so i hoped.  but there was something odd about this girl, which i explained to my mother:

“her name is Ashley.  but the weird thing is, her last name is Judd.  her mom and sister are Naomi and Wynonna, The Judds.”

Ashley was from a famous family; i didn’t know how that might affect things.

and as it turned out, i would NEVER know.  one day soon after my telephoned proclamation, i saw Ashley on the cover of a magazine.  right there beside the candy bars in the grocery store checkout line.  there she was.  with Robert De Niro and Val Kilmer.


i wasn’t intimidated, but the fact that my strugging-actress Valentine was now in a big budget to-do told me she’d be leaving Nashville in the dust, and me with it.  but what about the park?  adventures??  knowing my last name????

some things are unpredictable.  the future holds no guarantees.  i thought Ashley and i would last forever; but alas, her face in bold and beautiful print told me all i needed to know.  i’d remembered the jokes in elementary school, about the Judds, the question-and-answer hilarity between 2nd grade boys, calling Naomi and Wynonna “The Juggs,” because they were female and therefore must have boobs.  i’d thought i was going to break into that breast joke dynasty, and have my own, and live as king of the kingdom.  but my victorious rule had been crashed against the rocks of Entertainment Weekly, like mighty waves in an ocean of disappointment, like rolling billows from, well, Juggs.  my lovely lady would be too busy due to the success of Heat, the very movie i would try to rent years later, the night before my cerebral angiogram, to test my brain anomaly, which was the source of my unknown future, which upon reflection conjured memories of Ashley, who signaled to Val Kilmer that the jig was up, in a scene which helped take her away from me, null with our future, up with our jig.

My girl was off to L.A.

i would eventually join her there, but much too late for us.  and now, as i looked toward my own departure–my approaching, yuletide return to Alabama–i had mixed feelings.  certain relationships back home were not good.  would “Season’s Greetings” be reminiscent of my sister’s novel good-morning-to-you?  and furthermore, what if it were the last time i saw home, the last time i felt Christmas?  that was sad.

but i found a distraction:

assuming that my (presumably inevitable) surgery would be a success, i decided i wanted a television for Christmas.  for my bedroom.  i would create the Ultimate Recovery Room.  i began my research.  what was the best tv?  how could i prepare the Greatest Bedroom in the History of the World–one in which i could lie for 6 weeks, while i rested after being knifed in the brain?

maybe i would get surround sound…and an Ashley Judd collection.  regardless, thinking of the future was nice, if for no other reason than the hope that it existed at all.

and for that, here’s to giving Thanks.

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