Thursday, November 26, 2015

FTT Off-Topic: Ten Thanksgivings Past

Yup, Yup
Not sports, big Internet, move along or not.

This year, to be blunt, Thanksgiving is a bit of a challenge. It's been a difficult year with work instability, the challenges of raising 10 and 15 year old kids that get in their own way a lot... and the usual fun of being, well, in your mid to late '40s, with issues in re time and energy and so on. Combine that with terrible sports teams, and a house filled with projects that are pretty much going to have to happen this weekend, and I haven't been the most grateful of persons.

So I started remembering past holidays.Many of which have been less thankful than this one.

1989. I'm six months away from graduating college, provided I can just somehow get through two absolutely jammed semesters worth of classes, internships and work while not, well, starving or passing out. Without the time or money to go home for the holidays, I make the choice to stay and work 4 straight 17-hour days as a security guard, double-shifting while the rest of the force is home or off. I catch up on all of my studies, make enough money to get through Christmas, learn songs on guitar, and watch the Buddy Ryan Eagles beat the living garbage out of a young Troy Aikman in a 27-0 beatdown. I pretty much spend 4 days in solitude, and start doubting my sanity. Happy Thanksgiving.

1995. I'm married to my first wife, who is an amazing chef, beautiful, funny, and desperately unhappy and on edge. We're hosting a big meal in our Center City Philadelphia apartment, with a roaring fire in the fireplace, about a dozen disenfranchised from family guests, and everything has to be just so -- from place settings to presentation to courses and so on. Everything looks amazing, everything comes out right, and what should be a great evening is just awash in tension, stress, and the sense that any moment, it could all come crashing down in a fight for the ages. Less than a year later, we divorce. I think I knew it then, but just wasn't ready to admit it.

1998. I'm in San Diego on vacation with my then girlfriend, eventual second wife. We've flown out to visit my brother and his wife, and gone to Disneyland for the hell of it, when the rare event of Southern California rain happens. The park clears out, but we stay and eventually have the rides more or less to ourselves, because the best ones are inside, and people in that part of the world freak out about rain. We ride Space Mountain and an Indiana Jones jeep ride eight times in two hours, like we're hopped up on a sugar rush. It was, honestly, an incredibly important part of the courtship. In a month, in a diner on Christmas Eve, I propose.

1999. I'm married to my second and current wife, but thanks to spectacular missteps, I live in Oregon and have lost my job, which means I'm just scrambling like mad through consulting jobs and interviews, trying to find the next gig. Meanwhile, my wife lives in University City with her ex-mother-in-law, and is pregnant with our first child. We have a marvelous evening and meal, trying our best not to worry about the future, or how I'm going to have to fly out again and back to the empty house and pets. I still have no idea how we got through that time.

2000. Our first Thanksgiving in California has my wife, baby, dogs and mother-in-law. With just the one car and a commute that takes an hour and a quarter, things seem OK, but I'm already on the second gig out there in the middle of the dot-com bust. Three weeks later, what seemed like a stable port in the storm fails as well, and for the third time in 14 months, I'm trying to find a new gig with nothing in the way of savings.

2003. The start-up is going well, and we've got a chance at an IPO, which might result in enough money to actually afford a home in the crazed Bay Area market. After three months of seeing what our money might buy (short answer: terrible places that would be awful to live in), we start to investigate greater Sacramento. The houses are brand new and beautiful, and I make enough to afford living there, but the drive out is interminable, and you're living in gated communities, in instant towns, surrounded by migrant farm workers. Our child, normally a great car baby, screams the whole way out, and is quiet the whole way back. We wind up deciding not to do it, and within five years, the market has cratered, and the area where we were looking has become overrun with meth labs and squatter houses.

2006. We've moved back to the East Coast following a hire for a NYC start up, and I start five years of taking trains into the city from the greater Princeton area. The new house is great, but the eldest misses California and has issues with her school, which will eventually lead to a year of home schooling before middle school. I don't really know anyone, and the commute is a bear, but we have new problems.

2011. Three start ups have come and gone, and I've landed at a work from home gig where I work for people who I knew from California. The work is demanding and the management has obvious issues, but I like the people, and it's nice to get off the train. Thanksgiving comes after a mess of flights back and forth to California, and I'm in one of those rare but wonderful places where I can just think about work, and have it actually be about, well, work.

2013. The last time I've seen my niece, who has since dropped out of college and gone to work in a vape shop. She used to be an at-risk kid who I could take to a music store and supplement her collection with things that I knew she'd like. Now, she's pretty much someone that I'm not going to see, because it just doesn't make any sense for her to be seen. It's also the first time I've been out of my cave in weeks, because the start up I'm working for is just doing an unholy amount of business, and it's all falling on my team. My manager is profuse in her praise, and I get a bonus that I wasn't counting on. A month later, I win a poker prize for another unexpected cash out. It's just about the last time in the next two years that money and prospects seem highly promising.

2014. We're knee deep in the final Q4 rush for the last doomed start up, and while we're busy, I know that we're not really busy enough to cover what's needed in the future. The new puppy is a problem (he still is) at the table, and we eat in the front room in a new configuration that makes the house seem like a strange restaurant. I can't quite enjoy the meal the way I should, because work worries are like that. Three months later, my position is eliminated, leading to six months of consulting, scrambling, readjustments and stress, before the next gig is found.

2015. Yet to be written. But I'm not looking forward to starting it with having to start the day with this dumpster fire of a football team. Also, I've overdone running today, in anticipation of not doing much tomorrow, and my wife and eldest can't shake illness. Not promising. Still, won't be as bad as others; can't be, really.

My your holiday be safe, serene, and relaxing. And if it's not, may it be memorable.

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