Sunday, November 27, 2005


Salvation arrived on Thursday morning when my daughters appeared at the door. Despite my preparations for a grand solo feast, I was not gracefully handling the notion of Thanksgiving alone. I was in the process of pulling on my boots for a trip to the convenience store to buy a pint of whiskey...very bad for this old fish...when the doorbell rang. I wailed like an infant, kissing and slobbering over the girls until my heart quivered from palpitations and I had to sit on the sofa. Evidently they'd been planning this surprise for three months.

Ella flew in from Denver with a home-cured ham in her carry-on was a culinary school project that she'd been working on for weeks. Billie drove through the night from D.C., and before she even kicked off her shoes she proffered a bag of dried morels that she'd harvested herself in the Virginia woods last April, and as soon as I saw this I started weeping anew. We hydrated the morels and they provided the foundation for a glorious stuffing, though we logged nearly seventy miles in search of an open grocery store with decent shallots to complete the recipe. Ella had checked a cooler on the plane with a farm-raised turkey, duck and game hen and these were roasted, one stuffed within another. She also brought white asparagus, inexplicably fresh despite being out of season. She refused to name her source, which I respected. I smoked my other turkeys on a Webber grill. The girls ate more than I did, and I have no idea how they stay so thin.

The girls brought the wine as well. We had a decent Chilean Chardonnay, plus a grand California Red Zin and two bottles of Pommard. All of these were less than fifteen bucks, which is an unwritten family rule. "Some people drink wine, and some drink labels," Hemingway once wrote. Following this guideline is a snap in Europe, but somewhat more difficult in the U.S. where wealthy people and their consumption spiral have conspired to price the middle class out decent wine, and good taste in general. This bourgeois phenomenon merely confirms (as does the very existence of George W. Bush) my long-standing belief that you can be fabulously wealthy and still qualify as white trash.

As we cooked we shared the usual family stories. Billie, the sensitive girl, made me call her mother, as well as my other two ex-wives, to send Thanksgiving greetings. It went off well. I rang up Billy Clayhouse thinking that he might enjoy Billie's company, but he wasn't home. Ella's a lesbian, and tough as nails, but Billie has gotten kicked around by her two most recent boyfriends. She's curious and trusting, a dangerous combination. I'm not sure why I felt Clayhouse might make a good match.

On Friday we fished local spring creeks until our fingers froze. Ella landed a three-pound rainbow on my 2-weight midge rod. I grew tired while wading and spent half the afternoon sitting on a stump, watching the girls work the river. This worried them more than it did me. Aging is a bitch. We caught five trout altogether, keeping three...they were hatchery fish but nevertheless delicious.

They left yesterday morning, and though my heart was sad to see them go, I was left renewed and feeling frisky. I called Shirleen, my hottest student, and we went out for drinks. Today I edited three chapters on my political novel and watched football, munching on cold duck, turkey and ham and thinking how the momentary acts of pollination that I performed during the procreation of my daughters were the most worthy deeds during my tenure on this great green and blue rock.

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