Things You Might Overhear at My Family’s Thanksgiving Celebration

Few moments in my life are funnier than the comments bubbling up during meals spent with my crazy family and equally crazy friends (who are like chosen family.). Since my cousin Jeff and I can basically mind meld, all it takes is a quick exchange of glances to kick off some of these running dialogues during Thanksgiving dinner. Here’s my Top Five List of Oddball Things Said During Meals Together (family and friends edition), with a (T) behind those you might overhear at my family’s Thanksgiving.

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  1. “I have a torn labia.” One of my guy friends said this when I asked him what kind of shoulder surgery he was recovering from. He meant to say “labrum,” but somehow, labia is what came out. I was in hysterics for a good half an hour afterwards. I felt guilty laughing because he looked so pained and embarrassed, but that only made me laugh harder. I choked on my coffee this morning, just remembering this one all over again.
  2. “No man can refuse this p***y!” A certain uber-tall cousin of mine grabbed his right ankle and lifted his long leg over his head, uttering these words in the middle of a Sizzler Restaurant during lunch one day, mimicking Grace Jones in the Eddie Murphy movie, Boomerang.  Unbeknownst to him, as he was sitting in front of a column, there was an entire table of people behind him, whom I was facing, who did not appreciate his Grace Jones imitation, making this even funnier. I waved my hands wildly about in the “stop” motion, but he misinterpreted my gesturing as “Stop making me laugh!” I couldn’t stop hyperventilating in giggles long enough to warn him to stop.
  3. “Fifteen is my limit on schnitzengruben!” (T)This line from Blazing Saddles is uttered every time someone tries to push food on us at Thanksgiving, when we’re already way too stuffed.
  4. “It’s only wafer thin…” (T) –– This alludes to the epically disgusting, never-ending puke scene in Monty Python’s Meaning of Life. John Cleese offers up a wafer-thin mint to an obese man who has eaten so much, he explodes. In the end, all that remains is a beating heart, dangling, encased inside of a rib cage.
  5. “Go make yourself a danged quesadilla!” (T) — To say this correctly, you have to make quesadilla rhyme with Sarah Palin’s hometown, Wasilla. This line, from Napoleon Dynamite, is typically said later in the day, when dinner has settled and someone interrupts our Euchre game long enough to announce they have a taste for a turkey/stuffing/cranberry sauce sandwich. I also say this to Jack, pretty much every day we’re home together and he asks me to make his lunch.

This year, Jack and I are celebrating Thanksgiving with my extended family over the weekend, so tomorrow will be a quiet day at home, watching “Holes” and Napoleon Dynamite, wishing the pilgrims had kicked off this holiday with Beef Wellington rather than turkey. And what are your plans? Need ideas for side dishes, cocktails, main course recipes, cooking time, gravy techniques, family games or table decor tips? Check out my freshly curated Pinterest Holiday Entertainment board. Consider this your new go-to resource filled with infographic goodness and everything you’d need to know for holiday entertaining. Also, I learned a great trick on Saturday with my baked brie — using apple butter instead of apricot preserves gives it this apple pie flavor that is simply amazing. Give it a whirl!

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My Pre-Mother’s Day Celebration: Adding to “The Collection”

Since Dave was in Nashville doing a signing for Free Comic Book Day Saturday, two of the Sister Wives and I decided on Cooper’s Hawk for a wine-soaked pre-Mother’s Day celebration. Little did I know, I would get the greatest Mother’s Day gift of all–the first-hand retelling of one of my all-time favorite dysfunctional family stories. I collect these funny stories in my mental Rolodex like some folks collect comic books.

Spontaneity is “Sister Wife” Ophelia’s middle name. It’s what I treasure about her. She rolled in late from an all-day cooking class in Chicago, texting that she was bringing two surprise guests. They were all feeling no pain when they arrived, and hilarious conversation flowed. (It seems the chef they spent the day with at cooking school now wants to cook for all of us at a suite in Las Vegas…Ophelia is that rare person who attracts these bizarre situations as much as I do.)

As I was getting acquainted with my two new friends (as my BFF Marovich puts it, “Denise adding yet a few more to ‘The Collection'”) it suddenly dawned on me that one of them, Jocelyn, must be the neighbor Ophelia once mentioned with the World’s BEST Dysfunctional Family Thanksgiving story. It was as if someone had scripted the Thanksgiving version of Christmas Vacation. Truth stranger than fiction. And Saturday night, I was lucky enough to hear it all from the source DNA. It was just as epic the second time. I’ll try recapturing it for you here, but minus the facial expressions and physical gestures, well, forgive me if I don’t do it justice.

Christmas Vacation, meet Your Spin-Off: Thanksgiving Vacation!

Christmas Vacation, meet Your Spin-Off: Thanksgiving Vacation!

Jocelyn is kind by nature. Kind enough, in fact, to invite her brother-in-law Sparky to their Thanksgiving celebration. Sparky was single, but dating a former stripper with five kids from differing baby daddies. Jocelyn’s husband warned her not to invite Sparky, but Jocelyn prevailed. She was feeling sentimental. Thanksgiving was family time, after all, and they should all be together. Sparky called and informed her that he was not only bringing his stripper girlfriend Astrid, but also three of her kids, and Astrid’s sister. Now Jocelyn had to double the amount of food she was making, but she did so without complaint. She was determined to make it work.

Thanksgiving Day came. Sparky, Astrid, and their crew arrived. Astrid presented Jocelyn with her contribution: a small, square Michelina-sized box of mac & cheese as their (we are Midwestern, so I hope you understand) dish to pass for the meal. Jocelyn graciously accepted the meager offering. For the most part, the meal went fine, and everyone was well behaved. Jocelyn’s aunt wanted to hit a Black Friday sale, so she and Jocelyn left and shopped for two hours. When they returned, that was the start. Thanksgiving Vacation. 

As Jocelyn opened the front door, the entire house was reverberating with the percussive thump-thump-thump of dance club music emanating from the basement. Jocelyn’s elderly mom, aunt and uncle sat upstairs, trauma written all over their faces.

Hands over her ears, Jocelyn braved her way to the basement with a mission to turn down the music. She couldn’t have possibly prepared herself for what she was about to see: Sparky’s stripper girlfriend Astrid, riding the pole in Jocelyn’s basement, while Astrid’s sister was grinding away on a pool stick between her legs. As Jocelyn was stepping into the room, the two sisters merged together, grinding on each other. Jocelyn reports her 9-year-old son’s eyes were bugging out of his head. Jocelyn’s husband was just sitting there in stunned amazement, drink in his hand, slowly raising his other hand to shield their son’s bewildered eyes.

In a flash, Astrid’s daughter got in between the grinding sister twosome, twerking with a familiarity no 10-year-old child should have.

Jocelyn had been married to her husband for nearly 20 years at this point, and never had an issue with Sparky. But this Thanksgiving Day, Sparky was drunk. Caught up in the spirit of things, he tried grinding on Jocelyn. Tried being the key word. Chaos accelerated from totally out of control to insanity in a nanosecond. Jocelyn’s husband flashed her the “I told you so” look as Jocelyn screamed at Sparky to “keep his fucking hands off of (her).” Their nine-year-old’s eyes protruded further, as if that were even possible.

Jocelyn raced upstairs to see what Astrid’s other two kids were doing. She found Astrid’s 13-year-old son standing with his back to her, his iPhone extended at arm’s length, taking panoramic footage of Jocelyn’s upstairs bedroom, casing the joint. As he slowly turned around to complete his panoramic shot of her bedroom, he discovered her in frame, hands on her hips, a fully formed “WTF?” glare on her face. He stopped in mid filming. Jocelyn screamed at him, demanding he erase the footage. He insisted he never took any. It seems gaslighting was his super power. Jocelyn raced back downstairs to the basement. She had to get Sparky to convince this defiant teen to erase the footage. Sparky exclaimed, “You can’t yell at him! He has RAGE issues!” Uncle Sparky never thought of protecting his niece and nephew from Astrid’s volatile, rage issue kid.

Two years later, sadly, Sparky and Astrid are no more. Their true love couldn’t conquer Astrid’s need to have sex with many people. Sparky stopped paying her bills and moved out.

To date, Sparky is still single.

God, how I loves me some dysfunctional family stories. I have a library full of them–from my own family.

Yelp: The New Form of American Literary Expression

Any gathering with my crazy, comedic family spurs me into creative thinking mode. Yesterday’s Thanksgiving feast was no exception. Here, courtesy of my Facebook post, is one of the props I loaded into Jack’s pockets:

This Facebook post will give you some idea of our family shenanigans.

This Facebook post gives you some idea of my family culture…

My cousin Greg, who blew in from Ohio to join us yesterday, has made Yelp.com reviews his own loving form of literary expression. Within our family circle, his reviews are a constant source of entertainment. Adding to the hilarity, his daughter told me a recent South Park episode was dedicated to Yelp reviews, which means, you know, Yelp reviews are now officially “a thing.” A pop culture snapshot of 2015. And here’s a link to that episode of South Park that you MUST see: http://southpark.cc.com/full-episodes/s19e04-youre-not-yelping

Cartman, the Yelp Reviewer - South Park Episode "You're Not Yelping"

Cartman, the Yelp Reviewer – South Park Episode “You’re Not Yelping”

My favorite South Park scene? This 50-page review by Gerald…for Applebee’s:

Gerald, the genius behind the epic Applebee's review on South Park.

Gerald, the genius behind the EPIC Applebee’s review on South Park.

“And yet, there is more…in this crisp time as Autumn begins to fade, the chef brines chicken in habanero and even adds habanero powder to the crust…but the heat is restrained. You experience the fruity, delicious flavor of this without any spicy pain. I don’t need any more pain. Hell, does anyone?”

God, these guys are comedy geniuses. Writing scripts for South Park would be the dream job for me, right up there with writing for Mystery Science Theater 3000 #MST3K or Bob’s Burgers.

So for Christmas this year, I’ll be self-publishing this hardcover parody gift book:

“YELP–An Exploration in Modern American Literary Expression: The Greg McDonald Edition.”

If you are interested in having your very own copy of this exclusive, limited edition, Modern American Literature Masterpiece, just shoot me an email and I’ll add you to the list. I’m guessing it will be around $30 + shipping, given my previous experiences with Blurb.com. For an extra $100, I may even score you a signature and stick figure pencil sketch from the original author…the unintentional literary sensation, Greg McDonald!

You  know, I always thought I would be the first in our family to publish a literary masterpiece. Who knew Greg would usurp me?!?

 

Thanksgiving: Some Random Thoughts

For many of you, today is likely one of your favorite holidays. While I love a spirited, marathon game of Euchre with my cousins as much as the next person, I sure wish those pilgrims had kicked off this family tradition with a Chicago stockyard prime rib rather than a turkey. There’s not enough alcohol in the world to entice me to insert my hand in that turkey’s pink, slimy, gut-filled pit of hell. Cue up Alice Cooper’s Welcome to My Nightmare…this is the holiday where my bird phobia is front and center. I can handle popping a boneless, skinless turkey breast into the oven, but that horrific headless bird corpse stays outside of my line of sight.

Courtesy of my horror writer friend Steve Niles, the stuff my nightmares are made of.

Courtesy of my horror writer friend Steve Niles, the stuff my nightmares are made of.

And then there’s dessert. Pumpkin pie? Meh. Not in my Top 10 List. Not even close. So here’s how I propose we eat it:

Pumpkin Pie, Denise Style.

Pumpkin Pie, My Way.

My favorite Thanksgiving memory was the year I had just returned from the greatest practical joke shop in Key West, armed with my new expandable fork. It looked like a normal fork, but it could extend to two feet in length. I patiently waited for my kindred spirit cousin Jeff, sitting across from me, to load his plate with stuffing–one of the few things I like about Thanksgiving. Jeff got distracted by an oncoming platter of turkey and I made my move–in one fell swoop, my expanding fork reached across the table, plucked that ball of stuffing right off of his plate, and made it mine. The shocked expression on Jeff’s face when he looked back on his plate and did his double-take is something I will never forget. I still get the giggles every time I think of it. I recently rediscovered that fork, and it just so happens that Jeff’s coming over today…hmmm….

Last night Jeff posted this sentiment on Facebook from one of our favorite comedy writers, Jack Handey, and in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I share this with you today:

More Brilliance from Jack Handey

More Brilliance from Jack Handey

Today I’m thankful for my family, our health, great comedy and laughs, my favorite new earthling Baby Gemma, my friends (from the Shenanigans, Hijinks, Immaturity and Tomfoolery Club to the Sister Wives to my vast, ever-expanding, quirky “Collection” of everyone in between), Jonesie the cat (whom I’m still trying to forgive for spilling that full cup of coffee on my computer yesterday and ruining my laser mouse), my clients who keep life interesting (especially the engrossing fiction novels of uber-talented author Mike Baron), the growing stack of unread books awaiting me, for tennis (on TV and in real life), and for what will probably be remembered as the greatest era in cable and network TV entertainment, from Downton Abbey to Gotham to Homeland, and too many more to mention.

I hope you all have a memorable, Happy Thanksgiving. As for me, I’ll be occupied with removing pickles from the White Castles (Dave forgot to buy the pickle-free kind) for the stuffing, and averting my gaze from that bumpy, pink meat puppet.