LETTER SEVEN

OCTOBER, NOVEMBER, AND A DEAD BIRD

Dear Friend,

Yeah, so your last letter hit me smack in the feely bits. The thing about nostalgia is that, as much as it makes you happy, at the same time it makes you sad.

I think about those nights too. Those old Big Bop nights. It always seems to be winter in my memory. As if none of the little highschool ska or punk shows ever happened in the summertime, which of course they did. But, for some reason, more than the shows themselves I always remember the goddamn snow and trudging through it on my way home. I guess the cold nights sear themselves more strongly into your mind. . . Those brutal nights getting lost out near Kipling Station trying to find this warehouse that, for a few months at least, used to be a horrible all-ages venue. . . Those times when the Bathurst streetcar was barely running so we would camp out in Pizza Pizza waiting and hoping a streetcar would show up before the eastbound trains stopped. . . Like you I don’t want to forget them either, but I’m perfectly happy with some of the details blurring a bit. There’s so much I would do differently if I could go back.

Not going to lie, after reading your letter I went and dug out some old CDs—the home burned kind, with xeroxed covers—that I happened to have brought with me when I moved. I have a couple of those songs that are, how did you say it? ‘Loaded with memories’. Anyway, I should stop before I get all lost in my own post-punk reminiscences.

 

Halloween here was fairly quiet. I disembowelled a pumpkin and my housemates and I watched Rocky Horror. I got a little too excited and bought a bunch of candy—and, like, real quality stuff—but we got hardly any kids. I don’t live in a particularly bad neighbourhood or anything—although, there was one night a couple of days after Halloween when Jerome and I were both up at around 2:00am and we heard two gunshots; there was nothing about it on the news later that day so it probably wasn’t that serious—I think here kids trick-or-treat differently. I think the common thing to do is to go to shops, rather than houses, to get your candy. We only got about three kids, and but they were rewarded mightily for knocking on our door. Still, we ended up with several pounds of mini Goldfingers and Crunch bars, which became our dinner. We chased the candy with a bottle of tequila we found in the cupboard, and all-in-all it was a good night. I don’t regret it even a little bit.

November has been pretty busy at school. I don’t have exams, but I’ve been reading and writing lots. In undergrad a guy could get by skimming. . .  intensely skimming. Here, you actually have to put in the work. It’s exhausting. On top of that I’ve been trying to write the next Great American Novel, which—now I know you might not have guess this—is harder than you’d think.

 

Thanksgiving happened, and it was magnificent. Much like being a child with divorced parents, being a Canadian in America meant that I had two Thanksgivings. The obviously better one in October, and this weird November nonsense that just happened.

My Thanksgiving, the first one, was a quiet. I made myself some damn good food and ate alone—and I promise it was far less pathetic than it sounds. I’m not sure if you know this about me but Thanksgiving is my favourite of all the holidays. I love the idea of a big family coming together, lots of kids all over, everyone in the kitchen sipping bottled beer and room temperature white wine, a big stack of pies... My best buddy as a kid used to go up to a farm for Thanksgiving. I was always jealous. As someone who has a very small family, I have never found that the reality of Thanksgiving never quiet lives up to my idea of way it should be, Needless to say, eating alone wasn’t my ideal, but, don’t get me wrong, it was fun. I’m a hell of a cook, so the food was great. Plus, eating alone means that you don’t need to share the wine, and that no one’s going to judge you for making mastabatory grunting noises while pouting gravy all over your food, the table, and your shirtless upper body.

 

Second Thanksgiving, yesterday, was… well, it was a lot. It started at 4:00am.

I went to bed fairly early on Thanksgiving Eve. I haven’t been sleeping all that well lately, kind of on-and-off. That night though I was sleeping soundly by like 10:00pm.

Most of my housemates left for Thanksgiving. Lucy is with her family in Long Island. Patricia is staying at some house upstate that she and a few of her friends rented for the week. Apparently, they she does this every year. She won’t be back till Monday. Jerome is the only one staying here, but on Wednesday night before Thanksgiving he was down at a party on the Upper West Side.

So it’s 4:00am and I’m sleeping, right. Out of nowhere Jerome bursts into my room and starts yelling at me to get out of bed. I wake up, no idea what’s going on. And I go into a kind of autopilot mode, where my brain was still sleeping but my body starts reacting like there’s an emergency.

Next thing I knew I was standing in the kitchen wearing jeans and a sweatshirt, and one shoe. When proper consciousness fully took over I was able to get the other shoe on. Jerome was a tiny, little, itty-bitty bit totally fucking wasted. He wanted two things. And he was the level of inebriation where he was prepared to argue, and even start scrapping, to get exactly what he wanted. You know that kind of drunk. We’ve all been there.

First he wanted cigarettes. Second he wanted to make a salt rub for the fourteen pound turkey we had thawing in the fridge.

The first was a reasonable request. You’re drunk, it’s four in the morning, cigarettes sound pretty good right then—problem was, neither of us smokes.* The salt rub, on the other hand was slightly less reasonable. I wouldn’t say that it was a totally unreasonable thing to want—I understand his logic: Thanksgiving was the next day (14 hours), seasoning makes for a better turkey, therefore one must season their bird. However, the combination of being drunk, it being four in the morning, and me still being mostly asleep, made it a very surreal demand. My brain really could not process the words, “We gotta salt our bird.”

 

The cigarettes request I could mentally process, so we started with that.

 

I’m not sure if you’ve ever wandered the streets of the Bronx at four the morning on Thanksgiving with a drunk man doing his best Julia Child impression, but I am sure I would not recommend it. It was very cold that morning. I hadn’t thought to put on a jacket, so I was shivering and trying to make sure Jerome didn’t wander into the street. Thankfully though he’s not as bad as you, in that way. He never lies down in the road, in a deliberate attempt to say fuck you to God and fate. We went to the 24hr corner store at the end of our block, and it was shockingly busy for 4am. There were at least seven people in the little bodega. Jerome goes up to the counter and asks the guy there for some Marlboro 27s. They didn’t have any. No Golds or 100s of any kind either.

As Jerome was trying to find a suitable pack, talking very loudly and still half in his terrible Julia Child voice (which I guess he thought was appropriate cause we were going to be cooking), I was trying my best to look silently apologetic. I tried to give the guy behind the counter that look tired dads give each other when their spastic little kids are running around and demanding shit. That look that says, I’m sorry, but I’m exhausted and this is what he wants, please just give it to him. Jerome finally settled on a pack of American Spirits. As we left, I said Happy Thanksgiving to the guy behind the counter, and I thought I heard him say, “Go well, my friend. Go well. . .”

We made it back to the house without incident. Jerome at this point was adamant about salting our turkey. I was only really interested in sleeping. Sleep, however, would have to wait. We had a fourteen-pound turkey in need of a good salty rubdown, and so, with an unlit cigarette dangling out of his mouth and looking like a drunken thirty year old mid-Westerner trying to imitate a 1950s housewife, Jerome set to work feverishly chopping rosemary, sage, and thyme. I rinsed our turkey, explored its cavities, and removed it’s neck.

Before coming to New York Jerome was a massage therapist. He actually has a Master’s in poetry—now there’s a useful degree—but he chose to get a second MFA to diversify a bit. I guess it was the training in massage that did it, but there was something deeply sensual about the way he rubbed salt and finely chopped herbs into that turkey. It, our bird, was sitting in a slightly too-small pan, so that its little drumstick-legs were flopping and dangling over the edge. Looked like a chubby little naked man in a bathtub. But, you know, only with no head. Jerome was moving his hands all over this reclining bird, gently rubbing the salt-herb mix into all its little wrinkles and folds, getting up into the joints, and then slowly sliding a hand under the skin to feel his way along the breast—as I said, deeply sensual.

After it had been thoroughly seasoned we put the turkey back in the fridge, cleaned up the kitchen, and, since it was nearing five in the AM, we figured it was time for us to sit out on the porch and have one of those slightly emotional conversations that always seem to happen at around this time when someone’s been drinking. The combination of alcohol, the predawn, and outdoor furniture just seems to facilitate a good heart-to-heart, and so we sat on our porch and talked about family, and life, and stuff, and then finally he yawned round six, and said he was going to bed.

I fell asleep as soon as I lay down. Didn’t even bother getting undressed.

 

I got up two hours later when my alarm went off. There was a fair bit that needed to get done before dinner. There was squash to be roasted, buttermilk biscuits to be made, vegetables cut up, Peanuts Thanksgiving Special watched. I was sitting at the kitchen table in an undershirt and peeling a potato, and Jerome slunk in. It was just after noon, and he was totally not even a little bit hungover. Not hungover at all. Completely fine. And he absolutely remembered everything that had happened during the night. First thing he did when he saw me was blink a few times, then he looked around the kitchen and said, “How the fuck did I get home?”

 

Well, I enjoyed our special night together even if he doesn’t remember it. He said bits started coming back as the day went on. And I will say, he held up better than I do after a night of drinking followed by some early morning poultry shenanigans. He and I cooked for most the afternoon and by the time his folks showed up in the evening he was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.

The rest of Thanksgiving went like any other: we all ate too much, there was plenty of cheap wine, there were some divisive conversations about politics and current affairs, there was a pie, and now we have leftovers to eat for the rest of the week.

This will probably be my last letter before I come home for the holidays. We should get a beer when I’m back in the city.

 

See you soon,

Henry

 

 

...and never ever have ever, mum. I love you.