Just think of how many different harvest festivals and/or days for the dead there are that occur in November; Samhain, Nos Calan Gaeaf, All Saints’ Day, All Souls’ Day, Dia de los Muertos, Guy Fawkes’ Night, Veterans’ Day…the list goes on. The way I see it, these different occasions are all part of the same major event: the lifting of the veils between this world and the Underworld. As the Earth and its creatures go to sleep for the season, a really weird vibe is released into the air, motivating people to get together and draw warmth from each other (while gaining some weight in preparation for winter). Even the Pilgrims, colonial American Calvinists that they were, just couldn’t escape the impulse to do this – and since they couldn’t do Samhain (because it’s too pagan) or All Saints’ Day (because it’s too Catholic) or even Guy Fawkes’ Night (because it’s too pro-Church of England), they had to come up with their own excuse for giving in to that impulse. So they took the story of how Squanto saved them all from starving for a second winter and turned it into Thanksgiving.
(Actually, the history of Thanksgiving is somewhat controversial, and there are some Native Americans who find the whole idea deeply offensive. I don’t blame them for feeling that way at all, and I think the points they make about this subject are worth listening to. But due to all the struggles that my family and I have been having with the dark side of life lately, I’m just not in the right head space to be discussing such things publicly. If you’d like to learn more about that stuff, here’s a great article to get you started.)
Anyway, Thanksgiving for me is the final day of an entire holy month, the same month of which Halloween is a part. (That’s why it’s acceptable to keep pumpkins around your property up to this point, even though the time for jack-o’lanterns is long gone.) I haven’t always cared that much for it; I enjoyed the Macy’s Parade as a kid (especially when the Radio City Rockettes showed up – YOWZA!), but I never saw much point in anything else. The turning point for me was on Thanksgiving 1994; I was a sixth grader at the time, and I had only just discovered the Halloween movies and the music of Danny Elfman. For some reason, my newfound obsession with these things made it much harder than normal for me to accept that Halloween was truly “over.” So I gave myself until Thanksgiving Day that year to continue getting it out of my system, with the appearance of Santa Claus at the Macy’s Parade being my official “endpoint.” Once Saint Nick rolled up on that crazy float of his, it was truly time to put away my pumpkins and break out the wreaths – and this continues to be my policy today.
One thing’s for sure; unlike many other boys, I never went through an “I Hate Girls!” phase.
For the past however many years, it’s been my personal tradition to watch as many of the Halloween films as I can on Thanksgiving Eve. This is my way of saying “Goodbye” to the Samhain season, and before I had to start working for a living, I was able to fit all of the first five movies in there somehow. Nowadays it’s getting harder for me to stay up that late, so I have to divide it up. I just watch the first three movies at Samhain, and I save Halloween 4 (1988) and Halloween 5 (1989) for Thanksgiving Eve. Usually I fall asleep about halfway through Halloween 5, which is just as well I suppose. (After all, Halloween 4 is the important one.) Then on the next day, I usually play our local Detroit parade on the TV. (The Macy’s one has just become way too commercial for me, and I haven’t been able to catch the Rockettes in years.) My wife and I keep that going in the background while we cook and finish cleaning before our guests arrive. People start showing up about mid-afternoon, and that’s when my father-in-law and I start slamming Manhattans like there’s no tomorrow. When it’s time for me to cut the turkey, I’m always sloshed right out of my gourd. I generally succeed at cutting the first slice; then I hand the electric carving knife over to someone else and they take it from there.
Manhattans are THE autumn/winter holiday drink in my family
Once dinner is finished, the combination of booze and tryptophan knocks me right out. My annual after-Thanksgiving dinner nap is probably the most refreshing nap that I enjoy all year. I usually sleep for about an hour; then, when I wake up, it’s time for the most important Thanksgiving tradition of all. That’s when my wife and I break out the pumpkin pie and watch Mike Jittlov’s The Wizard of Speed and Time (1989), an obscure little comedy that has nothing to do with Thanksgiving at all. If you’ve never seen or heard of this film (and chances are good that you probably haven’t), it’s a semi-autobiographical tale about an ingenious practical effects man who’s trying to get his big break in Hollywood. That might sound pretty down-to-Earth, but this movie is extremely surreal; it’s more like a live action cartoon (or maybe even a delirious fever dream) than your standard movie fare, and it makes you feel like you’ve ingested an entire dump truck full of pot brownies by the time it’s finished. All of which is to say that The Wizard of Speed and Time never fails to put a smile on the face of anyone who views it; watching this insane masterpiece is truly a gift from the Gods.
You’re probably wondering how this goofy movie became such an important part of our Thanksgiving tradition. Well it all started in 2006, when Brother Tony and I had the great pleasure of celebrating Thanksgiving alone together. This was actually the first of three such Thanksgivings that we enjoyed in this way. We agreed that we would spend the day watching some really obscure things that neither of us had ever seen before, and I had just discovered an old VHS copy of The Wizard totally by chance. So we took a gamble and popped it into the VCR, and I’m pretty sure that my and Tony’s brains became so warped during the next 90 minutes that we actually peered into another dimension and saw the furry red face of Seth-Typhon Himself! That’s the kind of power this strange movie can have on people; it just gets inside your head and turns all of your grey matter into a quivering mass of glowing green Jell-O. And after that awesome experience, a new LV-426 mandate was declared: viewing The Wizard of Speed and Time would now be the official LV-426 way of celebrating Thanksgiving for the rest of time (or at least until the last member of our priesthood goes to chase unstoppable boogeymen with Donald Pleasence in the sky).
But why should we selfishly keep the Cult of the Man in the Green Jacket to oursleves? This is the kind of gift that just keeps getting better when you share it with others. Unfortunately, The Wizard of Speed and Time is not available on DVD, and VHS copies of the film are getting harder and harder to find. But Mike Jittlov fully supports people making bootleg copies of his movie and sharing them for free, which means it’s available to watch on YouTube. So if you’d like to celebrate Thanksgiving the LV-426 way tomorrow, grab yourself a plate of leftovers, sit your ass down and get ready to feast your eyes on the tastiest turkey that has ever graced this Earth. And may Seth have mercy on your noodle!
Happy Thanksgiving, everybody! I sure am thankful to be alive, and I’m mighty thankful that you’re all alive too. Gods bless you all!