I'm not going to recount Thanksgiving, because that's long past. Long past. We have bolted past Black Friday and we're marching in long columns to the front lines of December. But there were a few things worth noting. My dad drove down, and did the absolute perfect thing when I opened the door to make you feel 12:
"I see you didn't put the hose in."
No. No, I didn't. It was warm. We'd used it to clean the garage. My wife uses it for watering things. I figured it was her decision. She hadn't told me to put it up. I had failed to anticipate or read minds or jump right on it, because it was 42 degrees, but overnight the temps went down 20 degrees and it snowed and yes, the hose is out of the hose reel, and I AM A FAILURE AS A SON. NOTED.
Sometimes it seems as if you're always 13 and there's no chance you'll be promoted. But that's my problem; I cannot imagine a situation in which I would care enough about someone else's unspooled hose reel to point it out, or assume it meant anything. Now, if the house was a mess, the porch was leaning, there was a truck up on blocks in the yard, sure, but this place is otherwise pristine. But it doesn't matter; I'm 13, and these things must be pointed out lest I turn into some loose, poor-moral slackard 14-year old whose hosereels are slack when the snow comes.
It was just us plus Dad for Thanksgiving, and it was wonderful. While Wife and Daughter did the kitchen things, I took Dad for a drive to see the new stadium, and gave him a tour of my office. Light snow; everything looked 15% more Ideally Urban than usual. He was impressed with the place, and I was glad. See? SEE? I MADE IT, even though I can't put a hose away.
Dinner was delicious, and afterwards we chatted about family, heard some war stories, learned some things about his second wife (first husband died in an industrial accident in Spain) - and then my wife said we should play cards.
Huh. I always thought that any card game that did not start with P and end with R was for people who did not know how to converse, and needed some medium to facilitate social interaction. The whole concept of going to someone's house to play cards was from my dad's generation, and indeed they used to do that, although my mother didn't really like to. (No surprise.) Wife went to look for a deck of cards, which I told her would be difficult; we had no cards. We just didn't. She swore we did. I know every drawer in this house. We have no cards.
After looking through every drawer in this house, she realized we have no cards. But! She found a box of Children's Card Games, and so help me one of them was ANIMAL HEARTS. It's like hearts, except there are only 44 cards, and no suits, only horseshoes and clovers and such, and no face cards, and a JINX card, and monkeys and bunnies. She read the instructions, which, like all card games, struck me a Fizbin, and we started playing. Wife seemed to think that I was opposed to Hearts because I didn't like cards because they were outside of my realm of knowledge, so I went into Colorful Poker Mode, and did patter: Lady opens with a monkey. Nine of Bunnies for the Gentleman. After I shuffled I'd give her the deck and say "cut 'em or knock 'em, I don't care, just bless the deck."
Sorry; card talk. Dad used his remnant Hearts know-how and applied it to the game, and after three hands it was apparent he was playing everyone. "I passed two so I could start sloughing the suit," he said. Oh. I got the most points, so I lost. "But it's after dark on Thursday," I said, "And that means half my points go to the person on my left." They didn't buy it.
Then he taught Daughter a card trick, which was just perfect. She learned it quickly and repeated it. I didn't film much, but I got that.
Then we watched the football game. Wisconsin vs. Chicago. I like a good football game, and that was a good football game - played in the raw elements, as it should be on Thanksgiving. Cold and rainy and right down to the wire. It was a great Thanksgiving but I don't remember one that wasn't.
The next morning we went to a pancake house for pancakes. I drove. Dad's vehicle is a Denaltahoe, or something; it's absurd. Huge. High tech. "Here, the steering wheel heats up," he said, leaning over AS I WAS DRIVING to push a button on the steering wheel.
"Great I'll go right into oncoming traffic but my hands will be warm" I said, because, hose reel.
"And the seats warm." He pushed more buttons. I asked if the car's video system had GPS, and he said yes, "but you have to program it." That was how he explained his difficulties with the satellite radio interface as well. On the way down he had somehow called up the classical station and got stuck with "Peter and the Wolf," which he didn't think was very good because "there wasn't any good tunes and someone kept talking."
No good tunes? Seriously? That's the ideal theme of boyhood happiness, I said, and whistled it. I turned on the radio and it was playing . . . PETER AND THE WOLF.
"That's Patrick Stewart!"
"I didn't know who he was, he just kept interrupting it."
"He's the greatest - he's - IT'S CAPTAIN PIC -" oh never mind. Now, my wife said it was understandable that he hadn't figured it out because he's a few months shy of 90, but no, I know my dad. It's because he didn't bother to figure out how it worked. So I showed him how to get the other stations. But back to the GPS. See? hit this HOUSE button, and you have all your options - See, here, Navigation.
A screen comes up that shows where we are with the street names.
"I can just look out the window and see that."
Yes I KNOW but if you're going some where you can tell it -"
"That's what I said, you have to program it."
Well, yes - see this face? With the lines coming out of the mouth? Push this button and tell it where you want to go.
"I know where I want to go. I don't go anywhere I don't know where I'm going."
Again, you can say: 90. No. This was my dad at 45. Relentlessly mulish but funny, and completely self-aware he is being blithe and stubborn. And not caring one way or the other. However he had it worked out, it worked out for him. He said he didn't want the sofa bed pulled out because he slept in the La-Z-Boy these days, for example. But we can pull out the bed. I'm fine just sitting. But the sofa doesn't recline. Look, it's no problem, we'll pull it out. Don't have to bother. I'M PULLING IT OUT JUST IN CASE. I MIGHT NOT BE ABLE TO WIND UP THE HOSE REEL BUT I CAN TAKE OUT THE SOFA BED.
Wife: did you pull out the bed? Me: He doesn't want it. Wife: Oh, no, he has to have the bed. Me: I've asked him three times. I'm going to take his word for it. Wife: Go pull out the sofa bed and show him how to use the TV. Me: He doesn't want to watch TV. He wants to read the paper. Wife: he might get up early and want to watch the TV. Me: he won't. He will sit there and wait for everyone else to get up. Wife: Tell him to come upstairs and get the paper! Me: Okay.
Okay, Dad, here's the button to turn on the TV. I'll just read the paper. Fine, but in the morning, if you want, there it is. And you can come upstairs and turn on the coffee pot, it's ready to go.
Next morning: Of course he was up at 5:30 and did not watch the TV or come up to make coffee. Wife: did you tell him how to turn on the TV? NO, I HID THE REMOTE IN THE TOILET TANK. Because I want my father to stare at the wall for two hours. GAH. He's a grown man. There are books downstairs. Before Thanksgiving dinner he spent half an hour in the rocking chair looking at the collection of Winsor McKay illustrations, and enjoying every page. I know my dad. He does want he wants to do. I will ask him three times. I won't ask a fourth.
So we get to the Pancake restaurant. Packed. Seated promptly. Me, Dad, Daughter. Dad looks at the menu and utters the dreaded word.
"This is different," he says.
Neck hairs up. "I know what you mean by that. I know what our people mean. Different. What's the matter with it?"
"Are the pancakes thick?" Dad says.
"What do you mean?" But I know what he means.
"They're thick, they get chewy." I know. And then it's just doughy cakey crumbly unpleasantness. I point to the line on the menu: "Thin, fluffy."
"But that's these." Those were the specialty pancakes. "How about these." He points to the side order of pancakes that come with the egg dishes.
"I'm sure those are completely different pancakes and they are as thick as a Leon Uris novel. They're fine. It's a pancake restaurant. They've been around since 1959. Look at everyone around here, enjoying their pancakes."
"We should have gone to Perkins," Daughter says.
"Your mother wanted us to come here, because Grandpa can go to Perkins at home. This is different." Augh. "Not in that sense. Good different."
The waitress comes. Norsky-Svensky ya-sure-you-betcha, cheerful hardworking lifer.
"Are the pancakes thick?" Dad asks. I expel a gust. Waitress is unsure whether thick is good or bad.
"Are they thin and fluffy, he means," I say.
"Oh yah they're thin and fluffy." It seems to confuse her: are we actually arguing about pancake quality here at the Pancake House? She takes the order and beams and leaves.
"Don't be so thin-skinned," says my Dad, as he always said whenever I got the least bit spun up. Daughter sparks: it's the line I use on her, except I always say how much I hated it, and how I understood how it rankled, and I'm using it as a joke, sort of, except in a way I kinda mean it. She's seeing THE ORIGINAL TEXTS played out before her.
"We used to go downtown after church for pancakes," Dad says.
"I know. Smitty's."
"Was that the name?"
"Yes. They had circles of smiling people on the wall, I remember that."
I wanted him to know I remembered it, and that it was a good memory.
The food arrived quickly, and we tucked in.
"These are good pancakes," Dad said.
"Ugh the syrup is thin" said daughter, but waved it away as a minor irritation. When the bill came, Dad paid; Dad always paid. We drove back to the house, and he didn't criticize my driving once. Miraculous. I didn't give him his keys, because I never had his keys. The car is activated by a fob that does not need to be inserted; it just needs to be close. If he's there, the car starts. If he's not, it won't. When I dropped them off at the Pancake place and parked in the lot, the car's video screen warned me that its master had wandered off with the precious fob.
But now the car was running, the seats were hot, the wheel was warm, the radio was turned to the right station. He gave his granddaughter a hug, which she returned with doubled strength, and then we shook hands.
"A manly handshake," Daughter laughed, and I wanted to say "I tried hugs for a while. He's really more of a handshake guy in this type of son-related situation."
More reminders to thank my wife for all she did, and off he drove.
I went up the stairs and tried to crank the handle on the hose reel. Frozen solid. It's suppose to be warm enough Tuesday so I can store it and put it away. I will call him and tell him I did it. He's right, of course. I should have put it in. I'm sure I had a reason I didn't. Should have programmed myself to do it. But I didn't.
So WE'RE EVEN.
It's time! It's time for CHRISTMAS THINGS! I refuse to admit their existence before Thanksgiving, but now that the time of fowl-related gratitude has passed, we can dip into the vast amount of Yulified Commodities, and enjoy the way everything gets Christmassy until we CAN'T STAND IT anymore.
I suppose I have proof somewhere of last year's Captain Crunch limited edition; I don't want to look. I woud hate to think they just recycle it.
The Tree is a Holday Shape. Three spheres of increasing size are Holiday Shapes. Both of these things will exist past the Holiday, but they will no longer be Holiday Shapes.
You know the season is relying on the most general, vague, broad concepts when the phrase Holiday Shapes is found on everything from cereal to prefab snack cakes to gummies to crackers. But if it's not a Holiday Shape, it's a . . .
Holiday Color. Of which there are two.
Well, this isn't very good.
No, wait - some reviewers call it a lost noir classic, or an underrated noir classic. It is not lost, it is not noir, it is not a classic, and a middling rating of 6.5 - 7.2 is precisely the right rating. So why am I bothering? You'll see. This is actually something of a test. The question: NAME THAT PLANET.
It's Turkey, during the war. Think that "Casablanca" vibe, where the powers meet in shadowy contests. We meet an ingratiating Russian arms dealer.
We meet the American munitions merchant.
Can you name that planet yet? No? Well, this won't help. There's an assassin following the players, a big greasy guy who plays a certain record before he goes on his assignments. It always skips at a certain spot to increase the level of tension, because people hate that and wish someone would fix it already.
he two arms dealers go to a club, where Danger and Romance loom. Literally:
And then someone's shot, and the American has to go on a ship to escape. We meet this fellow, a milquetoast socialist; he's played by XX, and you might think: ah, the planet is Mars. No. But that eliminates one.
C'mon. By now you must know the planet.
Well, while you chew that over, let's admit that the movie does have some interesting visuals:
Imagine sitting towards the front of the theater amd seeing this:
Here's a peculiar sign of the era: something like this meant you were in territory where you would possibly face less danger, because we were all friends and comrades these days:
The presence of Stalin was a reassurance.
But there's a tense scene as the killer tries to get our hero while he's walking on a rain-soaked ledge on the second floor of the hotel. It's pretty good, and makes up for the rest of the movie. It looks interesting, and the camera angles are sharp, but it's just missing a certain punch - and it's only 68 minutes long.
There just doesn't seem to be a great deal of enthusiasm, but no one's unhappy. It just doesn't have it.
Okay, one more. The Important Secret Policeman.
Add all those actors up - including the last one, who was supposed to direct but didn't - and you have a planet, right? Right. That one.
First to name it in the comments gets a No-Prize!
That's it for today! See you tomorrow.