I am especially thankful at this time of year for an opportunity to exercise my gluttony in a socially acceptable forum. It's just too bad that I don't love turkey all that much. I wish those damn pilgrims and Indians had rustled up some chicken-fried steak lo those many years ago. Nonetheless, I usually eat a good kilo or two of the fowl out of holiday spirit and just for the sport of it. For me, at Thanksgiving, side-dishes are where it's at. Also pie.
Most Americans have experienced the after-effects of Thanksgiving gluttony, which usually hover somewhere between indolent satisfaction and bloated regret. People who allegedly care about your health might tell you that it's a bad idea to stuff yourself beyond the point of discomfort. But those people are killjoys and Grinchy McScrooges. So while the following story contains some practical advice for avoiding holiday deaths, please do not construe it as an indictment of gluttony itself, which, while potentially deadly, should not be considered shameful.
Several years ago, we traveled to a city not too far from where we live to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner with some family and friends. Since my wife doesn't like me giving away too many geographical details on the pervert-ridden interwebz, let me just say that this is a city known for it's entertainment industry and institutionalized narcissism. It's like an American version of Bollywood.
The feast was hosted by my wife's sister's husband's half-sister at the home of one of her "industry" friends, a sprawling ranch house at an exclusive address. There were probably twenty-five guests there, four of whom we knew. Almost all of them were involved in film or TV.
You might think that provincial working folk like Dr. Mom and me would have been intimidated in this semi-glamorous setting, but you would be wrong. I was teaching high school at the time, and Dr. Mom, of course, was healing the sick and raising the dead like she does. I felt confident that our realness would be a breath of fresh air to people who are used to associating with industry phonies and flakes. They would appreciate the scope of our self-sacrifice and heroism from having studied movies like Awakenings and To Sir with Love.
After a pre-dinner cocktail hour during which I won over our new friends with harrowing stories of teaching at an urban public high school (sure, it was a performing arts magnet school, but there were a lot of dance-fights and I was constantly breaking up sing-offs), we sat down to eat.
I've never been one to cleave to social niceties when it comes to eating. I'm happy to be the first person to hit the hors d'oeuvres spread or line up at the buffet table. Someone's got to do it, right?
So I made no pretense of dainty eating habits at this event. I tore lustily into the vittles while swilling wine and chatting boisterously with my companions across the table.
Just as I was reaching the climax of a riveting story about damn kids these days, my words dried up. It was as if someone had hit my "mute" button. My mouth was moving, but no sound came out. I tried to inhale but could only take in quick sips of air. I flashed my interlocutor the raised index finger gesture, universally understood to mean "just a minute" (or "we're number one"), and pounded my fist against my chest. Still no air.
My wife noticed my pounding and gesticulating and became concerned.
"Are you choking?" She asked.
I nodded and put my hands on my throat in the gesture universally understood to mean "I'm choking" (or "I enjoy auto-erotic asphyxiation"). By this time, everyone at the table was hip to what was going on, having worked on medical dramas or played doctors on TV.
Dr. Mom flew into action. She grabbed my arm and dragged me into the kitchen, not wanting to make a scene at the table. It was pretty unlikely that I would die or endure much brain damage before we got to a secluded space, and decorum is important to my wife.
Once in the kitchen, she threw her arms around my midsection from behind, and despite weighing about half as much as I do, lifted me off the ground with a powerful thrust.
I was a little dizzy by that point, and I don't know if my recollection of what happened next is accurate, but in my mind's eye I see a hunk of white meat hurtling through the air, hitting a hanging saucepan with a muffled clang, and landing on the tile floor right in front of a lounging tabby cat who casually devours it.
After I got myself back together, we headed back to the dining room. I was feeling a bit foolish, and dreading the awkwardness that would follow.
But my fears were misplaced, because as we approached the table, the guests erupted into a hearty round of applause.
What could I do? I took a deep bow and then gestured toward my wife, whereupon the applause became louder, and shouts of 'brava' could be heard above the din. These were people who enjoyed a great performance.
So take a lesson from me. If you don't already know how to do the Heimlich Maneuver, check out this video. The life you save could be your own. Or more likely the greedy blowhard sitting next to you.