Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Gluttony, the deadliest sin: a Thanksgiving cautionary tale

Thanksgiving is one of the few holidays I can get behind, and that's because it's all about gluttony.  And thankfulness.  That's important too. I am deeply thankful for the bounty the Good Lord has placed before me in so many aspects of my life; and I hardly ever complain about the areas in which He screwed me over royally: hair, torso-length, sense of direction, and math.

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.


Here's a picture from last Thanksgiving (the twins' first).  It's one of my favorite pictures of the girls when they were really little.  Their weird aunt--my youngest sister-in-law--staged this one, creating all the props out of crap we had lying around the house.  The pilgrim hat and feather in the headdress are made out of a shopping bag, and the headband is wrapping paper.  I take credit for the buckle on the hat, which I forged out of aluminum foil.    



  1. Thank goodness you're not an addict of some kind.The cold turkey cure would kill you.

  2. that pilgrim hat is priceless!and they say men aren't creative! lol... when I worked in the schools I had to be certified in first aid... many of the teachers learned the Heimlich as well... your wife was nice, i would of Heimliched u right in front of everyone!.

  3. The part about tearing lustily into the vittles while swilling wine cracked me up man. That sounds like my kind of Thanksgiving!

  4. Gluttony FTW! And I say we join forces, along with any other gluttons that want on board, to officially change the main course protein to country fried steak - you have a brilliant idea there. I'm sure enough letters to... um, erm... well to SOMEONE would get the job done. By the way, the pic of your kids is wicked cute.

  5. So...who was there? C'mon, spill it. (Yeah, I know you choked and all...but there are celebrities involved here.) I won't tell anyone. Swearsies.

    Ok, fine.

    I loved this story and that picture is fantastic.

  6. "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."

    Hahah I LOVE your wife and I don't even know her! I can't decide if in all actuality, she is funnier than you or if your portrayal of her is what's funny. Hum?

    Are you a ham fan? We always make Turkey and Ham because I hate Turkey...

  7. The picture of your girls is absolutely killing me with their cuteness.

  8. I'm glad you didn't die. My dad Heimliched someone in Seattle once too. Good job Dr. Mom.

  9. The Hubster is also a man that endures turkey for tradition's sake. I actually like it.

    Funniest bits (why do I like to point these out? do you care?): "By this time, everyone at the table was hip to what was going on, having worked on medical dramas or played doctors on TV." And the description of the life saving event, complete with a cat acting exactly as cats do.

  10. Fist bumps to Dr. Mom! And because I'm so nice, I'm going to skip all the hiney lick jokes. You're welcome.

  11. Oh my God. Breaking up a dance-fight. I'm weak with how funny that is.

  12. @jacks--I would definitely need to taper off.

    @KBF--Well, I can't really take credit for the hat. But I did make the buckle all by myself! I=genius!

    @JM--That's the only kind of Thanksgiving, as far as I'm concerned. I'm starting to get excited about it.

    @Dr.C--I'm with you on the letter-writing campaign. Just have to figure out who's in charge of T-giving traditions. In my family, because we pretend to be German (long story), we have Wienerschnitzel for almost every special occasion. That's pretty much chicken-fried steak.

    @OTO--I don't think anyone *really* famous was there. Whenever I go to these kinds of things, my relatives point out all kinds of TV celebs, and I'm like, "Oh. Okay" because we ain't got the Tee Vee and all. Happy Thanksgiving!

    @Mrs. K--Dr. Mom is pretty funny, although the comedy is often unintentional. Ham is okay, but nothing I would get excited about.

    @Beckysworld--Sorry about the killing. It has the same effect on me. I've probably spent hours looking at that picture.

    @Nicole--I do care which parts you think are funny. It's good feedback since I have no idea what works and what doesn't when I'm writing. For reals.

    @Elly Lou--Thanks for staying classy regarding the heiney-lick jokes. Dammit. There was a discussion a long time ago on this blog about how to spell "heiney/hiney/heinie..." I remember that Steamy provided a definitive answer, but now I don't remember what it was.

    @Steamy--That school is a goldmine for funny. Half the kids are running around in leotards, and the other half are wannabe gang-bangers. Crazy dynamic.

  13. I'm thinking your torso issues may be the cause of your gluttony challenged dining experience.

    Either way, who cares...once I saw the Thanksgiving photo, I forgot all about your precautionary tale and spent the remainder of the time calling people over to my desk to see the picture, which resulted in a lot of ooh's and aah's in a very high pitch (so you know how cute everyone thought it was)

    I'm hoping that will help your gluttonous mindset by feeding your Daddy ego so you can go a little easier on the turkey this year. (ONLY the turkey, go ahead and go crazy on the sides and pies...since they are clearly not choke-inducing foodstuffs)

    Here's wishing a Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

  14. BD: As I recall with fondness, gluttony is also socially acceptable, nay, encouraged (especially for Anglo son-in-laws and their hangers on) at your mother in law's house. Bring on the suckling pig!

    Have a great Thanksgiving -- Best to Dr. Mom!


  15. That is amusing but also SCARY! I always dread this happening. I even watched your video there just in case I need to ever do it. :)

    Can I also just say, I ADORE your header. It is cracking me up.

  16. Now THAT'S a wife. A woman who can hoist you in mid-air to save your life? That's someone to hold on to.

    I love the pic -- particularly, how nonplussed the girls look regarding their outfits.

  17. Was there a catchy tune playing when your wife Heimliched you? That video demonstration has some smooth tunes in the background. Necessary before grabbing someone from behind.

  18. I think if I was choking on a piece of turkey my wife might actually hold a pillow over my face to help it along.

    And speaking of gluttony, even though Canada's Thanksgiving is in October, we're celebrating yours as well with a turkey dinner tomorrow. Come to think of it, that may well tie into my wife's plans for my early demise.

    Whatever, it's turkey.

  19. Well, you know how to make Turkey Day a "light" fare. I laughed so hard! I can assure you more embarrassing things have happened at large gatherings (don't ask). Have a wonderful holiday!

  20. types are always down for a good show.

    That picture is seriously adorable.

  21. Thank god we don't celebrate Thanksgiving over here! I hate turkey... BLEH! Ugly critters, who would want to eat one? LOL!
    Love the photo of the twins.
    p.s. Have had implant of last embryo, will know if I'm "Up the Duff" by the 7th Dec.

  22. Thanks for the safety lesson! That is some high-quality holiday drama. I laughed so hard my own bloated stomach hurt.

    My husband and I have also found, on a few notable occasions, that rich people love quality entertainment by "regular" folks. Sometimes there are even free drinks, meals, and quirky gifts to be earned by such behavior.

    Keep it real.

  23. Nice job on the foil buckle! I'm new to your blog and love it.

    If you get a chance, check out my new blog on educating children. It's called "Drill and Kill: Educating Zombies" and can be found here:

    Next post is coming in 4 days...

  24. Yowza! I don't guffaw very often, but I did reading this story. I almost stood up and shouted 'Bravo' for your wife too.

    We had flank steak. Yeah, we're nonconformist like that.

  25. Wicked cute babies, you greedy bastard. I wonder if anyone at the party used that moment as a "visceral sense memory" in their next project. You could be a muse.

  26. Sounds like one more reason to hate turkey. I'm with you. Give me a plate full of stuffing, mashed potatoes and a bowl of cranberry sauce and I'd be good.

  27. While I've never gotten to the heimlich stage, I often hoover up my food and end up inhaling a piece, which will then cause a good 10 minutes of choking, gasping, tearing and best of all burping. And no one has ever been thoughtful enough to drag me to a quiet room so as not to make a scene. Good times.

  28. As a former CPR instructor I can tell you that one of my best lines was tied into the Heimlich maneuver. We used to say that if you saved someone part of the fun was aiming their mouth at someone annoying.

    It was a cheap throwaway line, but people always laughed. Suppose that might have something to do with a captive audience.


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