Thanksgiving 2021 (last part)

I think one of the reasons that Joyce wanted to do Thanksgiving this year was so she could make the most spectacular Thanksgiving table I’ve ever seen. It was amazing even by Joyce’s holiday décor standards. She even went to a paint-a-plate place and handpainted the plates we used for dessert with fall designs, each plate different. Joyce is definitely getting a lot out of the crafting room I made for her.
Keaton, Travis and Mrs. LaSalle all drove over in Keaton’s truck, and arrived bearing pies. Mrs. LaSalle took two days to bake (Mrs. LaSalle: “it’s not like I have much else to do these days”) and came up this year with pumpkin, key lime and coconut cream.
“The only thing I didn’t do was roll out pie crust,” she said as the pies were handed off to Joyce. “So I read a whole chapter in a cookbook about crumb crusts. Lucinda helped me make crumbs and not get them all over the floor. She also got me the key limes, which she called ‘limón verde mexicano.” I don’t know how we ended up talking about limes one day, but when she mentioned that her market has key limes, I got a craving for key lime pie.” Then she turned to me. “I’m sorry I didn’t do sweet potato this year, but I wasn’t sure how it would turn out with a crumb crust. Of course no one really likes pumpkin pie…”
“…I do!,” interjected Travis.
Mrs. LaSalle looked at him.
“Really? That’s great then. Lucinda shan’t have opened the can of pumpkin in vain.” Mrs. LaSalle held up her hands. “I’m afraid I’m no good with a can opener any more these days. They just don’t work the way they used to. But I should add that it was a can of straight pumpkin and I made the filling with that. I didn’t just buy a can of pumpkin pie filling and dump it into a Keebler crust.”
Joyce put out her usual Yankee Thanksgiving spread – roast turkey, herb stuffing (baked in a pan…Joyce said that it’s called dressing when you do that so your guests don’t all die from salmonella poisoning), mashed potatoes, gravy, yams with marshmallows, green bean casserole (Joyce: “I don’t see the point of it…but everyone seems to expect it even though we never had it growing up) and, in one concession to her Southern boyfriend, biscuits in place of rolls. It was all totally bombass. Between Joyce, Belen and Mrs. Bedrossian, I’m definitely getting spoiled when it comes to good food.
Once she had the turkey and all the trimmings on the table, Joyce asked about the Turkey Bowl, “since the three of you played in it this year.”
“Turkey Bowl?,” Mrs. LaSalle asked.
“A pick-up football game played on the morning of Thanksgiving,” Keaton explained. “We’ve been playing in one in San Marino for the past four years.”
“Oh, of course,” Mrs. LaSalle said. “My sons used to go out back and throw a football around while I was cooking and call it a Turkey Bowl.”
“The San Marino game is a lot more organized than that,” Joyce said. “How many of you were there?”
“9 to a side, like usual,” I said. “It’s a game for guys who played. It’s been getting progressively rougher, so, if you don’t know how to get tackled or blocked, you’re gonna be in trouble.”
“It didn’t used to be as rough as it’s gotten,” Travis said. “That’s partly because of you.” He looked at me.
“Me??”
“Yes. You’re the quarterback and you set the tone.”
“I think he means you and your boyfriend, bubba.”
“Boyfriend?,” Joyce and Mrs. LaSalle asked.
“This jerkoff who gets into it with me every year. He keeps calling me ‘pretty boy’ and then pulls shit like sacking me as though I were Tom Brady or something. So I do the only thing I can do…retaliate. Which I know how to do.”
“He’s the only quarterback I’ve seen who can block,” said Keaton.
“The Block Block,” I said, proudly. “Not something us pretty boy quarterbacks usually do.”
“So who’s this…what did you call him?,” Mrs. LaSalle asked.
“Jerkoff,” Keaton said with a smirk.
“Jerkoff,” said Mrs. LaSalle. “In my day we’d have said dumb-dumb.” She smiled. She has a wonderful smile, and perfect teeth. (Mrs. LaSalle: “when I got dentures it was my chance to finally get perfect teeth, so I went for it.”) “So tell us about him.”
“I don’t know anything about him,” I answered. “I don’t even know his name. I only see him this once a year, and he calls me ‘pretty boy’ all the time. He made a crack about me being on TV this year, too. He started it four years ago by pretty much tackling me when it was still supposed to be a flag football game. (That’s when we wear velcro flags around our waist and you pull off a guy’s flags rather than taking him down.) So I had no choice but to get him back on the field. And it’s escalated. This year I didn’t even worry about the rules and just took him down any time I got the chance. That means every time he got the ball and we were on D.”
“The troll definitely got the worst of it this year,” said Keaton.
“But who is this troll?,” Joyce asked. “I keep hearing about how my boyfriend beats him up every hear but I still don’t know anything about him.”
Me and Keaton just looked at each other.
“That’s all we know,” Keaton said. “Except that he’s an ugly troll and he probably has it in for bubba because of his looks.”
“Hold on,” Joyce said, “isn’t it gay for you to be able to tell that this troll person is ugly?”
“If they’re ugly enough you can tell,” said Keaton. “And that’s not the same as being able to tell that a dude is good-looking.”
“Although you did admit at my party that Luke’s good-looking.”
“Was he the young man with the dark hair and the sneakers to go with his Armani suit?,” Mrs. LaSalle asked. “He certainly is good-looking. Almost as good-looking as our Hunter. But I’m with Joyce…I want to hear more about the troll.”
“I actually know something about him,” Travis said. “He’s from San Marino, and, yeah, he’s a total trollass. Always has been. He was at school at the same time as Dylan, and he had a reputation for being a jerkoff even back then. From the way Dylan used to tell it, he wanted to be a jock, never made first string anything, and, when he played, was always taking cheap shots at the star players. That’s how he got himself thrown off a bunch of teams.” Travis then spoke using the experience he had from all the years of therapy he got. “He is kinda ugly, although maybe troll is giving the ladies an unfair idea. It’s not like he looks like Shrek or anything. But he’s probably never had a girlfriend for any length of time, and, yeah, he’s clearly jealous of Hunter – his looks, his obvious success with women, and now his being on TV. Heck, if Hunter weren’t one of my best friends in the world, I’d be jealous of him myself.” He laughed.
“Or…,” Keaton suggested, “maybe it’s all repressed homosexuality and he’s secretly in love with bubba.”
“Weirdass way of showing it,” I said.
“He gets your attention, don’t he?”
“Yeah. And he gets his ass ground into the dirt every year too.”
“Does the troll-jerkoff have a name?,” Mrs. LaSalle asked.
“Michael. Michael Loring.”
“You know,” Mrs. LaSalle said, “I think I might know his parents. Or grandparents. “There were San Marino Lorings in our set. Boring Pasadena society people,” she explained. “Mr. LaSalle and I tried to have as little to do with them as we could, but we still had to have a Christmas party and belonged to a country club. You know, I was the patrician Pasadena girl…1946 Rose Queen and all.” Joyce and I exchanged ‘how come we didn’t know that?’ looks. “I married ‘beneath’ myself: Mr. LaSalle was up and coming in my father’s law firm, but he wasn’t from a ‘good’ (Mrs. LaSalle made the air quotes) Pasadena family. But it turned out very well for me at least.”
That led into Mrs. LaSalle telling us about the ostrich race she went to when she and Mr. LaSalle were in Morocco. She’s not only had this whole awesome life, but she’s a great storyteller too. Travis, who met her for the first time at my birthday party, didn’t know that she had such great stories to tell, and she had him hanging on her every word. I think it totally sucks that Mrs. LaSalle’s family leaves her out of their holiday plans, but their loss is definitely our gain.
I think we were all very thankful to have each other this year, which is kind of what we all said when we unofficially went around the table to say what it was that we were most thankful for. Travis, especially, seems super glad to have found us to spend the holiday with (Travis: “there’s always a ton of drama when my family gets together…we can’ t just sit around and have a nice time like you guys do.”)
We then had our pie and coffee. The pies were all great, even the coconut cream, which was supposed to have a coconut crust but it didn’t turn out and stuck to the pie plate, much to Mrs. LaSalle’s annoyance.
“I wanted to make coconut cream pie and I just made coconut cream,” she said. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t apologize,” Keaton said. “It’s fuckin bomb, even without a crust. The filling’s the best part of coconut cream pie anyway.”
“Thanks. I’ll try again for Christmas. That is, if you’ll have me. I don’t know where my family is going…I don’t even pay attention to their plans anymore…but I look forward to being here with people I can appreciate. Does your grandmother make coconut cream pie?,” she asked, turning to me.
“Yes ma’am. I don’t think there’s any kind of pie she hasn’t made over the years.”
“I should video chat with her and maybe she can talk me through making a real crust without making a huge mess all over the floor like Lucinda got stuck cleaning up last year.”
Joyce went into the kitchen to get more coffee and realized how late it was. She was a little annoyed when she came back and said that she’d have no time to clean up before we went to Adam and Allan’s…and nobody wants to have to come home to a house full of dirty dishes. (Least of all me…since I knew I was going to be helping Joyce wash them lol.)
“Sorry to have to chase you three away,” she then said, looking at the guests, “but Hunter and I have promised to go to Allan and Adam’s for pie. I’m sure you’d be welcome…”
“Thanks,” said Keaton, “but I’m about ready to slip into a turkey coma. Adam’s cool and all that, but I’m not sure I want to meet the rest of the family.” I wasn’t sure I could blame Keaton: Adam’s sister had some major psychological problems a few years back and almost got put in an institution as a result. “Besides, I have to drive Mrs. LaSalle home.”
“Relax, man,” I said. “Nobody’s holding you to it. Travis, I’m sure they’d be glad to see you, though. You’ve known Adam for years and Allan is pretty cool.”
“Yeah…and has a huge thing for bubba,” said Keaton, with a smirk.
“I’ll just go back home with Keaton and maybe watch some football,” Travis said. “This has been a lot of socializing for me, even though it’s been awesome. And don’t forget I played football this morning. If I get around too many people it sometimes sends me down the manic slope.”
“Then by all means take care of yourself,” Joyce said.
Keaton did insist on clearing the table before he left, even though it made us even later for Adam and Allan’s.
Turns out we weren’t all that late when we got there: there’d been a bit of an incident earlier in the afternoon that put their schedule off.
The incident wasn’t really caused by Adam’s sister, Leslie (the one who had Munchausen’s Syndrome by Proxy), but rather by the court-ordered nurse. If y’all can think back to two years ago, when Leslie had been released from house arrest just in time for Thanksgiving, she and her husband Thom brought along a super nice nurse (another Belen), who brought tamales and sat with us all at table and was just another pleasant person to have as part of the company.
Belen is no longer with Leslie, and, as Joyce explained to me on the way home, they’ve had trouble replacing her. Belen left because she was pregnant and wanted to start her own family, and the nurse they had to bring along on Thanksgiving was totally meanass. From what I understand, she refused to join everyone else at table, and then complained that she had to sit in the kitchen by herself the whole time. So there was an explosion – Thom apparently gave her a piece of his mind (the balls he only discovered 2½ years ago seem to be coming in just fine) – for making a scene at Thanksgiving in front of everyone else, and then Leslie got all upset and apparently started to cry. The nurse then apparently said that she wanted to leave, but she’s court-ordered, and Leslie can’t be alone with Ethan without the nurse. (One thing is for sure: I sure as heck wouldn’t have wanted to have someone like that nurse in the room every time I was with Mom. It would have been hard enough with a nice nurse like they used to have.) So the nurse stayed and sat in the living room with her arms crossed and made a face for the rest of the evening. That much I can say for certain, since that’s how things were once me and Joyce got there.
It sucks that Leslie, Thom and Ethan still have to have the full-time nurse and surprise social worker visits, but the good news is that Leslie looks a lot better than she did two years ago. She had make-up on and was dressed up in black slacks and high heels. She may not be cured in the eyes of the court, but she’s clearly improved since me and Joyce saw her last 2 years ago.
Thom, turns out, had COVID last winter (apparently there were problems of Leslie relapsing into her hypochondria while he was sick: she kept thinking she was sick too and was getting herself tested two times a day and shit), but it wasn’t too bad a case, and he know says that people are making too big a deal out of it. Yeah, he felt like shit for a week…he admits to that…but it’s not like he needed to go to the hospital or anything. I realize that COVID’s dangerous for older people like Mrs. LaSalle and Meemaw, but maybe people are making too big a deal out of it for younger people. I’m all for keeping older people safe…but maybe they didn’t need to make us all as scared and crazy as they did.
Anyway, Thom looks great (he and Leslie were invited to my birthday party, but they couldn’t make it), and Ethan’s amazing. He’s 9 and started playing football already. Thom says he’s a monster on the field, which is kinda cute and perfectly awesome, given what a sickly little kid he was when I first met him when he was 6. Everything’s not entirely normal with them, but they seem to be doing pretty good, given the circumstances. Leslie’s got a part-time job writing from home, which Thom said helps out a lot, since the price of a full-time nurse is apparently pretty astronomical.
Besides Thom, Leslie and Ethan, the guests included Carlos and Esteban, who I saw at my birthday party. (I still haven’t been on Carlos’ show. Carlos: “now that you’re a TV star we need to get you on…if you’re over the loss of your new best friend Corey Seager. Think you could explain the lockout to my listeners?” I told him I could try…but not in Spanish lol.)
Also there was the obnoxious girl who was there the first year we went to Adam and Allan’s for Thanksgiving…the one who kept dropping names of famous people like it was gonna impress me. She was a whole lot nicer to me this year, since she said I was “in the business.” I tried to explain that I’m not…that I just have a recurring part on a reality show and I haven’t acted since I played Lysander junior year in high school…but she kept trying to get me to tell her things about Maya…and, I could tell, to see if there was anything I could do for her career.
Also there, I’m afraid, was Frank the Scary Lesbian, looking scarier than ever. I can’t report anything else about her, since she looked through me the whole evening and didn’t address one word to me, not even ‘Happy Thanksgiving’. But we know she decided three years ago that I was a toxically masculine white supremacist or some shit like that. I thought it was kinda awkward, but Joyce said it was Frank’s loss if she didn’t want to get to know someone as nice as me.
There was also a gay couple Adam and Allan’s age, although I didn’t really get to talk to them, as they were down at the other end of the table from where I was sitting. The last guest y’all know: Ryan from the Parrots. Ryan’s been doing great, we’ve been able to tell at games (he can be a filthy softball pitcher when he needs to, too), but I think Adam likes to keep an eye on him…and definitely not leave him alone for the holiday. I don’t know much about AA and recovery, but, if everyone ‘in the program’ is as nice as Adam is to Ryan, it must be a pretty good thing.
Of course there was a sweet potato pie…this time done to Meemaw’s recipe, which Allan got out of her at my birthday party. It wasn’t exactly as good as the original…but it was better than I remember Allan’s other ones having been. (The other pies were apple, which I had a piece of and which was good, and lemon meringue…which Allan said he’d never made before, and was never going to make again lol.)
I think Joyce and I were there about an hour and 15 minutes, which was long enough for guests who show up for pie and coffee after dinner. It was nice catching up with everyone, but I was glad that we had dinner at Joyce’s with Keaton, Travis and Mrs. LaSalle.
I went home with Joyce afterwards and helped her clean up. There were a lot of dishes to wash (with Joyce, like with Mom, the ‘good’ china doesn’t go in the dishwasher) so I was kept busy until pretty late. It was the first Thanksgiving of my life that I didn’t get to watch any football, but it was a pretty cool one anyway. The only thing is that, by the time we went to bed, I was starting to feel the Turkey Bowl, especially in my blocking shoulder, which I hoped wasn’t going to show a bruise. I put ice on it before bed, though, and made sure to empty the ice maker into a plastic bag so there’d be plenty of ice in the morning, just in case I needed it.
The boys were off on Friday, so I got to hang out at Joyce’s Friday morning almost as late as I wanted. Turns out I did have a bruised shoulder, which means that, next time y’all see me in the gym on the show, I’m gonna be in a tshirt (Joyce: “for a change…it won’t kill you or your audience.”) I guess it serves me right for throwing my 29 year old body around like I was still in high school, but that’s the fun of a Turkey Bowl lol.

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