newest entry 2002-12-04 2:45 p.m.

Our Thanksgiving trip was pretty cool. We drove out to Chicago with Coney, who spent most of the 15-hour drive curled up in either my lap or Monkey’s. The automotive rumbling and his warm heft made for a relaxing trip, punctuated by exciting truck-stop meals and clandestine off-leash runs behind gas stations in below-zero weather.

I read Amsterdam when I wasn’t driving. (I liked it a lot, and look forward to the rest of my McEwan spree—reading a bunch of works by one author has a pleasantly devotional quality to it.)

Driving! It had been eight years since I last drove a car, and my re-initiation involved barreling across Route 80 at the tail end of morning rush hour, surrounded by trucks with huge chunks of snow falling off of them into the road. After the initial panic faded, a sort of cautious joy spread through my body. I popped in ”Green River” and morphed back into my drivin’ Jersey girl self.

This Thanksgiving was the first time—ever--that MonkeyMom, MonkeyDad and StepMonkeyMom had sat down at a table together. Monkey’s parents divorced bitterly in 1984.

The dinner went well—no scenes, just pleasant chatter, amazing food cooked by Monkey’s brother Jem and a couple of big ol’ yuks. I have my own problems with the Chicago Monkeys, but nothing that wasn’t smoothed over with a lot of pranayama and hatha in my guest room.

It was also the first time that Coney encountered snow (he loved it!) and all his dog cousins. It was a joy watching all 6 dogs together. They fought some, but eventually they learned to get along. All the Monkeys are obsessed with our pups—about 75% of our conversation throughout our vacation centered on dog concerns.

The day after T-giving we attended an AA meeting with MonkeyMom. I’ve been to 12-step meetings as a guest before (a surprising amount of times, actually) and have had a variety of responses to the experience, but this time I found it tremendously moving. There was a genuinely spiritual feeling in the room and everyone was nice, articulate, and witty. I’m glad we could be there for MM; she’s a good egg, and something of a scapegoat/black sheep in that family.

We saw Comedian which was terrific—footage of Jerry Seinfeld roaming the country, attending open-mics, developing a whole new set of material. I wish someone would make a film about music open-mics, and developing songs. Has this been done? To show the actual heartache and sweat and disaster in the lower echelons of the music world?

For the first night o’ Hanukah we drove up to the ancestral estate in Michigan, where the dogs got to roam free in the orchards and snowdrifts. Coney was elated, as were we. Country livin’ really ironed all his kinks out—his neurotic tendencies disappeared overnight. (Soon to return, I’m sure, now that we’re back in Brooklyn).

We drove back on Sunday night, via Canada so we could visit Niagara Falls (which is like Asbury Park in the snow—-concession stands and dumpy attractions). We drove right into a storm, and had to stop for the night, two nights in a row: first at the worst Howard Johnson’s of all time, located in London Ontario, where we watched the relentlessly mediocre My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and then the next night in Painted Post, NY. I had a blast. Like I said yesterday, I could quite happily live out the rest of my days driving from one Best Western to the next, eating at their little restaurants, using their little soaps.

As for the driving part, I felt like we were pioneers, hauling our worldly goods from town to town in search of home. True, the interstate road system and all its amenities were there for us, but the inclement weather shut all those amenities down, and driving was treacherous, so there was some good ol’ danger in the mix to make things fun.

On the way back, I read Anything Goes by Madison Smart Bell, which is a “rock-n-roll novel” that is no worse than any other “rock-n-roll novel”. That is to say that the embarrassingly showboat-y passages about music theory and playing are mixed in with some actual good, subtle writing about life. You can hear MP3’s of the songs in the book at the link above. The lyrics are by the fellow who wrote the poem that “All I Wanna Do” is based on.

I guess I'm leaving out a lot of the emotional content of the trip, and there was a lot. But this entry is long enough!

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