Lee Wochner: Writer. Director. Writing instructor. Thinker about things.



My wife decided that what she wanted to make for Thanksgiving this year was reservations.

Here’s how we arrived at that.

I told her that all I wanted to do on Thanksgiving was eat Thanksgiving dinner, and then watch the new Scorsese/De Niro/Pesce/Pacino film “The Irishman” on Netflix. Some years I’ll cook Thanksgiving dinner, sure, but not frequently and not this year, because all I wanted to have to do with it was eat it. It’s been a productive but stressful year, and recent weeks in particular have been jam-packed (as the paucity of entries here will confirm), and so I just wanted to eat, and watch a movie. Oh, and play “Skyrim” on the PS4 in the morning. That was it.

“Do you want to go out for Thanksgiving?” she asked.

“I don’t care. If you want to cook Thanksgiving dinner, great, I’ll eat it here. If you’d rather go out, great, I’ll eat it there. Either way is fine. Whatever you want to do.”

“Okay. So should we go out?”

“Er… I don’t care. Fine with me either way.”


“Okay,” I said. “So… what’re we gonna do?”

“Well…” she said, “should we go out? For Thanksgiving?”

This went on a few more times over a few days, until finally she texted me that the doves had been released, a decision had been reached, and she’d made reservations.

The place we went to is the local foothold of a middling chain of steakhouses that we’ve found we actually like. There’s a full bar of pretty good drinks, the steaks and sides are better than you’d expect, and the price can be shockingly low for this sort of thing. Our turkey dinners were twenty-one bucks each, and came with turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, gravy, broccoli, your choice of soup or salad, all the water you can drink, and even a cloth napkin and cutlery. A friend joined us, and the friend amiably ordered the turkey dinner and seemed to enjoy it too. Our son ordered a steak, just to prove that he could have steak on Thanksgiving.

Our server was a young man who introduced himself as *mumble.* As in, “I’ll be your waiter. If there’s anything you need, just let me know. My name is *mumble*.”

“Excuse me,” I said, “what’s your name?”

“Darwin,” he said. And instantly I knew why he’d mumbled it. Towering over me by about three stories, and with the scant and knobby build of a giraffe wandered in from the savannah, Darwin was also afflicted with a silly first name that probably made middle school difficult.  (Or, maybe not, this being California.)

Darwin’s service proved to be a mixed bag. He told my son that French fries weren’t available — although we later saw two tables directly across from us, each with towering piles of French fries. He also had a disturbing habit of holding some of the drinks near the rim — i.e., where your mouth would go. But most terrible to me was his inability to say “You’re welcome,” or even the miserable “no problem” that makes me cringe. When he brought me my carafe of wine (don’t judge), I said, “Thank you.” He said, “Uh huh.” When he brought my meal, I said, “Thank you.” He said, “Uh huh.” And so on. I wondered if anyone had ever introduced Darwin to the idea of saying “You’re welcome,” and that perhaps I should be the one to help this young man out in this way, being an educator as I am, but then I thought if there was one sure way to ruin Thanksgiving dinner for my wife, it would be for me to get into it with Darwin, no matter how well-intended. Another thing:  When we were seated at our table, we saw the receipt before us had a zero indelibly inscribed right on the tip line; that seemed pretty lousy to me, to stiff a waiter working on Thanksgiving, and said so volubly to our little party. So, even though I had some misgivings about Darwin’s professionalism, I did tip him, and reasonably — mostly because I didn’t want to be someone who’d stiff a waiter working on Thanksgiving. Especially after I’d maligned the previous people at our table.

Back home, we did watch “The Irishman.” It’s now late the next day, and my son is finally talking to me again; this is the third time in five months that he’s had to endure a movie that I “made” him watch without letting him first see a trailer that, armed as he is in his own eyes with an incredible power of discernment, would warn him off.  I’ll never live this one down.  “The Irishman” is overloMollieWochnerng and undramatic, and its few brief highlights seem cobbled together from previous mob movies and previous mob characters Scorsese introduced us to long ago. It’s a bad waste of 3.5 hours, which to a teenager must seem like a month, and proved to be a terrible way to cap off Thanksgiving. I promptly went on Facebook to savage it in a post that currently has 128 comments, almost all of them in agreement with me. One friend said she did “like” it, but then admitted to having dozed off — a ringing endorsement indeed.  I went on Rotten Tomatoes and saw that our nation’s finest film critics seem unified in their adoration of this film, leading me to conclude that we need new film critics. Either that, or we have a payola scandal.

Thanksgivings differ across the land, in nature and in form, and so, I leave you with this:  a photo of my indomitable 94-year-old mother enjoying her breakfast on the day before Thanksgiving. This is a woman who has never counted a calorie in her life but is in no way the worse for it, a woman who enjoys every single day and every meal, who has a shot of whiskey every night before bed, and who will be glad to tell you exactly what is on her mind at all times. Her meals are courtesy of my sister and brother-in-law, who lovingly prepared this one as well. We should all be so lucky. I’m sure every aspect of her Thanksgiving was flawless.

One Response to “Thanks-giving”

  1. Dan Says:

    Lovely Holiday Story!

    With my relatives, it’s not really a family get-together till a neighbor calls the cops.

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