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    Thanksgiving Dinner in New York: 10 People, 5 Dogs, and No Political Conversation

    By Louise “Lou” Fischer–

    This is a difficult time of year to be a political columnist. Other than the train-wreck administration and “never will happen” impeachment of the current President, there isn’t much to write about until the presidential primary of 2020, which in California has thankfully been moved up from June to March 3. That’s right, California decided it wanted to be in the cool-kid crowd on “Super Tuesday,” or maybe it was just fed up with the two homogeneously populated rural states of New Hampshire and Iowa having an oversized impact on choosing the nation’s presidential nominees. 

    This means that absentee ballots should drop on or about February 3, which is the same day as the Iowa caucus and over a week before the New Hampshire primary of February 10. For this reason, candidates will spend more time campaigning in California, giving love, attention, and facetime to voters, so if your dream is a coveted selfie with Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Senator Elizabeth Warren, or former Vice President Joe Biden, you might get that chance. 

    ‘Never discuss politics or religion in polite company’ or at Thanksgiving.

    In my family, there is an unwritten rule never to discuss politics at Thanksgiving. The topic of religion is fair game because we’re Jewish, and even if some of our guests are not Jewish, they are definitely “Jewish-adjacent” or, at the very least, “Jew friendly.” However, since my family’s November 1992 “Meltdown in Milford” (Connecticut), the topic of politics, especially presidential races, is completely and unequivocally off-limits.  

    At the Thanksgiving dinner of 1992, while half of my family was celebrating the end of the 12-year Republican Reign of Terror that was the Reagan and H.W. Bush administrations, the other half was sitting shiva (mourning) over the loss. Once we finished screaming, yelling, and name-calling (“single-issue voter!”; “right-wing populist!”; “ignorant liberal!”) and lamenting that each side had cancelled out the others’ votes, we realized that no one knew how our mother voted, and suddenly, she was the deciding vote for the whole family. Knowing that my mother was “mostly a Democrat,” I said, “Mom, you voted for Clinton, right?”  Without a single note of remorse or embarrassment, she responded, “I voted for Ross Perot. I liked his TV commercials.”  Needless to say, that was the end of political discussions in our family forever.

    Since my mother died 20 years ago, my “very Republican” younger sister has taken up the duty of hosting Thanksgiving. We continue to avoid the topic of presidential politics because no one wants to upset my 89-year-old father (thankfully, a proud Democrat!) by starting the equivalent of an MMA cage match. So, short of spiking the turkey gravy with MDMA (ecstasy), which is the only way we’d all get along, we tacitly acknowledge that to cut the tension in the room, we would need a knife sharper than the one we use to carve the turkey, so we talk about safe topics, like how much we love our dogs and cats. 

    Dogs help people get along.

    According to a recently completed study at Central Michigan University, when dogs are present, groups are closer and more cooperative in completing tasks. Unfortunately, the researchers did not expand the study to include the positive effects that dogs could have on avoiding political discourse at Thanksgiving dinner, but if they had, I think the results would have been scientifically significant. 

    My sister has 2 dogs, and in addition to the 2 she was babysitting and one brought by a guest, we had a healthy 2-to-1 ratio of people to dogs (10 people, 5 dogs). Without the dogs present, I’m pretty sure that I would not have been able to hold back my opinion that we cannot re-elect the corrupt, ignorant moron running the country along with the complicit (and evil) Senate that is setting back civil rights, immigration rights, women’s rights, and the entire judiciary system for at least the next 2–3 generations. So, take it from me: if you have difficult family gatherings in your future, bring (or borrow) some dogs, the more the merrier.  

    4 Days/4 Broadway Shows in New York City, Including 1 ‘Must-See’

    Now that my niece and nephew are grown and living in New York City, my partner Amy and I spend a few days in Manhattan before heading up to the sleepy, bucolic (and boring) hamlet of Westchester where my sister lives. Amy is an actress and I’m a big fan of live theatre, so our annual treks to New York City include seeing as many shows as possible. 

    I joined the Theatre Development Fund ( https://www.tdf.org/ ) to get ridiculously cheap tickets online—$45 for a Broadway musical! We wait in line at the TKTS ticket booth in Times Square for half-priced tickets, and for a show that we really want to see, we splurge on full-priced tickets. We’ve seen some big hits on the cheap during previews (The Band’s Visit) and we’ve seen some mediocrity, but it’s still “Broadway,” so even the worst show is pretty good. 

    On this trip our full-price show was Dear Evan Hansen and yes, it is as good as everyone says. We saw Tootsie on the cheap through TDF ($43); it was much better than we expected. Our off-Broadway (also discounted) show was The Imbible, a cabaret-style production set in an actual bar. It was about the history of alcohol and 3 cocktails were served to the audience during the show. The first half was very entertaining and I don’t really remember the second half because … well, 3 full cocktails.

    We also saw Jagged Little Pill, a new show that is still in previews. It is a jukebox musical with songs by Alanis Morissette. While this may seem like hyperbole, it was the best show that I’ve ever seen. Granted, I love the music of Alanis, but even if you don’t, see this show. It was the first and only time that I’ve been part of a standing ovation in the MIDDLE of the show. I think it will be bigger than Rent and might match the “impossible ticket to get” level of Book of Mormon and Hamilton

    I hope that everyone had a pleasant Thanksgiving; only a few more weeks to Christmas and Hanukkah!

    Thanksgiving by the Numbers

    1621 – First Harvest Celebration (between the Pilgrims and Native American members of the Wampanoag tribe);
    3 – Number of days of the first “Thanksgiving” in 1621;
    53 – Number of Pilgrims who attended the first Thanksgiving (down from the 102 who initially came over on the Mayflower);
    50-ish – Pilgrims who did not survive the first brutal winter;
    90-ish – Number of Native American men who attended (outnumbering Pilgrims 2-to-1);
    1863 – The year that President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the final Thursday in November as a national Thanksgiving holiday (more likely to unite the nation after the Civil War than to celebrate the Pilgrims);
    88 – Percentage of people in the U.S. who eat turkey on Thanksgiving;
    46 million – Number of turkeys eaten each Thanksgiving;
    65,000 – Number of sold-out seats at Detroit’s Ford Field stadium where the Lions have played the traditional Thanksgiving game versus the Chicago Bears every year since 1934;
    31.6 million – Forecast of passengers who traveled on U.S. airlines during the Thanksgiving holiday according to Airlines for America (airline trade organization);
    2925 miles– Distance in miles between my house in San Francisco and my sister’s in New York;
    12,426 miles – Distance between my sister’s and my political viewpoints (this is one mile more than the longest distance between two points on Earth). 

    Louise (Lou) Fischer is a Former Co-Chair of the Board of Directors for the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club and has served as an appointed and elected Delegate for the State Democratic Party. She is a proud graduate of the Emerge California Women’s Democratic Leadership program, was a San Francisco Commissioner, and has served in leadership positions in multiple nonprofit and community-based organizations.

    Published on December 5, 2019