Thursday, November 24 2011
At around noon today, I started up the boiler for the season. As always after such a long sleep, there was crud to be scraped from its eyes and cobwebs to be brushed from its mechanisms before it could be relied upon to produce household heat. The main problem was that a couple of the Honeywell zone valves had lost some of their range of motion and couldn't quite flip the switch to turn on the pump at the end of their valve-opening travel.
Gretchen had coordinated with the people who would be coming over for today's Thanksgiving meal, including our neighbor Andrea from a few doors up the street. Andrea has completely different taste than we do (she goes for the English Cottage look and goes non-ironically nuts over doilies and chintz), so it was a bit of a risk to have Andrea contribute in any way other than the preparation of vegan macaroni and cheese, but the candles and flowers Andrea brought over weren't too bad (though the flowers, which were real, looked fake).
People arrived at 2:00pm, and due to a number cancellations, we only had five guests: Sarah the Vegan, Michæl the lawyer/animal rights activist, Robert (one of Gretchen's former prisoner-students), Deborah, and Andrea. Deborah brought her new dog, a lanky 30 pound hound mutt named Al Lou (it's probably on the no fly list). Deborah said he'd been so shy she feared he'd want to spend the evening in her car, but we somehow brought him out of his shell. He was running around and playing with Eleanor and even warmed up to the men in attendance (Deborah said he'd been especially shy around them). Most amusing was Al Lou's response to our cats. He followed Marie (aka "the Baby") around in fascination and she finally had to smack him upside the head to get some peace. And he assumed Clarence (who is always surprisingly bold and non-belligerent with canine guests) was a potential playmate, repeatedly going into puppy play position and making encouraging noises.
I'd made a roaring fire in the woodstove that quickly raised the temperature of the living room to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, helped somewhat by relatively balmy temperatures outside.
After eating nuts and crackers with dip in the living room, we all went for a hike down the Farm Road to the abandoned go cart tracks (41.926795N, 74.111388W). Some of us were wearing glowing orange hunter's caps to protect ourselves from being shot by hunters. This included one I'd made for Gretchen that read "VEGAN" as well as one I'd made for myself that said "NAMBLA." The NAMBLA label initiated a dialogue (mostly between Robert, Michæl, and me) about the child molestation scandal sweeping Penn State, while the need to wear orange at all led me to tell Andrea about the time someone dropped dead in her Shenandoah Valley garden from a stray bullet that the Augusta County Sheriff's office never felt the need to investigate because "it probably was from a hunter."
Back at the house we had a feast featuring stuffing, mac and "cheese," a nut loaf, gravy, cranberry sauce, and many other things. The seven of us also somehow managed to drink four or five bottles of wine.
Robert and Sarah were spending the night in our guest rooms, but (since the night had begun so early), we still needed something to do together after the other guests left. We started out watching part of Henry's Crime. I would have gladly watched the rest, but Gretchen couldn't take Keanu Reeves' terrible acting. So instead we watched Bad Teacher, which proved surprisingly entertaining. It followed a formula similar to that of the also-delightful Bad Santa in that it portrayed the life of poorly-behaving person who has chosen career revolving around children.
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