Long story short, as a child I led an abnormal life. Not only were my parents dysfunctional, but I was plenty weird, too. It was kind of like living on the set of The Munsters — we had virtually no visitors; the apartment was dusty and gloomy; and I don’t remember any big holiday blowouts.
Things were different when I entered my early teens and started getting invited to friends’ houses for Thanksgiving. I loved being “adopted” for the day — parents always liked me because I was so nice and polite — and I got to spend the holidays in a nice house with a “real” family. Those are some of my best memories.
From then ‘til now, I’ve remained the perpetual guest — the wandering Jew, as it were — and to date I've never hosted a Thanksgiving dinner. My ex-boyfriend G had a big family who loved to get together and cook and eat and drink. So for the twenty years we were a couple, the holidays were always a no-brainer: we knew what our plans were, and all we had to do was show up for Christmas Eve, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, birthdays, and anniversaries. G’s mom was a great cook, but if she was taking a break from the hausfrau schtick, we’d go to a nice restaurant instead.
But since I’ve been with my current boyfriend BG (aka Clyde) things are a bit different. His family is scattered throughout the country, and G is mostly out of the picture, so we have no Thanksgiving hosts to glom from.
Moreover, Clyde used to work as a cook, so of course he not only hates to cook at home but also loathes going to restaurants, while I adore them. Even though we could afford a "real" restaurant every now and then, Clyde likes to watch the dollars — his and mine. So if he’s feeling really flush, we might wind up at Wendy’s or even a diner if we’re being tres rich and fancy.
Thus, in typical low-rent fashion, Thanksgiving will usually find us at the diner down the road which we affectionately refer to as the Toilet Bowl. It acquired this nickname during its bad old days, when you might wind up with burnt bacon and moldy toast for breakfast, or some sort of nauseating sauce smothered all over your meatloaf for dinner. The service was lackadaisical at best, and you were damn lucky if you got your eggs scrambled instead of over easy, or French dressing instead of Italian. In those older, rougher times, the toilet was seemingly open to all comers and was rather… how you say… challenging. Aside from being filthy, it was a rare occasion when one would find unused toilet paper, soap, and paper towels in the bathroom all at the same time. The used stuff was usually strewn in wads all over the nasty-ass floor.
I guess we tolerated it in part because it was the only game in town. Plus it was big and roomy with those neat booths and the little jukeboxes at each table. But our state of bathroom denial was eventually shattered on the afternoon I braved the ladies’ room and found the battle-scarred, pissed-stained toilet seat insouciantly flung on the floor. Thus the Toilet Bowl was born.
One of my fondest hobbies is taking stock of the still infinitesimal signs of upcoming gentrification in Clyde’s Bronx neighborhood, and the new and improved Toilet Bowl is just another harbinger of things to come. These days they’ve gone a bit more upscale. The food is noticeably better, as is the service. And now you actually need to get a key to access the rest room. There’s a big sign as you enter the restaurant that says, in true New York fashion: “Bathrooms for customers only — don’t even ask!”
In any case, the Toilet Bowl has a really good, really cheap Thanksgiving dinner for, like, thirteen bucks. But last year Clyde was hung over from a night of pre-Thanksgiving revelry and refused to go. Instead, I wound up being treated by my ex-cook boyfriend to instant mashed potatoes, canned gravy, and canned cranberry sauce. To add insult to injury, it wasn’t even the kind of cranberry sauce I like — it had those little gnarly berries in it instead of the pure, unadorned jelly I favor.
So this year, I’m putting my foot down. It’s the Toilet Bowl for me come hell or high water, with or without Clyde. I have no doubt the food will be good, the potatoes will be real, and the cranberry sauce will be jelled. The waitstaff will be efficient and friendly, and the bathroom may actually sport all the necessary accoutrements.
And for me at least, that's plenty to be thankful for.