Crash Bag, Vol. 82: The Hanukkah of Excess

So last week I made an effort to keep the Crash Bag largely baseball-focused. This week, not so much. Sorry.

@jlwoj: “is Friday Thanksgiving Kosher or does it violate everything?”

I think if there’s a good reason for you to celebrate Thanksgiving on the Friday–like work or travel restrictions–then go for it. I don’t presume to impose my own relatively conservative cultural norms on everyone else without a reason. Oh, wait, that’s exactly what I do whenever I write about something like the DH or the shift. This brings up the secondary question, however, of whether it’s appropriate to eat an enormous amount of food and watch an equally enormous amount of football on Friday. And the answer to that is yes. The presence of Thanksgiving leftover sandwiches and two days of college football rivalry games almost makes Thanksgiving a de facto three-day holiday. Four, if you count Wednesday night as the official day of going out to the bar, getting irresponsibly drunk and running into people you hadn’t thought about since high school.

Thanksgiving, in short, is like the Hanukkah of Excess. And here was I, getting all tetchy about having to get on a plane to see the relatives. I’ve been looking at it the wrong way all along.

@dj_mosfett: “What is the Proest Turkey Topping?”

I’m going to put it out there–I don’t know that there’s a bad turkey topping. At least not among the culinary orthodoxy of the day. Gravy is delicious. If you mix up a little stuffing or mashed potatoes on your plate and get that on the turkey–also delicious. Even if you just dash it with a little salt and pepper and go natural, that’s a tasty turkey.

Gravy was my go-to for a long time, and I still love it, but recently I’ve started anointing my turkey with cranberry sauce. My preference is for the cylinder of canned cranberry-flavored gel that was a staple of the diet of my youth (appropriate, since I grew up in a state famous for its fresh cranberries, that I’d prefer the canned, processed version), however just yesterday, I dined with the in-laws, who’d provided a delicious, far more saucelike cranberry dressing that tasted faintly of orange, and that was no less delicious with turkey as a medium.

So I’d go 1) cranberry sauce 2) gravy 3) really anything you can find on the table, up to and including your nephew’s Hot Wheels trucks. There are some food-related questions that call for absolutist beliefs, but this is not one of them. Thanksgiving turkey is the food of relativism. It’s a food for the ecumenically-minded, and its dressings bring us together.

@_magowan: “what’s the best possible job to have to work on Thanksgiving Day?”

Not retail or food service. Some of our national holidays–Memorial Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day–those are just excuses to have off work. But others, like Thanksgiving and Christmas, have real emotional significance to a lot of people, and unless you’re an ambulance driver or something, it’s a real crappy thing to have to work on Thanksgiving, particularly when you’re making $8 an hour selling discounted iPads to overamped Black Friday shoppers at 10 p.m. the night before.

I think in terms of jobs that are actually *good* to work on Thanksgiving, nothing’s on the table that doesn’t have a cool factor of some sort, ideally as part of the Thanksgiving festivities. Like if you’re Katy Perry and you’re in the Macy’s Parade, it sucks that you can’t zonk out after consuming turkey and wine all day, but on the other hand, being Katy Perry is a much cooler job than the one I have, and being in the Macy’s Parade is also pretty cool.

A friend of mine from college, Ed Cahill, is the multimedia guy for the Dallas Cowboys, which means that he has to work every Thanksgiving, and work a pretty demanding day at that. But at the same time, he’s on the sidelines for an NFL game with a camera, and it’s not like turkey won’t be there on Friday. That qualifies as a pretty good job to have to work on Thanksgiving.

@SJHaack: “Why do people consider green bean casserole as an actual vegetable?”

I don’t know why people consider green beans a food, so you might be talking to the wrong guy.

I think it’s that if you have vegetables on something, you assume it’s good for you. My dad went on the Huey Lewis routine a few years ago–working out most every day, and watching what he ate, and one night, he and I were eating pizza. I had cheese and he had this veggie medley pizza with broccoli, tomatoes, onions, olives, peppers, just piled to the ceiling with vegetables. But after he finished his slice of veggie medley pizza, he went after a slice of the cheese. I was taken aback. “Dad,” I said, “that slice of cheese pizza has a lot of calories.”

“Yeah,” he said, “but my pizza having lots of vegetables doesn’t mean that underneath it’s not just as bad as yours.”

And it’s true–we judge our food by its cover, so we can feel good about ourselves without actually eating healthy food. I think if you ask your average person point-blank, they’d acknowledge that green bean casserole isn’t actually good for you. That’s why I don’t eat it. If I’m going to eat something that will cause me to die an early death, it sure as heck ain’t going to involve green beans.

@JJJJShabado: “Game show you’d most like to be on? Game show you think you’d be best at?”

Jeopardy. And Jeopardy. I was kind of fascinated by the format of Stump the Schwab when it was on, but Jeopardy is the only answer. Wheel of Fortune and Family Feud…those are for amateurs. I still have my championship jacket from high school academic challenge. I was raised by an unbeatable Trivial Pursuit player to become an unbeatable Trivial Pursuit player myself. I’ve had two different three-month unbeaten streaks at bar trivia, with two different groups of friends, at two different bars, in two different states. You could say I was bred for one purpose: to excel at general knowledge trivia, and Jeopardy is the Cadillac of general knowledge trivia game shows.

@bhavinforapples: “Max Pentecost and Sequoyah Stonecipher. I have no question, only a movie pitch.”

Max Pentecost hopped off the escalator and dropped into an easy but fast-moving stride toward the address he’d be given. His contact was a man  named van der Meyde, the aide to the Dutch security minister, whose personal request had led to not only Pentecost but the whole of the Special Action Directorate being sent over to the Netherlands.

Pentecost rounded the last corner and found himself on a square. Van der Meyde was in an apartment above a shoe store, which he identified across the way, but he’d made it only a few feet before he heard a familiar voice call out.

“Agent Pentecost!”

Pentecost smoothed out a wrinkle on his jacket and slowly moved his hand to his shoulder holster as he turned. Nobody outside of the SAD and Dutch intelligence was supposed to know that he was in Amsterdam, and nobody in either of those groups would be stupid enough to shout his name across a crowded square. When he picked out the person who’d called to him, he understood.

Sequoyah Stonecipher was a tall, slender woman, maybe three inches shorter than Pentecost, with unblemished, caramel-colored skin and shiny black hair. She wore a blue military-style sweater, khaki trousers and brown shoes. She was about a decade older than the last time Pentecost had seen her, but her round face was still creased by the indelible, perpetually amused smile that made he stand out in Army Intelligence.

Pentecost’s fingers tightened around the butt of his sidearm, but Stonecipher shook her head and wagged a finger at Pentecost. “I’m unarmed, Max, but I’m not alone. I’ve got about a dozen men around the square, and every single one of them has the drop on you.”

“Snipers? What, did you drive down to Rotterdam and pick out the ten toughest-looking gangbangers and give them M16s?”

Stonecipher laughed. “I didn’t say snipers, Max. And they’re not just any gangbangers–former Spetsnaz, Shin Bet, even the odd former Army Ranger, like you. And besides, what’s going to happen if some American just whips out a gun and shoots a woman in cold blood on a public square at 10 in the morning? Think the CIA is going to take kindly to that?”

Pentecost let go of his gun and withdrew his hand from his coat. “So what do you want, Q?”

Stonecipher, still smiling, closed the ten feet between them with four deliberate steps. “Last time you called me that, I had to salute you. It was Major Pentecost then. You’ve had a busy ten years, Max.”

“So have you, apparently. What do you want?”

“To save you the trouble of going in to meet van der Meyde above the shoe shop right now. He’s dead.”

“Did you kill him?”

“Not me personally, no.”

“But you set it up.”

Stonecipher shrugged. “More or less,” she said. “And before you ask why, let’s just say it served my purposes. I can’t tell you any more.”

“So why pick me out of the crowd like this?”

“I’ve missed you, Max. I wanted to catch up.”

“Now isn’t a good time. I’m kind of busy with work. But next time you’re in Virginia, give me a call and I’ll take you out for a drink.”

Stonecipher’s smile broke into a laugh. “You’re funnier than they give you credit for, Max. But unfortunately, this can’t wait until you’re back in Virginia. The train crash in Maastricht, the riots at the soccer game in Rotterdam, the assassination of the EU trade commissioner–they’re all connected.”

“We’d been assuming that. How are you involved?”

“I’m not. But I’m not necessarily unhappy that those things happened.”

Pentecost shifted his weight. “Who are you working for, Q?”

“Nobody.”

“I don’t believe you.”

Stonecipher reached out and grabbed Pentecost’s hand. Pentecost flinched and nearly jumped backwards to escape her hold, but he held his ground. “Easy, Max,” she said. “I haven’t gone rogue or sold out my country–I’m just in the private sector, you might say. And we have no argument with the SAD or the CIA or NATO or MI6 or anyone else you work with. We’re seeking internal problems to internal solutions.”

“The Dutch might have something to say about that.”

“They might, but this is a complicated situation, and you don’t need to be involved.”

“We actually do, there’s a treaty about that, and even if there weren’t, I don’t make those decisions.”

“I suppose not. Listen, Max,” she said, as she released his hand and patted him on the cheek, “I know you believe that van der Meyde’s dead, but you’re going to go up to look anyway, so just know that every door in that apartment except for the front door is rigged with enough semtex to dig a new canal, so be careful. I don’t want to see you hurt. Give my best to Nola and the gang. It’s so good to see you again.” One last smile, and Stonecipher turned on her heel and walked briskly to the far corner of the square. Pentecost watched her turn the corner, then took off at a canter for van der Meyde’s safe house.

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3 comments

  1. Mom

    November 30, 2013 12:03 AM

    the last thing we watched on tv before you were born: jeopardy.

  2. Baumann's Dad

    November 30, 2013 09:52 AM

    Alex Trebek is your real father.

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