Monday, January 25, 2010

Tonight We're Gonna Party Like It's 1620

I recently read Sarah Vowell's The Wordy Shipmates, about the Massachusetts Bay Colony. I figured I'd start with a kind of diet history on the subject since everything I know about the English colonists of the seventeenth century was gleaned solely from a handful of visits to Plymouth Plantation when I was a child, and even those have been reduced in my memory to this one time we got a bunch of the reenactors to sing a hymn in four part harmony, and this other time a dude sort of insinuated I was a witch.

Anyway, the part that I found the most interesting was about Thanksgiving. I had no idea that the Puritans treated a day of thanks more like a ticker-tape parade than Labor Day, or any day of scheduled celebration. Vowell points out that the Pilgrims would probably be horrified by the idea that we celebrate Thanksgiving every year regardless of whether or not it was appropriate. They ordered up just as many days of fasting and repentance as they did thanks depending on the circumstances. Indian raid? Fast. Live through the winter? Feast! The fourth Thursday of November? Let’s wait and see.

I back this idea with all the ardor of two thumbs up and a follow-up high five. I can call in sick. I can take vacation days. I can celebrate the many regularly scheduled holidays recognized by Hallmark and on which banks and post offices refuse to cooperate with my needs. But, okay, say that one Friday night I get a little bit drunker than I thought I would and maybe Conan's final speech about not being cynical hits home way harder than it should and then maybe I'm having an existential moment at a bar while still singing Free Bird and stealing tater tots off of people's plates and texting my booty call A-team with no response, then moving to the B-team with similar success, and then I'm walking trainward in a slightly dejected and very wobbly fashion. Say that happens, "theoretically." I should have the right, as did the Puritans, to declare an immediate Day of Margot Kiddering, on which I am permitted to wander half-clothed, belligerent, and incoherent through people's yards, and everyone my life is alerted and given jobs like making sure I don't get murdered or too cold, or explaining to homeowners that it's cool that I'm trespassing. I called in Kidder.

Or, okay, say that it's Monday and the new computer system at work is not working again and you're depressed that you have to complain about the new computer system not working again, and you're pretty sure someone took your last working pen and also the fluorescent light in your cube is blinking towards death in a way that might cause you to have a seizure, and the whole office smells like Top Ramen. "Theoretically." I should be able to open my time clock program and select from the drop down menu as my reason for taking off the next 24 hours not "sick," not "jury duty," not "bereavement," but "Day of Mata Hari-ing." Then I put on a particularly seductive dress and you all send me secret missions that I carry out with panache, and I go to bed feeling like I've accomplished something cooler than finding out how to add a new signature in Outlook (for what it's worth, it's Tools, Options, Mail Format, Signatures).

This is, of course, reciprocal. If you needed a Day of Ghostbustering, for example, I would gladly provide the Ecto-Cooler and call you about urgent middle of the night toilet-paper hauntings at my apartment that you could dispatch with silly string.

Life hands us Christmas and Memorial Day and Valentine's Day regardless of whether we want them, deserve them, or can stomach one more conversation heart without vomiting a festive pink river. I am the last person on the planet to think that I would ever pick up partying tips from the Puritans, but I think they were onto something. Particularly on a day when it is unexpectedly rainy and warmer than fifty degrees in the middle of January and I want nothing more than to have called in Woodstock '95.


Anonymous You can call me, 'Sir' said...

Americans (of whom I'm one) do have a tendency to feel just a wee bit entitled. I find it interesting that mighty swaths of our society routinely work themselves into the ground, yet complain about the fact there are so few major holidays. It's as if they rely on the government to provide them relief from their work-aholism, since these people are evidently unwilling to do it for themselves. And what about Arbor Day? Thanksgiving promotes Turkey genocide and the raping of innocent cranberries, yet we thumb our nose at paying tribute to trees through giving worker drones the day off to go hug an oak? WTF, Department of the Interior?

12:49 PM  

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