MAKING THE WORK // An Excerpt
Note: I’m chickening out this week, so you may want to cry fowl (yep, I just punned and I’m not sorry). I’m giving you a sample from my book, which may or may not ever end up in the book (because who knows what will end up where). I told you about this piece in “Making the Work” before. It’s about the time my narrator’s subconscious tells her she is attracted to men who can’t stand on their own two feet. It involves a roast chicken. A. and I will be roasting a chicken for Thanksgiving. A turkey is too big for two. xx
Legless Patrick Swayze
Last night I dreamt that I had a date with a man who looked like Patrick Swayze, only he had no legs. I was so hot for Legless Patrick Swayze that I was going to woo him with a roast chicken.
Legless Patrick Swayze couldn’t get himself over to my apartment, so I sent my two gay male friends to get him. They lived in the apartment downstairs and had a car.
My apartment was a dive—more like a motel room with a kitchenette. Something you’d imagine Sam Shepherd characters to miserably inhabit. Everything was ugly: grey, cheap, cracked or a brass fixture, but I was so hot for Legless Patrick Swayze that I hardly noticed.
I was wearing a pretty flowered dress, had done my hair in waves and had borrowed an apron from the 1950s. The chicken was in the oven and my two gay male friends would be back with Legless Patrick Swayze any minute. So I was humming a chipper little tune too.
And then the juices from my roast chicken started spilling out of the oven. It was such a juicy chicken! The juices ran up and out of the roasting pan and they were gushing out of the oven because the oven door didn’t have a proper seal. The liquid was golden and fragrant and it was flooding the kitchen floor.
I didn’t care a bit that my chicken was so juicy. I just thought, ‘This is going to be such a good chicken.’
I was happily mopping the floor when my two gay male friends arrived, carrying Legless Patrick Swayze through the door with his arms raised overheard in a graceful curve, like he was a large, exotic fruit basket. I hadn’t finished mopping because the sponge on the mop was worn and skinny, but I dropped the mop anyway and ran over to Legless Patrick Swayze, who was being placed on the horrible futon sofa bed. I was so happy to see him! I bent down and he took me into his well-toned arms and we kissed and kissed and the kiss was so hot.
When we came up for air, one of my gay male friends asked, “Are you sure you still want us to stay for dinner?”
“Of course,” I said, “but why don’t you go away and come back in twenty minutes?”
Then everyone laughed and laughed because they thought it was such a funny joke and I just gazed at Legless Patrick Swayze in that hideous room with the smell or roast chicken in the air and let my mouth water.
LISTENING // This American Life’s Poultry Slam
I love ritual and I love seasonal holidays. This makes me worry. I worry that I’m perpetuating colonialism at Thanksgiving even though Canadian Thanksgiving isn’t as bad as American Thanksgiving. I worry about being part of capitalism at Christmas. I worry about the lies we tell children at Easter (just kidding—I think it’s fun to lie to children about giant rabbits bearing eggs). I worry that the fact that I like to cook and bake and craft and decorate at holidays makes me... what? Less feminist? Dumbed down? Uncool?
So, I take complicated, slightly anxious joy in holidays. Thanksgiving might be my favourite holiday. Gratitude is my spiritual practice already, but who doesn’t like to kick it up a notch?
One of my favourite Thanksgiving rituals over the past few years has been to listen to This American Life’s “Poultry Slam”, which is their annual holiday tradition, broadcast between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The 2011 Poultry Slam is the best one. The stories are about a legal defense team who tries to use a chicken as a star witness to save a man on death row; the reign of terror unleashed by a wild turkey in Martha’s Vineyard; and a Spaniard who finds a humane way to make foie gras.
You can listen to the podcast here. (And if you want more of the foie gras man, there’s a touching video over at The Atlantic.)
CRAFTS // The Thanksgiving Paper Bag Turkey
When I was a kid, the Thanksgiving paper bag turkey—a newspaper-stuffed lunch bag with tail feathers, beak and wattle made of construction paper, and eyes crayoned on—was the October pinnacle of school crafts. I was proud of my first paper bag turkey. I was also a bit cross inside. Proud because it was amazing to make something out of almost nothing, and cross because I’d failed to imbue my paper bag turkey with the majesty I thought he deserved. I’d let my turkey down.
My relationship to crafts was complicated. I had vision, sure, but when it came to the execution something always went wrong. Like, once—this was a little later on in early high school—I was making a stuffed seal and instead of pinning the faux fur body pieces together on my lap, I pinned them to my corduroy skirt. By the time I unpinned and re-pinned the pieces and zipped them through the sewing machine my seal looked like a lumpy white tadpole that had been chewed on by a colony of beavers.
People in my life now would probably be surprised to learn of my uncertain crafting history. I’m the woman who, um, will make a whole Christmas tree's worth of themed ornaments. That kind of serious, Pinterest-worthy crafting takes time to research and execute. Lots of it. If you’ve been following this mini-mag from the start, you’ll probably understand how I do things.
I think this Thanksgiving, I’ll make a paper bag turkey in the spirit of fun, and however ol’ Tom turns out, he turns out—no perfecting the art. But...I’ll still make sure the pastry leaves for the pumpkin pie look authentic.
Want to make your own paper bag turkey? Here's one tutorial of many.