The calculus of the holiday changed dramatically after leaving for college.
There was still the feasting and football, but it was now a complex puzzle of equations to balance feast, football and familial obligations with the chance to hang out with your high school friends (who were also battling the same logistical issues).
Coordinating getting together was a series of fits and starts. Half a day or more could be blown trying to track down who was in town as we were moving targets.
By by second year of school, I was working in a record store, so the week at home I had the previous Thanksgiving had been whittled down to two, maybe three days.
It made the break a bit of a disjointed, exhausting affair that caused me to miss the comfort of the couch in my apartment back at school.
By Thanksgiving of 1990, I was logging the final few credits needed to graduate before year’s end. Several of my high school friends had already done so earlier that spring and summer, scattering us all to an even greater degree and leaving reunions that holiday with more of us missing in action.
So few of us were going to be around for Thanksgiving – most opting to make a pilgrimage weeks later for Christmas instead – that I didn’t even negotiate for an extra day or two from work.
Instead, the night before Thanksgiving, I actually trekked to Indianapolis with my buddy Streuss to attend a Warren Zevon show.
Oddly enough, the opening act was a guitarist from Louisville whose band, Hopscotch Army, was one of the most popular draws when they’d hit our college town every few weeks or so.
But, as I was used to seeing him clad in camoflage cargo pants and combat boots, a long rat-tail braid sprouting from his shaved pate as his band covered songs by Concrete Blonde, The Smiths, and The Cure, I wasn’t prepared for this solo turn.
Nattily attired in a sports jacket and clean shirt, the combat boots replaced by more formal footware, his style was more in the vein of New Age noodlings.
Even the rat-tail was gone.
Zevon was fantastic, but everything seemed a bit off kilter from even the previous Thanksgiving.
Walking through the still neighborhood following the show, even the weather was off. It was nearly midnight and it was unseasonably mild for late November with the temperature in the low 60s, a light rain falling.
The next morning, I headed home for Thanksgiving while Streuss, who had also gone to high school with me, but whose parents had moved while we were in college, opted to spend the break at school to work on a paper.
I spent the day with the family, did some feasting, watched some football, and returned to school the next morning to work a Friday afternoon shift at the record store.
That night, with my adopted town eerily deserted and campus empty, I stretched out on the couch in my apartment – my roommate still out of town – with my dog beside me.
The two of us munched on leftovers I had brought from home and watched basketball on ESPN.
Thanksgiving was still a fine holiday – the finest, really – and remains so, but that year it seemed to be over before it had even begun.
The transition from the Thanksgivings I had known as a kid had begun.
Here are four songs from albums that we were playing a lot at the record store that Thanksgiving…
Prefab Sprout – Looking For Atlantis
from Jordan: The Comeback
The first time I heard the name Prefab Sprout, it was from my buddy Streuss who briefly had interest in finding a copy of their well-reviewed ’85 album Steve McQueen. I thought the band name incredibly stupid and the album title – retitled Two Wheels Good here in the States – equally so.
I had no interest in even giving them a listen.
Five years later, I got my comeuppance the first time I heard the band with the shimmering Looking For Atlantis and the brilliant, Thomas Dolby-produced Jordan: The Comeback.
It was irresistible.
And, one of the first things I remember of Paloma is, several years later, watching her wander the aisles of the record store where we worked, singing along to Prefab Sprout’s The King Of Rock ‘n’ Roll.
Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Fuckin’ Up
from Ragged Glory
Neil Young was in – even for him – a musically idiocentric way during the early ’80s when I first started listening to music, so I didn’t hear much of his music. I became far more familiar with him when he returned to mainstream prominence with This Note’s For You in ’88 and Freedom a year later.
I had particularly loved the latter and one of my roommates and I would play Ragged Glory every shift that we worked together. We played it for months and I think we had exactly one customer that heard the chorus to the gloriously grungy Fuckin’ Up and objected.
The Posies – Suddenly Mary
from Dear 23
The Posies’ debut had more than a few moments of power pop brilliance, but Suddenly Mary was the song that lodged into brain and burrowed deep after hearing it the first time.
It’s hypnotic – chiming guitars, angelic harmonies, and a wickedly dark tale told within the sunshine of its grooves…
The Sisters of Mercy – More
from Vision Thing
We had a sizeable goth community at school that used to hang out at an immense arcade at one entrance to the campus. Some of the kids pulled it off far better than others.
I felt the same way about the music popular with the goth scene, though a lot of those acts had a profound influence on the sound and style of the time.
There were a handful of songs by The Sisters Of Mercy that I thought were pretty stellar and More is most definitely one of them.
Jim Steinman co-wrote and co-produced the song and, thus, it’s suitably epic – Rock You Like A Hurricane-guitars, gospel-styled backing vocals, and the growl of lead singer Andrew Eldritch.