Issue #117: Six Thanksgiving Traditions Made Simple (and Solo)
Let's take the stress out.
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🎥 ‘The Holdovers’ in theaters: This movie, starring Paul Giamatti as a prickly ‘70s New England boarding school teacher tasked with the role of looking after three boys with nowhere to go for the holidays, is just the thing to see with family this weekend. Funny and charming, it becomes all the more surprisingly heartwarming after two of the boys find a spot to spend Christmas, leaving one with Giamatti and the cafeteria cook to become their own motley trio (director Alexander Payne also created ‘Sideways’ and ‘Election,’ to give you a reference for its tone). Also looking forward to ‘Dream Scenario,’ a surreal comedy starring Nicholas Cage!
📚 The Bass Rock by Evie Wyld: My book editor, who (befitting her job) is one of the most widely-read people I’ve ever met, has been recommending this dark novel to me since it came out in 2020. The ominous prologue, in which a child discovers a washed-up suitcase on a beach containing a murdered woman, sets the tone for a novel that explores violence against women across three very different timelines in a (haunted?) house on a remote island in Scotland. There’s Ruth, who moves into the house with her husband and his two sons just after WWII, Sarah, a child in the 19th century who is brutally abused after being accused of being a witch, and Viviane, our contemporary, who is prepping her family’s old house to sell. The stories overlap in surprising ways to convey an unputdownable narrative steeped in pain and resilience.
📺 “Fargo,” Season 5, on Hulu: If you need a break from conversation with your family this week, consider gathering on the couch for the latest season of “Fargo,” out today (each season is an anthology, so no need to catch up!). Jon Hamm and Juno Temple star respectively as a sheriff and midwestern housewife with a mysterious history in this campy, smart show.
A few more recs… ‘Rustin’’ on Netflix tells the story of Bayard Rustin, an advisor to Martin Luther King Jr. and an openly gay Black man, practically erased from history despite his contributions to the civil rights movement, and ‘Next Goal Wins,’ in theaters now, the latest absurd comedy from Taika Waititi. Also excited to watch the Dakota Johnson-produced documentary, ‘The Disappearance of Shere Hite,’ about the convention-bending 1970s sex researcher, and the Finnish film, ‘Fallen Leaves’ in theaters.
It was cold and hazy as Toast and I headed out the door for a run, hours before my entire cohort was due at my house for Friendsgiving. As we took off, I continued the debate I’d been having with myself all morning: whether to go for an hour-long loop or a quick out-and-back. I was craving a long run, but there was so much left to prep. Should I chose my own needs or acknowledge the reality of my commitments?
Lately, I’ve felt paralyzed by decisions, even (or maybe most especially) by those small enough to be practically inconsequential: Do I drink coffee or tea this morning? (Coffee makes me anxious, but it’s effective.) Should I spend Thanksgiving alone or with friends? (I’m craving time to rest and regroup, but I’d also like to spend time with loved ones and meet new people.) I figured I’d find clarity around the length of my run once I began, but by the time I reached my usual turnaround point, I still hadn’t arrived at any conclusion.
This decision fatigue is as familiar to me as any other holiday tradition. The either/or deliberations are often amplified this time of year by external pressures, work projects (especially if you work in retail), family expectations, and dopamine hits of sale emails. For an obsessive planner (which I have a hunch many of you are as well), this can be exhausting. I only began to truly enjoy my run once I was past the point of turning back early, my legs making the decision for me as I headed onto the longer trail. Worrying about the vegetables I still needed to roast and emails I had to send became moot.
My mind was miraculously calm by the time I rounded a corner of the trail and spotted an owl in a branch, only a few feet above me.
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