Ten Thanksgivings

This year marks the tenth Thanksgiving that I’ve spent on the east coast and without my family. I usually see them at Christmastime, anyway, so the high airfares, travel headaches, and a transcontinental roundtrip flight in a short number of days makes the trip not worth the hassle. Not only that but in the days when I used to take classes, I used to have too much work to go all the way to Southern California only to come back in a few days.

So to commemorate this auspicious milestone, I thought I’d try to remember what I did in lieu of being with my family over the decade. In certain years, I didn’t have much of a choice, but other years, I probably could have gone out west but chose not to. Let’s review….


A couple of months after the September 11 attacks, getting on an airplane didn’t seem like such a hot idea. Kent and Marie were hosting a Thanksgiving Dinner in Washington, DC, that year so I took a ride with Seth and his family on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. That ride took eight hours, nearly twice as long as should it take, and I vowed never to travel on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving ever again.


In a misguided attempt at being self-sufficient and neighborly, I held an” orphans” Thanksgiving dinner at my apartment. Three people showed up, and I ended up with leftovers for over a week. Afterward, there was an East Village bar crawl with my friend Chad and some girl he was dating at the time.


My first year taking a comprehensive exam. The weeklong ritual for PhD students seemed like a pain in the ass, but it was actually a lot of fun. I never had such productive weeks in my graduate-student career, if thirty pages of writing in six days counts as extraordinary feat of productivity. I heard that the current crop of PhD students only have to do two of these, while we had three. When I heard this, I jokingly asked whether they got researchassistants, too. (They don’t, but seriously….)

Handing in a Comp Exam


This was my second year taking a comprehensive exam, and I was equally productive. During these two years, I spent most of the week at the now-closed alt.coffee shop on Avenue A. My dinners would consist of cheap pizza and sandwiches, and usually by Thursday evening, I would be in good enough shape to make the $3.00 Guinness pints at Mona’s on Ave B. I didn’t have turkey in either 2003 or 2004, and I was fine with that.


The first (and only annual) Peter Luger dinner with David, Peter, and Lisa. This was clearly a step up from pizza and sandwiches, and I didn’t spend it in total isolation. I could help but feel the satisfaction of eating steak while my colleagues were toiling away writing their comprehensive exams.


Justin and I tried to recreate the Peter Luger experience, but we couldn’t get David or the rest of the Sabatinos to join, so it was a dinner for two. We went to Alberto’s afterward, where a buck of European graduate students were having Thanksgiving. (It was cute.) I seem to remember that we watched The Ali G Show for most of the night. (It really was 2006!)

Peter Luger 2005

2007 and 2008

I’m putting these two together because they’re essentially the same, and they kind of blur together in my mind. The weekend before, I went with Sarah to Kentucky for the Weitlauf’s “Fake Thanksgiving” celebration, which is the most brilliant idea ever! On the day itself, we started the day by having a Thanksgiving dinner at the Bianculli’s home in Port Washington. After eating way too much, we then went to an evening dinner at Will and Jill‘s on the upper west side for a second Thanksgiving dinner. In 2008, I varied the routine a bit by going on a “Turkey Trot”-type bike ride before eating so much food.


Slept in on Thanksgiving morning and again went to Will and Jill‘s. Ate way too much Tofurkey, and it was my first Thanksgiving in three years where there was no turkey. Actually, only for about half of the decade did I have turkey on Thanksgiving. And I’m okay with that….


To be determined…..