Notes On A Robert Duvall Thanksgiving

Oh, keep those sidelong glances to yourself–this can come as no surprise: After all, for years I’ve threatened something very much like what’s come into focus this morning.

And certainly, there can be no kind of shock: Tiffany has those blue boxes, Warhol had that platinum wig and when you think of Miles Davis, you can’t help but see The Stare . . . And as for my personal brand, well, there’s the constant, bone-deep loathing of the period beginning a week before Thanksgiving and ending at 6:00 AM on New Year’s Day.

Grim, yes–but also Deeply True.

This morning as I prepared for the imminent descent of the relatives, friends and near-strangers who have made Thanksgiving a cross between a legally required Tweet-up and a death march, I . . . snapped. But again, I always snap during this week. The confluence of recipes, food shops, logistics, and the whole Fawlty-esque bed-and-breakfast thing is designed to drive me over the edge. Then add to all this the fact that beyond the dreaded feast day itself is an escalating number of pre-emptive holiday parties, the culmination of which is Thoroughly Awful And Unavoidable Christmas . . .

It’s a quarter to nine in the morning and I’m wondering, under these circumstances, if a splash of Jameson’s in my coffee can be seen as the crest of a slippery slope.

In previous years, I’ve toyed with a variety of strategies that might allow me to reach that first New Year’s Day mimosa more or less intact and emotionally unscathed. I’ve considered putting myself into a medically induced coma until Janurary 1st, building a time machine and fast-forwarding to the new year and, of course, faking my own death–only to miraculously reappear six weeks later, right next to the champagne and orange juice.

But this morning it occurred to me that the sheer complexity of my previous plans kept me from executing them. What was needed instead was a breathtakingly simple solution: minimum preparation, maximum escape. It was then that The Idea arrived, immaculate and complete . . .

This year I’m holding a themed Thanksgiving gathering to honor the 50th anniversary of the film version of To Kill A Mockingbird. You know those Agatha Christie weekends? The ones where participants role-play through a country-house murder? Well, that’s in essence what I want to do on Thanksgiving–reenact To Kill A Mockingbird. But with this very, very, very important proviso: No matter how the roles are divided up, I get to be Boo Radley. Which means I’ll be barricaded in my office through Thanksgiving and most of the weekend, only to emerge as everyone is leaving (and even then I get to hide behind a door).

Here, let me say it for you: This, my friends, is a genius idea, and so it follows I must be a . . . well, you know.

I’m already working out the details: iTunes informs me that I have 21.2 days of music available in my office, so no problem there. I will, of course, be moving all of the single-malts in with me (but not to worry–in my role as a not-so-good host, I will graciously leave the Dewars for the guests). I’ve placed a ladder under one of the office windows for my coming and going, and I’ve fashioned a basket-and-pulley system to get the sushi and pizza deliveries up here. Check and check again. And there’s a bathroom and shower off my office, so that’s handled.

In terms of my guests, I’ll be arranging for this year’s Thanksgiving dinner to be completely catered–and whoever they decide is Atticus is more than welcome to do the carving. During the meal, the swirl of dark conjecture and wild rumor about my absence will perfectly play into the Boo Radley thing. Younger nieces and nephews will earnestly ask if I’m some kind of monster lurking behind my office door, and the adults won’t shush them because they understand that the truth is so much uglier . . .

I now feel as if a great weight has lifted from me–in fact, I’ve even put away the Jameson’s. And depending on how well my Boo Radley Thanksgiving goes, I can foresee a Christmas gathering to similarly honor The Third Man. There, of course, I’ll have a lock on the role of Harry Lime. That way, I can briefly appear by the neighborhood storm drains to hand out presents and sly epigrams about cuckoo clocks before blessedly disappearing again.

Yes–another genius idea . . .