Thursday, December 5, 2019

Family: We’re A Happy Family

The Ramones: We’re A Happy Family

After a few prog-related posts in a row, we need a little punk palate cleanser, right? Sort of like how during a Thanksgiving dinner filled with heavy foods, you need something tart to shake things up. Which may be the first time anyone compared The Ramones to cranberry sauce.

Although this Family theme was designed to relate to the gathering of relatives during the Thanksgiving season, my two song selections have taken a little different approach. Last week, I wrote about a man contemplating patronizing a prostitute, but who ultimately passes, somewhat reluctantly, because he’s a family man. Today’s song, from possibly The Ramones’ best album, Rocket To Russia, is a satirical look at a dysfunctional family, featuring a closeted drug dealing father, a pill-addict mother, and a neglected, fly-eating sick baby, all of whom eat refried beans. This is nothing at all like my family, although when I was born, my mother and father and I did live in Queens, about 4 or 5 miles away from where The Ramones hailed from.

I’ve now been blogging long enough that I can’t remember if I’ve ever discussed how lucky I feel that my family, for the most part, gets along. This year, we had a relatively small Thanksgiving—my wife and I, our widowed mothers, my sister and her daughter, and my brother. Over the years our family table at various holidays have included my son and daughter-in-law (who were celebrating with her parents), said daughter-in-law’s parents (which gives me a chance to link to this again), my late father and father-in-law, my expat daughter, my siblings’ former spouses (and then their occasional “plus ones”), my sister’s son (off serving in Americorps), my brother’s kids (celebrating this year with their mother’s family), and occasionally some others.

It is always a fun time. There is, of course, laughter, good food, football (including sometimes of the European version) on the TV, a Thanksgiving-themed playlist created by the family music blogger, and, of course discussions, sometimes even of politics.

My college friend David Campt is an expert in fostering dialogues—his company is named “The Dialogue Company,” so it must be true. He travels the country trying to help people with different views engage in constructive discussions, often about race, but not exclusively. I hope that the pre-Thanksgiving interactive piece he co-wrote on The New York Times’ website about how to successfully engage family members with different views prevented bad feelings, broken crockery and spilled gravy at some dinner tables last week. But I count myself lucky that this isn’t an issue with my family—we run the gamut from liberal to very liberal, and there isn’t a MAGA hat in anyone’s closet.

And while that may result in a relatively drama-free Thanksgiving (assuming that I don’t either burn the turkey or start cooking it too slowly), it does ratchet down the stress level a lot. Which is nice, because even though my wife and I have been hosting Thanksgiving for our family for a while now, there are a lot of moving pieces, including a number of dishes that only get cooked once a year (including the all-important bird), so I’m glad that I don’t have to get into a debate with a Trump acolyte, knowing full well that I would eventually forget everything that I learned from David Campt, and revert to my more litigious bent.

So, I’m glad that I really do have a happy family, even without gulping down any Thorazines.

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