Norman Rockwell's famous "Freedom from Want" painting from his Four Freedoms series.

Fig. 1: That’s one big ass turkey.

Tradition is overrated.

Take Thanksgiving, for instance. There’s the rustic, Madison Avenue image of the whole family gathered around the table in their Sunday best (or at least business casual), a big ol’ turkey ready to be carved up, and everyone is smiling and happy and soaking in the love of the holiday. Some version of that trope is probably being re-enacted at homes across the country on the one day when we give thanks for our many blessings.

I’m just thankful that I am not back home and anywhere near my family, thereby keeping my sanity intact.

The last time I went home (rural Alabama) for Thanksgiving was either in 2004 or 2008. I also went back last year for a weekend, and it just reinforced why I just can’t keep going back there even though that’s where my mother and grandmother live (and refuse to move away from, despite their constant bitching about the city).

Let’s start with the city itself, which is a depressing little burg off the I-80 bypass. The high unemployment rate and crime rate have thrust the city into an economic depression. Most places close by 8pm, including grocery stores and restaurants.

A photo of a Wal-Mart parking lot in southern Utah.

Fig. 2: When I was a teenager, one of the hot hangout spots was the parking lot in front of Wal-Mart. See what I mean?

Because it’s so out of the way, you can only get there by driving.  The closest city you can fly or take a bus into is Montgomery, and then you’ve got about a 50-60 mile drive in the back woods of Alabama. It’s a boring ride with little to no points of interest along the way. Not even a restaurant or a service station.

My grandmother is the only one who lays on the guilt trip about me coming to visit more often, yet when I do visit, she keeps asking when I’m leaving after the topics of conversation run out (which is usually about 20-30 minutes). Her and my mother love to gossip, so they love to sit around and talk shit about everybody and everything. It’s pretty draining.

I don’t know if anyone that I know in high school still lives in my hometown, but if they did, I wouldn’t have any interest in seeing them or knowing that they were up to these days. That’s what the detached surveillance of Facebook is for.

And while I could just ask them to come to visit me in Atlanta, that would mean having my mother, grandmother, and grandfather all lounging around my one-bedroom apartment complaining and talking shit about everybody and everything. (See a pattern?)

A panel from Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together. You can find the link of the image on Flickr at

Fig. 3: I’ve asked them before to stay in a hotel, but they said that was for white folks.

When I was younger, I thought about going to see the relatives on my father’s side of the family in Cleveland, but they haven’t claimed me since I came out, and those jokers have got their own set of issues:

  • One of my uncles is in a mental institution, and no one talks about him.
  • One of my uncles works as a cafeteria worker in an elementary school and is addicted to pornography. No one visits him.
  • One of my uncles is MIA, and a bit of wildcard. (He’s like Katt Williams’ comedic persona, but real. Including the height.)
  • One of uncles actually lives here in Atlanta, but he has distanced himself from this side of the family and his half-siblings (my father and his siblings) don’t consider him their real brother. So there’s that.
  • One of my aunts has been told she’s not welcome because she’s a lesbian and adopted a baby with her partner. But she also has a hairtrigger temper and no one talks about her.

The only one who has their shit together is Uncle Buddy who lives in Dallas, and I’ll be going to see him for Christmas. My mother will be visiting there for her first time in 35 years, and it’ll be her first time seeing her nephew and niece as adults. I plan to be front and center for that since she doesn’t know that her nephew is a tatted up homothug and that her niece is a alt-rock indie type girl. Her reactions are going to be priceless. (Also it means she won’t be laying up in my apartment near Christmas complaining and talking shit about everybody and everything.)

A quiet sign in a 50's era recording booth.

Fig. 4: I’ll take my peace where I can get it these days.