RI Blog #17: Thanksgiving

Blogger’s Note: This is not about rowing. 

November 25, 2008

This is a little story I wrote in response to an email to the Riverside Boat Club List from the famous British rowing coach, David Martin, who had mentioned that he didn’t fully understand what “Thanksgiving” was all about. Hope it lightens up your holiday season a little.



Dear David,

Thanksgiving is one of the truly American holidays, so it’s no wonder you don’t understand it (you freakin’ Tory Monarchist you!!!).

Ok so here’s the basic rundown. About a hundred & fifty years before George Washington and his fleet-footed generals kicked your ancestors’ and the Hessian Huns’ asses by forcing them to chase our guys all over North America wearing heavy wool red uniforms (RED?? Choose another color dude! That’s an easier target than they have in Junior Archery class!), a group of religious fanatics (the “Saints”) and a bunch of other bounty hunters and/or otherwise bored or criminal Englishmen (dubbed “Strangers” by the Saints), decided to make a perilous journey across the Atlantic Ocean to seek a new life. Being poor and unwanted, they could only afford a pathetic, way-too-small ship that someone called the “Mayflower,” and stuffed it with themselves and a bunch of disgusting animals (inspiring the idea of “stuffing”), and somehow, miraculously, made it across the “Pond” (sarcastic term coined by one of the Strangers for the harrowing North Atlantic). Unfortunately, they landed in New England, home of the Worst Climate on the Face of the Earth.

Anyway, the rag-tag bunch, along with the Holier Than Thou Religious Freaks, landed on the Cape, saw a bunch of beached whales, and were spied by the Native Landowners. Not wanting to settle on a bunch of cold sand, and terrified of the near-naked Natives, they continued on and found a cozy Rock somewhere near Route 3 South, right in the middle of construction of the Southeast Distressway. Fortunately, the Cape traffic was light that day, so they decided to make this their home. The Strangers went off into the woods, made friends with the Natives, introduced them to Johnny Walker Red, had a ROCKING good time, and probably did a little plundering on the side. The Saints struggled to clear the land, move all the rocks, and try to grow something amidst the cold, sandy, non-fertile soil. They were able to build some crude huts, but nothing grew and about half of them died that winter, freezing their asses off (their fronts, facing the fire, were fine, but their asses, facing away from the fire, literally froze OFF). Because they had outlawed Sex, they were not allowed to keep each other warm “the old fashioned way.” From this experience they developed a new Protestant religion called “Puritanism.” Ironically, they had come to the New World seeking religious freedom. But after they invented “Puritanism” – defined as “The Haunting, Terrifying, Unacceptable Notion that Someone, Somewhere out there is Having A Good Time” – they immediately closed ranks and became the Most Religiously Intolerant People Ever in Recorded History, putting any disbelievers into these new, funky devices called Stockades. (A “stockade” was like a mini guillotine with no blade. Your head and arms would stick through the holes so the people walking by could tweak your nose, stuff sand in your ears, kick you in the ass a few times, throw rotten eggs at you, and do any other acts of their choosing – known to the Puritans as “amusement.”) Interestingly, Puritanism lives on in New England almost 400 years later, but its definition has changed to mean, “You don’t deserve anything GOOD in this life unless you have really, REALLY suffered for it.” See the Red Sox, our rowing club’s policy for initiating new members, Boston weather, and many other 21st century examples.

SO. Where was I. Oh yeah, Thanksgiving. So after the first year, in which they had suffered Unmentionable Sufferings and still couldn’t figure out how to grow even a houseplant, they headed into November, cold, tired, and very discouraged – even Puritans could get a little down sometimes. But it was all God’s Plan, and still, this plucky group kept their Faith. And Faith was restored to them, because fortunately, down South in Jamestown, a young English Stud named Captain John Smith (not his real name – one of many aliases he used to avoid being captured for violating Puritanism) had hooked up with a gorgeous Native named Pocahontas. This incredibly romantic meeting – filled with more good sex than can ever be described in a Family Friendly Website Like This – paved the way for an era of Detente between the Natives and the “Whities” throughout North America.

As a result, the Natives of New England decided to share their enormously vast stores of food (after thousands of years living in New England, they had figured out how to grow stuff), including the old favorites, Turnips, Ocean Spray Cranberry Sauce, the previously mentioned Stuffing, and a new, accidentally invented (on a soggy September day) food called Kellogg’s Corn Flakes. Sir Kellogg, a Saint who said “F-this” and became a stranger upon arriving to the New World, became the richest man in America as a result of developing a new food called “cereal.” And thank God he did, because it’s still my favorite food.

So they had a Great Feast on the Last Thursday in November. Drinks were drunk, the Puritans even smiled a little, everyone ate a ton of food, and a New Era of Peace and Prosperity was declared by both the Natives and the Pasty White Freakazoids. After the Great Feast, they retired to the Native Chief Massasoit’s Grand Mansion and watched the Cowboys play the Lions on his entertainment center. Thanksgiving, the Greatest American Holiday, was born. The Puritans were so grateful, they gave the Natives these really cool blankets. Unfortunately, the blankets had some weird virus in them called “Smallpox,” and many of the Natives died soon afterwards. But the Puritans soldiered on, stealing the Directions for Growing Food from the Natives, and went to church faithfully every Sunday. They wrote inspiring hymns such as “Amazing Grace” and “Die You Heathen Ingrate, DIE!!” and produced such Luminaries as Increase Mather, and his even more amusing son, Cotton Mather. Between the two of them, they were responsible for some of the greatest American Institutions of All Time – notably, Harvard University and the Salem Witch Trials. As the latter was responsible for the founding of Yale University, it is widely believed that the co-mingling of these great institutions resulted in the annual Harvard-Yale Boat Race.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

100% of this is true. It has to be – I got it from Wikipedia. I hope this has been helpful.

Peace, Love, and a Happy Thanksgiving to All.

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