This Thanksgiving in History

Six years ago this week, I flew to Oxford, England. Storm turned 21 in a time and place where “being legal” means nothing and away from family. Fortunately, living, studying, and growing up a lot in a little time in Oxford in 2006 marked me with a tiny bit of nostalgia I would cherish for years to come. A culmination of Storm’s birthday, my own personal reunion with a place meant dearly, and some funds from summer retail work propelled me overseas for the holiday so normally spent at home.

It was a particularly special time this week, those years ago, for several us from Los Angeles descended upon The City That Loves You Back the weekend prior. We came from LA, New York, Boston, and DC. Alex played football for Villanova’s soon-to-be-ring-bearing championship team. We are very proud of him and his hard work, happy to be together and wearing his team clothes and gear in the cold November bleachers. Philly suburbs: gotta love them.

It was also a particularly fun and novel weekend that left me changed - probably an inciting mind shift that stays top of mind today. Kelley was studying nursing at the local public university (I can’t seem to remember which one), moonlighting as a bartender the local Irish adolescent watering hole, Blarney Stone. 

We spent two evenings at the two-story bar, making an entrance the first night, and making a scene, the following. At the time, it is important to note that on this second night three details: I owned a Blackberry Pearl cell phone, I was wearing a full suit and tie, and I was overindulging in karaoke and beer.

Following a night of debauchery, an unwarranted version of Beck’s “Debra” with Rocky, DogfishHead 120 min IPA in bottles on the dance floor: my cell phone was lost. It was living the entire evening in my left breast pocket of my dress shirt, and admittedly was poorly tended to throughout the course of the events that night. In theory, this was not a practical way to prepare for a week out of the country and three weeks back at school before returning home for the Christmas holiday (the next time I would get myself a new phone). 

So all bets were off, I missed the chance to see my great friend Shaun at the University of the Arts, where she pursued a degree in acting and performance. I decided the morning of the flight to London that I would go without a phone because four weeks wasn’t that long after revisiting my studies the year prior in “Technology and Society” with Ted Gaiser. Furthermore, I was an active emailer - as is everyone in college - and could borrow phones for voice calls if need be.

This began what I dubbed the Social Email Revolution and set forth for England.

It was incredible to meet Storm at Chutney’s. This was across the street from St. Peter’s College, where we both coincidentally studied in our respective terms there. This is the restaurant I had Chicken Dopiaza and garlic naan that blew me away.

We had afternoon pints in the pubs, made a Thanksgiving meal, celebrated his 21st birthday, danced at nightclubs, and shared our stories while exploring around that marvelous city. I went to my old dorm room, watched him play for the college Volleyball team, and even punctuated the end of a week with a more metropolitan London weekend with Los Angeles friends.

The subsequent month at college shaped a place in my heart for unplugging from everyday phone usage. It was finals time, I was caught up in lust and feelings for several amazing young ladies at school, and smiling ear-to-ear the whole time. New Zealand in the spring would be fast approaching, and I felt as though I was helping others shift away from Facebook and phone texting in favor of more captivating storytelling and virtual correspondence over email.

Perhaps it is this brief period of time that led to me to the person today who chooses to use email with new acquaintances just as easily as long-standing friends. It’s closest to a letter, and doesn’t always have to be so formal. It is also during this time that I was very in-tune with self-awareness and closeness to who I felt I was. It was freeing, hardly challenging, and taught me to focus on important principles that seem to be vanishing with every app and tech advancement. I’m talking about sticking to timing and plan-making, as well as navigating and directions.

Whenever I said that I would meet someone, I had to follow through, and so did the other. There was no last-minute ETA or status update that either could rely on to save face when running late (selfish or ill-prepared) or changing plans (read: joining the better offers club). This reinforced trust in others, in me, and the good faith that is disappearing as exits and “ways out” of situations becomes more faceless and cowardly from the screen of your phone. And without mapping applications to point one in the right direction without recalling any information from memory, I found greater happiness in finding and arriving places.

So as this Thanksgiving nears and another year has passed for us, I hope these words can inspire you to unplug at the Thanksgiving table, focus on the meaningful memories and conversations without dabbling into petty small talk with the people that should mean the most. Make a trip to see the people for cultivating relationships that matter. I am lucky for the Storm, for not two months ago did he book a last-minute flight to the great north, up here in Maine. I will cease dogging him for being the one to fly to England for a birthday when sometimes Southern Maine even feels worlds away.

And as I make one final edit and look at this computer screen on a bus from New York to Maine, I will share a song that I’ve been leaning into lately. Take that garbage pop country out and put this in.

“Hang Me in the Tulsa County Stars” is from High on Tulsa Heat. If you like the Tallest Man on Earth for his American folk, this song hits a similar mark with a deeper and more grizzly richness. It’s simple and if you’re not listening to John Moreland, you’re simply doing it wrong.

See ya’ll (nobody) at the open mic this week at Dogfish for my first time! And be sure to not shop on Black Friday as you are contributing to mindless and unconscious consumption :)

Storm at the Portland Int'l Jetport in September on Impossible SX-70 Polaroid

Storm at the Portland Int'l Jetport in September on Impossible SX-70 Polaroid

Chris BattagliaComment