Thanksgiving has always been a big deal for the Holliday family – in 2000 I was working in Singapore, but embarked on the 17 hour one-way flight just to be home for two days during the holiday. Since then the Thanksgiving travel has been less extreme, but no matter what it takes everyone still sits down in front of a giant turkey that my mom will inevitably say will be too dry or too overdone – this year’s bird somehow ended up cooking upside-down, which my mom was convinced would ruin it; it was delicious, as always.
The 2015 Thanksgiving odyssey started out Wednesday before noon when I finished up a half day of work and Audrey and I attempted to beat LA traffic. “Beating” LA traffic is an impossibility, but it wasn’t quite the nightmare that it could have been and we only sat in traffic jams for about thirty minutes before we were out of the city’s boundaries. Our lunch stop in the Central Valley was crowded beyond belief – the line was around the counter, past the door, and through the eating area – so plan B ended up being Subway and a few bags of trail mix from the gas station convenience store. Many more miles of driving took us to Harris Ranch, site of the “salt pie” of Thanksgiving 2011 fame. After seven-and-a-half total hours of driving, including a detour along a curvy road in the hills above Livermore, our journey finally ended in Concord with Audrey slightly carsick but otherwise unharmed.
The following day on Thanksgiving morning, Aaron and I headed off for a hike on Mount Diablo, and he won the animal-spotting contest by finding a very seasonal flock of wild turkeys eating someone’s yard near our trailhead. The jaunt through the woods was followed by a day of much lounging, a delicious meal of much gluttony, and finally a card game that involved much losing on my part. Post-Thanksgiving we joined Ma & Pa for breakfast, made a brief visit to the Cosumnes River Preserve, and then visited Aaron’s new place in Sacramento before spending an evening out in downtown Sacramento and a night in a downtown hotel. Today we braved traffic back home – the seven hour return trip was long, but nothing compared to a flight from halfway around the world. With any luck next year will be much the same, and the Holliday family Thanksgiving tradition will continue.
Here’s an attempted wrap-up of the events that have occurred in the two months since knee surgery:
- Two days after knee-surgery I returned to work for Bodybuilding.com. After seeing the amazingly tough working conditions faced by people in Africa, and seeing them face those conditions without the slightest complaint, it doesn’t seem bad at all to be back to the grind in front of a laptop at a table in my comfy kitchen each morning.
- Thanksgiving was again spent in the Bay Area with the family. Audrey and I drove up north a few days early, and I worked from a hotel room in Redwood City while she got to spend a couple of days with her best friend. Aaron and I also had a night to visit not-Ramen Dojo and the old man band bar in San Mateo. For Thanksgiving, Ma Holliday did her magic and prepared an amazing dinner, after which Audrey walked away with the Balderdash crown, much to my dad’s dismay.
- Audrey had many singing gigs during the holidays, including a performance with the De Angelis Vocal Ensemble that took place at St. Basil’s Catholic Church in downtown LA. Following that performance we asked the always-interesting Brett and Susie about any fun spots nearby to grab a drink, and since they know every cool bar in LA we were soon at a German-Korean pub eating shortrib nachos, bratwurst, edamame, and massive steins of beer. Making things even more interesting was the girl at the next table, dressed in a full elf costume, and handing out some very impressive balloon animals (“I just finished working a party” she said. “And she’s really, really bored now” noted her tablemate).
- After a glorious night spent sleeping in the back of the Subaru in a truck stop parking lot, I made the annual pre-dawn visit to the Merced National Wildlife Refuge, then it was on to Ma & Pa’s house for the Christmas festivities. Aaron arrived with Superman and Batman costumes in hand, and a bewildered Ma wondered how she ended up with two boys who, in their late thirties, were still wandering around the house in superhero outfits. Pa then came home, games were played, and on Christmas day we unveiled a new receiver and soundbar for the folks. A surprisingly lengthy amount of setup time later, and Casa Holliday now has a fairly solid home entertainment system.
And now, after four entries spread out over a full month, the journal is again current and ready to ring in 2015. More than twelve years since the first entry, what was originally just a way to avoid writing emails has turned into a record of nearly one-third of my life, and I’m grateful to the twos of readers who continue to check in regularly to share it.
The Thanksgiving holiday started with Audrey and I making the long drive up to the Bay and paying a visit to my brother at his brand-new townhome. While it was distressing to see a guy who once scored three Turkey Bowl touchdowns with a busted head now enthusiastically discussing window coverings and throw rugs, he saved face somewhat by putting snowboarding videos on repeat on his new giant flatscreen. The following day we arrived at Ma & Pa’s, and Aaron and I immediately set off on a hike on Mt. Diablo followed by some basketball and a photo op on the giant digger that was parked next to the court. Ma did her usual stellar job with the Thanksgiving dinner, and pants had to be loosened before the night was over.
The next day Audrey and I set off for Moss Beach to see her friend Kris. Along the way we got to make a trip over the ridiculously cool new Bay Bridge, and while Audrey was better about containing her excitement than I was, I have no doubt that somewhere deep down inside her inner engineer was jumping and cheering. We paid a quick visit to the sea lions at Pier 39, checked into our posh room at the Seal Cove Inn, then joined her friends for drinks on the coast followed by dinner. Sadly, at some point towards the end of dinner the men in the brain sent a sudden signal that something had gone very wrong, and things reached defcon five just before I could pull into the hotel parking lot, and I had to make a mad dash to refund my dinner on the side of the road. Audrey spent the remainder of the evening with her friends, while I slept off the after-effects of my forced weight loss.
The following day was Audrey’s birthday, and after a fancy breakfast at the hotel we joined her on her annual birthday trip to the library before embarking on a tour of the peninsula. She flew home late that night, while I shacked up in the back of the Subaru and woke up before sunrise to head off for a return visit to the cranes, hawks, and geese at the Merced National Wildlife Refuge. That was followed by a quick trip to the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge, and then lots of time to partake in the joy of stop-and-go Thanksgiving traffic on the long route back to LA.
California quail that showed up in the garden outside of our hotel room to greet Audrey for her birthday.
Black-necked stilt at the Merced National Wildlife Refuge.
This year’s Thanksgiving saw Audrey and I make our annual trek through traffic and up to Ma & Pa’s residence in the Bay Area, arriving Wednesday night with pies (plural) in hand after more than seven hours on the road. Aaron is again living in the Bay Area and working at Nordstrom, and by “living in the Bay Area” I mean “living with my parents” and doing so by choice since economics are not really an issue. Dolphins and parrots supposedly stay in family units for years and years, so younger Holliday’s living arrangement is apparently not without precedent.
Aaron and I set off on a muddy hike up Mount Diablo on Thanksgiving morning, saw two flocks of wild turkeys on the trip home, ate the world’s largest biscuit, and then joined everyone else in lounging the day away before eating massive quantities for dinner. The following day Audrey and I were off to meet her best friend Krissy in Moss Beach, with a stop along the way in the Marin Headlands to fight for parking and enjoy a view of the Golden Gate. The next morning Krissy took us up into the hills to hike amongst big trees and banana slugs before a very tired pair made the long journey back to LA.
Golden Gate Bridge from the Marin Headlands.
“I never imagined we’d be hanging out in the parlor, and that Aaron was gonna take his shirt off”. And that was just the beginning of our Thanksgiving weekend.
Audrey and I escaped LA before noon on Wednesday and missed the true joy of Thanksgiving traffic, but it was still a couple of hours to get out of the city limits, and an occasional stop-and-go drive for three hundred miles thereafter. After a steak dinner at Harris Ranch (we were inspired by the seven million cows) we picked up a salt and pumpkin pie (they failed to mention that they were using salt instead of sugar this year), and got home just in time to join the folks for beers and a lovely evening of my brother with his shirt off.
Thanksgiving day saw everyone take a try at balancing on the exercise ball before stuffing ourselves with non-salted pie and turkey. Friday saw the traditional post-Thanksgiving Cocos breakfast and delicious Chow’s wontons, followed by a drive to Moss Beach to see Audrey’s friend and some imbibing on the cliffs next to the ocean as the sun set. Four cats, much sneezing, and fifty miles later and we were in Cupertino for the night, and we woke up a block away from my old office at HP. Audrey couldn’t visit Cupertino without posing with her iPad at the Apple Headquarters (I still like her), and then it was south to Gilroy to buy garlic products. Much driving later we arrived in the middle of nowhere to search out giant white pelicans in the Central Valley (who knew?) before driving off into the sunset and heading home.
Now comes four weeks of work, including two trips to Boise, before Christmas and two weeks of vacation. This time last year I was off on the Banjo Tour, so the winter of 2011 may not be quite so exciting, but hopefully at least one of December’s entries will be from somewhere on the road.
My two-entries-a-month goal has failed miserably. Here’s the summary for November:
Thanksgiving in the Bay Area was filled with the usual uncontrollable laughter, including the revelation that the Skipper and Aaron once had a pickle-eating contest that ended disastrously. Audrey joined us for the first time this year and confessed to a sore stomach after the multi-hour laughfest. Even Ryan Sutherland got in on the act, filling us all in on the Infomercial marketing wonder that is Booty Pops. In less interesting news the latest major version of JAMWiki was released on November 3, and surprisingly there haven’t been any reports that it caused some poor user’s computer to burst into flaming wreckage. And in news that is in no way related to me, SpaceX may be able to launch their new Falcon 9 rocket as early as next February, although March is probably a safer bet.
A lot has happened this month:
- Obama was elected President; I’m excited and optimistic.
- The stock market and economy have continued to crash – the DOW is off almost 50% from its high point, and my savings are in a similar predicament.
- Ted called, and it looks like I may be taking a trip to swim with whales in March. I’m ready.
- The annual Holliday Thanksgiving extravaganza took place over the weekend, and Sally once again produced a ridiculously great meal. Much food was eaten, and much fun was had.
- Following Thanksgiving the family headed off to the horse races; betting on horses based on odds and jockey records was a losing strategy for me; betting based on which horse had the best name was much more successful.
- Aaron and I embarked on our usual shenanigans, including a quest for expired food items that led to some gagging as we disposed of a 25 year old bottle of lime juice.
Random pretty picture – detail of a King penguin’s neck feathers.
This year’s Turkey Bowl ended with a collision that was described as sounding “like two pumpkins smashing together”, and while I didn’t make the tackle I stumbled to my feet before Miner did, so I’d like to believe I won the battle. The epic three hour football marathon was the longest in history, with everyone involved in considerable pain the next day.
Other Thanksgiving highlights included Skip’s joy at discovering Aaron had set up an eight foot tall inflatable Santa in the front yard, the eleven hour drive home (traffic is awesome), and some atomic wedgie action that is probably better forgotten.
The latest retirement will be coming to an end on Monday after more than a year, the Browns are not very good, and JAMWiki is cruising along. Also, this story is super-cool, and this video is inspiring for anyone who has ever felt dumb.
Courtesy of the Elder Nish, photos from the 2005 Turkey Bowl
The Brothers Holliday.
Two weeks without an update is very poor form – my apologies. The only excuse I can offer is that the recent move from Studio City (home of CBS studios) to Culver City (home of Sony studios) has been busy. Here’s a recap:
Each day was pretty much the same: wake up, then spend the day helping Audrey sort stuff, move large items, and list crap on craigslist. Afterwards, deal with the two million people who call to ask if they can pick something up, and then meet the four who might actually show up. In fairness I had a bunch of fun with the craigslist minions, and as the previous posting mentioned met a bunch of odd characters.
Drove home, then went with Aaron to look at Toyota Tacomas. Our testing of the vehicle included the “lie down in the back and pretend to eat chowder” exam, and some time driving around the parking lot with a sales guy who kept mumbling something about “my damn Lexus”. Afterwards we met Chi and the Tall Guy at Chow before finishing the night with a game of Balderdash. The Turkey Bowl the next morning was a massacre, with a final score in the 77 to 42 range. Losing Bowerbank before the half killed us, although Nick’s trail of tears play somewhat made up for the embarrassing loss. Kev (who surprised everyone by showing up at Aaron Field at 7:30, almost three hours before kickoff) and Chi joined us for dinner, and Sally again outdid herself. The next morning I woke up at 4:30 so that Aaron and I could chase down the mad dealz at Circuit City, although when we arrived the line stretched across the front of the store, down the length of the parking lot, and onto the sidewalk, so we apparently weren’t the only idiots to get up early. The rest of the weekend was relatively uneventful, although Lynn and I had a nice drive back to Los Angeles, with a much-needed burger stop along the way.
Audrey and I rented a giant U-Haul for Monday, and my job was to find two movers to help out. One of them called to cancel while we were picking up the truck, but luckily there was a group of about fifteen day-laborers standing around outside of the U-Haul office. As we walked out Audrey whispered “get a big one” in my ear, and this proved sage advice as Jose not only worked amazingly hard, but schlepped around items that I thought might be a chore for two people. His constant grunts of “muy fuerte” were both amusing and appropriate. By the time the day ended we had completely filled and then emptied a twenty-six foot long truck, but the new place is great so it was quite worthwhile. The next day was spent piling remaining items from the old house onto the lawn with a giant “FREE!” sign, and while I’m sure this display of communal trash dumping might have upset the neighbors, it introduced us to the special breed of craigslist stealth ninjas, who showed up unseen at all hours to remove completely random items — while our TV cabinet was still on the lawn the next morning, its glass door apparently caught someone’s fancy.
Drove through the night Wednesday, arriving home at 3:00 AM Thursday morning. Five and a half hours later Aaron woke me up for the Turkey Bowl, which is the annual football game held at “Aaron Field”. Herrod showed up wearing the helmet cam 2.0, an improvement over the prior helmet cam which had survived only long enough to record Aaron tackling Herrod followed by the helmet flying across the field before shutting down. This time around the video camera was triple taped to the helmet, a chin strap was added, and tons of bubble wrap was used. The video was fun to watch, but next year’s version is going to need some steady-cam action to reduce viewer naseau.
The joys of one touchdown and knocking Miner senseless during a kickoff return were lessened when I misunderstood what the option play was and tossed a perfect strike to Junior, who took the interception back for a touchdown. Our Thanksgiving eating contest followed several hours later, but when Aaron weighed out with a net seven pound weight gain I conceded. Scott stayed in, chugging water for all he was worth and holding on gamely for second.
Sleep, beautiful sleep. Also scanned in a few more pictures from my 1999 trip to the Galapagos.
Skip and I went into the city, hitting up Woo’s for the standard barbecue pork rice noodle rolls and won ton. After a bit more roaming we returned home, and once Aaron was off work we headed out. Ping pong and pool at Masse’s was thwarted by a five dollar cover charge, but a good time was still had by all.
Wanting to avoid traffic I started on the road at 11:30 Saturday night, and drove to Monterey where I planned to get a few hours of sleep in the K-Mart parking lot. Unfortunately the local police were out in force, and while watching them pull over a girl and run her through a sobriety test another cop snuck in behind me and demanded to know what I was up to. When I told him I was watching this girl being forced to touch her nose and stand on one leg he lost it a bit, but once he was done laughing I was on my way down highway one. Finally got a few hours of sleep on a turnout along the ocean, and then spent the day moseying south along the most beautiful road in America. Stopped for an hour or two to say hello to the elephant seals, and finally got back to Los Angeles late in the afternoon.
The annual Thanksgiving eating contest went horribly wrong this year, resulting in Aaron winning through disqualification. The final weigh-in stood near five pounds gained before the infraction took place. Also of note is that when we discovered Aaron’s list of things that make him happy (written when he was in the sixth grade), “my brother” came in fourth from last, well behind “donuts” and “when my mom gets home from the grocery store”.