Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Turkey Waltz

What better holiday than the one focused on taking stock of our blessings? No gifts, no pressure, no feigned excitement; just all of us expressing thanks for gifts already received. But, before the thanking begins in earnest, we all know that there is a little down time. It starts around 9:50 a.m., once we've had breakfast but before preparations for the Big Meal begin. It's too late for coffee and too early for beer. The relatives aren't in town yet. Football doesn't start for hours and the turkey isn't even in the oven yet. I know, I know, there's Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. But whatever its (dubious) historical merits may be, is watching overly made-up actors lip sync stale songs whilst frolicking amongst giant inflatable comic book characters and super-happy elves your idea of entertainment?

For a more enriching Thanksgiving down time tradition, consider The Band's opus masterpiece, The Last Waltz. A full discussion of their brilliance is for another time. Jumping forward to the end, by 1976, they were spent. Star-driven egos (Robertson), addictions (Danko), infirmity (Manuel), and exasperation (Helm, Hudson) had reduced the former Hawks to a less functional state. The Greats have an instinct for knowing when the end is near. They know when to pull the Plug. So it was in November 1976 for the Band. A simple press release was no fitting end. Instead, on November 25, 1976 (your author's first birthday; Karma), they packed the old Winterland Arena in San Francisco with 5,000 fortunates and had a Bill Graham orchestrated Party. It was Thanksgiving Day. "Mom, I'm not going to make it home this year."

In a twist, the concert did not start immediately; Thanksgiving dinner was first served to the assembled mass. This surely was the most raucous Thanksgiving dinner in history; a supercharged throng of post-hippie Woodstock vets dining patiently on turkey and salmon while waiting for their Heroes to take the stage. To have been a centerpiece on that table! Once satiated, the mass saw a show for the ages, with a Hall of Fame parade of guests ranging from Muddy Waters to Neil Young to Neil Diamond to Bob Dylan. It is not known to be their greatest live performance (for a superior live recording, see Rock of Ages, which documents their excellent 1971 New Year's show), but its historical significance is outsized. Rolling Stone has described the Martin Scorsese directed video documentary as the greatest Rock film ever. (I would place it somewhere around number 2, with the Rolling Stones' Gimme Shelter being a clear 1). It is a marvelous and artful portrayal of legendary musicians as idols and human beings, jamming for their last time together. It is the Citizen Kane of Rock documentaries, an essential study for any Music Fan. So, as you sit around twiddling your smart phone at 10:00 a.m. this Thanksgiving, or next, do yourself and your family a favor. Show them The Last Waltz. You will all be enriched.

An Early Evening Thanksgiving Reminder. We are ALL blessed. This Earth is a wonderful place, full of color and laughter. We are lucky to be here together. For those of you dealing with trials and tribulations this Thanksgiving, we are all pulling for you. There are better days ahead. Hang in there! If health and good fortune are the order of your day, then the blessings are more apparent. Do not take them for granted. No matter what, if you are reading this, then you have reason to give thanks. Take a moment tomorrow. Think about it. Be thankful. Count your blessings. One. By. One.        

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