Sunday, December 13, 2009

A NoDak Thanksgiving - On The Road Again, Part 2

The next morning, Thanksgiving Day, I awoke in a basement in North Dakota for the first time in my life and in my post-deep-REM-sleep stupor I momentarily had absolutely no fucking idea where in the hell I was. When I came to and remembered, it still didn't make a whole lot of sense to be waking up in a basement in North Dakota, but at least I knew I had not been abducted and would not have to fight my way out with this stuffed fish, a plan I had imagined when I saw him the night before. In fact, I was quite comfortable in my bed and by the squeak of the floorboards above me and the smell of toast wafting down, I knew breakfast proceedings were underway and I couldn't think of anything better in the world at that moment but to have a big, home-cooked, family style breakfast. The food and the company did not disappoint and this was only the beginning of a long, glorious day of eating and relaxing. We all knew there was a huge, traditional holiday dinner awaiting us and yet we still had a big breakfast and an even bigger lunch, only a couple hours later. Lunch consisted of cheese, salamis, shrimp, deviled eggs, a beef ball, crackers, and more that was way too hard to resist eating too much of.. so we generally did not resist. Somehow there was just gonna have to be room in our bellys for everything. On this day we would not deny ourselves anything!

As I mentioned in Part 1, dinner itself was an incredible display of traditional turkey (juicy, beautiful, seen to the left), smoked turkey (awesome and even awesomer cold sandwiches later), ham (sweet succulent swine), and all the trimmings you'd expect, all done perfectly. One unique addition to the table was the traditional Norwegian tortilla-like flatbread called lefse. In case you didn't know, North Dakota and other parts of the upper mid-west are full of Norwegian descendants and Jesse's family is no different. Lefse is one of those things Norwegian kids grow up eating and will always hit that perfect soft spot in their heart and stomach, so Jesse was in heaven. The traditional way to eat it is to spread it with butter, sprinkle a healthy dose of sugar on it, roll it up and enjoy... and enjoy we all did. I also brought a home-made Jewish tradition of my own to the party, the challah bread pictured here (I made it the day before we left, the rolls were meant for turkey sandwiches, they did not, however, make the trip.. I just couldn't resist eating them fresh.. I'm weak.. but look at them, aren't they pretty?! They demanded to be eaten right there and then). Anyways... after dinner there was, of course, dessert, and, just before we slipped into the inevitable food coma, pumpkin pies and pumpkin cheesecake made their appearance and proved to be the perfect ending to a beautiful meal. Soon we all retired to the living room to bask in the glow of our full stomachs and an HDTV. Even then, as we began to vegetate after this huge meal, I began to daydream of how good the leftovers were going to be.. speaking of which, do you know what you do with the leftovers in North Dakota? Just put them outside... good as any fridge. Man, I'm such a Florida kid, huh? Stuff like that (and having basements) is so foreign and gee-wiz impressive to me!

The next thing I remember is watching the show Deadwood on DVD. This show came to be sort of a soundtrack to our trip (a soundtrack with very, um, colorful language, as you know if you've seen the show). Once we started watching, it seems like we didn't stop, and that was OK with me. Wow, why wasn't I watching this show before?! Awesome, dirty, over the top, grotesque but really well acted cowboy melodrama.. I'm hooked. Check it out if you don't mind your cowboys and whores swearing even more than modern day sailors.

Two gambling adventures are next in my memory, one sad and frustrating, the other with a much happier ending. First up, me and Jesse (seen to the left, in happier, post-Thanksgiving-dinner times), being the sick degenerates we are, of course found our way to the local Indian casino to try our hand in their poker tournament. Well, this turned out to be a pretty miserable experience start to finish. We really should have never put our money down once we saw this place, but by the time we realized just how bad this was going to be, it was too late, the tournament had already started. Nobody but us really cares why this was such an awful tournament, I guess, but trust me, it was. The dealers were terrible, the structure was ridiculous, the players were old cranky farmers who all knew each other and had way deeper pockets than us. All in all a big waste of money.. and it's a dry casino, too. No booze! Who ever heard of such a thing?! We couldn't even drown our sorrows.

On the other hand, and against all reasonable expectations, bingo at the Knights Of Columbus was a joy! Danie, Lucy, Lucy's mom, and I spent Saturday afternoon playing bingo and pull tabs (North Dakota version of lottery scratch offs, basically) at the local KOC around the block. Now, Lucy and I are old pros from our days on the Vegas bingo circuit, where the competition is fierce and the stakes are high. We started as mere amateurs, but we had a passion to learn and were willing to pay our dues and work harder than anybody else, and by the time we each left Vegas we had slowly but surely worked our way up through the ranks. We were at the top of our bingo game. So, Devil's Lake bingo was not nearly as intimidating to us as it would be to most of you unschooled, wannabe bingo pros. And it felt good to get back in the saddle again! We all daubed our hearts out and were having fun, but, alas, victory was eluding us. It was down to the last game of the afternoon, do or die. As the game went on and on, the old man kept calling numbers and more numbers, the tension in the air was thick as the regulars anticipated a bingo call with every new number called.. surely this was the number that would end the game! I was only one number away, myself, and we were all getting so tantalizingly close. Finally, I hear "B... 5"... Bingooooo! I've got bingo! I had won! Victory was mine! $49 cold hard cash, baby! You may not be as naturally gifted as me, but if you practice hard enough and dedicate yourself to the craft of bingo, I know one day you, too, can be as good a bingo player as me... Just don't give up! On the way out, the nice old lady that ran the game told me she was glad I won because I "showed the ladies how to play"! That's right, ladies! How do like me now?

After bingo I partook in yet another very manly pursuit.. Me, Jesse, and Jesse's dad went out and shot the shit out of some shit! Oh yeah, that's what I'm talking about! We drove out to the middle of nowhere, popped the trunk, loaded up, threw a Coke can out in a field, and took aim... you can call me Dead Eye Joel now. Seriously, for never having fired a rifle before, I feel like I acquitted myself pretty well.. I made that can dance like a summabitch! Check me out, from the back I could pass for a real country boy couldn't I? Pretty sure I would cry if I shot anything other than a can, though.

And then before we knew it, it was time to drive back home. 29 hours, 1,846 miles back home. I think we all could have stayed another couple days at least, but some people have jobs and some people had to get back to San Francisco to go to them. Personally, I could have stayed in that basement a while longer... Jesse's parents were very kind and hospitable to me and I thank them very much for having me. I really enjoyed my time in the upper Mid-West! Although, in a way I'm sad I missed the -20 temps, it would have been quite the new experience.. but mostly I'm happy I didn't have to deal with that craziness. The ride home was clear and largely uneventful. Jesse and I were feeling sick, so we were either stoned on Nyquil, sleeping in the back seat, or it was our turn to drive for four hours. Danie straight up refuses to get sick, so she was fit as a fiddle and probably drove an extra hour here and there. We got home at about 4pm and I went directly to sleep. I went on to sleep for what seemed like three days straight... I was out of it. Thus ends our NoDak adventure. Will any of us want to drive that much again any time soon? Absolutely not. Will we do it again ever? Maybe, just maybe...

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