Alice’s Restaurant

Mom's pineapple pudding

I wake up at 9am and make coffee. The boys put on football since it starts at 9:30am (weird to have it on that early; so into it). I immediately head back up to my room for a more recent Thanksgiving tradition – watching Pieces of April. This is the best Thanksgiving movie ever. If you’ve never seen it you have to watch it. Katie Holmes is at her best, along with Patricia Clarkson and Oliver Platt as her parents. So good. Of course I cry at the end. Usually I’m watching at home with the family so I have to hold the tears back, but alone in my room on the other side of the country, I’m bawling.

Head back downstairs to make Mom’s pineapple pudding. Tara said we didn’t have to make any food, but I told her we have this dish every year. “You should definitely make it then! It will remind you of home!” She’s so cute. I’m nervous to mess it up since I’ve never made it. Seems like a simple recipe. I have to cut the bread into cubes. How big should they be? I think to call Mom but don’t want to sound stupid, so I take a guess. Two cans of diced pineapple go in the mix, and of course I bought one can of diced and one can of sliced. Jesus Christ. I’m cursing at myself, pissed off because now I have to dice them up myself and it takes forever. The boys ignore my melodramatics in the kitchen. Can’t say I blame them.

I pop the pudding into the oven and jump in the shower. As I’m in my room ironing my dress, Sonny walks in holding the shirt he wants to wear. “Yo, can you iron this?” Not completely sure what my face looks like; a mix between shock and my death stare. Eyebrows go up, mouth possibly hanging open, and annoyance all at the same time. Ummm, I can show you how to iron it. Sonny and I don’t really know each other very well, yet. I try to cut him some slack. I begin to show him. He doesn’t try to leave. Smart. Ironing 101, he calls it. Mike comes in the room after and irons his own shirt (he doesn’t try asking).

The four of us hit the road to Rich and Tara’s house. It’s in Topanga, near Malibu: about a 45-minute drive. I think we’re close when we start winding our way up a mountain, but we’ve still got another 10-15 minutes. The twists and turns are tight and steep as we climb higher and higher. The road is narrow and the drop-off is a long way down. I’m afraid to look out the window. I’m back at the Grand Canyon. Mike rolls down a window – he feels sick. I do the same. We finally park in a spot we think is near Tara’s – still not exactly sure where her house is located. I don’t want to get out of the car on my side. I picture myself slipping and falling right over the side. It’s that scary. We start to walk down a driveway of some sort. It’s almost vertical! There’s no way I’m getting down this thing in heels. Barefoot, it is. Mike and I stop to take in the view. It’s breathtaking. We continue down and make a turn and finally, I spot Tara. She’s standing at her front door with a glass of red wine in hand, looking like a little housewife as she prepares our feast.

Rich on Tara's bedroom balcony

I immediately love her house. It’s green, like an old green wood color. Tara says it reminds her of a tree house. We’re greeted by her future mother-in-law, Suzy. She’s very welcoming as she introduces herself to all of us. I hear the Vince Guaraldi Trio playing and I’m happy to be here on Thanksgiving. Say hello to Rich, then a quick tour of the house. It’s unreal. The view is just unbelievable. We all get drinks and sit around her living room. Rich’s brother, John, and friend Paul are here, along with two little ones outside in the hot tub and their parents – family on Rich’s side. I introduce myself to John. Mike whispers to me, “Do you recognize him from the movie?” I whisper back. No because I’ve never seen it. John was in the film, Elephant, which I’m embarrassed to say I have not seen. Mike, obviously, has seen it. John has been in a couple other movies that I do know – Wendy and Lucy, and Remember the Daze. Haha I love Remember the Daze. I could be wrong, but I feel like he was probably a skateboarding pothead in it.  Tara has made this ridiculous starter of brie with walnuts and brown sugar, all wrapped in a puff pastry and baked until gooey and delicious. Yes, please. Marcus is here, too, with his dog, Clyde, an enormous and friendly German Shepherd. Rich is filling us in on everyone who’s here when I ask, oh, where’s your Dad? I mean, it’s immediate. I know as soon as I ask that I shouldn’t have. It’s none of my business. If he wants to tell me where his Dad is, he will, but that’s just what I do. “He died earlier this year. It’s OK, it’s OK! Really!” Yea. I’m sorry. Rich is wonderful and tells me not to worry about it. I’m just shaking my head at myself. Mike agrees later that, yes, that was dumb of me. Troy tries to make me feel better. “If you didn’t ask, I would have.” Thanks, Troy, but no such luck for me; I have to be the first one in the room to stick her foot in her mouth.

We begin to gather around the table. It’s a serve yourself kind of set-up. “OK, kids, help yourselves.” Suzy directs the traffic. It’s nice to have a Mom figure around today. “OK, I want to say a prayer.” Some people are standing, some are sitting, some are in the kitchen. Rich – “Mom, we’re not even all sitting down.” John pipes in, “Yea, Mom, if we’re going to bring Jesus into this, we better do it right.” I really like this family. We all get settled and Suzy spits out a quick prayer. Amen. The food is delicious. There’s turkey, mashed potatoes (garlic, I believe), butternut squash, homemade mac n cheese, a really good green bean casserole, a horseradish potato pancake (what?!!) and two kinds of stuffing. One has sausage and cranberries – something new – I love it. Engrossed in conversation, I don’t realize someone’s trying to get my attention. “You’re pineapple pudding is amazing.” Thanks! It’s really good for you, too. Suzy informs us of the competition that took place the night before. Competition? My ears perk up. They had a pushup competition. Bring it on. Well not right now, I just ate, that would be silly. Wait until later when I’m drunk in my dress. That’s definitely a better idea.

We move the table to the deck outside. Suzy gives me a big, warm blanket to wrap around myself. It’s beautiful on the deck. We play Taboo until after dark – blonds vs. brunettes. The blonds win. Tara – “I love winning.” God, I hate losing. We move inside. I’m freezing. More wine, please. Suzy catches me sitting by the fire warming up. She starts to take pictures of me by myself. Goodness this is embarrassing, but she’s such a Mom, I love it. “What’s your email, I’ll send it to you. OK, now what’s your Mom’s email, I’ll email her, too.”

Rich and Tara's backyard...basically

More games – awesome – we play apples to apples. Teams of two, so me and Mike. We’re so different. It’s funny, though. Suzy makes an announcement. “This is the last round.” I love her. I want the game to be over, too. We move to the living room. All I want to do is watch a Christmas movie. Tara seems to be on the same page. “Do you want some eggnog? There’s rum and whiskey in it. Then we can watch Elf.” OMG, I love you. I watch the whole movie even though some people have migrated back to the table to play Catchphrase. Mike sees me crying at the end and points it out to Tara. Thanks a lot! I can’t help it. I’m very emotional. I’ll probably cry at every Christmas movie I watch this season.

We were planning to stay the night, but Sonny has stopped drinking for a while, so he offers to drive home. We say our goodbyes. I give Suzy a kiss on the cheek. Thank you for having us. It’s not even her house but I feel like I should thank her. You really made us feel welcome. I’m getting choked up. Ok, bye! I thank Tara and Rich. Tara sends us off with the rest of the pineapple pudding and some mac n cheese. Leftovers – score! This place is obviously scarier at night. And we can’t find our way out. It’s been about ten minutes driving and we’re back to where we started. Great. Sonny and Troy finally get us back to where we need to be and we’re on our way. Once home, the trash talking picks up again about pushups. Mike said – in front of everyone – that I could probably do only 10. Excuse me? I’m an athlete. I do crossfit (well not anymore, but I did for two weeks and that shit’s intense). You’re not an athlete. (This definitely gets him mad.) You used to be an athlete but not anymore. You can’t even run two miles with me. Now it’s on. I start to head upstairs and Mike is on the floor. Wow, I didn’t think he would actually do it. Troy counts. 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30. He crumbles to the floor. Shit. I think I can do 25. I don’t know about more than that. Troy, count for me. I don’t even have a hair tie. Here I go. 25. Pause at the top. Struggling. 26, 27, 28, 29. Pause again. Sonny – “She’s not gonna do it!” Troy- “C’mon!” 30, 31. Collapse. YES. I WIN. BOOM! Mike is defeated. My night is complete. I walk upstairs and fall into my bed to recover real quick. I can’t move. Mike takes my boots off for me. I never get back up.

*Arlo Guthrie

4 thoughts on “Alice’s Restaurant

  1. Felt like I was there with you on Thanksgiving! Beautiful! And you look gorgeous in front of the fireplace. Thanks Suzy! PS Hi to Mike and Troy (I don’t know Sonny but Hi to him too!)

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