Sunday, December 6, 2009

Thanksgiving Horror Stories

Turkey Day reminded me of thanksgiving dinner parties I went to quite a few years ago that were hosted by a man I'll call Horatio.

Horatio was as gay as a goose -- he was basically what is known as a "brittle queen" -- but when he was in his forties he got married to an 80-year-old woman - I'll call her Betty -- who had been a close friend of his late mother's. Horatio wasn't trying to fool anybody or become an ex-gay -- although I can't say he ever had much of a gay identity -- the marriage was simply an exchange of favors. Horatio would take care and look after, be a companion to, his aging wife with the understanding that he would inherit her 12 room apartment and her money.

I missed the first Thanksgiving day dinner Horatio threw after the marriage. I was told it was a disaster. Despite the fact that his wife was loaded, Horatio had an old friend, Hedy, who had fallen on hard times, use her food stamps to get the turkey and trimmings. I am not kidding! An altercation broke out in the kitchen when Betty wondered why Hedy was packing away all of the leftovers in her bag. "I paid for the fucking food!" Hedy was said to remark.

Well, you would think that I might have known better, but I decided to go to the dinner party the following Thanksgiving, primarily because certain friends and other interested parties had also been invited. I thought it might be a hoot. I might even get dinner.

Horatio was a lousy host, mostly because he didn't give a damn. You were given a drink -- yes a drink -- and then had to hunt all over the place for the liquor bottles (on a table in the kitchen) so you could pour yourself another (even if you had brought your own booze). The turkey was bone dry, and served sans gravy or wine to wash it down with. The stuffing was the cheap stuff out of a box. There were never any hors d'ouevres to nibble on as you waited for dinner, something to nosh on so you weren't drinking on an empty stomach. It was as if Horatio essentially had contempt for everyone there and wasn't going to put himself out for us peons. You had to eat fast and get the fuck out!

You see Horatio apparently came from money, or at least wanted people to think he did. His "marriage" was an act of sheer desperation. No one on the planet would have ever thought the man was heterosexual. He had a superior air that was really the product of a deep, deep and overwhelming inferiority complex, relating to his sexuality, his "obviousness," his status in life versus where he'd hoped to be, and probably many other factors.

But that's not the strangest part. The really weird thing was that Horatio had an obsession with stuffed animals. No, not cuddly toys stuffed with cotton, but animals hunted, killed and stuffed by taxidermists. Horatio was not a hunter himself, but he filled the entire apartment with dead animals, covering the walls with them, every single bit of counter space, every table top -- everywhere you looked there were glassy-eyed critters to give you the heebie jeebies. I turned my shoulder at the dinner table and found myself staring a moose in the face. Out in the living room there was a rattle snake beside my cocktail. Little furry things literally took up every spot imaginable. Right inside the front door was a life-size grizzly bear! [I am not making this up!]

And the place stunk to high heaven.

I swear, when you got off the elevator all you could smell was a stench like boiled cabbage.

I went to these parties two years in a row mostly because I enjoyed some of the other guests, and especially the comments they made on the way out of the lobby. They were hands down the worst dinner parties I ever attended -- with the worst food, the cheapest booze, and the least warm and welcoming host I have ever encountered.

Still, when he got a little drunk Horatio could be fun, and I think he was forgiven a lot because of that.

He got Betty into a nursing home as soon as possible, but after her death, while he stayed in the huge apartment, he did not act like a wealthy man. I think Betty had left him rather cash-poor. There was something strangely pitiable about the fellow. But he was a character.

And that's better than nothing.

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