Thanksgiving Alone? Something to Be Said for That: Opening Line

So we arrive at the holidays, a five-week sprint, or marathon, depending on your outlook, of pressure, obligations, expense, hassle, gluttony and substance abuse. It’s Tuesday afternoon as we write this and we’re already drinking.

Not sure when it all went south. The depictions we got in elementary school of going over rivers and through woods never panned out, of course. First, that’s because by the time we were learning that song, advances in transportation and communication increasingly meant you were starting the day nowhere near grandmother’s house.

So that means travel, and as the American Automobile Association is telling us, more than 46 million Americans will travel more than 50 miles for the pleasure of sitting at the table with that man Aunt Gladys had to marry. As you are no doubt aware by now, today is going to be a rotten travel day. But at least you’re not schlepping gifts.

Once there, wherever there is, the old dynamics return, family or not. One year in the Nineties we spent tomorrow on a stool at Hannah’s Westerly Lounge on Eighth Avenue in the mid-50s (it’s gone) and witnessed a scene right out of “The Thin Man,” when a drunken, lonely man (not this one) was suddenly overcome with guilt and poured himself into the payphone for a blubbering call to his mom.

Yeah, we spent it alone like we almost always did in those days. For those who have never done it -- cracking the first one early, shambling around secondary city streets, pulling up a stool and feeling the distance you’ve put between you and custom when you know in your bones you’re supposed to be somewhere else -- try it. There’s a new appreciation for holidays you get from the long view.

If that’s not viable, and you’re arriving back home, still single, to present yourself as the specimen that must be examined by the examiners, there are options. Holiday date rentals is evidently a thing now, because what can’t the Internet fix? Those seeking someone to pose as their significant other or offering themselves as one are popping up on Craigslist.

“Looking for a Thanksgiving Day date. I’m making a huge dinner and I need a date. You: Show up and act like you’ve known me for more than 10 minutes. Sit through the usual family dinner at my place. Send the parents home and we hang out for the rest of the day.”

When once these old holidays only meant a pause to celebrate what was all around us already, the detachments we contend with today require us to sometimes fabricate and reconstitute that which we celebrate.

But for those in big, loving families, it really is a wonderful time of year.

***

U.S. economic indicators today include durable-goods orders, initial jobless claims, personal income and spending, and the PCE deflator at 8:30 a.m. EST, followed by the Chicago purchasing managers index and Bloomberg consumer comfort at 9:45 a.m., the University of Michigan consumer confidence index at 9:55 a.m., and new-home sales at 10 a.m.

Deere reports earnings today before the market opens.

A short time ago, the U.K. said third-quarter GDP grew 3 percent from a year earlier and by 0.7 percent from the second quarter.

*** - Protests erupt nationwide over the proceedings in Ferguson, Missouri. - Institutional rape abroad. - UVA administrators arrive at conclusion alcohol may be a factor in rape culture. - Andrew Dell, HSBC Africa’s chief executive officer, speaks at The Economist’s Future of Banking in Africa conference at 3:50 p.m. in Johannesburg, 8:50 a.m. EST. - Pfizer can attempt another takeover after AstraZeneca rejected its bid 6 months ago. - Michele Flournoy withdraws from consideration as U.S. Defense secretary. - Broader ozone regulations on their way from the EPA. - No one told the FDA that ignorance is bliss. - Dressing as Thomas Jefferson won’t save your job. - Two girls blow themselves up in Nigeria, take 78 others with them. - Meanwhile, in Hong Kong. - FARC releases two Colombian soldiers, still holding general. - Spain asks Cuba to allow 12 dissidents to leave the island. - Shakespeare First Folio found in small French public library. - Masai tribe receives promise of security from Tanzania. - You live 84 years, only to go out like this. - Two Minnesota men charged with trying to join I.S. Anything to escape winter there. - Sierra Leone workers dump Ebola victims’ corpses in protest over wages. - It’s kind of catchy, actually.

***

The conventions of the day aren’t what they used to be, of course. Yours truly used to begin Thanksgiving Day at church. We grew up in one of those odd Protestant denominations that had a service on Thanksgiving but not on Christmas. Never heard of this before or since.

After the church-going years, and before our knees turned into the kind you’d find on the Tin Man, pickup football was the primary distraction before the congregation moved to the table (or the little table, depending on your age/size). Phones were still mounted on walls, televisions were encased in wood-paneled consoles, the newspaper was already consumed by late morning. There wasn’t much to do before the bird except to get out there with the pigskin, choose up sides and give life to the trash-talk that would enliven the dinner to come.

Also, stores were closed.

Tomorrow, while the seductive aromas (should you be so blessed) greet you at the door and lead you around the house but long before the payoff, and with Kids These Days increasingly among a generation that wouldn’t know a buttonhook pattern from the Buttonwood Agreement, the time salivating will be spent otherwise with the ones and zeros that lead to flatscreen TVs or maybe some books.

There’s George Wacker of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, who knows that “it sounds lazy,” preparing to cozy up with a smart-thing and hit the stores from the comfort of his Barcalounger.

“It’s definitely a family holiday, but if someone else is taking a nap, I’m going to take 30 minutes to scan my phone for deals,” Wacker tells Spencer Soper today.

Whether he stays seated for long is part of the national calculation. As of now, the outlook is rosy. Matt Townsend and Lindsey Rupp report forecasts for the best Black Friday weekend in three years, which are being chalked up to rising employment and wages coupled with falling gasoline prices. The wild card, at least on the U.S. East Coast, is the weather.

***

From Reading, Pennsylvania, comes the heartbreaking-turned-heartwarming tale of a real-life Charlie Brown Christmas tree.

If you’ve been following the saga over the past week, and we don’t know why you would have except that it made national news, you know that the town mounted a tree that turned out to be a little threadbare and which transformed the kind people of Reading into a town full of Grinches.

Almost as soon as it was up came the laments, as in, “Can’t you even tell a good tree from a poor tree?” (h/t Lucy)

But the force of sentimentality, holiday cheer and Charles Schulz prevailed.

“I like it. Let’s put it back together and make it look a little better,” a man told WFMZ-TV of Allentown.

That’s the spirit.

***

Of course this is also the start of a heightened box-office season, and it starts this weekend with a handful of new releases that will do their best to unseat the latest “Hunger Games” installment -- “To Kill a Mockingjay,” if you will.

For the kids, for whom 1 hour and 32 minutes will scarcely satisfy the needs of parents hoping for some lasting peace, Fox’s “Penguins of Madagascar” picks up where “Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted” leaves off. Skipper, Kowalski, Rico and Private must save the world from an evil villain (yes, it’s a redundancy; just go with it).

Benedict Cumberbatch is getting most of the cast buzz, but let’s not overlook John Malkovich (the kids in the theater will grow up one day to see “Dangerous Liaisons” and their brains will fry) or Werner Herzog, cast in the role “Documentary Filmmaker.”

For the grownups, Time Warner's “Horrible Bosses 2” picks up where “Horrible Bosses” leaves off, which means God help you if you’ve got the kids in tow and you get the theaters mixed up. Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, Jason Anis -- no, Jennifer Aniston and Kevin Spacey are back, with newcomers including Chris Pine and Christoph Waltz, an actor we’d pay to read us actuary tables.

Out from under the misery of their horrible bosses in the first movie, Bateman, Sudeikis and Charlie Day attempt to start their own company and wind up becoming horrible bosses themselves, in a way.

We won’t go too far with the plot, but then it doesn’t appear the writers did either.

***

Much as we’ve railed against the NFL this season, and for good reason, there’s little chance we or many others are going to turn our backs on the Thanksgiving football games because it’s Pavlovian. Even if we don’t watch most of it. There are good matchups to all three games, but one stands above the rest.

First, the traditional Detroit game brings the 5-6 Chicago Bears to play the 7-4 Lions at 12:30 p.m. EST, and that’s got good old NFC North flavors to it. We’ll call that the white meat game. Everyone likes the turkey’s white meat, but it’s not like its special.

The late game at 8:30 p.m. EST sends the 7-4 defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks south to face the San Francisco 49ers, also 7-4, and this is going to be a good game that will shake out the NFC West. We’ll call this the sides and fixings game: the potatoes, the yams, the cranberry, the stuffing -- this is the stuff you could eat all day long, long after you’ve had enough of the turkey and that green-bean casserole.

But it’s the middle game, scheduled for 4:30 p.m., just when all the food is piping hot and cleared for landing on the table, that will be our main course. The 8-3 Philadelphia Eagles visit the 8-3 Dallas Cowboys, two teams that genuinely, honestly, don’t like each other, to break the tie for the lead in the NFC East. This is the drumstick game. If you love the dark meat, you want a drumstick. It’s the prize, as this game is shaping up to be.