One of us — we won’t say who — had a grandmother who was a smoker. She was a grandmother-grandmother, she was a smoker-smoker, she went through +2 soft packs of menthol Salem’s every day, there were mountains of lipstick-ringed cigarettes in every room of the house, she spent most of her days sitting on her couch in Pittsburgh staring blankly out her Large Bay Window and saying things like, “If it snows as much as it did last Winter I hope I just die.”
She'd smoke, she'd stare, she'd curse the weather.
Her husband drank Manhattans by the dozen, he obsessed over crossword puzzles, he loved Notre Dame even though he attended Clarkson, he played golf at Duquesne Country Club three days a week, every Sunday night after dinner he drank one Golden Cadillac in the basement while his bifida-shaped wife smoked and meditated and smoked and meditated. She'd say things like, “It’s just keeps getting darker" -- which we all took to mean "the-world-as-such" -- then light a forty-third Salem and shuffle off toward one of the two single beds in their dark, damp bedroom.
The final Thanksgiving any of us spent in Pittsburgh she was particularly bothered. There were new neighbors, neighbors with strange habits, neighbors at whom she’d glare through her glass bay window. The steel mills had just closed and she blamed “the Bolsheviks”. Reagan was President, she didn’t trust him, she didn’t like his face, she thought that he was a better man than Carter and certainly than Reubin Askew, but still. The electricity in the house was different, she couldn't get the Home Box Office out of the television, the telephone was listening, the air was too close, the mailman was a damn liar, it was all wrong -- all of it.
Over that particularly strange Thanksgiving dinner she transitioned from silent to furious to ecstatic. None of us knew her, she said. She'd wrecked a car when she was fourteen because of the corn whiskey, she said. At eighteen she'd frenched Ward Bond, she'd stowed away on a steamboat to London, she was seduced on a bus outside of Indianapolis by a man whose initials she only remembered as “N.C” , she made love in a bowling ball manufacturing plant, she'd been on the television twice, for two weeks she was a background singer for Jimmy Durante.
And/but/also: her two daughters were bounders, her lone grandson was an idiot, and her husband -- who she never really loved -- was just so "common".
She had two friends in the world. Herself, and whichever cigarette happened to be in her mouth.
After she flicked us off, we thought she was shuffling off to bed. In the morning her husband filled out a crossword puzzle and when we asked where she was he shrugged. Her bed was made, it was empty. Six years later we received a curt postcard that read, "Screw you, suckholes. I’m in Boca.”
This Thanksgiving is the 35th anniversary of her great escape, and to celebrate it we’d like to invite you to the Fridge on Thursday, November 16th between 6:30 - 8:30pm, for an evening of beer distribution and conviviality. We will supply you with 4 (four) Fetish Brewing Company Beers, and, if you bring us an attractive photograph of Reubin Askew, we will also provide you with 1 (one) bonus free handshake.