The night before Thanksgiving is one of the most important drinking nights of the year, right up there with Christmas Eve and Tuesdays. Thanksgiving is one of the rare blessed holidays that can be enjoyed while severely hung over because the basic idea of this holiday is to sit, eat, watch football and drink some more. It’s like the pilgrims wanted you to be drunk for 24 straight hours, God bless them and their shiny-buckle hats.

Where to drink the night before Thanksgiving is easy. You could drive across town to drink, but then you run the very real risk of sitting in a jail cell later trying to remember the phone number of that one DUI lawyer you saw with the ad on the back of a city bus–the one where he’s looking at you like, “DUIs aren’t the driver’s fault. They’re the cops’ fault. Hire me and my justice-y beard.”

The best option the night before Thanksgiving is always to drink locally. When you do, you will run into people you know from high school. And inevitably you will run out of things to say because there is a reason you don’t keep in touch. Not to worry. I gotcha covered.

1. So, what was jail like?
OK, not everyone you went to high school with wound up in jail, but if you’re out drinking the night before Thanksgiving, and you’re in a conversation with someone you went to high school with, and you’ve never been in jail, statistically, the odds are pretty good that the other person in the conversation has been to jail.

2. I heard ____ is pregnant again.
That girl who got pregnant 15 years ago your junior year in high school? She’s still getting pregnant. And now her kids are pregnant and even some of their kids are pregnant.

3. Is ___ dead?
There is always one kid–his name is Tony in my class–who everyone thinks is dead.

Every Thanksgiving or Christmas some girl who didn’t know Tony at all will start telling you that your class’s Tony is dead and isn’t it awful?

Then three hours later you see him while picking up your mom’s car at the mechanic, and you’re like, “I can’t believe you’re alive!” and he’s like, “What the hell are you talking about?”

4. I heard Mr. ___ finally got arrested.
You had at least one pervy teacher. If there is any semblance of functioning law enforcement in your town, he has since been arrested.

5. Did Ms. ____ really pose for Playboy in the 1980s?
This rumor started while you were in high school. There’s one foxy older teacher, and rumor has it she did a Playboy spread in the 1980s, and this one guy you know said he saw the spread one time, but when you ask him to produce it, he says he doesn’t have it anymore, and you want to call BS on him, but the confident glint in his eye seems to indicate that he did see it. And so you wander the earth going from garage sale to garage sale, flipping through stacks of old magazines, hoping…

6. I heard ____ is loaded.
No, not loaded as in drunk. Loaded as in made a lot of cash. And it’s not a kid you’d expect. The kids with the best grades in my class went on to become schoolteachers, pro bono lawyers and mimes. But some kid no one paid attention to invented a thing a bunch of people want and now he’s rich, and everyone agrees we all should have been a lot cooler to him in high school.

7. Do you see your ex much?
Again, if you’re pounding brews 10 hours before you’re supposed to be eating yams with grandma, and you don’t have an ex, odds are the person you’re talking to does.

8. I heard ____ is gay.
There was one guy in your class. You knew he was gay. He knew he was gay. The entire school knew he was gay, but because coming out in your high school would have invited daily beatings, he never came out, and everyone had to pretend he was straight even to the point where he took a girl to homecoming and everyone had to pretend it was a real date and their homecoming photo looked something like this.

9. I heard ___ is gay now.
This one is a bit different. This gay guy is one of the guys who would have or did beat up the flaming gay guy in high school. This one’s a shocker, because this guy hated gay guys so much he just wanted throw them violently to the ground and climb on top of them and thrust his hands and legs at them while yelling and screaming…hey, wait a second.

10. I gotta get out of this town, man.  
The short list of towns to escape to always includes Chicago, because we all have one friend who lives in Chicago, and even though it’s far from home, and the weather is terrible nine months a year and everyone there, including the women, has thick furry, ethnic mustaches, they’ll all tell you it beats living it at home. After Chicago, the list of cities people want to move to but never move to goes: Miami, Las Vegas, New Orleans and Boston, in that order.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

See you at the bar.

Joe Donatelli is the author of Full Griswold: Stories from a Honeymoon in Italy.

Bar photo via Nicole Yeary


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