David Bruce: Thanksgiving Anecdotes



In 2014, lots of people asked Henry Rollins how he was going to celebrate Thanksgiving. According to Mr. Rollins, “My usual reply is, ‘Putting something frozen in the microwave and cursing the darkness,’ as I shake my fist.” In a column for the Los Angeles Weekly, he remembered his best Thanksgiving ever. It was 1980, and he convinced his boss at the ice cream store where he worked — this is before he became lead singer for Black Flag — to let him open the store on Thanksgiving for people who wanted vanilla ice cream for dessert. The boss tried to convince him to take the day off, but young Henry was persistent. Business was good that day, but Mr. Rollins remembers that “the best part was when the restaurant across the street brought me over a plate of food on orders from my boss. I ate it alone, standing up.” Another good year was 2014 because just before Thanksgiving his friend Linda Ramone, the widow of the late Johnny Ramone, gave him a gold record — after 40 years, the Ramones’ first album had finally achieved the gold-record status of 500,000 copies sold — in the United States. Mr. Rollins wrote, “I took it out of the plastic wrap and stared at the record, set in with Roberta Bayley’s excellent portrait of the band that was the album’s cover. There they were, Tommy, Johnny, Dee Dee and Joey, staring back. Complete and total originals, unable to be anything but this manifestation of perfect chemistry, this result of decades of rock and centuries of New York colliding at the right time and place.” By the way, Mr. Rollins believes in giving thanks — every day. He wrote, “For myself, I have found that the best thing is to be in a constant state of gratitude. It’s not difficult and allows me to get over most of the stones in my passway, to borrow from Robert Johnson. No matter how bad it gets, something good is also happening.”

On the eve of Thanksgiving in 2013, the insurance company of Frank Costantini, a 76-year-old who is battling stage-four gastric cancer in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania, denied coverage for his daily pain medication — something he and his wife, Elisa, who have been married for 55 years, discovered when they went to Broomall Rite Aid in Broomall, Pennsylvania, to get his prescription filled. Pharmacist Kevin Leszega delivered the bad news. He said, “She was so upset and with very good reason. I felt absolutely horrible.” The Costantinis did not think that they had the money to pay to have the prescription filled. Elisa Costantini stated, “I said, ‘You have to give me medication because my husband is in pain.’” Together, Mr. Leszega and Elisa Costantini were able to get Frank Costantini enough pain medication to get him through the holiday. Mr. Leszega applied a discount card to the prescription to save the Costantinis money, and then he went above and beyond that. Elisa Costantini said, “I went to get money, and he got his own credit card, swiped [it,] and he paid for everything.” Fortunately, Elisa Costantini discovered that she had enough money to pay for the discounted prescription, so she left the money on the pharmacy counter. The Costantinis appreciate Mr. Leszega’s kind gesture. Elisa Costantini said, “When you’re so down and you have something like that to bring you back up, just like that, it was just a beautiful thing he did.” Mr. Leszega said, “I figured that would cheer them up and give them something to talk about.”

During Thanksgiving week in 2006, Rachel O’Neill, who lives in Trenton, Michigan, decided to make dresses and give them to little girls who live in the southeastern African nation of Malawi. She made and gave away many dresses, and in December 2010, NBC Nightly News aired a story about her, and then people began sending her dresses. From December 2010 to December 2011, she received over 400,000 dresses from people in all 50 states of the United States. She takes them personally to Malawi. Anthony Galloway of NBC Nightly News writes, “In a place like Thobola, a brand-new, handmade dress is not just a piece of clothing. It’s a symbol of hope and a gesture of friendship from women 8,000 miles away. It’s one small thing a girl can hold on to as the sun sets and Rachel O’Neill prepares to make the long journey back to Michigan, knowing her little idea brought happiness to thousands of little girls today.”

The day before Thanksgiving of 1987, brothers and real estate investors Gil and Troy Gillenwater decided to do something to help other people. They drove to Price Club (which is now Costco), where they bought $2,000 of groceries. They then drove south. They intention was to go to Nogales, Arizona, but they got lost and ended up in Agua Prieta, Mexico, where they saw an impoverished 22-year-old woman cooking tamales. Playing near the woman were eight children, whom she had started to care for after she found them eating garbage and sleeping in old cars. She lived in a cardboard shard, and she had no electricity and no running water. The Gillenwaters gave away the $2,000 of food, and a few weeks later they returned with materials to build a bathroom for the woman. They kept coming back, and they started the Rancho Feliz Charitable Foundation, which helps impoverished people.

Kitty Carlisle Hart, a panelist on the TV show To Tell the Truth, was not a cook, but once she agreed to cook Thanksgiving supper for her family during a trip. This meant that the family cook would do all the real work of prepping the food. All Ms. Hart would have to do was such things as popping the turkey in the oven, turning on the stove, and waiting the required amount of time. All seemed to be going well, but when she checked on the food, the vegetables and gravy were fine, but she discovered that she had forgotten to turn on the stove, so the turkey was raw. The Hart family ate Thanksgiving supper at a Howard Johnson’s, and they decided to tell their cook, Alma, that her turkey was the best that they had ever had.

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved