Whether you’re spending Thanksgiving with family, with friends (aka “chosen family”), at work or all alone, it’s a good time to take stock. Whether you’re living in abundance and have a 20-pound turkey on the table, or you’re eating a turkey sandwich and happy to get it, Thanksgiving is the day we should all look around with appreciation for whatever we do have. If you’re having trouble thinking of blessings – it has been a tough couple of years for almost everyone – maybe some of the ones we count here will help jolt you into that attitude of gratitude.
One thing every one of us at Orlando Weekly appreciates, from the writers and editors to the sales department to the production staff to the drivers, is you. Even when you hate what we produce (but especially when you love it and take the time to let us know), all of us are boundlessly grateful for your attention, and for the chance to do our best for you every week.
I am grateful for cancer. Here's why:
1) The recognition and acceptance of my own mortality. It's a true gift. It is confining, but only because time is confining. In more ways, it is freeing to no longer fear time.
2) Five-hour chemotherapy sessions accompanied by best girlfriends who took full PTO days to spend in an infusion center (instead of on the beach or with their families), or brought puzzles and games and gossip and iced coffee to fill the luxuriant brunchtime hours with some of the best company.
3) Taking deep, controlled breaths on the radiation table in a dark room in the middle of a hectic workday – it felt like yoga.
4) The ability to listen to my body in a new and more attuned way, even if I don't like what it's saying. (Mostly, "Bitch, slow down.")
5) The clarity of knowing which friends show up for you when chips are down and which run away, not to be heard from until the chips return to their less-scary, elevated state.
6) My punctual, smiling mail carrier, who not only brings the medical bills, but also packages from family and friends far away, full of organic small-batch moisturizer, Starbucks gift cards and turmeric teas.
7) A case-closed reason to be late/leave early/not go to events or meetings.
8) The ability, now, to hold someone's hand in their scariest, darkest, most vulnerable moments and tell them that I've been there, I am (sometimes) still there, and there is beauty there, too.
9) A complete understanding of what "the only way out is through" actually means.
10) My increasing comfort with vulnerability, which has deepened my relationships immeasurably.
11) A new comfort with the word "MIRACULOUS," which science and medicine both are.
12) Freedom to spend my money the way I want, instead of squirreling it away constantly "for a rainy day." It's raining. Buy the Louboutins.
13) The dozens of women who "came out" to me as also having survived breast cancer, and who hugged me long and hard, like we'd known each other for years, even if we'd met just five minutes ago.
14) A reason to eat super-sweet or super-salty junk foods (the only thing that tasted good during chemo), the eating of which at any other point in my life would otherwise have led to self-destructive guilt.
15) Reaffirmation that I married the right person, who maintains that I look the same as I did before my diagnosis, and never bats an eyelash at my 30 pounds of steroid weight, lack of eyebrows or swollen cankles.
16) Today, and every day after it. – Holly V. KapherrI'm thankful for the greatness of America.
God, it would be so easy to be cynical or even full-on nihilistic right now. But I'm lucky. And as a first-gen immigrant whose family landed here with a baby bag and a single dollar, I never forget it. So even when things don't go my way – or, say, plummet straight into the abyss – I remember that I can try again next election, and every election after it.
You see, I've always believed in the greatness of America not because of some cheap sloganeering but because I'm the living product of it. It's allowed me to have the extraordinary life that I do. I'm raising my own mixed family that's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen and I am surrounded by a rainbow of people who beam intellect, creativity and decency. This is not all of America, I know. But few places on Earth can cultivate this kind of forward society on this scale.
Try to imagine looking at the expanse of all that bounty and privilege with the fresh eyes of someone who wasn't born into it. Then you'll see the kind of duty I feel toward that ideal when I put hand over heart. – Bao Le-HuuI appreciate the little things.
There's a quote I keep getting, written on the inside wrapper of my dark chocolate Dove squares, that says, "Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations." It's a bit of wisdom that's right up there with "Life is a journey, not a destination" or that poster with the cat dangling from a tree: "Hang in there." It's a bit of sweet candy philosophy that reminds me that life is about balance and that the scale has to tip to Good sooner or later. What it also says to me is that sometimes it's the little things in life that can be the most beautiful or inspiring. That first cup of coffee in the morning; listening to a song that gives you chills at the base of your neck; feeling transported while watching a band play a perfect set; and the absolute best thing: closing out every night cuddling with the woman you love and the cat you both adore. When life kicks my ass the hardest, it's these moments I'm most thankful for. – Jen CrayI'm thankful for the creativity of friends. Also, Elvira.
The last time I was asked to relay what I was thankful for – over 20 years ago – in any sort of public setting was during a Thanksgiving dinner with extended family. I breezily replied that I was thankful that I had Morrissey tickets for next weekend and that Bill Clinton had been elected ... and since there was a right-winger or two on hand, that was the end of that particular tradition.
Along those same lines (because I haven't matured a whit), this year I'm thankful that I got to meet Elvira. Seeing her on TV's Bloopers and Practical Jokes in elementary school was my personal David Bowie on Top of the Pops epiphany, and it's a feeling I've never really gotten over. It was humbling to be granted an audience with the queen. This is as close as I get to a spiritual pilgrimage.
I'm thankful Jill Flanagan (Forced Into Femininity) trusted me enough to let me release an album of her work on my label; it's a harrowing and beautiful set of songs that was a privilege to be involved with. I'm thankful for everyone who played and supported the Tropical Depression darkwave festival: two evenings of pure joy and love paradoxically couched in sad and melancholy sounds. Maybe we'll do it again. And I'm thankful I had the privilege of knowing Zach Ferguson – you were so inspiring to me when I was a clueless total amateur, trying to figure out the DIY music maze. Thinking about those early, terrifying Game Show sets still stops me in my tracks. You will be missed so much. – Matthew MoyerI revel in my giant TV, dammit.
While it's impossible – or maybe just boring – to list all of the things I'm thankful for this year (shout-out to my family), I'm going to go straight-up American materialist and talk about my TV for a minute. I splurged on a 55-inch 4K HDR television this summer, and it's been one of the best decisions I've made in recent years. I get to watch the world burn – figuratively and literally – in the highest visual fidelity available, and when that gets too depressing, I can escape into Xbox or PlayStation games that nearly encompass my entire field of vision. Plus, I have an excuse to spend the extra money on the 4K version of movies. Does it make a difference? Sure, why not. Take your escapes where you can. – Thaddeus McCollumI'm thankful that the moral arc of the universe bends toward justice.
I'm thankful that peppermint mocha Frappuccinos are back at Starbucks this year for hopefully another successful holiday season, and that the U.S. legal system is a complex structure where the "wheels of justice turn slowly, but grind exceedingly fine," as the proverb goes, leading to a tedious process of lawsuit after lawsuit against a presidential administration seemingly determined to preserve white supremacy and the patriarchy by attempting to strip civil rights from transgender and gender-nonconforming people; rip migrant children from their families; and ban the entry of people from predominantly Muslim countries – ultimately proving Unitarian abolitionist Theodore Parker's theory that we don't need to calculate the curves, twists and seeming dead-ends in the moral arc of the universe because we unconsciously know it will eventually bend itself toward justice someday, even though we might not be here to see it. Fuck those stupid, orange, obnoxious ... PSLs. – Monivette CordeiroI'm thankful for Orlando Weekly.
What am I grateful for? This publication and the writers they support. Yeah, go ahead and roll your eyes, but the talented scribes Orlando Weekly gives voice to are what – or who – I'm thankful for. The gutsy manner in which they call bullshit on our political, cultural, culinary and tourism institutions, and the impact their words have on our community, is of paramount importance. Their takes – clever, funny, defiant and unabashedly honest – provide a potent antidote to the staid mold of reportage dominating the city's landscape. And I'm just grateful to be a part of it. – Faiyaz KaraI treasure my memories of seeing Lana Del Rey.
I'm thankful for my loving partner, our wonderful cat son, and the life we share together in a home surrounded by the music, books and films we love. I'm thankful for the chance to experience music in a live setting, and I'll always cherish my memories of the Lana Del Rey concert at Amway Center earlier this year. After missing her tour several years ago, I didn't know if I'd ever have another chance to see the queen in all her glory. Luckily, I did – and it was perfect. I'm also thankful for the endless opportunities to express myself through writing, which has not only afforded me a means to live but also an outlet to another world when my own is not enough. Lastly, red wine. – Tyler BarneyI'm thankful for the existence of Leonard Cohen's most hated album.
This November marks the two-year anniversary of the death of Mr. Leonard Cohen. In the time since his passing, I've undergone a conversion experience: from disbeliever to total acolyte. (Before you scoff, please consider that my generation's first exposure to LC was via the inclusion of the Rufus Wainwright cover of "Hallelujah" on the Shrek soundtrack.) I'm thankful that I've seen the light, surely, and this Thanksgiving season I'd like to gather the family around the dinner table, hand-in-hand, to sing the praises of 1977's Death of a Ladies' Man.
Arguably Cohen's most hated release (ever, of all time), the Phil Spector-orchestrated blaze of glory is complete and total bacchanal, eight tracks of both Spector and Cohen's most hedonistic impulses. Spector goes full Wall of Sound and then some; Cohen warbles on about voyeuristic experiences (a cheap hotel room, a high school dance) over some 30 musicians and 17 backup singers. Depending on how that sounds to you, Death of a Ladies' Man is either the worst or the very, very best. Sit around the fire for coffee and dessert, put on "Don't Go Home With Your Hard-On," and ask your second cousin what she thinks. – Madeleine ScottI'm grateful I circumvented the affordable housing crisis.
In terms of available affordable housing, the Orlando metropolitan area is the nation's second worst, according to a 2018 report form the National Low Income Housing Coalition. It's so bad, in fact, that there are only 17 rental units available for every 100 low-income renters; local renters need to earn almost $34,000 a year just to afford a studio apartment; and those who are paid the mere $8.25 per hour minimum wage the state offers have to work as many as 84 hours a week on average just to make ends meet. Those numbers are awful for a region that's supposed to be on the cultural come-up. Evidently, the boom only benefits the endowed few.
Luckily, I may be an underpaid writer but I've weaseled my way into living alone in a two-bedroom house in a quiet neighborhood for just $800 a month, all bills paid including utilities and cable. I'm easy to hate for that reason – I get it. Financial envy, especially when it comes to housing, can be a powerful thing. But I hope your deal of a lifetime – at least when it comes to finding a decent place to live in Central Florida – is right around the corner too. – Xander PetersI'm thankful to be alive in a city full of artists.
For me, this past fall has been full of fatalities, from my mother-in-law – who passed away in October after a brief battle with pancreatic cancer – to my iPhone, which became overexcited at SeaWorld and leapt from Kraken's tallest loop. So first and foremost, I'm thankful that I, my wife Genevieve and our cat, Brubeck, are all (mostly) healthy with a minimally leaking roof over our heads. I'm also grateful that I live in a city overflowing with passionate artists who are creating groundbreaking entertainment every day, whether at small independent venues or world-class theme parks. And most of all, I'm grateful to Orlando Weekly and its readers for allowing me the opportunity to write about those shows and attractions, because otherwise I could never afford to attend them. – Seth KuberskyI'm grateful for ink, paper and CMYK offset printing.
I was raised on the aphorism, "Hope for the best, prepare for the worst," but I'm always surprised when people think that's a pessimistic attitude. It taught me to be grateful every day for the things that could be taken away at any time: my eyesight, my hearing (though that's on its way out), my working hands and legs and heart, my loved ones. Planned Parenthood, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, libraries (shout-out to the OCLS MAYL system), my passport. Cool days. Clean water. A soft place to sleep. The four-color CMYK printing process, every magazine I've ever loved, and this job, which lets me play in the world of ink and paper. You. – Jessica Bryce Young