Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Problem With: "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving"

I watch a lot of TV on Thanksgiving. It's my favorite Thanksgiving Day tradition. I tune in to the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in the morning, followed by two football games in the afternoon. I may take short breaks over the course of the day, including for dinner, obviously, but otherwise I consume as much television as possible.

By primetime, I'm stuffed. I feel as if I've had my fill of programming. However, I always leave a little bit of room for one last show: A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. It's the perfect treat to end a delicious day of TV viewing.

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving was created several years after the other two major Peanuts holiday specials, A Charlie Brown Christmas and It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, so the original voice cast was not used. Otherwise, it has the markings of a great Peanuts story: Snoopy has a wild and trippy fantasy; Linus improvises a speech that's both educational and memorable; and Charlie Brown is treated like dirt by the worst friends a kid could ask for.

This year, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving will air the night before Turkey Day. I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to host a viewing party so I can share my love for the special with friends I'm grateful to have in my life. They all said no.

I was flabbergasted. I asked them, Do you not want to hang out with me on Thanksgiving Eve? Of course we do, they replied. Do you not enjoy Peanuts specials? Of course we do. But you don't want to watch a Thanksgiving-themed Peanuts special? That is correct. Well, why not?

Their two-word response: Peppermint. Patty.

Ah, Peppermint Patty. She's absent from both A Charlie Brown Christmas and It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, but she's front and center in A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. And that's the reason why my friends declined to watch it with me.

"Peppermint Patty is a jerk," they all argued. "Jerk" may be too harsh of a word to use to describe an animated child, even after taking into account her boorish and irritating behavior in A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. In the span of 30 minutes, she repeatedly refers to Charlie Brown as "Chuck" rather than by his real name; invites herself, Marcie and Franklin to Charlie Brown's house for a Thanksgiving dinner she expects Charlie Brown -- a child no older than 7 or 8 -- to prepare; embarrasses Charlie Brown at the dinner table when the food is not to her liking; and dispatches Marcie to apologize to Charlie Brown on her behalf.

Simply put, Peppermint Patty lacks social grace (and a pair of adequate shoes, for that matter.) But to be fair, she's never pulled a football away from Charlie Brown as he's ready to kick it, nor has she called Charlie Brown "stupid" and "hopeless" after he chooses a small, sad Christmas tree for a meaningless school play.

I will say that I'm puzzled by Peppermint Patty's objection to the food she's served at Charlie Brown's home for Thanksgiving: buttered toast, popcorn, pretzel sticks and jelly beans. I ate some combination of those four items for dinner on six of the last seven nights, and I was very satisfied afterward. I'd hardly be disappointed if I was served buttered toast, popcorn, pretzel sticks and jelly beans on Thanksgiving Day.

Unless they were prepared by my friend's dog. Charlie Brown relies on Snoopy to butter the bread and cook the popcorn for his guests. That's a problem, I'd say. Dogs aren't exactly the cleanest chefs. Does Snoopy even wash his paws before entering the kitchen?

Snoopy is responsible for setting the table, too. He is the one who places the dishes, the napkins and the silverware on there. Once Peppermint Patty and company arrives, he handles all of the food and personally tosses it to each of the children.

As best as I can tell, Peppermint Patty isn't bothered by this at all. She doesn't care that a dog prepared her food. She only cares that a dog prepared the wrong type of food. Her frustration is completely misplaced. She does have a right to be upset with Charlie Brown, but it should be for the right reason.

And Peppermint Patty and Charlie Brown would both have a right to be upset with Snoopy for hiding a turkey and a pumpkin pie in his doghouse until the kids leave for Charlie Brown's grandmother's house. Selfish beagle. Maybe Snoopy's the real jerk in A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.

In case you missed it:

The Problem With: "Back To The Future"
The Problem With: "Family Matters"
The Problem With: Oscars Edition
The Problem With: "The Wonder Years"

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Tiny Bits of Nonsense: Thanksgiving Edition

It's a special Thanksgiving edition of "Tiny Bits of Nonsense"! Here are some jokes about the Thanksgiving holiday:

Other bits of nonsense:
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014

April 2014
March 2014

Saturday, November 15, 2014

A Restaurant Recommendation For Tourists In New York City

Ever since Taylor Swift was named New York City's global welcome ambassador for tourism in late October, I have been filled with pride, for her and for the city I've called home for six years.

Here is a 24-year-old singer-songwriter, a wonderful lyricist with a talent for crafting incredibly catchy country/pop music. All she needed was a chance. After a series of failed relationships, she risked it all: She left behind her homes in Nashville, Los Angeles and Rhode Island, and moved into a quaint penthouse in the Tribeca neighborhood of New York City. Eight months later, she released an album that was so successful that it led to an offer to become the new global welcome ambassador for tourism for the Big Apple.

Taylor Swift is living the New York City dream. She provides hope to every struggling musician in the five boroughs who aspires to follow in her footsteps and become a global welcome ambassador for tourism.

I must admit, I am a little envious of Taylor -- her stardom, her wealth, her number of Twitter followers. However, I would not want to be in her shoes as a welcome ambassador. I would not want to openly welcome tourists into the city. Quite the opposite. I find tourists to be annoying. I should know -- I have been a tourist in dozens of cities in the U.S. and around the world, and I irritated myself in each one.

I have many friends who have been tourists here in New York City. And knowing that I've lived in New York City for a while, they asked questions. A lot of questions. Which subway lines will take us to Rockefeller Center? Are any of those subway lines close to where we are now? How much will those subway lines cost? Can you arrange for Al Roker to meet us in Rockefeller Center? And so on.

I'm often asked for restaurant suggestions. My top suggestion: Log on to TripAdvisor. It ranks 11,630 restaurants in New York City, based on customer reviews. And you can sort by price and cuisine type. Want to eat lunch at the 18th-ranked, mid-range-priced African restaurant in the city? TripAdvisor can point you in the right direction.

By comparison, I can only offer my personal review of the 11 or 12 restaurants I've dined with in the city -- five of which are Subway shops. Having said that, if you're in the mood for a family-style restaurant that serves meals that are cheap and filling, and is located in the heart of the action, there is one establishment that receives my highest recommendation: Roy Rogers.

For those of you who may not be familiar with Roy Rogers, it's a fast-food chain named after the cowboy and known for its hamburgers, roast beef sandwiches and fried chicken. It has locations scattered across six states on the East Coast.

The average tourist may scoff at the idea of eating fast food in one of the culinary capitals of the world, but Roy Rogers is a favorite of many New Yorkers. At the least, it's a favorite of New Yorkers who frequently drive on the New York State Thruway in central and upstate New York, where Roy Rogers is established at several rest stops.

However, there's only one Roy Rogers location in the New York City area. It's right across the street from Penn Station, in midtown Manhattan. A perfect spot for commuters, tourists, and pedestrians too tired to walk to the nearest McDonald's three blocks away.

There is one reason and one reason only why I'd recommend Roy Rogers to a tourist: the Fixin's Bar. It's a bar where customers can fix their meal with as many pickles, tomatoes and onions, and as much lettuce, horseradish, ketchup and barbecue sauce, as they desire.

I can't overstate how much I love the Fixin's Bar. It's the single greatest dining experience in New York City, I believe. When you have autonomous power to control the exact number of pickles in your meal, and their distribution on your sandwich...well, it's an intoxicating feeling, a feeling you won't be able to duplicate in at least 11,500 of the restaurants listed on TripAdvisor.

I could eat a whole meal based on the condiments offered at the Fixin's Bar. I wish that was a menu option, because I'd choose it every time. The "Neverending Fixin's Bar" would be deeply satisfying for lunch. Or dinner. Or a late-night snack.

Typically, I order a roast beef sandwich, then load up on toppings at the Fixin's Bar. I'll eat the pickles and onions in less than 90 seconds, and return to the bar for seconds. And then thirds. And maybe fourths, if I'm not feeling too gluttonous yet. The sandwich is a complete afterthought.

I shouldn't even bother with the sandwich. I should simply ask for an order of fries, finish them quickly, and then stuff the empty carton with veggies from the Fixin's Bar. Or maybe I should purchase a small soda and sneak a few pickles and a small squirt of ketchup into the cup. No one would have to know.

In any event, tourists ought to try Roy Rogers and its Fixin's Bar in midtown Manhattan. That's the best restaurant recommendation I can give. Any other recommendations will have to come from either TripAdvisor or global welcome ambassador for tourism Taylor Swift.