Untraditional Turkey

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In which three young gentlemen–NYU correspondent W.M. Akers and temporary Brits John Klopfer and Brendan Ballou–offer their tales of Thanksgiving out of sorts.

mashed potatoesIsolation within the 116th St. gates may be hard to take, but think of the NYU students. Not all are able to leave the city during Thanksgiving and Winter break, and although we have our ways of dealing, social barriers are less effective when winter combines with skyscrapers to allow us only a few minutes of sun a day. Your correspondent is safe in Tennessee, writing in sight of a full cooked turkey and two pies, but while I’ve been listening to family bicker about gravy, a few close friends are braving the holiday away from their home’s tryptophantastic bosom.

Several friends’ families took the break as an excuse for a city vacation, and came up for a week of sightseeing and restaurant dining. One friend, a sophomore who lives in Green Point, hosted her mother for a lot of “walking around and cooking. We saw a movie, and tonight we went to see Rockefeller Center because [Mom] really wanted to, but when we got there there wasn’t really anything exciting to do. We were going to go to the parade but found out you have to get a ticket in advance.” For Thanksgiving lunch her roommate made “some weird Japanese fish dish” and then slurped a bottle and a half of wine. Bungled maintenance on the floor above led to the collapse of their bathroom ceiling, but they had a nice night anyway.

To pass holidays away from home seems unfortunate, but that’s just turkey-lobby propaganda talking: it does have fringe benefits. A friend who couldn’t get away from the cash register at the SoHo Apple store made two and a half times salary, and those I know who imported family got to enjoy several days of comped fine-dining. None of them will have to negotiate airports and subways on Sunday; none of them had to make small talk with forgettable cousins or high-school chums. To those not consoled by cash or food, I recommend Whole Foods stuffing and a fifth of Wild Turkey. A holiday could be worse.

                                                                                                 – W. M. Akers

ballouPennying is a fine and noble tradition at Cambridge, as old as the university’s 800-year history and a lot more fun. Here’s the basic idea: every night each college has a dinner in its formal hall – one of those rooms with enormous oil portraits, classical plaster molding, long oak tables and real candles (as a side note, whenever I describe this to other foreigners they go, “oh, it’s just like Hogwarts!”). Around 7:30, everyone files in with their suits and dresses and academic gowns, then stand as the fellows come in to sit at the front table. The head waiter strikes a gong, one of the older fellows reads a latin prayer, we all say amen and dinner begins.

Maybe it’s just a way to cope with all the tradition and beauty of the event, but once dinner starts, most everyone aims to get plastered. The rule of pennying is that if you can drop a penny into someone’s wine without them noticing, then they have to down the entire glass. This discourages you from turning your head to talk to your neighbor and encourages you to trick your friend into passing the butter so that you can take advantage of his helpfulness and penny him. If you are serious about the sport, then formal dinner is a little bit like a war in which there are no winners, just confused and incoherent kids in suits.

Anyways, last night Pete and I pennied fast and hard, going through a bottle of red in 10 minutes before switching to white. At the end we got each other’s full glasses at nearly the same time. Recognizing that these were the killer cups, we raised them in a toast:

“Good-bye sober Pete.”

“Good-bye sober Brendan.”

We downed our glasses in one go. That night I fell into bed thankful that I was in England, that I was with good friends, that break was just around the corner, and that a bottle of aspirin was waiting on my desk for the morning.

                                                                                                       – Brendan Ballou

If there is one great thing about celebrating important holidays away from home, it’s that nobody will be the wiser when you celebrate them twice. It’s like juggling girlfriends: The less they know about each other, the more fun each is, and the less guilt for you. I didn’t actually mean that part—I’m all about tradition. So much about tradition, in fact, that I just celebrated Thanksgiving twice. Once in Oxford in a charming dining room in a charming college, and once in London, in a charming pub in a charming neighborhood. Nobody would have been the wiser at the end of it, but for my mildly pregnant aspect.

Thanksgiving number one, in Oxford, was like your college girlfriend, beginning with the Pledge of Allegiance and a pheasant inserted face-first into a turkey, and ending with fine port, rye, and a discussion of how to marketize room selection. Fittingly, it was hosted by students.

Thanksgiving number two, in Hampsted, was like that pleasant postgraduate you just met, beginning with talk of how everybody’s late from work and an amuse-bouche, and ending with wine, world politics, and a discussion of how to mock the muppets at airport security. Fittingly, it was hosted by the alumni of the Columbia University Club of London; all students should join the university clubs, they’re all grown up!

To pretend that one has only gorged oneself once is to preserve one’s dignity; to let one’s belly hang out under the weight of two meals is to add poise to one’s bearing, because anything other than poise is pain. I recommend sharing America’s traditions with foreigners on every occasion that presents itself, and on others. Nothing demonstrates the American dream better than our tradition of excess. Lay it on thick—it’s your holiday!

                                                                                                          – John Klopfer

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  1. lame  

    who the hell is w.m. akers, and how does he get off using such a ridiculously pretentious name?

  2. ahem,

    you, sir, or madame, are a twit. w.m. akers is as fine writer as any and more deserving than most of that moniker, which is, incidentally, also his realy name.

  3. moniker

    A given name is not a "moniker."

    • moniker monarch  

      And you apparently do not read the Oxford English Dictionary for sport:

      1. A name (esp. an assumed one); a nickname, epithet.

      2. In extended use: a signature, a signed name.

      In other words, you're wrong. Pwn'd, if you prefer.

      • moniker

        No. I don't think so. Both of the appearances of "name" in your definition are qualified. The first says "nickname," and the second "signed name." So although the word "moniker" can be used to refer to a person's name, it strongly connotes "pseudonym." In other words, you're wrong.

        • monarch  

          On the contrary, the qualifiers are not exclusive. "Especially an assumed one" means that the word moniker refers to a name in general and usually or most often or frequently or particularly one that is assumed. I'll grant at most that "moniker" usually connotes "pseudonym" but that is by no means always true.

          Regarding the second definition, which is even more apt in this instance, "W.M. Akers" is a signature, and a 'ridiculously pretentious' one at that. Unless the initials are like the S in Ulysses S Grant, they must stand for something, and the affectation of choosing the moniker "W.M. Akers" rather than something more common is what's really at issue here.

          It most certainly is a moniker!

  4. i mean

    I like Akers' writing and all but it's kind of a bummer when half of the posts on BWOG are by someone who doesn't even go to Columbia.

  5. the war is over

    what's with the nyu obsession as of late?

  6. huh  

    w.m. akers is probably a bwog editor from columbia.

  7. Columbia Student

    bwog should be written by columbia students only. no offense, W.M.

  8. Also...

    Also, how did his being an NYU student provide any new perspective to this piece (besides mentioning that some NYU kids stay in the city for do Columbia kids).

  9. Not

    "Green Point," but "Greenpoint."

  10. lame  

    regardless of his writing ability, actual name, or affiliation, the fact remains that he (she?) has chosen to call himself "W.M. Akers" rather than "Wanker" or whatever his first name is. that's, um, pretentious.

  11. and  

    do a quick facebook search: my bet's that w.m. is the hipster ironically sipping in a dorm room with suspenders.

  12. EAL

    Do hipsters do anything without recognizing the irony of their actions?

  13. I think  

    He may be going for more of an H.L. Mencken, or A.J. Liebling.

  14. ugh  

    why don't we happily acknowledge and enjoy that someone (albeit from a different school) is writing witty, engaging, intelligent pieces rather than draw our little ivy league lines in the sand, which are far more pretentious than any "moniker."

    • lines in the sand

      Clearing up the question of W.M. Akers' identity.

      Either Akers is an NYU student or he is not.

      If he is an NYU student, his hipsterness is a temporary condition or it is permanent.

      If his hipsterness is a temporary condition this condition either has a contingent cause or it has none.

      If this condition has a contingent cause then that cause is his name or it is not.

      If the cause is his name then we must ask whether it is his real name or not.

      If his name is his real name then it is real and not a moniker.

      If it is his real name then he had a choice in its representation using initials or he did not.

      If he made a choice in the using of his initials then that choice was made pretentiously or it was not.

      If it was made pretentiously then bwog readers will continue to be annoyed by it or they will not.

      If they continue to be annoyed by it they will continue to make comments about it or they will not.

      If they continue to make comments about it then they will be drawing lines in the sand or something will happen.

      If they continue drawing lines in the sand this will be a pretentious action or it will not.

      If it is a pretentious action then someone will try to dispute it by looking up W.M. Akers on facebook or he will not.

      If they look up W.M. Akers on facebook then he will have a profile or he will not.

      If he has a profile then it will be under his real name or it will not.

      If it is under his real name it will be correctly identified or it will not.

      If it is correctly identified someone will friend him or he will not.

      If someone friends him then they will meet or they will not.

      If they meet then someone will be able to verify Akers' caracter or he will not.

      If Akers' character is verified it will be pretentious or it will not.

      If his character is pretentious then it will match up with his pretentious initials or it will not.

      If both his caracter and initials are pretentious then this will be reported to bwog readers or it will not.

      If it is reported to bwog readers then the will be satisfied or they will be not.

      If they are satisfied then they will stop making trollish comments or they will not.

      If they stop making trollish comments then the world will stop spinning and if not, not.

    • Done

      Yup! It's sad that everyone here still needs to feel better about themselves -- didn't we get enough pats on the back at graduation parties?

  15. Brendan  

    Ballou continues to represent the finest of Fair Alma, at home and abroad! Consider yourself lucky in his company, yon Cambridge-ites!

  16. number 2  

    It is sad that anything done without the most straight-faced sobriety and clarity of intent is now labeled as "ironic" and, therefore, "hipster" and, therefore, evil. I would posit that perhaps Mr. Akers is just being silly and uses a slightly pretentious moniker (and it IS a fucking moniker, given that it is extremely likely the none of his friends call him "W.M."and that it is equally likely that his birth certificate does not read "W.M. Akers") not ironically, but rather just for the fun of it. Get over yourselves people, I understand your frustration with detached hipster irony but I don't think Mr. Akers represents that in any way.

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