My wife and I are masochists, apparently. Because that would be the only reasonable explanation for us deciding to host somewhere between 30 and 35 members of our family for Thanksgiving this year. Actually, the real explanation is laziness. We're both from Pittsburgh, which means that every holiday we've spent together has been spent shuffling from house to house, making the perfunctory holiday rounds. A grandmother here, a sister there, an aunt there, a parent there — you get the picture. So, a couple months ago, we came up with the genius idea to just host Thanksgiving and have everyone come to us. Plus, we'd just moved into a new place with a decent amount of open space that could easily accommodate 15 to 20 people.

But…you know how every 10 years or so, you have one of those holiday family gatherings were everybody shows up? One of those years where cousins, uncles, and aunts you haven't seen in a decade all decide to come? Well, this year is one of those years for my wife's side of the family. Which means the last two weeks have been spent doing everything from buying extra tables and chairs to finalizing the menu to make sure certain people's dietary needs are filled and certain people DO NOT attempt to make/bring the potato salad.


After making the 226th run this week to Target yesterday evening, my wife and I stopped somewhere to eat. During the meal, "Faithful" by Common started playing on the sound system. I knew a couple more people were featured on the song, but I couldn't remember who they were. I ended up googling it and saw that it was John Legend and Bilal. "Of course!" I thought.

And then I thought about how distinct Bilal's voice is. And then I thought about my favorite Bilal song — "MILF" from 88 Keys' The Death of Adam. And then I thought about how much I loved that album, and how surprised I was that I didn't possess it anymore. And then I went to iTunes and bought it. And then I thought about the reason why I even know who 88 Keys is:

Panama Jackson.

In the near decade I've known Panama, we've gone from fans of each other's work to friends to good friends to blog/business partners to great friends. Brothers, even. Also, I know I can be, for lack of a better term, "difficult" to work with, and he's been a perfect balance to my occasional bits of madness and unilaterality.


Another part of him I've always appreciated — and never shared with him — is that he puts me on to new music. He was the first person who told me about 88 Keys. And Drake. And Big K.R.I.T. And B.O.B. And Kendrick Lamar. And countless other artists I'm neglecting to mention. I will always be thankful for and appreciative of that part of our relationship. (And I've even forgiven him for convincing me to listen to ASAP Rocky.)

So, the shit going on in Ferguson will continue to go on. We will continue to be outraged, disappointed, and saddened by everything connected to this situation, and we'll continue to want to throw things at the TV whenever Darren "I'm Actually An Actual Penis Pretending To Be A Person" Wilson is on the screen. But we cannot allow that to make us forget about the good things going on in our lives right now, and the people, opportunities, objects, and accomplishments we're genuinely thankful for.


Today, as a break from what happened/is happening in our country, take some time to share who and/or what is helping you through this holiday season.

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB, a columnist for GQ.com, and the author of What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker (Ecco/HarperCollins)

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