The Panthers Have Not Been Real: Dispatches from Autumn


On Thanksgiving Eve in 2007, I won $2,000 on a scratch ticket while intoxicated in a Fitchburg dive bar, a moment that’s exactly as amazing as you might imagine. It represents, by far, my biggest winnings ever.

Unfortunately, I don’t really gamble anymore. It’s not that I’ve changed my mind about it or grew some new morals or any such garbage like that. It just doesn’t seem to come up much — like, it’s just not really a part of my experience. It doesn’t cross my path, the opportunities don’t pop up. I rarely have cash — required for lotto purchases — and the folks I run with these days don’t play much poker.

(I did have the opportunity and delight of playing Keno a few times in the last six months, which was great, but I didn’t win.)

Anyway, that’s not the point. It’s not just gambling that isn’t a palpable presence in my life these days — in fact, I don’t have Thanksgiving Eves like that anymore. Haven’t for a while. That’s not a moral statement, nor would I assign to it the kind of lame, common, cop-out excuse like “it’s because I have kids.” I mean, maybe it is because I have kids, but that can’t be the only reason. I am certainly open to the idea of engaging in such things, at least theoretically, and I am sure I could probably make it happen if I wanted to. Maybe I don’t want to — but that’s getting us into dangerous territory here, because I’ll really hate myself if I become one of those people that’s like “I’ve grown out of that.” Heaven forbid. But, shit, maybe I have. I will just try not to talk about it in mixed company.

Anyway (for real this time) I had a very different kind of Thanksgiving Eve in 2018, but one that was equally as sweet in a totally different way (and minus the cash windfall). The second snow of the year had fallen and I was out for a drive, running an errand in the far and mysterious reaches of the wooded hills surrounding comparatively developed (hell, comparatively metropolitan) Peterborough. Through the winding streets — and slowly! — I drove on my wife’s freshly swapped-in snow tires through Dublin and Harrisville and Nelson and Hancock. The trees all leaned forward, every little branch highlighted with that white brush-stroke of heavy, wet early-season snow. I don’t even really like the snow, but god damn was it pretty, and I was blasting Dvorak’s Symphony from a New World and Respighi’s ancient dances from this great lossless-quality classical app Idagio I got.

It was one of those moments — and maybe I did reap a windfall, just not a cash one.

Although, I’ll just say one last thing on this — if the universe or the god/goddess of Fortune is listening, if you want to throw me another two grand out of the blue, I promise I’ll be way smarter about the money at 34 than 23. You can bet on that.

Actually, I just want to emphasize one more time — I can still hang with the best of them. I swear.

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