It’s Thanksgiving weekend, everyone!
My novel, Light From Uncommon Stars, was released this year, and the entire process has given me much to be thankful for. This is a dream come true, and as I was driving to go grocery shopping for the holiday, I was thinking of how much time and work it had taken to keep that dream alive.
There are so many things to be grateful for, that helped me along the way.
I am grateful to Costco for the dollar-fifty hot dog meal. No matter how badly things were going with writing, or with the rest of my life, it was great to know that I could go into a Costco and get a hotdog and soda for $1.50.
Costco’s co-founder, Jim Sinegal, was once told by his COO that they should raise the price on their hot dog meal. His response?
“If you raise the effing hot dog, I will kill you. Figure it out.” 
Thank you, Jim, for charging a $1.50 for a hot dog and soda, a price that has nothing to do with the fluctuations in the cost of the dog—but is artificially maintained to build a lasting legacy and relationship with your customer base.
(BTW, I am grateful to IKEA and 7-11, as well.)
On the other hand, I am not sure what $1.50 can buy at Disneyland (maybe a smashed penny?), yet I am also grateful to the Magic Kingdom. Right up to the pandemic, I kept a Disneyland season pass.
Yes, there is the Haunted Mansion, memories of the old Main Street Electrical Parade, and Pirates of the Caribbean, and Fantasmic! I had some of my best dates there. But what I love about Disneyland is how special it makes me feel. How the streets are clean, the churros crispy, and all the cast members are friendly...
And that Walt Disney intended it to be this way from Day One.
I know that Disney is not the real world—within Disneyland you can’t even see the real world. And one cannot compare the fake Matterhorn in Anaheim with the real one in Switzerland. Almost anywhere in the world, a traveler can find natural landscapes that are far grander and more sublime than Disney’s Imagineered fiberglass could ever be.
And yet nature, in all its glory, is necessary and impersonal. The rainforest is there because that’s where the rain is falling. The canyon is grand because of that river, and plate tectonics uplifted that spectacular mountain range with all the snowy peaks.
Without us, the sunsets will sunset, and the waves will wave.
But Disneyland has nothing to do with necessary—it’s all about us.
The only reason for that waterfall is for people to fall in it. That jungle is only there so that people can cruise it. Every song, every princess, every firework, every lightsaber—every one of the Dapper Dans—is there to make our lives magical.
And that intention, that artifice, is what I'm so grateful for.
Speaking of artifice, I am grateful for drag queens who, like Disneyland, do not happen naturally (nothing about drag queens happens naturally).
Instead, behold a great drag queen and marvel at the detail, the construction, the Imagineering…
Just as with Disneyland, every detail matters. In fact, some drag queens might be described as Disneyland in sequins and heels. Seamless and exquisite, they may not be as saccharine as the Disney cast members—some will be downright acidic—but there they are, for all of us to see and hear and be dazzled by their fabulousness.
Yes, one doesn't need all pomp and pageantry to be beautiful. Many drag queens are beautiful whether the spotlight is on them or off.
But, as nice as effortless natural beauty is, watching a drag queen perform in sequins, heels, beehive wig, ten layers of makeup—and lashes so long they may be thinning the ozone layer—can’t help but make you feel grateful to be a human being in the world.
That's also why I love Japanese toilets. Nobody needs a toilet with push buttons for a bidet and an enema and pulsing jets. Nobody needs a potty mecha with sensors and extending arms, that emits waterfall sounds to disguise the rude noises that your nether regions might make as they expel waste in all states of matter, except possibly plasma and Bose-Einstein condensates.
But if you are in Japan—trust me—go to the bathroom.
Sure, you could use an ordinary flush toilet and a roll of TP (pandemic permitting). Heck, you can even off-grid with some leaves and a trowel. Yet if you’re in Japan, there’s the bathroom. And when you sit there, you feel special. It's like riding Pirates of the Caribbean, Yo-ho! Yo-ho! A pirate's life for me! and there’s the sound of a waterfall, and the seat is warm, and there are all these buttons with features that you suspect you don't deserve...
But it's all there for you.
When I think about what I'm thankful for, sure, I can list a lot of things that would exist even if none of us were here. I can be thankful for the sun and the moon and this universe. I can think of being born, even though my parents would be more than fine if I weren’t the queer person I am.
But in all the time that I worked on Light From Uncommon Stars, the years my writing had to sustain itself, what inspired me was the $1.50 hot dog, the trip to Disneyland, the drag queens at Pride, the Japanese toilet...
All there, all working to tell me I am valued, I am magical, I am fabulous, and yes, I am even clean.
All helping me to produce a novel that I hope might say the same things to you.
Much love to all, and Happy Thanksgiving.
Cover: Steve Rapport / Collection: Hulton Archive/Getty Images