There are so many reasons to look forward to Thanksgiving. There’s the food, of course, but there’s also the chance to reconnect with our families and share memorable experiences with our loved ones. It’s not just full bellies and smiles, though. We all have that one uncle who, against everyone’s wishes, against the very fabric of this holiday, must always create an uncomfortable environment. You know, the one who’s always talking about how great Steely Dan is. The self-certified “Dan Fan.”
We shouldn’t expect everyone to have the same values and opinions. Thanksgiving should be an opportunity to respectfully put our differences aside—to laugh about our shared memories and strengthen our familial bonds. Instead, my uncle lectures me about the production quality of the band’s 1977 Grammy Award-winning album Aja. Or he’s force-feeding us other abhorrent cookie-cutter talking points about cameos from the Doobie Brothers’ vocalist Michael MacDonald or the fact that the duo met at Bard College. Completely tone deaf.
Steely Dan has some good songs, and they deserve their place in rock history. But my uncle’s snooty attitude makes it really hard for me to be a fan. He says he’s open-minded, but when we mention trap, synthwave, or trip hop, he just swoops in with some prepackaged response about how it’s all recorded in some dude’s bedroom and sounds the same. “Steely Dan, on the other hand,” he says, “recorded in a real music studio on a Neve 8070 console with the industry’s best session musicians. Their unique blend of 80 percent jazz and 20 percent ‘other’ doesn’t sound like anyone else.” If he got his music from anywhere but the VH1 echo chamber, he’d know that trap music has many exciting and diverse subgenres like FutureBass, Festival, HypeStep, and FestivalStep, but whatever.
You can’t get through a single serving of sweet potato casserole without him interjecting that the name “Steely Dan” is actually a reference to a steam-powered dildo in William Burroughs’s Naked Lunch. We get it, it’s a fun reference, but neither our Gammie nor the entire kids’ table need to hear it while they dish out their second scoop of mac and cheese.
He wasn’t always like this. He used to come to the table every year with interesting factoids he’d picked up on various Facebook threads and One America News Network. We would learn things. One year, he was just different. He traded in his red baseball cap for a tartan beret, grew a huge handlebar mustache, and let his hair grow out. Not long, exactly, but certainly on the long side for an attorney.
He’s already announced that he’s planning on bringing a friend from the local HiFi shop this year. Is he even thinking about the impact of something like that on the children? When I told him to come solo, he made some stupid comment about how my generation claims to be so tolerant, but the second anyone mentions the drum machine programming on Steely Dan’s follow-up 1980 Gaucho album, we act like someone’s pissed in the gravy.
Even scarier, I can see some of these changes manifesting in my mother. Over dessert last year, I asked her whether she was reading anything good, and she just referenced a bunch of ’70s-era soft rock and jazz-adjacent record jackets. Also, she keeps referring to everything by how it sounds “sonically.”
So after this year, I’m done. I’ll be hosting a Friendsgiving with my besties instead. I’ll cook the turkey. My friends can bring the fixings. We can put aside all this small-minded Steely Dan business in favor of something more inclusive. I’m talking, of course, about the Eagles.