Happy Thanksgiving, Humphrey Bogart Edition

Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July are America's best holidays. Anyone inside the U.S. naturally associates the Fourth of July with eating hotdogs and watching fireworks, and associates Thanksgiving with eating turkey and pie, hanging around with friends and family, and watching football. Plus all the appropriate civic thoughts for each day.

Rick's outside.jpgWhen Americans are outside the U.S., both of these holidays turn into occasions for comrade-seeking and bonding and celebrating with other Yanks. Gathering with countrymen on these days is part of the mark of being American: no one else remembers that they are actual holidays, no one else has the ancestral imprint of watching the Bears vs. the Lions while mashing potatoes or wondering if the turkey is done.

And thus it was that in Casablanca this afternoon, for Thanksgiving Day, my wife and I went to Rick's Cafe -- in search of an American friend and proper holiday ambiance. The friend was Kathy Kriger, whom we had gotten to know long ago in Japan when she was in the foreign service there. For the past 14 years she has lived in Morocco, where eight years ago she opened Rick's. It's a Bogey-era Art Deco house re-done, with loving detail, to create the look and atmosphere of Rick's Café Américain from the movie Casablanca. A waiter is wearing a fez; the bartender shakes a silver cocktail-mixer behind a bar that could have come from the movie; there's a piano right on the main floor. We didn't have turkey -- today's Thanksgiving meal featured couscous --  but in all other ways it was a welcome plunge, on a classically American holiday, into a familiar part of our national culture.

Thumbnail image for Ricks1.jpgThe next time you're in Casablanca (another phrase I never imagined myself writing), it is very much worth checking out Rick's. Especially if you're there next Monday, when Kriger and company will celebrate the 70th anniversary of Casablanca's debut. More about Kriger and her cafe from American Way and The View From Fez, which is also the source of the nighttime photo above. Her recent book about her adventure is here.

I'll resist the temptation to hoke things up with a "Here's looking at you..."-style sign-off and simply extend wishes on America's Thanksgiving Day to all.

Now, to find a satellite feed of Redskins-vs.-Cowboys.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.


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