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Oh, man. I'm holding my belly, full as a bull. I come out from Father Joe's Thanksgiving lunch (1501 Imperial Avenue, two blocks from 12th and Imperial trolley/bus transit center, 619-233-8500), me and hundreds of others.

When we'd all piled in, in long lines, it was, yes, stressful. Short lady and a tall young guy in a wheelchair got into it. Something about wheelchair people having a special line? Did he really need a wheelchair? Hard to say. Whatever, it was getting kinda tense when Officer G. Whitman turned up. He separated them and got the line moving again.

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Where 15th meets Imperial...

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...you find Father Joe's, St. Vincent de Paul

Inside, guys shouting and waving their arms guided us into our places like air-traffic controllers.

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Jay Wright swings...

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..his arms left and right, directing eaters

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He's the kinda guy you need when the traffic lights break down

I sat down across from Sonya and David.

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Sonya and David (and Mikey the pig)

We've hardly said hello to each other before Navy volunteers surround us with plates of food. Salads, pumpkin pies, buns, even some apple pies.

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But that's for later. Right now this Navy gal Leslie brings napkins...

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Leslie

...a Navy guy Edgar brings water, and another Navy gal Marisol arrives with a tray of paper plates.

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Marisol brings turkey dinners

Each one is loaded down with turkey, gravy, stuffing, green beans, a big bun, and mashed potato.

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My dinner

For a while we're just stuffing our faces.

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Our table, including Christopher (left), Stephen (right)

This is around 12:30. Breakfast and lunch for me. Then, guess it's like being stuck in a small boat: you get talking. "This is Mikey," says Sonya. She's pointing to a stuffed pig in her basket. She pretends to feed Mikey.

"And this is Hello Kitty."

She and David have been friends for about a month.

"Sonya's a pretty good cook," says David.

"I watch the cooking channel all the time," says Sonya. "I dream of doing my own cooking show. It would be about exotic food from all around the world but would still come across as an American plate. And the main thing is it would be cheap, so people who don't have a lot could make a nice plate and eat interesting food, too."

"I have a magic show," says David. "We'd go around state fairs, county fairs. We'd make people disappear. We'd put a dog in a crate and cut him in half. Then he'd come back whole. I've loved magic ever since I was just a little boy, when my parents gave me my first magic set. I sometimes make balloon animals at Seaport Village."

"We should start a business together," says Sonya. "Kids' parties. I do the food, you do the magic."

Then we get lost in our apple and pumpkin pies.

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"This way, this way!" shouts the traffic controller, Jay Wright. He's ushering us out, and the next lot in.

"Can we have it all again?" I ask him. "Oh sure," he says. "You can go a second time around. Only thing is you have to join the end of the line and wait your turn. Next! This way!"

The good news: Father Joe's doing it all again tomorrow, Thursday. Eleven o'clock on. Open to the public. You don't even have to be down on your uppers. Hey, it's Thanksgiving!

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