Things I’m thankful for

As this week of Thanksgiving unfolds, it’s appropriate to think of things I’m thankful for. After all, that’s what the pilgrims did, right?

So, I’m thankful for the pilgrims; I wouldn’t be here without them… I guess. I haven’t looked up my ancestry at or 23 and Me, so for all I know I could be some guy with a European accent or African or Native American or Chinese or Russian… or Brooklyn…

Wow! Thinking about where one comes from can get overwhelming.

I’m thankful I’m an American who isn’t hungry or homeless or afflicted by Covid19. I’m thankful I have kids in the same shape. 

I’m not thankful that they are better looking, nicer, and smarter than I am. Or younger. Why is youth always given to the young? They don’t need it – I do. And what about grandkids? How fair is that?

Speaking of nice, I am thankful for dogs, especially my dog, Buddy. I complain about him, but he never complains about me. That’s nice.

I’m thankful for frozen dinners. In this time of closed restaurants, it’s the only way I can avoid food poisoning. 

I’m thankful for my friends, the ones who are left after the election.

I’m thankful for my ex-friends, the casualties of  the election. They taught me that politics doesn’t just make strange bedfellows; it estranges bedfellows.

I never thought I’d say this: I’m thankful for Mitt Romney.

I’m thankful (sort of ) for Tom Brady. He and Gronk taught the country that Belichick didn’t win all those games with his genius; Brady and Gronk did – with their talent.

I’m thankful for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, AP, Reuters, the networks, the BBC and other “Mainstream Media”. They double check their facts. When they make a mistake they admit it and correct it immediately. That’s journalism.

I’m thankful for Fox news and much of Social Media. They taught us the difference between journalism and propaganda.

I’m thankful for Netflix and the other streaming services. Who’d of thought you could bring candy to a movie without hiding it in your coat? Who’d of thought you could go to as many movies as you want in a month for the price of just one movie?  

I’m thankful for ZOOM. I can fill my living room with friends’ faces and laughter and leave their germs outside.  

I’m thankful for Dr. Anthony Fauci and his calm, sustained adherence to scientific fact. His simple truths overpower bombast and lies every time. 

I’m thankful that the election is over, that dignity, civility, and as much integrity as the “art” of politics allows, will return to the White House.

I am thankful for those who wear masks; it shows their caring. I am thankful to those who refuse to wear masks; it shows their utter selfishness.

I’m thankful for nature:  birds, fish, wildlife, the sun, the sky, water, mountains, valleys, desert, air – all of it feeds and nurtures us even as we beat on it.

I am thankful for food banks and other charities for giving me so many ways to help others.

I’m thankful for the written word. It entertains and educates me, not to mention giving me something to do every week.

I’m thankful that the biggest sacrifice my family and I have to make through this holiday season is to wear a mask and stay away from each other.  Or, as I like to put it: “I love you. Now don’t come near me.”

Happy Thanksgiving, turkeys!

(If you like this, pass it on. If you don't, pass it on anyway. Why should you suffer alone?)

What’s a poor sport?

Before you jump in with 20 one-liners, all ending with Trump, let’s hold those guffaws. 

Who asks a question like that? In this case, it was a six year old girl. I don’t know what prompted the question. She might have heard her parents talking about the 2018 Dodgers stealing signs in the World Series or Bill Belichick’s videotaping opposing team practices. 

Or Baby Donald’s tantrums at losing to Biden. 

(Sorry. Couldn’t resist. On the other hand, this really isn’t a guffaw moment, is it.) 

Traditionally a poor sport is someone who cheats in a competition or loses, and then, rather than accept the loss, complains about the winner, the rules, or the referees. We’ve all seen it: a thrown baseball bat, a football helmet slammed on the ground, a tennis racket flying at the ref.

Being a good sport has been a standard of our culture for, well, ever. For example, since 1865 when the Marquess of Queensberry Rules were written (by a Welshman), bare fists have been forbidden in boxing.

Other sports developed protocols, too. Like politics and business.

Today senators refer to even their most hated enemies as “My Colleague” or “Our friends across the aisle.” It’s a way of keeping arguments civil, as opposed to the early days, like in 1804 when Alexander Hamilton accused Aaron Burr of corruption. They settled it with a duel. Hamilton – the good guy –  lost. 

One politician, corrupt, trying to destroy the other – hard to believe, huh.

Human beings have developed rules for how to treat each other from the Garden of Eden forward. For example, shaking hands was a way of showing the other guy you weren’t about to knife him. 

Rules like that were an attempt by humans to avoid the rule of the jungle whereby the meanest, most ruthless, hungriest one wins. (Although, when you think about it, we’re the only animal that kills other animals for pleasure.)

Our culture has had basic rules about how we treat each other for, well (again), ever. 

But there’s always been something of a dichotomy. 

We teach our children not to lie or cheat or steal, the Golden Rule, the importance of shared sacrifice for the higher good, that kind of thing. We teach them about George Washington and the cherry tree, about Abraham Lincoln walking miles to return a few pennies, about Roosevelt smiling through polio.

Some people call that the American Character, a culture of shared values that settled the west, fostered the Industrial Revolution, launched us back across the pond in WWI and again in WWII, and into world leadership.

But then there were the likes of Carnegie and Rockefeller and Henry Ford. 

In 1919 Henry Ford got wind that the the Dodge Brothers, who provided engines and transmissions for his cars, wanted to start their own car company, using dividends from their Ford stock as startup money.  Ford promptly stopped paying dividends. When the Dodge brothers sued, he claimed he was increasing shareholder value – and won.

From then on, increasing shareholder value has been the shield companies, from Exxon to Marlboro, from Big Pharma to Big Tech, have used to take advantage of consumers, suppliers, and employees. 

Some people call that unchecked Capitalism. 

Over time we’ve always kept Capitalism in check with laws reflecting our shared values. Teddy Roosevelt put a lid on Standard Oil and J.P.Morgan monopolies with the Sherman Anti-trust Act in 1901; it held for years. Judge Harold Green did the same thing with AT&T in 1982. 

We’ve kept authoritarians in check with the Constitution, from Andrew Jackson to Huey Long to Richard Nixon.

(My kids did that to me by turning 21)

In the last 50 years or so, though, the ethic of lying, cheating and stealing has begun to overpower personal integrity. Legal lying is rampant in advertising, not to mention politics. Cheating is sweeping through the educational system, not to mention  business.

Stealing is part of Wall Street and Silicon Valley, and headed for Main Street.Google sells us services then steals our data and sells it. Wall Street bends the tax code to its benefit. Chain stores with 40% and 60% off sales are chasing Mom and Pops from Main Street.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

We’re out of balance, America. Trump is not an aberration. He’s the hood ornament. We’re shedding the rules of civility and fairness that brought us here.

Six year olds are right to ask, “what’s a poor sport?”. The real concern is how we answer.

(If you like this, pass it on. If you don't, pass it on anyway. Why should you suffer alone?)

I live in a strange neighborhood

It is – how shall I put this? – a mixed neighborhood. By “mixed” I mean it has people of different colors. 

For example, one or two are Green. They feel Climate Change is an earthly threat – to earth.  A few are the opposite of Green; they are Red. They dispute Climate Change. 

Green people are also considered Blue because people who are  fearful of Climate Change are also called “liberals”, who are Blue and are far more plentiful than Greens, making Green a subset of Blue. That’s as opposed to “conservatives” who are considered Red.

Are you following me?

In my neighborhood, both Blue and Red people love their country and consider themselves very patriotic. Some even use the flag as a piece of clothing.

Interestingly, there are no Whites in my neighborhood, at least in terms of politics. 

It’s not easy to tell the difference between Red and Blue people. Both dress pretty much alike. They go to work every day. They speak the same language. Their kids go to school together. Their tastes in music, art, food, movies – even sports – are very similar. They are almost as funny as they think they are.

One place where they differ is yard signs, which I didn’t notice until a few months ago when my Red neighbor next door put out some yard signs that said “Trump/Pence”. They were quite professionally done.  About a month later, another Red neighbor put out a yard sign for Trump-Pence. It was professional, too. Then she put out more Trump/Pence signs, ones that she had designed and painted herself.  They were much nicer than the manufactured signs.

Feeling the spirit of the season, I went Blue with some Biden/Harris signs for my yard.  I thought a little variety of signage would add to the look of the neighborhood. Then two other neighbors put Biden/Harris signs in their yards.  So now we had a street with lots of cheery signs waving in the breeze. 

One day, a couple of weeks before the election, I found my Biden/Harris signs had been run over and flattened. I left them there, too lazy to pick them up right away. (Yes, I’m also that neighbor. Every neighborhood has at least one.)

A couple of mornings later, I found them repaired and upright again. Without so much as a note or a phone call. Really.

Did I tell you it’s a strange neighborhood?

Here’s something else that happened around the same time. The artistic Red neighbor came out of her house one day and found an elderly neighbor from down the street who had fallen on the sidewalk “and couldn’t get up”. He was incoherent.  

She was too small to pick him up so she called 911. The EMS workers diagnosed him as dehydrated, gave him some water, and got him home.  

She called my next door Red neighbor who came right over. They discovered his water had been turned off and he had no food. My neighbor went right home and brought him a casserole she had just made. He wolfed it like a teenager after a football practice. 

Beyond that, though, he refused their help. When they asked if  he had family who could help, he told them he had no living relatives. 

So they called a Blue neighbor (he had a Biden/Harris sign in his yard), who had known the elderly man for years. He brought bottled water and enough food for a week. Then he located the estranged brother of the man, who came the next day.  

Within a few days, the elderly neighbor was in an assisted living community, well fed, hydrated, and cared for.

Why do I tell you about my strange neighborhood? Why at a time when Blues are crowing about the Election like Eagles fans after beating a Belichick team? And why at a time when the Election results are being attacked by Reds across the government and up and down the ballots?

Because our mixed colors, be they Red or Blue, describe relatively recent political differences.  Acts of caring and kindness, working together to rescue an old man or to help each other survive a pandemic, describe the more ingrained character of my neighborhood and the country: 244 years of DNA that brings us together and holds us there.  

Maybe not so strange, after all. 

(If you like this, pass it on. If you don't, pass it on anyway. Why should you suffer alone?)

Now What? Things To Do While Waiting For The Results.

Watch TV, but only news channels. That way, you’ll get really ramped up as the votes come in. Be sure to wear soft wool gloves, though, so when you hit your forehead in disgust or happiness, you won’t hurt yourself.

Watch TV, but only the non-news cable channels. That way you’ll have an uneventful day until your neighbor calls in disgust, “I don’t believe it! Do you believe that crap? I don’t believe it! Who would ever believe it!”

Spend all day on Amazon. Spend money you don’t have on things you’ll never need, things that are so unpractical, so un-you, but also things you’ve craved all your life: the second convertible, yet another TV, a new dog, a lake house… the kind of thing you’d only buy if you knew tomorrow would never come. Then when it does come and the worst happens, you have a second reason to go home, jump into bed, turn the electric blanket to number 9, and assume the pre-natal position.

(Or your guy wins and you’re ecstatic, you can send them all back to Amazon with a note from your psychiatrist.)

Call every one of your neighbors whom you have insulted during political arguments and grovel for their forgiveness. Whoever wins, you’ll still be welcome at neighborhood pizza parties.

Invite your neighbors to drop all their yard signs in your front yard, then, after the polls have closed, light them into a big bonfire and have a marshmallow roasting party. 

Spend the day writing letters asking for forgiveness to Biden voters and Trump voters. Sign the Biden letters with names of neighbors who supported Trump and the Trump letters with names of neighbors who supported Biden. Enjoy watching them start fighting all over again at the pizza party.

Stream Netflix movies all day.

Watch kids shows on PBS all day.

Listen to classical music all day. No matter how boring, stay with it. Your ears will thank you.

Listen to Country and Western music all day… Wait! No. That music is sad enough, listen to it after the results if your candidate loses.

Clean the house, top to bottom. Although I’ve never done it, I hear it helps when the world is falling apart.

Work out, starting early in the morning. Don’t stop. When the winner is announced you won’t care; you’ll be asleep.

Start drinking, early. Don’t stop. When the winner is announced you won’t care; you’ll be asleep.

Go down to the Passport office and apply for a new one or extend your old one. That way you’ll be ready to escape the country if your guy loses, or go on a celebratory vacation if he wins.

Buy all four books of The Invention Hunters series. And read them. They’re short and explain things you’ve never understood before, things you should know but don’t – like how a toilet works. It’ll take your mind off less important things, like politics, and focus on really important things, like… toilets – and they’re absolutely brilliantly written and illustrated.

Watch every one of the 27 James Bond movies. At an average of 90 minutes each, that’s 40 hours, almost two days. At the end of that time, you’ll have a British accent and can emigrate to England if your guy loses.

Write your own personal memoire. If you’re like me it shouldn’t take long. Use the rest of the time begging your friends and family to read it.

Watch TV all day, all night, as long as you want, without seeing a single political ad!

Read Facebook, Twitter, etc  all day without seeing a single political comment…Just kidding!

Hop a plane to New Zealand and never worry about the US again.

(If you like this, pass it on. If you don't, pass it on anyway. Why should you suffer alone?)