Tuesday, November 20, 2012
The Thanksgiving Post
Image from doyouremember.com
Thanksgiving is coming up later this week in the United States. It’s a holiday I really like, not only because of my fondness for food and football, but also for the sentiment behind it: giving thanks. Most of us in western society live in a world that our ancestors of less than 100 years ago would be astounded to see. When I was young, my grandparents often told me of the awe they felt upon getting electricity in their homes for the first time, and the thrills of their first car, telephone, and television. The jobs people had when they were young were harder and a lot more dangerous than most today, and things we do now in the spur of the moment, like a trip to get groceries, was a weekly event that was carefully planned for and highly anticipated. When you stop and think, we really do have a lot for which to be thankful.
For many bloggers, there is great temptation at this time of year to write the stereotypical “what I am thankful for” post, sort of the grownup version of those essays we used to have to write in grade school. I’m going to do that, kind of, but instead of highlighting that for which I am obviously thankful (freedom, family, friends, faith, employment, health), I am going to turn my attention to some less-heralded things that make my life just a bit nicer.
I am grateful for all-wheel drive vehicles. Although I have driven in Maine winters for 27 years, I am only in my second winter with all-wheel drive. I never knew what I was missing. How great is it not to get stuck in a four-inch pile of slush at the end of the driveway? Last winter was a cold one here in northern Maine, but not especially snowy. We had a number of small storms of a few inches, but no blockbusters, and frankly, I was a little disappointed. I never really got a good chance to give my all-wheel drive a real test in deep snow on the ski slope I call a driveway. It was during a storm the winter before last, when it took me 17 tries to get my two-wheel drive car up the driveway, that I decided it was finally time to upgrade to something more snow-worthy than an Oldsmobile.
Everyone who lives with even a little bit of snow should have all-wheel drive. I bet I could park on my garage roof with my all-wheel drive if I wanted to, though it would probably be best if I didn’t try to actually do that. Upon mentioning this notion, some of my friends have suggested that I may have been a tank driver in a previous life. Or dropped on my head as a baby. Or both.
I am thankful for Christmas lights that do not cause the entire set to go out just because one stinking bulb does. The inventor of those instruments of torture should be charged with crimes against humanity.
Typically, I light up a spruce tree in my yard each December. The trouble is, it’s tall and on a steep slope, which makes it about as easy to string lights on as Mount Everest, only pricklier and stickier. In the past, I have spent hours risking life, limb and stickiness draping “net-style” lights over it, and no matter how many times I check, there are always a few that end up burning out after placement, leaving a gaping black hole in the middle. I just can’t leave it like that, and thus the battle begins, and continues through the rest of December.
In addition to going completely dark at random, the net lights also require the patience of Job to untangle, and are impossibly complicated to put up while stretched out, balanced on one foot on the top rung of a ladder in the back of a pickup on the side of a hill.
None of that this year!
Those crappy net lights are history! They’ve been replaced by LED lights on a reel, which will go up more easily and stay lit even if tornadoes carry the tree into the next county. Well, maybe not, but they are really sturdy lights. My wallet is lighter, but so too is my heart.
2012 was the year I stepped up to high-definition television, and sports will never be the same. For this I am thankful. One complaint I always used to have about TV sports is that it can be hard to clearly see who is who and where the ball/puck/shuttlecock/golden snitch/whatever is at any given time. In the past, for example, a play in a football game can be over before I can even figure out where the ball is. And hockey? I gave up watching a long time ago, since the puck is so hard to see. One network did try an experiment with an electronic puck that left a virtual “tail” on the TV screen during the game, but apparently I was the only person on Earth who liked it. Now that I have hi-def TV, it has all changed. I can see everything clearly at just a glance. The London Olympics were especially impressive in hi-def.
It’s not all great, mind you. The downside of hi-def sports is that you can also see whatever bodily fluids are oozing out of the participants, whether it is sweat, slobber, or blood, in nauseating crystal-clarity. And it is also rather sobering to see every gray hair, wrinkle, and pot-belly on retired athlete-commentators. I hate to say it, but many of them might be better suited for radio than hi-def TV these days. Of course, so would I, truth be told.
I am thankful for great new music from great old artists. This year has seen a number of AARP-eligible musical acts with new albums. (Is the term “albums” even a thing these days?) Coming as they do in the face of so many musical acts that are nothing more than corporate inventions enhanced by recording studio technology, it is nice that these old war horses are not only still putting out music, but putting out really good music that is selling pretty well.
I’ll toss a few examples out for you: ZZ Top’s La Futura is one of the best overall rock albums I’ve heard in a long time, and their best in years. Bonnie Raitt released Slipstream, a new collection of her signature blues rock that sounds as fresh as anything she’s ever done. Bruce Springsteen hasn’t lost a step with his Wrecking Ball album, full of socially-conscious and catchy rock tinged with folk. And Rick Springfield, yes the “Jessie’s Girl” guy, has just released Songs for the End of the World, a terrific, solid rock album that sounds like it was influenced by some work Rick recently did with the Foo Fighters. Paul McCartney, Heart, Rush and Van Halen also had attention-getting new releases in 2012 that are worth your attention.
All of the acts I’ve mentioned are well into their 50s and 60s, and they still sound great. I can only hope that I am as on top of my game at that age.
And finally, I am thankful for the online writing community of which I have become a part. There are not a lot of like-minded writers near where I live. Heck, there’s not a lot of anything near where I live, except maybe trees. And moose. I know a few, but connecting regularly in person is a challenge with schedules and distance being what they are. Fortunately, Twitter, Goodreads, Writers Digest and this silly blog have helped me make connections with hundreds of talented writers from all over the world. Some are old enough to be my parents, some are young enough to be my kids. Some are published, some are trying to be, and some just write for themselves. Some are famous, while others have never shared their writing with another soul. For some it’s a career, for others a hobby, and for others, therapy. They range from poets to naturalists, and from horror masters to technical writers specializing in physics. It is gratifying to hear that my writing struggles and theirs are so alike, in spite of our diversity. And it is great to be able to give and get support for our various writing projects. Regardless of specific content, the writing process is mostly the same for a lot of us. We also share our successes and our predicaments, we laugh and sometimes shed a tear together, and generally help keep each other inspired. It’s been great, and I look forward to “meeting” even more of you.
Enjoy your family and your turkey (though not in the same way!). Enjoy your football games and your holiday parades. Enjoy your Black Friday shopping (yuck!) and your pumpkin pie. If you are outside of the United States, well, enjoy your Thursday. Whether it is officially Thanksgiving where you are living right now, take some time to step back and look at all the things, both big and little, that you can be thankful for right now. No matter who you are, I think you will find that are an awful lot if you take the time to ponder them.