Sunday, November 27, 2016

Sweet gratitude

      Thanksgiving's over—it really worked at the old Steinberg household this year. About two dozen people, including two I'd never met before, a friend of a relative and a friend of a friend of a relative. I love that. It makes me feel like Papa Hemingway, to have this big old house filled with people, talking and eating and drinking and laughing. 
    Sure, we were all a little shell-shocked over the past election. But not too much. I latched onto a Comforting Historical Fact: the election of Lyndon B. Johnson as president in 1964 more or less doomed 50,000 American servicemen to die in Vietnam. Only nobody knew it, then, and we don't really view it that way now. And Johnson was a pretty good president, and Nixon, Watergate notwithstanding, is credited with going to China and such, and neither man is blamed for this incredible loss of young American life over a fear that did not prove valid. 
    At least with Trump, we have eyes wide open—goggled-eyed in sheer amazed horror, maybe. But certainly forewarned, for all the good that will do. 
     Though let's not get lost in the political weeds today. I really wanted to talk about thanks, giving thanks, not just to God or some unspecified good providence, but to specific people. I was so occupied trying to set the proper It's-still-a-country-worth-giving-thanks-for-even-if-we-elected-a-boob tone when I gave my speech of thanks, I forgot to thank my wife, who worked for three days preparing the feast. Sorry honey. Though I suspect that is a common oversight—we're so worked up over the big picture we forget to focus on the important stuff right in front of us. 
    So if you are having a hard time in the year to come—as I imagine most thinking, caring, patriotic Americans might—considering making yourself feel better by thanking somebody.
    In words, if nothing else. But also consider a more tangible thanks. During the two years my co-author Sara Bader and I were locking down legal permissions for "Out of the Wreck I Rise," the mountain of paperwork, the contracts and rights payments, were handled by Rodney Powell at the University of Chicago Press. It really was our responsibility, but he just stepped in and gave us a hand. So Sara and I tried to express our gratitude in a tangible way, by dispatching brownie hearts from Misericordia's Hearts & Flour Bakery, and sour cream coffee cake from Zingerman's and macarons from Botega Louie in Los Angeles.  I can't speak for how it made him feel, but it made me very happy.  I came to think of it as "Dispatching the Gratitude Sweets."
Young Charles Percy
    Not to forget our holiday advertiser, now in its fourth season on Everygoddamnday, Eli's Cheesecake. I have a reader who points out typos almost every single day, and as thanks I offered to send him a cheesecake. He demurred, but asked instead that I send it to his grandson in Seattle, Charles Percy, great-grandson of our late senator of the same name. So I sent the lad a cake.
      I don't know how this world is supposed to be, but if even a tiny part of it involves babies being dispatched cheesecake by grateful strangers in distant cities as thanks for their grandfather's grammatical and orthographic skills, well, that's getting to be the sort of world that meets my approval. 
    What if you have nobody to thank? That is a puzzlement. Maybe you aren't thinking hard enough. Maybe you need to expand the range of ideas that can be conveyed with sweets—they're also great at apology. I wrote something unfair about a neighbor last month, and decided to deliver my apology note in one of BasketWorks gift baskets, which seemed a sign of sincerity, and was gratefully accepted as such. Dispatching the basket was one of the highlights of an otherwise dismal year. 
     And if you have nobody to thank, and nobody to apologize to? That is worrisome. Maybe you need to send the basket to yourself. 


  1. Just curious, was that the neighbor with the large Trump sign?

    1. Yes. I decided that I should not have guessed as to why he put his sign up, nor maligned his relationship with his neighbor, and wanted to express my contrition in a tangible way.

  2. A thoughtful idea. And the photos....a sweets-lover's dream! (I'm sure that little guy loved the cheesecake.)


  3. I agree that we can derive some comfort from knowing what's coming at us. We will be pushing back on all fronts.


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