Wednesday, November 23, 2011
A slouching idiot says thanks
I advise you to start tomorrow, as I do every Thanksgiving, by playing the 2006 Ray Davies song, “Thanksgiving Day.”
We can argue all day and night about our favorite Christmas songs, there must be a million of them, but there’s only one Thanksgiving song.
And I mean that. Can anyone name even one great traditional Thanksgiving song?
Leave it to an Englishman to write the song about one of our most authentic American holidays. Be sure to download it as soon as you finish reading this. I promise to keep it holiday snappy.
The song’s got it all. The poignancy, the longings, the Greyhound rides home, the hearth, the family dysfunction and in the end the euphoria of my very favorite holiday.
I’ll be thankful tomorrow for Ray Davies.
And I’ll be thankful for the U.S. Marine Corp and all who serve.
We were in Washington, D.C., over the weekend where I went to write a story about the lavish Christmas festival at the Gaylord National Hotel (and, man, I’m thankful I get to do cool stuff like that as part of my job).
The place was crawling with Marines in their dress blues. The hotel was the site of their annual ball.
It diminishes me even further, but I get kind of squishy whenever I’m around a serviceman or woman, especially a Marine.
I’m grateful for their service and they are just the most impressively composed human beings on the planet.
I’ve never seen a Marine in action, but I imagine they could overwhelm most any enemy merely with manners and posture.
I understand they teach other more lethal things in grueling boot camps, but if someone told me it was 13 weeks of manners and posture I’d believe it.
It’s like they are constructed with steel spines that make slouching physically impossible. My body would assume a natural slouch if it was suspended from a noose.
I was in the company of about 100 other journalists who, like me, stood around slouching for hours at a time waiting for someone to bring us something free.
I’ve never seen a more vivid mingling of the givers and the takers.
I’m sure if I’d have spilled a free bourbon a Marine would have sprung from the rafters and thrown his medal bedecked jacket over the puddle to assist my wife and daughters over the floor hazard.
I don’t know how to say thank you without sounding cliche or maudlin, so I just tried to make eye contact and say, “Happy Holidays,” hoping it would convey so much more.
But that, too, has pitfalls, as I learned on the elevator.
We got on together in the lobby. I asked this man who does so much for me and our country to do one more thing. Could he please push 15?
Guys like me can’t do anything for ourselves.
He was wearing a Steeler jacket. Eureka! I could make Pittsburgh small talk!
If my room had been on the 353rd floor it might have given us enough time to strike up a real friendship.
But we had a very friendly chat, enough so that when the elevator floor bell rang I felt comfortable looking this strong, proud man eye to eye and saying, “Happy Holidays” hoping he’d know what I really meant was:
“Thank you for all you sacrifice for me and my loved ones. Thank you for the friends you’ve lost, the tears you’ve shed, and the enemies you’ve killed. I hope your holiday season is filled with love, joy and a peace that’s so often elusive to warriors like yourself. And I hope the Steelers we both cheer act like United States Marines and kick the asses of their every opponent clear through to the Super Bowl.”
It was perfect. He knew exactly what I meant. The door opened and I gave one last firm nod and gathered up my stuff.
Damn. Wrong floor.
He was too gracious, of course, to point out I asked him to push 15 and was exiting the elevator on 11.
But to ride four more floors in awkward silence risked ruining the perfect micro-conversation.
So what did I do?
I marched right the hell out that elevator door like I knew where I was going, leaving this Marine to logically conclude I’m an idiot.
That's okay. I’ll bet the nation is full of slouching idiots like me.
We have to wait around 364 days until the one day comes when we feel comfortable saying a truly heartfelt thanks.
So Happy Thanksgiving to all our servicemen and women, their families, Ray Davies and to each and everyone struggling to get along in this great, big beautiful land I’m forever thankful to call my home.