Let us bow our heads and join hands, my friends, as we gather around the table to give thanks and praise. On this Thanksgiving 2014, we should all feel blessed. And if not blessed, at least grateful. If not grateful, at least mildly appreciative. And if not mildly appreciative, please sit still, keep your pie-hole shut and your hands off the walnuts.

The rest of us must take stock.


I'd like to send some thanks to all those people who work tirelessly for others. That means several thousand people in Baltimore, but let me name a couple: Sheila Helgerson at Earl's Place, the transitional home for homeless men in East Baltimore; Don Riesett, who ran a writing workshop for the recovering addicts of Man Alive, the drug treatment center, and got them to write essays and express themselves as they never had before; Arthur Morgan, who, as founder of Gather Baltimore, salvages leftover farmer's market produce and baked goods for the needy.

I'd like to thank barbecue master George Hensler IV for giving me the courage to smoke meats in a New Braunfels offset smoker. The secrets George shared: Get a thermometer to monitor and maintain temperature at 250 degrees, and use pecan wood.

I'd like to thank Iris DeMent for her recording of "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms," and Mariza for her recording of "Chuva." Look them up, hear them out.

I'm thankful for that feeling you get when you're out on the street at night and it's cold, and suddenly you see your MTA bus coming — much sooner than you expected to see it — and it's well-lighted and warm, full of your fellow human beings, and there's an open seat.

We should be thankful for the Charm City Circulator. It's a great bus service for the people of Baltimore and for visitors. City Hall, the colleges, the hospitality industry and a certain large sports apparel company in Locust Point should do everything possible to keep it going and keep it free.

Speaking of Under Armour, we should be thankful for the boardwalk park adjoining its headquarters: Tide Point Waterfront Park, a great place to have an evening picnic and watch your ship come in.

I'd like to thank the people who worked on Anthony Brown's campaign for governor. I've never been much of a political prognosticator, but the Brown consultants made me look downright prescient in 2014. As noted in this space more than once, Brown's negative television commercials were gratuitous and focused on "social issues" that no one cared about this year; if anything, they advanced Republican Larry Hogan's name recognition. Brown did not focus sufficiently on Brown. So down went Brown on Nov. 4. I could have told you that would happen explicitly, but I didn't want to spoil the ending.

Be thankful that you're not Martin O'Malley, Maryland's Governor Outgoing — he's always out-going to Iowa and New Hampshire, ha! — because you could be feeling pretty glum. O'Malley is finishing his second term with his approval rating in the low 40s. Only 3 percent of Maryland Democrats in a recent poll made him their choice for president in 2016. (Only 1 percent of Democrats in a national poll gave him that nod.) Plus, his lieutenant governor, Brown, lost the election to succeed him in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-1, and that doesn't exactly put a twinkle on O'Malley's star-ascendant. But cheer up, governor, things could change. Stranger things have happened.

Be thankful if you are a Maryland chicken farmer who thinks the state has too many restrictions on the spreading of animal waste on fields. You have a new best friend in Gov.-elect Hogan.

I'm thankful for the incredibly interesting and delicious squash dish — squash! — I had at Shoo-Fly Diner in Belvedere Square; the bison burger (without the egg on top) at Midtown Barbecue & Brew; the fine wine and friendly atmosphere of Osteria Da Amedeo in Little Italy.

We should express thanks to the Rubell family for the restoration of the venerable Lord Baltimore Hotel, and please check out the Matisse-inspired bistro.

I want to send a big thank-you to Mother Nature or Father Earth, whoever was responsible for the pair of pileated woodpeckers who suddenly flew in front of me while I hiked in Western Maryland in July. They were big as crows, black with white stripes at the face and neck, red-crested, with long, all-business beaks hammering at trees. There was something lost-world-pterodactyl about them, the coolest bird experience I've had in years.

Except for maybe the rose-breasted grosbeak that landed on a branch near me when I was fishing in the Savage River in Garrett County. That was a wow. I'm grateful for that, too.

Thanks for email, but, more specifically, for the delete key and the junk-mail function. The only thing more pleasing than having all those unsolicited emails from Nigerian scammers go directly to email purgatory is giving the "empty junk-mail folder" command. Best thing since flush toilets.


Dan Rodricks' column appears Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. He is the host of "Midday" on WYPR-FM.