Thanks -- for big and little things

First, on a personal note, I would like to express heartfelt appreciation for the nice staff person from the Greater Baltimore Committee who grabbed a wad of paper napkins and helped me out of an embarrassing spot a few weeks ago. As I finished a speech at the graduation of this year's GBC Leadership program at DLA Piper in Mount Washington, a long strand of greenish-gray gum suddenly appeared, stretching between my right shoe and the floor by the podium. (This was in front of at least 200 people, maybe more, and ... well, what do I have to do, draw you a picture?) This woman from the GBC reached down and gathered up the gum and freed me from the mess in a jiffy. She's just one of many reasons I arrive at Thanksgiving feeling very grateful.

I would like to thank all the developers and smart-thinkers who want to see a new arena in Baltimore and who dare to think big -- NBA, NHL, Springsteen concert big. We need more big thinking in this town -- and a new arena.


I would like to thank the chef at Germano's in Little Italy for the unforgettable, never-thought-I-would-like-them-but-loved-them ravioli stuffed with roasted beets.

I would like to thank the Ravens cheerleaders, and let's just leave it at that.


Let's have a round of appreciative applause for the jockey Mario Pino, who notched his 6,000th win a couple of weeks ago. He's a genuine hero, largely unsung, and with a simple credo: "When you show up every day, work hard and do your best, something good can happen."

Let us be thankful for fewer arguments at the dinner table. We're a nation that tolerates 48 million Americans without health insurance, official foot-dragging on global warming, the ever-increasing disparity between the rich and poor, the failed war on drugs and the highest per-capita incarceration rate in the world. And the war in Iraq? Mission accomplished, and please pass the gravy.

Be thankful, if you're Tommy Bromwell, for all those letters your powerful friends, including Dutch Ruppersberger, wrote to the federal court on your behalf before sentencing -- and a lot of good that did.

You should also be thankful, if you're Bromwell, that your acts of corruption occurred in Maryland. As we know from FBI wiretaps, the former state senator from Baltimore County probably doesn't view federal prison as the end of the world. In one of the recordings, he refers to the many other Maryland pols who went to prison on corruption charges. "All these guys that went to jail, right, for 18 months. They're all [expletive] millionaires, OK?" OK!

Rejoice and be glad, if you're Orioles manager Dave Trembley, that the Orioles got the worst blowout in franchise history (30-3 loss to the Texas Rangers) out of the way early in your career.

Be grateful if you have tickets to the Army-Navy game. It's the one ticket that guarantees your money's worth ---with the whole pregame scene in downtown Baltimore -- before the opening kickoff.

Be thankful you are not among the 48 percent of American adults who, according to the National Science Foundation, believe that dinosaurs and the earliest humans lived at the same time. As Lewis Black says, "These people are watching The Flintstones as if it were a documentary."

Let us give thanks that HD radio is on the way. Soon we'll be able to hear sneering ridicule, ad hominem attacks, veiled bigotry, xenophobia, homophobia, hurtful innuendo, misogyny and inappropriate sexual references more clearly.


I would like to thank my neighbors for the awesome holly tree in their yard, and which fills up the view from my kitchen window. Every spring the tree becomes heavy with cedar waxwings -- up to 30 of the colorful, crested birds move through and ravage the red berries, and it's like having a front-row seat to an ornithological bacchanal.

I would like to say thanks for the Earth and what happens here, far and away from everything, in quiet but astonishing ways. I am speaking of the natural world that manages to exist around us -- away from cars and mansions, shopping centers and golf courses and highways. I'm talking about a world diminished but still out there, and demanding attention in autumn -- the world of orange maple leaves forming a quilt on the grass of a hill; dusk and fog rolling in together on a November afternoon, and Canada geese flying so low in the gloaming that you can hear the wind in their wings; the way sunlight falls in a perfect column through a dark forest; the sometimes spooky sound of river over rock, the gurgles and giggles of underwater ghosts; the sudden crack and echo when a squirrel jumps and breaks a dead tree branch at the edge of woods.

I would like to thank the ornery wind for taking a breather at the exact moment of a long, double-haul cast in August on the Androscoggin River in Maine, allowing my attractor fly to land precisely on the spot where the float guide said to put it, and where a brawny smallmouth snapped it up for breakfast.

Thanks to Wild Bill Hagy -- for the memories.

Be thankful Marylanders will get to vote on whether to allow 15,000 slot machines here -- and awaiting us in 2008 will be a numbing number of radio commercials, lobbying by a wide array of interest groups, schmoozing, rallies and debate ad nauseum. Pray that we all make it until next Thanksgiving -- by then it'll be over.