Dan Rodricks

Giving thanks for civil conversation, a restored river, good tacos and the late Roger Easton

Another Thanksgiving approaches, so let us give thanks and praise. Let us be grateful for good food, comfortable shelter, soft blankets and excellent dogs. Let us be grateful for moments of silence and peace, and the simple gift of civil conversation in this plugged-in, always-on world.

I am thankful for conversations I had this year with political candidates, authors, historians, long-time friends, first-graders, fellow bus riders and squeegee kids.


I am grateful for twice being in the presence of Downing Kay, who turns 111 this week. She is Maryland’s oldest resident, as far as I can tell. She’s a great conversationalist, plays Scrabble a couple of times a week and does Zumba at Pickersgill Retirement Community in Towson, where she lives. She’s amusing — “Honey, I can’t believe I’m living this long” — and an inspiration. (You can hear my conversation with Downing Kay in Episode 433 of the Roughly Speaking podcast.)

Be grateful for the men and women who worked long and hard to bring the North Branch of the Potomac River back from the dead, saving it from western Maryland mine acid and making it a thing of beauty again.


Be grateful if your family has not been scarred by drug addiction. Be grateful if neither you nor kin were traumatized by violence. Be mindful of those who were; they are all around us.

Be thankful for the rule of law — the federal judge who told the Trump administration to return Jim Acosta’s White House press pass, the one who said the administration can’t stop people from seeking asylum at our southern border, and the three who just threw out Maryland’s ridiculously-gerrymandered 6th Congressional District.

If you’re Rep. Andy Harris of the 1st District, the only Maryland Republican in Congress, give thanks for Democrats; they gerrymandered you into a safe seat in 2011. Otherwise, with a strong Democratic opponent who, instead of emphasizing his talents with a handgun, emphasized your many votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act, you would have been washed away in the blue wave, too.

If you’re Joe Flacco, the Ravens quarterback since 2008, be thankful that you’ve had a respectable career, notched a Super Bowl ring and now, with a talented rookie (Lamar Jackson) on your tail, you still have enough hunger for one more run at the big show.

If you’re Joel Fitzgerald, Baltimore’s police commissioner-designate, be thankful for the opportunity to face one of the biggest challenges in the country. People ask, rhetorically, “Who would want this job?” That’s the wrong view. Fitzgerald, at 47, has the chance to turn things around, and he’ll start with more than 600,000 Baltimoreans rooting for him to succeed.

Give thanks for all the construction work underway around Baltimore — rowhouse renovations and larger development projects, from South Baltimore to Morgan State University, that seem blocked from public consciousness by all the news related to crime and civic dysfunction.

Though it goes down as a loss for the state, let us be thankful for a lesson learned from Amazon’s decision to reject Maryland’s bid for its HQ2: It revealed a huge misjudgement by the governor and other state leaders that a company worth nearly $1 trillion would need some $8.5 billion in taxpayer incentives to locate here. That’s obviously not what Amazon was looking for.

Be thankful for the Wicked Rachel sandwich at Wicked Sisters in Hampden; the barbacoa taco at Cocina Luchadoras on South Broadway; the $5.55 Thursday sandwiches at Homeslyce locations; the steak salad at the Swallow at the Hollow in Belvedere-Govans; last spring’s John Waters-inspired cocktails at R. Bar in Remington; the lamb special at Chez Hugo and the ceviche at Puerto 511, both downtown; the brisket-on-a-biscuit from Blacksauce Kitchen; Chef Iman’s saffron-infused Syrian charcoal rice from Mera Kitchen Collective; the corned beef hash at Southside Diner; the frozen, chocolate-covered banana slices from Trader Joe’s, and those five-dollar flatbread pizzas from Giant.


I am thankful for the few minutes I got to spend in the presence of a rose-breasted grosbeak during a spring hike in western Maryland.

Be thankful the Orioles have hired a general manager away from a successful team, giving some hope after a season so miserable we could bear to neither watch nor — no offense, Joe Angel — even listen.

We should be grateful the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) now has a texting system that can send “presidential alerts” to our smartphones. Instead of continuing its sabotage of the ACA, the Trump administration ought to use the FEMA system to alert everyone who needs health insurance to the deadline for sign-up; they should provide a link to the government’s insurance exchange, too. A lot of people would be grateful for the reminder.

And let’s be sure to mention the late Roger Easton when giving thanks. He’s the scientist who spearheaded the development of the Global Positioning System (GPS). Where would we be without it? Probably late for dinner.