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It’s time to be thankful, Tampa Bay
From hurricane relief to the little things, make your list now. Here’s mine.
A trio of turkey hats are pictured during the Tampa Bay Times Turkey Trot on Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019 in Clearwater.
A trio of turkey hats are pictured during the Tampa Bay Times Turkey Trot on Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019 in Clearwater. [ MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times ]
Published Nov. 20|Updated Nov. 21

Gratitude is a difficult emotion to force. Plus, it’s rude to make people think fast when they are trying to fit a whole yam casserole in their mouth holes. When pressed to offer thanks around a holiday table, most folks will say something generic like, “family,” or “good health,” when in actuality they are not that thankful for their family, nor do they have that much good health. Pass the potatoes!

The most incisive moments of gratitude tumble from the sky when you least expect. I experienced one while listening to “Aack Cast,” a podcast from comedian Jamie Loftus that takes a deep dive into the Boomer legacy of the comic strip “Cathy” from Cathy Guisewite. It’s fun and fascinating, I recommend it.

Anyway, Loftus spotlights a panel in which Cathy rants about balancing her checkbook. The crack is that she does so by changing banks entirely. This joke hit like a ton of chocolate bricks from my car speakers in the Publix parking lot.

Wow, am I thankful for online banking! What an era in which to do financial business! Yes, I have balanced a checkbook, and I know some of you still do. When Elon Musk buys the internet just to crash it, your gratitude will turn toward your tiny, ink-stained ledger. You will be the last one with reliable fiscal information. But as it stands now, today, in 2022, I am grateful for freedom from recording interest earned on line 105.

Of course, we in Tampa Bay have much bigger thanks to issue this year. Namely, that we weren’t destroyed by a hurricane that seemed destined for our shores. Letting go of that guilt and finding thanks in moments big and small is a healthy and necessary practice. It’s simply too tempting to spiral into cynicism about, well, everything. Like eating Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, negativity is hard to stop cronching on once you start.

So, let’s do the thanks thing again this year, shall we? In fact, let’s do it every year. I’ll rattle off a few gratitude action items, then you take the reins and let me know your nominations. Consider this a dry run of material to bring to dinner.

I’m thankful for:

Sides. Mashed potatoes, stuffing, cornbread casserole, even the green beans with the wiggly gray soup on top. Turkey? Eh, it’s time we admitted turkey is a great thief, robbing us of precious hours we’ll never get back, only to emerge from the oven bland, dry and wholly unsatisfying, awaiting a bath of salty gravy to make it passable. Do not send me your turkey recipes.

The magnificent antitrust law pop jams that will inevitably emerge from the Taylor Swift Ticketmaster debacle. And, you know, maybe enforcement of antitrust laws?

All the good, morally upright people who DON’T cut in line to turn left from U.S. 19 onto Gandy.

Friends with useful advice for how to make oatmeal taste less terrible.

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Intrepid families who wake up to run the Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving. Drowsy families who look at each other across the room and decide, without uttering a single word, to sleep in.

Phlebotomists who can find a spiderlike vein quickly.

A fire pit on a rare, crisp Florida night, tray of graham crackers, Hershey’s and marshmallows at the ready.

Finding that gift you know will surprise and delight a kid who aged out of surprise and delight.

People-watching from a South Tampa restaurant window on a Sunday in the company of a perfect snarky companion.

The first glimpse of a new public transit horizon in our communities.

Dogs. That’s it, just dogs. Fine, cats, too.

Those helping families power through these dire economic times, from Metropolitan Ministries to Feeding Tampa Bay. Those who stepped up to help and inform Hurricane Ian survivors: the rescue workers, the journalists, the rebuilders. Those who lost so much, who have so little to be thankful for this year, yet are still doing their best.

The fact that hurricane season is almost over.

The fact that election season is almost over.

All of you. Yes, all of you. Even you, over there. Yes, you. No, not her. You. You know who you are. Thank you.

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