Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The short list

posted Thu, 25 Nov 2004

This is important: it takes longer than one hour to boil seven potatoes for mashing. I mean from the time you turn on the burner to the time the potatoes are ready to be mashed. Yes, I know the process would go faster if I were to cut up the potatoes into small pieces, but that affects flavor and not in a good way. (Look it up. I’m telling the truth.)

So by the time I had the mashed potatoes ready (slightly al dente, as they do in Italy), Harpo had already been waiting for me for several minutes – and he is not one to get here early. The good thing is that we arrived fashionably late on time to Leigh and Stephen’s house.

I was in charge of the mashed potatoes (with lots of butter and cream), the broccoli salad with the grapes and the cashews, and the chocolate dessert I found in the December issue of Martha Stewart Living.

Here’s some legal advice for Martha – next time, take the fifth rather than lying. I still think the guys at Enron are far, far worse criminals, but technically, Martha did break the law, although prosecuting her was a big waste of taxpayer money if you ask me. Stephen’s sister, Beth, is a lawyer. She says the only thing you say to the police at all is, “Am I under arrest?” If the answer is no, then you leave and keep your mouth shut. If yes, you call your lawyer and keep your mouth shut.

We had a wonderful dinner with Leigh, Stephen, Beth, Leigh’s friend Carl, and Stephen and Beth’s dad. I didn’t realize I would be so outnumbered politically, but we managed to have spirited discussion without bloodshed. In most political arguments, I really start to understand how people could be willing to die – or to kill – for ideas.

I wonder, though, how Carl could have listened to me argue against welfare, giving the benefits of citizenship to illegal immigrants and other liberal positions and for US foreign policy for three hours and then be so surprised to learn that I did not like Hilary Clinton and had not voted for Bill.

“Were you not able to vote in those elections?” he asked curiously. His question did make some sense as Leigh and I had been describing our years in Chile as Peace Corps volunteers in the early and mid-nineties. When I answered that yes, I was and that I had voted against Clinton, he was visibly surprised, but did not throw his hands up in horror or turn his back on me. He is a southerner – and southerners are polite.

I am thankful to live in a country where such conversations are possible. I am thankful for my family and my friends. I am thankful for my friend Lenore in Chicago, who flew me to Chicago for Thanksgiving week nine years ago after I had just returned to the US from the Peace Corps. Her husband, Rob, had a business trip to Europe that week, and the idea was that I would help Lenore with the kids and she and I would go play in town at least one day, but Jill got really sick and threw up in bed not once but twice that first night, the second time after I had already changed the sheets, which meant that we really couldn’t leave her with a sitter.

I am thankful for my amiga de alma Laura, who invited me to her parents’ home for a Cuban-American Thanksgiving 13 years ago where her mother very thoughtfully labeled all the leftovers in both Spanish and English.

I am thankful for Leigh for including me in her life, including birthdays and Thanksgiving two years in a row.

I am thankful for Mary Ann, one of my M’town fairy godmothers, who has opened her home and family to me for my other M’town Thanksgivings and Christmas. Political discussions are easier at her house – they are all “card-carrying members of the vast right-wing conspiracy,” or so they claim.

I am thankful that all my friends have healthy children, especially the ones who had babies this year after some difficult pregnancies. I am thankful that I am healthy. I am thankful that I have a job that I do not hate and that pays me enough that I do not worry about food or shelter. I am thankful that Harpo is quitting his job – he is not appreciated or treated well at Fawlty and he deserves better.

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