Column: Be thankful before the ceiling drips on you

For Thanksgiving, Terry Seitz posted on the City of Jasper website 10 things he is most thankful for as mayor: “the vibrancy of downtown Jasper,” “all the places flying the American flag,” “a dedicated city workforce,” etc. It is a responsible, respectable list — very mayoral — but not personally revealing. Below his list is a challenge to share our own lists.

My first thought: “Ten things to be thankful for! Is he nuts? I can’t think of one.” I recently had knee surgery, which meant medical bills out the wazoo, and my home’s heat pump system crashed ($4,000!). Yes, that’s me on the roadside clutching a cardboard sign: KIDNEY FOR SALE.

“These things usually come in threes,” a co-worker, hearing of my financial woes, warned.

Now, I expect rain to leak through my roof any day (new shingles: $5,000).

I decided to accept the mayor’s challenge, put some positivity in my life. It is Thanksgiving after all.  

”¢ I am thankful that, while in Milwaukee, nothing ugly resulted following a comment that could have been, if taken out of context, interpreted as insensitive. During dinner in a noisy sports bar, I decided to photograph my friends Cathi and Troy. Comically, they posed across from me in our booth, elbows on table, backs of hands beneath their chins to hold up their heads — or, as they put it, to “hide all their chins,” which caused me to holler jovially, “There are way too many chins in this pub.” It seemed witty so I shouted it a couple more times, lost in the frivolity of friends, until — I kid you not — a Chinese American rose from the booth just behind us, turned his head and glared at me. I wanted to tell him I meant “chins” not “Chins,” that I was referencing my friends’ turkey wattles, but he vanished back into his booth. What are the odds?

”¢ I am thankful for club sandwiches. My favorite is at Heichelbech’s in Jasper. It’s as pure as they come: turkey, bacon, lettuce, tomato, a little mayo, three pieces of toast cut into fourths, each quarter held together by a wooden hors d’oeuvre stick flagged with festive, colorful cellophane frills — the gold standard for club sandwich preparation. In Tokyo and Munich, my clubs came topped with a fried egg, which I enjoyed. I miss the Caribbean Club — though it was really a muffuletta — at Capers, which recently burned down in Tell City.

”¢ I am thankful for my backyard reading tree. On this chilly November day, the bright sun backlights its leaves a beautiful bronze. Part of its crown is missing because of a past blow, but it still stands strong and tall and promises ample canopy for the start of another outdoor reading season come spring. Most notable reads within its shade this year: “TransAtlantic,” by Colum McCann; “Life Itself: A Memoir,” by Roger Ebert; and “Matilda’s Triumph,” by Jasper’s Dr. Richard Moss. My reading tree is a much needed portal of escape.

”¢ I’m thankful for my outdoor clothesline. It came with my house and its sentimental tug helped seal the sell. One of my fondest childhood memories: my mother hanging clothes in the summer, seeing her animated shadow on the other side of a sheet billowing in the gentle breeze, her bare feet carefully navigating the bumble-bee buzz of clover. I love hanging clothes outdoors, utilizing a natural element. I don’t sail, and kite flying requires too much effort, but I proudly harness the wind with my clothespinned underwear.

”¢ I’m thankful to the late Paul Ash and the living Buddy Hart, Kris Lasher, Ray Major and Marc Steczyk for putting music to my lyrics. I can’t sing or play an instrument, but still I have a modest part in music through their kindness.

”¢ I’m thankful for short-term heartache.

”¢ I’m thankful for “The Walking Dead.” I was resistant when it premiered in 2010. Other than the very funny “Shawn of the Dead,” I hated anything zombie-related. But then, under the encouragement of my friend Marty, I saw the first episode, and became hooked. It’s my current show binge of choice. Sometimes I stay up too late watching and resemble the walking dead at work the next day.

”¢ I’m thankful for Jasper’s Abbie Rumbach and her very, very funny blog, “The Kids Made Me Fat.” The Huffington Post frequently puts her posts on its site — big-time stuff. I can always count on Abbie for a much-needed laugh. She’s this century’s Erma Bombeck — but with a wicked edge (and likely a flask in the pocket of her housecoat).

”¢ I’m thankful for two CD releases this year: Jen Chapin’s “Reckoning,” and the bluegrass blast, “Love Has Come For You,” by Steve Martin (yes, the Steve Martin) and Edie Brickell. They remain in rotation in my car.

”¢ I’m thankful this summer to have witnessed two music legends, Willie Nelson and B.B. King, spend a generous amount of time after their performances shaking hands, posing, conversing and signing autographs. I’ve never seen anything like this from big-time music stars before. Willie and B.B. truly appreciate their fans. They are both class acts.

There, 10 reasons to be thankful. Now, I’m going to continue bingeing on “The Walking Dead” and wait for that damn ceiling drip.

Scott Saalman and the Will Read and Sing For Food Players’ last performance of 2013 will be at 7 p.m. Dec. 5 at Vincennes University Jasper Center to benefit Community Food Bank. Admission: monetary or canned good donation.

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