On The Bus # 19 I’m Grateful My Blanket Isn’t Infected with Smallpox

True Story…I was just telling my Bus Crush about some drama I had on the ride into the city this morning (more on that later), and he actually said to me, “Keith, you should start writing about what happens to you on the bus.”

If he only knew.

My Bus Crush is good for me. There is a man talking on his phone in front of me even though that is AGAINST THE RULES. I want to slam the back of his seat really hard but I think my Bus Crush may look down on me if he sees me doing that. I would never want to lose his respect. But why is this man in the seat in front of me breaking the rules?!

Where was I? Oh right…today’s bus blog.

I like to be edgy and surprising and fly by the seat of my pants to keep you on your toes but since it’s Thanksgiving next week and I will not be writing an ON THE BUS blog, I have decided to write my THANK YOU LIST this week.

Thanksgiving is an awkward holiday if you ask me. It didn’t used to be. When I was a kid, I was taught the nice white people and the cheery Indians got together and helped each other make delicious turkey and stuffing until the Indians became bad people and we had to kill them all. Too bad that those Indians didn’t have gun rights like we do today—just those inefficient bows and arrows. Now that I’m adult I think of how we deliberately gave them blankets infected with smallpox during the French and Indian War and the whole holiday feels kind of depressing and makes me feel guilty.

Then I think about how not all American had an equal chance at the Great American dream like I did. When I was a child my grandmother once proudly told me that she saw two black women walking down the sidewalk and yelled “nigger” at them. Now I knew from my very liberal mother that this was not okay, but it still wasn’t outrageous. That’s just what my sweet cookies-and-milk-serving, racist grandma did. Even now I have relatives pissed off black people won’t stand for the National Anthem. If I were African American, I would be a bit ambivalent about standing for the flag of the country that has treated me so badly for the last few centruies too.

Sometimes when Thanksgiving comes around we aren’t always feeling so thankful. Sometimes we have job insecurity or a loved one suffering from the soul-sucking stubborn grip of addiction (pardon my language but addiction is a dick.). Sometimes people have children who suffer from mental illness. A friend told me about his bipolar son the other day. Once in one of his manic phases, his 17-year-old son disappeared for several days. When the dad was driving home he saw his son standing on the sidewalk in the freezing cold talking to friends. He was about to stop but as he got closer he saw his son’s shirt was open even though it was below zero, and he was gesturing manically and talking intensely. The dad said he just burst into tears at the wheel of his car. He knew how helpless he was in the situation. He ended up just driving home.

I know people who have babies that were injured by the carelessness of a nanny, and people who think they are too broken for love. I know people who suffer from the very physical pain of depression. Young girls are exploited and raped and sold for sex all over the world and innocent children are abused. Beautiful elephants are being slaughtered for trophies. So, who in the heck do I think I am to make my puny gratitude list?

The answer is I don’t know.

I mean, this human life is full of joy and pain and sometimes pain is the most authentic feeling to feel. But I think if I’m not careful I can be drawn into that pain and can wallow in it I don’t know why it is so damn attractive. Someone once described addiction as an electric current. You can grab it and be shocked but be careful because if you grab it again it might not let go. I think negativity is this way too. Pain and negativity or two different things. Pain can teach. I’m not sure negativity can tell me anything.

So, let me try to think of some things I’m thankful for. I don’t honestly know how to fix the world problems but I can try to be a positive light to myself so I can be one for others.

1) My humor. I don’t know what I’d do without a sense of humor. And it is not something I worked for. It is very clear I inherited it from my dad’s side of the family. Sorry Mother, you appreciated humor but you were no match for Dad. In my family, you had to be sharp so I did have to learn to be quick on my feet. I was the youngest of five so if I didn’t get my joke in fast, the moment would have passed. My sister had a diary and one entry said, “My big brother Dave was carried out by a stretcher today after his contacts made him go blind. We all threw jokes at him but he didn’t laugh.” Poor Dave. He had our mother’s sense of humor and never really got the rest of us. But at least he got his sight back which I’m pretty sure he is thankful for.

2) Helen Keller.-I know it seems like I hate her and I do because I don’t buy that humble act of hers. She is as cocky as a rooster. But when I feel like my childhood was too hard and it keeps me from achieving things like finishing and publishing my book as an adult, I am haunted by the snide words I imagine her signing to me. “I couldn’t speak, hear or see as a child and I grew up to write books and became famous.” Damn you Helen. You keep me from being a victim. Thanks for setting the bar so high, Helen. Come to think of it. You are off the list.

3) My husband—My husband is quiet and always bows to my every need and whim and never causes me any stress. HAHAHAHAHAHAAHA (this is an example of my humor). No, he totally makes me crazy and trying to control him is like trying to control a stampede of rabid hippos running with wild jackels on their back sticking pins in their eyes. But mostly that doesn’t matter. This guy is a very special guy which makes me very lucky. I like to send him into situations like work parties ahead of me because he can charm the pants off the unlikeliest people. He loves deeply and creates a magical world for me to live in at least 88 percent of the time. He is almost too sensitive for this life on earth. I truly wish he could always know  every second just how special he is.

(That man in front of me is still talking on his phone. Why won’t my Bus Crush let me be myself and hit him? Why don’t people follow the rules?)

4) Deodorant—Now don’t get me wrong. I’m kind of a natural guy. I would be good in a cabin in the woods except for the whole killing animals for breakfast lunch and dinner thing. If I couldn’t grow crops or live off of berries, I’d starve before the month was out. Shaving is a chore for me so I get a person might hate putting on sticky deodorant–but the guy who sat next to me this morning on the bus had the worst BO ever known to man. I was trapped by the unopened window and using all my stamina not to gag while breathing into a scarf. Of course, we got stuck in terrible traffic and this ordeal lasted for over two hours. I know now how that guy felt who cut his arm off to escape from being trapped when he fell climbing by himself in the desert. I almost used my keys to file my nose off but my vanity won out by a very slight margin. Bus Crush never smells. Well, he smells like the Cheerios he likes to eat by the fistful.

5) My cats because they are orange and have fur and are little wild things. They have no problem knowing how special they are. We can all learn a thing or two from them.

6) This blog because without it I might actually hit people on the head or throw their purses on the ground or walk up and down the bus aisle snatching phones from people. You guys are my friends I take with me on each ride.

7) Creativity –A minister once said that she went snorkeling and saw just how many different kinds of fish there are in the sea–so many different combinations of shape, color and size. She said to herself in wonder, “God must so love to create.” When I die, if people say I did more to help people be creative than I fought for gun rights, I am 150 percent okay with that.

8) Tyne Daly—She is America’s sweetheart and a national treasure. She can make me laugh and cry within minutes apart—and that’s just when I’m sitting at my desk daydreaming about her.

9) Elephants

10) Friends—When I feel scared and like I’m going to slip through the cracks I know at least one of them will hold my hand and keep me upright. I know this because they did when I lost my sister. You know who you are Alexandra, Steve, Megan, Jill and Scottie. And so many others in so many ways have helped me along the way. That is a blessing

11) I’m grateful that the guy in front of me is off the phone.

12) Dancing With the Stars—Just bear with me on this one. I started watching it because I would call my housebound mom every morning during the last few years of her life. It gave us something to talk about that was easy. I got hooked even though she has been gone eight years now. After she died I watched with my friend Jill who was also going through grief and we laughed and cried our way through the show every Monday over pizza or chicken or tacos. When l moved to New York from LA, we texted during the show and we still do today.  After a lot of work, I got Saul hooked on it too. Saul blurting “Wow Rumor Willis’ footwork in her tango is amazing!” is all I’ve ever looked for in a husband. See how special he is?

13) Strong Women—I was raised by a strong mom and grandmother and a strong older sister. It’s the reason Hillary Clinton running for President didn’t bother me. She has a great chapter in her book about women in power and what they face. It’s not victim-y. It’s pretty fascinating. I know you haters won’t read it (although I challenge you to read at least 50 pages), but if you like her, it’s an interesting book. I think she would have been beat-up if she won. And she has that paradox of a husband. I think sadly she was a generation too early and saddled with too much baggage, but I am grateful she ran in my lifetime no matter what some of my high school friends say about us evil liberals. I like Bette Midler too. She’s strong. Okay, I will keep Helen Keller on the list (for now). I suppose she is strong too.

14) I just watched Roy Moore’s wife in Alabama defend her husband, and I am really, really grateful I am not the type of person who cheers and applauds when someone like her says the line, “He is against transgender bathroom access.” Man, I am happy I somehow was born with enough grace to not be that type of person.

15) I guess I’m glad each day that I get up and face life head on and jump into the messy, heartbreaking nonsense of living. I used to be so scared in the mornings but I’m lucky that as far as I can tell I’m caring less about what others think of me (except my Bus Crush). And maybe that is what gratitude does? Maybe it makes my soul expand rather than contract?

I hope you all have at least a few things to be grateful for, and I hope as you wake up each morning you can find some joy and play in the day ahead. I will leave you with this line I heard just this morning: God is like a bikini. He shows you a lot but not everything. He makes you work for it.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Keith Hoffman is nervous about counting his Weight Watchers points on Thanksgiving Day but is far too obsessive to not worry about it.
He forgot to list that he is also grateful for ducks.

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Keith Hoffman lives with his artist husband, dog and two cats in the small town Lambertville, New Jersey 72 miles outside of New York City. He has completed a memoir entitled The Summer My Sister Grew Sideburns.

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