Thanksgiving is a time when the word “gratitude” becomes spoken perhaps more than at any other time of year. We are asked to be grateful. Some families have traditions where they go around the table, and each member shares something for which they are thankful. Clergy persons like me encourage our flock to make gratitude a priority, not just on the fourth Thursday in November but all year round. Then someone flips the switch, and suddenly it’s Black Friday.
I remember studying Armenian in Yerevan, Armenia, during the summer of 1998. The noun for gratitude(երախտագիտություն) is one of the longest words in the Armenian language. Sure, there are 16 letters plus words here or there, but this was one we needed to know.
As language students, thousands of miles away from home, we were dependent on the hospitality of others for most of our basic needs. The ability to communicate our gratitude in word and deed was crucial to our experience. We needed to know how to say we were thankful and be understood. It was also important to show thanks in a manner that matched the length and psychological impact of such an important word. As we learned how to say “thank you,” we learned how to be “grateful” in another culture. Getting “thank you” right became as important as spelling and pronouncing “yerakhtagitut’ yun”.
Is there anything we need to learn or relearn about gratitude before we meet up with our family and friends next week?
–Richard Lowell Bryant
Ho, ho, hi
‘ve got the world on a string,
sitting on a reindeer,
Hi, ho, hum,
Ho, hum, he,
Ho, hi, ho,
Hi, ho, hi, ho,
it’s off to gift we go,
no. No. NO.
Ho, ho, ho?
Yes, we go, go go.
I’m just saying,
those publicity photos on the wall,
will not do at all,
I’m just saying,
the 80’s called,
they want their stringy hair back,
the late 70’s called,
those faux dusters still look slack,
the misspelled names department phoned,
the wampum, hawgs, and dawgs have all gone home,
I’m just saying,
these goatees will not do,
the bad facial hair department called you,
you might want to take these down too,
I’m just saying,
the next time they call,
tell them you’re already on the 21st-century ball.
*image courtesy Trip Advisor
You may recall, gentle readers, previous missives, published here by S.P. Wildeman. The same author has been in touch and asked to submit another story. I have so obliged.
Richard Bryant, Proprietor, Richard’s Food for Thought
Note to the reader: Everything in this short story bears a resemblance to someone living and something dead. Whether man or machine, theater critic or person, we’ve all met for coffee and coordinated our versions of the truth.
I’m never sure where I am these days. So many of the places I inhabit tend to blend together in the darkness. Lit only by second-hand lamps, I am led among frayed extension cords, by one-eyed adult orphans, and through hastily arranged curtains. The villagers, I am told, have taken me to the theater. The play we are about to see is something I created over a decade ago. There were no actors, plot, or scenes. Borrowing mainly from the work of Samuel Beckett, I wrote a play where nothing happened. The curtain remained closed for two hours. Behind the curtain, the audience could hear the occasional sound or see an intermittent light. There might be a clashing cymbal.
Here is my point. Nothing happened. One person (in the early days, it was me) sat behind the curtain, making the noise. After a few of the trendier theater journals reviewed my descent into nothingness, I was able to bring on a few stagehands to bang wooden spoons against my kitchen pots. Eventually, they wanted to be called actors, so I fired them and hired the one-eyed orphans. This was a play without a plot, actors, or any of the conventions of modern drama. I was going to ask my audience to stare at a closed curtain and listen to random sounds for two hours, all in the name of culture.
While the New York critics were harsh, we were huge in France. The French ate this up. The best negative review I’ve ever received came from Le Figaro. “Could less have occurred on stage?” It was a good question. Could I do nothing at all and still call it a drama? Would people pay to stare at a closed curtain with no sound or any physical interaction at all? Yes, I thought they would. I would go for all and nothing.
Why a remote village in northern Togo cobbled together enough Central African francs to buy the rights to produce a 10-year-old American play about nothing was beyond me. I had a theory. I once wrote a book on Dom Deluise as a recurring Christ figure in the Burt Reynolds’ Cannonball Run Story Saga. (I sold 12 copies, 4 of which were to Reynolds himself). Deluise’s comedy was widely revered throughout French-speaking West Africa, with his work featured in film festivals in Guinea, Ivory Coast, Togo, and Burkina Faso in alternating years.
Let me clear things up. I didn’t know where I was beyond a dank basement and hastily assembled theater somewhere on the northeast side of Togo’s capital, Lome. And even when I’m in Lome and watching a play I wrote, I couldn’t find myself on a map with a GPS if I had to.
One question still vexed me. Had the Togolaise seen any of my work? Did they know what they were getting into? How would they respond to spending their hard-earned money to get nothing in return? Plays about nothing are fine and dandy for first world theatergoers with disposable incomes. I can hear it now, “où est le dialogue?”
Were they expecting DeLuise to be a character?
Finally, someone asked, “When does the funny fat man arrive?”
He’s here, sitting in the corner, a piece of paper in his hand, furiously writing a part for a man named Santa Claus in a Christmas play about nothing.
Bienvenue to the
I am broke do tell,
because I can’t spell:
hallo peno peprs,
them small blak things,
I confuse with large flies,
that look something like,
Little gray paes with black eyes.
some of my books,
even the ones,
behind the nooks,
the tall ones,
a few wee tomes too,
antinomianism stands in pride of place,
to know its fate,
then I see,
I can arrange my books,
in any way,
for they are mine,
bought and paid.