The big story this month — other than 4,500 cruise ship passengers having to eat peanut butter instead of lobster as their powerless boat was tugged back to San Diego — was the midterm elections. The cruise ship story would have been much bigger than the midterm elections if the boat had drifted back to 1965 and everyone had wound up on Gilligan’s Island. Arguably, they would have been better off there than on the U.S. mainland. On Gilligan’s Island, there was bipartisan agreement and everyone worked together with laser beam-like focus to achieve one goal: Hook up Gilligan and Mary Ann and start repopulating the island.
I am, of course, exaggerating: There were political tensions aplenty on Gilligan’s Island. If there had been actual bipartisan agreement, the Howells would have used their monumental resources to help the Professor transform bamboo and coconuts into an airplane, instead of merely inventing irons and juicers.
In any case, the other big story this past month was the revelation that Marilyn Monroe left behind a mighty tasty Thanksgiving stuffing recipe.
Apparently — to paraphrase a classic line from a classic musical — she really could cook, too.
Thursday is Thanksgiving, and there are many things as a nation for which we should all be grateful. But it is also worth recalling that President Abraham Lincoln viewed the holiday as a day of atonement “for our national perverseness.”
Just for the record, it was 1863 and when our 16th president used the expression “national perverseness,” he was not referring to the way millions of Americans watch “Dancing with the Stars” every week hoping desperately for a wardrobe malfunction or nipple slip. (This is also the reason that everyone other than my mother-in-law watches the Olympic pairs figure skating competition.) First of all, we should all be thankful that we live in a democracy in which we even have midterm elections. My sense is that there are a lot of North Koreans who would view me as pretty darn petty for whining that the recorded voices of Jim Douglas, Peter Shumlin and Penny Dubie were calling me constantly in the month of October and asking for my vote. (As my wife once wondered, “Does a robo-call ever change anyone’s mind?”) Frankly, if you live in North Korea and own a telephone and Kim Jong-il is on the other end, you are in very big trouble.
We should also be grateful that we are, by the standards of the rest of the globe, a spectacularly wealthy country. At the same time, the fact that a lot of us are willing to spend thousands of dollars a year on a cable or dish TV plan so we can watch “Sex and the City 2″ or “Piranha 3D” on demand while there are 1.5 million homeless children in America should give us all pause.
We should be thankful that Florida hasn’t yet been swamped by rising seas or Los Angeles by one cataclysmic tsunami. The Earth hasn’t kicked humans off it just yet. It might in the next century if we don’t get our act together and listen to people like Bill McKibben and Al Gore. But our stay of execution won’t last forever.
Other small bits of good news? Britney Spears’ parents have reconciled. Lindsay Lohan’s parents have not. Prince William is getting married. Snooki is not. And Helena Bonham Carter has returned this week as Bellatrix Lestrange in the latest installment of the Harry Potter cinematic saga.
Perhaps this coming year we should combine appreciation and atonement and strive to be civilized. Me, too. I could have named names when I made fun of “Dancing with the Stars,” but I didn’t. And that’s a start.
Now, go google Marilyn Monroe’s stuffing — excuse me, h
er stuffing recipe.
(This column originally appeared in the Burlington Free Press on November 21, 2010.)