Columns » Max Brantley

Changing the subject

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MY DOG FIFI: Because we all need a laugh.
  • MY DOG FIFI: Because we all need a laugh.
Fall arrived, late but glorious, with the biting air and startling blue skies that make me vow never to miss another morning walk on the sidewalks of Hillcrest. Who’d want to miss a day of the slowly evolving seasonal spectacle that is the gingko tree at Pine and Hill Road? Speaking of blue and speaking of Hillcrest: I live there and I am not alone. We voted for John Kerry and loving our neighbors. But I said I was going to change the subject. One friend suggests concentrating on the sorry state of movie popcorn. Or the insidious switch from Coke to Pepsi at too many fountains. Best to think for now of purely happy subjects. Take family. (Please, not mine.) I don’t think my wife and I need to join the Covenant Marriagepalooza the governor has planned in February. (Will Kool-Aid be served?) After 28 years, we still walk together and talk together constantly and laugh at nearly all the same sorts of things. I have many faults, but she’s working on them — still. I think we’ll stick it out, just as my parents and her parents did. Kids are happy thoughts, too, so indulge some bragging. My smart and funny son is a college sophomore. He writes about music and movies and cracks wise for the campus alternative paper. My confident daughter is, hooray, self-supporting, a securities analyst in New York. I miss my kids, but as a substitute there’s my sweet-tempered and ridiculous dog, Fifi. When the weather cools, she hops on the sofa in the morning, snuggles up and puts her head on my lap while I read the paper. Bright spots abound. There’s a trendy new restaurant and lounge across the parking lot from my office. Next week, the Clinton library opens with events that will put the culture maven in a dilemma — more choices than time. There’s Aretha Franklin. Al Franken. Priceless art treasures. A rich trove of documentary films. Celebrity gazing, from movie stars to some of the most famous black people in America to presidents of the United States to foreign leaders. Not to mention the stunning new library itself. Yes, it is time to do positive things. I could go to church more often, for example. Ours is a friendly place. It still sings “For ALL the Saints.” I vow to do better on the things I can change. I will eat more fruit and vegetables. Lift more weights at War Memorial. Pick up my old trombone. Pull the weeds. Fix the fender I crumpled election night. Hug my family. And I certainly plan to burden our Thanksgiving table — which will be surrounded by the biggest gathering of extended family in years — with relish trays, turkey, pork roast, bread dressing, gravy, creamed onions, green beans, sweet potatoes with marshmallows and pecans, homemade rolls, cranberry sauce, pies and pinot noir and apple brandy from Oregon. Nothing French this year, except several visiting in-laws. What to be thankful for? The sun will rise on a 2006. And on a 2008. We have been set back, but we have not been defeated.

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