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These are the things

by Brian Clarey

I’m sitting at my desk and I’ve just polished off a large burger — steak style, if you must know — with big bags of both onion rings and fries, though I neglected to order a drink at the drive-thru because, frankly, I’m through with sweet tea and I haven’t enjoyed a soda in years.

As you can imagine, I’ve worked up a pretty powerful thirst from all the salt and onions and sauce. Fortunately, right here at my desk I have a tall, cool bottle of water. And if you don’t mind, I’m gonna bubble it a couple times before I continue with this column.

There. Refreshing. Hydrating. Delicious.

For most of my life it has been easy to take water for granted — I grew up on an island, surrounded by the stuff, and the water that came out of my tap tasted just fine.

Not so anymore, in this different time and place. My tap water alarms me, smelling as it does of chlorine and some unidentifiable burny thing that scares even my older cats, who wait for it to settle in the bowls before drinking it.

So I am thankful for clean, potable water, which I buy by the bottle or make at home with my reverse-osmosis machine and use to drink, cook and, sometimes, for the cats.

It’s that time of year: We prepare to hunker down in the annual rites of giving and receiving, of cooking and eating, of reconnecting with loved ones and telling the same stories over and over.

At least that’s how it is in my family. I’m thankful for this family — big, loud and sometimes tipsy — that brought me into the world and oriented me to its ways, to which I’ve added my own beautiful contributions in the form of my three children, surely the best things in my life I have ever produced.

Not that my life hasn’t been a productive one thus far. I’ve been fortunate enough to have completed my formal education — well, a bachelors degree, anyway, which is a lot further than I thought I would get when I was a kid — and through hard work, a little bit of luck and a whole lot of pushiness, been able to fashion a career of sorts. I’ve been writing for money since 1994, but writing has been something I’ve obsessed about since I was very small, like four years old. And so I am incredibly thankful for my career as a writer and journalist, for the bosses who have given me chances over the years, for the readers who do me the honor of spending time with my work, for every person who has answered my reporterly questions and allowed me to put their words on paper.

I am thankful, too, for the series of events that conspired to bring the release of my very first book, The Anxious Hipster and Other Barfl ies I’ve Known, due out in about three weeks and available for pre-order at www.brianclarey.com I am also thankful for a place to put my shameless plugs. I am thankful for my health, which seems to be holding on despite all my attempts to undermine it. It takes some work: exercise, a modest regimen of herbal supplements and a diet that has way less battered and fried meats than it once did. But it’s true that if your health goes, then life becomes more challenging than it need be.

Another thing I’m thankful for as I prepare to cross another year off the calendar: this penchant of mine for keeping people around. I’ve always been one of those who makes late-night phone calls to old friends, sends unsolicited Facebook greetings to people from my past, maintains friendships over the long arc of time. I am still friends with some of the same people I went to kindergarten with; I still talk to my college roommates almost every day; I make the effort to see old friends whenever I travel around the country. Yes, I am one of those.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way. My friends have been my support system when things haven’t gone so well, my cheering section when I’m making moves and things are on the line, my sounding board when I’ve got a crazy idea that I’m pretty sure could work. And when I’ve gone too far too fast, it is my friends who rope me in and bring me back down to earth, whether I want to be there or not.

There’s more, of course: big cigars and fine beer, the love of a good woman, the smell of an outdoor fire, AMC’s “The Walking Dead” and dark coffee with a little cream, to name a few.

These are the things I’ll be thinking about as I carve into the bird on Thursday, and hopefully I’ll remember them all year long.

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