Every year I think about writing a Thanksgiving column, but-wouldn't you know-every year I would think of it too late to get it into the paper in advance, making it pretty uninteresting if not entirely useless. So this year I am writing well in advance.
I am aware that I am not enough of a public figure to make people interested in what particulars I am thankful for (compare the typical Sunday supplement feature like "Five Things Michele Obama is Thankful For") but my hope is that by listing some of my things, I can suggest to readers categories of things to consider being thankful for that they might not otherwise think of.
I am thankful that I live in the United States. No one need run a chauvinistic line about this being the greatest country in the world, &c., in order to be aware of the benefits of living here-a written constitution, a bill of rights (free speech, free press, and the rest), and regular elections that let us change the administration. American voters do not always choose wisely, but they can sense when something has gone wrong and try to effect a change.
I am thankful to my parents for so much that to list all the things would be a lengthy task. But let me just mention that they managed to instill not so much a specific morality (though if honesty and courtesy are virtues I hope they did that) but a sense of moral seriousness about the business of living and relating to others. I do not manage these things perfectly, but at least I am aware of my shortcomings as moral lapses.
I am thankful to the friends who have been valuable supports and companions (even if often by email these days) over the years. Names are unnecessary; they know who they are and I hope they know my appreciation.
I am thankful for the composers who have excited, inspired, emotionally moved, and entertained me with their compositions. The list is not long. It suffices here to mention Rachmaninoff, Ravel, Shostakovich and Vaughan Williams.
I am thankful that my native language is English. I am terrible at learning foreign languages, but English has become a-dare one say, the-international language, so I am lucky that I do not have to struggle to learn a second language to communicate in a closely knit world.
I feel neutral about being gay, although I will say that it works pretty well for me. However, I am deeply thankful that I lived into and came out in an era when there was beginning to be a large and vibrant gay community to provide a supportive environment as I learned to negotiate this new self-understanding.
I am thankful that my apartment is warm in the winter, my refrigerator is well stocked with food, and that clean drinking water comes out of the tap when I turn the knob. Many people in the rest of the world have few or none of these things.
I am thankful for the members of the gay listserv I am on. Their comments have stimulated, informed and sometimes irritated me in ways that have been enormously helpful for my thinking and writing.
I am thankful that medical research has made enough progress that we now have drugs that keep those of us infected with HIV alive for a prolonged period. We can hope that the longer we stay alive the better are the chances of further improvements in the drugs, and the possibility of a cure.
It is hard to say this in public, but I am thankful for people-friends and otherwise-who over the years have pointed out-if not always in a kindly manner-my various (and apparently numerous) character and personality flaws and deficiencies. Though it was not always part of their intention, they helped me become a better person.
I am thankful that my parents did not foist a religion onto me. They decided to let me choose for myself. I ended up choosing no religion at all, deciding that all religions are a tissue of myth and imposture, and have done great harm to mankind.
I am thankful for the unexpected opportunity over the last few years to write about art for my newspaper. And I am thankful for the artists whose works have challenged my mind, delighted my eye, and lured me into looking at things more closely than I was accustomed to doing.
This is hardly a complete list, but it will do for a start and perhaps prompt your own thoughts as America's annual day of giving thanks approaches.