With the University’s Thanksgiving Break upon us, the Bluff is a quiet (I would say, “too quiet”) place that allows some time for reflection on pretty much anything and everything – including what you should be thankful for. Yeah – it’s a bit of a ham-handed segue, but I never claimed to be the greatest writer, so I guess I should be thankful that someone is reading this!
It goes without saying that I’m thankful for my family and friends. I’m an only child, so I don’t have a ton of family, but they do mean a lot to me. Even though I’m not a native Pittsburgher – Thanksgiving always meant a trip to Pittsburgh to see family. Most times the drive was uneventful, sometimes blinding snow (you knew it was bad when your mother told you to put your seat belt on), and for some reason most times a stop at the Arthur Treacher’s in Breezewood (fast food seafood a la Long John Silvers). Once we’d get past Breezewood my inquiries would start: “How many more miles?” – I don’t know why I asked the distance, but she always humored me and told me. The trips were always fun, even before ipads and cell phones… and before I was allowed to touch the radio dial… trips to Pittsburgh meant listening to whatever radio station we could get and often my mother singing along. And me being amazed that she could keep singing on Don McLean’s “American Pie” as the radio cut out in the Allegheny Mountain tunnel only for it to come back on as we reached daylight and her not miss a beat. So I’m thankful for my family… and all of the memories that they’ve given me.
I’m thankful for my dog, Mongo. He’s in a bit of a rough patch with respect to his health, but I’m thankful that he still greets me every day with a wagging tail and no matter what he makes it seem like I’m the most important thing in the universe, even more important than dog food. If you can’t own a dog (students living on campus – this, unfortunately, means you), try to find something or someone that makes you feel this way. They may get on your nerves at times, but everyone should have this feeling at least for part of their day.
I’m thankful for my bicycles. Sure, they’re just material things, but I enjoy each of them (there are 4) for what each does and the kinds of experiences that they provide me. From my now semi-retired mountain bike that took me from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C. via the Great Allegheny Passage to the newest, a fluorescent green road bike that I use to commute and for longer rides… sometimes it’s just nice to get away from the hubbub of the city, away from an computer/phone screen (seriously, don’t even try riding and texting – it’s not safe at all). Pittsburgh has lots of parks and trails that can deliver just about any experience that you want: want to get lost in the woods? Go to Frick or North Park. Want to pedal for hours and relax? Hit the Great Allegheny Passage. Either way, I’m just happy to get out.
I’m thankful for thanksgiving itself… and the food that goes along with it. I have an unnatural affinity for stuffing. Despite the mocking of students and fellow staff members alike I recently purchased 2lbs of stuffing from Whole Foods. Was it overpriced? Oh, heck yeah. Was it worth it? Well, until all of the haters who mock me for buying stuffing (vs. making my own) show up with their leftovers to sate my stuffinglust… it most certainly was worth each and every bit of $12. For those new to the Pittsburgh area… the season also brings with it the Gobblerito at Mad Mex. Let this sink in for a moment: it’s thanksgiving dinner (turkey, stuffing, mashed potates, corn, etc.)… in burrito form. For those who hail from the southwest/west/anyplace with access to real Mexican food you may chafe at this. Fear not. It is not an abomination, it is glorious. Honorable mention goes to the Pub Chip Shop’s Gobbletots and Hough’s thanksgiving pierogies. They stop selling them on Thanksgiving, so it’s a good way to warm up for your family meal. Remember, practice makes perfect. Done properly, you can spend most of the month or so before thanksgiving in an L-tryptophan-induced haze and go nearly comatose on turkey day itself. You gotta have goals. To be perfectly clear – I don’t really eat turkey outside of thanksgiving season, it’s just this time of year. So, yeah, I’m thankful for the food.
And honestly, and I’m not being paid to say this… I’m thankful for the students here at Duquesne. OK, in the interests of full disclosure I am an employee of the university so I guess I AM being paid to say this, but I do genuinely mean it. I’ve had the honor of working with them for over ten years now and I can’t say that a week goes by without me being humbled by them in some way. Duquesne is a special place – and yes, I know that sounds corny to say, but having been here on the Bluff for over ten years, it’s something that you don’t realize for yourself until you’re actually here. What makes it special are the people. Our students are just flat out better people than I was at their age: they are concerned about how they can make the world a better place and take active steps to move toward that goal. They create a sense of community here that is unlike any college or university that I’ve attended or worked at. So maybe I’m thankful for Duquesne – because it’s the students, but it’s also the cast of characters who support them, from our housekeeper, Renee to Dean Swindal and everyone in between.
Am I thankful for more things? Without a doubt. There’s really too much to list. Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving!