Editor's Note

Giving Thanks for the Things We Can Still Appreciate

2020 isn’t built for gratitude. But maybe it’s possible to take a dose of the good with the bad.

By Marty Patail October 2, 2020 Published in the October 2020 issue of Portland Monthly

Marty Patail

Everyone has their silly rituals to keep sane. Here’s our new one: before we go to sleep, my wife asks me what I am thankful for that day. We both offer up some little thing that made us smile—a clever meme we saw, something our cat did, that pad thai I had, or Burmese noodle salad. Noodles are a common theme.

In my 20s I took pride in my cynicism. Freshman year someone gave me a copy of Steppenwolf, my gateway drug to the idea that meaninglessness can seem so meaningful. Lofty human ideals, this earlier Marty thought, were just momentarily suspended midair like Wile E. Coyote over a gaping abyss. Anything but fatalism was philosophical cowardice. You get the idea. These thoughts guided my worldview for an embarassingly long  time. At one point, I cringe to recall, I offered up a quote from sci-fi writer Walter M. Miller (who committed suicide in 1996) for a child’s birthday card. Big yikes. Then, as I got older, things got all topsy-turvy: the world now piles horror upon horror, and here I am, offering up thanks to the universe for my noodles.

The year 2020 isn’t built for gratitude. It’s just not that kind of time. And yet! I always find something to appreciate in our little shoebox of domesticity. Some small thing to vocalize, to deposit at the blank altar of our bedroom ceiling.  My wife and I are not religious people; we don’t pray. But somehow this daily acknowledgment of good doesn’t feel entirely secular either. That’s OK with me.

Let’s get back to the noodles. This magazine is full of noodles. And the tome itself is a giving of thanks for the things we can still appreciate—from icy cocktail shakers and wine country escapades to scrappy restaurants and local sweets. (There are even some actual noodle noodles—see p. 92, for example.) Of course, we’re very busy covering some of our city’s extreme injustices and hardships, both in these pages and online at pdxmonthly.com. But maybe it’s possible to take a dose of the good with the bad. I’m as surprised as anyone to find myself typing this: being thankful can be its own reward.


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