The Corner


Birds and More

The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth, by Jennie A. Brownscombe (1914) (Wikimedia Commons)

I have an Impromptus today, which begins with Erdogan and populism, and ends with Eitan and Eichmann. (The former nabbed the latter.) In between are items of various sorts. Find something you like.

In a previous column, I spoke of meeting a man in Mexico who had been to Montana. Why had he been to Montana (which I have not)? Because he was a student in Spokane, Wash., for a while, and a roommate took him home for Thanksgiving. I wrote that I loved this: the tradition of taking home a foreign classmate for Thanksgiving.

A reader writes to me,

I invited a foreign student home for Thanksgiving back in my college days, in the mid ’70s. He was from Rhodesia, which was transitioning to Zimbabwe. He got more than just a traditional turkey dinner at our New England farm. I took him to Plimoth Plantation, and onboard the Mayflower II. (I am a descendant of Pilgrims). I also taught him to fire a rifle, which I sometimes regret. He was a supporter of ZAPU, which eventually lost against Mugabe’s ZANU. For all I know, the skills I taught him were just enough to get him killed. I lost track of him after he went home.

His manners were impeccable. He was a high-church Anglican, and he somehow thought it rude to refuse any kind of food offered. I could tell he thought the taste of cranberry bread strange, but when asked if he would like more, he took another small piece. He also shared a liking with me of my father’s bourbon. I had my Yankee dad over a barrel — He’s a guest, don’t forget!

In an Impromptus on Friday, I mentioned an incident at Lincoln Center, in New York — specifically, on Lincoln Center Plaza. There were groups of Chinese people — CCP-ers — holding banners denouncing Falun Gong as an “evil cult,” etc. Someone looked these people in the eye and flipped them off. It may have been someone who looked a lot like me.

Anyway, a reader writes,

I will admit to doing something similar in the mid ’80s when I was approached to sign a pro-Sandinista/anti-Contra petition. There may have been some colorful/foul language involved. No fisticuffs, though.

Finally, a note concerning 1776, the musical which premiered 50 years ago. I published a letter about this the other day. A different reader writes,

Some TV critic, and I don’t remember who, reviewed the BBC’s adaptation of I, Claudius together with a well-received documentary on Rome and concluded that while the documentary was flawlessly-recalled history and I, Claudius a work of fiction, somehow the fiction just got the spirit of the era so right, while the documentary was dry as 2,000 years of dust on the Appian Way.

To me, that’s what 1776 does. It gets the spirit right.

Hang on — one more note, please: just in.

I first saw 1776 when I was very young, in junior high, the year it was adapted as a film musical. I fell in love with it then and, practically by itself, it inspired a lifelong passion for reading and trying to understand American history and the great minds behind it. …

For me, 1776 was an introduction to things I was certainly not getting from my very liberal teachers. It led to a lot in my life: introducing the musical to my children, planning family vacations in D.C. and other historic sites, etc. The musical made me try to understand how we as a nation are bound together by ideas, and why that is important.

Also — one of the highlights of my life — I have been in three amateur productions of 1776 in the last 20 years, and the experience has always been memorable. The comments one receives from local people who have never been exposed in quite this way to the story — inspiring.

I’ll have to revisit this musical my own bad self. I don’t think I’ve seen it since — well, since I was in junior high. Maybe. I remember something about a “congressional incubator,” in which an egg was hatched …

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