Codger loves Thanksgiving, his favorite holiday, a festival of food, fun, family and friends.
Two years ago at this time, in this very place, he went on record about how the restorative powers of this jolly time would go far to counteract the “dread and despair” that a recent election had left in its results. He even quoted the Original Codger, his dad, who frequently said, as good times rolled or crisis loomed through his 100 years on Earth, that “nothing is ever as good or bad as your imagination can make it.”
And, of course, here we are, more or less, sadder but wiser, buoyed by the results of a recent election that proved that resistance offers hope. This was all possible, obviously, because people had followed Codger’s instructions to take deep breaths on Shell Beach, hike Mashomack and get back to the Fit Center — now enhanced by new equipment, probably not by coincidence.
But he never foresaw the divisiveness, the bipartisan nastiness that has swept the country and left its mark on the East End. Codger has overheard conspiracies to “out” people who voted for certain candidates, even to boycott businesses in which certain networks dominate the TV set. Island relationships have been disrupted. Even Codger has been affected, on several occasions beginning conversations with, “You idiot.”
Enough. Codger thinks this midterm Thanksgiving would be a fine time to follow Crone’s advice and strive for “comity,” defined by the great historian Richard Hofstadter as a social condition in which “community life must be carried on after the acerbic issues of the moment have been fought over.”
To that end, Codger has not only savagely cut back on his use of the phrase “You idiot,” but concocted holiday plans not only for how he will deal with food and drink, but how he will deal with conversations that veer political while he is dealing with food and drink.
His plan: Whenever someone brings up a controversial national issue, he will counter with something local, especially if it is distracting and coincides with Codger’s frequently warped sense of humor. It’s a technique he learned from the highest sources in government.
For example: Someone may bring up immigration and in the sudden hush Codger will unleash his newest politically incorrect joke: “I’m cool with the caravan if they bring their own leaf blowers.”
Before the stuffing can cool in the confusion, Codger will explain to the grandchildren that if Americans, including Shelter Islanders, weren’t so willing to exploit vulnerable labor, nobody would be heading here.
Another example: Someone will bring up gun control and Codger will quip that real gun control is about holding your rifle steady while you cull the deer herd. In the following appalled silence, one of the related Bambi-lovers will complain and Codger will explain the theory behind 4-posters in such numbing detail that even Cur II will understand that they are a central reason there are so many deer taunting him before they run in front of cars. The 4-posters feed corn to deer and taint their meat.
Maybe that’s why we’re eating turkey instead of venison.
There will be a West Coast contingent at the table, fires on their minds, and climate change will be raised, along with the current administration turning its back on the Paris Accord. Before that can gain traction, Codger will say, “We’ve always wanted waterfront here on West Neck and this is our best chance. How about a creek from Wade’s Beach to Fresh Pond? That might help Vinnie Novak sell his house.”
Poor Codger. He’s just too hip to be happy. Why can’t he just stop there? But no. He’ll be on a roll and have to bring up the email he got from Supervisor Gary Gerth urging him to vote for “our great Congressman Lee Zeldin” who “has brought home so many important environmental and quality of life wins to Shelter Island.”
Despite the fact that Zeldin strongly supported the repudiation of the Accord’s environmental protections, maybe he will pay back Supervisor Gerth with an important win. A serious chunk of federal money could go a long way toward repairing the erosion of Reel Point, described here by Julie Lane as “a natural barrier and protector for Coecles Harbor.” Residences and businesses worth hundreds of millions of dollars are endangered. Other than partisanship, what’s the point of hustling votes for Zeldin unless there’s something in it for the Island, Gary?
By this time, the table will be deep into pie and Codger will be under assault from those offended by his remarks and those who feel he is trivializing events, stretching toward comedy rather than comity, without success.
He may have to respond with his usual charm. “You idiot,” he will explain.