Since the day they closed the doors of the Mountain Pharmacy in Stone Mountain I never, ever order a milkshake anywhere. I haven't watched The Tonight Show in a hundred years. Nothing Jay Leno has to say (or anyone he has to interview) can hold candles to Carson interviewing Don Rickles while Ed sits there trying to remember what planet he's on. There's no need for anyone to try and make a living calling college football games on television or radio since Keith Jackson retired. ("And BOY HOWWWWWWDY Nebraska is HUGE along that offensive line!") And since Furman Bisher spent 94 years writing and living on this planet (two things that for most of those 94 years happened simultaneously, by the way) no one need try and write a word about Thanksgiving. His Thanksgiving columns represented all that was good about the days when the written word was sometimes folded and lying at the end of the driveway first thing in the morning. His list of things for which he found himself thankful in those columns were both obvious and subtle. Good health and the sound of his son's car door in the driveway late at night. Breath to breathe and a good cup of coffee. His wife's smile or the next great racehorse being stretched on a chilly morning in Kentucky. He was thankful for things we wish we could've experienced and thankful for things for which we, too, should be thankful...we just didn't know it 'til he told us so.
I remember a host from a local sports talk show that made a habit of mocking him, sometimes after Furman had made an appearance on his show. He tried to do an imitation of the sound of Furman's voice, always making him sound backwoods and senile. He wasn't from around here and was the same guy that ridiculed people in Atlanta because we were sad when some gorilla named Willie died at Zoo Atlanta. Had he listened to Furman instead of mocking him he might still have a show to host. See, people listened to Furman because, even when he was saying something we didn't want to hear, he knew how to say it so that we'd listen. And listen we did for 59 years. We got tired of listening to that talk show host much sooner than that. He's unemployed because he talked to hear himself talk He's unemployed because he made fun of a world
class athlete suffering from a life-sucking disease that has no cure. I think mostly he's unemployed because he broke rule #1, knowing your audience. Dumb move to pollute the airwaves of a city making fun of things we hold sacred. He wasn't just a gorilla. He was as much a part of our innocence and childhood as Officer Don or milking Rosebud or the Rich's Christmas tree. And Furman wasn't just a sportswriter - he was an artist that had to paint pictures with his words because he didn't live in a social media world where everyone is a photographer. And we listened whether he was talking about having lunch with Jack Nicklaus or how thankful we should be for a glass of sweet tea.
So, as I say, I'm inclined to not say much about this holiday. I do think it's sad that Thanksgiving is being reduced to Christmas' little brother and we're forgetting why it's here. And the fact that I use this occasion to write about an old sportswriter probably shows that I'm now full of attitude that used to exasperate me as a youngster. That is the attitude that ain't much of nothing folks call contemporary is worth a damn, be it music or writing or food or cars or t.v. shows. Those were the days, indeed...and I'm thankful I was able to live them.