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Be Thankful for these Gems

ST. LOUIS-- When Thanksgiving rolls around, it is a clich d but valuable exercise to remind yourself of all the things for which to be thankful: good health; a loving family and loyal friends; the fact you re not sitting next to Rosie O Donnell on a cross-country bus.

Add to the give thanks list all soldiers, police officers, firefighters, nurses, paramedics, charity volunteers and other people who quietly risk their lives or save lives.

These are all good things. But, honestly, I don t need a holiday to appreciate those blessings. I find myself being grateful on a regular basis for these folks.

So I ve decided that on this Thanksgiving, I will remind myself of the things I often forget to appreciate, such as...

Stadium seating at movies. Such a simple idea, we should have thought of it decades ago. Isn t it wonderful going to a movie and never having to worry that a former college basketball player or a woman with big hair will plop down in front of you two minutes before the film starts?

QuikTrips. If every company operated like a QuikTrip, the world would be a better place. Polite, fast-moving clerks always thank you for shopping at QuikTrip and are never, ever, on their cell phones. Honestly, I ll drive past other convenience stores if a QT is nearby.

TiVo. Like OMG! Forget the Internet and cell phones, TiVo, or DVR, is the technological diamond of the past 20 years. It allows you to pause live TV, record two shows at one time or set up the recording of an entire season of shows in one fell swoop. In heaven, there is TiVo.

Hot sauce. Stuck with mild salsa when you wanted hot? Staring at some mediocre fried chicken? Just break out the hot sauce, baby, and life gets better. Tabasco, Frank s, Louisiana, Crystal, it s all good. I mean, what other food product taste equally great with both eggs and tequila?

A.P. Greensfelder. Until I began hiking this year, I had no idea how much land this man set aside to use as conservation areas and parks. If not for him, a gorgeous chunk of West County would be covered by a giant subdivision called Whispering Trees Estates at West Glen Meadows.

Utility companies. These folks had a rough year (am I right, Ameren?). But to be fair, I have water and natural gas at the twist of the wrist, electricity at the flip of a switch and flushing whenever I want. And when it goes wrong, crews work all night to make it right. You ve got to respect that.

Double-stuff Oreos: I ve been trying to drop some fat, so I ve been staying away from these gems. But I hope the person who first thought of doubling the amount of middle in the Oreo gets a Nobel Prize. Hey, if Al Gore can get one for talking, how about a little love for this munchie genius?

Hardee s. Again, I m trying to eat healthy, but I m glad this fast-food chain is making 1,400-calorie burgers. The do-gooder killjoys tell us it s food-porn. Well, then don t eat it. This is America and last time I checked, we can eat or not eat whatever we want. Besides, we re living too long anyway.

Keith Richards. He joked that he snorted his father s ashes, said he was quitting drugs because they weren t strong enough anymore and recently said he fell out of a coconut tree. But mostly, I m grateful that I ve never heard Richards ever endorse any big socio-political causes. God bless you, Keith.

Second chances. For people like me, who seem to operate on the premise that it s better to ask for forgiveness than ask for permission, second chances are crucial. In last week s column, when talking about Leonard Maltin s Movie Guide, I said Casablanca was older than The Maltese Falcon. That s wrong. But the fault, dear readers, was not in my Maltin, but in myself. Sorry.

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A Grateful Nation

What little things deserve your gratitude? We re not talking big-ticket items, but the overlooked, underappreciated people, places and things that make our lives better - or at least more fun. Send them to the e-mail address listed with this column. And keep those advice questions coming, as Joe Holleman: Life Sherpa will make his first appearance next week.

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