But first — one day a year — tomorrow — to embrace being thankful, to celebrate it. That’s not asking too much, is it?

Well, these days, maybe. Between a rapidly deteriorating planet, the USA and our city of Santa Monica, it sometimes seems hollow. Every time I think of something to be thankful for, a little voice says — are you kidding?! What about…?

Who is that little voice? My guardian angel? The Spirit of Christmas Past? Tricia Crane? Santa Monica’s own Lawrence O’Donnell?

I usually ignore it. Being grateful is one of my major spiritual pillars. Count your blessings. Simple, but effective, especially in the midst of crisis or funk. I practice it daily.


I will jump in the car, avoiding the holiday traffic, and keep driving until we hit Tempe, AZ in the early morning. After a short nap, time to celebrate Thanksgiving with my cousins and extended family, as we have since 1950. I have missed only five, two from being in the Army and two from traveling for a year in Europe, twice. There are always between 25 and 50 souls there, from WA, CA, OK, NM, Bosnia and sometimes the Netherlands. Ages any year can range from infant to 100. It’s important to everyone to connect in this way, to say, we are family and this is meaningful, and it’s worth the effort.

They lovingly tolerate the “Hollywood” contingent — us. We go to great lengths to avoid political or religious discussions. (Some one-on-ones are safe, and good.)

Since the passing of our patriarch my Uncle Harold in ‘95, somehow the invocation of grace before the big meal fell to me. What?! — those who know me may say. I thought it was a one-off, but now it’s assumed every year and after a quarter-century, I guess the job is mine. Unless I blow it.


I could blow it! It’s a juggling act, with all those deep-seated religious and cultural beliefs that don’t always line up with mine. So I have to find subjects and words that all can accept. And I don’t mind sometimes using it as a teaching moment. (Careful, now.)

I often use current events, and I remember when I mentioned what was going on at Standing Rock with the Dakota Pipeline protests and then gave acknowledgment and thanks for our indigenous people, who have suffered so much. I was worried about that one, but got a lot of folks coming up after to thank me for those words. Very white folks. I had completely forgotten we had two cousins there who are AZ Native Americans, adopted as children. They had tears in their eyes.

My first bold move was to alter Uncle Harold’s opening of “Heavenly Father” to “Father-Mother God.” I knew I could be fired just for that, but after a year of letting it sink in, I guess cooler female heads dug the implications and prevailed, and I was again called on the next year. The atheists and agnostics may have chafed a bit at that, but I could hardly lead with “Hey Universe.” I often recognize the military because we do have a few of those — cousin Jerry was an Air Force Colonel and now my nephew is in the Navy, “over there,” but again that is tricky for me, as a veteran yet almost-pacifist.


I ponder a bit, just before Thanksgiving, maybe while driving there. It’s impromptu and I never write any notes. But there is a lot of family history and delicate religious beliefs involved. Uncle Harold, very conservative Republican, church leader, former Mayor of Tempe, would, I think, approve of the way I’ve taken the torch. But I think he just sat down and the “right” words came out. No moral ambiguities for him.

He and I used to always find a time alone to have a chat, which usually started out with his “So, what do you think of so-and-so?” Bedrock conservative but a deep thinker and open-minded. Sometimes he changed my mind. I miss those talks so much. After his passing, I looked forward to similar chats with his son-in-law Dennis, whose home always hosts the hungry mob, not nearly as conservative but a former Phoenix cop and detective, also incredibly intelligent and well-informed, and with a great sense of humor. Sometimes he changed my mind. I miss those talks so much. But I’m thankful and grateful to have had them for so many years.

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: Have you ever been to Catalina Island? Probably, if you’ve lived in SoCal very long. It’s a charming getaway just an hour away from San Pedro, a great day trip or weekend.

You can’t miss the famous circular Casino building as you enter the harbor, but not everyone goes over there. If you do, and go inside, you will find a mind-blowing 90-year-old art deco movie palace on the ground floor, one of the oldest continually operating ones in the country, the first one to be built for sound. It is decorated with breathtaking huge murals by John Gabriel Beckman and has the original Page Pipe Organ, still in use. The lobby is a perfectly preserved time-capsule of Art Deco splendor with velvet furnishings, dark walnut wood paneling and Tiffany light fixtures.

But now it’s threatened with closure. Not only is this is a treasure for visitors from all over the world, the residents of Avalon depend on it for family entertainment. Please follow this link and read about it and sign the petition, already nearing 12,000 signatures.

Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 33 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at

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1 Comment

  1. And I am thankful for YOU Charles Andrews for your open and generous heart and love of community. We are so lucky that you are one of our most caring and courageous citizens.
    – Tricia Crane

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