WITH Thanksgiving dinner preparations no doubt already under way in households throughout the land, and with the season of dinner parties about to reach full flower, I am driven to wonder about thanks of a different nature. Not those offered up to Providence for the bounty before us, but those proffered to the givers of dinners. As soon as I am appointed to the Supreme Court, I am going to declare those thank-you-for-dinner gifts unconstitutional. They are the bane of our existence. Such gifts, which frequently turn our poor minds to oatmeal, are the unnecessary impedimenta of one of the most delightful of social situations. Nothing gives me a greater glow than being invited to dinner. The anticipation alone is warming and exciting. I sit back and think about the evening: The warm welcome at the door, the cozy living room (with a crackling fire adding to the conviviality), the trays of tasty tidbits offered by the hostess, a fragrant sherry in hand to give the final pique to my already mature appetite and a collection of friends, new and old, engaged in sparkling conversation. What could be more pleasant? But then the vision shrivels and turns to dust as I tackle the inevitable question: What shall I bring as a thank-you-for-dinner gift? A shattering question, but one that must be dealt with. Oh, certainly, it is easy enough to bring the de rigeur bottle of wine. But even that presents problems. Are my host and hostess connoisseurs, who will examine the label critically after Ive left? If so, I might have to spend my weeks salary on that bottle. If I choose poorly, or try to save a sou or two, my image in their eyes will drop considerably and this dinner party may be the last one to which Ill be invited. In fact, it doesnt seem too bright to even consider bringing wine to a home in which the wine cellar rivals that of the best French restaurant in town. However, if they are not among the cognoscenti, my efforts may all go for naught. For example, that bottle of Lafite Rothschild could end its life by being used in the next pot roast, or gulped in blissful ignorance. And so perhaps a more mundane wine is in order, the kind that is propped up in a wooden box near the cash register of the local wine merchant. But that is hardly a gift for a self-respecting dinner guest to offer for such a satisfying evening. So one searches for alternatives. A candy dish of French limoges? A fertility goddess carved in ebony from the Ivory Coast? A coffeetable

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