Mary Beth Writes

As you may have noticed, I didn’t post anything yesterday. I had a nice day with an early morning walk (before the hard rain aka snow), talking on the phone with my kids, and reading.

I thrift-bought River Town; Two Years on the Yangtze by Peter Hessler last year. It took me this long to start it - but I’m fascinated now. It’s about the years 1994-96 when Hessler was a Peace Corps volunteer teaching English Literature at a teachers’ college in the small city of Fuling, along China’s Yangtse River.  The book is very dated, the city itself is now partly submerged by the Three Gorges Dam reservoir that was constructed since River Town was written. But his descriptions are vivid and clear ... and his interactions with Chinese people puzzle him. The movement in the book happens as he tries to understand why they act the way they do, which requires learning and understanding many of the back stories of Chinese history.  Which he then shares. He doesn’t accept stereotypes; he delves to see what’s behind the survival skills of the people he meets.

So that’s where I was yesterday – in “modern China” of 25 years ago.

This book doesn’t take me away, even though I love books like that, too. This feels like a trek through a time and place where nothing is too easy and where the natural and cultural worlds are often gray and under-appreciated by the locals. Everyone, including Hessler, is working extremely hard to survive and succeed. 

http://www.peterhessler.net/

Read this sentence, this morning. “Nearly 10,000 health care workers on the front lines, including nurses, have tested positive, according to a preliminary survey the CDC conducted from February to April.”

Just let that sink in. Ten THOUSAND nurses and doctors and medical techs have contracted the virus BECAUSE of their jobs taking care of the rest of us.  Many have gone through the illness and are now recovering or are better. Seventy have died.  These numbers do not include what’s happened since May 1st.

One of the nurses interviewed (WaPo or NYT, I can’t find the article though I read it this morning) said approximately this. “This country doesn’t send soldiers into battles without proper equipment and protection.  Why are nurses and medical people expected to risk our lives – and our families’ lives - because there isn’t enough equipment?”

Why, indeed.

Frugal Strategies in the past Ten Days.

AKA What Len has fixed and how he fixed it.

1.) Our lawn mower.  It was garbage-picked many years ago, so there’s that. Around here if something works, we keep it.  (We also keep cats, but that’s a different tail.)

Len let the mower run itself out last fall to get the gas out. But, he says that usually leaves a few drops of gas in the lines and that gas gums up over the winter. I said my dad and my GRANDFATHER talked about gummed-up gas in gaslines. Do guys ever say old, cold gas does anything but get gummy? Is this the only adjective one is allowed to use regarding gaslines that won’t start? He laughed pretty hard then sprayed highly flammable spray stuff in all the little gasline places, and it started.

2.) The printer. I was writing while Len was tap-tap-tapping at the keyboard of the printer. I paid little attention because in my experience printers run on karma and voodoo. If it doesn’t work, tell Len. If it still doesn’t work, he will buy a new one.  I don’t know where he gets them and I don’t care.

Well now Len was mumbling to himself about the router. Our TV has been tetchy lately, a coincidence or is the router screwy, too? Len went downstairs and unplugged and plugged the router and came back upstairs and did more things to the dashboard of the printer and finally it worked.

I asked him what was wrong with the router. He said nothing was wrong with the router. I asked what was wrong with the printer. He said when it didn’t work fast enough he started resetting pre-programmed codes, and that messed it up. So then he had to go on the internet to find a complicated YouTube about how to reprogram it and that’s how he got it to work.

So, he said, if he had just been more patient and then rebooted the printer in the first place, it would have been fine.

Roosevelt said the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.  I fear Roosevelt would have liked Len more than me.

3.) The handle on the bread-baking pot. Twenty years ago, I bought a handsome green-enameled cast iron Dutch oven pot. It cost $70, even then. About twelve years ago Len started baking bread. But not bread like I bake, oh no, no, no.  He’s got to make macho-crusted bread in which one sets the oven to On Fire and there will be a lava-like pizza stone in there already and everything is at least 500 degrees.  If it can’t explode or burn you, he’s not as interested as you’d think.  (Maybe why he loves me? Hmmm.)

So when an oven is that hot, bread bakers use cast iron pots. The heavy lid keeps the steam in or something.  Len uses my green pot and believe me, if does no favors for that pot. Parts of the enamel have burned off. Paint job is pitted. It’s a veteran of a backflash trauma and it looks it.

(I bought myself a new beautiful blue Dutch oven at Goodwill a couple years ago for $8. I DO believe in karma.)

Last week, while preheating this green pot, the black handle just cracked and fell off. 

Two days later, I glance over. It has a handle again only now the handle is a steel bracket. 

And that’s how Len used his imagination and stockpile of weird stuff to save money and ba kesourdough bread in the Time of Covid.

What have you “fixed” lately?

Comments

Just gotta love the ingenuity of some people...
Leonard's picture

It's probably why men don't live as long, either.

Loved your sense of humor in this piece!!!!!!

I am enjoying my time inside my home. I enjoy reading your column every evening. I feel like Len is one of my cousins, I know him so well from your writings. I feel closer to friends, and my own family. I am more active, walking 1 1/2 hours each day. I am cooking a lot, and I love to cook. I was in a tangled web before this virus hit. I am not now.

Thank you for the laugh. Be well. Patricia

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WHITE CAKE!

The picture is our wedding cake, made by my friend Karen, who drove it from Indiana to Chicago on the hottest day of that year. It was in the back seat so their two little boys had to ride in front (remember when kids could ride in front?). They got lost in the city but I didn't know that for years because Karen and her husband start early and had time to get lost and then figure it out. Sometimes wedded bliss is a lot of work. 

The following story and recipe is not about the wedding cake, but it is the photo I have...

...

6/30/2022

How Do We Remember What We Remember?

6/30/2022

The Jan 6 Hearings, huh? This is an amazing moment in US history and I’m trying to understand our incredibly intense response. Four of 10 voters have watched at least some of the hearings, which is 20,000,000 people. It’s not just me that can’t look away.

Our Terrible Canoe Adventure

The eagle photo was taken by Len - but not on this trip! 

6/23/2022

We are fine but I have a tale to tell.

American Successes / American Failures

Did you ever have to tell the truth when it was hard? Did you ever lie to avoid a hard situation?  Did you ever know a hard, wrong thing but you told no one because it was going to be complicated and some people wouldn’t believe you and you might end up disrespected or worse for “telling on” someone else?

Most people work hard at learning truth-telling when they are 4 and 5-years old.

Molecule Moving

6/8/2022     

I didn’t know a Panoply of Dental Moments was coming my way this week, but such is life with teeth. One can brush, floss, slosh, and swish - but if one’s teeth want to crumble, they do. Yesterday I had my six-month cleaning. The hygienist said several times that I brush and floss beautifully. I was proud and thinking maybe I would give myself a “well-done” sticker when I got home. Then the dentist came in to do the check-up and said two fillings had cracks around them and needed to be replaced.

Rough Stories, Tough Week

6/1/2022 

Last Friday evening on PBS Tonight David Brooks said something like this. “I am afraid for all of us. The news just pummels us.”

There are as many tough stories as there are fingers on a closed fist. The shooting in Uvalde. The shooting in Buffalo. The corrupt power of the NRA and other obscene wealth-mongers that are destroying our society from the inside of elected reps’ pockets outwards. Ukraine. Global climate mayhem. Oh, and covid is everywhere. Less traumatic for most; long covid for some. So that’s six fingers on that pugilistic fist.

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