As long as I’m reflecting on our Christmas gift-giving (why not, it’s time to start planning for the next round), I should mention our new Ooni Kanu 16 outdoor pizza oven from England. What, not Italy? Or Greece?
The second time she spoke up from her laptop and uttered the words, “I’d sure love to have one but (sigh) it’s beyond our budget,” adding, “I can dream, can’t I?” I knew it was time for the rest of us to put our conspiratorial resources together.
After several miscommunications on our end, we got the order off, knowing it wouldn’t arrive in time to be wrapped up and put under the tree, so we came up with an amusing announcement envelope to cover us in that part. My crude cartoon slowly kicked in and generated a grin.
The said item arrived in February, big relief, and we can see why it was such a hot item last fall, even before the international shipping delays kicked in.
The oven can sit on a table, for one thing, and be fueled by charcoal, wood, or propane, which can fire it as high as 900 degrees Fahrenheit, cooking a pizza at a lower setting in minutes.
We can finally find a pizza in Sunrise County that matches our high standards. Deep-dish and thin are options. And it’s not limited to pizza, either. I’m thinking of a Vietnamese dish that would glory to such instantaneous blazing.
Well, this has required me to take one more step into 20th century technology, specifically 20-pound propane tank use. As for grilling, I’m sticking to charcoal.
Now, where do we stock up on unused pizza boxes?
Just putting those two items in the same line sends me spinning, as if it’s natural they should ever be synonymous.
Let me proclaim I’m a true conservative, unlike those pretenders using that label. Not that I’m ever confined to tradition.
Take gift-giving in our household, for example, it doesn’t always happen on the intended date, whether Christmas or birthday. And I should point out (again), that it’s often a conspiratorial effort.
One example I’ll give is my new cell phone, which they’d been threatening to impose on me for several years now. They’d given me the previous one maybe a dozen years earlier, replacing the flip phone I had accepted only in case of a midnight emergency somewhere in the wilds of New Hampshire on my commute home from the newsroom.
So much for the history. Perhaps you remember I happen to be somewhat of a neo-Luddite, in no rush to learn yet one more new technology. I’m more interested in spending those hours doing something at hand other than retraining on a new device, like an endless loop of abuse.
Our move to the island was heightening the rationale that I really needed to upgrade. T-Mobile’s coverage here is spotty, and often nil off in the neighboring wilds, and whenever my text messages were arriving through Canada, which was often, they’d get turned into zip files that took forever to download. Photos were even worse.
Blogging, by the way, had prompted my photo shooting hobby years ago leading to the purchase of cheap Kodak point-and-shoot, which they eventually pressed me beyond by having me unwrap the Olympus that has provided many of the visuals here at the Barn. Over the past few years, my wife and elder daughter have been insisting I could do better with a good cell phone, and their many fine photos had me reluctantly agreeing. It’s just that I have a workable system going, ya know, and already have thousands of shots that need further sorting. Can’t I finish that first? Besides, shouldn’t photos be taken by cameras?
Last Christmas, everybody piled on the upgrade-Jnana bandwagon.
I didn’t know I needed the little LED ring to illuminate my face during Zoom meetings. OK, I finally “got” the idea that the lamp was supposed to clamp onto my laptop and glow on me, but I found that bright light in my was face annoying and visually taxing. But that lamp is rather nifty attached to the little bookshelf over my desk, and other Zoom participants have expressed their preference for the warm light setting rather than the clinically cold one. So maybe I’ve needed it.
Nor did I know I needed a short camera tripod, but there was the “lobster” in one of the next boxes I unwrapped. OK, cool, it would work for my Olympus, but what about the next two – the remote selfie button and the macro-micro lenses, both definitely cell-phone attachments?
That’s when they broke the news to me that time was up, the new phone was definitely included, or would be, as soon as they could haul me up to Calais to sign up, something that finally happened in late April.
As you might imagine, I was in no rush, but my Olympus was starting to act wonky. The zoom lens (yeah, zoom as in getting a closer look rather than pressing mute or chat) was getting stuck and failing to deploy, meaning my real, albeit digital, camera wasn’t working. Change would be inevitable, even if I am no longer pressing for a return to film, which I could never afford, anyway.
Off to the UScellular store we went, and I was instructed not to look at any of the prices. I’m still shocked by what we were paying for the family plan we were on, now that it’s been revealed to me.
OK, the new phone, a Galaxy S22 Ultra (does that impress you?), is a vast improvement over the S4 or earlier model it was replacing. The latter had no trade-in value, except maybe to a collector of obsolete technologies. The sales associate was rather kind in calling it a classic and keeping her laughter lighter than a sneering snicker.
Only after we were in the car and on the way home did my wife tell me my new phone retails for a thousand bucks. That’s enough to frighten me from touching it. Oops, a figure oil smear! And kids wear these in the pocket behind their butts? I’m never going there, I’m toting mine securely in the pocket of my messenger bag, next to my nitro pills. Keep your hands off.
Flash ahead, Slim and I are getting acquainted, gingerly, and I’m starting to play with the camera half, too. Hate to admit it, but I’m impressed.
Now, what am I supposed to do with my old phone and my old camera? I can’t just junk them, can I?
Somehow, this past winter I got struck by a sustained sense of cabin fever. Should that be “stuck”? To my thinking, that’s not necessarily a “bad” thing and was not unexpected, given my relatively isolated situation combined with the continuing Covid precautions and the usual northern New England long nights and winter snow, ice, sleet, and unassisted general deep cold. I do believe there’s value in periodically clearing some of the clutter from one’s life and regaining a sense of direction, and I have found a huge difference between solitude and loneliness, so here I was.
Mostly, I was feeling a bit directionless, having completed a big revision of the Dover history and wanting to move forward with its publication but not yet having clarity on exactly how that would go. I mean, as books go, this was one more niche item, not likely to hit the bonanza list, no matter how original the findings. Emotionally, then, I was feeling stuck, not my best mental state. It even leads to fidgetiness.
Breaking that up was a visit by family – or should I say invasion – that included time with movies and TV series on the 40-inch screen I usually leave dark. Me? I’d usually read and listen to the radio. I’ve tried to avoid television series, seeing them as addictive couch-potato time-sucks.
A year ago, though, they hooked me on the first season of Mad Men, which we had on DVD. Whew! I was free only after admitting there is some quality writing and performing available and losing a full weekend in full immersion.
This Christmas, they hooked me with Murders Only in the Building, which again fortunately had only one season.
But during a return visit a few weeks later, we shared a phone conversation with the daughter in California who had just made our son-in-law his favorite meal for his birthday, and that mention of brisket led to my memories of being introduced to the cut as a Jewish tradition by my almost parents-in-law, if only, and those stories now had us sitting down in front of streamed episodes of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. The fam scooted off, leaving me to catch up on all of the available seasons, and I’m now miffed I have to wait for more on the way. I hate being left dangling. Worse yet, I was told Prime had the remaining Mad Men episodes – so I caught the final six seasons in a bit over a week, how many hours did I squander there? And the last two of Mozart in the Jungle plus all but one season of the Secret Diary of a Call Girl, which was quite sassy but not nearly as hot as touted. There may have been another series I’m overlooking.
Said family was highly amused by my engagement with works they deeply appreciate, but I am still appalled the hours I lost and by one more manifestation of my obsessive side.
For the record, I’m blaming the younger daughter and her brisket for this latest outbreak. Now, just when is the last time I’ve had a slice of one?
What do you suggest I stream next?
The first college I attended had an excellent writing program, and somehow most of the kids in it began wearing scarves as a kind of identity badge. I posted on that back in 2013, but am now reflecting on a later incarnation, once I had relocated to New England.
In the intervening years, I had discovered the glories of silk, a fabric I had been taught was expensive and somehow beyond our means. What I found instead was how marvelous it felt to the touch and how warm its lightness could be in winter here or how well it breathed in warmer weather. And then I picked up a few brightly patterned ones that were scarves. They were a stylish touch to my otherwise nearly Plain wardrobe and made a definite impression, often eliciting favorable comments.
But then, when I remarried, they vanished into my stepdaughters’ collections. Fine enough.
The other day, though, I flashed on the thought I could really use those again – they do hold the heat in cold weather – or cold rooms, especially.
So I’m on the lookout. This should be fun, picking up a couple or more.
Now, as for my necktie collection? When’s the last time I’ve even worn one? Will I ever wear one again?
A man can’t get rich if he’s taking care of his family – Navajo proverb
Especially when his is the Family of Man or all critters
Let’s clink to putting Covid behind us, more or less. Even if drinking the toast requires us to take off our masks. And clink again for better things ahead.
On my end, the year included downsizing earlier than anticipated when I uprooted from ducky Dover to diehard Downeast as a vanguard for the rest of the family. It was their idea, for the record. Not that I’m complaining while some old, long-buried dreams finally come to fruition. And in all of this, I’m still in their good hands.
Along the way, I drafted a juicy, unorthodox history of early Dover in time for the 400th anniversary of its settling. Forget what you thought about Colonial New England, this take challenges a lot of the prevailing view. (You’ll be reading more about that here at the Barn in the months ahead.)
I definitely wasn’t planning on researching and writing another book, but here it is, finished.
Clink once more.
It adds up to a lot of change to digest.
So clink again. Remember, in moderation, it’s supposed to help the digestion. Cheers!