Hash Browns and Christie

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This evening I fixed sausage and hashbrowns for dinner, with a token vegetable on the side. Sometimes I need its crispy, greasy saltiness. It’s something in which you can lose yourself, your cares drifting away while its flavor arrests your attention.

Today and yesterday, I needed to lose myself as much as possible. In part, I’ve done this by juggling three different Agatha Christie books, which is entirely possible when reserving e-books through a public library. Several of your awaited titles can become ready for check-out at the same time. When this happens, I don’t trust that I’ll be able to finish all the books I have checked out during the three-week loan period allotted to each title, so I switch between different ones in case life might get in the way of finishing them. So far this I haven’t had to return a book before it’s done and find my place at the end of the line waiting for it to become available again.

So how have I found the time to read more than 60 Agatha Christie books in the past eight months? It helps that I can read the electronic editions on my phone. I’ve increasingly abandoned TV in favor of reading, too. No TV in my house has been turned on in my house in over three weeks.

I’ve turned away from national TV news of any bias. When I was on medical leave last year, I watched James Comey’s live televised admission that the FBI had been investigating the Trump campaign for ties to Russian election interference. At that moment, I felt like a gong banged inside my mind to signal that national news had fallen into the theater of the absurd. Even if the reports were true, the national news media as a whole had jumped the proverbial shark, and I didn’t need the added stress of watching more of it.

I have a subscription to my local newspaper, and I read online news stories. When something “big” happens, I sometimes toggle between the CNN and Fox News homepages to see how differently they’ll spin the same stories. The best is when one has several headlines about the same story and the other has no headline concerning it at all, or just begrudgingly offers some coverage on a belated basis (e.g. Stormy Daniels).

I’ve found greater solace in reading Christie as relentlessly as I can. I’ve even read her books while riding an exercise bike.

With Christie, there’s an interesting thematic unity across her body of work, so switching between stories isn’t as confusing as it could be. Despite this unity, her stories are not boring. Today I’ve been reading a short story of hers called “The Man from the Sea”. It’s one of her Mr. Quin stories. The Harley Quin stories are intriguing because one is left to wonder at times if Mr. Quin is supernatural or merely human. I’m halfway through this particular story, and there’s a raw beauty that spares no feelings. It shares some of the realism of And Then There Were None, wherein the selfish, delusional part of humanity is laid bare against a world sometimes more beautiful than those who live there.

Yesterday I had my second epidural injection. The epidural I had in February was fairly carefree in comparison. This time I was not so lucky. I had a different doctor this time (luck of the draw, I guess), and he vented that he saw little to gain from the treatment. He warned me that I’d likely get a spinal headache because the interval where I needed the injection was so jammed with scar tissue, adjacent hardware, and stenosis that he couldn’t fit the needle in without risk of piercing the dura matter around my spinal cord.

I can’t say I disagreed with his point of view. It’s one of the shitty aspects of health insurance. At times one is expected to follow through with risky “conservative” measures before the next step of treatment is approved. Insurance preapproved an epidural injection that neither this patient wanted nor the doctor wanted to deliver, but nothing else could happen unless it was done.

Within an hour of returning home, I got up and felt as if a bookcase had fallen on my head. I called the clinic to report that the near-inevitable had happened. I was instructed to lie flat and drink as many caffeinated beverages as possible. Thank God I was spared that crushing feeling as long as I didn’t lift my head. Thank God that my spinal headache lasted just three hours.

I also thank my husband for figuring out how I could drink those caffeinated beverages while lying flat (btw, keep the drink beside your couch or bed and drink through a straw with your head turned to the side). I’m also grateful that my sister came over to hear my tale of woe and help with the things I couldn’t do. My daughter was there with questions and hugs as well. When my headache was over, she strolled through the garden with me as the summer sun gave glory to all the blooms not yet shrouded in shade. That garden walk is a memory I will cherish.

Pizza, U.S.A.

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One of many pizza restaurants in Lima, Ohio. This one may be defunct by now. In looking through my photo archives, I was surprised that this is the only pizzeria image I had on file. How I could have just one photo of something so omnipresent in my city?

A recent article in my local newspaper about the high number of pizzerias in my city made me consider that I may be living in Pizza, U.S.A. Per this article, we have 30 pizza businesses operating a total of 40 locations. This may not sound extraordinary, but here in Lima, Ohio, we have just 38,355 residents (U.S. Census Bureau). I don’t know if anyone has made a study of pizzeria density in the United States, but I figure that my city must excel in that ratio.

Here in Lima, Ohio, I am not alone in my passion for pizza. There are two pizza joints so close to my house that I could walk a pizza home. I have a frozen pizza in my oven as I am writing this sentence. Next to my oven, there is a Kitchen Aid mixer painted the color of pizza sauce, ready to knead dough should I wish to make pizza myself.

Who doesn’t like pizza? If you don’t like it, I can still understand your plight. I hate mayonnaise, yet it seems to be the mortar that holds the Midwest together. Avoiding all those mayonnaise foods has left me more room for pizza. Thus, pizza was my first teacher in the value of being an Other.

I was born in the suburbs of Indianapolis, where pizza was not such a living thing. I can remember eating pizzeria pizza there just once. I also never tasted salsa or ranch dressing in that metropolis (ranch is the only thing with a taste compelling enough to let me overlook the mayo in it). This monotony ended when my family moved to Lima in 1982, a move that was literally a homecoming for my parents because they were both born here.

Everything in Lima tasted better to me, from the school lunches to my grandma’s divine creamed corn. Shortly after we moved, my mom converted to Catholicism, which was a culture shock to me because my religious life prior to that time consisted of Bible readings and yearly viewings of Zeffirelli’s Jesus of Nazareth. When I could get my Sunday mornings back? And what was up with this forest green polyester jumper I had to wear to Catholic school?

Pizza eased my way into the Church. Facing our first ever Lenten Friday,  we needed a meatless dinner. My dad brought home a 21″ pizza from Fat Jacks. It costed just $6! It was enclosed in an enormous wax paper envelope with a miniature plastic table to keep the grease on the pizza and away from the paper. The wax paper still had a few translucent grease halos on it (Dr. Nick on The Simpsons once called such halos “the window to weight gain“).

Once my dad cut away the wax paper on that first Fat Jack’s pizza, I beheld the glory of 21” inches of carmelized cheese. There was enough pizza for all five of us in our family to have as much as we pleased. That Lenten pizza from 1982 is a still the finest pizza I’ve tasted.

I’ve lived in four different states and have visited 36 others. I haven’t been to any place where pizza is easier to get. When I lived on the West Coast, I once suggested pizza for dinner, which was vetoed because I’d made an unsolicited pizza that week. Why confine such a glory to once a week?

Here I can serve pizza to family and company alike without anyone complaining that they’ve already had too much pizza this week. Pizza is cheap, filling and can be suited to almost any dietary need.

Pizza speaks so well to the diversity, practicality and frugality of Lima. There is yet another pizzeria opening next month. I’m not worried that we’ll ever reach a saturation point for pizza.