14 May 2012

Three Things I Miss About The Good Old U.S.A.

1. Disciplined traffic — On our most recent visit back to the States Mark and I rented a car at Miami airport. A courteous driver slowed down to let us join the flow of traffic and we continued seamlessly north on I-95. All the cars obeyed the speed limit, keeping pace at a steady 55 miles per hour (88.5 km), increasing to 65 (104.6 km) the further north we went, but only when it was allowed. Drivers used the left-hand lane only for passing, otherwise they stayed to the right. Nobody rode on the shoulder on the right. What might seem to a first-time visitor to be a Stepford-Wife-like submissiveness to the rules of the road gave me a profound sense of security. I relaxed in a car for the first time in a long time. I knew our fellow drivers had all taken driver's ed in high school, were properly licensed and were probably not fleeing the scene of a crime. In a much earlier blog (Driving in Brazil, November 7, 2011) I gave in to a little rant about the bumper-car-style driving of Brazilians. Well, I grant you that driving in Brazil is far more exciting than this auto-pilot traffic we were cruising in on I-95, but as the years encroach I find it's an excitement I can do without.

2. Bagels — This is such a cliché, isn't it? And I even subscribe to the "if-you-can't-live-without-your-comfort-foods-stay-home" philosophy. But as the years in Brazil went by, I found myself with a real taste for an everything bagel. I literally hungered for one. So I decided to make them here myself, as best I could. And armed with the ancestral recipe (complete with a secret step bypassed by most home bagel-makers) I succeeded. My small, sesame-poppy-seed bagels — what we've come to call "dainty bagels" — actually look and taste like the real thing. Aren't they cute? We found all the fixings, too, even Philadelphia-brand cream cheese for that all-important smear. Now every once in a while, when I feel up to it, I make a batch and we invite other bagel-cravers to a real bagel brunch. (But now that I think of it, just why is Philadelphia-brand cream cheese even available here, if they don't have bagels? What else is it used for? These are the mysteries.)

3. The Sunday New York Times — I look at the New York Times online nearly every day. So what is it, you might ask, that I'm missing? And why am I particularly missing the Sunday edition? Well, I think I miss its heft, its feel, its presence. I miss how it punctuated our week. I miss the ritual we had for reading it. In Manhattan, the Sunday Times was available early, on Saturday night. So that's when we'd get the paper, take refuge back home from the Saturday night rowdies, open a bottle of sparkling wine and settle in for a long, leisurely read. Here in Búzios we've developed a comparable ritual (old habits do, indeed, die hard). Since what's important to us now is what's happening in our neck of the woods, we buy O Globo every Sunday morning. It may not be the Sunday Times, but it's a solid substitute. Now we settle down to O Globo, a leisurely breakfast, and . . . it's not too early for some sparkling wine, is it?

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