Thirty Years Later

From my husband, a guest blog today:


When I travel on business, it’s hard on everyone.  I just flew back from a trip to China in a coach seat wedged between two very outsized men who not only snored loudly during the 14 hour flight, but had an annoying habit of invading my “personal space” with their various body parts.  Even a strong dose of my favorite sleeping med, Ambien, failed to blot out the annoyance.


When I return after such an experience, I quickly realize how much of a hardship my travel has also been for my wife, Miranda.  In addition to managing her oncology practice, she has to take care of the dogs, the sick cat, the horse, various contractors remodeling our house and fix the things which increasing break around our old home.  So, in recognition of Miranda’s hardship, I decided to give her a night off from writing her blog by describing a truly remarkable trip to China.


This was not my first visit.  When I was a young doctor, I toured China as part of a delegation of pulmonary specialists interested in learning more about Chinese respiratory care.  We visited a number of large cities and their medical schools.  We saw lots of air pollution and very little in the way of modern medical care.  Back in the 1980’s China was very much a developing nation, with many of the problems of a developed country (pollution, urban poverty, traffic jams, etc.).


Thirty years later China has emerged as a full fledge developed country, but still has the same developed country problems, particularly the air pollution and population crowding.   But so much else has changed!   The cities I visited were modern, clean, orderly and prosperous.  I saw many more BMW’s on the roads around Beijing than you see in Southern California.  The scale is hard to comprehend.  I visited Guangzhou, which is a city of 24 million. The largest city I bet you’ve never heard of One night my host invited me for a drink at the bar of the Four Seasons Hotel.  It was on the 99th floor with distant views across the South China Sea to Hong Kong.   My vertigo notwithstanding, it was quite an experience.


But what most impressed me was my interaction with healthcare and business professionals.  These 40-something people were really bullish on China.  They didn’t complain about the ruling Communist Party, but rather indicated how government was a prime factor in the growth of business and providing a better standard of living for everyone.  For instance, 95% of Chinese citizens now receive healthcare under a government sponsored national program.  


If you are a 40-something professional in China you are shooting for the stars.   You have never experienced an economic downturn and have only experienced continued economic growth and prosperity.  A far cry from the China I saw 30 years ago, and a far cry from America circa 2013.     If it can be said that the global economy is a competition, then one might conclude that the Chinese are winning or have already won.  We Americans just don’t know it yet.

What Is It With Kitchens?

The original title of this blog piece was CLEANING OUT THE KITCHEN.  I started it before I went to Colorado to clean out my mother’s house, and specifically her kitchen.  It began: You know those old circus acts where a tiny car pulls up on the stage and then people and dogs start coming out and they just keep coming and coming and you keep thinking, “There is NO way all of those dogs and people could have fit in that tiny car!”   Apparently that is my kitchen.  And my mother’s kitchen, and probably the kitchens of a whole lot of other people I know.  As it turns out, there seems to be a universal appeal of kitchenware and gadgets acquired, but not truly needed.

I found enough material in my mother’s kitchen to completely outfit at least three kitchens.  There were two sets of everyday china, two sets of stainless steel utensils, two sets of pots and pans, and multiples of nearly every baking dish and tray known to man.  There were two Cuisinarts, a large old one and a small new one, entirely unused. An ancient and lonely MixMaster was tucked into a corner cabinet and extra bowls for it were curiously stored in the guest bedroom.  Two Osterizer blenders stood ready for service and there were hors d’oeurvres trays of every size and shape, Tupperware beyond reason, and a lovely set of glasses emblazoned with ground glass butterflies that I had never seen before, tucked in a cabinet above the cook range.  There were two sets of fine china, both of which I remember from Thanksgivings as a child, and an additional set, a curious sky blue patterned with tiny gold stars that I had never seen.  Good knives were in conspicuously short supply, lending credence to the idea that my mother did not actually COOK, at least not in recent memory, confirmed by a new rolling pin sheathed in its original cardboard wrapper. My grandmother’s silver, monogrammed and polished, resided next to my mother’s Grand Baroque service for twelve, including ice tea spoons.  Who actually uses ice tea spoons?  The silver tea service perched on the buffet was a relic from a bygone era, more genteel, more civilized, when folks actually had sit down dinner parties, and real conversations while seated uncomfortably next to someone other than their spouse.

Before I left for Colorado, I had the entire interior of my house painted for the first time in fifteen years.  I decided to paint the old stained and worn oak kitchen cabinets a light cream color, which necessitated removing all of the kitchenware from them.  In cleaning out my own cabinets, I gave away a brand new Crock Pot, never used, a juicer, also never used since I can buy fresh squeezed orange juice at my local market, a Quesadilla maker (yes, they exist), a George Foreman grill, a toaster abandoned in favor of the panini maker, and what was left of the cracked and chipped everyday dishes I’ve used since getting married over thirty years ago.  Everything else was loaded into boxes, to be lovingly replaced in an organized fashion upon my return.  Tonight we grilled salmon and steak and served them up on a set of my mother’s old china.  The boxes are still packed and seem likely to remain so.  Four boxes were mailed from Colorado to my son and his girlfriend setting up house in Washington DC.

I am continuously amazed at truly, how little we actually need of all of the things that we have accumulated.