Good morning and welcome to this week’s Midweek Mélange, a random assortment of things that have caught my eye. This list may give new meaning to the word random, but I hope you find something that piques your curiosity. And I hope you are also seeing some signs of spring and hope wherever you are.
Have you seen this 2021 Golden Globe winner for Best Motion Picture – Drama? Based on the nonfiction book of the same name by Jessica Bruder, Mr. Smith and I recently spent a Sunday afternoon with popcorn and the incomparable Frances McDormand.
It tells the story of post-recession contemporary nomads who have taken to the road, living in their vans or cars. From a sugar beet harvesting plant to an Amazon fulfillment center, they move from place to place seeking seasonal work, generally with low wages.
While Ms. McDormand’s character Fern is fictional, the director, Chloé Zhao, cast several non-professional actors, the real-life nomads, to play versions of themselves, including Swankie, Linda May and Bob Wells. Bob Wells has been a full-time camper for over 12 years and is not only the founder of the website Cheap RV Living, he has his own Youtube channel with more than 400,000 subscribers.
Mr. Smith and I were both blown away by this fictional account of a fascinating woman and the reminder that there are so many people out there with fascinating stories to share.
“It’s not for the faint of heart,” McDormand says. “It is not a romantic idea. You have to plan, and you have to be very confident that you can be alone. Like Swankie says to Fern,’You can die out there.” I love to camp and I’ve been on the road many times since we made the movie. But I am definitely a dabbler.”
Though you may not relate directly to the struggle, you hopefully will see the beauty in the simple things – a dip in the river, a kind gesture from a stranger, or a spa treatment while sitting in your folding chair in the middle of nowhere. I found the movie to be both tender and starkly realistic and well worth my time.
When Mr. Smith came across Aleksander Doba’s obituary in the New York Times earlier this month, he said it was like “…reading the final chapter of a book you hadn’t finished and being blown away by the ending.” Mr. Doba died on February 22 on the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro at the age of 74.
Mr. Smith first became aware of Aleksander Doba as the Polish Pensioner Adventurer who crossed the Atlantic in a specially built kayak three times, the first two times in his 60s and the third time when he was 70. Having gotten into kayaking relatively late in life, age 34, he went on to become Poland’s “pensioner adventurer.” His custom kayak when fully equipped weighed more than 1,500 pounds. While difficult to maneuver in high winds and heavy surf, it was built to handle the challenges of an open ocean crossing and equipped with emergency beacons, radios and navigational gear. Along with jars of his wife’s plum jam, he subsisted on freeze-dried goulash and porridge, chocolate bars and homemade wine. When his salt-water drenched clothes became too irritating, he stripped down and navigated the rest of his trip buck naked.
Having crossed the Atlantic three times, Mr. Doba began preparing to knock another item off his bucket list, he wanted to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. For training, he jogged up and down the stairs of a high-rise building with a heavy backpack and took long daily hikes.
On the morning of February 22, he reached Kilimanjaro’s summit with two guides. He took in the view, sat down on a rock to rest, and died. His son shared, “He said many times that he didn’t want to die in his bed.” He got his wish.
I have often wondered where my “golden years” will take me, how my story is going to end. Mr. Doba’s tale certainly reminds me that we have a shelf life and inspires me to get about planning my final chapters.
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
After many long winter months of indulging Mr. Smith by watching Nordic noir, I decided it was time for something completely different! I felt behind the times in that I had never watched The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel so I put it at the top of our queue. If like me you haven’t found time to watch this hilarious and heartfelt series, I highly recommend it. It truly is a love letter to the 1950s.
Miriam “Midge” Maisel is a content wife and mother whose perfect life takes a sudden turn when she discovers 1) her husband’s infidelity, and 2) she has an unknown talent. I delighted in this romanticized cultural tour of the 50s and 60s from the viewpoint of a privileged, upper west side, Jewish family’s viewpoint and am thrilled to know Season 4 is currently being filmed. And then there’s my favorite part – the fashion! It may not have been a comfortable era to dress in – girdles and high heels – but I loved seeing the many people dressed up just for every day. No one was wearing jammie pants to the store. Midge has no problem with dressing in a way that says, “Here I am world!” and inspires me to try and live in technicolor.
C’est la vie.