Devastation in the Land of My Childhood

I was planning to write something light and frothy today. I was going to tell you about all the shopping I did while in Europe, and show you some of my photos of shopping hotspots, things I bought, things I wanted to buy, if only my budget had allowed, and things that were way out of my price range. I actually started writing that post and who knows? Maybe some other time I’ll finish it.

But, today I am sad. My achy, breaky heart is tormented by what’s going on along the other side of the U.S., otherwise known as the east coast. Particularly, New York, my home, my birthplace. I could cry just for my city, alone. I could sob for Queens and all it has endured. I’m sure Long Island, where I spent my teen years, didn’t fare much better, though I don’t know for sure.  All that is going on right now is hard to fathom for those of us not there and for those of us who have never experienced anything like it. Let’s hope we never will.

For that Hurricane/Cyclone Sandy sure was a menace. She wreaked her havoc on everything she touched, and slammed all that was in her path. Like Queens, where 100 homes burned to the ground, just like that, and not a soul could do anything to stop it.

But then there’s the New Jersey shore. I think of the summers I spent there, in Atlantic City, and even once wrote about it in a post called, My Boardwalk Empire. For many years, Atlantic City was the vacation spot of my dreams. I still hold that place in high esteem and shudder at the pile of heap that it is now, after just a few hours of stormy mayhem.

How many times I skipped along the boardwalk, waving with a flick of the hand, to Mr. Peanut, as I whizzed by. Memories of buying a fist-load of saltwater taffy and breathing in the salty air mixed with the scent of Belgian waffles. All the sights and sounds of vacationers by the sea, echo through time, reminding us of that which was once there.

Yes, Atlantic City. This was the place to be. After the storm, when Governor Chris Christie surveyed the damage, he reflected how anyone his age, who’d spent time there, is devastated, knowing so much of the Jersey shore has been lost, and the coast, itself, will never be the same again. I can certainly relate, stricken with grief as I am. Heartbroken for the loss and the destruction suffered by so many.

Fires, floods, pummeling winds, power outages, and even snow. Sandy brought it all. What a terrifying combination, somehow reminding me of the Ten Plagues that the Lord brought on to Egypt–pestilence, frogs, boils, darkness, etc. There were casualties, too, but early preparation was key in helping to keep those numbers down.

Yet, all the damage in the world can’t stop the faith and belief in the goodness of people. Of people helping each other through simple acts of kindness.

Nor can it stop the will to go on. In the face of hardship, resilience is a powerful thing. People will walk miles, jump through hoops and bend over backwards for a ray of hope, and the promise that this, too, shall pass.

And, while the storm is over, the rebuilding begins, as insurmountable as it may seem. How long will it take? The folks in charge seem to think it’ll be mere days for the subway system to be up and running. I wish I were as optimistic. Patience is needed, something those of us raised there have in short supply. It’s going to be a long haul.  Luckily, folks there have grit and tenacity. They will survive, they will rebuild and they will be stronger for it.

For now, being so far, there’s not much I can do. I’ve been in touch with my friends and family and know they are safe. I’ve made my donation to the Red Cross. And, next spring, I plan to go back and visit. For I wish to see it again in all its brilliance. I need to see it again.

Life goes on, after all.

Goodbye, Mr. Peanut!

Friends, there’s a crisis amidst, one that I’m horrified to say, is getting scant media attention.

It’s much bigger than Herman Cain’s did-he-or-didn’t-he tabloid headlines, which have been replayed over and over again on the nightly news. (Curse you, Brian Williams!)  I assume, of course, they’re referring to whether Cain ordered his pizza with, or without, pepperoni.

Price of peanut butter has just gone up as much as 40%.

But the situation, to which I’m referring, is a ticking time bomb, one that is bound to have an explosive effect on the economy. It’s bound to change the way you live your life, and may well leave millions of parents uncertain as to what to pack for their children’s lunches.  (On the plus, every kid with allergies to this product can finally breathe a sigh of relief.)

Why, you ask? Because the future of Mr. Peanut is in jeopardy. So hold on to your monocles and listen up!

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture the price for a ton of runner peanuts—used to make peanut butter—hit an all-time high, up $450 per ton from a year ago.  If that is as hard for you to understand as it was for me, then know this:

The price of peanut butter just skyrocketed, smack though the roof of my peanut butter-laden mouth. Up by 40 percent, which means you’re going to have to start shelling out a lot more, just for one jar of peanut butter, crunchy or smooth. It’s as if Mr. Peanut has been kidnapped and now we have to pay the ransom.

The reason? Part of it has to do with peanut production being down 13 percent. The rest can be blamed on intense heat and drought in the south. Couple that with demand. The National Peanut Board says Americans spend almost $800 million a year on peanut butter, consuming six pounds of it per year! And if anyone knows peanuts, it’s the Peanut Board, which I assume is run by Mr. Peanut, himself.

Given the bad news, I’m on the prowl for a recipe for homemade peanut butter—preferably one that doesn’t involve using peanuts. You see, I’m addicted to the stuff, which, to me, is as American as hot dogs, apple pie and waving the red, white and blue.

Mr. Peanut talks to a young fan in Atlantic City, circa, a long time ago.

Yet, buying it is now out of my league. Which is why, Mr. Peanut and I are going to have to part ways.  Herewith, my open letter to Mr. Peanut:

Dear Mr. Peanut,

I bid you farewell.  I’ll never forget our time together, nor how we met. It was when my mother first brought home a jar of peanut butter from the A&P.

Sure, she purchased a generic brand then, but she didn’t know any better. She hadn’t seen the countless commercials I got to watch daily, in between The Flintstones and Bugs Bunny cartoons. How I grew to love those ads that exulted your amazing attributes, all determined to convince me that they had the “peanuttiest” tasting peanut butter.

According to one manufacturer, my mother clearly wasn’t a choosy mom, which probably meant she didn’t love us, kids, as much as other moms loved theirs. At least, that’s what the commercials wanted me to believe. But, what can I say? She was from Venezuela, where peanut butter isn’t nearly as popular, and she didn’t yet know about America’s love affair with the peanut.

Oh, Mr. Peanut! I learned early on that adding peanut butter to any product was a guarantee it would become an instant hit with my family. Items like Cap’n Crunch Peanut Butter Cereal, and Nutter Butter cookies, which boasted, “Made with real peanut butter,” were scrumptious! Later on, we discovered Little Debbie Nutty Bars and Drakes’ Funny Bones, a chocolate cake with peanut butter filling that was sold only on the east coast. And of course, let’s not forget that long-time standby, the Reese’s Peanut Butter cup. Mr. Peanut, it didn’t get any better than that.

Well, goodbye peanut butter treats, many of which I haven’t tried in years, but still remember fondly. Let’s hope the peanut farmers have a bumper crop next year. Maybe, former President Jimmy Carter can put together a delegation with you, Mr. Peanut, and all the little peanut runners, and arrange a summit with Mother Nature, to ensure we have an abundance of peanuts next season.

Until then, Mr. Peanut, I will wait for you to come down in price. I’m also going to be snacking on gold bars instead. I hear their price just became cheaper than buying a jar of peanut butter, smooth or crunchy.