Bad movies can have good lines.
One of my favorite lines appears near the end of the dreadful The Devil's Own where the story line is as dodgy as Brad Pitt's Belfast accent. The line almost redeems the rest of the movie. "Don't look for happy endings, Tom. It's not an American story. It's an Irish one."
Those three sentences sum up an American character trait that is both a great strength and too often a weakness.
Americans, as children of the Enlightenment, believe there is a solution to every problem. Problems may be intractable, but they are never irresolvable. That may be why an American mediator was able to deliver the Good Friday Agreement. Only to see it unravel.
Sardonic though I am, I am a True Believer in the Church of Getting Things Done. Even if it is something as simple as finding a clear glass teapot.
Last Friday, I told you I had begun the quixotic search for a teapot that would let me watch the blooming of tea balls I bought in China (mexican pot search). I started with my usual source -- Amazon. And almost immediately crashed into the same wall that has often frustrated my shopping Jones.
There were all sorts of clear glass teapots in an almost endless combination of styles. Some were highly-rated by users. Others were so low on the rating scale, I did not bother looking at them.
I quickly reduced the list to five candidates. Amazon has a very helpful feature on its site. Right under the item is a notice whether or not it can be shipped to the buyer's location. Helpful and frustrating.
The notice informed me that choice number one "cannot be shipped to Barra de Navidad." Fine. I had four backups. Unfortunately, the news was exactly the same on all five teapots. For whatever reason, they could not be shipped to my house.
But I am no tyro when dealing with the vagaries of cross-border purchases. I long ago figured out that if something could not be delivered to me from Amazon, Amazon.Mx would be happy to accommodate me.
As it turned out, I should have simply first looked at Amazon.Mx for the teapot because my second choice on Amazon was not only listed, but could be shipped to my house. Even better, the total cost was less than the teapot offered on Amazon.
So, I ordered it on Monday and the Estafeta man put it in my hands yesterday afternoon. Cheaper and quicker than if I had ordered the same pot from The States.
Jana Hofer, the wife of my good friend John, gave me four or five tea balls on her month-long journey to China over a decade ago. They fascinated me.
Each one was a jasmine flower that had been dried into a ball that looked like something a Chinese natural medicine practitioner would have patients swallow (or slip under their pillow) to cure hang nails or cancer -- or both. When hot water is added, the flower rehydrates and "blooms" in the pot. It is quite a show.
I saved one of those balls. I don't know why. Maybe because it was a special gift that symbolized our friendship. Sentimentality can do that. Take a perfectly practical gift and suck its utilitarian purpose dry.
That last tea ball made its journey to Mexico with me ten years ago, and has rested in my tea bin ever since. I decided the time was right to put that gift to its intended purpose.
When I poured the hot water into the pot, the ball just bobbed around on the surface doing nothing. A few dried pieces of blossom dislodged themselves from the ball and sank to the bottom. I almost felt as if I was watching a remake of Titanic instead of enjoying a flower show.
Bit by bit, the jasmine blossom started to emerge. And, after ten minutes of coaxing, it had completely unfolded.
It was not the show I had expected. Age had undoubtedly slowed its ability to properly live up to its billing. And I guess that may be true for a lot of us. But the tea was perfect with the subtle taste of cinnamon inherent in aged jasmine.
I now know why I kept that ball. Jana gave it to me as an act of friendship, and I wanted to preserve it as long as possible. My first reaction was to call her and thank her for the gift -- and to tell her it had withstood the ravages of time, just like our friendship.
But, Jana died three years ago (a gap in the circle). So, I will call John instead to reminisce with him about the travails of life and the bond that holds us together.
And that truly is an American story.