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Martha’s Vineyard to Great Barrington, and the virtues of duct tape

I’m back in Great Barrington after a wonderful week on Martha’s Vineyard, an island off the southern coast of Massachusetts. It was a bilingual week: my daughter and I were the only non-Chinese speakers, and our meals included crabs and fish caught by energetic members of our party and cooked Chinese-style by others, as well as local lobster and the usual summertime fried clams. My only culinary contribution was a traditional New England blueberry crumble to follow a lobster dinner with Caroline Reeves and her family, who also took us on a sunset fishing expedition. Caroline is a longstanding Berkshire author, an expert on the Chinese Red Cross and Chinese philanthropy (ancient and modern), who has become a dear friend.

We got home very late last night because we hit a piece of metal on the Massachusetts Turnpike and had to pull off the road, call the police and the AAA, and limp to the next rest station. The car’s bumper was badly damaged but Tom and Rachel fixed it with duct tape from the rest area store and we were able to drive another 70 miles without a problem.

I asked if it was only Americans who depend on duct tape, and the following exchange quickly developed amongst my far-flung staffers.

Mar Kaiser, our China projects editor, wrote from Heidelberg: “No, it’s not just America that runs on duct tape. We also like our zip ties (or tie-wraps). That’s definitely my first go-to when fixing something broken. Other great DIY materials: regular tape to re-attach flowers that have fallen off. No joke, my brother once did that because he thought he broke off a flower. My parents only found out when that flower started to shrivel and die, revealing the tape. Those clips you use to close plastic sandwich bags are great to re-attach the legs of your glasses when on holiday in Paris (a true story); super two-component glue can be used to secure your own molars (another true story but don’t try this at home, children – it was weekend and my dad didn’t feel like going to the emergency dentist again).”

Kara Lozier sent her favorite duct tape story: “Paralyzed mom goes duct tape surfing” http://www.pozible.com/project/26193.

Anna Myers in New York pointed out that the Duck Brand Duct Tape company holds a scholarship contest every year for highschool students who create prom clothes out of duct-tape: http://duckbrand.com/promotions/stuck-at-prom/year-book-gallery.

And Tom heard from a friend that she had driven 2,000 miles with a car bumper held together with duct tape. My car has now been tidied up at the garage and the bumper is held together with special black zip ties, but I think I’ll leave the rest of the roll of tape in the back, with the first-aid kit and spare motor oil.

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