Archive of ‘This and That’ category

The Bittersweet Tale of Gervase R. Tinsley and his Convection Oven

Gervase R. Tinsley

With Thanksgiving just around the corner I realized I was in need of something warm and toasty, like, an oven. My husband built his dream house before we ever met. It’s a gorgeous showpiece of form and style, built to his exact specifications. Unfortunately for me, those specifications didn’t include air conditioning or, you know, an oven. I’m hoping a countertop convection oven can at least handle a few biscuits and some roasted Brussel sprouts now and then. I turned to Amazon to research different models when I came across a customer review so heartbreakingly honest that I could barely believe what I was reading.

Gervase R. Tinsley leads the pack with the first review for the Waring Pro TCO650 Digital Convection Oven which he wrote back in 2012. He grips you from the start:

By Gervase R. Tinsley on December 7, 2012

Verified Purchase

I am a 76yo single guy that cooks because he has to and not necessarily because I love it. When my wife was alive and at home, we ate pretty well although rather plain. She had to go into a nursing home last year and passed away 7 months later so I am now living in low income housing on my own for the first time in 40 years. I had a cheap toaster oven (B & D I believe) that died. I read reviews for about 25 or 30 different toaster ovens on Amazon. When I found the reviews for the Waring toaster oven I was highly impressed. Of all the reviews I looked at the ones for the Waring were the best (and the most). Last night I heated up a pot roast (already prepare by Jack Daniels) and it came out perfect & this morning I did a bagle (after I learned the controls) and it also came out perfect. Not being used to these kind of controls, that presents a bit of a learning curve but not unconcorable. Besides, I believe that life is a dynamic experience anyway and, therefore we are on a perpetual learning curve.

This poor man! Is he including all those details about his life in order to establish why he needs the oven? Or is he actually reaching out for human contact through this review, looking for sympathy and comfort about the loss of his wife and his diminished living situation? HIs positive outlook deeply moved me. “I believe that life is a dynamic experience anyway and, therefore we are on a perpetual learning curve.” YES. Thank you Gervase R. Tinsley. I need to remember that more often. I feel badly that he described the food his wife cooked as “rather plain.” I hope he was able to get some enjoyment out of it because otherwise that seems like a rather sad state. I’m happy to think of him now enjoying his Jack Daniels pot roasts.

I was so moved by his review, which he signs Teaneckflask, that I wasn’t surprised when I noticed it had 28 replies. What I couldn’t have imagined, however, was the outpouring of emotion from strangers on Amazon:

JJ says: sorry about the loss of your wife….. thank you for your review and god bless.

J. Luton says: Thank you for your review. I’m glad you are looking at life as a dynamic experience. My condolences on the loss of your wife.

The sympathy notes go on and on. Then there was this:

katherine T. Ohara says:I would like to write a movie based on this review. Thats how informative and personal it was. Never have i read a simple review that gave such a window into ones soul and life experience while convincing me to purchase a product at the same time. Waring should hire you as their spokesman. Thank you for the review good sir and best wishes to you and good luck in your future.

Seeing all these lovely people reach out to this lonely man restored my faith in humanity, as cliched as that sounds. What are the odds that he returned to his review on the Waring oven and saw how deeply he affected complete strangers?

Beonna Hunt says: Gervase, Please update your review. I’d love to hear how your toaster oven is doing 2 years later, and by the comments posted, we would all like to hear how you are doing. I couldnt agree more with them, best review EVER!!!! And I ‘ve read hundreds of reviews.

Sadly Gervase never replied. Another commenter left this:

Alfred J says: Thank you for your review GT. Not only was it informative, but you managed to touch the souls of many. It looks like you have joined your wife, both of you in a happy place.

With the news of his passing, even more feel compelled to comment.

Blondegirlfrnd says: Thanks for sharing this. Wow. I just wanted an oven, not a reminder of the fragility of life, but the stark reminder that there is more to life than buying stuff was necessary.

E. Smith says: So sad to hear of this insightful mans passing… great review and such an inspiration. Rest in peace.

Ellen Le says: This review made me and my boyfriend burst into tears. We will definitely be buying this toaster oven.

daniel foster says: i know hes in heaven with his wife….and they’re making wonderful snacks in their toaster oven. his review brought tears to my eyes.

Making snacks in heaven together, that one really got me. The internet can be such a shitty place with anonymous haters wreaking havoc on anyone who dares to put themselves out there. Finding this little pocket of humanity was just what I needed to feel truly grateful this Thanksgiving. I bought the damn oven. This Thursday I’ll be cooking up a (tiny) feast and toasting to Gervase R. Tinsley, his wife, and the surprising kindness of strangers.

Gervase R. Tinsley

On process: Ira Glass

This American Life

I’d just say to aspiring journalists or writers—who I meet a lot of—do it now. Don’t wait for permission to make something that’s interesting or amusing to you. Just do it now. Don’t wait. Find a story idea, start making it, give yourself a deadline, show it to people who’ll give you notes to make it better. Don’t wait till you’re older, or in some better job than you have now. Don’t wait for anything. Don’t wait till some magical story idea drops into your lap. That’s not where ideas come from. Go looking for an idea and it’ll show up. Begin now. Be a fucking soldier about it and be tough. – Ira Glass

I’m so inspired by his call to action! This blog may be becoming my version of post-it note affirmations attached to the bathroom mirror. “Be a fucking soldier about it and be tough.” I’m trying, Ira, I’m trying.

If I could take only one thing to a deserted island it would be the entire catalog of This American Life. (Guess I’d have to smuggle in a solar-powered iPod as well.) I love hearing more about Ira Glass’s process over at TIA. I also use and love Wunderlist so happy to know I’m in good company.

Photo via and full story at lifehacker.

Wishing I Was There: The Book Barn

Wishing I Was There: Book Barn

Today in the arid desert my lips are permanently chapped and the sun bleaches everything in a white glare. I’m hiding out in A’s shady office where the wooden Venetian blinds let in slits of light like we’re in the movie Chinatown. I’m dreaming of the east coast and humid air, of green forests with cicadas humming and most tauntingly, of summer rain. Oh, what I would give for a summer rain right now. Still, I’d give more to be at The Book Barn.

Located in Niantic, Connecticut, this beautiful book store, more of a compound, really, houses some 50,000 books on a dizzying array of subjects. The Book Barn is home to dozens of cats, some goats, and a few dogs for good measure. My father first took me when I was home visiting him from college. I think some small part of me moved to New York to be closer to The Book Barn, and my father, of course.

I can revisit the stages of my life by examining my first stop at The Book Barn. In college I beelined for the drama section. I bought up rare old plays and even some new ones as a way to save money on my required reading for class. Later as a New Yorker, I would peruse the literature section, desperately hoping to expand my horizons and catch up on so much world literature I had missed in my focus on theatre. When I moved to Los Angeles, my visits to the Book Barn were less and less, but I never missed an opportunity to look through their Architecture and Art sections.


Today I would not beeline for any section, but instead take in the beauty of everything. With coffee in hand, I would search for cats in stacks to pet. I would watch the goats and hope for summer rain. Maybe I would even hope for magic. My friend in LA told me a touching story about The Book Barn.

She grew up nearby and spent her teenage years bumming around ‘the Barn.’ (My teenage haunt was Oxford Books. RIP, sigh) Recently she was back visiting and took her daughter to pick out some new books. My friend picked up a book she remembered reading as a child. On the title page was an inscription to her from her father. It was her childhood book after all now safely back where it belonged.


Geoff Dyer from Gloucestershire

Geoff Dyer

Geoff Dyer’s latest book, Another Great Day at Sea: Life Aboard the USS George H W Bushis sure to be another great study in procrastination. My first experience with Dyer was his surprisingly hilarious biography on D.H. Lawrence, Out of Sheer Rage. Instead of a straightforward depiction of Lawrence, Dyer brings himself into the story as he grapples with severe writer’s block, or rather, procrastination. The result is a wickedly funny look into Dyer’s psyche with a whole lot of Lawrence thrown in for good measure.

At that time I was unfamiliar with the canon of Gonzo journalism. I hadn’t yet read Thompson or Plimpton. This new frontier where you could actually talk about yourself and not call it a memoir was a revelation. I remember this story I once heard about Jack White as a teenager. He was a dishwasher in some Colorado restaurant just killing time with no direction or focus, certainly not a bourgeoning music career. When a busboy working along side him quit to go on tour with his band, White was in shock. “Nobody actually gets to do that,” he thought. While working in an uncreative dead-end job it’s often inconceivable that anyone else could be doing what they want to do. Some dreams are too big to imagine.

I’ve never thought I had a novel in me. I really love telling stories. Even more, I love acting them out for people, playing all the different characters, being big and over the top. Dyer’s non-fiction gives me hope that I may one day detach from my debilitating fear and actually write those stories down. HIs needless insecurity is comforting. His procrastination is a reminder that we’re all in a similar boat, regardless of our talent or experience.

Geoff Dyer from Gloucestershire

The boat that Dyer finds himself in this time is an aircraft carrier. I recently went to hear Dyer speak in LA about his hilarious account of life on a ship. In true Dyer fashion, he launched into a story about trying to write Another Great Day. While in the throes of procrastination, Dyer read parts of Tom Wolfe’s Mauve Gloves & Madmen, Clutter & Vine, including Wolfe’s similar account of life on an aircraft carrier. Of course, Wolfe’s writing is masterful and the comparison left Dyer stymied. At the end of the day, he pulled out of it by saying to himself, “I’m just Geoff Dyer from Gloucestershire,” and that’s all I can be.

Needless to say, that floored me. When I look at my list of essays I want to write and then glance back at my shelf stocked with Sedaris, Didion, Moore, Patchett and so on, I sigh, and quietly repeat: I am Cori Nelson from Roswell or Connecticut or even New York, depending on where and when you met me, and that is all I can be. That is what I bring to the table.