Dear Diary: Le minimum


How can I claim to have had a productive day when I didn’t get anything done — anything beyond le minimum,  that is.


Speaking French, let’s not forget to mention the six photographs that Jean Ruaud put up at Mnémoglyphes today. I know, I know — you get it: we think that Jean is one of the best photographers who ever snapped a shutter. But this is not about Jean. This is about six beautiful images. Three pairs, really: two transcendental clichés, touristic images that, for a change, succeed at being interesting as well as beautiful — but very beautiful. Then, two shop windows, one with a peacock (or lyre bird? guinea hen?), and one with a rag doll or two — and both of them loaded with reflections and other “irrelevant” information. (I wonder who’s having the sale across the street from the bird.)

Finally, two quiet street scenes with patches of sun — and (oh! ) the surprising shadow of a lanterne. Perhaps it is simply age on my part, but I do not envy Jean’s ability; I do not wish that I might have taken these pictures. It’s quite enough that they were taken, never mind by whom. That they were taken by a good friend is, I insist, incidental. Although it is true that, as he has been a good friend for a few years, I have the habit of giving his photographs my complete attention. And how rewarded am I now!


For dinner, Kathleen was ready to try chicken soup again. I took a box of College Inn that I keep in the fridge and poured it all into a saucepan — uneconomical, I know, but I happened not to have any cans on hand. Then I cut off a slice of mirepoix and tossed it in with the broth. This I warmed over the lowest heat possible, for hours. When Kathleen announced that she was coming home, I brought another saucepan of water to the boil and cooked a third of a cup of orzo, Kathleen’s favorite pasta. I served the homely results on Royal Worcester that we bought before we were married, along with a glass of water and a stainless ice-cream compote of lime Jell-O.

Never mind what I had. It was good, but I’m working on it.


In the afternoon, I finished Alex Ross’s piece in The New Yorker about Marlboro Music. I began it last night but had to put it down. It was late, but Mr Ross’s deferential treatment of Mitsuko Uchida, one of the co-directors of Marlboro and a very great pianist — and very grand — was waking me up. The sheer niceness of the coverage was putting me in mind of  Club Sonata.  (Think Mickey Mouse and Annette Funicello.)

Wolferl: Gee, Aunt Mitzi, what are we going to do today?

Aunt Mitzi: Well, kiddos, I thought we would explore the Werktreue of “Body and Soul.” Who wants treble?

Franzl: Me! Me!

It was all too wholesome. The redemptive powers of music &c — only, in this case, there didn’t seem to be much need for redemption. If it hadn’t been for David Soyer’s “Property of David Soyer” obsession, Marlboro would have come off as stunningly free of original sin.  

Verily, it is a sublime misfortune, cosmic timing-wise, that Ms Uchida will probably not figure in the gallery of Meryl Streep’s uncanny impersonations.


In the evening, there was a reception at the Museum for contributors of our level and up. The nibbles must have been succulent. Bad weather, however, suggested that the Roof Garden was not going to be the most pleasant venue in the city, if indeed it was opened at all. Ms NOLA had a prior engagement, and Nom de Plume was recovering from a chest cold. Kathleen gallantly offered to go, to keep me company, but I didn’t want to go quite that badly myself. So I stayed at home. At six, I chuckled with sagacity: the very air was sodden with misery. But when I looked up from my work at a quarter to eight, things had changed. The air was clear, and the temperature had dropped. When did this happen? Very possibly, too late for the Museum staff to shift gears. But I was sorry, for a full five minutes, that I hadn’t had the fortitude to go by myself.

If I were a normal person, I could count on meeting friends at a place that I regularly frequent, such as the Museum’s previews. In fact, it might have happend; but I couldn’t expect it. There is something about the art of acquaintance that is hidden from me: I don’t know what it is that I don’t have.


I did keep my desk tidy, all day. Desks, really — all three of them. If I didn’t get anything done, it’s because I was busy putting everything away.