Gotham Diary:
6 April 2017

Thursday 6th

Although the weather is still generally lousy, spring seems determined to prevail, and, any day now, I may receive a box from White Flower Farm containing some unusual coleus plants that do well on the balcony. This year, I shall open it right away, no matter how rainy or chilly it is, and get the plants into pots, instead of letting them wither, as I did last year, waiting for the skies to clear. I have already strewn the ivy pot with morning glory seeds. Neither ivy nor morning glories have ever really thrived on my balconies, but I don’t know what else to do with the gigantic pot. Throwing it away would require filling many garbage bags with dirt first. Much easier to toss in some seeds and complain.

Meanwhile, I am learning that there is always more to cleaning the bathroom than I thought. When I started doing it myself, at holiday time, it seemed enough to soak the bath mat in a very mild bleach solution while scrubbing the tub and polishing the fixtures. After a few weeks, though, I could feel that the walls above the tub were getting scummy. How did the woman who used to do the cleaning take care of that, without getting wet? And how did she manage without bleach? (For she never asked me to stock up, although this might have been because I always have it on hand.) And how did she mop the floors? I know that she didn’t use vinegar, which is the only solvent that I can get to work for me. Everything else leaves a streaky mess.

We had chicken Tetrazzini for dinner last night. It was tasty, but making the sauce was a botheration, because, instead of consulting the recipe — my perfectly reliable recipe — I’d concocted it off the top of my head, and there wasn’t enough thickening flour in the roux — as I concluded later. When I set it over low heat to reduce, it didn’t burble gently in the saucepan, but popped and plumed, because, if I hadn’t used enough flour, I had used too much butter. I had also stirred in an egg yolk far too soon. It’s horrifying to find myself still vulnerable to that adolescent resentment about “following orders,” even if they’re my own. Saying “I’ll do it my way” settles nothing.

I have taken to dictating the shopping list to the iPhone. I open the shopping list note, bring up the keyboard, hit “return” and then the little microphone icon, and say “mayonnaise.” After a slight second, “Mayonnaise” appears on the screen, correctly spelled. It is true that I am (among other things) a trained radio announcer, but I’m still impressed. And yet even dictation is far from perfect. It occurred to me to put mayonnaise on the list when I was spooning a cupful of the stuff into a mini-processor, to make my version of Russian/Thousand Island dressing. Both hands were full, and I forgot to update the shopping list until Kathleen came home, and I said, “Hey, I’ve been dictating the shopping list to the iPhone.” I managed to turn the screen in her direction during that split second between my speech and the appearance of the word. She was impressed, too.

Now it’s time to change the sheets. Also, the blanket and the bedspread. I change the blanket and the bedspread when the time changes. This year’s time change, in the middle of March, took me by surprise, and then the next time that I changed the sheets, I found that when I had made the bed I had forgotten to change the blanket and the bedspread, and I was not about to undo all that work. I shall not forgot today. Also, it’s time to turn over the quilt on top of the bedspread. We had it made when we moved to this apartment. One side is predominately green, but with a multicolored pattern of half-opened fans. The other side is mostly red, in a very irregular plaid. Last fall, Kathleen noticed that I always had the plaid side facing down. It’s true that I much prefer the green. But I made a deal, to show the warm red during the cold season. Now it’s time for the breezy fans.

If the world is going to hell in a handbasket, thanks to millennia of poor decisions made by powerful men, it’s because powerful men have never had to grapple with the real problems of life.

More anon.