Archive for November, 2007

Morning News: the Biden-Cooper Rule

Friday, November 30th, 2007

The Duce of Duck? (Darren McCollister/Getty Images)

Senator Joseph Biden quipped last month that there are only three components in a Rudy Giuliani sentence: a noun, a verb, and “9/11.”

To that formulation, Times reporter Michael Cooper suggests that we qualify the former mayor’s statistical claims as “incomplete, exaggerated, or just plain wrong.”

Call it the Biden-Cooper rule for short: every claim by Rudy Giuliani involving 9/11 is wrong.

Friday Fronts: David Cole on Jack Goldsmith

Friday, November 30th, 2007

Although I have no doubt that history will regard the Bush Administration as willfully, consciously, and even self-righteously lawless, I’m sometimes afraid that we will emerge from the nightmare (assuming that we do) without having learned very much what it means to be lawful. Only a very naive observer expects a sovereign executive to “follow the law” as a matter of course. Executives are not only forced to interpret the law at every turn, but they are also in sole possession of information about national affairs that necessarily colors their interpretations. Regardless of presidential devotion to the Constitution, the attempt to legislate the executive’s course of behavior will always be met with structural resistance,

Two weeks ago, I wrote about the impact of Vietnam upon my Boomer generation. This week, I’m reminded of a similar vintage, the unpopularity of Richard Nixon. Of all modern presidents, none is more likely to be judged in psychopathological terms: the man wasn’t “bad” so much as he was “sick.” The feeling that he had acted incompetently – not foolishly so much as beyond his powers – led Congress to try to clarify the margins of executive authority. One might as well, I fear, legislate the path of a particle in a cyclotron. Presidential authority is largely beyond our control because we want it to be.

This isn’t kindergarten. Changing the rules is never as simple or attractive as disregarding them. I think that we need a more grown-up understanding of what we expect from the law.

¶ David Cole on Jack Goldsmith, in the New York Review of Books.


Taking Stock: Fear of Flying

Thursday, November 29th, 2007

My new shower curtain.

Now, is this desperate or what? A snapshot of a shower curtain, for heaven’s sake! What next? (Don’t ask!)

Although I bought it before I broke my neck (I think), this shower curtain really does serve as the blazon of my new life. Yes, I know it’s retro, and, no, I don’t pine for the late Fifties. But these scribbles capture an international optimism that was imprinted upon me at an impressionable age. The insouciant mélange of bits of Rome, Paris, London and New York evokes the first whoosh of the jet age.

To paraphrase Talleyrand: those of you who weren’t there can’t imagine how snappy life was!

¶ Fear of Flying.

Morning News: Dispute Over What?

Thursday, November 29th, 2007

Sarah Krulwich/The New York Times

The stagehands’ strike is over at last — at any rate, it’s “over”; the settlement has to be ratified by the rank and file. So. Who won? What was accomplished? Let’s see what the Times has to say.

But among the changes the league was able to achieve, according to officials involved in the talks, was a daily minimum of 17 stagehands on the load-in, the lengthy and costly period when a production is loaded into a theater. In the recently expired contract, producers would set a number of stagehands needed for a load-in — say, 35 — and all of them would have to stay every day for the entirety of the load-in, an arrangement that producers said often left large groups of stagehands with nothing to do.

Now, I’m sure that this means something. Campbell Robertson, who wrote the story, is one of the newspaper’s great stylists. If I worked in the theatre world, I’d know exactly what the “league” of theatre producers obtained in these negotiations. As it is, I have the vague idea that they don’t have to pay as many stagehands (for doing “nothing) while a new show is mounted. I can’t see, thanks to my lack of professional expertise, is the missing sentence that says (I think) something like this: “Having hired as many as 35 stagehands at the beginning of the load-in, the producers are free fir the first time to reduce that complement later to a number that suits their needs, or to a minimum of 17, whichever is higher.” 

The strike cost everybody millions of dollars. Broadway revenues were a trickle of their seasonal gush. The City alone is said to have lost about $40 million in indirect revenues. So we’re all glad that the strike is over, and that the lights will be shining brightly on the Great White Way. Mr Robertson’s story captures the euphoria of the moment, as bitter opponents smile, shake hands, and make nice. I just wish I had a clearer picture of what happened.

What I'm Reading/In the Book Review

Wednesday, November 28th, 2007


What am I reading? I haven’t got a clue. I certainly haven’t read anything in the past couple of days, which have been given over to housework and running errands. It was in the process of clearing off a shelf of back issues of Granta that I came across Richard Ford’s 1992 novella, The Womanizer, which I did read the other night, in one sitting, before, fearfully wakeful, going to bed resolved to think about nothing else until I fell asleep (a stunt that, amazingly, worked). I am still plowing through the same old pile: Blanning on Europe, Lilla on God and the West, and Orhan Pamuk’s The Black Book, which is indeed, as Maureen Freeley writes in the afterword to her translation, the “cauldron” from which his later work comes.

As for this week’s Book Review:

¶ Sir Noël’s Epistles.

Morning News: Prosecutorial Overkill Threatens to Spoil Fun

Tuesday, November 27th, 2007

Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times

While the nincompoops in charge at Citigroup contemplate another, more extensive round of layoffs, putting thousands of people out of a job while remaining cushily compensated themselves, the Manhattan district attorney’s office has announced the indictment of Anthony Marshall, Brooke Astor’s son. You have to have been living under a rock not to hear tell of Mr Marshall’s alleged misappropriations; in the course of administering his failing mother’s estate, Mr Marshall is said to have channeled “millions” of dollars into pockets closer to his own than was fit and proper. Together with a rapscallion-sounding amigo, formerly disbarred attorney Francis X Morrissey — with a name like that, one is either a cardinal or a criminal — the late doyenne’s octogenarian son appears to have chased thrills only guessed at by Max Bialystock (of The Producers), mounting at least two very successful shows on Broadway.

Priorities in order — check.

Surely this matter ought never have gone beyond the civil-trial stage. Mr Marshall has undoubtedly made the mistake of allowing his self-interest to do his accounting for him. It also seems that he was a bit churlish about taking care of a mother whom, unlike her circle of friends, he neither idolized nor sentimentalized. And it is almost irresistible, finally, to attribute the collapse of such respectability as he possessed to a scheming younger wife: Charlene Marshall’s ample figure appears to be an apt symbol of her willingness to consume her husband’s largesse (source: his mother’s property). This is Harry and Leona all over again, no? She‘s the one who ought to be indicted. Let the doddering old man enjoy his last years in peace!

I cannot bring myself to agree that this family tragedy without actual victims warrants the attentions of the Elder Abuse unit of the district attorney’s office. Slaps on the wrist, disgorgements all round, and a blitz of humiliation for the vicar’s ex-wife — the public circus deserves no less. But criminal sanctions betray a lack of sense, specifically a sense of humor. From the very beginning, I have found the Marshall Affair to be rich in dark humor, the tale of a geriatric Pinocchio. I’ll have to stop laughing, though, if Mr Marshall is clapped behind bars.


Monday, November 26th, 2007


So I went shopping after all. The promise of twenty percent discounts on everything in the store was certainly attractive, but what really sent me to Rochester was curiosity. Could I fit into trousers with a size narrower waist?

(And, while I was at it, how about finding a tie for that shirt that Kathleen bought on sale last winter? It’s not a shirt that I should even have looked at, I don’t think – stripes of violet, sky, and Secaucus green on a black background that is really just more stripes, but black.. I soon saw her logic, however: preppy exuberance with a very downtown accent. Without a tie, however, the effect would be more Soprano Family Bat Mitzvah. The only men who would wear such vibrant apparel as a sport shirt (ie, “casual”) would have putti in the bathroom, peeing into their tooth glasses. With the neck open, and perhaps the tails hanging out, even I would look like Uncle Junior’s most disreputable uncle. So, find a tie, even if it meant lugging in the shirt, stuffed with tissues and inconveniently mounted on a hanger by Perry Process, the deluxe dry cleaner that had issues last year about putting my fancy shirts in boxes, and even though the very sight of an incoming Rochester bag – customer seeking refund or exchange in the middle of a clearance sale? – would give the staff gas, as indeed it did. I found a tie.)

The answer was a triumphant YES. And the trousers, while snug, weren’t even tight. What wouldn’t be snug, after pants that I could pull down over my hips without undoing the belt?

Having taken care of the basics, I looked around to see what else there was. Not much really. This wasn’t surprising. My shirt size is one of the most popular at the store, and the sale was in its final day. Pickings were slim. More than that, though, this season has been pretty drab. Downtown without the exuberance. The designers must be anticipating another Crash, because the most exciting color going is terra cotta. I found five shirts anyway, one of them a Ralph Lauren plaid for Christmas. I have always, always wanted one of these clichés in subdued red and green, which in my eyes turn any man into a Gibraltar. Now I have one.

A pair Oxfords, lots of socks, a banker’s dozen of handkerchiefs – I won’t bore you. Carrying all the bags, though, I was a double-wide proposition. Happily, I “discovered” (and high time I did) that you can get from 55th and Seventh to 52nd and Sixth without walking down either avenue. A series of glossy alleys – it would tempting, but incorrect, to call them “arcades” cuts through at mid-block. Early on a Sunday afternoon, these alleys were open but deserted. At 55th Street, the northern end of the passage, I set down my flotilla of shopping bags and took the following picture of the City Center, one of two buildings in the immediate vicinity that Lincoln Center was built to replace. Thank heaven they weren’t torn down as well. The other one is Carnegie Hall!


City Center was the site of my introduction to the performing arts. Marcel Marceau, Kabuki theatre, Brigadoon, my first Mozart opera (Figaro – how juste!). I have rich memories of all my City Center experiences, except perhaps for Brigadoon, which was rather effaced by the atomic comedy of my sister’s coming out singing, “How Are Things In Guatemala?” All children ought to be exposed to Kabuki by the fifth grade at the latest. Sitting still through the perfectly incomprehensible is one of society’s most precious and needful skills.

Early next year, I’ll celebrate my sixtieth birthday with a matinee of Princess Ida – fittingly enough at City Center. 

Books on Monday: Chang and Eng

Monday, November 26th, 2007

There’s an interesting story behind my reading this book, but I’m not sure that I ought to tell it. I has something to do with my Book Review reviews, which in several cases have elicited emails from authors. Only once, so far, however, have I been contacted by a reviewer. Which is both a surprise and not a surprise. After all, I don’t go after books and their authors; I go after reviewers who don’t do their job. But in the end the authors have more reason to follow up than reviewers do. I might actually buy a book; I’ve already paid for the review.

In any case, I wish it happened more often.

¶ Chang and Eng.

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Sunday, November 25th, 2007

Rosy-fingered Dawn stubs her thumb on Thulean Gotham.

Home. D’you know, I’m not quite so sure that it’s as good to be here as I thought it would be. If my library could have been transported to St Croix… For I did miss my books. Not to mention the music! Here I thought I’d stocked the “classical” Nano with plenty of music. Piffle! We went through it in a day or two, Così and the Goldbergs included. A Nano loaded with nothing but piano pieces would have done very nicely. That’s the sort of thing that you can play over and over…

But here we are, and my biggest question is what to do about the Book Review. If we had gotten back an hour earlier last night – at 8:30, say – I’d have knocked at the neighbor’s door and retrieved the stack of last weeks’ papers. But it was too late last night, and it’s much too early this morning. Then there’s the sale at Rochester, my mens’ clothing store. They called, while we were away, to let me know about their big Thanksgiving sale. Should I run over to have a look, even though all the goodies will have been cleaned out? Or should I stay away, because what could be more bitter than shopping for long-anticipated narrower trousers — after a week of vacation-inspired dietary abandon?

Home fat home…

Leaving St Croix

Saturday, November 24th, 2007


The sea and the sky are leaden at dawn, after heavy downpours. Then the sky begins to clear.

The weather can change very quickly here, just as it can in New York. Where, with all the good luck that one needs in this life, we will set our heads down to sleep tonight.

It will be much easier to leave this place when it is chilly and grey.

Tears Before Bedtime

Friday, November 23rd, 2007

Remind me to sort out other pictures by Kathleen that I’ve used this week. Most are mine, though.

Trust me, this picture is sharp at full size. Kathleen took it with her EOS Digital Rebel.

You’d have thought that I’d be able to download this image onto Canon’s ZoomBrowser EX application, which has already been loaded onto the laptop in order to accommodate my much more modest PowerShot A95. On the other, older laptop, as well as on the desktop at home, the same program services both cameras.

But the computer at hand has other ideas. It wants a disc. It craves installation.

<Heated discussion about the elements of planning for vacation.>

So much for ZoomBrowser EX. End of story? No. As we were struggling out the door toward lunch, Kathleen pulled a small bundle out of her bag. It included a piano-shaped device with a USB plug at the narrow end and a cavity for a memory card at the keyboard end. The small CD that came with it first demanded that I download Chinese characters and then told me that its drivers work only with Windows 98!!! (Exclamation marks signify Asian happy faces.) So I plugged the piano into the laptop anyway, sans benefit of driver – and it worked. All 267 images, most of them taken here last year and none of them ever deleted (evidently). It took a few minutes to download this crate of bytes, but we ran an end run around finicky Canon software!!! (More Asian happy faces.)

Problem was….

The images in the default viewer, Adobe Photoshop Album Starter, were awful. Blurry and indistinct – in a word, flou. This would never dou. And it didn’t have to. The problem turned out to be confined, not unreasonably, to the Album Starter, which is not, after all, a program that requires fantastic resolution. Viewed in Photoshop Elements, Kathleen’s kayaks were gloriously crisp and saturated with colors otherwise found only in a bowl of Kix.

<Phews all round.>  

As the I Ching has it: “No Blame.”


Friday, November 23rd, 2007

The hotel calls this Grotto Beach, but at Google Maps it’s Beauregard Bay.

Our last day, and not a cloud in the sky.  Not directly overhead, anyway. There is a bank of dim clouds over St Thomas and St John, ghostly mountainous outlines on the horizon.  (You have to know where to look.) The air seems neither warm nor cool, windy nor still.

I awoke in the middle of the night to find moonlight flooding through an open window. (That’s “window” as in porte-fenêtre..) Good Lord, I thought – we’ll be murdered in our beds. How could Kathleen have neglected to close and lock it? As I closed and locked it, I was told by a voice that sounded a lot like Kathleen’s (but couldn’t possibly have been, because it was two-thirty in the morning and Kathleen doesn’t just wake up like that) that the door had been left open “so that kitty could get out.”

Sure enough, there was kitty, stretched out on the other bed. Kitty’s ears, anyway. Kitty (a/k/a “Silly Billy” – an endearment that I had never heard Kathleen use before) is one of the many more-or-less domesticated cats who are the real parties in possession of the Buccaneer. We’ve been told that they’re very well taken care of, and, indeed, Kitty, when he or she first mewed piteously at our window, seemed interested in company, not food. Although not overweight, the cat seemed comfortable and well-nourished. It declined the offer of a bit of pretzel. We sent it packing when we left for dinner, and it came back afterward, while I was about to fall asleep over Agatha Christie’s  At Bertram’s Hotel.

I climbed back into bed, but found that I could not think of sleep with the window open. Then I had a brain wave. The windows are fitted out with those long latches, much like chains in effect, that allow a door to be cracked open and no more. If I swung the latch over the knob, the window would be open wide enough for Kitty to get out. That was the theory. In fact, even Kitty couldn’t wedge itself through a gap less than two inches wide. At three-thirty, I was awaked by more mewing. I opened the window all the way and, after a moment, Kitty ran out into the brilliant night. I closed and locked &c.

Several readers have been kind enough to ask what on earth this “&c” means. Literally, it stands for et cetera. The British manage the ampersand better (I’m searching for an example): the body of the sign far more closely resembles the letter “e,” while the lower tail curls upward before it intersects with the upper, clearly suggesting the letter “t.” As I use “&c,” it stands in for the repeat of a line that I have already written. You might call it blah blah blah, but that wouldn’t be very nice.

When I get back to New York, I’m going to eat my hat about Agatha Christie. I can’t tell you how foolish I feel, finding her so magnificently readable. Of course she’s readable. Once upon a time, successful writers were.

Needs no explanation.

Morning News

Thursday, November 22nd, 2007

Unidentified blossoms hanging from a pergola: pergolaniums?

Here at the Buccaneer, excerpts from the New York Times are stapled to the back of a daily calendar. The little items are always the keenest.

Every year at about this time there is a story about the crazy things that big law firms are doing in order to hold onto talented associates. Lynnley Browning’s report on the latest nonsense put Kathleen’s eyelids on the fritz. She looked amazingly stroke-like.

Even lawyers need a hug. When workdays stretch into worknights and the pressure to meet the quota for billable hours grows, lawyers and staff members at the firm of Perkins Coie can often expect a little bonus.

In Perkins Coie’s Chicago office, members of the firm’s “happiness committee” recently left candied apples on everyone’s desks. Last month, the happiness committee surprised lawyers, paralegals and assistants in the Washington office with milkshakes from a local Potbelly Sandwich Works, a favorite lunch spot.

Another story had me sighing over the simplicities of youth.

“We are pack rats who are evolving,” said Matthew Birnbaum, a 33-year-old chef who lives in the West Village, cocking an eyebrow at the acrylic desk organizers, storage containers and place mats he and his wife, Jennifer, 28, were carrying through the crowd at the Muji SoHo store on Friday.

“We’re reducing clutter and selling all our stuff on eBay,” Ms. Birnbaum added, explaining that they would continue selling their possessions until their apartment held nothing that wasn’t used daily.

If only it were that simple! Unfortunately, as I expect this bright young couple will discover (probably after a painful break-up), one must be living the life of a gerbil in a cage in order to do without the household impedimenta that aren’t “used daily.”

A better idea, which I have found to be very successful, is to gather up the contents of the kitchen drawers and lay them out on trays. Put the trays in a room other than the kitchen. As you take things from the trays in order to use them, put them back in the drawers. At the end of a week, or two weeks, or whatever period seems right to you, stash whatever’s left on the trays in a “special item” box. You can store this box out of the way, as long as you remember where it is. Over the next two years, transfer any “special items” that you actually use to some other place. Then get rid of what’s left. Admit that you’re never going to get serious about cake decoration. After all, isn’t that why you live in New York City? Where there are hundreds of people who decorate cakes full time?

Yes, I really did say “two years.” Patience!


Thursday, November 22nd, 2007


It is good to be here today, far from the dry roast turkeys and the crowded houses and the dodgy in-laws and the children who lose their interesting little selves for the day in riptides of egocentric neediness.

If anyone but a fellow New Yorker overhears you muttering that you “hate family,” you are immediately marked down as a cold misanthrope, a nasty ungrateful cur. No one stops to think that you might not be talking about individual people, but that what you probably have in mind is your family en masse. It’s the group that’s deadly, the gathering together of people whom nothing more inspired than DNA and youthful folly have thrown together.

Americans are criticized by advocates of other cultures as being “individualistic,” and I do believe that we are no longer any good at the old collective rituals – if we ever were. From the very beginning, this country has been all about leaving families behind. Where are the rituals that honor and acknowledge that? Are we ashamed of something?

This is just an unscientific hunch, but I suspect that while, in most cultures, your family really does know you best (whether it understands you or not), in this country it knows you least. I suspect further that ruthless examination would show that “family” is an illusion that we struggle to pull off at our holiday tables, an illusion that consoles us, during the brief moments when it’s convincing, for the anxiety of having effectively abandoned an institution of aboriginal human importance.

It’s good to be far from the pretense of “family,” if only for today.


Sinking In

Wednesday, November 21st, 2007

Our patio.

It’s surprising, really, but Kathleen and I are not difficult to please. More often than not, we love whatever accommodations we’ve been given. It’s true that we have usually asked for something specific (a view of the sea, a short walk to the dining room), but although we never ask for the room of our dreams, that is what we usually get. 

We’re so happy with this room that Kathleen wants to reserve it for next Thanksgiving – before we leave.

The view from our patio.

Now that the weather has cleared up, and dried up, and cooled off, it’s quite pleasant to sit on the patio. Looking up from my book, I fall into something between a reverie and stupor. It occurs to me that we could be anywhere – anywhere with green hills overlooking the sea, that is. It really doesn’t matter how near or far, how well-traveled or exotic. What we want is this: this view of the sea from a hillside, looking over low shrubs.

And we want it to be a view that somebody else takes care of.

Needs no explanation.

In the Book Review/What I'm Reading

Wednesday, November 21st, 2007

Packing for St Croix, I took along a few more books than I could ever read – but only a few. I see now that I might have made do with only three: Orhan Pamuk’s The Black Book, which has at last captured my interest; Sailing From Byzantium, Colin Wells’s robust (not to say vulgar) account of the influence of the Eastern Empire upon the West, upon Islam, and upon the Slavic world; and Agatha Christie’s Murder at the Vicarage. Because I’m so familiar with the Joan Hickson adaptation of Christie’s chestnut that I don’t have to fret over clues, the book is quite a pleasure to read.

I did bring one of the MacMullen books mentioned last week, but I doubt that I’ll get to it. Ditto, I’m afraid, Tony Attwood’s Asperger’s book.

¶ Woody Talks.

Theory of Vacation

Tuesday, November 20th, 2007

Figure (1). Lunch.

Figure (2). Before Lunch.

Waitress: Doing your homework?
Kathleen: The difference between being at work and being on vacation is that vacation comes with palm trees.

I Study the Nano

Tuesday, November 20th, 2007

First gratuitous pretty picture

In a mad desire to re-experience the joys of first-year law school, I have spent a few hours this afternoon studying the Nano.

The Nano is a personal music device &c. Four controls are marked on its surface, one of them in English. That would be “Menu.” The other three are well-established audio symbols meaning “next chapter” (3 PM), “play/pause” (6 PM), and “last chapter” (9 PM). That doesn’t seem like a lot to work with, does it? But of course you can do a million things with these controls, or nearly, if you know how to work them. For that, though, you will have to study the Nano.

In other words, you have to buy a book. The “documentation” that accompanies the Nano is, if truth be known, less than minimal. It is a series of designs, printed on an accordion fold of shiny paper and unaccompanied by text. No messy translation problems! Even if you read the International Language of Gizmos, though, you’re sunk you buy the book, because the drawings on the fanfold are the visual equivalent of Only Four Controls. You may figure out, by dumb luck, that pressing the (unmarked) disc in the center of the Scroll Wheel turns the Nano on. How to turn it off, however, is no more intuitive than knowing that the round thing on which the four controls are marked is called the Scroll Wheel.

Last week, in preparation for this vacation, I bought two books. This afternoon’s quality time was spent with The iPod & iTunes Pocket Guide (Second Edition), by Christopher Breen (Peachpit Press, 2006 – and already mildly out of date).

In two hours, I learned

  • How to pause and re-start a song. Why did I need to learn how to use a clearly-marked control? Because I thought of this as the “Off” control, having been told that it was.
  • How to compose a playlist.
  • How to rate a song. This is handy, because simply by giving your favorite songs top (five star) ratings, you add them to a handy “Top Rated” playlist.
  • Why I have only one piece of cover art. (I bought a Blossom Dearie song that I already had on CD. It’s always good to start out by buying things that you already own, so that you won’t be disappointed in case the transaction fails.)
  • What “scrubbing” means.
  • What the “Hold” switch is for.
  • How to shuffle songs.

And much, much more. Once I’d learned how to shuffle songs, though, I called it a day. My brain, she were fried.

Second gratuitous pretty picture

You may be wondering why we have not just one Nano all of a sudden, but two. Here’s what happened. I decided to get some sort of iPod so that I could download and listen to podcasts on one. Notably, my own. It seemed odd, producing dozens of podcasts without having a clue about how to download and listen &c. Having been told that the Nano was the device for me, I put in for one. At the very same time, Kathleen got one. Her law firm handed them out at a partner retreat, so to speak. In reality, if every partner got one, then every partner paid for one. So Kathleen bought herself a Nano, in effect.

Kathleen’s Nano has her firm’s name (or a portion thereof) etched into the shiny silver backing. Since both Nanos, like all 4 GB Nanos (I’m told), are brushed-silver grey, that’s how we tell the two Nanos apart. This is useful because Kathleen’s Nano has been stocked with songs, while mine plays things like Così fan tutte, the Goldberg Variations, and those Handel concerti grossi that I mentioned in an earlier entry.

Kathleen’s Nano came loaded with a firm playlist. That is, a playlist named after the law firm. Headquarters are in Chicago, so there are several songs with that title, including one by Sufjan Stevens. So, you learn something every day – that’s what Sufjan Stevens sounds like. And I didn’t spend a dime at iTunes!

PS: I wrote this yesterday, but I thought I’d better hold it for posting today, lest you realize that you were hoping that St Croix would distract me from the delights of everyday scribbling.

PPS: It was pouring with rain. There was nothing else to do. Once I’d clipped my nails, there was really nothing else to do.

PPPS: All right, cut it out back there.

Mauritius, at MTC's Biltmore Theatre

Tuesday, November 20th, 2007

Although Broadway is wracked by a stagehands’ strike at the moment, not every theatre is dark. The subscription companies, such as Manhattan Theatre Club and Roundabout, are going on with their shows. Thanks to a very distracted summer, Kathleen and I hold no (0) tickets to upcoming Broadway shows at the moment, so we’re sitting pretty, especially given our MTC subscription, without which we wouldn’t be crossing Times Square in the blaze of nightlight anytime soon.

¶ Mauritius, at MTC’s Biltmore Theatre.

Post Meridian

Monday, November 19th, 2007

Sur la plage

After breakfast – they do a great buffet here, which I’m too old and, more recently, earnest about dieting, to pillage as it deserves – Kathleen and I strolled to the nearby shopping arcade, which is really too modest for that appellation even if there is an arcade of sorts. At the General Store, they sold all the usual stuff – gin, vermouth, scotch, and rum, rum, rum. I took it in with a stupor. The bottles answered a prayer that, although I’m no longer saying it, I used to pray so earnestly that it’s difficult to see the happy answer and yet have no reason to move. I chose a bottle of Chardonnay from the rather smaller choice of wines.

We stocked up on snacks, postcards, stamps, and lip balm, and then headed across the way to the dress shop. This is where I bought the hat shown below.


This is what happens when you ask someone else to take a picture that you yourself would take, if you didn’t want it to be a picture of you. That’s the only way I have of explaining the unflattering uncertainty that takes the place, here, of an intended nonchalant gaze off toward the sea. Kathleen did in fact catch me gazing out to sea… with unflattering uncertainty. Perhaps I am squinting? Perhaps it’s the no-see-ums that swam into my eyes at about this time? Perhaps, as some would say, I’m just impossible to please.

The dress shop, as we knew, carries hats for gents as well as other many supplies, but the feature that undoubtedly attracts most male visitors is the nuisance corner, a small padded bench with its own stack of magazines. I’d have taken a picture, but it would not have been a pretty picture, and, besides, how odd. To take a picture &c. Kathleen found a good-looking suit jacket, on sale for the usual reason – but then that’s why Kathleen hardly ever pays attentions to size labels.

Having left Kathleen behind to try on clothes, I returned to the room just in time to hear the phone ringing. Who could this be? Not the office, surely. Indeed not – although it was a lawyer at the other end of the line. A very pleasant woman whom we’d shared a taxi with on our ride in from the airport. I will save her story for tomorrow, though, because – and this is why she was calling – we’ll be having dinner with her and her husband tomorrow night! I’m sure there are many people for whom such an invitation, after such an encounter, would not be at all remarkable, but Kathleen and I have a tendency to clam up when we’re on a trip. I can remember what I did differently yesterday (and it was I who made the gesture): I remarked that this was our second Thanksgiving in St Croix. Well, that was that!

Meanwhile, regular readers will be relieved – nothing less, I’m sure – to know that I have almost finished with this week’s Book Review. What’s new on that front is that I’ve taken to annotating the Review as I read it. Yes – writing on the pages with a pen! What a concept! Someday, I’ll tell you why I stopped marking up printed matter of any kind long before I went to law school – but not now. The good news is that I won’t have to think when I begin writing up my reviews. The thinking part has been done.