Vacation Note:
Evening on the Patio

Monday. <sigh> It’s not so much that vacation is just about halfway over; it’s Monday. Kathleen is going to have to work today: read a document and then participate in a conference call. And I’ve got lots of things to do as well. (The difference is that no one will mind very much if I don’t do any of them; but I’ve internalized my self-employment to a grueling pitch.) I’d like to compile a Daily Office for tomorrow, if only because I’ve come across a lot of interesting things. At the same time, I’d rather not work. I’d certainly rather not think about the WiFi connection.

As part of the packing process, I decided not to bring many books. Aside from Jennifer Egan’s oeuvre (I do love it, but — work), I brought along the Ethan Mordden book that I was talking about the other day and that I really ought to write up while it’s fresh in my mind (work), and Alan Riding’s book about the arts under the Occupation, And the Show Went On. Now that’s a fun vacation read, eh? The first chapter gets things off to a depressing start. Riding writes about the failure of France’s political class between the wars in a way that makes it sound frighteningly reminiscent of what’s happening in the United States today; and then there’s his description of Paris as a site for “elite divertimento”:

The majority of Parisians were poor, but they had long been evicted from the elegant heart of Paris by Baron Haussmann’s drastic urban redesign a half century earlier. This “new” Paris was the favored arena of elitist divertimento, drawing minor royalty, aristocrats and millionaires to buy art, to race their horces in the Bois de Boulogne, to hear Richard Strauss conduct Der Rosenkavailier at the Paris Opera, to party in the latest Chanel and Schiaparelli designs.

That sounds awfully familiar, too. For “Haussmann’s redesign,” read “Robert Wagner’s determination to banish industry from New York City.” (That’s why the naked city, when it woke up, clutched at that filmiest of vestments, “the financial industry.”)

Anyway, I figured that I’d just download books to the iPad if I needed more to read, and notwithstanding connectivity issues, that proved to be a good idea. I bought and blazed my way through the new Cynthia Ozick novel, Foreign Bodies. (This made me want to download The Ambassadors, an old favorite, but I haven’t gotten round to that yet.) Then, yesterday at lunch, our favorite waiter  (she knew what I’d be ordering when we walked in on Thursday) mentioned a book that she’s finding very funny, Bitter Is the New Black, by Jen Lancaster, so I downloaded it then and there, as much as a party trick as with any intention of actually reading it. It is funny, and I wonder why I’ve never heard of it before. Lancaster writes of herself in almost grotesquely unflattering terms — but that’s what dealing with a world of incompetent boobies will do to you. The book remained funny even after Kathleen remarked that Lancaster’s diatribes sound just like mine.

During the night, I woke several times to howling winds and rain. The weather this morning is partly sunny but clearly unsettled. I’m going to step outside to the patio and read feeds. (The iPad, by the way, works perfectly well outside, as long as I’m not sitting in the sun, which, believe you me, I never am.)