Gotham Diary:
Sharp

I left my cap at the restaurant where a friend and I had croques monsieur for lunch today. Happily, I missed it right away — when, crossing Madison Avenue, I stepped into the sunlight; it was still frigid, but my scalp went into immediate sunburn alert — so we didn’t have to retrace too many steps. As we turned the corner by the restaurant, I saw my cap hanging on a sort of post just outside the door. My friend assured me that I had not put it there myself. I was a bit put out; why would the restaurant staff put my cap outside where anyone passing by might take it? “Because they knew you’d be back in ten seconds, it’s so cold,” said my friend. There was no arguing with that; it’s exactly what happened.

***

Tidying the bedroom yesterday afternoon, I watched Les Choristes, Christophe Barratier’s heartwarming reform-school film, starring Gérard Juqnot. Even before it began, the sight of M Juqnot on the menu screen choked me up, and I wept more or less copiously through the movie. If you haven’t seen it, Les Choristes is about a discouraged musician, one Clément Mathieu (M Juqnot) who takes a job as prefect at a boarding school for troublesome boys. The headmaster is a monster who believes in “action-reaction,” or crime and punishment, and every infraction is punished lavishly. To put something positive in the lives of his wretched charges (who are, however, amply troublesome and always up to some mischief), Mathieu forms them into a chorus. Barratier isn’t so naive as to propose that the transformative power of music &c tames the boys’ savage breasts. It’s Mathieu’s interest and concern that restores their faith in humanity. The music is lovely, though. I should not have thought that Rameau could make me blubber like a baby. 

Gérard Jucqnot plays a very similar role in Faubourg 36,  Barratier’s other movie. Patiently self-effacing, bottomlessly good-natured, a careworn saint. Has anyone in Hollywood specialized in this kind of role? Aside, that is, from Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton; has anyone played such parts earnestly, not for laughs?

When Les Choristes was over, I had the most awful sinus headache.

***

In a recent email, a good friend shared a dream that she’d had — about us.

I had a very strange dream the other night involving you and Kathleen. I was in your apartment admiring a lovely glass-fronted bookcase and Kathleen said that the two of you had decided to get rid of it. I asked what was going in its place and Kathleen responded ‘a guillotine.’ When I asked where one would get a guillotine, Kathleen told me that she found one that could be rented for $600.

I wish that I could tell you why I find this so funny, but I can’t, and it’s not because I don’t know. It’s because I don’t want to get anybody into trouble. Let’s just say that, if there were no repercussions to the use and enjoyment of a guillotine in the privacy of one’s home, aside from the $600 rental fee, then somebody in that dream — and I’m not saying who — would definitely arrange to have one delivered immediately.

It has been a long winter. “Everyone’s being crabby,” said Somebody, “and I’m being crabby right back.”