Gotham Diary:
Shiva on a Tear
22 April 2014

It’s cloudy and wet now, but a few hours ago, it was spring out there, sunny and balmy. After this morning’s Remicade infusion, I walked homeward from the hospital along the East River. The current was rushing up toward Long Island Sound.

I left the embankment at the bottom of the new ramp that leads to the 78th Street pedestrian overpass. One of my favorite lunch spots, The Hi-Life was only minutes away, on Second Avenue. Once installed in my favorite banquette, I resumed reading the book that kept me entertained all the way through the two-hour infusion, In a Summer Season, the first novel by Elizabeth Taylor that I have re-read. That I shall have re-read. And very soon, too; I can’t put it down. I can’t put it down because I know what’s coming. I know what’s coming, but only in gross outline, and I’m greedy for all the forgotten, savory details. I can’t quite remember what Mrs Meacock, the cook, does at the end. Does she take another world cruise? Does she publish her long-nursed miscellany of humorous anecdotes? I’m 99% certain that Mrs Meacock does leave the employ of Kate Heron, the novel’s leading lady — unlike the cook in Taylor’s next novel, The Soul of Kindness, a woman who pines for the sounds of the deep countryside while toiling away in St John’s Wood. And — getting back to In a Summer Season — what becomes of Father Blizzard? Does he go over to Rome? I’m not quite halfway through: the fateful return of Araminta Thornton is about to occur.

This was perhaps my favorite Taylor novel the first time round, so it’s no surprise that, casting round for some substantial fiction the other night, it’s the one I chose. I have to say that it is very satisfying to know how the muddle of Dermot Heron is going to be cleared up. A relief, really.


The dishwasher is working, but I’m trying not to use it until the kitchen sink drain has been snaked, because clogged pipe is what caused the machine to shut down last week, happily without doing itself any harm. The repairman cleaned out what he could reach without plumbing tools. He did not suggest that I refrain from using the dishwasher (which he didn’t so much fix as reset; I could have done it myself if I’d deigned to fiddle with it), but I’ve rather fallen in love with washing dishes by hand. This is best seen as a spring fling, doomed to last no longer than the petals on the Bradford pears.

I’ll try to get a handyman up here tomorrow to look into the drain. I’m planning to spend the day at home anyway, as I often do on Wednesdays. I’m going to make a batch of madeleines, to serve to the neighbor who is coming to tea on Thursday. Also on Thursday, dinner with M le Neveu, who has not been here for several months. He is living in the city again, and although he has weathered well in the thirteen years since his arrival in New York as a graduate student, I like to make sure that he gets a very square meal now and then.

Although the dishwasher is fine, the refrigerator has me throwing tantrums. All too literally, I’m afraid, this afternoon, when I could not get the door to close completely. Shall we not talk about the plastic shelf on the door that has been held in place for several years with now-failing duct tape? A shelf crowded with half-empty, rarely-opened bottles, most of which I threw away in the course of throwing the tantrum. (See title of this entry.)

I often say that I want a bachelor’s refrigerator: a few condiments, a few dairy products, and a bottle of champagne. I’d like to keep most of the shelving empty and available for use in the preparation of dinner parties.

Instead, I have tons of condiments, an embarrassing amount of spoiled dairy and vegetable matter, and an appalling array of leftovers. As I don’t care for leftovers, the frugality that obliges me to wrap them up in plastic is either misguided or demented, I can’t decide which.

It would help to have the right kind of refrigerator, which I periodically beg Kathleen to buy. That would be the kind with the freezer in a drawer, at the bottom, obviously the preferable configuration for a portly gently with an immobile spine whose waist is not even two inches farther from the ground than the top of the door to the refrigerator compartment on the standard unit currently in the kitchen. The difficulty is that very few models will fit in the space allotted — none will, in fact, unless I remove the cabinet over the refrigerator. (Stuffed but never opened; I couldn’t tell you what’s in it.) Ray Soleil assures me that getting rid of the cabinet will not be difficult, but what keeps me from pestering Kathleen more vociferously is knowing that the swinging kitchen door will have to be removed in order to get the old refrigerator out of the kitchen. (Ask me why I know this.) Removing the kitchen door is just tricky enough to reduce my desire for a new refrigerator. But it does nothing to reduce the tantrums; on the contrary.

If I were starting out now, in our current tax bracket, I should undoubtedly replace everything in the fridge whenever I bought a new bottle of milk — everything aside from those “few” condiments and that bottle of champagne. But when I first had my own kitchen, I was very poor, and I held onto everything. Later, when we had the house in the country, there were emergencies to consider — getting to the store was not always easy, especially in winter. But now I live across the street from Fairway, which is rarely crowded on weekdays from morning until mid-afternoon. (But: the store will certainly teach you to sing “Never on Sunday.”)

In other problems, I cannot bring myself to dilate on the shipment of five books, either by or about Hannah Arendt, that Amazon shows as having been delivered, by the Post Office, last Friday afternoon at 12:45. No — I cannot. Not until the shipment has actually been delivered.


“St John’s Wood” — how do you say that, anyway? I turned to the Internet for help and it was immediately forthcoming. I have always said it by putting more or less equal stress on each of the words. Writing the name down a few sentences ago, however, I was seized with humiliated fear: what if it’s Sinjin’s Wood? But it’s not. It’s Sen John’s Wood, with a strong accent on “John’s.” While I was at it, I checked out St James’s Park, which I pronounced as though “James’s” were a word of one syllable with a sort of little growth at the end. According to the nice Brit at, it is a word of two very distinct syllables. Sen Jamzus Park.

In case you were wondering, Bogota, New Jersey, is pronounced to rhyme with “pagoda.”