Gotham Diary:
1 April 2015

In the spirit of April Fool’s, I probably ought to leave today’s photograph unexplained. Not many years hence, nobody, but nobody will able to figure out where it was taken. For all I know, the three stones are no longer lined up alongside the street that had been repaved just the night before. They are probably not even three stones anymore.

I took the picture as a souvenir of Will. The night before, we had been walking to a restaurant. Will climbed the stone in the foreground as soon as we turned the corner and saw it. He paused at the far end, assaying a jump. I held his hand, in case. Somehow, without saying a word, we both decided that the gap, in the neighborhood of a yard, was too broad  So he jumped down instead, and climbed the second stone, from which a hop to the third was easy-peasy. The next day, as I was on my way to lunch at a restaurant across the street from one where we had dined, the stones were an almost shocking reminder of my precious grandson. So, Mr Potato Head that I am, I took this very dull and inherently inexplicable picture. When I saw it again a few minutes ago, it took a moment for the recollection of Will to click in. But I remembered the location perfectly well. California Avenue, just south of El Camino Real. Palo Alto, California. Monday, 23  March 2015. Pretty soon, I’ll forget that, too.

I’m exhaustipated. I went to the dentist at eleven and the dermatologist at 2:30. I had a nice lunch in between, but I ran errands after the second appointment, and had to lug a bunch of bags from 79th Street home, faute de taxi. I’m planning a very simple dinner, but cooking of any kind seems beyond me; I won’t be surprised if we order Chinese.

I’d forgotten all about Easter when Fossil Darling mentioned it on Saturday. I called my late mother-in-law’s butcher first thing Monday morning, and sheepishly asked for a ham. It turned out not to be too late to make such a request. The butcher will cut the ham roughly in half, and slice the smaller half into steaks, which I shall distribute, frozen, to our dinner guests, for them to enjoy some other time at home. I have discovered that the ham steaks don’t take prolonged freezing well. Two months is about the limit. Also, one wants one’s freezer space for other things. I wish that butchers would sell ham steak, but there doesn’t seem to be any demand for good ones. The pathetic ones that hang in plastic in supermarkets are too small, too watery, and too pallid. Also, without the bone, they’re worthless. Better to have a ham sandwich from the delicatessen.

I shall roast half of the ham according to a recipe in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, a recipe that Julia Child recycled for ham steaks in The Way to Cook. (Pineapples are not involved.) Ray Soleil will bring his fabulous ultra-chocolate mousse, which Kathleen, who gives up chocolate for Lent, cannot wait to devour. Ms NOLA will make a healthy and delicious salad. This will be our first holiday dinner in the new kitchen, which will hold all three of us.


“Exhaustipated” is a word that has emerged in the household lingo that Kathleeen and I speak, by no means privately. Who knows which one of us made it up. We coin new words all the time, and most of them fade into oblivion pretty quickly. Kathleen came up with a keeper the other day, though. Instead of saying “I have to get up at the crack of dawn tomorrow,” she said, “I have to get up at the crackola.” (Accent on the second syllable, for those of you who can’t tell never-you-mind from Shinola.) I love it. “Crackola” emphasizes the fact that you have to be cracked, screw-loose, out of your everloving mind to make an early-morning appointment. Or, in Kathleen’s case, spdrwoman.

It’s probably a preppy thing, but a lot of our patois consists of highly-abused French. C’est le storois, for example. (Store-WAH.) Kathleen says this all the time. It doesn’t really mean, “That’s the story, but something closer to “That’s all, folks!” A very good friend of mine used to be unable to call the premium Ford automobile by its proper name; he had to say, Lincogne. (Lean-KUN-ya.) A real fan of the ancien régime, he called the little triangular vent that appeared on the rear doors of Detroit’s luxury cars — all front doors had them, but only rich people’s rears — the “let-them-eat-cake” window. If he was actually sitting in the back seat of such a car, he would open the vent and mime throwing crumbs from it. Sometimes the crumbs were real. This friend went missing about ten years ago. Perhaps he encountered a stray guillotine.

It’s a sign of our debased culture that, instead of Shakespeare and Horace, Kathleen and I garnish our conversation with lines from the movies. “I am, after all, me.” (Sigourney Weaver in Working Girl.) “But where do you keep your wallet?” (Gene Wilder in The Producers.) The monologues of Ruth Draper constitute a rich seam of source material. “I don’t know how you drank that.” “That’s what minds are for.” “Goodbye, and don’t come back!”

Speaking of preppy, did anybody see the (faux) death notice for Bunny Bixler?


In addition to being tired, I’m very upset about Jenny Diski. I hope that you don’t have to ask who she is. Hers has long been the first name that I look for in every new issue of the London Review of Books. Her dry humor exudes an essence of impatience so fine-grained and concentrated that it is fragrant rather than annoying. She does not suffer fools gladly, but you might say that she suffers fools for the wicked fun of it. And now she has small-cell lung adenocarcinoma. I asked the dermatologist about this, and she gave me a shrug of hopelessness. It’s not good, she said. It is not brought on by smoking, she added, and it kills more women than men. The mother of a friend of hers has been in remission for three years now but they say that she could go at any time. (That rather sounds like remission as a tire with all the air let out.) Genetic, surmised the dermatologist.

Jenny Diski has been publishing a sort of cancer journal, and in the latest entry she reports that the only thing that consoles her is knowing that she has not-existed before — before she was born. I’m glad that this thought gives her comfort, but it wouldn’t do anything for me. At least, I don’t think it would. I’ve been meditating on the idea all day, in between sighs of fatigue.

Would it have been better just to take the day off?