Restaurant #1. Bistrot Lepic (upstairs in the wine bar). A very nice dinner on our anniversary. Heidsieck champagne was the highlight of Edie’s, and an extraordinary dish of scallops served on a bed of broccoli mousse with shaved ginger the highlight of mine.
Restaurant #2. Merkado. This time, it was three of us. Tilapia, chicken enchiladas and a seared tuna “salad espana”. Not elegant, but quite good. Waiter in training. Thought that serving a salad for two was appropriate, but that it would cost extra to divide it on two plates (as opposed to giving that task to the diners). Disappeared, and came back apologetic.
Book #1. Another one that has not been read in the last 50 years, There is No Truce by Rudolph W. Chamberlain. An unknown book by an unknown writer, and the biography of an unknown man, Thomas Mott Osborne. Published in 1935, Osborne was a progressive reformer politician, from a rather patrician family in Auburn, New York, who served as mayor of Auburn for several terms, had a number of chances to rise in the New York Democratic Party (thwarted by an uncontrollable urge to keep fighting Tammany Hall), member of the New York Public Service Commission regulating state utilities, proponent of summer camps in lieu of military reform schools for tough children, and eventual proponent of and practitioner of prison reform as warden of a penitentiary in Auburn and then Sing Sing. Correct thinking, if sometimes too uncompromising, he had his softer sides as well. Active in theatrical affairs from his school days, including his years at Harvard, he continued his theatricality, but in an atypical manner. He would disguise himself in various manner of strange (at least to him) dress, and go out on the town playing his roles to an unsuspecting public. Sometimes in the company of other masqueraders. Late to marry, he had several children in great rapidity, but his wife died very young, and he did not rewed. Probably gay, he certainly led a life style indicative of strange sexual interests (one of his masquerade buddies being a much younger sculptor who lived in his house, for example), but back in 1935 (he lived from 1858-1926), no one would dare suggest it.
Would I suggest you read this book? I wouldn’t go out of my way looking for it, I guess, but if given to you on a slow boat to China, you would not be wasting your time. An interesting guy who did interesting things. An insight into New York politics and society of 75 years ago. Well written, containing some memorable lines, none of which I remember.
Book #2. This one I recommend very highly. Equally unknown, I am sure, it is the memoir of Katherine Harris von Hogendorp, titled Survival in the Land of Dysentery. Harris (that is who she was then; it was pre-von Hogendorp days) was an extremely talented young woman from Baltimore, a pianist and singer who attended the Curtis Institute and had a promising career before her, when (during World War II) she, like so many others, put everything on hold, and became an American Red Cross Girl, stationed for almost two years at a secret American/British air base in the Indian jungle, where her job (and that of the two others with her) was to entertain the troops, serve them coffee, and make them as comfortable as possible. In the 1990s, living in Baltimore, she decided to take a course in creative writing. She discovered that people were interested in hearing about, and reading about, her two years, 1941-1943, helping the troops keep India out of the war, and regain lost territory in China. The book is only 150 pages long. It is a fascinating book. It shows how (fairly) ordinary people lived in an extraordinary time, how they coped under very difficulty conditions, and what they accomplished. And the concept of sacrifice (and I am not sure that they even thought about it in that manner) is so different from what you find today, when we are in another war, and so different from what it was like during Vietnam. For any number of reasons, this book should be read. I kid you not.
5. The play. We saw David Mamet’s “Speed the Plow” last night at Theater J. I am not a Mamet expert, and had only glanced at the mixed reviews. Here is what I think.
This is a short, 3 act play (about 90 minutes in all). The story involves a movie studio in Hollywood. Character 1 has been promoted to head of production. Character 2 has optioned a well known actor and script, but only for a very short time. Thus he needs Character 1’s approval very quickly (and Character 1’s approval then needs to be ratified at one higher level) . Character 3 is a temporary secretary, only working in the office for a few days.
The basic premise is that the script being brought by Character 2 has no socially redeeming qualities but would most likely make a handsome profit, and that Character 3 (who reads a silly book about redemption and the end of the world as we know it, and radiation as the stepping stone to further evolution, all as arranged by God) seduces Character 1 and convinces him that he should make a movie from that book, even though it might not make money, because it is socially redeeming.
What did I think? I thought that the dialog in the first act (fast paced, stylistic) was very clever. I thought that Character 3’s excitement about this downright nutty book was appealing and amusing (in a good way). I thought that the third act was an abomination. This climatic scene, where Character 1 has to make a choice between money or principles (hard to make this choice when the principles are so vacuous), and between old friend and sycophant, on the one hand, and presumably insincere young woman on the other, I thought pretty well destroyed the play which, until then, had some promise.
As to the production itself? I thought the play was well directed, and the set looked and worked well. I thought that each of the three actors almost had it, but that almost having it is not the same as really mastering the part. I thought this was too bad, because they did come close. That is, until the third act. At that point, as I don’t think anyone could master the third act, I really didn’t care any more.
6. Congratulations. Congrats go to cousin Randy for the release of Randy and the Radiant’s first CD. See http://www.bornagainhippies.blogspot.com.