A lovely day for mail, a charming thank you note, postcards from friends on holiday in Sorrento and Jamaica, and an invitation to a gala –– in one of my favorite settings –– that arrived by FedEx.
"...Anyway, I just came across this quote in The Captive, and for some reason it struck me as something I needed to share with you" –– One remembers an atmosphere because girls were smiling in it.
I've never traveled to Russia, although I studied the language in college just because I found the idea of a complex, mysterious alphabet entirely beguiling. And then of course, there's the Russian writers I admire... Nabokov, Akhmatova... and the sensibility which often balances extremes, of casting desire and despair in the same sentiment, heightening the most exquisite aspects of both (see: The Stray Dog Cabaret). This particular juxtaposition prevailed when I was reading the new biography of Catherine the Great, in Berlin, and the one that stuck with me most is the one of such opulence, so many diamonds, amidst such a harsh landscape, so much snow. It's an image that I think of often, perhaps one of the reasons that winter has coolly unfurled its appeal for me lately, especially when admiring the Viennese Rococo sleigh on display at the Royal Palace in Stockholm last summer, which noted that travel over ice was far more pleasant than muddy, rutted roads. The superficial can sometimes be its own reward. Today I watched this promo video of the Russian Tea Room and was stunned. How've I not been? Every night? It promises the sort of ambling, escapist interlude described in a favorite passage from Dr. Zhivago: "What a mad thing, the waltz! You whirl and whirl, without a thought in your head... While the music is playing, a whole eternity goes by, like life in novels."
Years ago, I met an artist named Sarah Crowner at a bookstore called Dexter Sinister, located below a gallery I was publicizing as it opened, and she told me about a show she was doing in Berlin of work inspired by Beatrice Wood, a name I hadn't heard before. It turns out that Beatrice Wood is one of the most amazing women who ever lived, of course. I read a little about her and it inspired me to take up pottery myself, although I wasn't any good. It's a dream of mine to visit her former home and now museum in Ojai, California. Tonight I read her endlessly quotable autobiography, I Shock Myself, which begins with her birth in 1893, and her immediate desire to escape the fetters of bourgeois life, her chance meeting with Duchamp, and love affair with the author of Jules et Jim. Most of the early part of the book deals with the cluelessness that is a burden of her sheltered life, in often endearing terms. For instance, I was so naive about social customs that when a Wall Street tycoon, whom my mother hoped I would marry, took me to the Plaza Hotel for dinner, I volunteered to pay part of the check.
I haven't had my hair cut since I left to spend January in London and Paris, and after watching an old movie or two, realized it's a fright. I wrote Gerald DeCock for an appointment and he first replied, "I saw Private Lives and thought of you." Off to his penthouse (see: the Selby) at the Hotel Chelsea to be reborn.
The big bird, with its exotic tones, is in the oven, and my thoughts turn to what to serve and what to wear (I was asked which china pattern I'd like set aside hours ago). Choosing a cocktail to highlight for the day does take a certain pressure off mixing all those drinks. I'm leaning towards the "Irish Poet," a terrific little concoction involving black tea (recipe found on the label of the Royal Rose bottle), and for that I have some Earl Grey a dear friend sent from Fortnum & Mason. I'd like to spend my next vacation at a particular country house in Ireland, and I haven't done Dublin yet. But those are distant days, and today is one to be thankful for all that I have, and all that I am not encumbered by, too. As for what to wear to entertain the flock of sophisticates, including a Southern Belle, and an English heiress, I'm told, that will soon be arriving, I take a page from the charming memoir of Rosamond Bernier, Some of My Lives, observing life at her friend Pauline de Rothschild's chateau: "It was of course black tie every night, and for women practically ball gowns were encouraged."
I have a dozen zines to give away from Let It Be Beautiful, "a book project by Elizabeth Barker and Laura Jane Faulds. Over the course of nine volumes, Liz and LJ will rewrite every Beatles song (there are 300!) as a story or an essay." To win one of the twelve, simply leave a comment below (with email address).