I had planned to write mostly about food today, as I had many food-related activities planned. I had lunch with my friend Barbara Hall, wife of the novelist Oakley Hall. The Halls are apprehensive about the debut, tomorrow night, of a film about their son Tad, who was a promising, indeed an accomplished, playwright decades ago, whose career was blighted when he fell off a bridge while celebrating a smash hit opening of one of his plays and suffered a head injury, and whose life since has been one of courage and recovery. We tried to get tickets, but the film is sold out. So, by the way, is Le Divorce, I am told, and it’s moving on to more theaters. I talked to Ismail Merchant today, and he had this good news. Ismail thinks I ought to write to a couple of mean reviewers of the movie (most of the reviews have been good), saying how much I myself like it, which is true. But as a critic myself, I know not to do that. It creates malice for the future, and besides, the critic always has the last word.
Barbara and I ate at Rose Pistola, the tutelary genius chef of which is, or was, Reed Herron, son of Shelby Herron, the writer—surely there is a conjunction of writing and eating? I was thinking of this because I am having people to dinner and did my shopping before lunch, on foot, in this very foodie North Beach neighborhood.
I was thinking as I shopped that really I prefer the food of North Beach, San Francisco, to that of our neighborhood in Paris, France. Here, there are some marvelous restaurants—Rose Pistola and Moose’s are the ones we go to most—whereas in my Paris neighborhood, St. Germain, the restaurants tend to be touristy and not very good. The best are an Italian one, in the Armani store, and one called Dedicace, which is marred only by loud music.
Instead of launching into a diatribe about music in restaurants, I’ll acknowledge that I am getting cantankerous. It is partly a defensive reaction when faced with the true facts of life in the United States. For instance, I became infuriated today to notice that the street and sidewalks of my little cul-de-sac had been spray painted, not by graffiti vandals but by “SBC,” which is the local phone company (don’t ask me which or what happened to PacBell; the phone situation is another disaster). And “USA,” which must be another phone service or else cable. Arrows indicated which house was served by which, in gaudy, permanent DayGlo orange. A neighbor suggested repainting the arrows in misleading directions.
Coming to dinner are Carolyn Kizer, the Pulitzer-Prize-winning poet, and Carol Field, the cookery writer, novelist, and expert on Italian food. Their husbands are John Woodbridge and John Field; both are distinguished architects. We’re having a chicken in Marsala dish, polenta sausages, chocolate mousse, and an experimental cucumber soup, to use up a surplus of cucumbers from a friend’s garden. The polenta sausages come from Little City butcher’s shop, the only butcher remaining in this neighborhood. Little City Butcher is Italian and makes many delicious dishes, like the sausages: a serious meatloaf, something it calls “demi-glase” [sic] and “Nonna Donna’s spaghetti sauce.” The shop is also the local dealer of a certain brand of pen I like—Fischer’s Space Pens. Little City admired these pens so much (they even write on wet meat wrappers!) that when the original dealer, the printing shop next door to them, went out of business, they took over the pen franchise. I like Fischer pens because the refills last a long time, and they have several models that hang from a chain around the neck. I feel that having the pen handy around your neck saves untold moments in a busy day you would otherwise spend looking for it.
While browning the chicken parts I listen to California Gov. Gray Davis’ first speech in the California recall campaign. The nation seems to find the whole thing goofy, but at least it is diverting, and, almost for the first time in a long time, people are discussing political issues and being aware of budget options and so on—remarkable.Davis is a nice-looking man whose prowess at kissing has been attested to by Cybill Shepherd, who met him when she was 16. He is already being attacked for robbing the cradle, as he was 24 at the time.
While cooking I steal a look at the kittens for sale in the want ads. Committed in principle to cat rescue, our luck has been so bad, I wonder if we shouldn’t just break down and call a breeder. After all, those kittens have to have homes, too. Last night, I dreamed about this whole enterprise and that I got dozens of e-mail offers of kittens.