Entry 4

We get up each morning at 6 because J. has to be at the hospital early, where he runs an intensive care unit. These days the mornings are getting darker, though it’s only August, and it seems still night when we get up. Luckily, last night’s dinner party ended at 10, as the Fields were just off a plane from Italy. Little did we suspect the drama unfolding during the night.

Somewhere I have written about the disasters waiting to happen when you have a dinner party. The cucumber soup was drabness itself, despite last-minute doses of dill; and somehow I scorched the onions in the chicken dish and had to ladle carbonized shards out of the sauce, furtively and laboriously, with a slotted spoon, and disguise the faintly burnt taste with more vinegar, thus transforming “a la Marsala” to “au vinaigre.” This luckily escaped comment, but unluckily seems to have made Carolyn sick in the night.

They spent the night because of the long drive back to Sonoma, Calif. At breakfast, I was greeted with a pale, weakened friend and her worried husband, who took her off to the emergency room. The news tonight is only partly reassuring; although the doctors didn’t think it was “anything,” they have kept her in the hospital overnight. Dismaying thing to happen to a friend, and dismaying to think it could be the cook’s fault, though no one else has gotten sick.

The FedEx man brought a digital camera sent by Slate. Some hours were consecrated to installing the software and reading the manual, though so far I haven’t a clue how to send the pictures off to accompany this account. At noon I had lunch with my friend Lew Vogler, a wonderfully well-read man, who brought me a new French dictionary, an unabridged Robert containing slang expressions—for instance, rude words for private parts of the anatomy, words I had a lot of trouble finding out about for my novels (foufounnette, for example).

We had lunch at Washbag restaurant in my neighborhood, and afterward I rode the 30 bus to downtown San Francisco, trying to remain unnoticed as I snapped pictures for Slate. The locals call the 30 bus “the Orient Express” since everyone on it is speaking Cantonese, though sometimes they speak in English:

“Hi Bao Lin—how are you? Haven’t seen you for awhile.”

“Fine. No news. The children are OK. My daughter is living with a white guy.”

“Oh? She can’t find a nice Chinese boy?”

“What a bunch of losers! Who is there, besides Michael Chang?”

I was on my way via the 30 bus to have a drink with Sally Willcox—my agent at Creative Artists Agency, the Los Angeles agency that deals with film—in downtown San Francisco, for a day’s escape. She’s happy about the way Le Divorce is going, and I’m happy with the first review of my forthcoming novel, and it’s a beautiful day, meteorologically speaking. Then J. and I have an early dinner at Le Central, my favorite restaurant in downtown San Francisco with our lawyer, Liz, and her boyfriend, Joe Orrach, who is a tap dancer—surely, since the death of Gregory Hines, the greatest tap dancer—at the popular local dinner show Teatro Zinzani, and then home again in time for news of Carolyn.  Was this a productive or a rather frivolous day? Certainly it was somewhat tiring.

Crawled into bed, finished The Age of Innocence. No matter how many times you read it, the ending is still a disappointment. Newland Archer still refuses to budge off that bench. Newland Archer, immobilized with regrets, fails to go see the Countess Olenska, and who knows what the countess hoped or felt? Writers of James’ and Wharton’s and Sand’s period seem to feel more admiration for personal renunciations than we do now. It wouldn’t have hurt her to let the two poor old people have a little happiness at the end. Did she think it wouldn’t be true to life? Or that they had forfeited the right to happiness because of their guilty longings? Who can tell?