Very jolly few days culminating in a terrific yesterday traipsing about the Big City.
One of the things I like best about Alan is that he really, really, really likes plants. Thus, trips with him to the enormous and wonderful New York Botanical Garden are a treat. I can trail in his wake listening to him talk about the various botanical species we encounter and his own adventures taming them, or I can just tune him out and loose myself in the astonishing beauty of the flowers.
We caught the tail end of the tulips:
And as you can see from the picture above, we caught the azaleas at their peak. The lilacs were also in bloom:
And the beautiful exotic grasses, columbines, and pygmy daffodils in the rock garden:
I have to say, though, that my biggest thrill was finally seeing the one stretch of virgin forest along the Bronx River (more of a stream actually), which is all that remains of the way things used to be. A mere 400 years ago. Before there was an Empire State Building.
Afterwards, Alan and I repaired to a fancy, fancy bar, sipped bourbon, and discussed the mysteries of the universe while I eavesdropped on two nattily dressed Chinese billionaires drinking white wine at the table next to me. They spoke in Chinese, but their conversation was peppered with terms like “Amazon” and “intellectual property.” I figured they were speculating about expanding Ali Baba into the American marketplace. Chinese billionaires love white wine. I can’t imagine why.
When I got off the subway at Canal Street an hour later, I felt disoriented. And then I heard a voice: “Patrizia?”
It was Summer! Whom I’d subwayed down to meet. Pretty propitious running into her on the crowded street when we were each independently wending our respective way to our rendezvous at a Kosher vegetarian restaurant called Buddha Bodai.
We passed a Haagen-Dazs store that was giving out free ice cream. The line extended for blocks. It was obvious that many people had spent their day getting free ice cream and then standing online for more free ice cream:
Chris joined us while we were waiting online. There was lots to talk about so the wait went quickly.
He didn’t get his H1B visa, so it’s looking as though they will not be staying in the States. They are debating the respective merits of settling back into China versus settling back into Japan. (Due to her complicated family history, Summer holds a Japanese passport.)
First time I ever had an extended conversation with Chris. He is quite bright. Summer has always told me that he is extremely atypical for a Chinese male: “He is more interested in happiness than money!”
I will miss Summer a great deal if she leaves. But for the first time, she was talking children. So, yes. They’re through with the free-floating stage.
Speaking of children, Max arrives here tomorrow. Saturday, we drive up to watch RTT in 2! two! too! graduation ceremonies.
I’m actually mildly anxious about this. Part of that is due to the thought that I will have to drive with time limits in a city (Syracuse) that’s very congested and filled with insane motorists. Part of that is due to my thought that while I’m positive RTT loves me, he really doesn’t like me very much, and I just cannot go through another episode of acting like myself and having him lash out at me because I am so-o-o-o embarrassing. Enough, Robin! Tolerance is the mantra of your generation, shuffling as you do through the identity politics polka. True, I’m not black, and I’m not transgender. But my life matters, too! Right? Right?
I also wanted to write about Scott Fitzgerald since for research purposes, I’ve been reading a book called Careless People: Murder, Mayhem, and the Invention of ‘The Great Gatsby.’
The first few chapters of my work-in-progress take place in New York in the early 1920s. This calls for a lot of research. Research is time-consuming. So, I figured I’d let someone else do the research for me – in this case, an academic called Sarah Churchwell who wanted to write about The Great Gatsby in the context of the decade (1920s) that created it.
It’s an interesting book. Filled with interesting details. For example: During the 1920s, there was no uniformity among NYC traffic signals. In some neighborhoods, red lights meant stop and green lights meant go, while in others red lights means go and green lights meant stop. Traffic police sat in these oversized cement perches rather like lifeguard stands, directing the local flow.
The book also sheds considerable insight into Fitzgerald’s composition techniques.
Like all writers, I’m fascinated by how other writers write.
In the 1920s, Fitzgerald had not yet embarked upon the ripest period of his lifelong alcoholism, when everything, you might say, was fermented. But he spent the greater portion of his days relatively ripped.
Which meant he had only an hour or two every morning between quaffs of Alka-Seltzer to work on his art.
He wrote maybe 100 words a day.
Possibly this accounts for my own sense that The Great Gatsby is so overwritten as to be barely readable.
Yes, yes, yes. The novel is a stylistic masterpiece. Many of its individual sentences are so beautifully composed that they make me want to weep.
But the book has no connective tissue. It’s like this fossilized collection of beautiful sentences, a subtextual framework that feels more like an engineering accomplishment than a piece of art.
I much prefer Fitzgerald’s short stories to his novels, as breezy, superficial, and banal as they may be. They feel more authentic.
Lots more to be said about that, but helas! No time.