Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Empty nest, part 1

Good evening. Two adult children are at work; the third is out shopping for a new shirt and tie for his high school graduation tomorrow.

Imagine that. Me, with the windows open and the green grass outside, and the humid spring breeze blowing in. The forecast calls for storms. 

I must tell you I've just been introduced to Four, a publication which calls itself "the world's best food magazine" and looks to be the most sophisticated piece of literature I've ever seen. Where else will you gasp at photography that is beyond merely delicious looking, that is art, and where else will you learn about exclusive restaurants that are beyond exclusive? -- restaurants like "Blaine Wetzel's Willows Inn on Lummi Island, which is giving the Pacific’s San Juan Islands archipelago a name as the home of one of the best, and most remote, destination restaurants in the world"?

The information makes me smile ruefully, after my gasp, because it so happens that on my recent road trip I reconnected with a dear cousin who, through her young daughter, knows People in the publishing industry. She gave me names to drop. I emailed People with Manhattan addresses, and I dropped the name. One Manhattanite emailed me right back to say Well, I don't do that anymore, but I will forward your specs to other People. A week later when an entirely new name subsequently showed up in my inbox I thought, ah! Possibly? 

Of course not. It turns out these adventurous People are from Four. They are traveling to the San Juan islands, which are not as remote as all that, for dinner, or exploring gustatory Lima, or touring the villas of famed Mexico City architects, or eating deconstructed rhubarb crumble as part of a special tasting menu devised for London's Chelsea Flower Show. (The magazine does four of everything.) They just wanted me to know all that. Also the magazine now has an American edition, to follow upon its four existing titles, German, Italian, international, and British.

Now in that big book of Jacques Barzun's, From Dawn to Decadence, which I dip into during lunch breaks at work -- "who does he give hell to?" my friend asked, and I sort of stumbled and said, "it's more of a cultural history" -- I see that he writes, a propos of the Renaissance, "a good artist knows he is aiming at the right mark." I wonder if a good artist only knows it after the fact. I wonder if he knows, upon completing some project, that he has aimed at the right mark. He has done what was natural and best for him to do, and is satisfied. Perhaps it's what Marcus Aurelius called living for the gods. 

In that case, after looking at Four with its recipes for stinging nettles and photos of flower salads and its stories of Michelin-star chefs who think nothing of opening new restaurants in San Francisco when life in Jakarta becomes untenable, I must in turn look at myself (and at my calm and reposeful inbox) and admit: I am fundamentally a diarist. A chronicler of my little everyday. And that's that.

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