The good good china.

It rained, off and on, all day Saturday. Skies were supposed to clear around 5 p.m., but there were sprinkles until 7, when guests started to arrive. We’d already made the call to go rain-or-shine, but 10 people can’t sit around my dining room table, so having our party outdoors, in the driveway, was really the only way we’d avoid the kids-table or strolling-supper solution. How tense! How will Mrs. Dalloway solve THIS problem?!?

It stopped sprinkling. Alan set up a full bar on a card table. I rented another table for the buffet, along with 10 chairs. A nice lady loaned me her 3-by-6 table, and we put a 4-by-8 sheet of plywood on top of it, with a tablecloth over. I set the plywood with a mix of our plates and a yard-sale set I picked up on a local swap group. On the buffet, some of my formal serving pieces, some sterling, some crap. Nothing matched. I scattered tea lights and random candles around the table, along with grocery-store flowers. And it all went just swimmingly.

The guest list, I learned for the 900th time, is the only thing that really matters. I ask you: Would you rather split a six-pack and a pizza with the Springsteens and the Obamas in the living room of your scrofulous college apartment, or attend a black-tie function at Mar-a-Lago with the Trumps and Kardashians?

And the guests were everything. Everything, it turned out, was just about getting out on a warm night, eating some imperfectly but enthusiastically prepared food, and opening a million bottles of wine, along with pitchers of mojitos and negronis. Not that it was a drunkfest, although one of the guests made a French exit without her purse or her shoes. Everyone got home safely. We’re all starved for a little fun with fun people. And we all had fun.

I took some pictures with my film camera, and it’ll be months before we see those. For now, two taken with the phone. Dessert:

And after dessert:

If you want to make the cake, here’s the recipe. The sponge is simple, but as always with egg whites, a bit of a nail-biter. It turned out fine, though.

Everything turned out fine. I have a mild hangover. I’m treating it with ice cream, a grilled cheese sandwich and ignoring my watch chirping at me to close my rings.

Hope your weekend went as well.

My hangover was ameliorated somewhat by putting on a sleep mask after I got up to pee at 5 a.m. Was able to sleep clear until 8 a.m., at which point I went out to finish the cleanup. Before I did, though, I read this essay, published a few years ago. It’s a first-person account of working as a waiter for Mr. and Mrs. William F. Buckley; someone posted it on Twitter last night, and I can’t tell you who.

The Buckleys lived in a maisonette on Park Avenue. What is a maisonette, you may be wondering, as I did?

A maisonette, if you didn’t know, and I didn’t, is a house hidden inside the walls of an apartment building. The owners share services with the rest of the building but have their own door.

The rest of it is full of fantastic detail about how wealthy upper class Manhattan lives and parties, or did once. Money remakes Manhattan every generation or so, and I think a lot of this has gone away. I recall the first super-rich person I knew in New York, an heiress to two fortunes. She had a floor-through apartment in a Good Building on the upper east side, which means hers was the only apartment on the floor. The elevator opened onto her front door, which she kept unlocked and standing open much of the time, so the dog walker could collect the pooches for their morning constitutional without having to wake their slumbering mistress. As for the Buckleys:

I was introduced then to a kind older gentleman who, in my memory, ran their household. I don’t recall his precise title or his name, but if it had been a palace, I think he would have been the chamberlain. He impressed me instantly as one of the sweetest and most elegant men I had ever met, with a full head of white hair and a wry look in his eyes that stayed whether he was regarding a martini or a waiter. He was busy with showing the cooks around the kitchen. The waiters were brought upstairs to change in a small room that sat at the end of a hallway near the entrance to the back stairs, which led from the second floor to the kitchen. It contained a single bed made up with a torn coverlet, and a treadmill covered in wire hangers and books. Dusty sports trophies lined dusty bookshelves.

“Whose room is this?” I asked the captain.

“Mr. B’s,” he said.

I stared, waiting for him to laugh.

He said, “Oh, honey. Sure. She’s the one with all the money, after all. Canadian timber fortune, I think. Her friends call her Timberrr because of that and because she’s tall and when she’s drunk she falls over, because she won’t wear her shoes.” I thought of Madge Wildwood in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I laughed, he laughed, and then his face came over serious and flat and we both stopped laughing at the same time.

“Don’t you dare write about any of this,” he said. “Or I’ll have to hunt you down and kill you. With my bare hands. Because I love them dearly.”

OK, then, time to make some spaghetti carbonara and drink more water. The week begins!

Posted at 6:52 pm in Same ol' same ol' |

29 responses to “The good good china.”

  1. basset said on June 20, 2021 at 7:18 pm

    Sounds like a win! Good to hear everything went well. We’re planning way ahead here, for an as yet just vaguely formed series of food and social events around the three-night premiere of Peter Jackson’s “Get Back” Beatles movie in November. Schedules are already being cleared.

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  2. LAMary said on June 20, 2021 at 7:47 pm

    Loved the Buckley essay. I saw him on his yacht once, fourth of July off Shelter Island between the forks of Long Island. I was in a fourteen foot outboard with a friend waiting for the fireworks to start. Based on Buckley’s attitude towards Gore Vidal I suspected he was closeted himself. Phew. Just thought of the Dick Cavett Show with the two of them. Can you imagine a talk show like that anymore?

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  3. Dorothy said on June 20, 2021 at 8:31 pm

    We both had lovely Saturday evening dinners! Yours was way more fun, I bet. Grown up fun. We hosted our son, daughter-in-law and grandgirl. She’s more fun every time I’m with her. We didn’t think we’d get to grill out, considering the forecast, but the rain never showed up so we even ate outside on our new deck. The meal was topped off with a trip to Ritters for ice cream.

    Today my DH made shrimp and grits for the first time. BOY HOWDY they were good! I just kind of casually mentioned last weekend that I’d like to try them and lo and behold – ingredients were bought, chopping and stirring were done, and we ate like royalty. And we killed a bottle of wine. Now I have to try and study lines (I got cast in a play) but I think I’ll be sliding toward oblivion very soon.

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  4. alex said on June 20, 2021 at 8:54 pm

    The fey plagiarist who was famously busted by this very blog would occasionally use his guest column to brag about yachting with the Buckleys. I assumed it was all just fabulism but I was wrong. He really was intimate with WFB. Probably boof buddies.

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  5. Indiana Jack said on June 20, 2021 at 10:09 pm

    Glad to hear the dinner party went well. We’re planning a midweek cookout for some young friends. Hell, at this point they are all young.
    We celebrated our 50th anniversary on Saturday with a stay at the Golden Lamb in Lebanon, Ohio, a town best known as a sanctuary city for imaginary babies fleeing from abortion.
    Despite the politics, the inn is charming.
    Friday night was notable for a tornado scare. Sirens sounded and most of us were ushered to the basement. A few – probably Republican and unvaccinated – stayed at the bar.
    They are probably counting their ignorance as a win.

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  6. Ann said on June 20, 2021 at 11:08 pm

    That’s a very ambitious dessert and a great story about the Buckleys.

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  7. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on June 21, 2021 at 8:03 am

    Last night I used my one-day powers on Father’s Day to ask we watch the film “Selma,” which I somehow had not yet seen and CBS was running. Through it all, my intelligent and thoughtful spouse, who’s heard me talk about Taylor Branch’s books and this time period many times before, was repeatedly horrified and dumbstruck by what she saw portrayed as going on in 1964 (and not the odd portrayal of LBJ, the one false note in the whole movie, which I kept commenting on, especially when they put some of Bobby’s shenanigans on Lyndon’s account), and she kept asking me after scene by scene “wait, what? did they? was that? really?” I pulled up on my phone the logo of the Alabama Democratic Party at the time, and explained that was on the ballot you marked for any candidate from Wallace on down to county sheriff, from 1908 to that date, soon to be cast aside . . . but not yet, in 1964. She stared at the rooster and the words above and below with horror. “This is within our lifetime.” “Yes,” I answered. And we both said to each other “and far from gone.”

    The power of a strong visual narrative versus a torrent of verbiage . . . a picture or film really is worth a thousand or a hundred thousand words.

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  8. Suzanne said on June 21, 2021 at 9:08 am

    I have those same American Fostoria plates as in the post-dessert photo which were my husband’s grandmother’s plates. I love using them!

    JeffTMMO, the movie sounds fascinating. There is so much about the Civil Rights movement that I do not know even though I lived through much of it. I just recently learned that Medgar Evers was a WWII vet and is buried in Arlington Cemetery.

    I am reading a book written by a Holocaust survivor and likewise, I am learning how much I do not know about it. The book is The Choice by Edith Eger ( How she survived, how anyone survived it, I can’t fathom, but she and her sister did. On every page, I am reminded that I know quite a few people in my area who deny that the Holocaust happened at all and I get angrier and angrier.

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  9. Deborah said on June 21, 2021 at 9:41 am

    What a lovely dinner party, I knew you wouldn’t disappoint.

    We had an uneventful weekend, and today’s high is only going to be 82. Finally a day that isn’t near 90. But tomorrow it’s back up to 90. I can’t imagine day after day like this with high humidity, oh wait, yes I can, I lived in St. Louis for over 20 years, ungodly summers there. Thankfully the humidity is barely out of the teens at the highest here now, except in the cool early mornings.

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  10. JodiP said on June 21, 2021 at 9:57 am

    Thanks for the reminder about Selma, Jeff. I will have to check it out.

    Nancy, it looks like the party was a smashing success! I really like how the candles make everything special. We had folks over last night and ended up eating inside as it had just rained and really cooled down. It feels so good to be getting back to normal things.

    Speaking of which, we have booked accomodations for our usually-annual trip to Puerto Rico for early February. Delta usually waits to release non-stop flights so we’ll get those in a bit. We’re staying in San Juan for the first time in 4 or 5 years. There more small adorable hotels to stay in and of course a ton of VRBO/Air BNBs. We usually stay in the same apartment and have become friends with the owner over time. He let us know his 3 apartments have been rented long term by people working remotely, and that getting apartment rentals might be challenging because so many people from the mainland are there working.

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  11. ninja3000 said on June 21, 2021 at 11:27 am

    I, too, got up to pee at 5am. It’s a wonder we didn’t bump into each other.

    The Upper East Side is full of maisonettes. I used to think they were servants or workmens entrances until I was hipped otherwise. Actually sorta surprised the Buckleys didn’t have their very own townhouse.

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  12. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on June 21, 2021 at 12:47 pm

    So, if I can get the HOA to allow me to build an apartment building onto my house, it will become a maisonette (if I don’t put an entry from the current home into the larger enveloping structure)? I prefer to think of our place as a chateau, but without the grounds or towers. Or maybe a wilderness lodge without the surrounding wilderness.

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  13. Jeff Borden said on June 21, 2021 at 1:03 pm

    Like the proprietoress, we are also getting back in the business of hosting by resurrecting our Fourth of July backyard party for the first time since 2018. We canceled in 2019 because we were still dealing with the issues raised by Johanna’s stroke and the coronavirus killed it last year, of course. Our fare will be simpler, but then, we’re expecting 30-plus attendees.

    Johanna read years ago that uber-D.C. hostess Pamela Harriman would serve Popeye’s chicken at her summer soirees to great acclaim. We buy 60 or 70 pieces and put them in the over at low heat for a couple of yours to cook off the grease and get the chicken crispier, then pair it with all kinds of salads and sides. We’ll make some of them ourselves, but honestly, many will come from the deli counters of our local groceries. (Tony’s Fresh Market has a deviled egg style potato salad that makes me cry. Who are we to compete?) Fewer than half the guests will be able to find a seat at a table, so chicken is an excellent choice for us since it’s easily consumed without utensils.

    On a non-food related area, I read an interesting story in today’s NYT about frozen food trust fund baby and professional asshole Tucker Carlson, who apparently is a treasured source for D.C. gossip and who regularly trades juicy stuff –including unflattering items about Fox or the Orange King– with many of the same journalists he savages on his Fox News White Power Hour. So much fucking kabuki theater in Washington.

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  14. Snarkworth said on June 21, 2021 at 3:35 pm

    Myrlie Evers, Medgar’s widow, lived around the corner from us in Claremont, CA. She was studying at Pomona College.

    Nancy, the candle-lit photo makes me wish you had invited me. I would have behaved, really!

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  15. Deborah said on June 21, 2021 at 10:04 pm

    I watched “Inside” again with LB, she hadn’t seen it before. That guy is really talented.

    We had an incredible beautiful day here, I’m not sure it even ever got up to 82. It’s a breezy 72 now at 8:03 pm mountain time.

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  16. LAMary said on June 21, 2021 at 11:40 pm

    The very obnoxious company I was temping for dumped me and the other temp today. Ok. Seven full workdays with those folks. I hired eight people. Zero psychiatrists. Lots of underpaid, somewhat underqualified, and in the words of my fellow firee, “people who can technically pass a background check” employees to work in posh beachside rehab facilities. Same company who didn’t bother to share the fact they were moving in three weeks dumped me in two. Perhaps it was our persistent request to actually talk to the department managers we were hiring people for rather than send in applicants who would not be hired because they were lacking something not in the job requirements but in the individual preferences of the hiring managers. Now that company is down to one recruiter. Good luck in this hiring market, guys. When about half of the interviewees are no shows you have to hustle.

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  17. Dexter Friend said on June 22, 2021 at 2:58 am

    It’s going down to 47F here about now with a windchill in the high 30s. Ah, summer!

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  18. Suzanne said on June 22, 2021 at 11:05 am

    LAMary, I don’t think companies want people to stay very long. I think there are many corporate heads who think like Jeff Bezos thinks that a long term worker is a disengaged worker. They don’t want people to stay. I worked one place that routinely fired people for no apparent reason or a clearly bogus reason and I think this was purposeful. I managed to stay 2 years and only one person was there longer than me.
    I don’t think it ever occurs to the leadership that a short term worker is an unmotivated worker because they realize quickly that no matter what they do, no matter how great their work is, it won’t matter in the end. Training is at a minimum because of it since the actual work doesn’t really matter. Why waste time training someone you know you will get rid of in a year or two? Sure, the chaos caused by a workforce that has never really learned how to do their job will eventually catch up to them, but the corporate guys at the top know they will still get their bonuses and their golden parachute retirement package so they truly do not care. It’s a win for them either way. The business gets sold, someone gets rich, and the workers end up with nothing.

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  19. ROGirl said on June 22, 2021 at 11:17 am

    What a shitty business model.

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  20. Jeff Borden said on June 22, 2021 at 12:22 pm

    It may take some time to sort out, but the pandemic has greatly altered the employment landscape and there’s a solid chance it is for the better. Companies desperate for workers are being forced to raise wages and offer more flexible working hours. The minimum wage has not been raised in 12 years. . .an astonishingly long period of time in a business cycle. The flip side may be mild inflation as companies pass along the higher costs of doing business, but more of our citizens may be able to rise from poverty.

    One of the things I remember about the vampires who created Enron and ran it into the ground was the concept of “rack and sack.” Every year, Enron “evaluated” its workers and fired those in the bottom 10 percent. This did not apply, of course, to Ken Lay and Jeffrey Skilling. Bastards.

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  21. LAMary said on June 22, 2021 at 1:02 pm

    This company did not have an applicant tracking system. It was certainly big and profitable enough to afford one but no. This wasn’t out of cheapess entirely. This was about a company that has an office location and five, soon to be six residential or outpatient facilities. All the facilities are companies. The corporate office is a company. There are seven Indeed accounts to post jobs with seven different email addresses. Same for Linkedin, Ziprecruiter, every other job posting site. It was explained to me that we kept them all as unique companies in case someone wanted to sue a facility there would be a minimum of assets to go after. So if we wanted to go for an applicant tracking system we’d have to have seven of them. They have seven payrolls, seven benefit plans. I’ve worked for a hospital chain with 150+ hospitals, clinics and rehab places. All under one company. Same thing with the eye surgery clinics I recruited for. All fifty clinics and the corporate office were the same company. Were those big companies all stupid? Or just well insured and ethical?

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  22. Sherri said on June 22, 2021 at 1:09 pm

    That’s the famed Jack Welch stack ranking method, which was used at Microsoft when my husband first went there. Reality was, though, that if you had someone in your org that was in that bottom 10 percent, you didn’t really want to fire him, you wanted to keep him, because you needed someone to put in that bucket next year. Sucked to be him, because he didn’t get pay raises and stock bonuses, but that way, you could keep your good people. Microsoft doesn’t use stack ranking anymore, and the culture is much better under Satya Nadella than it was under Ballmer.

    Amazon effectively still uses stack ranking for their engineers, with a target of 6% “unregretted attrition.”

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  23. Jeff Borden said on June 22, 2021 at 5:03 pm


    I should’ve known that awful practice originated under Jack Welch. Whatta knob. And look where General Electric is these days. Say, where is GE?

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  24. Jim said on June 22, 2021 at 5:35 pm

    Just watched the first episode of Kimmy Schmidt. Would never have gotten the Carol Kane maisonette joke without this site!

    And Jane Krakowski’s dog is named Buckley!

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  25. Jim said on June 22, 2021 at 5:47 pm

    Doh! Buckley is the kid. What can I say; I know little.

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  26. Sherri said on June 22, 2021 at 6:47 pm

    Can somebody tell me if Sinema is really as stupid as she seems? Manchin can be explained by ego and corruption, but Sinema seems to be dumb. She hasn’t been in office long enough to acquire enough power to be worth corrupting.

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  27. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on June 22, 2021 at 6:49 pm

    To all editors here and friends of editors: behold, genius at work. What a headline.

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  28. Dorothy said on June 22, 2021 at 7:41 pm

    My husband works for GE.

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  29. LAMary said on June 22, 2021 at 8:54 pm

    Thank you for that JTMMO. I needed it today and I shared it all over the place.

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