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!