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Point of View: ‘What’ll I Do?’

Wed, 08/18/2021 - 18:27

Mary said she was excited to hear that I was making Lidia’s roasted eggplant with ziti and ricotta tonight, testimony, I suppose, to the depths of ennui we’ve plumbed — plum tomatoes are in the recipe too — since Emily and the kids left for Ohio, leaving us to marvel on our own at the glowing light she sees caressing us here.

But, wait, there’s more, more in the way of excitement, though I’d rather we could simply continue basking in boredom: The printer of my book, copies of which I should soon have in hand as I write this on Aug. 11, has led us a merry chase, to the point that it seems we’ll have to drive to East Longmeadow, Mass., two days hence to take delivery of “Essays From Eden” at the plant, in time, barely, to make it back to East Hampton for Authors Night, whose roster I made just in the nick of time thanks to the good offices of the East Hampton Library’s director, Dennis Fabiszak.

This prospective last-minute dash to East Longmeadow, Mass., by way of South and North Fork ferries and Springfield and Hartford, oughtn’t to surprise me, a journalist who’s been rushing for more than the past half-century to get food to the customers while it’s still hot.

Confession: I was never very much of a waiter. Too dreamy . . .  too absorbed in my own thoughts . . . too much rainbow sherbet sampled while going to and from the kitchen . . . I don’t know what it was, but I wasn’t good at it. In contrast, in stark contrast, all my children have been wonderful hostesses, bussers, waiters, bar backs. . . . They were thrown into the fire, suffered, and rose again, fitted out to take on the world, which each has done in his or her own way.

I did write once about my brief encounter with the late lamented Shazam restaurant, in a vein that Rose Graubart found “disarming, charming, and alarming.” Catharsis was reached when one of the Georges, the first booksellers in East Hampton, asked, as I wondered what the three of them might want for dessert, “Where is Mama’s duck?”

Where was Mama’s duck indeed. Chet Baker’s melancholy, wistful version of “What’ll I Do,” which they always played there, seemed so fitting at that moment. It was a sure bet that my face was redder than the raspberry sherbet. Color me mortified.

And now, lo these many years later, I find myself asking, in the same plaintive voice that has stayed with me ever since, though with some hope that there will be an affirmative answer, “Where is my book?”

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