Getting ready this week for a trip that will carry me 8,410 miles away, I’ve found myself thinking, incongruously, about flying to Block Island long ago.
I can’t date it exactly, but the trip had to have been before June 17, 1963, because that was the day my first child was born. (Happy birthday, David!) Ev and I hadn’t been married very long and were able to pick ourselves up and take off when a friend invited us to accompany him there to visit mutual friends.
As a young bride in what had not yet become the celebrity-filled Hamptons, I was enthralled by the accomplished people I met, people I considered justifiably famous. A.J. Liebling and his wife, Jean Stafford, were among them.
Joe called one day to say there was room for us on a plane he had hired to take him to Block Island for a day’s visit, because his wife was afraid of small planes. Flying to Block Island was exciting in itself, and visiting the old-fashioned resort for the first time was lots of fun. The friends we went to see were interesting people, although I can’t remember the conversation. When it was time for the return flight, however, fog had rolled in and we had to spend the night. We stayed in one of the island’s rambling old wooden hotels. It wasn’t safe to drink the tap water.
Joe was a legendary journalist at The New Yorker and author of more than a dozen books, including “The Sweet Science” and “The Earl of Louisiana.” He was short and rotund. I have a distinct memory of his walking up the stairs to his room on the hotel’s second story in front of us. He had a pair of swimming trunks under one arm and a box of salt-water taffy for Jean under the other.
That night, I took to drinking Joe’s favorite Scotch — Teacher’s Highland Cream — and I have liked it ever since. You don’t see Teacher’s on many liquor store shelves these Continued from B1
days, but Jacques Franey of East Hampton’s Domaine Wines and Spirits kindly carries it at my request. Its distinct taste and quality is said to come from its blend, which contains 45 percent of a single malt called Ardmore.
I remain bemused by having come back from Block Island, some 35 miles away (at least as the crow flies) and some 50 years ago, with a taste for Scotch. A wonderful journalist and well-known gourmand had recommended it, and that was good enough for me.
The trip this week is to Ethiopia in the company of my daughter, who has adopted a second Ethiopian child, a boy, there. On the way, we will spend a night in Dubai, a Never Never Land that is, I am sure, as different from Ethiopia as imaginable. Alcoholic drinks won’t be on our agenda in either place.
I have no idea what my memories of Ethiopia will be, but I expect the trip to bring home a grandson (not to mention the 30-hour return journey with a confused toddler and a mountain of diapers) will leave me with many.