• FRIDAY Our Girl in Chicago knocks on my door at midnight, having braved a snowstorm to fly to Manhattan to celebrate her birthday. We stay up way too late talking.
• SATURDAY To Baltimore via train for CenterStage’s very sexy revival of Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music, preceded by pizza and gelato at Iggie’s. At the theater we meet fellow Sondheim buff Laura Lippman, whose new book has just come out, then pick up her husband David Simon after the show for dinner and conversation. I shamefacedly admit to David (who is incredibly nice about it) that I’ve never seen The Wire, but that OGIC is giving me the first season on DVD as a belated birthday present. Exhausted, Our Girl and I nap on the train after the show, then stay up way too late talking.
• SUNDAY Brunch at Madaleine Mae, the fancy new southern-style restaurant on my corner, whose owners hope to succeed where three previous dining establishments have failed since I moved here five or so years ago. The grits and biscuits are excellent. Our Girl gives me a big hug and a copy of Rachel Ries‘ new CD and leaves for the airport, toting a bagful of warm H&H bagels. Chicago is a great town for hot dogs, but they don’t get bagels there.
I spend the afternoon straightening pictures, listening to a new CD of Grieg and Saint-Saëns playing their own music, and reading a book about Chekhov. At seven I go to City Center to see The Four of Us, Itamar Moses’ latest play, accompanied by my new friend Rosalie Sullivan, who sang in the workshop for The Letter.
• MONDAY I spend the whole day writing an essay for Commentary about The Magical Chorus, Solomon Volkov’s new study of Russian art and culture in the twentieth century. Dinner with an old friend who has good news–she’s pregnant–followed by two hours of intensive editing on the Commentary essay. Early(ish) to bed after calling Mrs. T in Connecticut and my mother in Missouri. For some reason I’ve been waking up at six-thirty every morning, alarm or no alarm, so I figure I’d better go with the flow or pay the price.
• TUESDAY Another deadline, this one for Saturday’s Wall Street Journal “Sightings” column about my trip to Philadelphia to see the movie-house simulcast of the Metropolitan Opera’s new production of Peter Grimes. The column comes easily, leaving me with enough free time to work in a trip to the gym before meeting Paul Moravec at his apartment to hear him play through his sketches for the seventh and eighth scenes of The Letter.
To Broadway after dinner for a press preview of Gypsy, where I run into Chris Jones, my opposite number at the Chicago Tribune, who is in town for Gypsy and In the Heights. I quiz him about what shows I should see when Mrs. T and I come to Chicago in June. Then I spot my companion for the evening, escort her into the St. James Theatre, and discover that our seats are five rows from the stage, meaning that listening to Patti LuPone sing “Rose’s Turn” feels like sitting in a wind tunnel.
“You know what Gypsy is?” my friend says as we file out of the theater three hours later. “It’s the Platonic ideal of the golden-age Broadway musical.”
“Can I steal that?” I ask.
“I want points,” she replies.
• WEDNESDAY To Washington, D.C., via the Acela Express for the March meeting of the National Council on the Arts. I write Friday’s drama column on the train, e-mail it to the Journal from the lobby of Union Station, then take a cab to the Smithsonian Museum of American Art to see Color as Field, a touring exhibition curated by Karen Wilkin about which I’m thinking of writing a column for the Journal.
From there I go straight to the National Endowment for the Arts, where I spend the rest of the afternoon in conference, then board a bus for Kennedy Center to see August Wilson’s Jitney with my fellow council members. I arrive at the hotel at ten o’clock, check in, call Mrs. T and my mother, and fall into bed.
• THURSDAY I wake at six-thirty and spend an hour writing before going down to breakfast, then take a cab to the NEA and spend the next nine hours reviewing a thousand (count ’em, a thousand) grant applications and discussing various other arts-related matters with the council and permanent staff. Lunch consists of sandwiches snarfed down at the conference table. The meeting runs long, forcing me to sneak out to meet Megan McArdle for dinner and Macbeth at the Folger Theatre.
• FRIDAY I read today’s drama column over breakfast in the hotel restaurant, whose buffet features smoked salmon, one of my food groups. It’s the first time in months that I’ve looked at a copy of the Journal on paper (I now read newspapers and magazines online or not at all).
Back to the NEA for one more meeting, a public session at which the NCA votes on grant applications and listens to a presentation about jazz by Paquito d’Rivera and Gunther Schuller. Schuller and I have spoken briefly on the phone but never met face to face, so I spend a few minutes after the meeting chatting with him about my Louis Armstrong biography, in which he figures prominently. Then I go to Union Station and catch the next train to New York, catching up on my accumulated e-mail during the three-hour trip.
At home I open my accumulated snail mail, correct the galleys of my Commentary essay, and grab a quick nap. In the evening I take a blogfriend to a press preview of South Pacific at Lincoln Center. Afterward we wolf down burgers across the street at P.J. Clarke’s and catch up on recent events. She goes home and blogs about the performance. I call Mrs. T and fall into bed.
• SATURDAY Up at six-thirty, arrgh. I spend the morning writing a book review, working on expense reports, and running errands. At three o’clock I board a train bound for Hartford and start reading the newly published final installment of Henry-Louis de La Grange’s multi-volume Gustav Mahler biography, which is 1,758 pages long (the last volume, not the whole thing!).
Mrs. T picks me up at the station and delivers a sternly worded ultimatum: no more work until Monday, or else. I do as I’m told.