We rented an apartment in a workers’ district, and furnished it on the instalment plan. That apartment, at eighteen dollars a month, was equipped with all sorts of conveniences that we Europeans were quite unused to: electric lights, gas cooking- range, bath, telephone, automatic service-elevator, and even a chute for the garbage. These things completely won the boys over to New York. For a time the telephone was their main interest; we had not had this mysterious instrument either in Vienna or Paris. The janitor of the house was a negro. My wife paid him three months’ rent in advance, but he gave her no receipt because the landlord had taken the receipt-book away the day before, to verify the accounts. When we moved into the house two days later, we discovered that the Negro had absconded with the rent of several of the tenants. Besides the money, we had intrusted to him the storage of some of our belongings. The whole incident upset us; it was such a bad beginning. But we found our property after all, and when we opened the wooden box that contained our crockery, we were surprised to find our money hidden away in it, carefully wrapped up in paper. The janitor had taken the money of the tenants who had already received their receipts; he did not mind robbing the landlord, but he was considerate enough not to rob the tenants. A delicate fellow, indeed. My wife and I were deeply touched by his consideration, and we always think of him gratefully. This little incident took on a symptomatic significance for me – it seemed as if a corner of the veil that concealed the “black” problem in the United States had lifted.
This evening I attended a concert at the Musical Drama Theatre. The symphony by Myaskovsky, who has legions of admirers, struck me as rather run-of-the-mill. When heard side by side with Myaskovsky’s music, the Prokofiev concerto is pure genius! Petrushka, which I’ve not heard in a while, disappoints me somewhat (although I concealed this from my friend), perhaps because of the incomprehensible “shift” that occurs when the “mummers” music comes in. Diaghilev and I have both pointed this out to Igor, but he refused to make any changes whatsoever.
After lunch we went to the cinema at the "Modern" to see "Instituka", a comedy starring F. Bertini.
Today I played my first piano concerto at the Imperial Russian Music Society. Concerts at the IRMS have of late been triumphant affairs played to sell-out audiences. The concerto came off very well at the rehearsal, and sounded even better in the evening. It was a great success, and two admirers, who never miss an opportunity to give me flowers at my concerts, presented me today with a wreath bearing the words “to our young genius”.
Last night we were burning the candle at both ends, and this morning woke with a frightful headache. We spent the entire day on the street, leaning on each other for support and crawling our way through the city. Our beating headaches spoiled most of the day for us, but our spirits restored towards the evening, and we ordered a samovar and food to our room in preparation for Leonid’s visit, who spent the whole evening with us and taught us how to play Japanese Bridge.
Where are the city’s potatoes? The rascals have raised their prices to 55 kopecks for two ounces. With the rascals exasperating the populace with their prices for this produce and prepared to transform it into a delicacy inaccessible to the poor, people have the right to ask: “City potatoes bought in bulk from Estland [Estonia], where are you?” Why do you lie idly under wraps, why do you not go on sale to the public? It’s high time, city potatoes, for you to provide some competition to the potatoes being sold by the rascal greengrocers. Or could it be that you became a casualty of your winter journey from Estland to Petrograd? Or have you sprouted or rotted? Respond, then! Where are you, and what has befallen you?
The war’s borders have extended yet again. The world is filled with the blood and tears of mothers and wives. And there is no end in sight ...
There’s a fierce cold in the air and, even when ensconced in a café, you still can’t quite warm up properly. I’m still hatching plans to “abscond” to Geneva for a couple of weeks once I’ve got all this urgent work finished.
The first official expression of Russia’s attitude toward the address of President Wilson before the Senate was made today in the form of the following statement from the Foreign Office:
“Russia always has been in full sympathy with the broad humanitarian principies expressed by the President of the United States, and his message to the Senate , therefore, has made a most favorable impression upon the Russian Government. Russia will welcome all suitable measures which will help prevent a recurrence of the world war. Accordingly we can gladly indorse President Wilson’s communication.
“President Wilson’s views on free access to the seas find an advocate in Russia, because she considers it necessary to have free access to the seas''