Magazine article The Spectator

Manhattan at Its Best

Magazine article The Spectator

Manhattan at Its Best

Article excerpt

The block I've lived on these past 35 years is next to what no less a Manhattan authority than Woody Allen has called the most beautiful street in the city. At this time of year, the elms and poplar trees give my block a country feeling, which for me is as good as it gets.

Country living in a city is what it's all about.

An English writer once described the place as being without trees, 'but as if by a miracle little heaps of twigs and blown leaves gather in the gutters'. Looking out of my window I wonder what city she was referring to.

The Bagel is leafier than London, at least where I live, so there. The copper church roofs glisten at sunset, the lights come on in the Rockefeller Plaza, the lambent air intoxicates; the theatre crowds, the pretty girls in their summer frocks all give promises of sex and summer. This is Manhattan at its best.

And even this late in the game I still like going to parties and getting drunk. Good parties, bad parties, it's all the same under the grape. Last week I lunched at the Four Seasons restaurant with the headmaster of my old prep school and a classmate of mine.

The Seagram Building where the restaurant is located is where I held my first-ever job.

It was a ship-chartering office and my father had sent me there to learn the business. I was fired one week later for tardiness, absenteeism and insubordination. The boss who fired me was a great sailor, whose boat Ondine was among the fastest of that period. Huey Long was a fabled drinker and womaniser but insisted I be on time although we'd be out together all night. When my dad asked him why he fired me, Huey said I wasn't cut out for the office. Truer words were never spoken.

Last week after a liquid lunch I looked at the Seagram fountains and thought back to the time I first crossed the esplanade on the way to work. It all seemed so damn glamorous and not a tracksuit in sight. Huey Long's wife was a real beauty and I'd flirt with her whenever I saw her dirty hubby's hands feeling up my girlfriend's thighs.

Which they did non-stop and with every girl I brought to the table. Huey died long ago and there were puns galore about his name and lifestyle at his memorial service. He loved the fair sex even more than my father and I did, which for a Wasp is really saying something.

And speaking of that rapidly disappearing species, this is the first time since the creation of the nation that the Supreme Court does not include a Protestant justice. It is made up of Catholics and Jews, without a Wasp in sight. …

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