Magazine article The Spectator

To Have and Have Not

Magazine article The Spectator

To Have and Have Not

Article excerpt

New York

My last week in the Bagel, and just as well. Things are heating up. Mind you, the last two weekends have been great. Noo Yawkers are very predictable, almost lemming-like. Come late May and June, everyone heads out of town, packing themselves into overloaded cars to travel on gridlocked highways to the Hamptons and down to the Jersey shore. Some even head for Connecticut and upstate New York, where poison ivy and lime disease are eagerly waiting for new city suckers. Never mind. It's a wellknown fact that the Bagel is never more pleasant than on the weekends, when the place slows down and relaxes. The streets are empty and navigable, taxis are everywhere and their Indian drivers looking for business, and the place feels like a small town with very large, empty buildings. When the city is kissed with sunshine and empty of its rude denizens, the ones who've stayed behind have by far the better deal.

Owning or renting a place by the sea seems to be the sine qua non of having made it in the Bagel. Class and its distinctions are still powerful forces around here, so strong, in fact, that the New York Times has run a series on 'class in America' throughout the past month. 'Class matters,' thundered the paper, and, adding to its great hold-the-front-page discovery, followed up with a 'shadowy lines that still divide' exclusive. Duh! Shadowy lines that still divide? How shadowy can money be? Very. Let's face it, America in general and Noo Yawk in particular is only about money, and, as far as most New Yorkers are concerned, more moolah means more class. It's very simple really.

In 1982, according to the US Census Bureau, there were only 12 billionaires in America. By 2003 there were 262 billionaires - with 48 of them making their home in the Big Bagel. By 2001 there were - get this - 6.5 million American millionaires, and ten million millionaire households. Talk about the poor inheriting the earth. The word millionaire is in fact so downgraded that it's better to pose as an Irishman, or even a Turk.

But back to class, or the lack of it. It's no secret that the rich are increasingly isolating themselves. This is normal. Manhattan is a tight, vertical place, with only 22 square miles of land crammed with 1.5 million souls. The have-nots live in Queens, the Bronx and in poor sections of Brooklyn. …

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