Thursday, September 16, 2010

Can't Buy Me Class, No: An Afternoon at the Carlyle

There are 8 million, self-indulgent and meandering, stories in the Naked City. This is one of them.

Recently, a friend and I moved on up to the East Side - not to live, mind you - but to enjoy some afternoon tea. So, while we did not get our piece of the pie, we did have some pretty flavorful pastries. At one juncture, I might have even detected the aromas of fish frying in the kitchen and beans burning on the grill, but it is very possible that I was mistaken. And while the scones, sandwiches, tea and aforementioned sweets were all quite pleasant, the moneyed, Upper East Side company that surrounded us, unfortunately, was not.

As is common with many New Yorkers, I’m a neighborhood type. I live 3 blocks from work and can easily take care of most of the necessities in life in those very 3 blocks. My vet is 2 blocks south, my optometrist, 1 ½. Any grocery needs can be fulfilled on my corner. My tavern, in which I envision myself, a more lithe, 21st century Norm Peterson, also falls within this perimeter; as does my dry cleaner, drug store, health food store, laundromat, numerous theatres, and copious and varied restaurants - and once upon a blissful time, when this service was still a requirement - I had two different barbers within that small neighborhood confine. If McSorley’s thought it desirous to relocate to Midtown Manhattan, I’d be experiencing a personal Nirvana. Some may sense a certain loser-like quality in my provincial faithfulness, and in my reticence in journeying beyond the boundaries of Hell’s Kitchen, I prefer to view it as loyalty and fidelity. The Carlyle Hotel, setting of the afternoon tea, is located on 76th Street and Madison Avenue, squarely in Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Like Sarah Palin at a Mensa meeting, like Sharron Angle at a gun-control rally, like Christine O’Donnell at Plato’s Retreat (a reference simultaneously topical and dated) I was a stranger in a strange land, an unwelcome and uninvited intruder in my own borough, a mere 10 minute cab ride from my apartment. On occasion the twains do meet, some people work it out. During their long and healthy relationship, Mia Farrow, and her ever-expanding brood, maintained an apartment on the West Side of Central Park, while Woody Allen, and his ever-expanding brooding, kept a home on the East.

Our fellow “tea-totalers” for the day consisted of a whimpering, screaming, crying, fit-throwing, tyke; a snoozing and eventually snoring, wealthy man of leisure; a middle-aged, nattily attired gentleman, accompanied by his, hired for the day, extremely younger, pretty-boy, uncomfortably out of his element, companion; and lastly a foreign, female art collector, heretofore referred to as the “f-bomb lady.” And so we spent our afternoon amidst these representatives of our country’s wealthy ruling class - the people who have bought and own the Republican Party. Regarding little Eloise, surely afternoon tea at a posh hotel is not really entertaining for a toddler no matter her aristocratic upbringing. Fault for this misbehavior, clearly lies on the shoulders of mater and pater, and their better choice would have been to leave the little one at home with her illegal immigrant nanny. The male escort, on the other hand, was perfectly well behaved, but just a tad squirmy and obviously uncomfortable. His behavior later on, I cannot knowledgably address. The snorer was at least still and settled, but his sawing of the wood was quite the distracting aural presence as it was happening just a mere few inches from my friend’s ears. But the crown for most annoying, and most disturbing elite at the Carlyle Hotel on that fine summer day belonged, without any true competition, to the f-bomb lady. With her thick French accent, and regal old-money carriage, she loudly and with great frequency and consistency, railed against the many troubles that can upset one of independent means - and she did so with the command of a vocabulary that would make Andrew Dice Clay blush and Redd Foxx roll over in his grave. As she was sitting at the table alongside ours she did make our intended relaxing afternoon, somewhat less than relaxing, but there was still a minor entertainment factor involved as one does not hear that combination of Sutton Pace and Bowery Boy very often. To her credit, she expertly intertwined references to Picasso paintings, 2 million dollar payments, 5 million dollar payments and even Bernie Madoff, with every possible permutation of the word “fudge“ (this blog doesn’t go blue) - noun, verb, adjective - and I’m sure the busboys were quite sympathetic to her woeful plight. Fortunately, our meal was soon completed and our sociological journey concluded. We left this land of make believe to return to a place of actual, real people with relatable problems. I headed to the 99 cents aisle of my local hardware store and then onto Duane Reade to peruse the week’s sales circular.

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