Friday, November 21, 2008

Another Perfect Day in Paradise

I got a call from a friend chairing one of the major charity balls. It’s a thousand dollars a ticket, and she’s in trouble. She projects this cavalier what-will-be-will-be nonchalance but I know how worried she is. People aren’t going to come. This is one of the big three and she probably will have enough tables so she can justify the evening but there will be all sorts of events this season that should be cancelled. But they won’t be cancelled. The egos are too big. So they’ll paper the house and cut down what the charity gets and people will eat their fancy meals and drink their fancy wine and pretend it’s all the same. But it’s not. In this economic climate, it’s simply inappropriate to show off in such flamboyant fashion unless there is an extraordinary payoff to the charity.

My wife dragged me to Saks this afternoon. Nobody was there. Nobody. The prices were criminally low and I bought a suit for my book tour and two pairs of shoes. I felt guilty and wouldn’t have done it except that the salesman, William Quinn, was so incredibly well read and so incredibly charming and so incredibly well dressed that I had no choice. But the point is that despite unprecedented sales nobody is shopping. We were the only people there. It was astounding. We were in Jimmy Choo and the salesman there was outraged that his best customers were coming in and proudly telling him they weren’t buying. That’s just the kind of thing to make a guy feel great. Imagine what it’s like working for commission on Worth Avenue and the only place where people are buying anything is at Starbuck’s. Nothing like a nonfat latte grande as the world falls apart.

Let’s talk about money. Somebody was telling me about their friend who was worth $600 million six months ago. Now the poor bastard is worth $500 million. I know it’s tragic and I’m sorry even to mention such devastating news. Anyway, the half billionaire takes his friends out to dinner. They think they’re going to Café L’Europe or some fancy place. They go to a cheap pizza joint in West Palm and Mr. Half Billionaire is ecstatic. Everybody down here is cutting down even people who have immense fortunes. There’s a sense of fear. That’s the overwhelming emotion. Nobody ever says it. But it’s there.

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