Tag Archive: humour

The Sartorial Conman

A jaunt around some of New York’s most exclusive member’s clubs.

If you can escape the clutches of Manhattan’s commercial district- a tangled orgy of concrete, glass and steel, tempered by unfettered human ambition -then lower mid-town offers a brief moment of respite before flinging you back into the depths of the city. Here the sun’s rays, having no longer to contend with the invasive reach of New York’s sky scrapers, flood through the sky-line and bathe among the broad avenues.

Jutting out from it’s perch off Park Avenue and in the heart of Murray Hill, the Union League Club is a prestigious social club that boasts a gilded list of alumni including J.P. Morgan, Ulysses S. Grant, and Theodore Roosevelt. Robed in the candid American décor of early-twentieth century New York, the building’s earthen red façade is a timely reminder to the world that, “they make take our AAA credit rating, but they will never our Americanism!”

The Union League Club

Having being buffeted by such flag-waving machismo, presumably plucked straight from the timbers of the Bush family ranch, I made a subsequent discovery. The prestigious club stocked Johnson’s baby shampoo (which sincerely promised ‘no tears’) in its showers.

I am in possession of such an intimate knowledge of the Union League Club and other similar establishments because I have furnished my past month in New York conducting a social experiment. Drawing encouragement from the success of the world’s banking elite in evading significant retribution for the financial crisis, I concluded that we are bound by human nature rarely to question someone wearing a suit. After all, with some exceptions, they are usually correct with colour combinations.

Therefore armed with a dark blue pin-striped suit (and occasionally a briefcase, depending on my confidence levels), I have successfully strolled into some of New York’s most elite member’s clubs. The main perk being that the majority of these clubs have state-of-the-art facilities, including steam rooms, billiards tables and, in the case of the Union League Club, a golf simulator.

Breaching the clubs’ reception area, though, is a mere skirmish. From then on, your every movement and interaction must be governed by the chief priority of convincing members and staff that you are a fully-fledged member of the elitist establishment. The gleaming facilities at your fingertips are merely a third home, alongside that Upper-East penthouse and manor in the Hamptons.

Said Manor

Being among a herd of sliver Republican moustaches, I tended to stand out. As a result I took to painting myself as a flamboyant British aristocrat, in the mould of Oscar Wilde’s Algernon Moncrieff, to vault into the upper echelons of New York society.  My personal tale was one of shackled potential in rural Buckinghamshire that had driven me to cross the pond in a bid to unleash my creative beast (and wallet) upon the unsuspecting city.

I soon discovered that interactions with staff aided in smoothing the occasionally rough edges of the character. For example, to overcome the potentially awkward situation of being approached quizzically after making lavish use of the fitness equipment I merely brought the attack to the club’s employees; “Ahh “insert name on card here”, just hammered out 75 on the quadrilater, now that’s a p.b if I ever saw one. Am I right!” Accompany that with a pat on the shoulder and the club house is yours.

Conversations with members must be approached more cautiously. When the live stream of Fox News, radiating through the locker room, churned out a story of Tea Party member Christine O’Donnell allegedly practising witchcraft in her rebellious younger years (I guess it’s conservative Americans equivalent of listening to rap music), I had to suppress any laughter for fear that the Tea party had infiltrated the Union League. Perhaps by putting something in the drinks?

The Propaganda machine takes aim at Christine O' Donnell

When thrust into more intimate scenarios, such as the flabby depths of the steam room, it is advisable to preserve silence and escape, if the situation requires it, to your happy place. I once intruded on an elderly member who was going through what appeared to be some form of tantric workout on the marble benches. Through the coils of steam, I could make out his legs jutting at mathematically-implausible angles, and gyrating stubbornly. “Good amount of steam” offered the ghostly apparition in an eager New England accent. “Yep,” I replied “you can hardly see a thing”.

The beating heart of the club, and arguably American Republicanism, is to be found on the fourth floor and is aptly-named, ‘The President’s Room’. It houses a poker table, elegant leather couches and hums with exclusivity. My first and only visit to the room was greeted with the sight and smell of four stout middle-aged men with matching comb-overs. In a dense haze of cigar smoke, they were discussing voter turnout for the upcoming Presidential election beneath a portrait of Ronald Reagan, looking on approvingly. Upon my entrance, the group offered me a collective look as if I had just poured liquid shit into their whiskey glasses and a timely reminder that fictitious English aristocracy will only get you so far.

This clearly shook my hastily constructed pseudonym and, as I was leaving the club later, I heard a desperate shout snake after me, “Excuse me sir?” Needless to say, I have not been back since. After all, the Princeton Club is a leisurely stroll uptown.


Mind the Gap Year

What would we do without Gap Years; a whole year of so much to do or, in the twisted logic of a colleague, so little to do. A group of wide eyed teenagers, blindly following their golden moral compass, being lead by Fayed into a small clearing where they are to build that local hospital the disease-ridden villagers have been praying for from their apartments nearby. Then finally, at the end of it all when the cash has been counted and enough stories have been forged to fill later pub sessions, the hospital is torn down for the next group.
Hang on, so what your saying is these 18 year olds with no skills or medical knowledge do not have the ability to alleviate famine in Africa and the only actual use they have is determined by the amount of dollar their parents grudgingly coughed up for the trip? Surely not. What of those model students you always hear crowing in the background; ‘Ya, I’ve always wanted to help Romanian orphans.’ Well captain fucking fantastic Gandhi you can join the queue of all the other students desperately trying to score as many moral points as possible before they crawl, hands and knees, into their morally bankrupt university halls. The harsh truth is that in some places these aren’t Romanian orphans. They’re midgets dressed in rags who used to clean shoes but got a call from a mate in Nepal saying how much money he’s made from gap year students wanting to ‘do their bit’ for the world, and his bank account.
Now don’t get me wrong; I don’t, in any way, deny that there is suffering in places like Romania and there is definitely a lot to be done about it but there are some companies out there who have commercialized and exploited this idea of global suffering and that has to be wrong.
What’s left for the rest of us proletariat then; you could take the ‘no plans approach’ and see what happens. This involves casting aside carefully laid plans in favor of following nothing but your instinct in a far off country; which does sound a bit like the plot for Brokeback Mountain 2 but I’m told it’s a great adventure. This is all very Indiana Jones until you are kidnapped whilst backpacking in the Sudan by an Islamic fundamentalist Neo-Nazi group who hang you from your feet in a remote shed where you are forced to listen to their ringleader mock and humiliate you. ‘You Western dogs with your Samsung phones and Lynx deodorant forced to hear the radio waves of capitalist oppression in your miserable lives!’ Not for me.
It seems we have reached a conundrum on how to approach a gap year. How can we find our purpose on this great earth where the main skill we offer is how effectively we can bargain with our parents to determine our funds.
My, sound, advice is to work at a pub in Manchester; you will meet different cultures every time you walk into a Nando’s, you will get the genuine ‘sleeping rough’ experience in the local B&Bs and for those aspiring doctors out there I hear things kick off around 2 a.m. Some would say the experience of a lifetime. All I’m saying is; it ticks the right boxes for most students and a train journey will set you back a mere £35. Why not?

Having survived as a content and impartial observer for so long, I have now been sucked into the swirling vortex of scare-mongering that is ‘the economic depression.’ The extent of which was truly revealed to me on the piss-stained bathroom floor of a club which had been slapped fully on the face by the grime wave that was sweeping the shores of Brighton.
Upon such sweet ground, a young thespian, obviously upset with the amount of produce he was getting from the deal that was ‘gwan down’ decided, bravely, to confront Gobblin’ Gary: ‘My good sir, in what province were you raised in which it was acceptable to present me this bag of shit under the guise of a Q?’ Or words to that effect. 
This obviously rattled double G’s usually gold rimmed cage of morality and he had to draw upon every ‘Q’ of knowledge life had thrown at him to answer such a brutal question. Eventually, with nothing springing straight to mind, he obviously thought, fuck it worth a go: ‘It’s the credit crunch mate.’
Now, usually when such a prestigious phrase finds it’s way into the stitched up back pocket of a man like Gobblin’ Gary you know something, somewhere has been lost in translation. But the fact is there’s no translation, here is a phrase being carelessly thrown about by people who only know it as something which has cost them an unbelievable amount of money.
It is simply because some bankers assume the unwashed masses lack the IQ to wrestle with such a complex matter. By simply throwing recycled jargon straight from Economics Today Chapter 2 and the public subsequently throwing money back at them, they are preserving this equivocal equilibrium. ‘Yah, I think such a concept may just sail above the heads of some.’ Try me lads. Because, to be honest, I’ve heard better excuses for losing money from crack-addicts: ‘Shit man, I don’t know where it is now but I may have left, like a window open and then this racoon… hey can I borrow some money?’
And if we are now travelling down this route of honesty and the Pandora has truly been coaxed out of her box, these so-called ‘sub-prime mortgages’ just seem like shovelling cash at poor people in America who would do better with a pair of socks and a bowl of warm soup.
You can’t honestly tell me the complex business plan devised in the boardrooms of Manhattan involved Greasy Larry down the pub clutching a wad of cash in his sweaty palms saying, sincerely; ‘Fanks mate I shall now invest this wisely, now I couldn’t help but overhear you flutter about a phrase such like the price of gold, pray tell.’
And yet because they are paid astronomical wages and wear well tailored suits, we automatically trust them. Fuck me, imagine if it was a bunch of hippies who boned £750 billion pursuing their ‘green earth’ initiative. They would be straight on those one-way trains under the alibi of a one night only ACDC reunion concert and maybe, just maybe Gordon Brown might even treat us to a smile without having to use his wife’s hair clip to clamp his mouth open.
In fact, the only resistance we can muster up is a crew of ‘po-lice’ haters holed up in Trafalgar Square as part of a government-approved protest. One in which the only tremors which reached actual bankers were an email carbon copied to all ‘the boys’ advising them not to wear suits that day! What we need is a working class Robin Hood to emerge from these dying embers and be carried atop a Greggs’ delivery van to Fleet Street from whence he can deliver a scathing attack onto the prawn sandwich brigade as they run the gauntlet from their office to Pret a Manger.
 Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get a new suit fitted for a Delloite’s interview I have coming up. ‘It’s the credit crunch mate.’