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Archive for the ‘Preppy’ Category

The other day, I got together with my dear friend Tracy (aka ‘The Extreme‘) [1] in advance of her upcoming (and, no doubt, life-threatening) trip to Bolivia.

Eventually our conversation turned to The South and Southern Sweet Tea.

sweet-tea

I promised that I would forward to her the original recipe (courtesy of a dear friend in The South) as well as my variation of said recipe.

Proper Southern Sweet Tea

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups water
  • 2 family-size tea bags
  • 3/4 cup sugar (If you like it really sweet, add a full cup)
  • 7 cups cold water

Preparation:

  1. Bring 3 cups water to a boil in a saucepan; add tea bags. Boil 1 minute; remove from heat. Cover and steep 10 minutes.
  2. Discard tea bags. Add sugar, stirring until dissolved. Pour into a 1-gal. container, and add 7 cups cold water. Serve over ice.

That’s the standard recipe.

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Here’s my modification….

A Damn Northerner’s Sweet Tea Abomination

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups water (or a quart/litre mason jar’s worth)
  • 2 family-size tea bags
  • 3/4 cup sugar (If you like it really sweet, add a full cup)

Preparation:

  1. Bring 4 cups water to a boil in a saucepan; add tea bags. [2]
  2. Remove from heat. Cover and steep 10 minutes.
  3. Discard tea bags. Add sugar, stirring until dissolved.
  4. Allow to cool. This is my sweet tea concentrate.
  5. Pour into a 1-qt/1-l mason jar. Put a lid on it. Refrigerate.
  6. Get pint-size mason jar. Fill with ice. Fill halfway with cold water. Add a few drops of lemon juice (optional).
  7. Top with refrigerated sweet tea concentrate.

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[1] My dear friend Tracy is none other than The Extreme. She is also the inspiration for one of the lead characters in my Twitter novel, The Great Dead North.

[2] Use a strong tea. I use Tetley Bold orange pekoe tea. 

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I’m a bit of a sword nut.

So is my son, really.

My apartment has been described as ‘bristling with weaponry!’

fencing-chart

Judge my delight, then, when I ran across this little chart.

Love it. Had to share it!

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For those who have not yet had the pleasure, William Hamilton is a brilliant cartoonist. His works are most often found in The New Yorker magazine. He is also a lawyer and a playwright.  Few people capture the privileged preppy world as well as he.

(Post ‘Official Preppy Handbook’?… or maybe some downward social mobility?)

William Hamilton [1], in a very real way, got me through law school and my bar exams in terms of social interaction. He remains to this day my steadfast companion when I attend virtually any (non-Jewish) social functions, especially of a professional nature.

(The whole ‘Us’ and ‘Them’ aspect is an ongoing theme)

Hamilton’s cartoons shed light on what is, to most of us, a very closed segment of society. It is a world populated by preppies, high-society types, Park Avenue wives and daughters, corporate big wigs, business executives, high-end lawyers, and members of exclusive yacht clubs and country clubs.

(It’s when you overhear people actually talking like this that you ‘get’ Hamilton)

I was introduced to Hamilton the way most of his admirers were… through his New Yorker cartoons. I was still working in the theatre in those days, so many of the nuances of his humour went over my head. I experienced a similar situation later on when I began to follow Scott Adams’s Dilbert cartoons. It was only when I worked in a government agency where the office was set up in a standard ‘cube farm’ plan (i.e. many cubicles set up throughout the office space in a manner remeniscent of a petting zoo) that I truly ‘got’ his humour.

(Always a bit awkward in certain situations, I particularly enjoy the party cartoons)

Similarly, while I enjoyed Hamilton’s characters and situations  and admired his wit and gift for language, it wasn’t until I was put into a position where I had regular contact with a lot of preppies that I fully appreciated his work.

Other settings for Hamilton’s works include gentlemen’s clubs, office board rooms, cocktail parties, the insides of chauffeured limosines… anywhere where his people can let their sparkling dialogue glitter all the more.

(I often say this in court, regarding sentencing someone to ‘community service’)

Over the years, many Hamiltonianisms have crept into my conversation. I can’t help it. Sometimes I am in one situation or another, I open my mouth and out comes one of Hamilton’s snippets of dialogue line right out of the pages of The New Yorker magazine.

Here is a recent example…

I didn’t plan it. It just slipped out. It was tucked away in some ivy league corner of my brain and, at the right moment, sallied forth and presented itself. And, all credit to Mr. Hamilton, it got a positive response from those within earshot.

Here’s another one…

(Of course, the listener has to be old enough to get the reference)

Many of Hamilton’s best pieces revolve around introductions at parties, functions and get-togethers.

For those who’ve found Hamilton’s cartoons amusing, I highly recommend going over to The New Yorker magazine’s The Cartoon Bank and enjoying as much as you can stand.

Until then, I will leave you with some of my favourite Hamilton quips…

Of course you’re going to be depressed if you keep comparing yourself with successful people.

Old is when your daughter announces she’s seeing a younger man.

Someday, you may thank me for breaking what was becoming, in this family, a vicious cycle of inheritance.

You know, when I get over my thing for bad boys, Chip, you’re going to be one of the first to know.

I’ll see if he’s emotionally available.

She’s a Rolex. He’s a Timex.

Oh, God. Here comes the global-village idiot.

Boys, boys. You’re getting loud and no one gives a damn how big your salaries used to be.

I tried a slice of pizza yesterday, and frankly I don’t get it.

Frankly, what’s killing me about this marriage is realizing how entirely preventable it was.

Thank you, Mr. Hamilton, for making my life a better, wittier place.

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[1] Along with Lisa Birnbach, author of The Official Preppy Handbook and True Prep, and English writer P.G. Wodehouse, author of the Jeeves & Wooster novels and many other humourous books. After my call to the bar, screenwriter and director Whit Stilman rounded out my ‘social advisory committee.’ Without them, I would be lost.

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British campaign furniture!

(British Campaign Furniture)

During the Georgian and Victorian periods (1714-1901), campaign furniture allowed military officers and gentlemen in the field to enjoy a similar standard of living as at home in Britain. They invested large amounts of money to enjoy a high degree of comfort, and this was enhanced by furniture made to quickly fold or pack down for ease of transport. Specially designed pieces of campaign, or knockdown, furniture included, chests, writing desks, bookcases, games tables, chairs, beds, sofa-beds, washstands, and, in some cases, bidets or toilets.

(Brass reinforced corners to protect from being banged around during transit)

Travel in the late 18th and early 19th Centuries was slow and rugged, and campaign furniture was designed specifically to be folded and packed into manageable loads that could be quickly and easily stowed in the close quarters of a ship or for being carried by porters and animals on overland trips in foreign lands.

(Fold down for ease in transport – note how handles fold flush with the sides)

My first introduction to this marvelous style was when I was strolling through The Bombay Company many years ago. During those days, they had a series of coffee tables, secretariats, side tables and various other products made in the British campaign style. I remember being taken with the look almost immediately. The clean lines, the natural wood, the brass fittings… all spoke to me of a time when the practicalities of life in the field did not mean giving up the niceties of life! In fact, the harder the cross-country ordeal, the more of a need to be reminded of England and what exactly one was fighting for out in the wilds. It is precisely when one is put in primitive conditions that one should cling all the more strongly to one’s civilized manner and style of life.

Campaign furniture, for me, evokes a by-gone era when the British Empire was in its ascendency… when Britannia Ruled the Waves and the Raj was in full swing. The romantic image (as opposed to the harsh reality) is what appeals to me.

(All the luxuries of home!)

Sadly, when I was finally in a position to be able to purchase some decent (reproduction) furniture, the Bombay Company no longer carried items in the British Campaign style. Alas.

(Writing desk, complete with book compartments, papers, pens, inkwells, etc.)

One day, I will have a little room or area of my apartment or house which I will furnish and set out in the British Campaign motif. It is, to my mind, a very masculine style… perfect for a ‘man cave’ or even a ‘man corner.’

I can hardly wait!

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Untrammelled malevolence.

What a great expression!

The one and only time I heard this little word gem was in the 1990 film Metropolitan by Whit Stillman. [1]

(Poster for the 1990 Whit Stillman film ‘Metropolitan’)

In it, the character Nick Smith is bemoaning the upcoming visit with his father and his new wife. She invited him over to spend some of the Xmas holidays with them and Nick is suspicious of her motives.

“I’m about to go upstate to the domain of a stepmother of untrammelled malevolence, very possibly to be killed… and I get this!” ‘This’ being what Nick calls ‘whining criticism’ of his behaviour.

(Nick Smith: “Those surrealists were just a bunch of social climbers”)

To give you a taste of some of the ‘whining criticism’ levelled his way…

Jane:   You’re completely impossible and out of control with some sort of a drug problem and a fixation on what you consider Rick Von Sloneker’s wickedness [2]. You’re a snob, a sexist, totally obnoxious and tiresome, and lately you’ve gotten just weird. Why should we believe anything you say?

Nick:  I am not tiresome. [3]

As I believe I have mentioned in a previous article, I went to a very preppy law school. I finished writing my Bar Admission Exams and was called to the Bar the year Metropolitan was released. Many of the movie’s characters reminded me of the preppies with whom I studied.

I wasn’t allowed into their inner circle (no surprises there). They wouldn’t have exactly considered me PLU. Besides, to a large extent, I was the ‘token ethnic’ at school. [4] Hardly a welcome addition to their social group.

(Nick [to Tom]: “There’s something a tiny bit arrogant about people going around feeling sorry for other people they consider ‘less fortunate’… Has it ever occurred to you that you are the less fortunate?”)

Nick Smith is the person I wish I was when I was at law school. Suave, preppy, sophisticated, clever, good-looking, witty, cynical, charming, well-mannered, well-spoken and a member in good standing of the urban haute bourgeoisie. In other words, the kind of person I’d never met before going to law school.

While I myself am not a person of untrammelled malevolence, I’d like to be the kind of guy who can use the expression ‘untrammelled malevolence’ in conversation without coming across as Zero Mostel at a debutante ball.

(The exact opposite of what I would look like in top hat, white tie and tails)

 Luckily, I was never foolhardy enough to try to pass myself off as one of the UC. The entire enterprise would have been doomed from the start. Like the narrators say in those wildlife programs, “Sadly, there could be but one outcome.”

So a tip of the top hat and a clink of the champagne glass to Nick Smith, a young man of untrammelled malevolence when it comes to the titled aristocracy! [5]

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[1] I highly recommend you read Sam Juliano’s ‘Wonders in the Dark‘ WordPress blog article on Metropolitan.

[2] Re Rick’s fixation: “Rick Von Slonecker is tall, rich, good-looking, stupid, dishonest, conceited, a bully, liar, drunk and thief, an egomaniac, and probably psychotic. In short, highly attractive to women.”

[3] To see the scene in context, click here.

[4] To give you an idea of just how preppy my law school was, I… an Italian Jew… was the token ethnic (two birds with one stone!) In a student body of 450, there was one black guy… and he was the preppiest of the bunch! 🙂

[5] A party at Sally Fowler’s apartment:

Nick: The titled aristocracy are the scum of the earth. What really makes me furious is the idea of a whole class of people, mostly Europeans, all looking down on me.

Sally: You always say ‘titled’ aristocrats. What about ‘untitled’ aristocrats?

Nick: Well, I couldn’t very well despise them, could I? That would be self-hatred, which is unhealthy.

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