Friday, January 5, 2018

Love, Marriage, and a lotta dry powder

A blustery scene along Park Avenue. 10:30 AM.
Friday, January 5, 2018. Well, yesterday we got the snow the weatherman predicted for New York City, ranging from 6.5 inches to 12 inches. In Manhattan it ranged from 7.5 inches to 9 inches which is what is the official snowfall in my neighborhood. Seems a little high from having been out in it (to go to the store), but I’m not the expert. There was a lot of it. I happened to wake up at 5 a.m. and the first thing I did was check to see if it was snowing. It wasn’t. I went back to bed and when I woke up at 8:30, it was. And it continued, often with winds until around 2:30 when it began to taper off.  Now the weatherman is saying we’re in for more on Monday.

The weather has been strange (or unexpected) all over the country. My friend Peter Rogers called from New Orleans this morning where it wasn’t snowing but it was so cold it withered his garden. He said he’d never seen cold like that down there in NOLA.

It’s interesting how a storm like this can take over just about all of your consciousness. I kept getting up from my desk and taking photos of it, trying to capture the volume and the storminess (didn’t translate on the photos). JH went outside at one point with his compact camera for a few minutes and was more successful. FedEx and UPS were out, and across the avenue.
This whole week has had the feeling of the week before between the holidays. Very quiet, almost as if nothing is going on anywhere. That’s not true of course, here in the city that never sleeps, although yesterday’s storm provided a confirmation with an exclamation mark. Wednesday lunch I went to Michael’s and later that eveneing I had dinner with Sharon King Hoge at Sette Mezzo; and the place was crowded. Sharon, who is an authentic world traveler, just returned from Kazakhstan on the Caspian in Central Asia. A couple of months before she accompanied the American Friends of Versailles on a trip to Portugal (which is featured on today’s NYSD).

During the holidays, I’ve been spending my spare time reading John O’Hara. I have been a fan since my late teens. Famous for his first novel “Appointment In Samarra” and the follow-up “Butterfield 8,” he was very prolific both with novels, and scores of short stories – very often for The New Yorker, from the late 1920s right up to the time of his death at age 65 in 1970. It was O’Hara who inspired me to write.

By the end of the holiday events, as a kind of get-away, I decided to go back to my library of his works that I haven’t read in about fifty years. I first took out a book of short stories – “A Hat On the Bed” published in 1962. I can still remember when and where I first saw it and bought it (a bookstore on 42nd Street in the Grand Central Terminal).  I read it at the time of purchase but this time, five decades later, I read the stories with a greater understanding of his characters, their personalities, their secrets, their illusions, realities, and mysteries such as how we avoid truths about ourselves.

A number of years ago, I was invited to attend a book group meeting where the members had just read  “Appointment in Samarra.” They’d invited Fran Lebowitz — also a big O’Hara fan — to talk about the man and his work. She began by referring to him as the “real Scott Fitzgerald” of the 20th century American scene because unlike Fitzgerald who wrote mainly about the upper-middle classes and society, John O’Hara wrote authentically and compellingly about all of the American classes from the lower-working to the elite, as well as the celebrity class of theatre and film.

The top shelf houses my collection of O'Hara novels and short stories.
Meanwhile back in little ole New York, life goes on. And off, depending. The other day I coincidentally heard a story about a married couple that reminded me of O’Hara’s characters. This one is about Love and Marriage, 21st century style. New York-style too. It begins with the end — which has yet to occur but is said to be going down that road: Divorce.

He is one of the wealthiest men in New York. Entirely self-made with his own particular brand of brilliance, I was told by a man who knows these things and knows the players, that there is only one other man in his field who may be more successful. Making money. Billions. Otherwise he is arguably without peer. She, the wife, mother, grandmother, friend, married young. Not quite childhood sweethearts, but close. Forty years later, she wants out.

He’s long had a reputation for a fondness for pretty ladies. Whether or not she knew about this, it is presumed that she did, as many of friends and acquaintances did. Although, it is true that the wife is often the last to know. Most of us know of many similar instances. Many of us have experienced it personally and even more than once.

This marriage, however, has lasted for four decades. And with his great financial success, they are regarded as pillars in their community. They are also known as very religious, even strictly so. Because she is an active supporter of the Arts, the world that is New York is somewhat familiar with her presence. He, however, is an intensely private person, yet famous in his business among both peers and underlings. Otherwise he avoids the limelight. There are only a few photos of him in the public domain, which is the way he likes it.

The reason that explains this break up is that she is leaving him. For another woman, somewhat younger, who also shares her interest in the Arts. This fact in itself is surprising in the context of this couple’s religious beliefs, although, such a choice has become matter-of-fact, even ordinary in these changing times. The New York Times Sunday wedding announcements frequently attests to this weekly.

More surprising to their friends is the actual matter of divorce. Her relationships outside the marriage are not news to friends who’ve known them for a long time. It is assumed that he knew too. However, he, at the core, is said to be a man who loves his money. Yet by law with a divorce, she has claim to half of everything; and there’s a lot of everything.

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