Up and West at ‘Cesca,
Four Rich Guys Convene
On the southeast corner of Amsterdam and 75th Street:
‘Cesca: prosciutto and breadsticks, hockey on TV. On the next bar stool, a beige cashmere turtleneck said this to his date: “I say, pshaw ! Pshaw, I say!” The bartender slides me a tall O.J. I start to pay. “Don’t worry about it,” he flips his hand.
A big round smile on a 5-o’clock-shadow face appears. “How’s it going?” Uh-oh. He points across the room to the two long, high wooden tables in the middle of the bar area. His four buddies are pulled up on bar stools, groomed and confident. “We thought we should get the pretty blonde to join us.”
That would be me.
They often meet at ‘Cesca, or at places like Prohibition, where they were going later tonight. “Jim” tells me about their regular ski retreats. The wives are never invited. “But usually it’s O.K., because it’s like Rob’s wife doesn’t mind, or Pete’s wife doesn’t mind.” But this year it’s South Beach, and the wives aren’t happy.
“They don’t want these guys by themselves in South Beach with the girls in bikinis and everything … you know. But they should plan their own trip. No one’s keeping them from it.”
Jim says that he brokers bonds, and his buddies are investment bankers. I ask if the wives work in banking. “No!” he says. “These guys have so much money!” Then: “These guys have so much money.”
I follow Jim to the long table and introduce myself. The so -much-money guys on the stools ask what I’m doing there. I ask myself the same question. I hear about Scott: He was engaged, then broke it off. He recently bumped into his ex-fiancee. “I saw her wearing her diamond here”-he motions to his neck-“on a chain. I should have gotten that one back.” I ask what the etiquette is on that. “You’re supposed to get the ring back,” he says. Paul was divorced recently; the other two, single on the Upper West Side.
We notice that Jim, who made the introduction, has disappeared. “We call him Houdini,” says one. “All of a sudden, you look around and he’s gone. He doesn’t say goodbye.” Someone turns Pink Martini way up on the stereo. China Forbes: “Ama-a-a-ah-do mio / Love me forever.”
At the other end of the table, a slim white hand reaches into a bowl of olives. She has red hair and green color contacts. Her date’s red sweater contorts. “You picked up a hitchhiker in New York?” he exclaims.
She speaks up quickly. “I was going through the Midtown Tunnel, and he was an older guy, and he was like, ‘You can call my wife or whatever you want to do’-I swear to God. So I picked him up, but then we were stuck in traffic for four hours on the way to Long Island. And he didn’t offer to pay for gas, tolls or anything.” She gestures emphatically.
At the next table: two girlfriends, side by side, leaning over red wine and a pile of snapshots. The petite one studies a photograph, taps her front tooth. “That one’s no good,” she says. “It shows my buck teeth.”
Back to the couple with the olives: “I don’t detect any Baltimore in there,” he says. “I haven’t heard you say cuh- oh -ke.”
A wave of hilarity from a rowdy game of Liars’ Poker in the corner.
Back to the olive couple: “I said to my mom-my mom’s skinnier than Diane Keaton-I said, ‘You see? That’s what you should look like. You have to lift some weights …. ” She leans forward. “Everything eventually goes south …. You’re not as attractive, not as interesting, not as smart-you know, there needs to be something else.”
Next to her, an attractive blonde makes out with her date.
I return to my place at the bar in front of the television. Above me, two rows of 30-candelabra lights in a very long chandelier. I order the honey goat’s milk gelato. Across the room, a woman with dark bangs shakes an enormous Hershey’s Kiss in the air: “He said it was from Christmas! It’s for Valentine’s Day!”
On the northeast
Amsterdam and 75th Street:
I cross 75th Street through five inches of snow, and Crumbs is still open. An angled mirror reflects the lineup of cakes against the back wall. I pass the case of mini-blackouts and mini–devil dogs. When I get to the counter, I ask about the Cupcake of the Day, “Fresh as a Daisy.” They were out of them.
On the northwest corner of Amsterdam and 75th Street:
From across the street, you can see-through the floor-to-ceiling glass windows-the fire in the back of Citrus. My socks are wet, and the snow is falling. I cross the street and get up close to the window. There a reactually no flames, just a wall of orange light.