North Fork, South Fork, Stolen Fork
“North Fork, South Fork, Stolen Fork” If Mike had let me steal the fork that innocently ended up in my sweatshirt during the buffet dinner at the estate on Bay Road in Quogue last month, I wouldn’t be blowing the whole $25 it costs to enter this contest. I know Dan’s Papers is local institution, but for $25 they ought to throw in a T-shirt. I was Mike’s guest at a big, family reunion and the silverware only ended up where it did because I was standing around awkwardly talking to the other guests. You don’t really need a fork to eat a hamburger. But between trying not to spew catsup all over the place and introducing myself to everybody except the kids, who apparently you didn’t have to do that with even though some of them were teenagers and more or less sentient, I slipped the fork into my sweatshirt pocket without thinking about it. I showed it to Mike as we were walking out of the house to his mini-van so he could drive me back to the Westhampton train station. He took it and put it back in the kitchen. I didn’t mind at the time, but now I’m not so sure. Maybe the fork wouldn’t have offset the whole entry fee, but I could have given it to my friend Fernando and he would have sold it to somebody. He got his first felony two years ago at 60, but it wasn’t that he hadn’t been trying. I hope I’m not giving the impression that I’m some low-life, who when he is in the East End, is only looking for things to steal. It’s just that we all tend to look at the world, in part, from the perspective of our friends and my friend Fernando is a thief. I’m not a thief ; I’m a writer. Sure, there are similarities, and as the writer Janet Malcolm has pointed out, who doesn’t rip off his sources? I didn’t take the silverware. If I’d really been serious about theft, I would’nt have showed it to Mike. Anyway, just because I’m friends with Fernando, it doesn’t mean that all my friends are thieves. I do steal stories and when you are a story thief, you gravitate toward people who have them, whether they are petty thieves, princesses or residents of a Quogue estate. In this piece that I’ll be paying $25 for somebody to read, my T-shirt size is large, I’m going to tell one of Fernando’s stories and mix it in with a story I stole from another acquaintance, this German lady who used to be the party animal of European royalty in the 1980s, Princess Gloria von thurn und taxis. She has homes all over the world, but her base is her 900-room schloss in Regensburg, Barvaria. Gloria’s house has so much history, it’s ridiculous. Suffice it to say, whatever discussions of “old money” may occur in the East End, Gloria’s crib trumps any local potato farmer’s or any founder of the Meadow Club’s digs. It was built with the proceeds from her in-laws monopoly on mail delivery in the Holy Roman Empire. My other pal, Fernando, is like the mayor of the Riis Houses on the block of East 6th Street between Avenue D and the FDR Drive in New York City, where he’s lived for the last 30 years. There are many differences between Fernando’s home and the estate on Bay Road in Quoque, not to mention Gloria’s schloss. For one thing, there is less of an origin myth about the Riis Houses than the other two homes. The New York City Housing Authority built them in the 1940s. As you would expect, the estate in Quogue has a classier provenance. The house used to be on the other side of Quantock Bay on Dune Road in Westhampton, but an earlier generation of my hosts’ family sold the land the house was on and floated it across the bay. Fernando’s felony conviction was for selling heroin. He told me the cops said in court that they had him on video selling heroin in his building’s lobby. But he said he knew the cops were lying because he stole the cameras a few weeks earlier. Gloria hired me to play tennis with her and she fired me when I told her I’d figured out who she is. But before that, she wanted to play at that tennis club near the Westhampton train station. We had been playing at the public courts where nobody cared. But at a private club, they don’t want freelance tennis instructors using their facility because the house always, like in a bordello or a hair saloon, wants its cut. As we were walking out to the court that day in Westhampton, I asked Gloria to give me a kiss on the cheek. She did. Then I said, if anybody complained that it looked like I was giving her a lesson, to start giving me a lot more kisses so it would look like ours wasn’t a commercial relationship. So, yes, last year I asked a princess to give me a kiss and she did. The downside is I’m still a frog. Regardless of whether my sources live in the Riis Houses, Regensburg or Quogue, an address is a lifestyle. In Quogue, our host’s son told me about stand-up paddleboarding. One time before I knew who she was, I told Gloria about how I had googled another family I taught and found an appreciative review of an $800 bottle of wine they had served at their villa in Copenhagen. She said, “An $800 dollar bottle of wine is a beautiful thing, but there’s no sense wasting money.” Little did I know that for her, when she was partying with Mick and Jerry Hall and the designer Karl Lagerfeld, she was probably gargling with $800 bottles of wine. In terms of silverware and spare bedrooms, Fernando’s place can’t compete with the other two residences. But he easily holds his own as a colorful guy. He’s got, like, ten kids and most of the boys are or have been convicts. One or two of them are big shots in the Latin Kings. Even though it took him until retirement age to get his felony and you could look at him as a late bloomer, Fernando has gotten arrested a lot. When he landed in jail on all the misdemeanors, it was like a class reunion for him. Plus, when your boys are big in the Kings, guys move over if you want to sit down on the bunk. It’s been just drugs and stealing and trying to get over on all the agencies he could, excluding the World Bank and Court of St. James because they really aren’t much of a presence on East Sixth Street. I hope the personal faults and predilections I’ve revealed in this story about how I almost stole a fork in Quogue and a few tastes of stories I did steal, won’t deter Dan’s Papers from inviting me, along with those meek souls who entered this contest and haven’t requested the T-shirts I strongly believe we are entitled to, to the awards ceremony. I imagine there will be a reception, but these catered things usually use plastic utensils, so there should be no worries there. Loose stories, well, if they fit into one of my pockets . . .