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Summer’s almost gone — and where did it go? Seems like it didn’t even arrive until July, and starting next week it’s back-to-school, back-from-the-Hamptons, and back to the daily grind.

But let’s not dwell on the past. September marks the beginning of Autumn in New York, and Autumn in New York is always a magical time. When the air turns crisp, the leaves turn red and gold, and Bryant Park turns into a field of white tents housing an army of long, leggy ladies, parties, drinks and fashion flow together from the pent up stores of summer, and the great river of life rolls mightily on.

If that last paragraph sounds a little purple, blame Fitzgerald. That’s the sort of magic the city casts on poor country bumpkins like mahself. As I mentioned in my last post, of my many historical fetishes/fantasies, New York in the 1920s is top of the list. For many years I’ve been looking for a good excuse to put on my tuxedo and drink Manhattans, and occasionally I find them. But it wasn’t until the social networking miracle of Facebook did I find folks who also like to dress for dinner and have a drink that requires not a single fermented hop.

I wonder why I didn’t discover this scene earlier? Maybe the time wasn’t right. Ten years ago was the beginning of the extruded polystyrene foam trucker hat movement. It was a celebration of the White Trash Aesthetic, and its beating heart, Welcome to the Johnsons, was my local bar. (I lived around the corner on Essex St.) Middle class kids from Michigan who moved to New York decided to make up some roots for themselves, something with integrity, honesty — i.e. poverty — that wasn’t “urban” but also wasn’t the mall-and-Starbucks environment of back home. So they pretended they came from a land of wall-to-wall shag carpet, wood panelled rumpus rooms, and deadly radon gas floating up from the basement. This too was an anachronism. White Trash so conceived was really the 70s in disguise, the time just before the birth of many trucker cap clad youngsters, before the sanitized, globalized Clinton era, the time of mythical authenticity before the disappointing fakeness of imminent adulthood.

I enjoyed the scene, but I didn’t fit in. Coming from a place where White Trash isn’t a fantasy — it’s an all-too-visible reality — I had no desire to “keep it real” by acting poor. I prefer to pretend that I’m rich even if I’m not, and before WWII every man wore a hat and tie when he left the house, leading me to conclude that on the whole we were more culturally rich (even if materially impoverished) in the first third of the 20th century than we were in the final third.

More to the point, Art Deco as a visual style has always appealed to me — more than Modernism, more than post-Modernism, more than the late 19th century, Late Romanticism, Romanticism, or the Baroque. Blame it on Fritz Lang and Metropolis, blame it on James Cagney, or blame it on Francis Ford Coppola and Sergio Leone. Nothing looks as good on the silver screen as the smooth curves and flashy chrome of the Jazz Age.

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Wit’s End is the name Dorothy Parker gave Aleck Woollcot’s apartment, which suggests both a sleepy London suburb and skid row for the clever. I imagine the gliterati of the 20s in the wee hours of the morning, trying to crack jokes and passing out on the Persian rug instead. It’s something to which one of my means can only aspire these days.

Cynthia Sayer and her band

Cynthia Sayer and her band

The party is held once a month at 356 Bowery. This month the “internationally acclaimed jazz banjoist and vocalist” Cynthia Sayer and her ensemble played period appropriate music, and the guests did a good job of dancing period appropriate dances. I was also happy to note that all the men in attendance were wearing long pants, and that most of the ladies were also appropriately attired. I, of course, brought two of my own.

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Just to mix it up we also persuaded our friend, the poet and around town socialite B– W– to round out our foursome. In short, we danced. We drank. We had a lovely time. Thank you Diane for your heroic efforts to bring a touch of class to Bohemian strivers like us who reject flannels, pot bellies, and beards.

The party was over by 11, so our group caught a cab to Gramercy Park and met up with some friends at Cibar on Irving Place and 17th street. More Manhattans. A good time was had by all.

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We had such a good time, as a matter of fact, that we had to duck around the corner after midnight to get a sandwich at Bar Jamon. If you have never been to Bar Jamon, go. Their website says, “Bar Jamón serves the Iberico hams from which it takes its name, carved on antique Berkel slicers. Bar Jamón also serves bocadillos, conservas, an extensive cheese selection and addictive churros y chocolate.” It’s true, all true. Maybe I should follow Jamie Foxx’s advice and blame it on the Manhattans, but I swear, the ham bocadillo I ate was the best sandwich I ever put in my mouth. It makes your face go MMMMM!!!!

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