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#91 - Fine Wine

#91 - Fine Wine

Fine Wine
Price: French Lessons

One of life’s great joys when you are “comfortable” is being able to distinguish upon which side of the hill grapes were grown, weather patterns that summer and on which day they were picked by delicately inhaling. Bonus points to those who can name a delightful boulangerie, a five-star hotel and a helipad within a five mile radius of the vineyard. Few topics can enthrall the wealthy the way that debating the finer points of a vintage Chateau Lafite can but be warned, there’s hardly any point to speaking about a bottle corked more recently than the Reagan administration.

Taking a stroll through your local gas bar could lead you to believe that all good wines come in a box or have catchy names like Night Raider, Fat Bastard or Naked Grape. You would be mistaken. Take a gander through the cellar of a connoisseur and you will discover that wines have unpronounceable names from places you’ve never traveled. This is all part of the charm of a great wine, the more obscure it is the more valuable it becomes to the truly rich. Wine is a game of one-upmanship where exclusivity and rarity are as important as an iron-clad prenup and a divorce lawyer with blood-drenched fangs. Naturally, one never admits to buying a bottle but refers to the cases secured at their favorite auction house.

Of course, the challenge as always, is to use your cursory knowledge as the bridge to gaining acceptance by the upper crust. While you would think that fitting in with a group of people that drink all evening would be a simple task, recall that like a first wife, one always spits and never swallows at a tasting so you will not be able to use inebriated-induced charm to win over your tannin swilling compatriots. As gaining superior vineyard knowledge requires time, money, patience and the equivalent of a PhD in meteorology, one must turn to collecting and innuendo to make nice. My best advice is to speak as though drinking your wine is beneath you and you are sure to turn heads. Remain vague and imply that it is crass to discuss the contents of your cellar. Furthermore, refer to cellars that you keep in various countries. Seek to illuminate your flock of oenophiles by imparting upon them the famous words of Lawrence Jamieson, that you collect wine to ensure it is properly cared for but that it is too valuable to drink and too dear to sell. While deep knowledge of tasting notes is impressive, your mystery and aloofness could make you the most sought after vintage in the manor.

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#83 - Flying First Class

#83 - Flying First Class

Flying First Class
Price: Your First Born, Their Pocket Change

Flying isn’t natural. As they say, “If God had meant you to fly he would have given you wings”, Icarus learned this the hard way. Of course, when they said this, they were probably referring to economy class where the masses are crammed into uncomfortable seats with sweaty, broad shouldered, obese individuals who want to talk to you about their 2-star vacation or persistent skin rash that is likely contagious. If this situation is the bookend to your holiday or business trip, you are probably inclined to agree that mankind is better off on terra firma. While the rich certainly prefer the comforts of a private jet, when push comes to shove, a lie-flat seat with noise-reducing headphones, personal media players, fine dining, full bar and a curtain to separate you from the plebs makes commercial flights tolerable.

For the masses that feel they have won the lottery because they managed to “score” a seat in an emergency exit row, there is a belief that the seats on the other side of the curtain are prohibitively expensive because of the roominess and luxury. Rich people know that, while 40” of seat pitch is comfortable, the real reason to sit in first class is that one does not have to associate with people that can’t afford the finer things in life. After all, the food, personalized service and comfort are table stakes in the lives of the wealthy. First class seating is one of the few places that legitimize class segregation, making it extremely attractive to the rich. Having a boarding pass that reads 2B with a flute of champagne in hand is a wonderful reminder that while money can’t buy happiness, it can help you choose your misery which does not include spending time with individuals who think a timeshare is a good investment.

Naturally, if you want to make good with the wealthy the first option is to secure yourself a seat in first class. This can be done in a few ways; buck up for the extra few thousand dollars every time you fly, try to sweet talk the ticketing agent into upgrading you on every flight or start sleeping with a flight attendant. Of course, if you could pull off the latter two options with any level of consistency, you would likely already be on the road to success and riches and able to execute on option A. As back-up,the art of conversation to kick start a discussion with your wealthy counterpart will work wonders. Give your new friend an opportunity to dazzle you with their in-flight experience. Use informed inquiry about flying Emirates or United’s P.S. service while jet setting between the left and right coast and sit back and listen. Make this work and you may never have to hear the question “fish or chicken” again. Enjoy the friendly skies!

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#78 - Opera

#78 - Opera

Opera
Price: Miniature Binoculars

Does being confined to a chair in a dark room, unable to eat, drink or speak while angry people berate you in a language you do not understand sound like an ideal night out? For most, this sounds like the worst vacation ever and one reason that visiting Afghanistan, Venezuela and Guantanamo Bay rank low on Condé Nast Traveler’s list of dream destinations. For rich people, this is called opera and the biggie sized German or Italian woman wearing the Viking helmet is a Diva rather than an interrogator.

The love of opera runs deep. Rich people love to talk about the architecture of the opera house, exotic sets, magnificent costumes, vocal size and range, Puccini, Strauss, Verdi and of course Mozart. A rich person from a good family can wax poetic for hours on the bittersweet tragedy of La Bohème, the comedic genius of Così Fan Tutte and the scandal of I Pagliacci. Given their knowledge and deep love of opera, you may wonder how the rich manage to grasp the plot and subtleties of productions conducted in a foreign language they neither speak nor understand. The simple answer is they don’t! The performance is a thinly veiled prelude to the most important part of any opera, the intermissions. Intermission is the perfect opportunity to enjoy a full meal, champagne and allow sycophants to compliment a rich person’s refinement, class, taste and sophistication. Watching this can prove more entertaining than the opera itself.

If you are more interested in life imitating art than the art itself, opera provides ample opportunities to mirror your own hopes and dreams. The annals of operatic discourse are rife with tales of sugar daddies fawning over young women and beautiful countesses falling for dashing men with ambition and optimism lacking only social status. If you are an aspiring sugar baby, male or female, your work is cut out for you. A conversational knowledge of Tristan and Isolde or The Barber of Seville that extends beyond Bugs Bunny or Seinfeld plus the ability to bat ones eyelashes should suffice. Either of these love stories may ingratiate you with your cultured courtier and with luck you’ll be enjoying lump crab cakes, roasted filet of beef and amaretto cheesecake at the Grand Tier restaurant faster than you can say “in te ravviso il sogno ch’io vorrei sempre sognar!” loosely translated as “I see in you the fulfillment of all my dreams!” Fitting isn’t it?

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#74 - Bottled Water

#74 - Bottled Water

Bottled Water
Price: Two Parts Hydrogen, One Part Oxygen

Water is the proverbial elixir of life. Like the nouveau riche, its natural form is colorless, odorless and tasteless. Water is the perfect drink on a hot summer day, can be frozen and for billions around the globe turning on the tap is as complex as water needs to be…unless you are wealthy. The rich know that nothing less than bottled, carbonated and occasionally lightly flavored spring water imported from the European Alps will satiate their thirsty yet sophisticated palate although champagne is a close second.

As any butler and some maids know, rich people are an interesting bunch when it comes to wetting their whistles. Despite installing commercial grade water filtration units in their luxury penthouses, country estates, lake houses, ski chalets and private jets the rich are more likely to raise a child without a nanny than drink water from a tap; the horror. Fortunately, enterprising minds with glass bottles, a nose for capitalism and an extensive distribution network have solved the agonizing task of turning on a tap and replaced it with the satisfying crack and familiar hiss of twisting a metal cap. It is this exhilarating release of gas that reminds the rich that they are able to spend more on water than the average household budgets for gasoline.

Rich or not, an appealing attribute of H2O is that, unlike seasoned wine snobs, an appreciation for expensive water requires no special training, no acquired taste and no heightened sense of smell that rivals a bloodhound. Instead, the ability to distinguish whether or not carbonated bubbles are dancing upon your tongue is all a connoisseur of dihydrogen monoxide really needs, making it the perfect addition to any table. All the same, it is important that you always comment on how refreshing it is; this despite tasting no different than chilled water from your Brita. In fact, a surefire way to ingratiate yourself with wealthy hosts is to comment on how much the water reminds you of a particularly exotic destination, be it Fiji, France, Amazonian rainforests or Norwegian Fjords. This will provide them the opportunity to inform you of the great distance the bottles have travelled and the rarity of its contents. Strike the right chord and it will be like a baptism into their wealthy circle and you will be welcomed one of their own! Santé!

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#73 - Cooking Classes

#73 - Cooking Classes

Cooking Classes
Price: Trip to the Lipo Clinic

Despite the trappings of fabulous wealth, life can become predictable and eventually dull for the rich. Fortunately there is a world of exhilarating hobbies available to the wealthy that aim to inspire before the doldrums of life consume them. For most people, hobbies like skydiving, bungee jumping, scuba and rock climbing add the joie de vivre missing from their mundane existence. Not to be outdone by middle class thrill-seekers, the wealthy also like to step it up when choosing hobbies by throwing caution to the wind and selecting activities that they never thought they would do. These include driving themselves, working eight hours a day and cooking. While your evening likely includes preparing dinner, the wealthy consider this an unfathomable task that the chef, butler or, as a worst case scenario, the nanny will take care of. As such, signing up for private cooking lessons can be a thrilling way to spend a summer and an excellent excuse to visit France, Italy or perhaps Switzerland if checking on the private bank account is required.

While cooking classes are not an impenetrable bastion of the wealthy, rich people tend to have a different set of expectations for these courses. For the rich, being surrounded by world renowned chefs, fresh ingredients from around the globe, the finest kitchen implements and closely guarded cooking secrets is occasion to uncork another bottle of red while the pros create their masterpieces. Spending a month drinking in the Tuscan sun while observing a veteran of the dutch oven fold egg whites, fabricate port reductions and spawn the perfect soufflé lends the credibility required to authoritatively critique a Michelin four star restaurant and is therefore an invaluable experience. Cooking classes are a little like the Dummy’s Guide to becoming a New York Times food critic without the need for a sophisticated palate, experience or a cynical writing style. Nonetheless, such an experience will promote Bunny McCooking-Class to head of choosing restaurants and ordering lunch for her country club ladies group. Like port with chocolate, this newly developed expertise is best served with tales of Fabrizio the pool boy and his prowess in sunscreen massage.

But how does this help you? The best way to leverage this champagne fountain of knowledge is to grease the baking sheet of inquiry. You must walk the fine line between asking questions about the cooking school without broaching the subject of cooking technique; a surefire approach is to ask about the region in which the class was held. This enables them to speak about the setting without being put on the spot about class content. Bonus points if you can steer the conversation to the Le Creuset and Emile Henry cookware they outfitted the estate kitchen with afterwards. After all, their staff deserves the best when cooking for a discriminating palate like their own!

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#72 - Scotch

#72 - Scotch

Scotch
Price: Years of practice

The first time that you tried scotch it may have tasted like the perfect blend of paint thinner and ass. As every frat boy knows, if it tastes like ass, turn it around. While this advice may work in some situations it is unlikely to alter this alcohol-based assault on your taste buds and olfactory senses. Despite this apparent flaw, rich people love scotch. To the uninitiated, rich people will insist that scotch is an acquired taste and break into a polished soliloquy on the finer points of this pricey malt beverage as an explanation of why you should love it. A scotch aficionado can block your exit with their knowledge of Scotland’s pride while a room of aficionados can ruin your evening by peppering you with unpronounceable distillery names and heated debates around chill-filtration. If being bombarded by terms like single malt, mash, Scotch Whisky Order of 1990, Glenlivet and Auchentoshan sounds like a nightmare, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

As with all things alcoholic, the more that people ply you with booze as a means to convince you of its superior taste, the less likely you are to know what the hell you are drinking which makes the evening progressively more palatable. Such is the case with scotch thanks to exacting standards that mandate a minimum 40% alcohol content. Getting through the last glass makes the next all the easier. Is swallowing your first ounce of Oban getting in the way of making friends with your wealthy companions? Think about the difficulty that Cinderella must have had the first time that she got to the ball. The red headed stepchild worked through her gag reflex before she and Prince Charming lived happily ever after and so can you.

You may be thinking, why scotch? All spirits have a distinct personality and therefore appeal to specific subsets of the population. Thanks to the Russian Mafioso, vodka represents mystery and new money, tequila goes hand-in-hand with cougars looking to bag an unsuspecting twenty something, cognac with rappers and bourbon with interfamily marriages. Scotch, since 1495, has perpetually represented the sophisticated statesman with elegance, taste, class and ambition; it is like a Rolls Royce among Cadillacs. For this reason, the rich will learn to love this aged liquid and speak of pungent and potent malts, with richly peaty, deep, smoky flavor that has an intense, long ambrosial finish. Such knowledge is a means to highlight their station in life and knowing this can help advance yours. Who knows, drink enough scotch at the country mansion and the trophy wives may recruit you to help them with their case of Patron. Bottoms up!

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#70 - Personal Chefs

#70 - Personal Chefs

Personal Chefs
Price: Saving the gratuity

If you are like most people, you know that dinner can be as simple as boiling water, opening a box of macaroni, adding milk and butter then mixing orange powder to creamy perfection. At worst, choosing fancy ketchup is as complicated as any meal gets. Sadly, rich people do not have the luxury of simple meals. They must choose a restaurant that is posh, exclusive and on the cusp of becoming trendy. While menus are often ignored, it is important that the restaurant be well-stocked with obscure ingredients so the chef can begrudgingly whip up their wealthy patron’s fanciful whim. All this is complicated by choosing the right car from the fleet in the garage and deciding whether the chauffeur will accompany them. If this sounds like a nightmare, you are not alone and it is the reason that 4 out of 5 rich people recommend retaining a personal chef at their estate.

If you have watched Hell’s Kitchen you already know that ego and incredible kitchen skills go hand-in-hand. It may be a surprise to learn that personal chefs are a special breed of culinary genius; they are talented and patient. Without these key ingredients the chef is as useful to the rich as a mistress with herpes. Fortunately, while money can’t buy happiness it can help choose one’s misery and there are plenty of suitable ginsu masters ready to create mouthwatering menus. They endeavor to provide the wealthy with the nourishment needed to lounge poolside and inform their broker about how to do his job.

Of course, just because rich people have a personal chef is no reason for David Chang and his staff at Momofuku Ko to press the panic button. Rich people will still dine out but knowing that they don’t have to is a paradigm shift. Now, when the hostess at Masa or I Sodi informs that there is a three week wait the wealthy can set aside andger and resentment, casually accept the reservation and enjoy homemade coniglio in padella in the comforts of their quaint 7,000 square foot residence in the Hamptons thanks to their chef’s outstanding talents. Just be sure that the only sampling going on in the kitchen is related to the meal! It would be a shame to have to choose between one’s spouse and one’s chef…good help can be so hard to find. Bon appétit!

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