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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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#90 - Sailing

#90 - Sailing

Sailing
Price: Chapped Lips & Wind Blown Hair

If you think a sloop is a rapper, feel ketch is played with a baseball and glove and believe that yawl is a greeting in the southern American states you are likely not rubbing shoulders with the Rockefellers. If however, you are unfamiliar with rap music, believe that ballpark franks are uncivilized and refuse to associate with Confederate sympathizers, you already know that standing topside in Chesapeake Bay is the perfect summer pastime. If you lean more to the latter than the former you are aware that sailing is among the stuff that rich people love

While port, starboard, stern and bow make the average person’s head spin, these are among the first words out of a trust fund baby’s mouth once the proverbial silver spoon is removed. Rich people that do not learn to sail are as out of place as an Amish couple at a swinger’s party or a West Virginian at a wedding where the bride and groom are not related, it’s awkward for everybody. That said these social anomalies are few and far between. Just as every working class American should have a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage, the rich will continue to have a blue water cruiser in every bay and a mooring ball in every harbor. More important, to the rich, than actually sailing their luxury yacht is ensuring that they have the most conspicuous slip at the marina. There is hardly any point in commissioning an 89 foot Oyster yacht if nobody knows it is yours. While size is important, sailing ships are one of the few places that a sense of humor is acceptable in wealthy circles. Witty monikers like Alimony, TARP, and Golden Parachute all convey a playfulness that only money can buy.

The question, as always, is how can sailing help you to befriend the fabulously wealthy without becoming their indentured servant dishing up caviar on the high seas while the aforementioned Alimony is heeling in 45 knot winds. While anyone with a PhD in English literature can land a crew job on a yacht off St. Maarten, it takes a special type of sycophant to ingratiate themselves and secure an aft berth on a month long cruise of the Mediterranean.  To start, learn a few key words like regatta, Maxi class and Top-Sider boat shoes. Next, learn how to tie a bowline, a cleat hitch and a reef knot and know when to use them. Finally, purchase a vintage copy of Slocum’s Sailing Alone Around The World. To bring it all together, plant yourself at the most Jimmy Buffettesque pub in the port reading this month’s copy of Yacht World circling classifieds larger than 45 feet. In no time, you’ll be talking about ports of call in the BVIs with an overweight boat owner wearing the latest Tommy Bahama linen pants and Helly Hansen waterproofs. Word of advice there’s no such thing as a starport jigpole!

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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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We can’t all live in New York City but if you have been, you have visited Central Park. The whopping 843 acres is an amazing place to wander around, people watch, escape the hustle and bustle of 5th Ave or go jogging! The New York Times provides a really great interactive map of the park including clickable photos and audio guides to the running trails…I feel like I should pop into the Guggenheim! Visit Trails Less Traveled – Central Park Interactive Map at the NY Times!

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#16 - French Chateaus

#16 - French Chateaus

Prestige Property Group
Price: $74,730,000

People own houses; rich people own castles, mansions, penthouses and chateaux. Unlike private islands which are intended to keep visitors at a distance, chateaus are intended to showcase superior upbringing and lavish taste. While you may not own a chateau, ingratiating yourself with the über-rich can be expedited by comparing your host to the monarchs that first erected these fairy-tale structures. Europe and particularly France have a healthy sprinkling of these beautiful edifices in some of the most breathtaking settings meaning you can always find an extravagant piece of history to discuss. Rich people have no shame when it comes to acquaintances doting on them and their material possessions.

Consider the magnificent example of a French chateau currently for sale in the department of Jura in eastern France. The property is advertised as a 10 minute helicopter flight from Geneva sitting on 200 acres of walled opulence. The, yes this number is correct, 75,000 square feet of living space features a 1,200 sq ft entrance hall with a “monumental gothic staircase”. The five floor main building houses 34 bedrooms, a Napoleonic drawing room, Louis XVI apartment, Louis XV bedrooms, billiard room, private library and a square tower; damsel in distress not included. Other property features are stables and equestrian infrastructure, a gardener’s house, 19th century workshops that have been converted to sleep 30, courtyard, farm, walled garden, English design lawns, 2 lakes, cascades, grotto and a statue of Diane Chasseresse resembling the statue found at Fontainebleau – a UNESCO World Heritage Site and therefore not presently for sale.

Discussing these features will provide ample ammunition for small talk when discussing chateaus with your new found acquaintance. Their shared love of exclusive residences will make for delightful conversation. Keep in mind, referring to such opulent residences as “pleasant summer homes” is sure to win you respect and another appropriately aged scotch. Engage the right well-to-do land magnate and it may lead to an invitation to accompany them for a weekend tryst with unpasteurized cheese, champagne and fine port….c’est magnifique!

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#15 - Private Banking

#15 - Private Banking

Swiss Private Banking
Min. deposit: $1 million

Rich people love multiple bank accounts; rich people love Swiss Bank accounts. Switzerland is an excellent choice due to bank secrecy, low risk, economic stability and let’s be honest who doesn’t love saying “wire it to my Swiss account”. Few industries are enshrouded by mystery as Swiss banking. Despite James Bond’s distrust of Swiss bankers, learn a few rules and you will be leading sparkling conversation that makes your wealthy compatriots envy your international financial knowledge.

Bankers will not install microprocessors under your skin, you won’t feel like James Bond withdrawing your cash and you certainly won’t have a Da Vinci Code key to tote around. In fact, private banking services in Switzerland are remarkably similar to private banking services in Cleveland, but who wants to go to Cleveland? What you do get is banking secrecy rivaled by few countries the world over. Clients may use Swiss banks to shield assets from spiteful spouses, intrusive government tax agencies, angry patients, unscrupulous business associates, greedy litigators or a host of leeches laying claim to the birthright of the fabulously wealthy.

Besides the intense secrecy laws that protect account holders, private banking has unrivalled levels of service far surpassing the common man’s mass market retail savings and checking accounts. Rich people can ensure they avoid teller lines, dirty ATMs, pens on chains and cattle-herding polyester ropes by liaising with their personal banker in the comfort of a private office. Services are extensive and typically include wealth management counseling services, investment advice and estate planning peppered with offside humor at the expense of poor people. While the minimum million dollars in assets in not particularly prohibitive, many private Swiss Banks will only extend an invitation to new customers based upon a referral from current customers. Nevertheless, during your next visit to St. Moritz, delay the departure of your Gulfstream, visit Zurich and engage bankers that have served European royalty for over 300 years. Unsurprisingly, you are unlikely to encounter Mr. Christoph Meili in the lobby.

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#13 - Private Jets

#13 - Private Jets

Gulfstream G550
Price: $51,900,000

There comes a point in every rich person’s life when having a personal assistant book airline tickets, waiting in the Emirates lounge, sampling vintages in the Grand Cru at the Dubai Airport and flying first class becomes tiresome. It is time to visit Gulfstream in Madison, Connecticut, 2003 winners of the Robert J. Collier award for outstanding innovation in aeronautics in America. A private jet is convenient and damned civilized; if you have the means, I highly recommend it.

Gulfstream manufactures seven models with the Gulfstream G650 scheduled for release in 2012. For now, the G550 is the most exclusive jet available to billionaires. With a range of 6,760 nautical miles and cruising altitude of 41,000 ft no destination is too far. Such range dictates that comfort is top-of-mind for the wealthy jet set. The G550 will accommodate 18 passengers with 7 berthing seats and is available in any custom configuration one desires. Should owners require Phillipe Starck fixtures, elephant skin seats, Malmaison flatware, persian carpets or Louis XIV desks…the designers at Gulfstream will bring your dreams to life.

To combat effects of jetlag, the cabin is pressurized to 6,000 ft and 100% fresh air is pumped throughout the plane while you watch DVDs on built-in LCD televisions and enjoy hot food on exquisite china. Advanced soundproofing and signature oval windows keep noise levels low while the jet cruises at up to Mach 0.87 or 926 km/h. This powerful thrust is provided by Rolls-Royce engines which have helped the Gulfstream G550 break 39 (and counting) city pair speed records including West Hampton to Beijing and Honolulu to Higüey. Interestingly, while this jet is well suited for international flights, the espresso machine is optional.

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