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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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#89 - Cufflinks

#89 - Cufflinks

Cufflinks
Price: Accepting the French

In the immortal words of Little Orphan Annie, “you are never fully dressed without a smile”. This whimsical idea may apply to the vast majority of pencil pushing middle managers trying to keep their head above water in spite of a partner that believes shopping at the newly opened Crate & Barrel is akin to the second coming of Jesus. This little cliché certainly does not apply to the proverbial upper crust. While custom tailored shirts are a staple of any well-to-do wardrobe, they hardly provide the opportunity to flex one’s personality and showcase their avant-garde sense of fashion. Enter the French cuff and Louis XIV’s fashion forward gift to the world, gilded studs called cufflinks.

To the everyday man and woman who feel that Starbucks charging $1.50 for a cup of Joe is unconstitutional the idea of spending hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, on two chunks of semi-precious metal in place of a twelve cent button must seem certifiably ridiculous. It is this difference in the classes that keeps Pabst and Camaros popular in trailer parks and cufflinks in vogue on the Upper East Side of New York. Naturally, throwing on any old piece of kitschy jewelry won’t cut it at the club. While your groomsmen, who believe white socks and tuxedos go together like fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches, will commend you on your compass with built-in thermometer or roulette table cufflinks, you have a better chance of catching Dora the Explorer in Playboy than seeing Gordon Gekko adopting your mischievous sense of fashion or glimpsing Bruce Wayne sporting batman logo cufflinks. Instead, rich people opt for subtle designs that reflect their personal interests. This may be collecting impressionist art, classic cars or a layman’s interest in Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations and its influence on the credit default swap crisis of 2008.

If you don’t feel a burning desire to retire your dress shirts and adopt French cuffs throughout your wardrobe, fear not! There are two things to remember when befriending the wealthy; as any first year associate on Wall Street quickly learns rich people don’t like when common folk wear cufflinks and complimenting a rich person’s sense of fashion is substantially less expense than dressing like them. While wearing cufflinks will not ingratiate you, asking leading questions will. The trick to making friends with the rich is to walk the fine line between ass kissing and cerebral flattery. For example, telling a wealthy man or woman that their cufflinks are really impressive is blatant brown nosing. Asking if their sense of fashion enhances their success or if their success enhances their stylish appearance is the fast track to gaining the respect of the rich. So next time you button-up before work, think about those inconspicuous pieces of cuff candy and consider how they could enhance your own life.

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#88 - Producing Movies

#88 - Producing Movies

Producing Movies
Price: Casting Couch and A Wallet 

Most people are familiar with the phrase, “those who can, do; those who can’t, teach”. I’m not saying I agree with this adage but I am confident that my woodworking teacher’s seven fingers didn’t improve his street cred. While working for NASA is an unlikely endgame for a high school physics teacher, rich people see no reason to thwart their ambition over something trivial like talent, skill and experience. It is this eccentric quirk that makes the world of Hollywood turn and ensures that even the very worst scripts can still make it to the silver screen thanks to a terrifically uninformed bankroll. Meet the Executive Producer.  

The Executive Producer plays a critical role in every film; provide financial backing and stay out of the way of people who claim to know what they are doing. It is easy to assume that these captains of industry, having made their fortunes in gold mines, oil wells, shipping or real estate, are interested in further padding their Swiss bank accounts with the next Avatar, Toy Story 3 or Inception. Au contraire reader, becoming an Executive Producer is the proverbial golden ticket that rich people need to pull back the curtain and gain access to Hollywood’s red carpet; think Christina Hendricks, Isla Fisher and Jayma Mays. In Los Angeles’ film circles there is only one rule; the bigger the bankroll, the bigger the celebrity. It is this simple rule that attracts the modern day robber barons to sink their millions into terrible scripts written by “starving artists” and directed by “tortured souls”. In exchange, they all but guarantee themselves discussions on method acting with George Clooney, cinematography lessons from Scorsese and a performance by Justin Bieber at their daughter’s Bat Mitzvah. In many cases profitability is an afterthought and a pleasant surprise.  

While spending millions to be on-set at Hollywood’s next box office bust may seem excessive to the average autograph hound, rich people have an innate knack for justifying almost any financial failure; the tax-loss carry forward. This little taxation trickster is the fix-all for blowing their wad on a film that will quickly pass from theater to distant memory without a hint of embarrassment on the part of the producer. Losing an eight figure investment not only appears acceptable within their social circle, it actually makes rich people seem quite savvy! This “win-win” situation means rubbing shoulders with Brangelina, a significant tax write-off and the opportunity to talk like a Hollywood insider. Oh, and for the trust fund hipsters, a well stocked casting couch is a significant perk because while you can’t buy happiness, money lets you choose your misery. 

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#87 - Doormen

#87 - Doormen

Doormen
Price: Confused By Push Signs

If you are like me you grew up in a city where people learned how to do things for themselves. In places like Winnipeg it means knowing how to dress for sub-zero temperatures throughout the year. Native Australians can protect themselves from kangaroos, great white sharks and hide their offspring from wily dingoes. Meanwhile, growing up in Mumbai teaches people to effectively operate a call center or program in C+ without the need to outsource this skill to other countries. The rich, unlike those without money, don’t take kindly to having to perform tasks themselves. Menial annoyances like blow drying their hair, cleaning their home, landscaping their estates, looking after their own offspring or sculpting their good looks can all be delegated to under-appreciated professionals…opening doors is no different.

We are all familiar with the difficulties that opening doors can pose. There is the tiresome task of finding one’s keys and the mentally exhausting struggle of push vs. pull. This may be simple to you but you likely are not rich and cannot understand the challenge that ingress conventions cause. As such they look to others to solve the wealthy equivalent of Schrödinger’s cat. Interestingly, while most everyone that works for the rich is at the beck and call of those with ample Ben Franklins in their Prada wallet, the doorman is a special breed of help. Equal parts security, concierge, confident, sycophant, gossip snitch and stanch union member the doorman can make a tenant feel welcome or thoroughly ignored. While the rest of the world world bows to the fancies of the wealthy, even agreeing with a milkaholic’s whimsical dream of launching a clothing line, an NYC doorman is protected by the Local 32BJ and needs not bow to the fickleness of the upper crust. In fact, if the right of the doorman to deliver sardonic humor and unsolicited advice to their pedigreed counterparts is compromised swift strike action is threatened which throws the city into turmoil. The result of this unlikely relationship is that the doorman is privy to Upper East Side indiscretions, SoHo secrets and Tribeca trysts.

Naturally, if you would like to wriggle your way into the lives of the fabulously wealthy a doorman may represent Prometheus waiting to share the secrets of the Gods. While discretion is the better part of valor, if gossip columnists can break these vaults of secrecy surely you can find a way to eke out a sound bite or two and gain familiarity with their wealthy patrons’ likes and dislikes. Perhaps the couple in 15B enjoys the thrill of meeting new people over Manhattans and dinner at a Gramercy Tavern barstool on Tuesdays while 12D loves sailing in the Maldives and 14C has a weakness for custom oxfords from John Lobb on Madison. If you can’t turn these nuggets into sparkling conversation over grilled sturgeon there is no hope for you to impress the well-heeled. Succeed and there may be enough wind in your sails to solicit an invitation to enjoy lunch in a stunning co-op overlooking Central Park in spring. Land ho you scallywag.

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#86 - Suspenders

#86 – Suspenders

Suspenders
Price: Chafed Nipples

There are two types of people in the world, those that wear suspenders and those that do not. In the former group there are two types of people, rich men and everyone else. While everyone else is quite broad it includes notable and questionably valuable members of society like clowns, satirical television characters and pseudo tycoons that hope the powers that be mistake them as well bred. This group also includes adorable old men but they are exempt from public scrutiny, a benefit of respecting one’s elders. The considerably smaller group of men that rely on clips to hold their trousers in place do so for one important reason; linking thumbs through these elasticized accessories conveys a sense of unquestionable wisdom, a direct yet subconscious connection to President Roosevelt, thereby solidifying one’s alpha dominance in a room full of everyone else.

If you are like 95% of men, suspenders aren’t your cup of tea and you think that they represent arrogant money grubbers that care more about their Rolls Royce than their personal chef’s welfare. If you are in the 5% of arrogant money grubbers that wear suspenders, you could care less what the 95% think, hope that they stay the hell away from your Rolls Royce, wonder what your chef is preparing for dinner and believe that Michael Douglas was a “real pussy” in the film Wall Street. There are of course exceptions to the stereotypical hard-nosed businessman in suspenders; there are hard-nosed news anchors that make their interviewee weep, hard-nosed MI6 double-O agents that are licensed to kill, there is even a band named Satan Wears Suspenders and of course your grandfather who remains adorable in his suspenders.

The burning question is how can suspenders help you? As mentioned, unless you are in the 5% and a notably wealthy individual you will fall into the category of pseudo tycoon desperately trying to fit in also known as the brown-nosing pain in the ass. Adopting this transparent ruse will likely have a negative impact on your career, destroy your personal life and most importantly eliminate what is left of your sex life as the former crumble. Instead there are three things you can do to elevate yourself in the presence of the suspenderati. First, never snap the suspenders that your boss wears, that their boss wears or those worn by important clients that visit the office. This will inevitably lead to a stint counting ball bearings in a city that Detroit natives wouldn’t relocate to. Second, make a point of snapping the suspenders of those in your peer group at work to expose them as ass-kissing sycophants. This will make you popular with your co-workers and unpopular with the ass-kissers. Finally, sarcastically yet vigilantly refer to your bootlicking, suspender clad co-worker as Thurston and ensure that all other co-workers know this refers to the British manufacturer that has outfitted kings, presidents, princes and film stars in suspenders since 1820. This bit of corporate frivolity will clean out the climbers and make for a better place to work. Like Gordon Gekko said and Sun-Tzu before him, “Every battle is won before it is ever fought” so snap to it.

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#85 - Enormous Fancy Hats

#85 - Enormous Fancy Hats

Enormous Fancy Hats
Price: Vitamin D Deficiency

Among the many things that rich people like to own, gigantic floppy hats are among the most baffling. Unlike other fashionable accoutrements, intended to flatter a wealthy belle’s beauty, the hat hides rather than showcases the extensive plastic surgery that the trophy wife has undergone. In fact, when matched with the perfect pair of oversized Chanel sunglasses, one’s collagen-injected lips are hardly noticeable. So what’s the point? Why wear a hat with a two foot diameter laden with flowers large enough to make Keukenhof appear unimpressive? Simply put, just as a wealthy gentleman drives an Italian racecar to proclaim his manhood, women wear hats to trumpet their sense of fashion and signal that they are the alpha female in the group. The only way to remain queen bee among the swarming masses is to outdo one’s social circle by purchasing and bravely wearing larger and more ostentatious headpieces than the other ladies at the club.

It may appear that hat fashion ebbs and flows, but just because Aunt Sally didn’t wear her gigantic peacock feathered Easter hat for Sunday mass doesn’t mean that the cultural elite are taking their cue to pack away their hat boxes. In fact, the true barracudas of the runway have already been recounting to which event each woman in her social network wore which hat. After creating a complex social matrix where hats and events are matched, the mad hatter will predict what the ladies will showcase this season and carefully select the latest and largest hats from small boutiques around the globe for her upcoming calendar. This ensures she will never be embarrassed by donning an Albertus Swanepoel from Barney’s during a weekend jaunt to the Hampton’s. Most women in NYC still recall the horror of seeing Mrs. Eleanor Thomas of the Upper East Side standing next to Ms. Mandy-Anne of Kansas wearing identical hats. Unfortunately for Mrs. Thomas she opted for wearing last season’s fashion and Mandy-Anne had just finished a day of shopping at Century 21. Thomas’ agoraphobic fate was sealed when innocent Mandy-Anne asked Eleanor “Did you buy yours on sale too?”

As always, what matters is how to use this to your advantage. Just as Keanu Reeves could not be unseated as “the one” during the 90’s, you should not strive to occupy the throne reserved for a hat aficionado. Instead, opt to go big but not enough that you will clash horns with Chiquita Banana. Flattery will get you everywhere with the Queen Bee and while no less that 24 inches of couture circumference means you won’t recognize her, you will nonetheless be able to pick out her horn of plenty in any crowd. A well placed compliment on her style will go far but delivery is paramount. When approaching, keep your eyes averted and never look her directly in the eye. She will recognize this as respect and allow you to proceed. Next, let her know you love her style. Never tell her you could not wear such a beautiful hat as she already believes that to be true and by stating it you are implying that you think you could be in the same league as her. Instead, let her know that it is the perfect hat for her. She will recognize that you accept her as the alpha female and may at this point compliment your hat. A polite thank-you will suffice and you should offer to fetch her champagne or Iranian caviar to show your gratitude. If she accepts you are part of her entourage. Finally, never make reference to Dr. Seuss or Alice in Wonderland in her presence, she will take it as a personal slight and you will feel her social wrath. Remember, hell hath seen no fury like a woman scorned.

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