15 April 2008

So we got to talking about all these secret fraternities, the Montauk, University, Harvard, Century, Lotos and National Arts Clubs. Twenty blocks south, the National Arts Club—founded in 1898—calls its HQ a classic brownstone on the edge of Gramercy Park. That's where I met her. At the bohemian answer to the Yale Club and the first thing we talked about was the score. Some 2,000 National Arts Club members paying $650 a year plus a one time initiation fee of $400. That's like a cool 1.3M right there. Not to mention the one time initiation fee they kept downstairs across from the Exchange.

They used the original 1898 structure to create lush and evocative dining rooms filled with dark wood, cream-coloured walls and beautiful chandeliers. You'd pass through the glass entrance into the grand dining room with 20 foot ceilings to face a gorgeous 20-foot bar and a floor-to-ceiling wall of wine and spirits. And we had the skeleton key. Two young kids hungry and in love with the key to a hidden fortune in cash. Unmarked bills. Just me, her, the key and her Swiss cheekbones as high as a mountain climber gets nosebleeds.

Upon entering, one was always greeted with the sight of a credenza groaning under the weight of large bottles of wine. You could still hear Sinatra's laugh bellowing in those sunken back booths.

A cacophony the smell of tufted crimson leather, Beeswax wood polish and baked clams oreganata with smoky red wine. Somehow it all worked and it was magical. She always had the goat cheese salad. We had a few bottles of Brunello Di Montalcino and got to talking about blood oranges and why egg yolks in Europe are orange compared to the yellow here in the states.

They make Brunello in the vineyards near Montalcino which is about 70 miles southwest of Florence. Brunello is a clone of Sangiovese, which is another Italian grape whose name derives from sanguis Jovis, or "the blood of Jove". In Roman mythology, Jupiter held the same role as your boy Zeus did in the Greek pantheon. The king of the gods. The king of kings. Capo di tutti capi. The boss of bosses.

But I digress...

The vault on the lower level was once J.P. Morgan & Co.'s original bank vault, which was installed by Remington & Sherman Co. in 1902. There's a bar there now in an elongated room, lined with vault doors, two of which showcase their extensive Wine Vault just beyond the 22-foot wood paneled bar.

In the center of the room is the impressive six-foot circular main vault door which opens into the vault itself. The walls are lined with the original antique deposit boxes that lend a rich bronze hue to the room. The dark wood accents, mirrored pillars and classic lighting transport you to another time when JP Morgan and John D. Rockefeller ruled Manhattan. Yeah, well those days are over. And it's just me and the blonde, after hours, drunk, in love, with the skeleton key and close to $2M in cash.

Later we'd talk of expensive and bold cabernets, and warm chocolate truffle cake with chocolate cigarettes and cheesecake with raspberry sauce. But for now our eyes were on the prize and there were only a few hours until the sun came up and the coffee cart guys starting unhooking their stands from their beat up AstroVans.

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