Thursday, March 10, 2016

SINKING SHIP by Peter Nolan Smith

Snobbery is an art in the Hamptons based on proximity to the City. Most of my friends have summer places in Easthampton and Montauk, but a few ignored the elite sneers in favor of a shorter drive back home to Manhattan.

Last summer Richie Boy and I stopped in Westhampton to show a large diamond to the heir of a schmatta fortune. We knew Errol from Xenon and 54.

His beachfront mansion was an extravagance anyplace along the shore. He led us into an expansive living room. The windows were opened for the evening breeze off the Atlantic. A blue period Picasso hung on the nearest wall opposite a Jackie O Warhol, but a painting of a long sleek yacht dominated the room.

"Let's do this fast before my wife comes back." Errol opened a bottle of Veuve Cliquot. We clinked glasses and took a sip. The champagne was vintage.

"Here it is." Richie pulled a 5-carat D Flawless Pear Shape Diamond ring, which was a steal at $560,000. After some serious hondeling Errol and Richie Boy settled on a price and said 'mazel', after which we talked about old times.

"The goy still has 'ludes." Richie Boy glanced at me.

"No way."

"two years ago my doctor and I were cleaning out his father's office in Staten Island and we found a couple of jars of Rorer 714s. In their original boxes from 1974."

Ludes were the only drug to have gone extinct.

"No way." Errol's eyes lit up like he was a born-again virgin. "They couldn't be any good."

"I did one with a friend at a bar." I didn't mention any names. "Thirty minutes later I did another half, thinking they were stale. An hour later the owner of the bar came up to me and asked where I thought I was. I was pissing, so I said, "The Bathroom?" The owner said the hallway and the bouncers threw me out of the bar with my friend."

"So they worked?"

"Very much so."

Errol wanted to know if I had more.

"Maybe." I wasn't telling him the truth for less than $5000.

We weren't there to sell drugs and Richie Boy offered a story of era of errors. Champagne was a good truth serum.

"One night me and the meanest man in New York were coming out of Studio 54. We had to go to school in a few hours, so we did our last 'lude. Herthel was driving. I don't remember anything about the ride back to the Island, but woke up in a wreck. Herthel had crashed into a parked car. The police came and asked what happened. Hershel and I said we didn't remember and they let us go."

"Didn't they take you to the hospital?" Errol poured us the last of the champagne. His wife was due any minute.

"We weren't hurt." The 'ludes had saved them from any injury.

"That's a good story, but you see that yacht?" Errol pointed to the photo over the fireplace. "That was mine. It was called 'la bella bella'. One night we steaming between Sardinia and Sicily and a storm hits us. A rogue wave breaks the hull and the ship sinks fast. I had a jar of 'ludes in the safe. I went below and dove under the water to get them. Everyone thought I drowned, but I came to the surface with my 'ludes."

Richie Boy and I exchanged a look. Errol was a serious 'lude fanatic.

"Where are those 'ludes?"

"Back in New York."

"How much you want for them?" Errol pulled out a check book.

"$5000." They were the last Quaaludes on Earth. I waited for his counter-offer. There was none, but he wrote a check to Richie Boy for the diamond.

"My wife will love this, but you know what I'd love."

"You can reach me that the store." The 'ludes weren't going anywhere.

"Maybe I'll call you."

"I'll be waiting."

Richie Boy and I exited from the house. The night was young. His wife was making dinner for us at their cottage in Ditch Plains.

"You don't have those 'ludes with you?"

"Nope." They were in a safe place.

"Just a thought." He got into the passenger seat of his Rover. He liked me to drive at night.

"A good one."

But not for that night and I drove east.

Montauk was a good hour away.

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