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Nothing fancy

June 22, 2014

Just a summer Sunday dinner.



Exemplars, XXII

June 19, 2014
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John Harney (1930-2014). USMC. Cornell. Master tea blender.

Mr. & Mrs. John Harney in Bermuda.

Mr. & Mrs. John Harney in Bermuda.


June 13, 2014

BELOW, one of our people reveals the limits of a stereotype. Re-posted from the unlikeliest of forums: Yahoo Answers.

mayonnaiseACTUALLY, it is an old stereotype: “white people eat white bread, mayonnaise, and American cheese (or Velveeta).” I’ve heard it from my husband’s relatives, who apply it exclusively to WASPs like me — so it’s not a stereotype of whites (not of Italians or Hispanics, for example) in general but rather of a certain type of white — a person of Anglo-Saxon heritage who supposedly loves to drink alcohol but never serves any food at social events, like weddings.

In fact, it’s all ridiculous.

The mayonnaise thing is particularly ridiculous, since plenty of white Europeans — Catholic French and Italians, Catholic and Protestant Germans, eastern European Jews — have always loved mayonnaise. The difference is that they have always made their own; they’ve never eaten Hellmann’s or (God forbid) anything like Miracle Whip. I grew up in a WASP family, but our mayonnaise was always homemade, according to a French recipe passed down by a great-great grandmother, and my parents sneered at commercially produced white bread. And Velveeta would never have been allowed over the threshold.

As usual, generalizations like these reveal far more about the limited intelligence, experience, and sophistication of the people who make them than about the targets of them.

Summer Fridays

June 6, 2014

The Cannonball races east through Brightwaters on a Friday afternoon in the 1960s. Parlor observation car LIRR 2038 SETAUKET carries the markers.


Exemplars, XXI

May 30, 2014

Members of the St. George’s varsity sailing team.

Photo courtesy of Muffy Aldrich.

A Shore Thing

May 29, 2014

img_7109602_340They’re exclusive, they’re anachronistic, and they mix a mean cocktail. The tides of fashion shift, but beach clubs remain forever anchored in tradition. Here, Town & Country dips into the archives for an ode to summers past — and yet to come.

By Hudson Morgan (reposted from

WE’VE ALL been there. Height-of-summer hangover. Head pounding, mouth Sahara-dry, an ominous sense of how the night might have ended. There’s only one thing that can bring you back from the brink and make the world right again: a trip to the beach club. Salty cousin of the country club, answers to a name like Piping or B&T or Wianno, makes a bloody Mary. Is there any better place on earth to regroup, rehash, and — cheers, dears — retox? If there is, I haven’t found it.

Maybe it’s the ocean air, or maybe it’s the fact that, unlike landlocked clubs — which tend to encourage actual sport (golf, tennis, social climbing) — the sole purpose of the beach club is leisure: tanning, drinking, talking, swimming, tanning. For the species known as Preppius maximus, it’s also a safe habitat. I’ll never forget having lunch at a certain seaside New England club with a girlfriend as her buttoned-up mother told us about visiting Plato’s Retreat, the infamous 1970s New York City sex den. “The only thing we were allowed to wear was a tiny little towel,” she said casually as I choked on my grilled cheese and tried to focus on a buoy in the distance. Don’t picture her naked, don’t picture her naked, don’t — oops.

Of course, not every beach-clubber is so trusting with visitors. One morning at a Long Island club a few summers ago, my friends and I were piecing together the club dance the night before (did ______ really take his date to the tennis courts to try the ol’ late-night serve and volley? Ninth grade called, wants its moves back…), when the guy in question — an old chum of theirs I’ll call Fast Hands — walked up. The table fell silent, so Fast Hands asked how we liked his new sunglasses. “They’re a little R. Kelly,” I said innocently enough (and they were). He stared at me and replied without a lick of irony, “Good seeing you guys. Except for you, dude. The jury’s still out on you. Jury’s still out.”

Moral of the story: When away from your home surf, tread lightly or you may end up treading water. My own saltwater society is a tiny enclave on Martha’s Vineyard, and it never felt farther away than at that moment. Other words of caution: Make sure you get the right Rainbows/Jack Rogers from the communal pile when you leave the beach, don’t always assume the clam chowder at the grill is fresh (and don’t order three helpings on your friend’s account), and when you sneak onto the premises in the wee hours to go skinny-dipping, be sure to put your clothes out of the tide’s reach. I’ve, uh, heard.

Plain speech

May 27, 2014

THE POWERS and importance of plain speech are themselves plain. Euphemism and double-speak obscure the truth, and such obscurity separates us from common sense, thus paving the way for tyrants.

Adam Gopnik, in a recent blog post, has articulated the point beautifully, and his words bear repeating here.

The war against euphemism and cliché matters not because we can guarantee that eliminating them will help us speak nothing but the truth but, rather, because eliminating them from our language is an act of courage that helps us get just a little closer to the truth. Clear speech takes courage. Every time we tell the truth about a subject that attracts a lot of lies, we advance the sanity of the nation. Plain speech matters because when we speak clearly we are more likely to speak truth than when we retreat into slogan and euphemism; avoiding euphemism takes courage because it almost always points plainly to responsibility. To say ‘torture’ instead of ‘enhanced interrogation’ is hard, because it means that someone we placed in power was a torturer. That’s a hard truth and a brutal responsibility to accept. But it’s so.