Since time immemorial, or since maybe 2004, we have received missives from a person called The Earl Grey. As frequently as possible, we print these letters as a service to society.
Thursday, July 26, 2007. 7:45 pm. I'm on the Hampton Jitney, Montauk Highway, Route 27, we pull into the forlorn Southampton Jitney HQ/Health Spa parking lot. I'm drowsy from a full afternoon on Main Beach, when I notice famed New Journalism author & bon vivant TOM WOLFE walking slowly to his car in the parking lot just beneath my bus window.
Wolfe's owl-like visage is unmistakable, but I'm very put off by the rag tag outfit he's wearing this mid-summer evening. Normally of course one imagines Wolfe dressed to the nines in his signature ice cream white suit, custom dress shirt, silk tie and jazz-age spat shoes.
Shockingly, Wolfe is wearing faded, worn navy sweatpants, ill-fitting and slovenly, as one might wear for a touch football game on the Great Lawn. He has on a royal blue shirt rolled up at the sleeves. The cut and hue of the shirt actually has a sloppy cowboy denim shirt quality to it. Wolfe has balloon-like white sneakers on his feet, most like the casual Reebok white aerobic shoes that my father sported in South Beach a couple of years before his death. Wolfe's famous parted grey hair is all askew, splayed across his forehead and touching his eye and nose like some gator-trailed, drunken Brooklyn hipster at Studio B's closing time.
Wolfe walks the few steps to his car [perhaps he was dropping off a friend for the ride back to Manhattan; I caught the bus in Amagansett at 6:50 but it took us an hour to reach South]. His choice of automobile was the only aspect of the experience that seemed suited to the great author. Wolfe's car was a Cadillac, in the pristine ice cream white that one sees in his custom three-piece suits. It's a Caddy of fairly recent vintage, big and boxey and somewhat inflated like his white Reebok sneakers. It has a similar design quality to the Escalade, but it's a luxury 4 door Cadillac, big and puffy, not like the classic long, sleek Lincoln Towncar that I prefer; more like a sawed-off shoebox Rolls Royce design, but still impeccable in the whiteness of the paint and the opulence of the high suspension.
The other Wolfe-ian aspect were his rims: Wolfe had installed full white-walled wafer-like ice cream white metal disc rims inside his fat tires, with a showy Cadillac logo in the center. Very Palm Beach or Beverly Hills, I thought to myself. He inched out of his parking space, so, so slowly, a foot at a time, haltingly, perhaps wisely avoiding a collision with the huge lurking Jitney Prevost bus that has taken more than a few lives in past summers on Montauk Highway.
I suppose in the city Wolfe takes pride in his immaculate three piece suits and manicured Southern Gentleman profile. But like certain East Enders, he dresses way down in the country—yet making sure his choice of car bespeaks a man of over-arching, even intimidating, refinement, accomplishment, taste and means.
The Earl Grey -
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