Let’s Hear It For….International White Trash

| January 27, 2011 | Comments (4)


Desperately seeking an antidote for my mounting cabin fever,the result of being homebound for several days due  to mountains of snow that fell on us in New York City, I ventured out  from my Bronx redoubt to the Isle of Manhattan today.

I probably should have stayed home. With temperatures rising and snow melting,  I unwittingly became a moving target. Twice,  yes  TWICE, during my urban foray, I just missed by inches being hit on the head by large amounts of melting ice and snow that were falling from the eves of buildings on Third Avenue. I commiserated with  a Bangladeshi fruit vendor on the corner of 47th and Third. We both agreed: when your time comes, it comes.

47th and Third Avenue  has special meaning for me;  I call it Kurt Vonnegut Corner. For years, as I passed that location, I would see the famous author sitting on a bench in the pergola hard by the corner, puffing on a cigarette watching the world go by, especially the pretty, young female world. We never spoke, but as time passed,  we started acknowledging each other with a raised V sign or a thumbs-up.

Then one day, shortly after I had published my first book to underwhelming public response, I passed the pergola and spotted Kurt.  In an impetuous rush, I found myself speaking to him. Waving my book in his face, I said, “Kurt, I’ve got a problem. Here’s my new book. I think it’s a great read, but nobody’s  interested. What can I do? ”

Without a second’s hestitation, Vonnegut looked me in the eye, took a drag on his weed and replied, “Hit me in the jaw.”  Speechless, I stared at him and it dawned on me: he was dead serious. Silence ensued and then he repeated, “Go ahead, do it. Slug me in the jaw. That’ll get you all the publicity you need ! ” And he was right, but even though I probably should have, I didn’t take his advice and punch him.  We ended up having an extended laugh and he wished me good luck on my  book. Another New York moment. Kurt died not long  after our encounter.

I’ve gotten way off the subject of  today’s posting which was supposed to be about international white trash. The reason I wanted to write about this important topic was to amuse you and to divert my own mind from some sadness on my block. As I passed him shoveling snow on my way to the subway, my 80 year-old neighbor who is a good friend, told me that his roof was collapsing under the snow and that his wife just went to hospital for the fourth time in three weeks and probably would never come home.

Margie is a dear lady who usually hangs out on her stoop with her small black and white  Chihuahua dog, Oreo. We’ve spend lots of good times  talking together, her telling me stories about the neighborhood and how it was 50 years ago. She always tells it like it is. Latino neighbors said about her :” No tiene pelo en la lengua” (She doesn’t have any hair on her tongue).  Life is a veil of tears.

So let’s be amusing  and laugh through our sadness for a few paragraphs.

Some years ago my friend, Louis in California came up with a term to describe me and my ilk who work at the United Nations or engage in other “worldly” undertakings. He came up with a term that surpasses  old labels like “globe-trotter” or jet-setter”; he calls us International White Trash.

Over time Louis refined the definition and criteria which qualify one for this august membership and even came up with a ranking of individuals,  a sort of  Mr. and Ms. International White Trash.

The current  holders of the title are: Rupert and Rosemary.

Rupert, his full name is Rupert Rumpsford-Caballero, hails from Brazil. But he also has two other passports, Swiss and British. And speaks five languages with native fluency. He lives in various cities where he has pied-a-terres and his movements are determined by  the seasons. Summer in Brazil will find him on a first-class flight to Rio which he leaves for New York or London when autumn leaves start to fall. Although we have known him for many years, we are not really sure what he does for a living. It just isn’t discussed. One doesn’t talk about vulgar things like work with International White  Trash.

Oh, I forgot to mention, IWT (we go into abbreviation mode now) must do other things to qualify for membership. One of the most important requirements is to start making international phone calls as soon as they arrive at somebody’s house; and the conversations they have should usually be conducted in at least two or preferably three or four languages.

Rupert usually arrives chez-moi and, after perfunctory pleasantries about the weather and Maman, invariably asks, with an impeccable, polite Sloan Ranger accent, if he couldn’t just pop into my office for a bit to make some calls.  For the next half-hour, I hear a medley of Schweitzer Deutsch, Portuguese, French and English.  Rupert finally emerges with an exasperated exhale and raised eyebrows,  muttering  “The Four Seasons Hotels are impossible.” IWT are always on the move; they are always between engagements.

Rosemary is the more subtle title-holder, but right up there as far as her  IWT credentials. Rosemary is Italian, but lives mostly in Manhattan. She comes from the  ancient town of Cremona, Italy where Stradavarius violins are made. She speaks perfect English , but with a strong French accent. Puzzling ? It’s simple to explain – Rosemary grew up in Paris and had a French governess.

Aren’t  they AB FAB, International White Trash !

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Comments (4)

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  1. jim arrigan says:

    Very Cute, loved the Vonnegut. Sorry about your neighbor. (I never met the couple.)

  2. Gary Presley says:

    Rupert and Rosemary qualification as IWT await proof that somewhere one of them — or a relative, at least — has a car on cinder blocks in the front yard and a dog chained to a nearby tree.

    • Sam says:

      Right on, Gary…..and that car would hafta be a Bentley or an Hispano-Suiza and the dog a Corgie or a hairless Chinese Whatever, the kind the Last Empress of China had…..

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