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High life

Control freaks

Taki on living the high life

17 October 2007

1:34 PM

17 October 2007

1:34 PM

New York

Mayor Michael Bloomberg is as gruesome a fellow as they come. Mind you, he’s not as bad as Governor Eliot Spitzer, but then not every public official is a habitual body-waxer the way Spitzer is. The trouble with both men is that at various times one or the other appears not to have felt the slightest contempt for commerce, foul play, hypocrisy or cowardice, among other things. Bloomberg calls himself America’s greenest mayor, but he’s as green as the fumes which choke Noo Yawkers every day, including holidays. Just consider this: Bloomie’s emissions are equal to those of 18 average Americans, 404 average Guatemalans, and I’d hate to think how many thousands of Eskimos. The New York Post figured out that his main city residence emitted 64 tons per annum, his Vail condo 17 tons, his Bermuda ‘cottage’ 51 tons, his Cadogan Square flat 30 tons, his New York country house 21 tons, his Dassault Falcon 900 jet 2.9 tons per hour, his Mooney M20M plane 0.1 tons per hour, his horse farm in upstate New York 40 tons, but it failed to mention the private chopper, which the mayor uses more often than I reach for an alcoholic drink.


Not bad for a green mayor who lectures us daily on the evils of smoking and of eating fats. It is so typical of a billionaire hypocrite to tell people what they should do with their lives. Here’s a short (5ft 4ins), flat-footed man whose mouth looks like that of a hooked fish and whose voice is a constant whine, a man who can count up to perhaps 20 billion but who has read as many books as the times I’ve headed the Gay–Lesbian parade in Greenwich Village, and he’s preaching to us as if he were King Solomon. What enrages me is the perennial human urge to control one another’s behaviour. I’ll take advice from Guderian where tank warfare is concerned, from Rundstedt on how to retreat and fight superior numbers of the enemy, and from Castries on naming outposts after mistresses, but Bloomberg on how to live? You gotta be joking.

The governor and the mayor aside, New York is wonderful in autumn. The weather has been warm, there are parties galore, and the girls seem to get prettier as I get older. Not everywhere. I went to Washington for a speech and noticed how middle America eats. And speaks. Americans eat too much and have trouble expressing themselves. Speech codes prohibit anything that is deemed hurtful by others, particularly those deemed to be minorities. This includes women, who seem to be in the majority wherever I look. It’s a melancholy fact that a large number of Americans sit around watching the Cartoon channel or Seinfeld reruns while stuffing themselves with fries and cheeseburgers. Another dreary experience is watching people slouching in baggy and rumpled clothes and dirty trainers. In every hotel, bar and public space the ubiquitous TV is on, which may explain why Americans nowadays are as inarticulate as they are.

But I complain too much. It’s not all the people’s fault. Those cruddy deconstructionists who insist Shakespeare is no better than rap music have a lot to answer for. Once upon a time true art was indisputable. Then came Picasso and the game was up. The vain and unpleasant Arnold Schoenberg wrote that tonality had decayed through inbreeding, which brought us Yannis Xenakis years later, as cacophonous a ‘composer’ as a monkey playing the piano, but less melodic. And as far as literature is concerned, fuggeraboudid. I simply cannot read a modern novel even when stuck in a doctor’s waiting room without TV. It’s as if the work comes out of hip-hop culture, or whatever it’s called nowadays. Can’t anyone write a short declarative sentence which makes sense any more? I keep buying books whose blurbs I fall for and it’s always the same: unreadable and dull. So I stick to non-fiction, biography and history and lotsa newspapers. Fiction died long ago, and the only two people that can still write are both friends of mine and cannot stand each other. Tom Wolfe and Norman Mailer declared war about five years ago, a war that I’m staying away from.

Otherwise, everything is hunky-dory. The back seems to be improving with age, New York taxis are worse than ever — last week alone two people were killed while six were mown down by rogue yellow taxi-drivers illegally yacking on their cellphones while way over the speed limit. (Bloomberg, unlike Giuliani, refuses to crack down on them.) These maniacs make one miss London cabbies — London, the place run by a Bloomberg cohort who is as obnoxious as Noo Yawk’s honcho. Thankfully not as rich. Can you imagine if Livingstone was a multi-billionaire what London would be like? Kampala, if we were lucky, but Harare is closer to the mark.


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