Up and Down the Social Ladder

I stumbled across this photo of Kira Nightly at the premiere of The Information Game all glammed-up and posing in her Dolce & Gabbana while some frumpy fans look on.

knightlyIt reminded me of this famous photo by Weegee which, having always been insecure about my place in society, never fails to stir my bile.

weegeeWeegee had intended this to be a social commentary but it was later proven to be a fake. The photo was staged. The two matrons were wealthy friends of Weegee and the urchin was brought up from the Bowery, plied with liquor and told to stand in that spot. She was the only one unaware of the ruse. Weegee was a smart guy. He got the expression on her face he needed. Because it has been discredited, the photo is said to have lost its power to incite, but I beg to differ. It still pisses me off a little bit every time I see it. For some reason, it always reminds of my mom. Isn’t that sad?

I was watching Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee (which you should watch because it’s brilliant). In the episode with Kevin Hart, they were discussing growing up humble, as they did, versus growing up wealthy, as their children are. They had this prescient exchange:

Hart: “The things that made me into who I am, my kids will never experience.”

Seinfeld: “That’s right. It’s going to be different for them. Your problem was: Things are bad, I gotta make it good. Their problem is going to be: Things are good. Why do I feel bad?”

Scramble two, Jerry.

We took the girlies to Orlando over a school break. We visited Universal Studios. They’re too old for Disney princesses, but they’re in that sweet spot for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. An old, cynical crank would say that it’s a lot of this:

gringottsAnd this:

menuA $10 hot dog! At least you get crisps with it. You can buy all the soda you want while in the Universal theme park but once you enter into Hogwarts or Diagon Alley, it’s not available. You can get Butterbeer, water and juices, but no Coke. I was told that that was at J.K. Rowling’s insistence, which is marvelous. I love her.

I found that if you leave yo pretentious ass back in New York (which is no mean feat for a part-time snob like myself), you can be suitably impressed by the meticulous attention to detail and the superb execution of design. Like this big fella:

dragon1Pretty good and even more impressive in person. Every few minutes he belches a loud, powerful blast of fire. If you’re standing nearby, you can feel a wave of heat. It’s quite an accomplishment. Might be fun to smoke a big fatty and see this.

dragon2There were a lot of visitors from the UK. I mean, a LOT. Is this a big destination for you guys? I got into a fascinating discussion about succession with two travelers from Scotland. Two cute girls with accents that can melt an aged Anglophile.

Life is a carousel ride. Sometimes literally.


“Growing up is hard, especially for men, because that means you have to leave the best years of your life behind.”

Mike Tyson

53 thoughts on “Up and Down the Social Ladder

  1. Ten bucks for a hot dog? Wow! That’s abusing monopoly. Although I think I paid that for an ice cream bar on the top of the Empire State Building.

    Sounds like you guys had a great time at Hogwarts, in general. Special effects, like the dragon, can be so impressive these days

    Up and down the social ladder – you know I think the dress on Kira is ugly, ugly. I find the onlookers better dressed.

    Fun post Mark. Thank You.

    • Yeah, and it’s just an ordinary, regular sized hot dog. Not a kielbasa or bratwurst or anything delicious like that. They got you by the short and curlies. Your kid’s hungry eyes looking up at you What can you do?!

      Vacationing is so much fun. I wish I had the bread to do it all the time. Traveling is good for you. It’s good for your perspective. Yesterday I wrote a check for $4,350 to pay for braces for my daughter. My Bride and I could have taken a whoop-ass vacation for that kind of bread.

    • Actually, that hot dog was sold OUTSIDE of Hogwarts. That was in the theme park section with all the rides.

      The Potter stuff was super, super impressive. And, it goes without saying, the more you know about the stories, the more you get out of it. It wasn’t cheap, but at least I feel I got my money’s worth.

  2. The two be-furred crones in the WeeGee pic? I don’t recall ever seeing or hearing about that and don’t feel my life has been hollow!
    But going to Hogwarts with a couple of smart and appreciative youngsters? Massive bonus!
    Also…you changed your avatar! See, I can keep an eye on the smaller things, too.:-)

    • Those kids were so happy for four days. They’re back to being somewhat morose but it was worth it.

      You should get a prize for being first to mention the avatar. I did change it. I had been told by more than one person that my last avatar–a pic of St. Lucy with two eyeballs on a plate–was so small that it was indistinguishable. It was a private joke for me because only I knew what it was. I chose another image that might be hard to see, but I think it’s a step in the right direction.

  3. We enjoyed the Harry Potter area at Universal, but two sips of the butter beer gave me the worst brain freeze I’ve ever had. Then, like a dummy, when it passed I thought, “Hmm, it wouldn’t happen again. I’m immune now.” So I took another couple sips. Aghhhh! Horrible brain freeze again. No more butter beer for me. Did you try it?

  4. Oh ohh.. up and down the social ladder alright! And for the Seinfeld reference… OH YEAH! I’ve been in love with Jerry for years now. Can’t seem to get over him.

    • Hello, Madhura. Welcome! Please wipe your feet. Do you watch Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars…. It’s really well done. Highly enjoyable. It’s in nice, bite-size 10-15 minute clips. The series has had over 40M views so it’s not a big secret.

  5. There are some brits that think a trip to America means Disney and Universal, or New York, like there’s nothing else to see, so yeah, not surprised there were a lot of Brits there! Looks fun. Be prepared for your girls to get back into Disney Princesses again when they’re about 14/15, or my daughter and her friends did anyway! Not in the same way as they were when they were little of course, more in a nostalgic way I guess.

    I saw your reply to the first comment on here – that’s the sort of thing that makes me glad to be in England – my daughter has just got braces too; cost to me = zilch 🙂

    I absolutely love that last photo of the carousel, the smiles, the colours, it’s perfect.

    • There’s more to the U.S. than those places you mention but there’s a charm to all of those as well. If you surrender yourself to the fantasy, you can have quite a lovely time and not feel too terribly stupid in the process. That being said, I am DONE with Disney, no matter how much pleading. Twice is fine. There’s nothing new to see. For instance…there’s Vegas 😉

      You’re so lucky. I wish my kid’s braces were taken care of. That outrageous amount is what I paid AFTER my insurer kicked in $1,500. That was their portion. The balance is up to me. Bastards. The helthcare system here is fried.

      • Oh yes, funny that I forgot about Vegas when I was mentioning places that Brits go to! That is of course another one! My ‘Enter’ key seems to have stopped working right now, so I have to type this as a run on even though it’s a separate point! – Of course ultimately we do pay for our healthcare here, because it comes out of our taxes, but I still think we get much better value for our dollar (or pound rather!) when it comes to healthcare, especially for people who need to have lots of expensive procedures. Or those people who just wouldn’t be able to afford insurance.

      • You do get a better deal! I’m certainly far from wealthy but I’m fortunate that paying for these braces isn’t a crippling hardship. There isn’t much of a safety net. I’m covered pretty well for cataclysmic illness, but that’s about it.

        Do you know who needs better healthcare? You’re enter key.

  6. If a cave man were looking for a mate, I think he’d ignore a stick insect like Keira and chase after the frumpy fans, who seem to have the fleshy bodies of fertile women. I would never have believed the Weegee photo was genuine because the urchin looks likes Terry Jones in drag!

    • Good Lord, you’re funny. Knightly = stick insect is so perfect and so well played. I’ll bet those fleshy girls are a lot more fun to be with and lower maintenance, to boot. Keeping it real in the jungle.

      Shoot, that DOES look like Terry Jones in a skirt. Two home runs in one comment. How do you do it?

    • Rowling deserves every nickle she’s made. She got a lot of kids to read who would have otherwise never touched a book. And don’t get me started on her charity work. What a fine, fine human being.

      I liked the butterbeer a lot. There was a frozen version that wasn’t very good but the regular drink was very nice. It tasted like cream soda. Maybe a little sweeter.

  7. Keira was fantastic in the indie music movie with Mark Ruffalo, by the way, playing a down-to-earth U.K. lass who came over here and got shat upon by Adam Levine, who played a guy who looked and sounded a lot like like Adam Levine. You should see it if you haven’t, Mark. It allowed me to think she hates that photo above as much as we do.

    Home run for Jerry’s new show and that comment with KH. He grew up a few towns over from me on the Island, a few years older than me only, and over the last 25 years of his upward and downward spirals and plateaus, I always still saw that SmirkySmartInsecureEverykid part squirming around in him.

    The Potter theme park looks awesome for you and the fam. The ‘dogs and beverages are what they’d cost at a game at any stadium, so you just gotta shrug that off. The heat from the dragon is worth it, no?

    When I look at my approaching-25 daughter smile, the series of braces checks never even come to my mind anymore. Just saying.

    • I know what movie you’re referring to. Didn’t that plot adhere a little too closely to Once? No matter. If you recommended it, I’ll check it out.

      So you’ve seen Seinfeld’s web series? It’s smart and funny. The episode with Michael Richards in the first season is kind of heartbreaking. Richards still suffers greatly for his very public mistake.

      The best part of that Dragon is watching the faces of the people who haven’t seen it yet. You can tell in that split second that they’re not thinking of any of their problems.

      I don’t doubt the money for braces is well spent. But, oh Jesus, does it hurt writing that check.

      • Yeah, I feel for Michael Richards’ paying the price over and over and over for that very public gaffe. I must follow Jerry. It’s in my makeup by now. I’ve been lucky enough to see his stand-up act a few times here in our big restored theater. In the question-and-answer sessions at the end, I could feel his brain spinning and the answers falling in there, like sitting around the kitchen table on Long Island kitbitzing with family and friends.

        I hadn’t seen Once before the Knightly movie, so I was not pre-influenced. Let me know if you indeed compare the two.

  8. Wait a second? You live in NYC (i know Jersey technically) and are amazed at a $10 hot dog? I thought that’s what they cost in the big city? Of course i took the boyos to the movies on Turkey Day and a fucking Icee cost $5.75, that’s like sugar, water and air for almost 6 bucks.

    • Yeah, but you would expect to pay $10 bucks for a hotdog in Manhattan. You hope to be protected from that once you left the area code.

      Did the Icee come in a souvenir glass? That might have made the difference. What movie did you see? Any good?

  9. “Part-time snob.” Ha. Perfect.
    I did not know that photo was faked. I wonder how many other famous Life-era photos were staged? Probably more than we imagine. Propaganda is bliss.
    Love Comedians in Cars. I tend to go a long time without, then binge-watch.

    • Don’t you think ALL of Weegee’s pics are now suspect? You’ve got to be careful about your reputation. Once destroyed, it’s tough to get back. Especially in his likening work.

      I like to space out my viewings of Comedians… It makes each one more special. The Letterman episode was really good.

  10. Social ladder? I hate the damn thing. I detest snobs and ladder climbers. I grew up on a farm. I appreciate that my parents were able to pay for me to get a higher education. I don’t have to grovel and I am not rich just, thankful.

    Love your pics. Good ones for sure.

  11. call me frumpy (which is the truth), but i dislike Ms. Knightley’s gown, and think the two ladies looking on are better dressed…. perspective, i guess.

    Seinfeld nailed it. There’s more to it, though. The current crop of 20-somethings (middle class, suburban types) is known for being the first generation to NOT aspire to a higher standard of living than their parents. They are re-defining “higher standard” anyway, wanting to work to live, not live to work. Heavily invested in non-profits, small shops, and lives of meaning…. They’re cute as hell. A solid troupe of them are working hard to reclaim a slightly decayed downtown in my little corner of Ohio, and i adore them for it!

    • I also think those two ladies are probably less serious and more fun to spend time with. I’ll bet they won’t prattle on endlessly about “their craft.”

      I have nieces who are 24 and 28. They’re couple of the do-gooders with no mind at all towards wealth accumulation. It’s refreshing and enough to give you hope.

  12. Sooo… I went to Orlando for work a few months ago. First time to Disney. Went by myself (cause it’s work!), and the only part of the park I saw was the wastewater treatment plant. Surprisingly, despite all the oodles of happiness, human waste produced by Disney-goers appears to be quite similar to conventional sludge. I think I may need a new job.

    The Harry Potter display looks awesome. My oldest is seven, and he’s burned through the series a couple of times now, he quizzed me on the books tonight and I failed miserably. He would love love love that stuff. Man, I gotta take the family. And no more wastewater treatment plants.

    The Seinfeld line… fantastic. How come it’s our comedians who are the wisest amongst us? Remember when it was supposed to be philosophers or men/women of state?

    • Funny, but when I went to Disney with my little girls, the waste treatment plant wasn’t on the tour. I wonder why? Might have been educational. We visited a vast buffet that looked like the start point of the wast treatment plant.

      Do your son a favor and get him down there. He’s the right age and he’d love it. And you’d be really moved by his reaction. Here’s the best piece of advice I can give you: GO OFF SEASON. High season, those places are insufferably crowded. It sucks all the joy out of it. We planned our trip on an odd week and it worked out beautifully.

      Obviously, I don’t have Seinfeld wealth, but I see the same attitude in my own home. My two girls are growing up way, WAY better than I did. I never had a vacation growing up but they have. And unlike my dad, I’m around and I care, deeply. But you’d never know it to talk to my 13-year old. She’ll realize it one day. That’s what I keep telling myself.

  13. I watched one episode of Jerry with Carrie Bradshaw (real name … I can’t remember) and I just could not get into it. It was just so bland.

  14. I’m sure I saw Orlando on a tube map – Heathrow T1,2,3, Heathrow T5, Orlando… yes it does seem to be the holiday choice of the moment, I think the exchange rate helps – but frankly… there is a Harry Potter World at Watford, in the studio they once used for some of it… and you can actually go to platform 9and 3/4 at Kings Cross – although that is just awful. I sat with my son late one night watching a bunch of Japanese kids going mental over it!

    • What an industry those books spawned! Just think of all the people who were employed–and continue to be employed–by those stories. She started in a room by herself and created opportunities for thousands. I often think the same thing about Springsteen. He sits alone in a room and writes a song. He wants to sing them live, makes one phone call and the next thing you know the teamsters are mobilized with a fleet of trucks. It amazes me.

    • Is that true!? I had no idea the cost of living was so outrageous there. You can get a dirty water hotdog here in the city for a dollar but I wouldn’t recommend it. And thanks for your kind words. I don’t often post photos. I’m not entirely comfortable doing it, but I made an exception.

    • Hi there. Welcome. Please wipe your feet. Are you disappointed to learn that the photo was a fake? I sure was when I found out! I felt Weegee was toying with my emotions and preying on my prejudices and preconceived notions. What a dirty trick.

  15. Oh, love this! I’ve been meaning to watch the Seinfeld in the cars show. My husband raves about it, too. What a trip to go that theme park. That seems worth the trip to me (if you don’t mind the waiting). There’s always waiting at these places. Oh, the agony of waiting. I can do without the $10 hot dog! Although, is it such a surprise these days? It’s beginning to seem more normal, and that is the scary thing, because we all know, hot dogs will always just be hot dogs! I like the $1.50 deal at Costco, which includes a drink. The cheapest meal in town, I’m sure of it. This is a great photo of you and your daughter. You should frame it and put it on your desk!

  16. I went to Orlando with a man I met on match.com after dating him for a year. It was a fun walking visit, since our first ride made us almost barf! The ride that you are on Harry Potter’s broom meant we spent the rest of the time eating salty pretzels and drinking sprite…I would have loved to taste the butterbeer! I was hoping that the shows we watched would make up for not being able to be on any more rides, but I cannot complain, since we had a lovely time fishing on beautiful beaches and piers… The whole thing was a rather beautifully decorated park. I like Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio much better!
    This post about social standing is so British, since there are people who don’t have a clue of their ‘stations’ in life here in the States… ha ha!

    • My family and I are not ride people at all. We actually ended up doing very little of that. At times, I was wondering what we were doing there at all! But it worked out okay. There was plenty of other stuff to do aside from dizzying rides. The Potter stuff was very well done. Very impressive.

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