There was a Columbia College Class of 1955 that liked to fraternize with the Class of 2005. We simply referred to them as our “Grandfather Class”. My grandparents never went to college, I think 2/4 graduated high school. But I digress…
The NY Times always has these flashy photos of Upper East Side mansions, penthouse suites and all-encompassing Central Park vistas.Tonight as I perused “all the news thats fit to print” one of these spectacular mansions caught my eye. It was 998 Fifth Avenue.
This building built in 1910 by McKim Meade and White was the epitome of its time. An early front runner in the efforts of land developers to push the rich beyond midtown and to expand to the North.
The Guggenheim family were some of the earliest occupants of this 12 story luxury apartment building.
It was probably about mid-March, because if my memory serves me correctly it was quite cold at the time.
Amber (my roommate at the time), myself and a posse of 20 other graduating seniors made the trip crosstown to have dinner and mingle with our Grandfather Class of 1955.
These events were notable because every other month those of us that had opted into the program would have the privilege of free dinner and a two-hour open bar policy.
The libations made the conversations more enjoyable. It dissipated any inhibitions we might have had for hanging out with a bunch of old dudes and their wives - of which our shared experiences were few.
This particular evening was awesome because we were up on the 15th/16th floor of one of these Fifth Avenue luxury, turn-of-the-century, multi-million-dollar, richy rich people apartment buildings.The guy was a dentist. For the love of me I have no idea how a dentist could afford an apartment like this. I know that plumbers and garbage men are capable of owning mansions, but I have never heard of a mafia guy going to dental school.
The view was amazing. From our perch on Fifth Avenue and 85th Street ( I think we were in 1038 Fifth Avenue give or take a building) we could see clear across the Park. The New York City skyline was ethereal. Lights glimmering, planes in the distant and small specks of people wandering along Museum Mile.
When the dinner ended Amber and I refused to leave. We wanted to hold onto this vista.
So in a turn for the stupid or worst, we exited the entrance hall from the apartment and climbed up the emergency fire escape. Two floors later we were on the roof. We were smart. We tricked the system. We even left Amber’s bag wedged into the door so the fire escape wouldn’t lock us out.
The next 15 minutes we snooped around on the roof. What the hell is on the roof of a building with tenants collectively worth almost a billion dollars?
There were some plants, a couple of vases and a two story penthouse. It got kind of creepy up there. I was looking into this guys’ window and sure enough he was watching his big screen tv in his pajamas.
After the shock and awe of the rooftop, we descended down to the fire escape hatch. Amber’s bag was missing.
We were in a new sort of shock and awe. Like what the fuck just happened?
Down the elevator we went.
In the building entrance hall a small gathering of building security and residents had amassed.
Amber’s bag had tripped the alarm. If it was left open for more than 30-seconds a silent alarm went off.
The police had been called for a breaking-and-entering disturbance.
We had broken the security of the building.
Amber was in hysterics, crying and pleading for mercy. My emotional state was more subdued. I had been drinking gimlets and wine for three hours, so I thought it better to be quiet. Let Amber do all the talking (she wouldn’t stop).
Eventually the dust settled. The cops were called off. I was laughing and Amber stopped crying.
Whenever I see one of these NY Times luxury condo ads I think back to that night. I ponder - What was that guy watching in his penthouse?