"Sorry, my plane was late," my customer, Tyler Reynolds, apologized from the shotgun seat. "I hope it didn't put you out."
We were in my taxi en route to one of Stowe's more deluxe hotels. Tyler was a handsome, slender, fresh-faced young man, preppy in an effortless, unvarnished way that made me assume he was "to the manor born." I wouldn't have been surprised if he was a Tyler Reynolds III, or maybe even IV. He simply had that bearing.
"Yeah, I'm sure it was your fault," I kidded him. "Hey, anything within a half hour of the scheduled arrival I consider on time. Besides, we have ways of monitoring the flight to minimize downtime at the airport. Where'd you fly in from, New York City?"
"Yes, LaGuardia. I live in Manhattan, on the upper Upper West Side."
"Nice. That's a cool neighborhood. Columbia University's up there, if I recall correctly from my younger years growing up in the city. Are you pursuing a career?"
"Yes, I work at Christie's. You know, the auction house? I'm in the American Furniture and Decorative Arts department, which is basically anything in the house apart from actual art. It's not exactly where I want to be, but it's been a great opportunity."
"What department do you want to work in?"
"Impressionist and Modern Art," he replied without hesitation. "That's what I studied in graduate school in London, and that's my passion and my aspiration."
"I'm sure you'll get there once you prove yourself," I said. "Hey, what brings you to Vermont? A legit vacation?"
Tyler exhaled, tapping his hands on his thighs. "Yes! A legit vacation. I'm meeting my boyfriend at the hotel to spend a few days with him and his parents. This is the second year for all of us. We really love Stowe — all of Vermont, really."
"That's music to my ears," I said, chuckling. "My paycheck depends, at least partially, on a steady flow of tourists. Hey, you mind some low and mellow music?"
"Sure, that would be nice."
As I tuned in the radio, I said, "You know, I had this vehicle for nearly a month before I discovered it came with satellite radio. Now I'm, like, addicted to it."
Tyler said, "Like many New Yorkers, we don't own a car, so I haven't listened to it much myself."
"Oh, it's terrific. There's, like, a couple hundred stations. You know what I've lately gotten into? Andy Cohen, the guy behind all those housewife reality shows — he has his own channel. I think they call it Radio Andy. A lot of his show hosts are gay, and I'm enjoying the sensibility they bring to the interviews and whatnot."
Gay sensibility? What on Earth was I going on about? Probably another instance, I realized, of showing my age. As I came into my teens in the late '60s, few gay people were out. Homosexuality was still talked about in hushed tones, if at all. Only years later did I realize that I had probably had a couple of friends who were gay. (They may not have known it then, either, now that I think about it.) Thankfully, at least in younger generations, gayness is no longer much of an issue.
"That's great," Tyler said, and mercifully left it at that. WASP culture, I've observed, is predicated on the transmutation of awkward social interactions. It probably stems from the first imperative: avoidance of conflict. This is not the healthiest basis for relationships (see the novels and short stories of John Updike), but I appreciated Tyler's forbearance.
"So, Tyler," I asked, shifting the topic off my imaginary gay radio friends, "does your job involve contact with the firm's clients?"
"Oh, all the time, and I really enjoy it. Just last week was the Joan Rivers estate sale. Perhaps you read about it? I was helping a client bid on Joan's dog's silver water bowl. This was a Tiffany piece engraved with the dog's name, Spike. Joan was quite the gal, wasn't she?"
We both laughed in memory of the iconic, inimitable, irrepressible female comic.
"We estimated it, pre-auction, at two to three thousand," Tyler continued, "based mostly on the silver content, not the provenance. But it actually brought over 13,000, if you can believe it. The sad thing is, some bidders think of celebrity pieces as an investment, but the value rarely holds up — and, in fact, often plummets. The price is usually at its peak soon after the celebrity's death."
"That makes sense," I opined, "but who among us would not covet Spike's silver water bowl? It's really priceless, isn't it?"
Again, we laughed in tandem. Turning onto Stowe's Mountain Road, I asked, "So, are you and your boyfriend theatergoers? Have you seen anything good lately?"
"We are," Tyler replied. "Somehow, Stephen scored us tickets to Hamilton, which we saw last month. I didn't even want to know how much he paid for them. But it was as amazing as the reviews have said it was. Well worth it."
"You know, I always claim that I barely miss the Big Apple at all," I said. "But, if I had the dough, I would take up residence at the Plaza for a couple of months and go to a show every night."
"You're certain you don't miss New York?" Tyler asked with a smile and a wink. "Is that your story? Because you kind of light up when you talk about it."
"Busted, Tyler," I conceded, chuckling as I turned into the hotel driveway. "I guess maybe I do, just a little."
All these stories are true, though names and locations may be altered to protect privacy.