Hullo, readers. I’m down Florida way for a bit of warm weather. The Bermuda Race Organizing Committee has been commandeered by a coterie of crapulous ingrates, leaving your correspondent on the outs. Nothing a little R&R can’t cure, but I’m sour. I hate trekking up to Newport for nothing.
I’m in no mood for correspondence, but an interested reader inquired some days ago how I fell into journalism. I shall endeavor to answer. Stick me on a psychiatrist’s sofa and I’ll happily discuss my lifelong love of loquacity. It maddened Mother, who labeled me an ‘ecstatic’ child. She would be equal parts unsurprised and appalled by this hobby. Fortunately she doesn’t read this magazine.
But the truth is, like a star of the country & western stage, I write because my wife left me and took my dog — in my case a red standard poodle named Carlo III. Last summer, I was at the 21 Club with a transatlantic acquaintance attached to this august periodical. After an additional aviation, he insisted I write a column. I swore I cared only about my sailing and my societies. Nevertheless, he persisted, and I was in no condition to resist a literary entreaty. My first and third wife Abby (née Ana-Blythe AgeeBaltzell), a double hyphen of Huguenot heritage as frigid as Frenchman Bay in February, had just decamped to the Sharon house with Carlo III in tow, leaving me nakedly sans canine in our classic seven.
How did all this come to pass? In spring of ’88, four of us snuck down to Miami in want of weather and women. We wound up fermenting in front of a fronton, lost real money and had to hitch up the coast. I got back to Old Eli only to be bundled into an Alfa and dragged up to Vassar for a social. That’s where, exhausted and worse for the road, I met Abby.
I could say it was like I’d been struck by a pelota, that our romance was unsuitable, ridiculous, even impossible. I’d be lying. Ours was a pragmatic courtship. Collegiate spring socials. Overlapping summer stays with various Griswolds in Newport. Football in the autumn. Deb scene after-parties that winter. We were well-matched as a matter of background and breeding. Reality triumphed over romance.
When I proposed — a year out of Yale, and feeling fleet on the Street — Mother was enthusiastic. ‘A good match. She’ll settle you.’ Notice was filed in the Social Register and Christ Episcopal reserved.
Mother loved poodles, perhaps more, and certainly more outwardly, than she loved her children. My siblings took this as an improving lesson. Being the baby, I misbehaved. Anyhow, as a wedding present, Mother gave us a parti pup. My wife named him Carlo and I called him Charley. He lived for a dozen years, and when he died we were bereft. A week later, I came home to a resplendent silver bitch, incongruously dubbed Carlo II, curled up on the chaise longue. Thus began the unraveling of our first marriage.
Calling her Carlo smacked of perversity and a Bourbon Restoration in our small corner of the East Side, neither of which I could abide. Abby insisted. Carlo II — Charlotte to me — internalized the growing domestic hostility and acted out. Abby took her, first weekly then daily, to a specialized trainer in New Canaan named Tabitha. Tabitha advised that Charlotte needed space, so Abby relocated to Sharon. Soon they’d formed a triune coven of a decidedly misandrist cast. Charlotte growled when I visited on weekends. Even that left me unprepared for Abby’s affectless announcement, made one Saturday afternoon, that she was leaving me for Tabitha. Specifically, I was to remove myself to the city. Tabitha was taking my place.
I don’t know precisely what happened between them, and the story of my second marriage, second divorce and our reconciliation is best left for later. By then Charlotte was long in the tooth and differently disposed towards me. I loved her very much and looked after her every need. When she died, I drove straight to a breeder in New Jersey and returned with a ruddy runt named Carlo III, whom I call Captain. I won’t bore you with the details of why, but now Captain, my Captain, is in Sharon with Abby, and for all I know Tabitha too. I’m left with jai alai, ill-advised assignations in Vermont, the Bermuda Race. Assuming those Jacobins in Newport haven’t scuppered it by now.
This article is in The Spectator’s April 2020 US edition.