"Hey are you guys getting bottle service?"
We have bottle of corona - one each - complete with slices of lime. Apparently this doesn't cut it.
The barmaid unpretties her face for a second to mime an awkwardness she clearly doesn't feel. "Well, in which case we'll be needing this table. Feel free to grab one of the others if you want."
Since the place is full of tables, we do as she says. Then sit and watch while our old, A-List table sits empty for an hour. Eventually a group of guys and girls arrives and they are ushered to sit down, while the beaming waitress scurries around her.
"What's that about, then?"
Turns out that what it's about is paying $500 for two bottles of Gray Goose vodka (retail value: £30 a pop). That's half a month's rent on a studio apartment in Brooklyn. That's more than you'd pay for a decent vintage of Domaine Romanee Contee. That's more than the price of a flight to France and a suitcaseful of Normandy cider. What in God's name are they thinking spending that on an elegantly cooled supermarket brand of gut-rot?
Now I used to read the free London rags and their pre-slump tales of city boys spraying each other with vintage Moet, but we were on the Lower East side, home to Rent's starving Bohemians, and the place which used to boast a population density ten times that of the most crowded high-rise Bronx hood. A quarter of all Americans can trace their ancestors directly back to people living in these ramshackle blocks (and that's even more than can claim to have Irish nobility and/or Rob Roy in their family trees). There was something far more obscene about that cultural dissonance than anything I'd encountered in the Museum of Sex a few blocks north... and that includes Paris Hilton's sex tapes.