the lost man chronicles
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Wednesday, February 8, 2006

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Vanity Fare, cont.

It’s a Small World After All
Beyond my association with Hizzoner (which for those in the know is simply “his honor” with a Brooklyn accent, and our term of affection for the mayor of New York City) my two years at the School of International Affairs (SIPA) affectionately known as “See-Pah” to alumni, actually reverberated in a few more ways this evening. Hence, once again I was quite amused by how life continually is a never-ending circle of experience, and how despite the fact there are 8 million stories in the city, mine seems to be confined to quite a small world after all.

As mentioned before, throughout the evening I was seated next to Keith, an attorney for the New York State Homeland Security Office, and a native New Yorker who was born, bred and well educated in Queens. At some point in our conversation he asked me about SIPA because a friend of his was interested in applying to graduate programs in international relations, and she had expressed a great interest in my alma mater in particular.

I attempted to be frank by revealing that I had mixed feelings about the experience. For on the one hand, the opportunities that the Ivy League network offers have its merits because it gives one caché and opens doors that strategically connect you to the world-at-large. However, it was a damned expensive entrée and in terms of the quality of education I feel strongly that I was equally well served for a pittance of the price while I was enrolled in the first graduate program I was in back home at San Jose State University.

Ironically enough, this mixed blessing, the ivy league network, actually afforded me a chance to interact with the head table. For I soon realized that two fellow classmates and quasi-friends happened to be seated there.

After I made my obligatory hello there I returned to my table and laughed as I conveyed to Keith how I had made a fool of myself when I went to say hello to Alec (McCabe), a journalist who spent some time working in Shanghai and then in Hong Kong running the Bloomberg operation in Asia. I had seen Kirsti (Hastings), his wife and who was also a journalist for the DowJones Newswires at one time I believe, earlier at the cocktail hour where we had exchanged a few words trying to remember exactly where we had seen each other last, not all that long ago. Both of us seemed to remember it was an art reception in some lofty-loft high up in the sky overlooking Chelsea. And being that I had been to a lot of art openings lately I presumed it had been at one of these functions.

Ironically, however, I later recalled the next day that it was in fact at a gallery, but the reception was not an opening but actually a SIPA alumni reception. Alec, Kirsti and I were the only people representing our class. Most of the others were sycophantic second-years desperately tugging at alumni’s ears with hopes that they might somehow miraculously land themselves a job before graduating.

Anyway, I was only-half listening to Kirsti when we met at the bar, so when I approached her husband later on at dinner I mentioned how she had said “You two had been coming to this function for years now, because your cousin or uncle or some relative or other was involved in the founding of the organization…” Alec smiled and corrected me without a hint of condescension, “Actually, Ozzie is my stepfather.” My blush must have lit up the room, but Alec diplomatically diffused my embarrassment by asking me if I had anymore wine at my table. I smiled brightly, because it was this lovely couple’s unbridled consumption of alcohol that I fondly remembered most about them.

Ultimately, I did bring him the bottle from my table to make small amends for my faux-pas, one which I understood to be more significant than I had taken it to be when I read that “Ozzie” Osborn Elliot was not only The Founder of this evening’s host organization, but also quite a media magnate as well, for he was not only a former Newsweek editor-in-chief, but also the former dean at Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism.

Next:Six Degrees of Separation

Note: For an inspiring little story about this wonderfully crusty couple click here: I Married My Reporter (You Say Shanghai...I Say Rome) by SIPA Professor Anya Schiffrin (page 5).

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