High Life

High Above the New Barbarians

August 31, 2012

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High Above the New Barbarians

GSTAAD—Now is the time of sultry August days and nights, with the gift of privacy an added bonus. In summer the village contains the die-hards, the locals, and a few tourists. Bucolic freedom, fresh air, and sunshine were once anathema—foul-smelling, airless dives such as New Jimmy’s were the real McCoy—but now the sound of bells on roaming cows means instant happiness.

It’s called old age. I can now walk from my place to the next village and back, a trip of about one hour, before the pain becomes unbearable. The good news is that early next year I’m trying out a revolutionary treatment in Germany, one with a 70-percent success rate, especially among athletes. (Blood is extracted, jiggled with, then reintroduced, and presto, a new, improved Taki emerges and returns to competition pain-free. I hope.) Good old Fatherland. When it comes down to the nitty-gritty, only a German can be counted on. Just ask Wellington. In the meantime, I’m hobbling along getting ready for the autumn judo and karate season. Alas, autumn—a depressing time—is upon us. Why is it that summers lasted so much longer when one was young?

“Why is it that summers lasted so much longer when one was young?”

At times I walk along a river, which is “clear and smoothly fast in the early morning.” (You get two guesses whose words those are.) I walk at sunset because it’s cool in the shade, the farmers are already in bed, and the only living things that cross my path are slugs. I can’t wait to get back to the gym and start training. But that’s for New York, which in tempo and temperament is light-years away from here. Gstaad is for walking, climbing, and dreaming—of one’s youth, of girlfriends past, of drunken nights in Boulevard Montparnasse, of lazy afternoons at the polo, of flower sellers at dawn, and of the magical word “yes” when uttered by a girl.

Down by the sea last week on the French Riviera, the wine flowed and flowed and flowed and flowed! It was pink and chilled, and I had difficulty speaking to three very attractive women that an executive editor friend had staying in his house in Grasse. One of them very sweetly told me all about it the next morning.

Me: “Did I misbehave? If I did, I apologize from the bottom of my heart.”

She: “Actually you were very sweet. You told me you were afraid to sleep alone and asked if you could share my bed and that your intentions were honorable.”

Me: “You Brits are hard-hearted. I woke up in my bed after a horrible night of fright.”

She: “You poor thing. I never realized what a sensitive soul you are.”