Years ago I read the novel, “A Trophy for Eagles“. I liked it so well that I purchased the
book on tape, and I listened to that until it wore out. The protagonist was a young air race pilot during the 1920’s named Frank Bandfield. His dream was to be the first to cross the Atlantic by airplane and win the $25,000 Orteig Prize. He was from rural California, was not wealthy, but had a lot of drive and passion for flying. Throughout the story he got to rub shoulders with many of the aviation greats, Charles Lindbergh, Richard Byrd, Howard Hughes, Amelia
Earhart and others.
There was one scene I always loved — Frank had just attempted a record breaking flight across country, he landed at Roosevelt Field (airport) in Long Island, where he was picked
up in a fancy car, a Rolls Royce Silver Ghost, by a friend and Slim Lindbergh. The group (with Frank still in his grease covered flying cloths) headed straight to a reception of flyers at the Waldorf Astoria. I remember the description of how in awe Frank was of the place and the people. They were all drinking Scotch. I said to myself…….”someday I will have a glass of old scotch at the Waldorf”. And just the other day, I had my chance.
A few weeks ago I visited my friend Melissa in Jersey City. I needed a change of scenery . . what better way to change one’s perspective (and take your mind off a hurting shoulder) than to leave the beautiful green mountains of Vermont for the white sandy beaches of the Jersey shore and the skyscrapers of the Big Apple? I had a fantastic few days of walking along shore, streets, and waterfront.
Melissa and her family have been to the Waldorf many times, and I think were amused at my keenness to see the place. At first view the Waldorf is impressive and a little imposing. I was not sure they would let us in. The UN leaders were in town, there were Mounted Police, big black SUV’s with lots of flashing lights, and security people everywhere…and many of them seemed to be in front of the Hotel. I tried to go “in” the “out” door, which did not go over well with the security folks or the uniformed bellman…..then through the bag check and metal detector, then we were in!
The interior was just as ornate as I expected. Huge chandeliers, beautiful displays of antique objects like fancy china settings, newsprint stories of the rich and famous, and loads of pictures of the hotel’s grand history. There were also loads of well dressed people including the Governor and his entourage (Governor of where I am not sure).
We got a table in the bar with little dishes of nuts and surveyed the menu…..20 year old
single malt Scotch, $20 (yes per glass, a dollar for each year). Wow! But the Budweiser was $9.00 a bottle. The Scotch came (one straight, one on the rocks) with little figurines of “Lady Astoria’s” on the ends of stirrers…we spent some time trying to figure out their use. I guess there it not one. I would have to say it was the best Scotch I have ever had. I mean you would kind of have to in these surroundings.
My escape to the city was memorable. A long aspiration came true. I ate some great food, saw some sights very different from home, and I drank some 20 year old scotch, where some of my aviation champions once dined…Pretty cool.