It all begins with Gunther, the older, tall, Austrian, elegant, distinct, and distant partner of my father. My father and his business partner of over 25 years were polar opposites in temperament, looks, tastes, etc. They seemed to align themselves perfectly though, in one thing, the art of making money. They could have written a great treatise on their expertise on many matters including the art of infidelity and most importantly how, despite your many differences, you’ll both end up with nothing.
There must be a moral to this story. There has to be. Why else would the powers that be continually roll this story over and over like a huge boulder destroying everything in its path as it makes its way down the road of life. It must be so that, like the sins of Adam and Eve, this life’s history lessons not fall on deaf ears, or go unseen to those left behind after the destruction. So here I am, the moral historian, trying to learn all I can from this story of the Smith clan.
Although no one seemed too fond of Gunther, nor he too fond of our family, there were times when both families traveled together. One Christmas vacation, when I was thirteen, we all ended up in St. Moritz, Switzerland, and Gunther, my father and I, went on an afternoon walk through the town. My birthday falls on the eve of Christmas, and my father was considering getting me a new watch. We entered a beautiful, glistening watch store, with all the watches displayed like precious jewels, gleaming like evening candles. I remember Gunther telling me he was going to buy a watch for his son and asked which watch I liked best. He said his son and I had similar tastes, which of course was a great lie, which I did not pick up on.
I remember picking out a beautiful gold, thin, classic timepiece. I don’t remember much else, except that on my birthday a few days later, Gunther gave me that watch as a present. I always have remembered that moment.
Through the years, Gunther and I would see each other on occasion. One summer’s day when I was seventeen, my father and I drove out to the Hampton’s to Gunther’s summerhouse, for my father to show him his new Rolls Royce.
Gunther greeted us in the driveway, and we walked slowly to his garage where he opened the door to show me his brand new Ferrari. He asked me if I would like a ride, what seventeen-year-old boy wouldn’t?
We took off down Dune Road, a road that was long and flat that paralleled the beach and started our slow ascent from zero to one hundred fifty-five in less than a minute. The engine was roaring loudly and we were whizzing past everything so fast that Gunther didn’t see or hear the police cars way behind him trying desperately to catch him, but to no avail.
Finally, Gunther turned around and as we made our way back down the road, we came to a big police barricade, which was set up in his honor.
He received a ticket for going a hundred and fifty-four miles an hour and I learned his license was revoked for one year. I would not have wanted to be around him when his license was revoked. He had a vicious temper.
But Gunther and I through the years got along well. I, unlike others in my family was no threat to him. I had no intention of going into the business and he was happy with that. Gunther liked all things modern, my father classic. Gunther was stern, Germanic, and very withdrawn. My father was short, funny, outgoing and very vivacious. Both men were forbidding in their fashion and together they became legendary on Seventh Ave.
His wife of many years was a South Hampton socialite, full of energy and enthusiasm and was always kind and gracious to me. His only son, Jack went to Dartmouth and studied languages and was fluent in four or more languages. He was very elegant, tall like his father and extremely refined, and delicate like his mother. Everything seemed normal on the outside.
Then…beginning in the winter of 1968 it all began to slowly unravel. Stay tuned.