European Diary

Eyeless in Love

The desire to spit is widely underrated as a motive.  Yet it was known throughout the university I attended, for instance, that the founder of Pan American Airways, one of its illustrious and discontented alumni, had built the PanAm skyscraper over Grand Central Station in New York with the single-minded purpose of being able to spit, from the height of his office window, on his old university club in Vanderbilt Avenue, a 20-story building and now a pitiful dwarf somewhere 30 stories below.  The man who thus conspued his alma mater was South American, a foreigner bound to have been socially marginalized as an undergraduate, a greasy wop and a sore loser in the fraternity game.  PanAm being the first transcontinental airline, however, it is no exaggeration that the world owes its concept of travel to the psychopathic inversion caused in an outsider by his experience of the establishment and to the vengeful pleasure with which he set out to invert its hierarchy.

My loved one’s impulse stemmed from a similar feeling of isolation, a kind of anticipatory claustrophobia which is often the lot of those who are too perceptive, too precocious, and finally too clever for their own good.  It has been said that in order to succeed, in society as in business, one has to be fool enough to see only the trees—not the forest of adverse consequences, necessarily attendant upon one’s every action, in all their dizzying...

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