Arnon Grunberg



I arrived in New York in January 1995. Soon after my arrival I discovered that New Yorkers – and for that matter, probably Americans in general – don’t drink wine for lunch. Only alcoholics, professional adulterers, cokeheads or other drug addicts would order a glass of wine for lunch during weekdays.
Because I believe in assimilation I decided to stick to mineral water and/or ice tea when having a business lunch in New York.
This afternoon I had lunch at Maialino, next to the Grammercy Park Hotel.
I was sitting at the bar; the bar was packed.
Based on their accents (or rather the lack of it) I would say that all other guests at the bar were Americans, but not necessarily New Yorkers.
All of them, with no exception, were drinking wine; soon I discovered that a lot of them were having two glasses of wine for lunch.
For the record: while having lunch alone I never drink more than one glass of wine. I only drink two glasses of wine for lunch when I plan to have sex with a stranger that afternoon. And I cannot remember having sex with a stranger in the afternoon. I may have tried to pick up a stranger in the afternoon, but I always failed.
The people at the bar at Maialino weren’t tourists; my guess is that they were all professionals.
I was also surprised that although most of my fellow lunchers were eating by themselves they weren’t texting, checking their e-mail or making phone calls. They were just enjoying their lunch. Some of them were busy solving the Times crossword puzzle.
I was the last one to arrive at the bar; I was the first one to leave. I wanted to go back to work.
The sophisticated gentleman next to me worked on his small plate of pasta for at least twenty minutes.
On my way back home I thought: perhaps I’ve become more American than the Americans.
Or, and this is more plausible, the upper middle class in America, or at least in New York, has changed.
Of course, this is all anecdotal evidence and I’m nothing but an amateur sociologist.
But perhaps the upper middle class in New York has come to the conclusion that the Apocalypse is near and they said to themselves: what the heck, let’s have lunch as if we’re in Paris.