The Manor

Bobby Mars

October 24, 2023

I was in New Jersey visiting my best friend from college, Noam, over winter break. Must have been the week before Christmas, 2013. We’d travelled there with our other friend, Lara. She had a few friends in the city, some early 20s girls fresh out of college sharing a 1 bedroom apartment in Chelsea. They invited us out with them, we decided to take the train into the city and make a night out of it.

The plan was to have dinner with Noam and his mom beforehand, but they got in such a terrible fight on the train that they simply took the next train back at our first connection. New Jersey moms, man. Lara and I continued on and met up with her friends, the two girls in their tiny little apartment barely big enough to fit their two beds. A brunette and a redhead, the redhead the meaner but better looking of the two. Clothes strewn everywhere, not a kitchen in sight, bag of coke perched on the coffee table while they did their make up.

They each did a few lines, I didn’t partake. Already too strung out from the road. We went out to the bar, some cocktail bar nearby, grabbed a table by the window. The brunette starts up about some guy texting her to meet up, unsure whether to invite him out or not, says he has friends with him. He shows up, with another guy and this hot Australian sheila. He’s American, looks mid-30s, his friend has a bit of an accent, come to find later he’s Israeli. We go to the bar, I start chatting with the Israeli guy. Mind you, I’m barely 21 at this point, the only adult question I can think to ask this dude is, “so what do you do?”

He turns to me with a straight face and says, “you should google me.” Mad arrogant, just keeps insisting that I look him up. I finally do, and find some fluff piece article in the NYT about how he runs these “influencer dinners.” Admittedly this was ahead of the curve in 2013. The article even mentioned how this young man wasn’t particularly famous himself, but rich, the son of a rich and famous father. Pretty brazen in its self indulgence and obviously the sort of cleverly placed, seemingly genuine advertisement the Times is so skilled at producing. Of course, I knew none of this at the time, and was actually kind of impressed, despite how much of an asshole he was.

Anyways, I read the article, and he goes on about how he “gets people to cook him dinner” for a living. Douchebag. Him and his buddy start up talking about, “The Manor,” repeatedly insisting, “let’s all go to The Manor.” I figure The Manor is a bar, sounds like a cool bar name, I’m just along for the ride at this point. Brunette girl and the guy she’s texting are cozying up, NYT dude has his eyes on the redhead, Australian chick seems to be acting as more his handler than anything? Managing the situation, watching everyone, saying little herself.

Cabs roll up, NYT dude starts barking orders, saying who should get in what cab. Of course, he’s in the cab with the redhead and his aussie handler chick, and puts the rest of us in another cab. Cabs start heading uptown, upper west side, I start to wonder what sort of bar we’d be heading to in a mostly residential upper west side neighborhood. Cabs stop, we get out, we’re definitely at an apartment building.

Turns out, The Manor is his apartment, and the name was somewhat fitting. The whole floor of a pre-war building, probably a dozen bedrooms throughout, indeed rather stately. Of course he’d want to bring the chicks back here ASAP. We’re drinking beers in the living room, not for very long, NYT dude disappears with the redhead and the aussie chick in tow. His buddy is moving a bit slower, taking his time, too long honestly, maneuvering the brunette. About an hour later, all of us still there, aussie chick emerges wearing only a men’s button down, two buttons fastened, grabs a video camera off the shelf, and retreats back to the bedroom, presumably. Damn. Like it was nothing new.

His buddy finally maneuvers the brunette chick off to some bedroom, and suddenly it’s just Lara and I alone in the winding halls of this massive apartment. We go smoke my joint on a tiny balcony, despite having been strictly admonished not to. Daily weed smokers, the both of us, nothing would have stopped that. Now pleasantly high and several drinks deep, we start cackling, joking to each other and pretending that the apartment is actually ours, pretending to be a married couple. We start strolling the halls, gesturing at art and paintings, “yes dear this one is my favorite, wouldn’t you say,” and “no dear I don’t quite fancy that one, this one indeed catches my eye, got it for a song,” and such. Our revelry was festive, we jesters strolling our new estate.

We opened a random door, went into the room, and found several paintings leaning against the wall in storage, and a large wood trunk against the wall. Lara opens the trunk, and it’s filled with children’s halloween costumes. Cowboys, princesses, super heroes, the works. We found it preposterous, giggling like morons as Lara took out a children’s batman costume and cowboy hat and put them both on. I took a thick wool scarf and a sheriff’s badge and adorned myself.

We went to the kitchen, and our host had now emerged, positively irate because he smelled the weed smoke and demanded to know who had smoked inside his apartment. Well, it was on the balcony pal, but we denied it regardless. He wanted us to drink some strange liquor from unmarked bottles in the fridge, I forget the name, we declined. Lara asked how her friend was, we hadn’t seen her for a few hours, and she had the bag of cocaine. He strictly refused to let us see her, saying simply, “she’s tuckered out right now,” which ringed creepily in his accented voice. He then launched into some speech about how he makes excellent breakfast and demanded that we find a bedroom and stay the night.

Frankly, I’d been feeling bad vibes ever since I met this guy. His place had a dark energy to it, even grim. The same aura as Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut, a film I saw years later and reminded me strongly of this episode. Lara shared the sentiment and we decided to make it an Irish goodbye and slip off to midtown to catch the train back to Jersey at 6am. We left the building, but not before calling over a doorman and asking him if he knew where to buy weed. He scoffed at us and told us to get out of there.

We caught a cab to Times Square, it was 3am, we hadn’t eaten dinner, ravenous as we waited for the 6am train. The only thing open was a White Castle. I’d never been to White Castle, but I’d seen Harold and Kumar so assumed it was awesome. I ordered a ton of sliders and we sat down to wait for our food. Two cops were sitting next to us, and looked over with a glance I can only describe as disgust. “Look at these freaks.” I looked around the restaurant and it was indeed a horror show with all manner of midnight carnival clowns, before catching a glimpse of Lara and I in the mirror. We were a disheveled mess with grey faces slowly fading from drunk to hungover, reeking of weed smoke, Lara still in the children’s batman costume and cowboy hat, I with a totally mismatched wool scarf and sheriff’s pin on my jacket. Yeah, freaks alright.

If you’ve never had White Castle, let me assure you, it’s nothing like Harold and Kumar. I genuinely don’t think I’ve ever had worse food. You couldn’t even call it food. It was the most disgusting, inedible thing I’d ever encountered, and I’d ordered an entire tray of it. Pure misery and disappointment. I barely finished half a slider and threw the rest out. I saw years later that the Times Square White Castle closed, God finally smiting that unholy place.

We boarded the train, feeling increasingly unwell from all the booze and the disgusting White Castle. This group of teenagers sat behind us, all boys. We gathered from their conversation that they’d spent the night in NYC simply wandering the streets, a suburban gang out to sow their wild oats with whatever rebellion they could manage. They regaled each other with their tales of drinking, in the way teenagers who have barely ever drank do, and all their talk of vodka shots made me increasingly nauseous.

We disembarked the train in suburban New Jersey as the sun rose and immediately projectile vomited onto the grass. Horrified businessmen scoffed at us on their way to work, shopkeepers looked up with disgust, just making a total scene. We stumbled back to Noam’s house in our vomit-stained garb. He woke up, rolled us a joint, and we smoked it in the backyard as we regaled him with our tale. We passed out and slept all day.

Lara finally hears from her friend, and she’s fine, but says NYT dude noticed the costumes were gone and is pissed. Indeed, he starts texting Lara in a flurry, begging us to return the costume items, spinning all manner of tales as to their family significance or some such thing, desperate to get them back. It’s simply out of the question, however, we have no time to go back to the city before we leave, so we never returned them. I have no idea what their ultimate fate was in all honesty.

I looked him up now, and he’s gotten much more famous since them, styling himself as some sort of social media grifter influencer. Ted Talks, mainstream media fluff pieces, 50k on IG, photos with Jared Leto, you know the type. Completely astroturfed, as they say, favorably placed into media environments because of money and social connections. Married a hot woman too, lucky bastard.