At a lunch in July I'd read the passage out loud to a group I was dining on the mountain with in Thredbo. We were well into the wine and I felt compelled to tell the others that we were having a very Fitzgerald moment.
Later still on the pillow, I told my friend that I was interested in going to see the silk mills in January and that I'd like to duck into Switzerland to do some skiing and some travel writing. She was well versed in these things and insisted I go to Verbier; that it was the only place to really have fun. Weeks later we were not on speaking terms and I made a decision that I should soldier on with my plans. I wanted my Fitzgerald experience in Switzerland.
I got it.
Arriving in Milan I did my first meeting with an Italian designer I work with from time to time. We took seats in a pasticceria which he informed me was quite famous. I had walked the streets of Milan since 6am and I was in good spirits and knew exactly what I wanted him to start working on. Fascist architecture, landmarks across Milan, grills in windows, building facades - these were all things that we'd not looked at. We'd been focused on the Japanese for so long and I needed to redirect him. One morning walk around Milan and I'd spotted a dozen new silk designs.
We parted company and I took the train to Geneva. It was one of those extraordinary train journeys which Europe offers that's just so much more entertaining than a flight on a cheap airline and airport security. I passed Lago Maggiore listening to Brahms and Beethoven and as the terrain changed I penned my journal noting that the mountains became gradually more snow laden, long black tunnels, channels of water streaming down mountain sides like lightning bolts and in between there was township after township with factories and rows of leafless trees and clouds hovering everywhere laden with water just waiting to drop but which never did.
When I arrived in Geneva I got a shuttle up to the ski village and arrived at a particularly groovy hotel that was probably not a natural fit for me but which seemed to make every effort to take the cumbersome side out of skiing. In fact, I don't think I have ever been to a place that made skiing so easy - at a price of course.
I was there as much for the skiing as I was for the dining and partying. I had lined up an Australian to help me navigate the mountain and another Australian had reached out to tell me he would also be joining, with his daughter flying in from London. And as more and more characters descended upon the village the more my solitary skiing expedition was beginning to look more and more like a passage of Fitzgerald text.
We skied on piste because we were instructed that there were consistently avalanches in this region and because our ability was not quite there yet. There was snow everywhere and the scale of the mountains and valleys was such that by the first day as I took my first selfie with Mont Blanc and Chamonix behind us, I knew I was indebted to my friend for the good intel.
The skiing I experienced was in a class of it's own with an abundance of snow and terrain to ski. I do not believe I am a gifted enough skier to describe in words exactly what those subtle nuances were, suffice to say it was a different snow, a different humidity and altitude and everything felt white and pristine and unspoilt.
But it was the other mountain experiences that I adored so much. Siding up to a restaurant perched on the mountain after making a reservation and eating extraordinary pizza and pasta over a bottle of red whilst you looked across at Mont Blanc and Chamonix below. It was the way in which you stowed your skis and took an al fresco table as paragliders sailed overhead and then down into the valley below. It was speaking French and hearing Russian or Italian; perhaps overhearing two Swedes considering which way they will go when they disembark the gondola.
To an Australian these are such refreshing things to enjoy. On our mountains we are lucky to get some garnish; here a waiter in a bow tie (pre-tied sadly) will come and serve you in a waistcoat and run you through the specials in such a manner that you'd assume the table before you were a bunch of aristocrats. Casually the owner of the restaurant sends over a round of shots of mirto and explains that he harvests it from myrtle berries he collects in Sardinia when he sails his yacht in the summertime.
Yes yes, I came looking for Fitzgerald's ski experience and I was getting it. A compost of the privileged rich would gather in the same nightclubs where ski bunnies who barely had the means to make noodles at night and pay for ski tickets would thrust and thrive to the music blaring out from a band that was as talented as it was tragic. I would watch an old man lick his lips as young girls gathered around us to talk whilst two young lovers kissed passionately by the corner of the bar. I could hear the rock n roll blare behind a window screen whilst we on the other side went about ordering our negronis. I was on the balcony as the sun went down and music was turned up; I saw the froufrou woman in the mink coat and collagen lips rub shoulders with the suntanned gentleman who looked like he'd just gotten off a surfing boat in Indonesia.
At one point I witnessed a young Australian, too belted to have any sense about him, grab a bottle of spirits from behind the bar and free pour shots for all and sundry staring devilishly and without filter into the blue light of the disco. I heard whispers of affairs and everything that seemed wholesome and good was, when the veneer was scratched, tainted and marred by excess.
And whilst I have so many numerous stories I could tell, I must keep the vast majority of them to myself. What goes on tour, stays on tour. So I am told.
So, I got my Fitzgerald experience but I will say this, when I think of the rich and restless and their boundless hedonism I am often likely to suggest that 'la dolce vita has a hook' , and by that I mean that there is a barb in all of it, there is pain in the pleasure of it all. You can't live at that level without it taking it's toll but what the price is, only the individual who is living the experience might tell you. For myself, it wasn't just the dollars and cents that took its toll, it was the idea that it lacked purpose. And by the end of my experience I missed my work and I missed my customers.
We are not here for a long time, so I am grateful to put this business to rest. Sometimes in life we can find things that are just too conceptually large for us at a particular time. I am drawn to this world like a moth to light, but I am simultaneously a simple man who finds comfort in building my business one bow tie at a time.