“The Pride” is my first novel, originally published by Kensington Books -www.kensingtonbooks.com – in 2005. The sequel, “What You Sow”, was published (also by Kensington) in 2006.
“The Pride” describes a world where politics, investment banking, corporate finance and a multitude of passions intersect. Although “The Pride” is a novel and therefore fiction, it describes a world and a way of life that is very real.
During the coming weeks, chapters of “The Pride” will be published on this site and I hope that you will be interested enough in reading “The Pride” that you will want to get the entire book, available at http://www.amazon.com, http://www.bn.com, http://www.borders.com and at many community-based bookstores around the United States.
In the meantime, I hope you enjoy “The Pride”.
My name is not Ishmael
Every story has to start somewhere, and mine starts the first time that I saw New York City. My name is Sture (pronounced “Stude” as in “Studebaker”) Jorgenson, and I am from Bergen, Norway, a small town not too far from Oslo. Until I came to New York City, Oslo was the biggest city that I have ever seen.
There is only one serious high rise in Oslo, and from the observation deck of this hotel/office building you can see the harbor, you can see the Eggar Bryge which is the Norwegian version of the South Street Seaport. You can see the incredible Viegeland Park statuary garden that, if not one of the seven wonders, is certainly one of the seventy wonders of the world. At night there is a small coverlet of lights that modestly covers Oslo from the hills to the sea. And then there is New York City.
The first time that I saw New York at night, it seemed as if the sky and earth had changed places and that the stars and all of the lights of the heavens were at my feet. The lights, the lights, and the lights – the incredible, passionate embrace of electricity and luminescence – when seen from above it resembled nothing so much as an infinite array of constellations designed by the unfettered genius of an unseen hand.
At least that’s what I remember thinking as I looked out of the window of an SAS jet coming into Kennedy airport more than a dozen years ago. The lights were something more than a spectacle, however. To me they were an invitation to imagine the possibilities of my own dreams coming true.
I also found myself trying to imagine all of the millions upon millions of stories that were unfolding that very moment, even as the plane was coming in for a landing. If Oslo’s night-lights were a shining coverlet, then New York City’s made up a huge, multi-colored duvet of gleaming possibilities and endless dreams.
Even though I had lived my entire life in Norway up until that point, I could not help but be aware of “the eight million stories that could be found in the Naked City”. I had seen so many American movies I felt like I had been to New York a hundred times prior to this, my first visit. But no book, no movie, no television show, no magazine, nothing prepared me for the sheer wonder of the reality that is New York City.
After the lights, after the spectacular spectacle that is visual New York City, after all of that, there is the City itself. And there are the people of the City. My first impression was that of being on a carousel while witnessing a bizarre bazaar of the greatest urban gathering in history, a gathering that resembled a psychedelic kaleidoscope.
As a visitor, I could take in the view or I could stay on board the carousel. I chose to get on board and I had no idea of how much my life would change from that day onwards. And I had no idea about how much I didn’t know when it came to the people of New York City.
Living for the City
As I made my way through Customs and Immigration at Kennedy on my first day in America, I had no idea that a dozen years later I would be the manager and part owner of Dorothy’s By the Sea, a most popular restaurant on the western shores of Manhattan. Dorothy’s – a restaurant overlooking the Hudson River named after the great and tragic black movie star, Dorothy Dandridge.
I remain fascinated that my partners felt that in a very important way she symbolized all that should not be forgotten about blacks in America – spectacular possibility bound up in the limited universe of a constricted reality. And on that day at Kennedy Airport, I never dreamed that as the manager of that restaurant I would be a partner with some of the most prominent members of The Pride.
Many people are not familiar with the term “The Pride”. I have heard it used in private gatherings and not so public conversations. My partners introduced me to term and I have been told that it refers to a relatively select group of black professionals in New York City and elsewhere throughout the United States – African American men and women who make their living as investment bankers, lawyers, entrepreneurs and corporate executives. Many of them are graduates of some of the finest and most prominent universities and colleges in America and all of them are impeccably trained professionals in their areas of chosen pursuit.
As an immigrant from Norway with limited dreams and even more limited skills, there is no way that I expected to learn anything about The Pride – I didn’t even know of such a thing called The Pride. And, as I have come to learn, most white Americans that I have met know nothing about this fascinating group of men and women. And that is what is one more thing that I find to be so maddening and interesting about America – anything is possible.
Of course, when I settled in on the convertible sofa in the living room of my sister Ilse’s apartment in Queens later that day, I had no way of knowing that I had begun an adventure that would teach me all about the restaurant business, the American criminal justice system and, of course, The Pride. All I wanted was for sleep to wash the jet lag off me so that I could wake up and begin the greatest adventure any young man from Bergen, Norway could possibly hope for.
I spent my first few days craning my neck in wonder, gazing at the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building and the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center and Rockefeller Center and Radio City Music Hall. I made an effort to see every tourist site and all the sights that I could find.
After a few days, however, Ilse made it very clear that, brother or no brother, if I wanted to be able to keep craning my neck every now and then, I needed to find a job. That was the only way I could maintain my legal immigrant status and my temporary residence on the convertible couch of her living room. Having a very modest educational background, and discovering that my knowledge of Norwegian history had limited value in the job market, I looked for and found a job that fitted one of the few skills that I had that were in demand in New York City in the 1980’s – washing dishes in restaurants.
I worked in short order diners, hotels and every restaurant featuring every kind of cuisine imaginable – Turkish, Slovenian, French, Egyptian, Brazilian, Ethiopian, Italian, South African, Colombian, Ghanaian and Guatemalan. After a while, all scraps and leavings truly did look alike. And then, by chance or fate, I got a job working at the world famous Water Club.
Located on the banks of the East River and not too far south of the United Nations, the Water Club is built on floating piers that abut the East River Drive. It is, in effect, a huge barge tethered to the edge of Manhattan. The Water Club gently floats on the multidirectional currents of the East River, offering spectacular views of New York’s waterways, bridges, floating traffic and East Side skyline. All of this is combined with great food, an exquisite wine list and good service. The combination has made the Water Club one of the most popular and successful restaurants in the United States. Indeed, in operating Dorothy’s, I always have looked at the Water Club as the standard that we seek to emulate.
One thing I knew from the time I got off the SAS jet at Kennedy Airport was that even though my sister Ilse loved me dearly, there was no one who was going to support Sture Jorgenson except Sture Jorgenson. So I used the one talent that I had discovered when I had my first job in Norway-I can work very hard.
And I worked very hard at the Water Club. I washed dishes on double shifts, weekends, holidays. I washed dishes when other dishwashers wanted the night off. After a while I became friendly with some of the waiters.
One evening, one of my new waiter friends called me over and, barely containing his excitement, told me of his great fortune in securing a date with a double-jointed contortionist from Belarus who worked at the Barnum & Bailey Circus. The circus was leaving town in two days and she had the night off that night. My new- found best friend begged me to substitute for him.
I was only too happy to get out of the kitchen and see the Water Club in person. I couldn’t wait to see the rich and famous of New York City and the world dining under the stars that shone through the skylight that covers the main dining area. It certainly didn’t matter to me that the cacophony and madness that is any New York City restaurant on a Friday night made the place seem like Bedlam with good food. On that Friday night, as I served wine to actresses and appetizers to Wall Street wizards and entrees to CEO’s and desserts to supermodels, I finally felt that I had arrived in New York City. And now I was sure that I never wanted to leave.