NR Digital

City Desk

In the Know

by Richard Brookhiser

‘You are in the seat the cardinal sat in when we had dinner here.” We were three, expecting a fourth. The fourth would be a lady, so we had already started drinking. We were perched on a little mezzanine, almost a balcony, of a dark midtown restaurant, composed of descending levels. Our host sat in the corner against the wall: banker’s suit, crisply parted hair, sharp features, sharp voice. He looked to the friend seated at his left and said, “You are in the seat the cardinal sat in when we had dinner here.”

What could be a better opening? We already knew several things without being told: Any cleric our host knew would be of this city, hence a figure in the church nationwide, first, because the city is a media echo chamber and bandstand, second because its archdiocese is the historic preserve, no, property, of Irish-Americans (the ethnicity of our host), who know how to keep things humming. Franciscans might have been baptizing Indians under the cacti centuries ago, but ever since the Irish met the city, this is where it’s been at, church-wise. But this was all background, set-up: We were to be told something new, a story, not secret exactly, but special. A story about what? Religion? Politics? Political religion? Religious politics? Gossip (least likely, but possible)? Either the story was something the cardinal had told our host, or something our host had told the cardinal (seeking confirmation), or something the two of them were somehow involved in in some other way. We would learn. Our host offered me some red wine, then turned to his friend. “You are in the seat the cardinal sat in when we had dinner here.”

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