I’m not a billionaire — yet – but my editor told me this week that Le Road Trip has sold out of its first run and is going into a second printing so wealth and fame can’t be far behind, and I better take notes on how my soon-to-be-peers live. I want to fit in when we all get together and complain about the 99.9% who live off my job creation, those sluggards. Dim wits. Hoi Polloi. Hey! Not being rich is your own damn fault!
But I digress.
Once a year, a certain hedge fund billionairein Westchester, New York opens his garden on behalf of the Garden Conservancy. So I moseyed up to Katonah to get a look at my soon-to-be-neighbor.
The first thing I noticed was the zebras. Note to self: Billionaries need zebras in the back yard.
Note to self: Also, find out where to buy a zebra saddle.
And then there were the camels.
These are the two-hump kind of camels which, I think, only come from Mongolia. Note to self: start thinking of cute names for pet camels. Ullan and Baator? Marlboro and Kent?
As you can see behind the camels, visitors parked their cars on the big lawn beside the pen where the camels and the zebras are kept. I was told by one of the 20 attendandts who were there directing traffic that they average 750 cars every time this garden is open to the public. Don’t worry: there’s room for 750 cars here. This billionaire has a 55-acre backyard. Plenty of room enough for all these nosey parkers, plus a flock of flamingos:
And kangaroos (red and white):
Now, when it comes to kangaroos, this is money well spent. I do like kangaroos. So having a dozen kangaroos romping in my backyard is just like being in Australia without all the bother of a 20-hour plane ride. I hear that kangaroos are quite fond of flying so I know these guys enjoyed their emigration from Down Under.
After the kangaroos, all the emus and ostriches and black swans and other rare birds that were wandering around the backyard didn’t really grab my attention. For the rest of my walk around the property, I only have pictures of the really, really cute pets.
Like this guy:
We weren’t allowed inside the greenhouse where the billionaire grows rare tropical fruits from Asia and India, but we were permitted to stare…
….at the adorable tiny monkeys eating all the rare tropical fruits from India and Asia:
This fella is the size of a Barbie doll. Cute!
This guy was the size of a very fat Labradoodle:
There was a woman who, upon catching sight of this little piggy ( a capybara, the world’s largest rodent, from South America, weighing about 40 pounds), exclaimed to her husband and kids: “Look! A hippopotamus!” Secret note to self: It’s worth devoting great sums of money to keep morons away from me and my capybaras.
I almost missed this guy, who was napping with his herd in the Westchester savanna:
It took a half hour, but he finally revealed his full cerval self.
This kitty took an interest in me, and wandered over to my side of the fence to sniff my camera. I tried to get a close up of those infinitely beautiful and hypnotic cat eyes…
…but I only got his chin.
I know, I know: enough with the living lawn ornaments. You want to know what a billionaire’s garden looks like.
For one thing, there aren’t many flower beds except in the one-acre cutting garden (roses and tulips this time of year). Mostly the estate is a series of beautifully landscaped rolling hills to create habitats for the living lawn ornaments. But there is a spectacularly original garden that expresses the billionaire soul; It’s a 5-acre maple grove planted with every species of maple tree.
There are wonderful paths all through this space. And several bridges — this one is the Moss Bridge:
And this one is the Japanese Bridge:
Japanese bridges are usually painted vermillion (Monet either didn’t know or didn’t care about this when he painted his Giverny bridge that blue-green color) and the use of that Japanese maple tree is outstanding. Japanese maples are prized in Japan for their intricately gnarled branches, and this tree has maximum visual interest plus it mimics the arch of the bridge. This exquisite tableau is the mark of a true connoisseur, and represents a very high taste level.
It takes about two hours to walk around and take in a 55-acre garden, for your information. I was very satisfied with the day, having learned quite a bit about the de rigueurs of the Billionaire’s Club. You cannot spend two hours in a billionaire’s garden without becoming utterly convincedthat billionaires are different than you and me, both in scale and in monkeys.
But there was one last thing I had to check out. I walked all the way up the quarter-mile long driveway, all the way to the quaint dirt road that this billionaire lives on, because I had to find the answer to a question I’ve always had about billionaires.
Q: What does a billionaire’s mailbox look like?
Now I know.