An excerpt from
The Right Coast
No one is unhappier than the man with silk sensibilities born into a flannel family—nothing will ever satisfy. Distancing himself from his shameful roots is the only way to keep his standards intact. Perfectly free to express himself once the extrication is complete.
Samuel Dean Porter was such a soul. If he were a car, he’d be a two-million-dollar Bugatti Veyron. Not the base model, but the 267 mile-per-hour stunner. As a watch, he’d be the $734,000 Breguet pocket watch with an eighteen karat gold body. If he were a dog, he’d be the one and a half million dollar Tibetan mastiff puppy, Big Splash, drinking from Waterford crystal and eating Matsutake mushrooms (a mere thousand dollars a pound), Wagyu rib-eyes (only twenty-eight-hundred bucks a pop), and the world’s most expensive curry—Samundari Khazana—at thirty-two-hundred bucks a plate, throwing in two Yubari melons for roughly twenty-three grand to cap things off. And that would just be his morning meal. In poker, he’d be a royal flush every time, pulling the Ace of Spades from behind his ear while no one at The Wynn saw a thing.
Sam Porter—love or hate him, he always fascinates. A pretty boy with affectations: an interior decorator, restaurateur, garbage picker, and also a very bad enemy. Being as capable as he was, Sam could have been anything when he grew up—a doctor, lawyer, or a computer programmer. But being able to master anything he set his mind to, one job wasn’t good enough. He opted to become a skilled chef, training at the French Culinary Institute in New York City as well as a respected interior designer of properties worth over half a million dollars after completing his studies at the New York School of Interior Design.
For Sam, cooking came first. Busying himself at the FCI, he mastered everything from pâtés to pork rillettes. Upon meeting his soon-to-be inseparable friend, Matt Catalano, Sam returned to Buffalo to try out a novel restaurant idea. The men opened GamePlay on a hunch that parents would take their kids out to eat more often if the kids were more willing, and kids want to go anyplace with video games. They found an Italian restaurant going out of business near the University of Buffalo campus and filled it with clusters of comfy chairs, side tables, televisions, and stacks of games kids could play while the adults talked, dined, and drank.
GamePlay opened in 2006, and as the Wii gained attention as being family-friendly, Sam and Matt achieved major success. Focusing on Wii games exclusively, GamePlay had families waiting over thirty minutes with kids too small to hold a remote just to get group seating. Once the restaurant was successfully established, Sam opened his design firm, “Sinful,” with the help of the beautiful and efficient Ginny Krajcik, an intern from the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. Sam liked that Ginny would answer him with only one word whenever possible. Ginny worked for the experience and the chance that some of Sam’s godliness might rub off on her.
“You’re phenomenal,” Sam would say, but Ginny would barely reward him with a glance. “Phenomenal,” she would murmur in acknowledgement. Sam was all man, but he required a persona when he started Sinful. A persona that surely wasn’t required at GamePlay. That was for Matt and the peasants, appealing to the pop culture masses that considered beer, pizza, and bowling a great night out. Sam developed his Sinful persona after watching his younger brother, George, in a junior high school play. He already knew he was doing the dual-career-path when he graduated, eschewing academia for culinary training and interior design studies to fulfill his artistic leanings. George was in a play called Mr. Sunkist, about a man who receives an inheritance from a neighbor. Sam fell in love with Mr. Sunkist’s sensibilities, straight down to his smoking jacket. He practiced the character’s way of talking until he could speak that way himself, accenting the second syllable of words quite naturally after a few months of concerted effort.
Sam’s dramatic flair was not off-putting to Ginny, but she was not interested in Sam sexually. She had her sights set on D.C., with the end goal of becoming First Lady, either by falling in love with an unmarried ambitious politico or by underhandedly stealing the President’s heart and marrying him—a scenario straight from the adulterous pages of England past. Sam didn’t doubt she could pull it off, but he liked to think that, in the meantime, she was picking up tips on redecorating the White House and that, if he treated her well, she would remember him.
Sam dropped the Porter, Jr from his name and became simply Sam Dean at the age of eighteen because he wanted to disassociate himself from his father, a man who had beaten his wife and children as far back as he could remember. Compounding his worries, his complicated feelings about his younger brother, George, plagued him, running the gamut from domineering protectiveness to abject sibling rivalry. The two of them were raised in Amherst, Buffalo’s largest suburb, on a tree-lined street where kids played ice hockey every winter and softball each summer.
There was a woman in Sam’s life, but the love affair was one-sided. She was Matt Catalano’s eighteen-year-old sister, Patti, who was told by her parents to either get a job nearby in Cape May when she graduated or move out. Patti opted for the latter and showed up at her brother Matt’s doorstep in Buffalo, where he lived in a waterfront condo next door to Sam. After introductions, Patti’s infatuation with Matt’s business partner flowered like the bright orange poppies she’d planted in her youth, long before she started dyeing her pale hair jet black to toughen her appearance. With Patti’s sights set on making Sam fall in love with her, Matt took the opportunity to get her off his couch and into Sam’s bedroom by getting her a Sony camcorder and telling her if she ever wanted to follow her dream of making documentaries, Sam would be glad to have her start recording his life story in the event the interior decorator/restaurateur should ever become a household name.