Thursday, May 7, 2009

Yale Club Interlude

Another memory came up during lunch today. I was with my father, and we were in the Tap Room, in the Yale Club of New York City. It's a fine, traditional university club, and has been a convenient Midtown haven for our family on frequent occasions over the years. My father has been a member for quite some time. His membership is a result of having graduated from Yale Divinity School. Yes, if you're keeping track through my posts, my father has been an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church, as well as having been employed by Playboy Enterprises. Bizarre mix? A clever man (I don't remember who) once summed up my father's career path by saying that he'd gone: "from the pulpit to the grease pit to the cockpit to the flesh pit." Quite right, the grease pit being General Motors, where he completed management training and got his start in the corporate world, the cockpit being Pan Am; each bookended by the obvious references. As I said, clever. I have a membership now at the club as well—a "legacy" membership as I did not attend Yale, despite going through phases of filial loyalty where I felt quite passionate about the possibility (or maybe I just liked the bulldog on the sweatshirts I wore when I was younger). The biggest draw for me these days is that the club has a lovely library run by a fabulous librarian who seems more like a family friend. It's a great place for me to go when I find it impossible to work out of my apartment (often the case, because as everyone knows, a writer needs a room of her own . . . a workspace not shared by a six-year-old). Before we lived in New York—well, before we lived there for the second time—if we had reason to be in the city, we spent the night in one of the club's guest rooms. I don't remember the exact year, though I can tell you it was the 1980s, the last time I stayed in the club overnight. I was in my early teens, I suppose. Maybe thirteen or fourteen. I could be wrong, but I think this was a time when my father was negotiating going back to work for Pan Am (another second time). Whatever the occasion, my parents and I were staying in a set of two connecting rooms. Now, as an intro, I will remind you that I have set this memory in the 1980s. It may have been around the time that the cable television industry was deregulated; I'm not sure. I do know that cable was still new, relatively speaking, but was building momentum. And I know that the rooms in the Yale Club had cable television access. Why do I remember this? To those of you who read my prior post ("Streaker"), let's just say that this memory is also pulled from the naked file. We were up late. I don't remember why. I couldn't tell you where we'd gone for dinner, if we'd been to see a show (Maybe Cats, the era is right) . . . but we got back to the rooms and rather than head straight to sleep, we turned on the televisions. Plural, as there was one per room. I don't know what wacky thing my parents found as they were flipping through the channels, but it was sufficiently amusing for them to call out to me that I had to come see it. I'm sure it was funny. However, we all still remember my response, which was: "Wait till you see what's on in here!" Why I still remember the name of the show, I have no idea, but it was Midnight Interlude . . . or else that was the name of the cable channel, but then what would it be called the rest of the day? No, it must've been the program. The set-up was traditional talk show style: an interviewer (male), who I think was behind a desk, plus some guests. The non-traditional element was that they were all discussing current events in the buff. My early teenage self found this hysterically funny. And it was. Especially in the Yale Club, because, while access to nudity on television was obviously no problem, it was disallowed to cross the club lobby in jeans (I remember trying to get around this with black denim). Of course, the privacy of a guest room is hardly the same environment as the club's common areas, where it's possible to enforce a dress code . . . and where the necessity of wearing clothes to begin with is a self-regulating issue. Even now, I have to admit, the dress code is a constraint that's hard to manage on some days, though it's gotten more relaxed over the years. One of the perks to freelance life is that you can spend your day in jeans, or in your pajamas (though I find that's bad for professional morale), or for that matter in nothing at all if you so choose. But without the dress code, there wouldn't be the comical counterpoint to Midnight Interlude. And it's true, it's been great for some laughs.

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