Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Private Clubs ~ then & now.

There was lots of, what seemed to be, economic diversity where I came from regarding my neighborhood and private grade school. The differences seemed to be a lot more contrasting than they are now. Generally speaking, those who I associate with now, tend to be in my humble income bracket, though I think I'm at the lower end of the average. There are exceptions.

Everyone in my family seemed to be still influenced by the great depression. Cash always seemed tight, bedrooms were cold, as heat was turned down, and barely ever did we eat out as a family. No one really knew how tight things were, or even if they were, but you got the impression things could go under at any moment. This is probably more of a result of anxiety that was nicely passed down to me and one of many reasons why I'd never start a family.

We lived close to housing projects, though I had many friends who were quite well off and had a different approach from our own. Many of these people joined clubs and I had a few friends that were members of such things. This was the 1980s and were, or I was, a wanna-be prep boy so these things seemed quite appealing and while I didn't lose sleep over this, at times I thought it'd be great if our family were members, even though we had no business setting foot into such places.

The first place I remember, I won't mention the name, was just a pool and tennis court club and a decent sized building to change, shower, get snacks, etc. No golf course. It was fenced in and in a decent neighborhood, though near train tracks. Looking back, it didn't seem very elitist, though I was surprised to find out they had a rule that you couldn't play tennis topless (for guys). Not that I ever wanted to play topless, the rule just seemed weird and authoritarian at that time. The fees weren't outrageous, I just checked the site, but maybe it lacked diversity. I have a hard time thinking that that was their policy, but who knows. People who belonged here seemed to all have a similar vibe, upper middle class and white, most probably listened to NPR and voted democrat.

Then there was another club. Others, from another part of town joined this one. One family would join than another would follow. This place was on the river and involved boating, or at least you would think so by the name (again, I won't mention the name). The few people I knew in this club didn't own boats but I guess they wanted to surround themselves around people that owned boats. I got invited once or twice and from what I remember, it had a big dirt parking lot, the tennis courts were on the other side of the property, and the swimming pool was just a swimming pool. There were boats docked in the water I think. I vaguely remember the boats. I remember it being sort of a hot spot for assholes to hang and get drunk and instill that type of faux elitism on their shallow children.

In truth and at the time, in my tiny adolescent brain, both of these places did seem cool. That is, from the outside, on the surface. And, there was a mild disappointment that we weren't apart of such things. But the disappointment didn't last very long and even then the whole scene seemed to be pretty transparent and even annoying and not my thing. Not our thing. It worked out alright to be unrefined, freezing in my bedroom, and eating tacos with hard shells involving seasoning packets on ground meat.

Our unspoken silent war against the excesses and exclusivity of private clubs came to an end in the early 90s when my parents decided to join the Jewish Community Center. While this establishment certainly wasn't on the same level (in regards to snobbishness) as those two places mentioned previously, the JCC did have nice facilities and a decent ping pong table. Think of it as an upscale YMCA if you're not familiar. I think we were members for a year. I used the ping pong tables a couple times then stopped going. It would've been a great resource for staying in shape and meeting people outside my limited circle but I was far too introverted back then to extend myself.

Currently, I'm a member of one private club and this is the Kutztown Fire Company (I've written about it before). This place is beautiful in that it's old school as hell,  cozy, and lacks any kind of "I'm better than you" attitude. It's a place my grandparents could've been members of. It's comfortable. It's true.

My critique of the first two clubs were done in a way to capture my mood about them as a child. It goes without saying people like to rub elbows with people they feel are like minded or on the same level. We need not waste time thinking about the morality of such endeavors or who's smaller minded than the next. That should be left behind with other youthful inclinations. Know where you're at and what you like apart from any titles, groups or status symbols and the blessings will flow.

!(<3 have a good toosdee <3)!

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