They call it a library, writing Library with a capital L in the emails setting up the date.
“The Living Room is being used on Tuesday but the Library next to the Living Room would be available for you,” the email from the event manager read.
I have to tread carefully, as this was a work appointment. Not a “this website” work but Work also with a capital. The place that feeds me and clothes me and where I find myself saying things like “workflow,” “bandwidth” and “talk offline.”
So I’ll be cautious where I can and euphemistic when I need to. There’s nothing bad that will be said here at all, but a place where people say “Do you have the bandwidth for this project?” instead of “Hey, you got time for this?” is a place whose boundaries must be honored. They let me do my silly site, I keep them free from its pages.
The work appointment was for a photo shoot — vetting and booking locations is one of the more entertaining aspects of an entertaining job. This one was at a downtown club, also earning a capital. The Club was a gorgeous holdover from the days when being in a capital-C Club meant something outside the club’s rarefied air.
It was where people hobnobbed, rubbed shoulders, got a bit of culture or just had big-whiskered utility barons in chairs harumph about labor unions and immigrants over cigars and snifters of brandy.
The Club still exists and still has members and guest rooms and gym facilities. But they’ve had to diversify their strategy. They can’t rely on cigars, brandy and side-whiskers to pay the property tax any more. The place sees a lot more weddings than it used to. Business luncheons for marketing groups and membership meetings for different small-c clubs who book the space. Fewer titans of industry. More conference mixers.
But it’s still full of lovely old furniture, leather chairs you want to sink inside and a capital-L Library that I made my heart skip the first moment I saw it.
It was awful.
Let me explain.
It was small, dark and cramped. It was full of couches and chairs and little tables and three-quarter-length oil portrait of menacing old millionaires from before the Crash. There was a grand piano shoved inside — just as storage while the Living Room was booked for a luncheon, the catering manager who sent the email told me. She seemed almost ashamed of the space, kept trying to direct me to the Living Room, which was admittedly one of the most gorgeous spaces I’ve ever been inside and the ideal backdrop for the shoot.
But the Library had my heart.
The darkness made it intimate. The cramp made it cozy. The furniture, glaring oil painting millionaires and walls of bound magazines from the 1800s made me crack jokes about Agatha Christie. The four or five rows of bookshelf in one corner filled with potboiler hardbacks and tomes management techniques — the books people actually read when they’re not pretending to like literature — touched my heart.
I loved the Library because amid all the glitz and glamor, here was a room made for its purpose. The side-whiskers’ oak-and-marble temple to opulence dedicated a quiet, unimpressive spot to the sacred act of opening a book.