I got this great opportunity to skin up to ski down over at Mount Monadnock in Jaffrey, NH with my son Swifty late in February on the endless powder winter of 2015. On the way over there, somehow we got talking about TV. He let on that in their house, they are deep into Mad Men. And we talked about how the show depicts the weird drink – for – any- reason culture. It made me think it’s a time for a throwback Lunch With Swift.
I remember I was a senior in highschool home on some break. I was full of all of the hope and uncertainty of that time of life. My dad, also Swift, invited me to lunch at the Toledo Club in Toledo, Ohio.
Probably most cities have a place like the Toledo Club. But It sits deep in my memory and I doubt I will ever see it again. This place was a monument to the white folks who built and ran the industrial culture and the other people who ran support staff for their comfort. Mostly, when I think of Mad Men, I think of the Toledo Club.
When I met my dad for lunch, it was in a dining room with deep pile dark green velvet curtains. On the floor it was houndstooth carpeting. The tables were elaborately set with china, crystal, silver, and linnen. The walls were dressed in white oak paneling, finished to a deep brown. Even then I was interested in trees. I wondered about the forests where these trees were cut and how awesome they must have been. I wondered if any forests like this were still around. I didn’t know at the time but later in my life I would find them.
Smoke hung heavy in the room in layered stinky, choking clouds. The noon cocktail ice was clinking. I could smell bourbon. Most everyone was smoking and drinking and engaging in animated conversation.
My dad, never one to have just one mission wanted me to talk to his friend Bill who sold life insurance. I remember at this lunch, he sold my father a universal whole life insurance policy for me. Why an 18 year old needed a life insurance policy at that age, I can only vaguely remember. Something about a future beneficiary? Maybe, I was woozy from the smoke. Maybe I was into my second 3.2 beer. It was something about what a good investment vehicle it would be. Time has told that it wasn’t. Beth?
I remember that lunch was lamb with mint jelly and awesome pan browned potatos and string beans. To finish it all off was a fat slice of moist German chocolate cake.
After all of that heavy smoke and rich food, my dad returned to work and I headed out to walk around in Toledo.
This was during the decline of the Seventies when Toledo was a industrial support city for the Detroit automotive industry: glass, spark plugs, spray paint, fiberglass, and ball bearings. But must I mention Gremlin, Ambassador, Torino, Vega, and Duster? — Probably not. Those cars ultimately couldn’t make it on the world stage. But no one quite knew that yet.
The sidewalks in Toledo on that afternoon were filled with people. Ladies in mink coats, children in tow, men with fedoras, coats and tie, and long coats. Cabs were everywhere. Steam was pouring out of buildings. Everyone walking with purpose to or from a job. When I conjure this memory, it reminds me of what you see on the sidewalks of NYC now.
Anyway, that was lunch in 1976, Toledo, Ohio. 2015 it’s different there. It is like a wave broke over the town and receded.
Today with the young Swift and I, as we skied the powder on the mountain that Toledo I remembered was a long time ago.