The last 2 RSLG efforts dealt with 2 basic human necessities: Eating and Living Together.
Obviously food is essential, and is the focus of our most basic survival. instincts as well as being a social binder, and often a personal obsession for many – but it’s also becoming clearer that human interaction is becoming more and more of a problem as our culture becomes coarser by the minute.
Road rage, opera-level cell phone histrionics, and internet flaming by trolls are undeniable New Age Outrages, but it is the intersection of the necessity to eat and the inevitable impact that act has on others that was on display to me and my family last week.
I take 7 days off a year (wonder no more about why I’m such a jackass), but when I go away with my family it’s not just 260 miles north in Vermont, it used to be a couple of generations ago as well. We go to an Old School “Club”. Given I am who I am, (like Groucho) I would never belong to a real club that would admit me – here, you pays your money you gets your very nice place to sleep and eat.
But the food is sublime, the digs are Perfect and Lake Champlain, is well, Heaven.
But because this is a place created in the 19th century, it has a huge mantle of manners present in its accommodation of that most basic human necessity – food. For about a century it was dress for each meal, be served and be on time for your reservation. Then a nice self-serve informal option was made for breakfast, then lunch, then other options were created for no dress code dining for -gasp- Dinner.
But these informal, dirtbag-friendly options were just that: Options. There were, until the last 2 years, always the old shoe option of quiet served-to-breakfast and every-male-wears-a-jacket-and-tie for dinner. Because I never have owned sunglasses or blue jeans I gravitated to those WASP options, so when the cascade to informality bottomed out this year where ties were “recommended” while jackets were still “required” I felt sadly conflicted.
When the apartheid of Crazy Kid Land Breakfast Buffet and Old Folk Table Service Breakfast was united in one large semi-classy buffet, a whole chapter of our vacation lives simply ended – and those anachronistic affects had taught our boys about patience, control and accommodation of appetite without grabbing, gulping and instant gratification.
Now breakfast takes 20 minutes, not 40. Now “dressing for dinner” does not mean tying, retying and giving up on assymetrical tie realities while wearing long pants for 2 hours out of 24. “Now” is no longer “Then.”
When we lose the “Then” – the ties to other times, sensibilities and ways of living, we lessen ourselves. The internet has made all of us idiot savants – no factoid is forgotten , no name unknown. But we can lose the ability to adapt our easier ways to contour to the alien comfort zones of those around us when the events and rituals we participate in are dumbed down to make everyone “comfortable”.
I don’t know about you, but I learn more when I am put into places where I am uncomfortable. Being lazy I seek the easiest path offered to me in most things – whether it’s a work-out, food preparation or the clothing I wear (but if you’ve ever seen me, that’s not revelatory). But when laziness is pandered to entitlement rears its obnoxious head.
In a free market economy, places like our vacation spot either adapt to what people want, or they cease making the money that creates the place I and others have loved for over a century. So stressed out two income families can just relax and eat in relaxed informality, but for one week a year my aggressively informal sensibility used to be given just a little rigor by living in the gastronomic etiquette of a previous generation – as was my children’s.
So another anachronism falls of its own weight – a slightly pretentious, minimally elitist hour or two for one week a year has become like all the others. A little more unthinking, a little less cumbersome, but ultimately less special and rewarding…
Duo Dickinson has written seven books on architecture. His latest, “Staying Put: Remodel Your House to Get the Home You Want”, was published by The Taunton Press in November 2011.
He has been the contributing writer for home design for Money Magazine, is the architecture critic for the New Haven Register, and a contributing writer in home design for New Haven magazine. He has written articles for more than a dozen national publications including House Beautiful, Home, Fine Homebuilding and was the “At Home” editor for This Old House.