I found myself one evening in Chicago, on a former mayor’s 40th floor personal library which had since been transformed into a private bar for rich tenants. It was dripping with modern chandeliers and heavy couches, layers of leather-bound law books. The ceiling-high arched windows made you feel as if you were floating in metropolis, cruising on a magic carpet destined for the Sears tower, Navy Pier ferris wheels, or maybe Evanston. Everywhere were small, twinkling lights.
Not everyone, we were told, got the key to this bar. Only a strictly monitored percentage.
My public radio cohorts and I sank nervously into thick cushions, eying the group several stacks down who had an actual right to be here, and slowly biting into honey roasted walnuts. For a fee, we’d been assured, you could do whatever you like here. For a fee they will move the pool table out of your sight. For a fee they will rearrange the stacks, lock the doors and serve you and your chosen companions an elaborate seven course meal complete with your selection of flower arrangements. You never need to hand them a credit card: they have it on file. They understand you’ve had a long day and would not like to be bothered with trivialities. They know your drink, your habits, when you would like to be addressed. I have no idea how we got into this place: connections are a strange thing.
“I . . . think,” I said slowly “I’d rather be poor. Is that weird?”
“No, I totally agree.”
“I could not handle this,” another agreed. We began talking Pro Tools tricks, alternative audio editing software, the cop-out of music fades. As usual with radio conferences, I was beginning to like this group of strangers very much.
Our platinum barrista tiptoed on the plush carpeting to our table and asked us if we’d like the music turned down, if it was a little loud over here. And I knew I was with my people: nerdy, determined, poor and good-humored, when she tiptoed away and one of them chuckled slyly “yeah, could you crossfade when he starts talking, and then bring it back up during the silence? Because that’d be great.”