There are a bunch of resorts in the Catskills north of New York City that were built in the late 1940s and early 1950s that, for a time, became destinations for the well-to-do, but later became obsolete, as tourism dollars started going elsewhere – trips to the Caribbean and elsewhere. I (and many of my colleagues) could have sworn that one of those places was the Friar Tuck Inn, where we had our conference. So I was shocked, SHOCKED to learn that it didn’t even open until Memorial Day weekend 1971, with Duke Ellington playing.
Some of my relatives have suggested that it was built in anticipation of legalized gambling that was proposed but never came to the area. The rumors at the time was that there was illegal gambling going on, run by the underworld.
The lobby is dark and eclectically designed. The lights on the ceiling seemed to have a Moroccan design. The room has a large-screen TV, often set on PBS classroom learning, though I did see the Red Sox beat the Yankees there one evening.
One of the many peculiar features is that the main building and some of the attached buildings, named Camelot I and Camelot II, were on different levels. One could go from the 3rd floor of one building and be on the 2nd floor of another.
The hallways were bizarre mazes where people were STILL getting lost three days into the conference. One was never sure that one was traveling the most efficient path. I always found what I was looking for, but I often felt as though I were traveling from LA to San Francisco…via Denver.
I was told by two people, independently, that the hallways in the Camelot sections reminded them of the hallways in the Nicholson version of “The Shining”. One of these people said, “See the little girl? Redrum!” I said, “Shut up!”, because I could envision what he said.
There were a couple sections with Buckingham in the name. One of them, across the way, had little turrets.
The food was serviceable – a piece of dried-out cake here, a funky tuna salad there notwithstanding. More than one person noted that the breakfast bacon was cooked perfectly, not over- or undercooked. I assumed there would be a buffet, but instead we were served from limited breakfast, lunch and dinner menus by a largely energetic staff.
There was an outdoor pool area (not yet in use in this weather), and a nice indoor pool. The exercise room was small, with professionally done signage that indicated that management was not responsible “for it’s use”.
There was a pond nearby with two of the loudest geese I’ve ever heard. There were courts for shuffleboard and bocce. The bocce court was not a manicured lawn, but rather crushed stone, which was OK, except that it had weird grooves in it. The small ball, or the jack, was actually a golf ball. I played a couple times, once against center director Irene, and once with the new librarian Amelia against librarian Josee and counselor Lynn (we won 15-14). After that, I had to deny rumors that I was an old Italian man.
But the most peculiar thing about this place as the fact that there were no clocks. Anywhere, as far as I could see. None in the meeting rooms, dining room, lobby, hallways, or even our rooms. Maybe the people STILL want to make it into a casino.
When I was in my room, the only way to tell time was to turn on the TV to CNN. In fact, on the first day there, I discovered the TV wasn’t working because someone (a previous guest, one assumes) yanked the cable out. Someone replaced the cable – very quickly, actually.
This was, literally, a place out of time.
Because I was out of town during the big immigration action last week, I missed some of the nuances of the story, such as the LA Times “facts” about immigration hoax.
I DID get to see the Today Show’s Katie Couric listen as Ann Curry announced the death of Louis Rukeyser last week. It was obvious that Katie hadn’t heard the news until that very second, and that it affected her emotionally. It wasn’t breaking news, so I thought she would have been told earlier of the passing of someone who worked prominently for a sister network, CNBC.