Old Family Money

Once i played tennis in Tinkhamtown on a private clay court owned by the Tinkhams. It was in top condition and had an impressive view of the manorial cranberry bog. The Tinkham’s made their fortune running crooked faro games on the Mayflower and had every dime they ever made, being too cheap to spend. Although it was farthings back then.

Besides the tennis court they had an old wooden chair from the Jacobean period that had the most ratty looking wool and damask upholstery. It would have looked decent is the shredded seat cushion was fixed, but Tink, swear to god it’s his real nickname Tink Tinkham, said it would only reduce the authenticity of the piece. God knows how many workers Tink’s ancestors oppressed seated on this demi throne. And how many Tinkham butts had graced the chair.  Such is old money in New England.

Hartford had and still has numerous old money families, left over from the insurance, manufacturing, shipping and finance days. That time is gone. No central industry, no mega company holds sway. It ranks with Des Moines in influence on the nation. The last time I was in Hartford at night was December 2000. The Festival of Lights had Constitution Plaza glowing like a Swedish modern  showcase, only there were no people. Two weeks before Christmas and just me and Norrie, a family of six from Vernon and a shady dude with two women lurking in the north end near the shuttered fountain. And this was way before the TV station moved out. Eventual the whole area became shady and acquired the much deserved, Prostitution Plaza moniker.

That night i laid down on Main Street, in front of the Gold Building for 5 minutes, and not one car came by.

Each time I’ve worked in Hartford, it’s become less and less crowded. I really miss the Marble Pillar where you could get a quick beer before the bus over Avon Mountain.

Once, before I told the manager he was ; “a grifter and liar who was unqualified for running anything but an NCO club on Guam.” I worked at a private club.

The atmosphere was that of a colony of seals slowly drifting out to sea on a shrinking ice floe. But it had it’s moments. One was Gil, who shared his wine knowledge and enthusiasm with me.

The other was a group of guys. Phil was the leader and he sought me out cause i was trying to get famous in Hartford. What a stupid idea. He had been to my comedy shows. He showed up at our murder mystery. He was a big fan and a legacy member of the club. Kevin was lawyer for Morgan & Ellsworth, Sal, by far the most handsome in my opinion, was an obstetrician, Eddie, the poorest, was a childhood friend who I reconnected with after 18 years and the tall one whose name I never remembered was a financial planner.

One summer I got invited by Phil to his big house on the Connecticut River, up the left bank, north of Gillette Castle. This was one of my last expeditions into my old social circle. Sadly, as we talked, Sal, Phil’s lover told me that Eddie had died of esophageal cancer. I was kinda hurt and bewildered because he had been a lover in the teenworld days of the 1970’s and now he was gone at 38, plus, the fact his passing had eluded me or been neglected by me and that I hadn’t bothered or cared enough to follow the tragedy left me with a feeling of surprise and shame.  

I think Phil knew about Eddie and me back then and I’m sure when we reunited at the Club, Eddie told him. Life’s conversation threads. 

Phil served Champagne; Chartogne-Taillent Brut 1993. He was quite the mixologist and he served me my first negroni. And he made a great martini.

Gil and his wife were there and had been before. Phil was a jeweler and enjoyed many different social groups. Chamber of Commerce, gays, straights, theater league, all separate little compartmentalized circles with just a hint of overlapping at at the edges and by destiny; like me.

He saw me in the late 80’s doing improv, took in our murder mystery show. Belonged to the club i worked at and loved Gil and his wife. I was kind of a hit that day because we’d stopped at Brown’s and I found an 1983 Lynch-Bages which was marked at $34.99 on a sticker with blue ballpoint writing , but the Saturday lunkhead worker rang up the nearly identical hand written blue ballpoint pen catalog number of 1432. I handed him a five and a ten and waited for change.

Gil produced high grade marijuana cigarettes which he said was White Widow, named for the white pistils that glowed like a Norwegian Blonde just before full potency. And I started in on a story.

“Some friends from Avon moved up to Amherst. I was cruising on the back roads near their new home on a sunny fall day. they had me stop at this gated driveway festooned with sign that said DO NOT BLOCK DRIVEWAY, NO VEHICULAR TRAFFIC and NO TRESPASSING. It was a water company road and it was open to hiking, but liberally fenced. The path led us to a gorgeous pot smoking area that overlooked a huge inland lake. You could see across, but the length was huge. Twenty miles. This was my first glimpse of the Quabbin, a huge reservoir created in the 1920’s to feed Boston’s water needs. “