Luncheon at the Club

Bill-newby L. G. William Chapman, B.A., LL.B.
As one who regularly submits to the egregious economic folly of driving a late model luxury car, I confess I get a kick out of putting on the dog.  To my further discredit it is a profligacy I have long ago learned to accommodate. Yet I have also learned that for those of us who haven’t a private jet, chauffeur and summer home on Martha’s Vineyard, the trickery of vicarious pleasure is not without its compensating benefits.  I say “trickery” not because of its fraud but because of its cunning. The trick is to know where to go and how to do it.  There are surprisingly numerous opportunities for surrogate pleasure without having to suffer the diminishing financial consequences of substantive investment.  And remember one needs a place to park that car!

It is therefore a tolerable fabrication to say we lunched at the Club last week. Specifically we lunched at the Ivy Lea Club in the Thousand Islands district on the St. Lawrence River.  It’s just that the restaurant there isn’t a private club though from the appearance of the bold engraved red stones at the front of the long drive leading onto the property an uninitiated visitor could be excused for thinking he had mistakenly wandered into forbidden territory (assuming that the stolidity of the entrance didn’t repel the trespass in the first place). Not 100 meters along the tree-lined drive the waterfront horizon is populated with yachts moored in the slips of the marina inlet.  The marina is a “members only” arrangement.  The restaurant, resort, general store and marina are nestled on 45 acres of undulating parkland bordering the St. Lawrence River.

It requires virtually no imagination to succumb to the exclusive tenor of the Ivy Lea Club.  The property exudes the expenditure of capital –  the manicured lawns, the delightfully narrow and winding roadways of crushed stone, the established look of the main buildings and outbuildings.  The entrance to the three-storey restaurant (which cascades from the formal upper dining areas to the waterside patio below) is suitably imposing for a rustic environment. We chose to dine upstairs in a section ostensibly in the open air on a lovely screened porch wrapping around the former inn affording a panoramic view of the River, blue sky, gathering fluffy white clouds and passing yachts and sail boats.

Once nestled into our commodious table and having reclined nonchalantly to await the arrival of our server I began the discrete ritual of scrutinizing the other diners within my range, a scouting conducted alternately between indifferent glances at the sparkling River and the surrounding tables.  On previous occasions at this venue I had encountered people whom I knew and always people of some distinction which is to say money.  The Club draws visitors and regulars from the boating crowd (both Canadian and American) and people who live in the surrounding area and further abroad.  It clearly attracts people who are looking for more than a hamburger, people who enjoy the ambience of a private club and the inspirational proximity of yachts.  It helps no doubt that the genteel Ivy Lea Parkway is dotted with the lavish summer residences of some the Province’s leading industrialists.

Because we were there mid-week during a relatively quiet period it did not disappoint me to discover there was no one whom I recognized. I could not however ignore the attraction of my interest to a nearby table where sat a middle-aged woman and a gentleman who I suspect was her husband, and a third elderly man who by the nature of his non-stop conversation appeared not to be related to either of the other two.  The putative husband never opened his mouth and from what I could gather from my hurried looks he couldn’t have been more uninterested.  As so often happens in strained social circumstances the elderly man who was not part of the alliance insisted upon certifying his financial eligibility.  It wasn’t difficult to hear what he was saying as he was not only close enough but also so obviously assured of his propriety.  With each successive gulp of his restorative his voice rose and he became more assertive.  Finally he relinquished all holds and punctuated his rhetoric with popular blasphemies.  It wasn’t long afterwards that their assembly dissolved and they evaporated without my notice.  I hadn’t been able to see whether the boastful elderly man had spotted the lunch.

While it may sound off-colour to say so, the litmus test of a social setting of this calibre is its rest rooms.  Here there is no disappointment; the décor practically establishes a genre.  The water closets have huge heavy wooden doors; the ceramic sinks are outfitted with complementary soap dispensers and paper hand towels of substantial texture; the lighting is both suitably low and natural through raised windows.  For powdering one’s nose it makes for a more than acceptable conclusion to luncheon at the Club!