Elks ed

The first time in the Elks Club is a visit to a forgotten time in America. It is a warmer, more human, less rushed, peaceful, simple, small-town world. The décor is Middle America late 20th century, a lost realm of no pretension, conspicuous consumption or plastic surgery.

The bar is comfortable, no high price pick-up joint here, no bar newly decorated to try and look like the outback of Beverly Hills. There is no extra loud music to block out conversation and no giant TV to destroy being together like it does at home.

This is a realm of simple good food and the camaraderie of a poker game. It is the old Ashland you can't find anywhere anymore. It is a place where those who have lived in one town most of their lives can unwind with people they have known a long time. This is a rare privilege in the age of continual moving.

There is nobility to these people who endure and don't ask for much more than to own their own home and have good friends. These people are old fashioned and have no need to acquire, dominate or make a killing in the market. They experience the good and bad of life with the wisdom of caring and doing for others.

And yes, there is a full-sized stuffed elk that is politically incorrect. But you get the feeling that some local guy shot it back in the time when Main Street was empty in the winter except for the Christmas lights emanating from the Elks Club's great dance party.

Nor does the restaurant come with that "Its winter and I'm going out of business!" terror vibe of new restaurants in town — the Chamber of Commerce should issue a warning! The Elks Club lasts through time as a deeply human tradition for the best reasons.

But don't tell anyone; the recent horde of millionaire entrepreneurs and assorted trust fund spiritual truth-seekers will flood into the Elks and destroy the last best place on earth. It's a community that is not about having money or being "with it." God forbid it should be invaded as cool.

Yet everything about the old days wasn't so good. On the membership questionnaire you are asked if you are a communist. You were 6 during the communist scare. Would you have turned in your right-wing intellectual neighbors whose children and dog you loved so much — as you were told to do in school?

Shouldn't the questionnaire ask if you are a terrorist? What about asking, "Do you own corporate stocks that legitimize the theft of water and natural resources of poor starving people half way around the world, like Coke?"

Let's hope the Elks and Elkets who are our neighbors and favorite business people know that Americans have a lot of very crazy ideas about what is god and fair, and that is our best strength. People who are different are often the first to go out and die for their country.

Leah Ireland is a freelance writer who runs a local caregiving service. Reach her at leahireland@aol.com.

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