- On Mad Men, the conversation pit represents failure, which makes how much I love that specific one, and how it stands in for this kind of party to me, seem a bit nonsensical. But maybe my impulse toward it is the impulse so many of us have toward the wastefulness or bad taste observed in people wealthier than us: Oh, if only I had that, I’d use it right.
When I was in 2nd grade a divorcee moved in next door. He had a brand new Porsche 944. He was also a weekend dad, with a son a year older than me and two daughters. I played with them a lot, even got to go to Albuquerque a couple times in the back of that 944.
Divorcee moved out in maybe 5th, maybe 6th grade. He had all his stuff on the curb waiting for a truck and my father decided to pick it over, assuming it was for the dump or something. The neighbor confronted him on it the next day - and my father, rather than going "oh! I thought that stuff was garbage! Here it is!" swore right in front of me that he hadn't taken a thing. It was a formative moment.
His ex-wife moved into a palace with her new husband. I got to go there a couple times, it was too far to walk. Marvelous sweeping views of the mesas and canyon, outdoor pool, air raid shelter. His stepdad poured him a concrete track for his R/C F1. It was an extravagance.
They had a conversation pit.
It was all white, velour with shag. your eye level was just over the pool, looking out over the mesa. It was amazing. I thought my dirt-farming grandparents were the ultimate expression of wealth with their less-than-10-year-old car and acre of beans but no, here was true wealth. I probably didn't handle it well. We drifted apart.
Fast forward to junior year and we're hopping between three parties - the burnouts were setting fire to things in the canyon and drinking stolen schnapps. The jocks had broken into the skating rink - I got to drive the zamboni. And the drama club nerds, always en pointe, were having a sanctioned parents-in-the-basement house party. We started with the burnouts, then hit the skating rink, then the house party -
It was awkward. I was invited because both the lady of the manor and her best friend were sweet on me. Neither were particularly attractive; it would be another six months before best friend - Caliban - left a dozen roses in my - Prospero's - dressing room on opening night, made even more awkward by the fact that no one told me I had a dressing room so I didn't even know until she pointed it out just before Act II.
But in that moment, all there was was a conversation pit, a view across the mesa, white velour, and a party full of nerds studiously sitting anywhere else.
I never even sat in that conversation pit. But it has absolutely been the unattainable infinity pool of my imagination for more than thirty years.