“The Vicious Circle” of Temecula
From 1919 to 1929, a group of writers, actors, critics, producers, and journalists met daily for lunch at Algonquin Hotel in New York. It all started as a practical joke by theatrical press agent John Peter Toohey. Alexander Woolcott, then the New York Times drama critic, didn’t want to sing praises of Eugene O’Neill in one of his columns.
When professionals from all aspects of an industry get together, there will be agreement, and sometimes argument.
Toohey was annoyed at Woolcott. He organized a luncheon so he could poke fun at Woolcott, who had recently returned from World War I. Instead of being offended, Woolcott was greatly amused and delighted with the attention. And thus, this first lunch turned into a daily 10-year lunch, comradery, friendship and the legend of the Algonquin Round Table.
Originally, the group called itself the Board and their luncheons were called Board Meetings. Then due to the waiter assigned to them named Luigi, they became Luigi’s Board. Later, they rechristened themselves the Vicious Circle, since their wit was sharp, to say the least. Eventually, a caricature by cartoonist Edmund Duffy, showcasing the members sitting around a round table, gave them the moniker of Algonquin Round Table.
Can you imagine a group like this existing today? Perhaps with a milder version of acerbic humor and a good dose of irony thrown in? It still can exist and it is much needed. Because nothing heals and gets creative energy flowing like a few good laughs and a sincere exchange of views.
And this is how it all stared for John Van Horn and few of his friends and colleagues years back in Temecula, CA. The group is called Temecula Parking Group. When you see us at various conferences, perhaps you can recognize us by the TPG pins some of us proudly wear, like a most precious jewel. Years past, we met at the charming and rustic Temecula Creek Inn.
The last couple times, we got together at the elegant Ponte Vineyard Inn. Since we missed last year’s meeting due to the pandemic, we were super excited about meeting this year, and delighted in our friends and colleagues making time and effort to meet with us. One member of our group even drove all the way from Texas when Southwest Airlines cancelled a long list of flights.
We are in the 20s again, but these are not the roaring twenties. We are facing many challenges in the parking industry and in life in general. Yet, human nature, despite the world being different and highly infused with technology, hasn’t changed much. We all need a place where we can meet our colleagues and our friends, get into passionate, engaging conversations and have a bit of fun while we’re at it. TPG is not as alcohol fueled as at the Algonquin Round Table lunches or getaways, but this being Southern California Wine country in 2021, in vino veritas we trust.
JVH said: “When professionals from all aspects of an industry get together, there will be agreement, and sometimes argument. That’s what makes an event like TPG exciting.
Set with little, if any, agenda, the groupers start discussions, add to ideas, and in the end, come up with possible solutions to the great problems of the industry.
These people have at least half a millennium of experience in parking and can bring that to bear on most any issue. The group includes vendors, consultants, and those from organizations as varied as cities, universities, and private operators. Some focus on new technology and others come from decades of on the ground management.”
And the result is a fun, playful and easy-going banter and question storming that leads to some new perspectives, with the common goal of advancing our parking industry, while making the parking experience the best for our customers. The glue that holds it all together is the sincerity of each person involved. Especially when we are still emerging from the pandemic, being together face to face and listening to one another is a joy.
Just like with the Vicious Circle, there is no fixed group. However, based on the spunk, engagement and participation, the October 2021 bunch was simply the best in every way. We had experience, reverence, beginner’s minds, and passion for parking industry. The people involved truly care about this industry. It isn’t just an exit strategy approach for them. They study the greats that came before them and implement new ideas and their vision. They are proud to work and be in parking.
Wine tastings are a part of the agenda. And well deserved after intense debates. We might not be a modern-day Vicious Circle, but, the comfort I imagine its members had of being together, of questions storming and thus growing, is ours as it was theirs. And, yes, we have lots of free-flowing jokes, perhaps not as caustic as the ones from a hundred years ago, but still leading to bellyaching laughter. There is freedom in the vistas and freedom of truly being ourselves without any risk of being cancelled for sharing ideas and views.
When Algonquin Round Table first begun to meet, it was just after World War I. The immediate years after the war were an age of gaiety and thus creativity. The Vicious Circle was at its height of productivity in 1925 and thus, it became famous. Albeit due to the politics and the Great Depression, and then the somber 1930s, the group dissolved.
Many of its members moved to Hollywood, or other interests. Yet, the legend of their astringent but transparent language, their integrity and ambition to create something wonderful, lives on. It offers an example of how a fun, sincere, free environment based on respect and admiration, and diversity of ideas, can bring fantastic collaborations and move us all forward. Be that in our industry or our personal lives.
We can only thrive when we are free to agree to disagree, and when we truly enjoy what we do. As a frequent attendee of the Vicious Circle, Noel Coward said: “Work is more fun than fun.” Adding, “Grab it while you can — grab every scrap of happiness while you can.”
Thanks to JVH and all Temecula Groupers. I can’t wait to grab every scrap of happiness with you next year. And in the meantime, help make parking industry gold.
Astrid Ambroziak, is Editor of Parknews.biz and Creative Director of Parking Today. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org