Tuesday, July 07, 2009

My family took a lot of road trip vacations when I was a kid. We'd all pile into the car for a week or so while my parents dragged me to all the sightseeing destinations in the western states. I recall countless hours of reading in the backseat while my parents begged me to look out the car window at the latest mountain/lake/redwood/ocean/formation/castle/geyser/canyon/etc.

Sightseeing didn't really enthrall me, but I would dutifully raise my eyes from my book for a quick peak at nature's nearest miracle and then would grunt a quick "uh huh", making sure to use the necessary pauses and sighs which simultaneously and efficiently communicated both my compliance and annoyance.

Now that I'm older I have a different perspective on those vacations. Now I want to subject my daughter to the very same experiences my parents subjected me to. It's why we become parents.

So, during last weekend's trip to Pismo Beach, we spent some time at Hearst Castle, of which I only have vague "what the hell?!?" memories from a childhood trip. The flaw, however, in my torture-the-daughter plan was that Daisy LOVES this kind of crap. She loves old and ornately decorated houses. Thus on my return trip to Hearst Castle, I was once again the person in the family who least enjoyed it.

That being said, it was interesting in a train-wrecky sort of way. You've got William Randolph Hearst, an obscenely rich man who was the inspiration for Citizen Kane, deciding to build a grand home in the coastal hills of California. His idea of the perfect home involved collecting the oldest things he could buy and then building a house around them.

Giant Spanish tapestries that are hundreds of years old? Hearst and his architect Julia Morgan designed the main room in the main house to fit them. 2000 year old mosaic tile floor? Sounds just right for an entryway. Ancient statue of Neptune? Stick it by the pool. Gothic lamps? Build a dining room around them.

Every single room was planned around these ancient artifacts. It was more of a museum than a home.

Let me tell you something. If I suddenly come into many millions of dollars and decide to spend them on a mansion, I will NOT be filling it with old stuff. Is a chair from the 18th century really the most comfortable chair I could sit in? Does a tapestry from the 17th century depicting men on horses in battle against other men on horses have value to add to my life? Uh, no. War and religion seemed to be the major art themes, and I can't imagine there are many things that I want further from my dream house.

If I have a zillion dollars to burn on a home, I'm building a MODERN home, filled with light, technology, and contemporary art. I'm emphasizing comfort over antiquity. The craftmanship on that 2000 year-old mosaic floor was pretty good, but I'll bet for the huge cost of buying, transporting, and reinstalling that floor, you could have gotten a pretty good modern one, maybe even one with radiant heating AND a purty pattern.

Just ridiculous.

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