Thursday, November 1, 2018

How YOU doin'?

Years ago we maintained a condominium in the By Ward Market in Ottawa. One Saturday morning I was wandering about the colourful stalls looking for cheese and fruits when I encountered Horace on a similar shopping expedition. The "Market" was then - and continues to be - a popular social outing on the weekends.  Horace (who is a self-made multi-millionaire from Smiths Falls, Ontario) informed me that he and his wife Patti had just returned from Italy.  While there Horace ventured into a sailing yard and with the assistance of one of the workers learned that a three-storey private yacht from Texas was in dry dock for painting and cleaning, an enterprise which was anticipated to consume three months during which the crew of 75 lingered on shore. It was at this juncture that Horace looked coldly at me and queried, "Billy, where did we go wrong?"

Aside from the obvious impropriety of having equated me even remotely with the achievements of Horace, I was more fascinated by the analysis to contemplate what to me has always been the personal irrelevance of other's material elevation. Clearly the competing issues of regret and ambition are entirely misguided absorptions. That is so much axiomatic truth, plain and simple.  What however sparks my curiosity more than this fruitless philosophic dissection is the fortuity of being able to enjoy the achievement of others vicariously.

Given the ready examples of those who have attained the pinnacle of success only to suffer unpredicted loss or defeat, it hardly seems worthwhile to allow oneself to become metabolized or diluted by the Cinderella feature only.  The story for example of Boldt Castle built in 1900 in the Thousand Islands - the immigrant chef who became the General Manager of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel and constructed Boldt Castle as a gift for his wife who died before she could see it. George Boldt never returned to Hart Island (the island's original name). For 73 years the castle and other stone structures were left exposed to the harsh winter weather and occasional vandals. A similar story of sadness surrounds the unforeseen bankruptcy of Mark Twain.

As a result I have learned to remove myself from illogical aspiration yet preserve my enjoyment of prosperity when within sight.  It constitutes a harmless indulgence and a satisfying abstraction.  A case in point is the sale of two properties down the street from where we now reside for the winter on Longboat Key.  The properties are situated on a crescent called Regent Court adjoining Longboat Club Road.  There are only eight estates on Regent Court.

"About 825 Longboat Club Rd Regent Court, Longboat Key, FL $18,000,000 The enchanting Villa del Sogno estate stands behind the gates of the Longboat Key Club in a separately gated enclave of eight privately gated beachfront estates. The residence centers attention on the Gulf of Mexico with its vivid sunsets and dynamic vistas. Proceeding through elegant double gates to the circular drive, visitors ascend the broad staircase to a two-story portico and grand mahogany and glass double doors that lead to a marble foyer. The grand stair leads to a formal living room with a marble fireplace, formal dining room, central kitchen and catering kitchen, master en suite and wood-paneled office. Custom appointments abound as discerning owners demand. An imperial staircase, in itself a dramatic work of art, spectacularly frames the entryway. The entry foyer also leads to the first level, which includes a family room, four guest suites and a guest kitchen opening to the infinity pool, spa, gazebo and terraces overlooking the pristine beach and azure sea. The first level serves utilitarian functions, housing more than four motor vehicles and storage."

The other place is for sale for $26,500,000.  It is notable that every time I have passed by these properties - whether this year or last - there is always a maze of vans collected at the front and identified as various trades such as plumbers, electricians, pool cleaners, painters, landscapers, etc. The mere contemplation of the level of perpetual maintenance required drains me. On has to wonder - for whom does the mansion exist? I have yet to see anyone resembling a residential occupant in the place though there are numerous people hanging from scaffolds and moving back and forth between the home and the vans.

The exuberance naturally begs the question of its imperative.  When I lie in bed each morning and sense my chronic arthritic condition, I have to wonder whether looking over marble floors would improve my state of mind. In addition one has to ask what precipitated the sale of these properties. Certainly mere sale is palatable; but was there some other incident - a death, divorce, bankruptcy? And do the owners - who seem never to be there - have things that are so much more attractive to do that they can't bother with the place? How ephemeral is luxury?  How much can anyone reasonably consume? In the end how different is the carcass of any one of us from that of another?

And wake to the farm forever fled from the childless land.
Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means,
Time held me green and dying
Though I sang in my chains like the sea.

Fern Hill by Dylan Thomas

No comments:

Post a Comment