Xanadu SOS

I wondered what it would be like to live in Hearst Castle. Like most who visit this adult Disneyland, where people whisper the word Xanadu out of earshot of the docents, I entered an historic womb of obscene wealth and couldn’t believe any one person would have so much. And yet William Randolph Hearst continued to want. I pictured his face, available to any Google searcher, but saw only that waif hidden under the Ghost of Christmas Present’s heavy robe as I wandered the vast estate.

When faced with both Ignorance and Want, the large bearded ghost warned Ebenezer Scrooge to be particularly wary of Want.

Smiling at the obvious want.

Staring at Hearst’s collection of Renaissance Era art pieces, his over-the-top architectural choices made with Julia Morgan, it’s easy to see why Charles Dickens felt that way. Mister Hearst wanted for nothing, but couldn’t have everything. His San Simeon estate, larger than life and so beautiful it hurts, was never finished. Hearst wanted more there. He wanted more zoo animals, more art, much of which remains warehoused I hear, and filled his library with books and books, and books so big it would take two nerds to carry it.

I stood in his bedroom, thinking about Orson Welles, and realized I couldn’t find my way back to the Hearst dining room. I’d walked in so many circles, up so many tight-fitting spiral stairs, and gasped in wonder at so many antiquated wonders, I was hopelessly lost. In this castle of oppressing opulence and wooden eyes, in a world of dotcom desire, the Hearst fortune had succeeded in polishing my own humility. I would lose my mind after two nights here. I would scream from a window and fling myself into the monarch filled garden below.

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It’s a pretty nice mug actually.

And perhaps that’s the reason Orson Welles toiled with Citizen Kane, why the State Parks continue to bus people in to see Casa Grande daily, and why I felt the vastness of the castle like a vise rather than a dream. Others frolic the grounds and museum interior, picturing how they would rule the roost were it their own mansion estate, imagining a life full of so many riches. But I considered the sadness there and the lesson to be learned from too much of anything.

Hearst brought so much to his old family campground, wanted so much more built there, but in the end the one thing he wanted most, his childhood happiness, was the one thing he could not buy. As souvenirs go, this lesson isn’t a bad way to remember the place.

But the coffee mug helps too.

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Hello, Sack Person

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Sack Person responds to someone online, first out loud, then with a smarter, written post using emojis.

(File this under possible creepy fantasy characters)

There’s no way to tell if Sack Person is a male or female. It’s made from lumpy sacks, flesh colored, and those sacks form rolls at the waistline, the neck and chest, and other spots. Sack Person has eyes hidden under shadowy crags, a gaping maw for a mouth, and walks with a hunched back. Luckily, Sack Person rarely walks. When walking occurs, photos are taken and shared on social media to brag on the sunshine, fog, and wildlife. Not all at once. The photos are saved and dealt online at intervals, creating the illusion Sack Person is outdoors regularly.

Sack Person builds memes and gifs more often than Sack Person walks around. Sack Person prays for the viral spin of a popular post to feel like a dragon devouring its own tail. So far nothing. Sack Person is familiar with the term armchair philosophy, but cannot connect the obvious dots when brag-posting a quote of re-affirmation or something Henry Rollins never actually said. Sack Person vomits snark at every post shared and gone viral. Sack Personbrag-shares them too, gets in on those intellectual zingers, and fails to recall them when it’s discovered the viral post was not real. Sack Person is real. And real people make mistakes. It said that very thing on a meme with a picture of Jimi Hendrix on it. No reason to apologize for being a part of someone else’s problem, Sack Person thinks.

Sack Person shares all news of terrible things. Thoughts and prayers. Brag-thoughts and humbled brag-prayers.  Sack Person knows a hashtag inside and out, emojis like nobody’s business, and saves cute cat videos to reshare at later times. Cats fare better than dogs for the most part. Following every crisis, Sack Person moves on and never mentions it again – unless it trends.

Sack Person’s profile picture shows an exciting, smiling, jubilant face. The words “jk” and “lol” appear regularly on Sack Person’s feed. When outside, Sack Person monitors social media. When eating, Sack Person takes photos of the food for social media.

Sack Person is awesome online because being awesome online is easy.

History has no pretense

Do you?

Driving home through the Monterey Peninsula isn’t always easy. Black Jaguars speed like bullets. Audis are a blur. It’s hard for the cars of the working class to weave in amongst them and join the commuting fray but it’s okay. No one wants to see the wrinkled face of the privileged. Bottle Blonde women in their Porsches, hurrying to have their skin stretched, go too fast to see the homeless encampments built like barricades between the cities of the peninsula along the famous, camera-ready Highway One.

The encampments aren’t meant for their eyes. This collection of cardboard boxes, broken lawn chairs, and mildew-covered tarps are meant for the eyes of history, not those vainly attempting to fight their own age. We lie and twist the historical record, like a tiger gnawing on a bloody stump of food. There’s no telling how the truth once looked. We know there was once something pure there, before the gnashing teeth and lies came calling. We’re a part of the story, not the tellers of it.

Monterey Bay swells to accommodate cruise liners come summer’s end. Floating cities glazed in economic frivolity smother the surface of the marine sanctuary – here for that reason and also affecting it. Not far from where the plump boat anchors, where smaller boats transport shoppers back and forth from its pristine walls, but just far enough away to never be seen, a squeaking shopping cart conveys an old woman’s life possessions to a shady spot where this invisible wretch can watch the big boat depart and wonder what the rooms are like within it. She knows all too well of the six encampments along Highway One.

The stretch of highway between Carmel and the Del Monte exit is a short one – full of pain and discomfort. Those who cower in the encampments are thankful there’s a drought. Rain and survival are anathema to one another. At times the homeless thirst for warmth, for a coat not covered in whatever slime they were sleeping in last night, and for a moment to catch their breath without fear of being rousted.

These vulnerable souls are visible to the working class who find themselves parked in thick Highway One traffic, hoping it moves just fast enough for them to be home in Salinas or Seaside before dark. Commuters see the marginalized and wonder if they could sleep on hard ground, wrapped in an unwashed sleeping bag, should their life veer, should they miss that next paycheck. Those who see them shop far from the more expensive organic aisles at the grocery store, not out of ambivalence, but out of necessity. They’re secretly thankful for dollar stores and dollar menus, appreciative for the local farmer’s market, but they themselves rarely shop there, afraid of sustainability’s expense.

Unlike those who turn away, whose dark sunglasses and tinted Audi windows shield them from the dirty tarp walls hung at the edge of the highway. History sees the encampments. History will remember the six areas within view of those who choose to see it, populated by those who fear the rousting and marvel upon the cruise ships.

History will remember the encampments long after the Audis and Jaguars have wrapped themselves around a tree, and centuries past the Dollar Store’s report of unprecedented growth.