Thursday, April 17, 2008

Never Speak Disrespectfully of Society...

A couple of months ago, I volunteered to work a benefit for a very large non-profit organization here in NYC. While I truly believe in the mission and projects of this organization, the real reason I volunteered was to get into a particularly expensive venue with a truly amazing view of the City. As I watched the various donors, board members and their guests milling about and eavesdropped on their conversations, I realized that although I know a few people who travel in these circles, I'd never before been in the midst of a herd of them (a gaggle? a pride? an unkindness seems to me most appropriate...). The whole time I was there, I couldn't help thinking of the scavenger hunt scene from My Man Godfrey. It might have been funnier if everything I'd heard hadn't been so incredibly banal. Of course, I know that rich people are only charming, attractive and witty at parties in Noël Coward plays, but if a panoramic view of Manhattan doesn't inspire more interesting conversation than where you shopped/ate or what you saw last on Broadway (which would have been okay if even one person said The Seafarer or August: Osage County instead of Mama Mia! or Xanadu), you're officially boring in my book. And it wasn't just my personal prejudices: at one point, the director of the organization sidled up beside me and sighed, "I hate rich people."

What brought all of this to my mind was an e-blast I received yesterday from a company called Globorati. I don't know how I got on their e-mail list but I am so clearly not their intended audience! For me, travel is active: learning about a different culture, discovering the unexpected or the unusual, and just getting a sense of life in a place. I'm not opposed to doing tourist-y things: Catherine and I always get a few guidebooks to help us prepare for a trip and we love going to museums. But even if "luxury travel" was an option for us, I can't imagine using this site at all: it feels very pre-packaged to me. Where's the adventure? Where's the risk? Where's the serendipity? Where's the imagination?

Personally, I'd like to be rich; I think I'd be good at it. As long as no one required me to check my brains at the door...

"Never speak disrespectfully of Society, Algernon: only people who can't get into it do that." —The Importance of Being Earnest

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