The Ritz, San Francisco

By lex, Tue – June 21, 2005

One does not, ordinarily, grow wealthy in the service of one’s country. I exclude, for this discussion, supply corps officers. No – the best that one can hope for is a sort of shabby gentility, much like that which adheres to a respected university professor, for example. And while one may never challenge the Astors at shuffleboard, neither will one go looking for the next meal. It’s a comfortable life, if not a routinely luxurious one. And too, they are not trivial, the rewards of service – just non-remunerative: There is the satisfaction of an important job, done as best as one can, often under difficult circumstances – these are the psychic rewards of service, and I wouldn’t trade them for all the tea in China.

Not everyone in my immediate family feels that way though…

One member of my family is a lobbyist, in D.C. Our Nation’s Capital. She makes her living, so far as I can tell, selling democracy. Which let me tell you, there is apparently damn good money in.

But even though she grew up with me in what can only be described as a middle class environment, she has taken to the life of luxury as one to the manor born. I find myself surprised at times, with the airs she can put on, in some fancy restaurant. But she clearly enjoys her success, and so I celebrate it with her. Plus, she sometimes invites us up to places which we would not otherwise get to go.

Like the Ritz-Carlton, in San Francisco. Which is very nice, if you ever get the chance to visit. Try the concierge deck, if you can swing it – the caviar and vodka are comped. As is that tribune of the aspirations of the common man, the New York Times. Which makes a kind of bizarre sense, when you wrap your noodle around it. It helps to have some vodka.

We drove up from the central San Joaquin valley, where we were stationed at the end of the last age. The five of us in my dusty, bedraggled ’96 Dodge Caravan. It had once been blue, beneath the patina of agricultural dirt, and maybe one day would be blue again. Hope springs eternal. There were five of us in the vehicle, suitcases of course, and any number of McDonald’s wrappers littering the deck. It had been a long trip.

We pulled into a parking lot filled with Benz’s and Bentley’s and Aston-Martin Lagondas. The doorman didn’t quite know what to make of us – Were we lost? Had we made a wrong turn? How could he be of assistance?

The bags, Smedley. To room 512. And double-quick.

Oh, we spent a long weekend there imagining we were other people, enjoying the northern city comprehensively: Restaurants, wine tasting, culture. Lolling about the commons, sipping cocktails and remarking on the market. Oh my, very couth. Very couth indeed.

But all good things come to an end of course, in time. And soon it was time for us to leave. Our bags were sent down to the lobby, and I gave the lot attendant the claim check to the ancient Caravan. He jogged off heartily, unsuspecting. The bell hop stood there patiently, waiting for the driver to return with our carriage. I was dimly aware that all about me was an eager an expectation of gratuities, everywhere I looked. I fumbled in my wallet for a fin, hoping it would be enough.

Our car pulled, up, looking for all the world as though it had driven up from the set from a Mel Gibson movie. I swear the McDonald’s wrappers followed close behind, fluttering in the slipstream, for maximum effect. As I passed my suitcase to the bellhop, the handle came unhinged at one end, and all dangled awkwardly from his hand as he dropped to his knees to avert some more serious, even more incredible and unforeseeable disaster. His eyes stretched and started, as he wondered apprehensively what new thing might arise following such a terrible omen of the end of the world. At just that moment, the driver exited the van, showing every sign of wanting to throw himself into the showers for a long, hot soak after his exposure to our milieu. I tried to salvage the situation by passing out five dollar bills to anyone who would take one, but in doing so, a card fell from my wallet to the ground between the bell hop and the parking lot attendant. Both bent in kind consideration to your humble scribe, and picked the card up, turning it over in their hands, searchingly, curiously. I tried to snatch it away from them, but to no avail.

Yes. Yes, it was – a Subway sandwich card. Buy 10, and you get the 11th one free. I only had four more sandwiches to go.

The driver and bell hop looked at me as though I had crawled out from underneath a rock. I got my Subway sandwich card back and told them firmly, “I know. We don’t belong here. It’s OK. We’re leaving.”

They seemed relieved. Truth be told, so were we.

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1 Comment

Filed under Best of Neptunus Lex, by lex, Carroll "Lex" LeFon, Carroll LeFon, Humor, Lex, Lexicans, Neptunus Lex, Uncategorized

One response to “The Ritz, San Francisco

  1. Catmandu

    But then, the rest of the story, near-brother Lex:

    Riding up the chairlift at Heavenly, NV last month, I was a single rider, accompanied by three Mountain Hosts. The discussion of lift rides with near celebrities came up. One host told the tale of riding up with a one hit wonder pop star, another of riding with a local Winter Olympics Gold Medal winner. The last said “My best ride up was with three instructors from (Fallon).”

    Phonetically he was correct, but I had to let him know: “One word, all caps.”

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