Thursday, April 28, 2011

On the resort of unnatural construction

At some risk to one's lifetime free ride on the Venice-Simplon Orient Express, this witty pair of morning pants called to mind the chronic problem of the leisure class, or rather of those who work terribly hard for a few nights where no one would go a second time. This is the Disneyland aspect of gated terrains with brand names, Vuitton-like habitats so kinkily imagined that not even their native stone is innocent. There isn't an unstyled island left in Hawaii, now that Molokai and Lanai have been reduced this way, and famously even Machu Picchu is host to Michelin-rated servings of meals from the other side of the world. But it's always the manipulation of the landscape that speaks the loudest of one's captivity.

What is it, then, about the urban fancies of an Olmstead or a Burnham, which gives their bourgeois settings such fundamental, restorative natur-alness? A Virginia farm boy may feel a chill in Golden Gate Park, but he won't be affronted by the masonry. The same fellow, awakening to his first dawn at Napasai, will wonder why the garden is lifted from a shopping mall. He came half-way around the world in 4 or 5 different conveyances, to swim by himself in a pond they made of the Indian Ocean. Yes, this was thrillingly wasteful, but was it as extravagant as taking the 38 Geary out to the Sunset, for pot luck? Who plays host, to the primordial right of shirtlessness?

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