What a difference a day makes. Yesterday I was comped at one of Tokyo’s finest; today, on my own dime, I am in one of the more plebian of stop-spots. A difference of 2 stars, but in the end, does it really matter? All we peripatetiques require is a hole to sit over to deposit our wastes, a spigot to cleanse us, a bed to lay our heads on; if possible, a television to enlighten or entertain, a closet to hang clothes so they don’t inordinately wrinkle and smudge, a fridge to store and keep some liquids and edibles cool.
The rest? The bidet, the fully stocked fridge, the movies on demand, the internet hook-up, the room service, the pool or exercise room? . . . In the end, like life, it is only a matter of degrees. Everything beyond basic is merely an exercise in ostentation; leaps in perception.
Sure, it’s nice to be pampered. Yesterday, there was a chocolate on my pillow, and a personal message in classic Japanese brush-pen script, from the hotel staff. Today, the Internet didn’t work to start and the staff had to come up to sort out why. Yesterday there were five baggage carriers competing to win the rights to pluck up my cargo; today, not only weren’t there any carriers on staff, if there had been, they probably would have been reading sports dailies, inert on the sofa, twitching nary a little toesy to offer up an assist. Yesterday, there were three (THREE!) restaurants offering breakfast fare; today, there wasn’t even a cafeteria on the premises. Yesterday, in the “Lounge California” (where I finally settled on repaste), there were baskets with individualized jellies from France (Bonne Maman) whose seal had never been cracked and which, even if I only extracted one bitty knife-tip, afterward, would have been chucked (or at least never again used for paying customers). Today – well, there was no breakfast on-site, so the point is moot.
But, the problem with being pampered is that it begets a pampered mentality. And that begets all sorts of ancillary problems: distinction, separation by perceived status, accreting disrespect, class antagonism, arrogance, and sloth. No kidding. Bourdieu has discoursed on it, but even without his help, you know that much is true. Even after one day at the Miyako, my own sense experience was cooing in my ear; I could feel sloth creeping in, threatening to transform me from the super-nice, other-sensitive, hyper-attentive human that I am (!) to this . . . alternate . . . being—
“Oh boy . . . I say, boy. Quick . . . git over heah!”
And so, while it is nice to experience the rarified air – to understand that there is a world out there like that, a parallel reality that is independent of most of our daily experience – it would be unwise to live life in that mode, in that manner, every day. To do so would really create a disconnect with the “great big out there” out there. Doing so would condition one (or, in this case, me) out of prevailing actuality; it would not properly prepare me for the day my posh convertible (ha!) takes the wrong exit off the freeway and ends up with the just plain folk who may not really speak the same consciousness or breathe the same sensibilities that I have grown accustomed to.
Well, you’ve read the book or seen the movie, so you understand how all of that would turn out.
So, while it’s nice to get comped, while it is thrilling to soar with the eagles, it is also good to remain grounded. At least from time to time.
For the voyager in life, radical departures should be welcomed (and certainly not run from). However, they ought not get transmogrified into habituated launching pads of expectation.
Which is why tonight – I’m back home. On my own mottled, lumpy futon.
Suitably . . . on the dusty, wooden floor.
// Notes from the Road
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