02 Juli 2008

Not elegant, just costly, so what's the point?

Small tableau of Southern California in the opening decade of the 21st century:

Twice in the past four years, I've had occasion (by dint of being invited) to have brunch at the Hotel del Coronado, a San Diego landmark. Victorian ugly, to be sure, but well-kept, exquisite location, etc. The place has more than its share of elegant paneling, etc., and it's definitely worth a look, although the effect was irretrievably impaired decades ago by the construction of several hideous high-rise condo buildings immediately next door. The food, granted, is indisputably first-rate, albeit rather unimaginative. The brunch buffet probably costs around thirty bucks a person. Real silverware (well, hotel-quality flatware), genuine clotted cream, all fresh and tasty. Service is fine too. But...

1. Because of the hotel's location, and the fact that our greedy, asinine, narrow-minded and just plain contemptible town fathers could never settle on a single set of plans to relocate our 1920s-era airport, diners at the Hotel del Coronado are treated to the visual and auditory assault of jumbo jets taking off and landing every five minutes. The restaurant's outdoor lanai is right in the flight pattern. The planes fly close enough so that one can read the markings on the underbelly of the fuselage. In this respect, it's scarcely any better than the filthy Chicago railroad flat occupied by Elwood Blues. When Jake queries, "How often does the train go by?", Elwood replies, "So often, you won't even notice it."

2. While the hotel is elegant and expensive, it's still in slobbo Southern California, meaning that all of the quite well-to-do folk who patronize it are dressed just as poorly and tastelessly as those whom they would not deign even to greet. This typifies today's faux-democratic ethos. The wealthy dress like bums, and the proles rejoice: i.e., "Hey, Bill Gates wears a baseball cap, just like me! Sure, he may have ten quadrillion but he's a regular guy, just like me!" What rubbish. Ironically, my colleagues and I were wearing suits and ties at the hotel (we met there for a business function), with the result that we ended up preposterously overdressed. Everyone is wandering around in tatty flip-flips, caps, tube tops, cutoffs, etc. The unshaven thirty/forty-something dads are munching their eggs in the restaurant while their rugrats tear up the place and throw cereal (organic, to be sure). Charming, that. One might as well eat at Denny's...about one-fifth the price for the same food (and same crying infants). And the parking's free.