Not really. I just liked all the "r's."
When I first came here, all the cabins, called "Rancheras" were the same size. Then they built villas. An upgrade from the Rancheras. Gradual upgrades continued all around. A fancier dining room. More swimming pools. An expanded assortment of spa treatments. Before, it was"no frills" and "one size fits all." Now, it's "You pay more, you get more."
When I checked in this time, I saw some people receiving complimentary orange metallic water bottles. Mine was the traditional plastic. Their bottles kept their water refrigerated; mine just held water. The orange bottles reflected an upgraded new option, related to some enhanced "Wellness" program. I didn't sign up. I'm well enough. Besides, it's extra, and I already paid enough.
This is not a new concept - you pay more, you get more. I don't have a problem with the arrangement. Just with the distinctions that come out of it. You know how you often, bordering on always, hear "I don't envy the rich their money." I must not have gotten the memo. Because I do.
It's not their money. It's what they can buy with it.
This is hardly a life-consuming obsession - I feel it and it passes - but it's definitely there. It seems to me no matter what financial status I attain - and look where I am, so zero complaining - still, there is always someone who's wealth attains them a slightly higher one.
And sometimes, a considerably higher one. You notice it with campaign donations. Fifty bucks, you're invited to the rally; fifty thousand, you get to tuck the candidate into bed. I don't even want to think what you get for a million.
I was given a fancier room this time as a result of this being my thirty-second visit- a villa, instead of a "Ranchera." And with this villa assignment comes perks. One is you do not have to hike to the dining room and eat breakfast with the "Common People." Villa Visitors have a special breakfast set up for them at the villa pool.
The last day, I surrendered my egalitarian pretensions and I partook. And you know what I discovered?
It was really good. I mean, in the dining room, you have to ask for peanut butter, and they get it from the back. At the "Villa Breakfast", it's just sitting there. A big bowl of it. And you can take as much as you want. Also, one ladleful of oatmeal in your cereal bowl? Not anymore, Banjo! Now, it's two!
Individualized omelets, anyone? I don't eat eggs. But I almost ordered one. Just because they were there!
It's most likely that I received the upgrade because they weren't at full capacity. Next time, it will probably be "back to the Rancheras."
I wonder if I'll miss those poolside breakfasts?
Sometimes, it appears that what they used to call "Providence" has a way of looking out for me. On this trip, "Providence" was a dentist named Ken.
I had met Ken earlier in the week - calm voice, easygoing demeanor. And one morning, we decide to hit the moderate hike together. I encourage Ken to speed up if he wants to, but he says he's fine walking with me, at whatever pace I choose to proceed at. I only have one pace. The "possible" one.
Our hiking proceeds briskly. It didn't have to be brisk. I just had to say to myself, "Slow down", but I didn't. Why did I choose a peppier speed? Because I sensed Ken - who was easily a quarter of a century younger and in better shape than me - could handle a faster pace, and I did not want him to pay for hanging back with me. It turned out, I would pay for that decision shortly.
At some point, the hike we were taking splits - there is a flatter, shorter route back to the ranch, and a longer, steeper one. I had taken the harder one earlier in the week and handled it comfortably, so I decided to take it again. Ken - I want to say "dutifully" because that's how it appeared - treks along.
So we're ascending this extra hill that's pretty steep, and before not too long, I am not breathing so good, or I'm breathing too good, depending on your perspective. I mean, it was a piston-like "in-out-in-out-in-out", like a little stream engine facing a mountainous grade. I'd had not that long ago had heart surgery. My exertions suggested that, at any moment, my repaired heart might burst cartoon-like out of my chest.
It's not like Ken asked me if I was okay, or suggested I slow down, or stop and rest, or anything. He did offer water (from his non-metallic water bottle) which I stubbornly refused. But otherwise, he remained quietly, and steadfastly, there, ready, seemingly "on personal call", to race for help, or drop down and apply CPR.
Finally, I made it to the top, my regular breathing eventually returning on our descent. Ken speaks nothing of the incident. But I sensed he was relieved. We completed to hike together, both of us now breathing like regular people who were not going to die.
At breakfast, we momentarily split up, and I stake out a table with another (already seated) person (whom I did not know and had not shepherded me through my ordeal.) As I am gathering breakfast, Ken reappears and asks me where I'm sitting. I tell him I already have a table. And that was that.
You would think that a person overseeing your survival might merit more considerate treatment. Instead, I simply blew my Guardian Angel off. Apparently, that's just the kind of guy I am. But I'm sure Ken understood. Guardian Angels always do.
Still, sorry Ken. I am unworthy of your protection.
A revivifying setting, good food in sensible portions, a week of human contact.
That's what I went for. And that's what I got.