The most elegant title you will ever encounter. I am sure all right-thinking people will agree.
So this happened.
In lieu of a generous “Frequent Visitors’ Discount” or an upgrade in accommodations, or maybe a commemorative plaque with your face on it, people who have come to the Ranch more than twenty times were invited upstairs to a private dining room, where we were served the same food they were serving downstairs, except there were crackers.
(Note: I’ve been told I have been here thirty-five times, but I believe they are making that up. About ten years ago, there was a fire and it burned up all of their records. They have no idea how many times I’ve been here. But they act like they do. And I act like they’re right.)
Our host was the Director of Guest Relations who calls “Bingo” on Wednesdays. He is purportedly outrageously funny at “Bingo.” But tonight, he was in “Executive Mode.” He did one “gay porn” joke, but the rest of the time he was serious.
He said he wanted to pick our brains about what keeps us coming back to the Ranch, and any suggestions we might have for possible improvements. He had also visited other spas to see if there was anything he could learn there.
I recall hearing a story about a patient whose therapist dumped him, explaining, “You don’t really want to change.”
Hold on a second. That was me.
I thought it sounded familiar.
This Ranch dinner felt suspiciously similar. Despite assertions to the contrary, they did not actually want to change. Which made me question the point of the dinner. Maybe the guy was just lonely. At the time of the gathering, there were still two days until “Bingo.”
The thing is, they shouldn’t change. Although their slogan is “Siempre Mejor” (“Always Better.”), for me – and what keeps me continually coming back – it is more accurately “Siempre el Mismo” (“Always The Same”).
When my turn came to talk, I said, there were two things I appreciated most about the place. One was the place, meaning the natural topography of the Ranch. Sacred mountains with an invisible Mariachi band on it singing only to me – who’d want to change that?
And you can’t anyway. I have heard faith can move mountains. But I don’t think Bekins (a well-known American moving company) can.
The place is the place. And that place is spiritually invigorating. The transformation begins with the journey. To get there, traveling up a hill and around, and then up and around, and then up and around, when you finally arrive, you’ve reached this isolated world, magically different from your own. It’s like Shangri-La. Except you get older. (See: Yesterday’s post.)
The other reliable “constant” are the guests who have chosen to come here, and how easily the casual atmosphere allows you to talk to them.
At home, talking to strangers could easily produce pepper spray and a police report. Here, you can talk to anybody. Just this morning, I met a woman who repaired books, one of which, written on parchment, dated way back to the 1300’s.
Yesterday at breakfast, I met a guy who unequivocally did not want to be here. Still detectable was the circular indentation where a gun had been placed to his head. Someone asked him what physical activities he enjoyed at the Ranch and he replied,
“Walking to dinner.”
He also – accurately – called the Ranch: “Summer camp, without the songs.” (You see what you can do when you meet funny strangers at the Ranch? You can steal their material!)
The place and the people.
“Siempre el Mismo.”
Still, the Ranch has changed.
As the prices went up, the economic diversity went down. And, not coincidentally I think, the cultural proclivities skewed rightward.
To avoid controversy, the Ranch’s invitees as evening “presenters” have devolved from the likes of Madeline Albright and William F. Buckley to a woman providing sure-fire strategies for remembering to take your keys, and self-help gurus promoting “A Better You”, where their idea of “A Better You” is them.
To exemplify the problem, our host explained that he had announced a future “presenter”, offering a lecture explaining the Electoral College. After that announcement, he said three guests warned that if he brought in that “presenter”, they would cancel their reservations.
He was just explaining it. And you don’t even have to go. Still, they wanted this miscreant banned from the premises.
Probably some musty professor, with no idea they’re a political firebrand.
The Ranch has changed.
The country has changed.
The thing is, the Ranch was never the country.
And now it is.
Will I still come here?