An Expensive Lesson

Jon tested positive for the COVID virus in mid-December, having avoided the infection for more than two years. His illness, while relatively mild, meant he couldn’t join Cliff in preparing Cloud 9 for an anticipated arctic blast a few days later. Consequently, Cliff performed what we call a “soft winterization,” which involved draining the water lines and tanks, and disconnecting the toilet. Typically, such measures would have been sufficient. But we didn’t anticipate the effect of northerly winds exceeding 45 miles per hour, bringing wind chills of 7 degrees below zero and several days of sub-freezing temperatures. The resulting damage to the kitchen faucet and shower lines cost us nearly $3,500 — and several weekends of camping. Ouch!

So this late January weekend was our first camp-out of 2023. We raced to A&P Vintage Trailer Works on Friday afternoon to retrieve Cloud 9 and finally arrived at Loyd Park around 8 p.m. After setting up and settling in, we sat down to Date Night dinner at 10 p.m. Chef Cliff grilled T-bone steaks, peppers, and asparagus to perfection, and served them alongside a fluffy baked potato. Our dinner was accompanied by a fine Treana cabernet (2020), a gift from Venkat, Jon’s friend and colleague. He promised Jon it would be a “very special” wine — and it was!

Saturday found us relaxing in Cloud 9, reading The New York Times, enjoying breakfast cocktails, brunching al fresco, napping, and then supping on pan-seared pork chops with sweet cob corn and cheesy broccoli. We ended the evening watching Episode 5 of Rick Steves Art of Europe, an ambitious exploration of the art and architecture of the Baroque period and the Age of Revolution, all while sipping a fine ruby port.

On Sunday, we engaged in our typical pursuits: reading, relaxing, rejuvenating. Jon saw a Facebook post from a colleague who bragged about a “Saturday well spent,” having a “boujee brunch” with friends in Houston. According to Merriam-Webter, “boujee” is “a concern for wealth, possessions, and respectability.” Jon’s colleague often uses this term to describe persons, places, and things to convey value.

His colleague’s post reminded Jon of a review he read in The New York Times about Nathan Lane’s new Broadway play, “Pictures from Home,” an adaptation of Larry Sultan’s 1992 narrative photography book. Sultan’s work focused primarily on his parents’ life in 1980s Southern California, with images that are “more like a record of hopes and fantasies than actual events.” Sultan’s motivation for his landmark project was clear: “I wanted to…show what happens when we are driven by images of success,” he wrote.

Although it could be argued that Jon’s colleague also seems “driven by images of success,” it’s hard to tell where the pursuit of all things “boujee” will ultimately lead.

“To me, the truth is about performance, how we perform, how we project, and the truth can be staged,” Sultan said in a 2003 interview. Like so many on social media today, it appears as though Jon’s colleague is staging the truth. But we all do, to some extent. The life to which we aspire — the life of our dreams — may never fully align with our actual life. And the ultimate encounter with cold, hard reality can often be an expensive lesson, indeed.