So after my haircut in Lompoc I sat and took the necessary time to write up things so far. Thats the hard thing about writing, having to force yourself to stop living for a moment and write down whats been happening! The temptation is always to just keep rolling.
So I got it down, and head for the beach. I was driving through some real Americana looking shit, barns and that:
Was pretty cool. I got to the beach, and they had this weird system where you had to pay at a little toll booth to get your car close to the beach. So I parked up just short of the booth and strolled on in. Not that I didnt have the money, but this trip has really turned me off extravagant spending. On average we have it really good in Perth, and to many people its nothing to drop $100 on a night out. But in all the other places I visited on this trip, that would be pretty ridiculous, and the fact is that you dont need to splash money around to be happy.
So I walked my ass down to that beach, dropped my stuff next to a trustworthy looking mob, and jumped in the ocean.
Well, I just about had a heart attack!
So cold. Thats another thing we are obviously spoiled for in Perth, nice warm Indian Ocean waters! I got out, and strangely felt warm all over, I guess my body’s defense to extreme cold. Reckoning that it would wear off pretty soon, I went for a run down the length of the bay to get some vigour back into my body. Pretty interesting different beach culture here: people riding horses on the beach, and driving these oversize 4WD ‘trucks’ on the beach. The trucks looked stupid, the horses sweet.
By the time I got back to the van I found that I was still cold, so I had a bit of a feed, and a glass of Rum, sitting on a folding chair in the carpark. People were looking at me with what I perceived as jealousy. I had a little look at my map, and saw a place that had been recommended to me, called Hearst’s Castle, was not too far away, so having got a bit of a rum buzz going, I hit the road in that direction.
I hadnt gone very far when I came across a joint selling cool caravans, and I had to stop and have a look. No shirt, ranting and raving to the salesman. Pretty funny, I got him to take this photo:
It was a real cool little compact caravan, though I dont know exactly what the ‘sport’ badge was supposed to mean. Do Lambourghini’s have tow bars I wonder…?
So I pushed on the Hearst’s castle. This place was built by Randolph Hearst, the son of George Hearst who was a cut-throat mining billionaire. George gave Randolph a media company, and he turned it into a super-duper-rich affair and was a proper billionaire aswell.
Well, to prove to everyone that he had taste or something, or that he deserved to be so rich, he built this weird ass mansion on a hill in California, quite remote at the time, and furnished it with looted antiquities and antiques of all time periods all together. Every room was a mish-mash of extravagance, and the whole place was incredibly childish and even disturbing. Hearst would have movie starts and shit come to stay with him, and he would entertain them lavishly as long as they played by his rules.
I boarded one of the packed buses that drove up the mountain to the castle every 30 minutes. And I felt a little like a spoil sport when I was not saying wow to everything: almost everyone on the tour was so impressed by it all, and I just couldnt help thinking that they were being fooled somehow…
Being an archaeologist I think I have learned to look past these simple displays of wealth, and refuse to be impressed by them. All throughout history and even before, people have been using monuments to big themselves up, to impress the people that they had power over, and using displays of extravangance to legitimise their position at the top. Well, what if this Hearst was just a normal man when you took away all his stuff? How would he measure up compared to another if both were stripped of all their stuff? Would he still be able to convince people to spend their days serving his whims? Im not so sure. Like Paul Kelly says, you can amass all of this stuff in life, but you cant take it with you, so does it really matter? Maybe this fella was not so nice, who caged 100 animals, possibly exploited child stars, and had a ridiculous carbon footprint! The stuff does not define the man.
On the way back down the mountain, a tall blonde sat next to me on the bus (named Sandra I remember). We got to talking, and she couldnt comprehend my distaste for the place, and kept rabbiting on about ‘pretty things’. We got to talking about archaeology, about how she works forensics at the airport and reconstructs faces, and then the conversation took a more serious tone. She told me that the US government was looking for agents and that I should apply for a position with the secret service, ‘given my background’ (!?!). She whispered all of this, and told me “trust me, I know they’re hiring now”.
I didnt know whether she was crazy, or a spy following me…
Haha so to throw them off the trail I got to my van and hit the road north!