Annette and I had a lovely day while Will and the grandparents went off on an all-day trek to Everglades National Park. After lounging about the house, we went off to the Naples National Art Festival, which is nowhere near as big or zoo-like as the Ann Arbor Art Fairs but was very pleasant. Actually, we talked to one artist who said that she had been going up to Ann Arbor for Art Fair for years and years but she wasn’t going this year because they are simply charging too much money for exhibitors and they aren’t selling enough stuff. Could make for an interesting summer. In any event, I bought a T-shirt but no other art.
Then, after a bargain happy hour, we went on to the main event, which was a sunset cruise on the Naples Princess. This was Annette’s parent’s idea (and their present to us!) and not the sort of thing we normally would have done, but it was fun and kind of interesting.
The basic premise, as we understood it, was we went out for a while on this large boat, ate and drank, listened to Dixieland jazz (of all things….), and watched the sunset. Here’s Annette in anticipation.
Well, the weather was kind of bad, so while we did get to see a sunset of sorts, it was pretty cloudy. And beyond that, it was too choppy for them to take us out into the gulf, so it was all puttering around in the canals.
Which brings me to the unexpected element of the tour. Annette’s mother had said to me before we left “Wait until you see some of these houses,” and she wasn’t kidding. Up and down these canals were these gigantic and ridiculously over-the-top houses. I could have taken 100 pictures like this, but besides the dubious qualities of my camera and my less than great photographic abilities, the houses all pretty much looked alike after a while. They were positively pornographic in the way that the food on the food network or gardens (or houses) on HGTV are like porn, softly-focused images of exaggerated and impossible to actually achieve expressions of ecstatic perfection. These houses practically throbbed in their freakish abilities to perform.
What’s interesting is that these houses are apparently not the “really big ones;” according to Annette’s parents, the most spectacular houses are the ones that are on the gulf.
It was a kind of weird spectacle. In part because of the less than ideal weather, the house porn became the main attraction. Some of our fellow passengers were offended; we overheard more than one conversation where someone was “disgusted” with the display of wealth and the fact that no one needed that much money. Some of our fellow passengers were enraptured; more than once we heard gasps or child-like excitement at the infinite horizon pool next to the elaborate patio kitchen. Most though were a mix of the two, like Annette and I. I find myself, like more traditional porn I suppose, simultaneously repulsed and attracted.
On the way back, it was darker, which made it easier to look into the houses. Just to add to the extravagance of it all, most of these houses are vacation homes and actually empty most of the year. But like we were riding some sort of boat ride through a zoo, we did manage to spy into the animal cages, looking for signs of life, and what we saw was some of the extremely wealthy in their natural habitat. The ultra-rich, it turns out, do not have wild sex orgies out by the dock or offer human sacrafices in their patio pizza ovens. Rather, they sit around inside and eat dinner and watch TV. Fascinating.