Laura and I are in Asheville, NC for a few days, while her mom and stepdad watch the kids. Apparently that’s going pretty well, the kids have reportedly been “little angels.”

Today we went to the Biltmore and toured the house and gardens. As a residence, it’s ludicrously opulent of course. It was cool seeing the servants’ areas and imagining all the bustling it must’ve taken to operate everything. Resetting the bowling pins for the family and guests had to be one of the more humbling tasks, I imagine. And I can’t imagine trying to cook for fifty or more people on a coal-burning stove.

Looking at all the luxury through modern eyes, it’s easy to feel judgmental. I do think this level of indulgence is excessive and selfish. But back then it was admired and celebrated even more widely than it is today. Granted, the estate has certainly stimulated the local economy, and the family was charitable beyond that. But my admiration was tainted as I looked around. It would be harder to achieve this place today, I think. I wonder how long it’ll be before we see a private residence to equal it. With the story of Michael Jackson’s death all over the television right now, I found myself wondering if his Neverland Ranch will still exist a hundred years from now.

We shuffled through the house with a river of people, but the gardens were comparatively empty, in spite of the gorgeous weather. The place is really vast. We’re going back tomorrow to see the winery and have dinner at the bistro there, after a morning of biking in the mountains. I would write more about today, but it’s bedtime now.

4 thoughts on “Biltmore

  1. Neverland Ranch doesn’t really exist very much at the moment, since the money to fund it dried up some time back.

    My uncle Danny was a pinsetter at a bowling alley when I was a kid, back in the days before the automated pinsetting machines were common. It was a pretty physical job but not particularly demeaning. I’m not sure what it was like on a bowling green though I imagine it was simply another physical job.

    • Yeah, upon further reflection, I guess one cause of my perception of the pinsetting job as demeaning is the fact that robots do it today. But back when that was the only way it was done, I probably wouldn’t have thought twice about it. I just imagined being frustrated by the unbreachable proximity, the social chasm separating so small a physical space, and the repetition of the task which served no purpose beyond the amusement of the upper class. The metaphor of building something only for it to be smashed down by rich dandies over and over again would get to me — but I’m a product of my times. I’m sure there were plenty of other jobs along those lines, and plenty more demanding jobs to have, such that many would’ve been grateful to have it.

      • The concept of BEING a servant has taken some serious hits over the past few decades, and this may have something to do with the increasing failure of our elected public servants to actually serve the public instead of themselves.