A taste of decadence

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Eventually, my birthday passed in style. The little hostel where I arrived the first night in San Francisco was in a street crowded with bums and drug addicts, and the inside was nothing to write home about either. So I went online and found a last minute deal for 2 nights at 5 star hotel Clift.

I have to admit that I enjoyed the place; and I wasn’t even aware how fancy it was when I booked it. The good, perfumed smell in the lobby, the fancy interior design, the redwood bar designed by Ralph Lauren. A spacious 24/7 gym. Treats sent to our room by the receptionist after I had told her that it was my birthday… it was all familiar, it was that kind of hotel I sometimes could stay at when I was a banker. Also, it felt a bit like the christmas we didn’t have two weeks ago in Costa Rica: cold outside, warm and cosy inside. A day spent lazily, with lots of nibbling all day and some cocktails at night.

On the other hand, only a few blocks away, urban San Francisco was a shock. I had asked my parents to send a pre-prepared package with my ski gear to 94102 San Francisco for ‘general delivery’ (which is a truly fantastic thing: you send a letter or a package to a post office and you can go pick it up there). I had chosen this postal code for no specific reason, just because it was sitting on top of the list I guess. In any case, to collect it, we walked down Market Street on Friday afternoon, and what we saw reminded me of the too many zombie movies that come out of Hollywood in recent years. The streets are filled with people obviously suffering from one or more of the following: drug addiction, homelessness, miserable health, absurd poverty. Even the post office dealing with general delivery – located in the Tenderlon area – was filled with homeless and drug-addicts, hanging out in the post box corridors.

My social and political views have never been the ones most people would expect from a banker. And in the face of what I saw here in San Francisco, I even more failed to understand how anyone in the US could endorse tax breaks for the ultra-rich and oppose national healthcare, when poverty and misery are so obvious that you can’t look the other way even if you want to? How is this possible?

California and the dollar are expensive though, and the Canadian dollar is irresistibly low right now. So we booked flights to Vancouver for tomorrow. Whistler is only 125km away. Sorry, Lake Tahoe.

 

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