We had dinner tonight with a friend of mine who lives in the Berkeley Hills. The house has a wonderful view of the San Francisco Bay, downtown SF and the Golden Gate Bridge. The drive up is more treacherous than I could handle on a day in day out basis and the the street is narrow which means parking requires ninja-like skill.
When I was younger, I could never understand the concept of paying more for a place because of the view. When I was a journalism student in college, I was doing a story for the school paper on a lawsuit that had been filed against the university. I had to go to the Federal building in downtown San Francisco to get some papers from a bureaucrat. I took the elevator up to some upper floor and walked into an office that was boxes of paper from floor to ceiling. Behind the desk, a grizzled little dude didn’t even look up from his work to acknowledge me but he heard me gasp.
San Francisco is a beautiful place. It’s a special place. And from his little cramped nest, I looked out the window to see a view that made me understand for a moment why some people are willing to die over the notion that there is a God. It was breathtaking. The bay with the ocean beyond. The Golden Gate and Bay Bridges. Alcatraz. Sailboats and tankers dotted the water. The hills of the city looked like a quilt sewn from the imagination of a madman or a genius or both.
The little man looked up and said, “Is there a problem?” I told him there was no problem at all but asked him how he managed to get any work done. How did he not stare in wonder out that window as the sun moved across the sky all day making an ever changing, hypnotic dreamscape.
He blinked and said, “I don’t even notice it anymore.”
That stuck with me for many years. When friends would spend extra hundreds of thousands for houses with a view, I would remember the little government man. But people can become jaded with anything given enough time like a strip club cashier who no longer notices the naked perfect bodies that parade by day after day.
I now realize that we can become jaded or we can make a conscious decision to not become jaded. We can appreciate the world just for the sake of taking it in. The sin of youth is to want something, get it and discard it because it no longer has the value that can only be held by the unattainable. There comes a time when we must choose to be happy with the unbelievable amount we have and revel in the world around us.
When I looked out the window of my friend’s house, I wasn’t thinking about what he paid for the view, I wasn’t jealous that he woke up to this every morning and had a glass of wine every night looking out that window at the sun going down behind the Golden Gate. I was thinking about all of the years I wasted not seeking out these kind of experiences because of the visceral feeling I had talking to the little man in the Fed building. I was thinking about the feeling that only the shallow or unfocused could be excited about a view.
Don’t let little grizzled government workers sway your heart. If you are awed by something, go with it. Don’t spend so much time overthinking it.
Dinner? Nice salad with pears, cheese and mixed greens, roasted chicken and potatoes. Fruit tarts and ice cream for dessert. Nice chardonnay and pinot noir. It was a perfect Northern California evening and I may have appreciated it more than usual.