Tuesday morning, before the rest of the RV park is stirring, I’m sitting in front of our borrowed motor home with my laptop, even farther away from Gotham than the last time I posted. I haven’t unpacked any cameras to illustrate, but if you were to upend the row of RVs parked along the shoreline it would, I suppose, approximate a line of skyscrapers.
We’re starting the last week of our family vacation, having arrived last night at the campsite near the San Juan Islands in Washington State where we’ve spent several summers crabbing.
Last summer I wrote about this annual trip at length elsewhere; for now I’ll elaborate on the topic of RVs and real estate. Or are they personalty? The legal definition isn’t really what I’m after: I’m more curious about the culture.
When people in the RV parks find out we live in Manhattan, talk often turns on cost of living, apartment prices, renting vs owning, etc. Certain sentiments are bound to emerge. If our interlocutors have visited NY, they talk about not being able to imagine living surrounded by all those people. They also can’t imagine a place where people pay several hundred thousand dollars for a studio apartment. (Hell, way more than that in our neighborhood.)
I want to remind them that several of our neighbors in the park appear to have paid several hundred thousand dollars for what amounts to a 1BR on wheels. Some of these are as long as 30 or 35 feet; they expand on the sides to allow for full-sized living rooms and dinettes. My inlaws are in a new fifth-wheel they bought from a family that inhabited it as their primary residence. But, unlike a piece of property in Manhattan, the RV declines in value the moment you move it off the seller’s lot, whereas New York real estate is bound to increase in value the moment you sign. And the gas to move these things must be a bitch, especially this year.
None of this matters, though. We’re dealing here with a sensibility that’s not bound to rationalism as much as it’s bound to culture. We’re in the wide-open west, the end of the Lewis and Clark trail (well, sort of, since we’re quite a bit north of Chinook). This is the land of elbow room, don’t fence me in. When we try to explain the concept of a country house — yes, we can sympathize with the need to get out of town — they wonder why we’d settle for something stuck in one spot.
Once I get that damn home in the Berkshires we’ll have to compare notes. For now, I’m more than happy to live someone else’s lifestyle for a week or so out of every year. Isn’t that what cosmopolitanism is about?