April 3, 2016

Privilege and Jet Skis

The way the Air Asia flights work out, you have to spend a night in Langkawi when you got to Koh Lipe. Something about the connecting ferry and flights don’t match up. No big whoop, so you spend one night in Malaysia.

Last time we came here we chose proximity to the airport as our chief criteria and paid for it dearly with a Shining like experience at a vast, unmanned, prison-like-hotel that claimed to be a Four Points Sheraton, but was really an empty compound with terrible food and the largest square pool we had ever seen. For the money we paid it was not good, so this time we changed our primary criteria, paid a bit more and went with the place that had the best pool.

Much better experience. We arrived, checked in and were by said pool by 3pm, reading books and listening to the kids squeal in delight as they made their way down the slide for the gajillionth time. The food here is meh, but the rooms are nice, the pool is sweet and the beach is close by. After a few hours, I went for a walk down the beach to explore.

I didn’t walk down the beach to explore, really I wanted to price the jet skis.

You see as a kid, my family didn’t travel much. We never went on vacations. Sure we took a few camping trips up north, but I can’t remember any times we stayed in a hotel as a family, and to this day I have never been on an airplane with either of my parents. So while my Marin county peers spoke of trips to Tahoe, or Hawaii or Cabo, my family considered a long Sunday at Stinson beach or maybe a few nights at Lake Berryessa- whereever the hell that is, a vacation.

But one thing I do remember from these lake trips were the Jet Skis. Sure they were terrorising the calm beauty of the lake with all their fossil fuel glory, but god damn it if I didn’t want to be the one to be doing the terrorising. I remembering wishing that somehow, one time, we would just walk over to the guy who was renting them, pay him and reek havoc on the surface of that lake. But that never happened. Not even once.

Too Expensive. Too dangerous. Too loud. Too too.

Why don’t you have another feta cheese, cucumber and tomato sandwich and ride on this inflatable raft instead? But don’t go too far. Maybe stay where you can reach the bottom and where we can see you.

Someday- I promised myself, I would be the kind of guy who would walk up to the jet ski guy and say, “I want this machine for the next hour, so gas her up and get out of my way.” At which point I would obviously be buffed and tanned enough to commandeer the thing like some kind of swimsuit model. I would be wet and with chiseled jaw and sculpted abs ride the jet ski around the lake where women and girls of all shapes and sizes would marvel at my sheer mastery of jet ski moves. I might do a flip if I caught the right wave.

I had no notions of grandeur or hyper-masculinity on my mind today, I just thought that if it was somehow affordable, thirty minutes of taking the girls for a spin would be a nice way to end the day and our trip. I would not only be the dad who says yes to jet skis, hell I would be the dad who suggested jet skis!

$54 for 30 minutes.
Fifty Four Dollars for thirty minutes.

Are you freaking kidding me? In Malaysia of all places. $54 for 30 mins. I am no math whiz, but that is $1.80 a minute. It just didn’t seem possible. I immediately started making excuses:

Too expensive. Not worth it. Not sustainable. Wastes fuel. They are so loud and obnoxious anyway. Maybe we are not and never will be Jet Ski people. The girls need to learn that some things are just out of our range. We just spent five days in Thailand and spent a petty penny on Scuba Diving, would adding a thirty minute thrill ride on a water motorcycle really be added value?

This was not going to happen. I was leaving the beach.

I looked over my shoulder one last time and watched a guy doing jumps off the waves on the choppy water as the sun was low in the sky and cracking diamonds in her wake. I couldn’t see his face, but if I looked hard enough I am sure I saw his wide smile, from ear to ear, because not only was he having a great time, he didn’t care how much the machine cost a minute or how much gas it was wasting; he was high on adrenaline and the freedom that comes from paying whatever the cost to have fun. I went back to the pool, grabbed my book and decided that I would wait to have a cocktail with dinner.

As a child of lower middle-class parents, who worked their asses off as small business owners in Marin county of all places, I know the value of a dollar. And maybe, just maybe in the long run, my kids would be better served realising that somethings are just off limits, not because you can’t afford them, although knowing these limits is valuable too, but knowing that some things we might could afford, but it is just wise to say no.

Having said all that, I don’t know….it is almost time for sleep and I am still dreaming of a time I ride that goddamn jet ski.

As I was showering for dinner and rough drafting this post about the jet ski, I also started to think about the privilege of holiday. As I mentioned before, vacationing was not a privilege my family enjoyed. We had fun. We did stuff. We were not poor, but we did not vacation. Not the way that my kids are off to Thailand and Chiang Mai and the USA and god knows where else.

“I didn’t even know resorts like this existed when I was a kid,” said Mairin as we walked around the massive pool, “much less ever dream of staying at one.”

The very notion of taking a break. A holiday. A vacation is such a statement of privilege, because it presupposes that you even have a job. A job that allows you take holidays and one that pays enough to let you do and go where you want. This is what I was thinking about as the cool water from the “rain” shower fell to the granite tiles and rolled beneath the egg shaped boutique tub.

Anyway…it is late and I am tired and we are headed home tomorrow. I am annoyed that the AC is not cold enough in our room and that the music from some bar is louder than I want it to be. I am also thinking about how I was in Kenya not too long ago and that I will be in Manilla in not too long from now.

I can’t decide if my problem is that I think too much or not enough. Or maybe my problem is that I always think that I must have any problems at all.

Joshua Ferris’ book To Rise Again At A Decent Hour has got me thinking and neurotic in the best way. It was a pleasure to read. It is not going to pass any bechdel tests, and the characters and plot could use some…something, but his attention to words and the mundane and the unnecessary are beautiful and captivating. You can be cynical and say that he is another uber-intellectual white dude whining about nothing ala Franzen and Eggers, and that we have heard enough of this white male privilege, and I might agree with you, but I can always take another 300 pages worth. There are some choice scenes. He spends two pages on hand lotion. What more can I say? Scott, Ari, Chris, Shasta, Jordan, curious what you all think.

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