Going, Going, Gone - Essay #4
How about some good ideas?
I read last week that one of Hong Kong's most popular and familiar attractions, the Peak Tram, a funicular that carries folks up to the island's physical zenith, is closed for an overhaul.
The last one was in the ’80s, when the conveyance was 100 years old. I poked around and found a couple of news articles that told me the Stairway to Heaven in Oahu, also known as the Haiku Stairs, have been closed permanently due to overuse. Technically, they’ve been shuttered for almost 40 years, but people sneak in, climb, vandalize, etc. and so in the coming months by municipal government decree, they will be dismantled. And the list goes on.
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I got to thinking: What else is going…going…gone? Everything in my world is closed, closing, has limited hours, limited access, or is temporarily out of service. That’s an exaggeration, but it sure feels that way. Anyone’s holiday travel plans get SNAFU-ed? Mine did. Every holiday party I was invited to got canceled. We even postponed our own office party. And forget about any spring break plans. I am still guessing (fingers crossed) that summer 2022 will be my first vacation in, well, a long time. As I write this, four cruise ships—big ones from Holland America, Royal Caribbean, Seven Seas and Carnival—are reporting C-19 outbreaks and have been denied entry and/or turned away from foreign ports in the last week. My kid could’ve told you cruising was a bad idea during an explosion of Covid.
I have been pretty wistful, gazing into my crystal ball thinking of where I want to go right now. My dreams want to take me on a boat sailing through the Caribbean for 10 days, stopping only where there aren’t people, or for supplies… Prime Luxury Rentals out of Miami will get you something on a last minute notice. Yacht.Vacations is a good aggregator of all kinds of boats to take you anywhere you like. But it’s basically a specialty search engine.
By the way, NONE of these enterprises know me and I have no relationship with them at all.
Kinetic Yachts is a global broker for sales/rentals, and I do get quarterly emails from them because many years ago I was looking to rent something. It didn’t happen because of my schedule but I do fantasize about the “Twilight Zone”-ish idea of me sailing along only to dock up one day to find the world has ended. Maybe it’s because I just saw news about the big cruise liners denied entry to ports they regularly dock in… or perhaps because I saw the new Adam McKay movie “Don’t Look Up,” which is abso-f*ckin’-lutely superb and great thought fodder about media and modern-day America.
Anyway, I would love to sail through the British Virgin Islands on my Covid-free boat rental. I want to see if Foxy’s on Jost Van Dyke is still up and running. Decades ago, and I mean many decades ago, Foxy’s was THE place to be on NYE, a joint where the rum ran freely and the mushroom tea poured easily, and boats tied up one after another to partake in the best party in the islands. Please tell me that debauched marvel is still around! If it is, I have 100 bucks that says it’s pretty well commercialized. If it is, good for Foxy. It would mean he cashed in pretty well. Back in the day, while he certainly made some bank, he was always more about the good time than the almighty dollar.
Is Paris open? Asking for real. My best days on the road have been spent in the City of Lights. I told you about some new places last week but I wonder if all the places I went to on one epic food day when I was writing my first book are still open?
• Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique, where I met Hervé This
• Caviar Kaspia
• Maison de la Truffe
• Pierre Hermé
• Poilâne (the OG location)
This morning the French government suspended concession snack sales in movie theaters, so who knows what’s open or closed as of today. Check before you go, but I could use a week alone wandering that city, browsing old stores, eating in my favorite restaurants and sleeping in the beds at the Hotel George V (now a Four Seasons property, and one of my favorite hotels on the planet).
We are going to have to do a global resort/hotel roundup soon … I can feel it coming. Perhaps the best city hotel I have ever stayed in is the Grand Hotel Europe in St. Petersburg, Russia. Ditto the Balmoral in Edinburgh, Scotland.
I would rather play Eloise at the GHE in St. Petersburg than any other hotel in the world. I feel like Bill Hader’s “SNL” character Stefon … this hotel has everything: spies, oligarchs, a 200-year-old caviar bar, bodyguards, indiscriminate street closures, Arab sheikhs, dictators, presidents, a marbled steam room, 300-year-old art in the rooms, your own butler, and a cigar bar that might be the most fascinating place on earth. I guess that’s what I’m writing about next week for sure.
But back to happier thoughts of the world closing … or ending.
So after seeing Don’t Look Up I happened across the most recent column by Elizabeth Kolbert (one of my favorite writers) in The New Yorker (one of my favorite magazines). She wrote:
“It’s rare that a tiny country like Nauru gets to determine the course of world events. But, for tangled reasons, this rare event is playing out right now. If Nauru has its way, enormous bulldozers could descend on the largest, still mostly untouched ecosystem in the world—the seafloor—sometime within the next few years. Hundreds of marine scientists have signed a statement warning that this would be an ecological disaster resulting in damage “irreversible on multi-generational timescales.”
The reason for the invasion of the miners? Metals. Insanely valuable metals. And for anyone who has seen “DLU,” you are really slack-jawed because there is a similar story line in the movie WHICH FOR F***S SAKE IS SUPPOSED TO BE HIGH SATIRE….And there is real reason to think that it’s too late to stop this madness. You should read the whole piece.
So maybe my sailing junket isn’t such a bad idea, because how long will we have our oceans intact? In my lifetime, they have changed and been damaged immeasurably, mostly by ignorance, greed and disinformation. Mining the ocean floor is easily one of the worst ideas of all time.
How about some good ideas? I saw that Finnish scientists are pursuing the holy grail (get it, that’s a cup … holy grail … cup of coffee) of lab-grown coffee intended to help resolve issues surrounding all the negative impacts to our environment that have resulted from the bloodlust over beans that started in the ’80s.
Making coffee is a huge energy-waster, and over the last 30 years, the wildly expanding demand has created a 60% increase in production. That means deforestation, high usage of water and so on, and all the research shows that this increased coffee production is literally destroying the planet. Like “Don’t Look Up,” but with skim milk and Splenda.
Brazil is the largest producer of coffee in the world, and as we all know the damage to the Amazon rainforest is at record levels. It takes 140 liters of water to grow the beans for just a 125-milliliter (four-ounce) cup of coffee. That’s not sustainable. So scientists in Finland are going full out to see if they can duplicate beans in a lab. But it’s super spendy to do it, so who knows if this idea takes off—still, I salute the effort.
So the moral of this week’s story is don’t get on a cruise ship, sneak into Paris (but not into one of their movie theaters), watch “Don’t Look Up” and remember that at the end of the day that story is being repeated in real time all around us. My Christmas miracle was realizing that as a global people we all need to start doing better. And I miss the Grand Hotel Europe.
All the best,