Above is my wife Sarah, 8.75 mos. pregnant, sitting out back of The Breakers
, one of the most splendid oceanside mansions available for touring within the Newport, Rhode Island Historic Mansions Tour
. "Holy Moley" is what I officially have to say about some of those "summer cottages" of the 19th century New England upper crust. Holy-freakin'-Moley.
Ummmmm..... yeah. You get the picture. The above ballroom, housed within William K. Vanderbilt's Marble House
(built around 1890 for the lean, mean cost of $11 million, which is just a paltry $226 million
in today's dollars (thanks to The Inflation Calculator
for that calculation), is not just painted with gold-colored paint from your local Sherwin-Williams distributor. It is painted with 22-karat gold
. Every fixture, wall panel, and flourish is coated, oh yes, coated
in the stuff. It's like what the Golden Calf would have looked like if the Jews had decided to build an ornate Victorian Era ballroom instead of a calf. Or something like that.
Anyway, we stayed at New England's only Kosher Bed and Breakfast, The Admiral Weaver Inn
(pictured in triptych below), which presumably owes its existence to the fact that the oldest place of Jewish worship in all of these great 50 states, The Touro Synagogue
(pictured in monotych above), is right up the street. Yup, that's the synagogue to whose congregation President George Washington penned his famous (and aptly named) Letter to the Hebrew Congregation in Newport Rhode Island
. Too bad the place was under renovation and covered completely
in a construction tarp while we were there, rendering it untourable and rather eyesore-ish. But hey, whatever. The weather was perfect, and there was an eruv
-- why should we complain?
Mmmmm.... yeah. "Vacation" at a Kosher Bed and Breakfast. 30% more expensive than other B&Bs. Personal mini-fridge in the corner of a quaint, neo-Italianate bedroom with wicker, brass and Shaker styled furnishings, and a distinct lack of complimentary shampoo in the tiny bathroom. Bring all your own food, except for breakfast, which is pancakes, eggs, fresh fruit, coffee (not that bad, really). Ersatz Shabbos meals in a cramped communal dining room with other Jewish people who, like you, came to get away
from other Jewish people. It was nice, it was relaxing, we had a wonderful time, for real. But can you imagine, for a moment, being able to go out to a restaurant
on Friday night? Or walking to shul without worrying what's in your pockets
? Now, that's my
idea of "vacation!!!" I know, I know... it's all just an elaborate pipe dream... but what else
am I supposed to fetishize and yearn for, if not treif
? Closeness to G-d or something?