the circular runner

Bed & Breakfasts: Why I Avoid Them and Why I Might Be Dumb For Doing It…

In humor, life, observations, Uncategorized, writing on January 5, 2012 at 2:27 pm

Happy New Year, all! I hope that the last few days have been restful and festive.

I’m writing this first post for the year just having come back from vacation in Mendocino, CA,  or as the locals there seem to say, “The Mendo.” We only went up for a day and a night. My wife and I finally had a couple days off that coincided, so we decided to take a mini-vacation, and as part of our plan, Chela and I looked for some place decent and inexpensive. When possible, we also like to avoid the major chains. We’re not anti-corporate, but especially when traveling to small towns and because we are watching our budget, we like locally owned places–places that are cute and homey and personal–or at least more personal than a Motel 6. The problem is we also try to avoid Bed & Breakfasts, places that specialize in homey and personalized cuteness.

There’s no denying the charm of a B&B. The comfort of going to someone’s house and breaking bread with other guests who you are thrown in together with by luck, good or bad, it’s human. It’s ancient. It’s community. I agree with all of that, at least I do in principle. In reality, I don’t want anything to do with these places.  If you’ve read this blog for any amount of time, then you know my feelings on forced community–see my post on holiday work parties if you’re interested….

For those of you who are not interested but still reading this post, the basic idea is that I like to make my own friends and I don’t like to be forced to congregate with people just because I work with them or, with respect to B&B’s, just because I share their taste for cute and personal. Like a lot of topics I over think about, I have a complicated relationship to the B&B and to what I think it represents. For one thing, I tend to think that a lot of people who go to B&B’s are looking for “authenticity”–the same kind of money-bought authenticity that one gets from a farmer’s market. If you want a tomato that tastes like a tomato, if you want maple syrup that reminds you of a time when real men were chopping trees down with their own hands and feasting on man-sized pancakes, you can have these things if you’re able to pay for them. Likewise, if you want someone who’s actually vested in a place to welcome you to that place in only a way that one with a connection to it would, you can share in that human touch, but only if you have the funds.

I might be overstating the case just a might when I say that part of this need for authenticity smacks of a John paying for sex–a certain type of John, at least. When you get right down to it, isn’t all of this quest for authenticity also a quest for connection–human connection? Artisanal bread tastes great, but there’s also the fact that it makes you feel connected to a bread maker. And the same is true of the B&B. Every B&B is as particular as its owners are. The place might be good or bad, but it sure as hell is different from the next B&B down the road. (I realize that there are probably some corporations who own B&B’s, but I’m choosing to forget that possibility for the sake of simplicity and because I am already over thinking.)

Reading over what I’ve written so far, I probably seem pretty negative on the B&B experience and even a little judgmental on those who stay there. And yet, even as I say this, I am forced to admit that part of my discomfort with B&B’s is, in addition to the points I make above, due to shyness and maybe, just maybe, a little bit of fear on my part. Fear of what? Well, if you want to get right down to it, maybe it’s a fear of connection. I was listening to an NPR show yesterday on my way back, and the host was talking about irony. According to the guest, a philosopher out of the U of Chicago, the epitome of irony is when someone wants something that he rejects whenever he gets a chance at it. Well, I am the epitome of that epitome. I live in a big city (San Francisco is kind of a big city) and I have lived in big cities for most of my adult life after leaving school. I like them because they are impersonal and because I feel free to be whoever I want to be. And yet, I have also felt lonely. Especially since moving to SF, I can’t say I’ve met a lot of people I can call friends. My wife says the same thing. We tell ourselves it’s because we’re older, as if being older means you can’t make new lasting friends. Maybe that’s the case, but it doesn’t help that when we go on vacations, we avoid the chance of meeting new people. B&B’s represent something ancient. They represent something human. They are community.

And yet, and yet….I can’t help it.

Maybe I’m doomed to loneliness, but I’m ironic–the epitome of ironic to be exact. I’m Ironic Man, able to leap from potential friendships at a single bound.






  1. I am somewhat the same – I want to connect, but I also want to be left alone.

  2. irony is grand… epitome is possibly the weirdest word I know… and I guess you don’t mean , eh… 😉

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