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Bobo and the Ivory Backscratcher



The Maoists who edit the New York Times style and real estate sections and T Magazine turn to their best unintentional propagandist yet, Mr. David Brooks:

I went back to my long-distance conversation and heard him busying himself in the other room, perhaps having discovered that one of the nuts in the nut bowl was misaligned. Sometimes it is the structure of things that you shall be pampered and you have no choice but to sit back and accept that fact.

I was in Turkey as a temporary member of a 52-person group that was bouncing through Four Seasons hotels on a round-the-world tour. You put down roughly $120,000 a person and for 24 days you fly around the earth in a Four Seasons-branded private jet, taking off in Seattle and stopping in, among other places, Tokyo, Beijing, the Maldives, the Serengeti, St. Petersburg, Marrakesh and New York, going from Four Seasons to Four Seasons, with various outings off campus offered at every two- or three-night stop. I was joining the tour for days 15 through 21, which would take me from Istanbul to St. Petersburg to Marrakesh, after which I would return to New York. If Magellan had had his own 757 and a global archipelago of sumptuous breakfast buffets, his trip would have been something like this.


What sort of people go on a trip like this? Rich but not fancy. It is a sign of how stratified things have become that even within the top 1 percent there are differences between the single-digit millionaires and the double- or triple-digit millionaires. The people on this trip were by and large on the lower end of the upper class. One had a family carpet business. Another was an I.T. executive at an insurance company. There were a few law partners. There was a divorce coach who’d worked in finance, a woman who’d started a telecom business with her ex-husband and the vice chancellor from a medium-size university. Very few of these people were born to money. They did not dress rich, talk rich or put on airs. They have spent their lives busy with work and family, not jet-setting around or hanging out with the Davos crowd.


But sometimes money allows you to see too many things, too quickly. Sometimes if you seize all the opportunities your money affords, you may end up skimming over life and nothing is deep enough to leave a mark. There is a piece of travel literature wisdom, of uncertain attribution, that reads, ‘‘He who has seen one cathedral 10 times has seen something; he who has seen 10 cathedrals once has seen but little; and he who has spent an hour in each of a hundred cathedrals has seen nothing at all.’’ If you’re in a major city for 48 hours, is it best to sample the highlights, or drill down? I really enjoyed tagging along with this gang for part of their journey. But some of the most memorable moments came from breaking away, wandering alone through the astonishing streets of St. Petersburg, one of the world’s great cities.

There are many, many more Deep Thoughts were these come from.

I long for my innocent youth, in which David Brooks pretended he couldn’t figure out how to spend twenty bucks at Red Lobster.

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