First, the disclosure: I am a personal mess. My clothes are of no discernable style. My shoes are scruffy and sometimes do not match. My hair is uncombed. My home in Laguna is a mish-mash of styles, junk, discarded objects never thrown away, paintings that belong on some other wall, chairs with battered armrests, and broken appurtenances that should be fixed, but then I would have to find someone who knows how to fix stuff and then where would I be? Fixing stuff all the time? Interior decorators visit and leave horrified. No, I will never hire one.
I recently visited my daughter, Elizabeth, 22, in London. She goes to college there in what her mother and I fervently hope is her last year, as in “darling, please this year won’t you, you know, consider graduating and join the real world (and stop the tuition hemorrhaging), please?” Ok, that is a side story. I am actually very happy my daughter goes to school there. London is one of the most sophisticated places on planet earth and it even has a mass transit system that works. (If you go, figure out how to use The Tube quickly. It goes everywhere and is much, much faster and cheaper than taxis, which wander back alleys all the way to your destination because it is an old city with no master plan and the old roads were built for Roman carriages, for God’s sake, not cars. Ok, got it?)
So anyway, while in London I discovered I was “posh,” meaning of the upper classes.” This came to me when Elizabeth and I visited with a posh English family we met by luck. They live in Holland Park where the average home price is $15 million plus and which are like white wedding cakes of such English perfection you expect Mary Poppins to float down the steps. My friends live in one with a gloriously overgrown back yard. Inside their home, it is worse than mine: nothing matches, everything is falling apart, the paint is peeling, and old stuff lies in never-to-be-thrown away piles. The layers are archeological. Moreover, the wife Molly has a car of such ancient vintage, parts are hard to obtain. To start it and this is not a joke, she hotwires it. She takes a loose wire from underneath the dash, sticks it into the open cigarette lighter tube and sparks the engine. This also overloads the central circuit breaker (literally, it burns up), so Molly carries a box of replacement circuit breakers to “fix the problem.” Note, she does not fix the car; she replaces the circuit breaker so that she can spark the wire a few more times and keep driving the car.
It is a mad, mad show and I felt perfectly at home. Of course, my daughter, who has become ever-so-much-more sophisticated about these worldly manners than me, had to tell me this is how posh English people are. They determinedly do not put on airs; indeed, they go the opposite direction with such fierce resolve they appear to be slovenly low-lifes.
Damn, home, home, I finally found my home. I am not a slovenly low-life. I am an English aristocrat. I knew it all along.
Michael Ray grew up in Corona del Mar and now lives in Laguna Beach. He makes a living as a real estate entrepreneur and is involved in many non-profits.