My mom is visiting us this week/weekend, which means several things:
1. The house is cleaner than usual (yesterday she went after the kitchen cupboards and counters with sponge and cleaner).
2. The cats are a bit mellower than usual because they have another warm and affectionate body to snuggle up with, cutting through some of the sibling rivalry for Dave's and my affections.
3. We watch at least one MGM musical (this time it was The Pirate with Gene Kelly and Judy Garland).
4. We play tourist a bit.
For number four, we were going to do a drive up to Fort Bragg yesterday, but since I've had a nasty head cold (the kind where you can't really do anything but blow your nose, drink hot toddies, watch TV or sleep) and only just started feeling better Friday evening, we decided to do something closer to home. We went to lunch at a little cafe in the Richmond district, then parked the car near the Legion of Honor and went strolling through the affluent neighborhood of Seacliff.
Seacliff used to be Sharon Stone's neighborhood, and Robin Williams is a current resident, just to give you an idea of what type of affluence I'm talking about here. You can tell which house is Robin Williams because of the topiary brontosaurus sticking up above the stone wall surrounding the property. The head of the brontosaurus is still just a wire frame, waiting for the topiary to catch up. On Halloween night the line of trick'or'treaters stretches out down the street.
I've driven through Seacliff many times - it's my back route to the Golden Gate Bridge, a much prettier route than 19th Avenue. But I've never actually walked through it, so my house ogling has been quick and surreptitious from the driver's seat of my car. Walking through it allowed us to really take our time and study the architecture and landscaping on some pretty amazing residences. Relatively cozy 'cottages' nestled in between palatial mansions. Marble, painted brick, wood, turrets, arched doors, courtyards, gardens, ocean views (there's a reason it's called 'Seacliff), you name it. Pretty much anything money can buy, including a few butt ugly modern homes that looked more like hospitals than homes.
We walked down one street and stopped to ogle an amazing estate at the edge of the cliff, a huge turret dominating our view from the top of the gated driveway. A towncar was parked out front and the driver lounged against the car. "It's for sale," he said, nodding towards the mansion.
"Yup. Twenty five million." He grinned at us as Mom, Dave and I started laughing.
"Yeah, we'll take two," said Dave.
We walked on, unable to even imagine earning that much money in one life time, let alone paying that much for a house, no matter how beautiful. "It'll fall into the ocean one of these days anyway," I said by way of group consolation. And that is probably true, considering the rate of erosion on the California coastline.
As we continued our walk, I thought about how impossible it is for me to get into the mindset of someone that rich and wondered if I'd be able to write from the point of view of a character used to being able to buy anything they wanted on a whim. I could write from the point of view of what it would feel like to suddenly come into money because I have a good imagination. I've written from the POV of characters who interact with people with lots of money because I've met a few of 'em. But I don't know if I could do a believable first person POV of someone like, say, Paris Hilton. Or Robin Williams, for that matter. Although the topiary dinosaur would be a nice starting point.
What about you? How much experience versus imagination do you think is necessary when creating believable characters and writing from their point of view as opposed to having them as supporting players in your stories?