Adjacent to Luxury

While Sandra was writing the article, she couldn’t deny her enjoyment of the town she would ultimately end up maligning. After all, online publications were constantly looking for “fresh takes” on tired material—including, of course, travel pieces on Positano that weren’t ass-licking as usual. No one could say when, exactly, this particular location on the Amalfi Coast “blew up”—but the “why” was in part due to its cinematic rendering in movies like The Talented Mr. Ripley and Under the Tuscan Sun. Even before that, it was featured in Only You, that oft-undervalued Marisa Tomei movie (but undervalued Marisa Tomei movies are another subject entirely, and one that Sandra wasn’t being compensated to write about). All of said films were released at the height of monoculture in American society. 

It has been argued by those specializing in pop culture (now bifurcated in a million different directions) that, since those years, the internet all but eradicated any sense of the masses having a “shared experience.” What one person has seen on “TV,” surely most others have not. But it was Sandra’s intention to prove otherwise about the phenomenon. That Instagram, in particular, had transferred the shared experience to the “fomo experience,” which, in turn, led to people shelling out for trying to “achieve” the same “thing” a.k.a. post the same types of photos and videos. At the same places—like, say, Positano. The place that begat an endless stream of similarly-color palette’d images, each indecipherable from the last, but always with the food and the strategically placed Aperol spritzes and the people on boats. 

Sandra was to be one of these people, thanks to the rarity of actually being compensated for her writing. To boot, the online rag she was working for planned to not only pay her for the article itself, but also the expenses of engaging in the “middle-class treatment.” This included, in lieu of yachts, rinky-dink boats that bounced one’s ass six feet in the air upon the appearance of even the slightest wave; a “passable” hotel “just three kilometers” from the waterfront—Le Sirenuse it was not (and funny how everyone could get over their anti-Christopher Columbus sentiments when a hotel as posh as that one was located on a street named after him); dinner at some of the chintziest places in town, like Chez Black, where the only thing more teeming than the fish on the menu were the overstuffed American culi in the seats. Sandra’s being the latest to join in that fleshy mass. 

All for the sake of “observation.” A “confirming,” of sorts, that, like most things, it was paradise if you were rich and an absolute hellhole if you were anything less. Did readers really need that to be further reiterated? To have their dreams, nay, delusions so harshly shat upon? According to Sandra (and the editor who greenlit the idea), yes. Some self-hating aspect of herself got off on deriding those of her own station in life. Maybe she even wanted to believe she wasn’t “like them” because at least she could see herself for what she was: “trash.” Worse than nouveau riche: wannabe nouveau riche. 

Appraising the hordes of unabashed tourists around her, she didn’t feel anything near the same level of joy they were trying to convince themselves they were having. Instead, she only felt pity for the application of denial they had put on more liberally than sunscreen (which, clearly, had not gone around liberally enough based on the sea of pale-turned-red skin that was further sullying the “experience”). Yet an affluent fucker would never have their line of vision soiled by any such fat and/or burned-red people. For one of the most precious luxuries (and surefire indications) of being rich is the ability to sidestep all the riffraff in milieus such as Positano. Because, even though the “secret” is out and everybody and their dog (literally) has decided to flock to it, to those with money, it remains a private getaway. With some richies even having access to small islands along the Amalfi near Positano where their houses perch above the ever-glistening water, pocked only by the ubiquitous presence of low-brow tourists trying to catch a glimpse of how the wealthier half lives without dropping their phone into the water. A truly life-affecting moment for someone living on credit, whereas a richie could just buy a new one immediatamente

Even the name “Positano” itself was probably the result of a powerful person who lived there once upon a time. Specifically, the gladiator Posides Claudi Caesaris. And during the time of Posides’ existence, it was all the rage for Roman emperors and the aristocratic sycophants “beneath” them to build villas along what would become their “playground” (as all beautiful places overrun by overpriced real estate tend to). Just as the one-percent of the present, the one-percent of the past also wanted their privacy and exclusivity, hence calling the remote villas peppered around Positano “villae maritimae.” Because one could only reach them by boat. Something few plebes would be able to do at that time. Which is also what Regina Giovanna was counting on in nearby Sorrento, when bringing her various lovers to a secluded oasis of a beach where none of the hoi polloi would ever be able to see (read: peep), therefore comment on her “scandalous” behavior (in other words, doing exactly what a man would do, but as a woman). 

Apart from these few and far between “tales” of Positano’s history, Sandra found little else to take interest in. In fact, three days in to her stay, she felt like Positano was actually a lot like Las Vegas when you weren’t truly “flush”: one day was enough, two days was just right and three days was way too much. How many colorfully-contrasted buildings could she keep taking pictures of like all the other dolts? How many more potentially-damaging-to-the-spine boat rides could she endure to hear the same legends and lore repurposed by a different guide whose English was just as questionable? She didn’t want to eat another pizza or gelato. She didn’t want to buy another scarf or dress. All she wanted was to wrap up the point of her article and get the fuck back to her shitty New York hovel. Where all hack writers posing as well-read and talented reside. In truth, sometimes—only sometimes, when she was too sober—Sandra had to wonder if she would be writing for a media company if she had any real literary talent. 

Before checking out of her hotel that last morning, Sandra completed her “elegant prose” that essentially damned the middle-class as fools and knaves for even trying. Her article that held up Positano as a symbol of all that was wrong with class structure by tearing apart the very class that kept capitalism afloat in the end. For were it not for these bourgeois, there would remain no well-circulating myth that capitalism “works.” 

Torn between calling it “The Positano Problem” and “Adjacent to Luxury,” she ended up opting for the latter. Because it was a description that got across so effectively what it was to be middle-class. Always trying to reach for—but never actually touching—the stars. Or, in this case, the yachts. 

After the publication of the article, it became evident that, if her goal was to make the very class from which she came feel even shittier than rich people made them feel (whether directly or undercuttingly), she had succeeded. That’s what the comments section seemed to evidence, anyway. And certainly, based on the defensive responses, her article achieved nothing like a “reverse psychology” effect in serving to keep the “commoners” away, for every piece written on Positano only made it more alluring to the great unwashed thanks to the photos accompanying the meaningless words. For “Instagram-worthy” always won out over “having any sense of shame.” That was simply the “democratization” of “experiences” in motion.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s