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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Our mansion vacation


We’d finished our meals at a place so sumptuous it makes Dick Cheney cheerful when Lucy became momentarily agreeable and said she wanted to return to our mansion.
There, a line that seems so strewn with lies and exaggerations, is 100 percent truth.
We did have a mansion, Lucy was momentarily agreeable and, yes, Virginia, there is a place where Cheney’s cheerful.
It’s St. Michaels, Maryland. We just spent the last three days there.
I don’t know which of the aforementioned truths is more surprising, so let’s get to the one that’s most monumental.
Let’s get right to the mansion.
It was Far Away Point (homes have addresses; mansions, like pets and people, all have names and personalities).
It just sold for $6.1 million and rents for the week for $6,500. 
Far Away Point has six bedrooms, six baths, library, pool, bath house, 81 acres, boat dock, guest house (sleeps 8), and a shoreline overlooking the same Chesapeake Bay eastern shore waters as recent retirees Cheney and Don Rumsfeld.
I was there to research a story about mansion rentals in a place that’s home to two men who think they’ve never been wrong and how with their selection of St. Michael’s as the perfect place to retire they got at least one thing right.
Doesn’t quite make up for the whole Iraq War thingie, but let’s give the devils their due.
I remain amazed I was able to stay there without having committed any crimes.
We didn’t break in. We were invited.  I didn’t pretend I was someone else. I was legit. We weren’t supervised. We were so all alone the girls spent most of the time there skinny dipping.
As our host drove up the mile-long driveway, I had the uneasy sense I was about to become Jack Torrance from “The Shining.”
That disquiet was only heightened when after a full 25-minute tour, Lucy, 4 (5 next week!) looked with dead eyes at me and said, “We’ve been here before.”
Far Away Point is 93 years old.
That’s Lucy. She has just three speeds: Spooky, sweet or Satanic (nickname, Lucy-fer).
Then, as soon as the realtor departed, Josie got locked in Far Away Point’s elevator, or as we now call it, the “hellavator.”
It was one of those old, rickety, self-operated three-story numbers that are kid magnets. Both the outer and sliding doors need to be closed for it to run.
Josie, naturally, thought it would be the perfect toy. She took it from the second floor to the first.
Then the outer door wouldn’t budge. Then the light went out.
She started screaming. I yelled, “Don’t panic!” and immediately commenced to panic. I yanked with all my might, I twisted coat hangers, I looked around for a fire ax.
She was in there about 10 minutes. We called the caretaker and the realtor and got no answer. Val finally persuaded her to push the buttons again. The lift had been off the landing. It needed to descend two more inches for the doors to release.
We were off to a frightening start.
But it got better right away.
If there were malevolent spirits in the house intent on retrieving our souls for eternal damnation, I think we won them over. They saw we were friendly. They saw we had no ill-intentions. They saw Val naked.
The girls were naked nearly the whole time. Me, a veteran skinny dipper, was envious.
It soon became one of our best vacations ever. It was magical.
The mansion soon felt like home. It embraced us. We all relaxed and just reveled in the opportunity to have such freedom in something so regal.
In the end, the girls decided they preferred our own home for perfectly 21st century reasons.
For all its glories, it’s many books and lavish places to relax and read, Far Away Point has but one measly TV and it’s about the size of a chess board.
Our home may be tiny and under-furnished, but it has three glorious TVs, one of them a real whopper, and all three could kick the butt of the one in Far Away Point.
Who needs mansions when you have hi-def?
For me the best part was overcoming our initial fears and learning to love this big, old beautiful house on the shore. Our memories of it will never fade.
And to think I for even a fleeting moment believed that true evil lurked in the heart of the home, an evil so malignant that it could possess our very souls.
How wrong I was.
I must have been confusing Far Away Point with down the street at Cheney’s place.

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