The Biltmore Punishment

***I always wanted to end a post with, “But the best part of this story is that I was naked.” Someday…***

As many people already know, there’s a huge eff-off house in the mountains of North Carolina called The Biltmore. It’s the kind of house that isn’t ashamed to let you know you’ll never be that wealthy. Even the garden is secretly mocking your comparative pauper status. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, shall we? I’d like to Tarantino this up and bit and start at the end of this travesty of a weekend.

Me: I can’t believe what a total waste of time that was.

Her: I’m not going to say “I told you so,” but…

I know, right? A woman who wasn’t impressed with the opulence and grandeur of such a stately (non-Wayne) manor. Ah, but that’s where you’re wrong. Dragging me through 2-3 hours of fantasy-house land wasn’t at the core of our mutual discontent. No, that boiling cauldron of angst comes from the real reason we drove 4.5 hours each way on our limited time off: an entertainment industry “meet and greet”.

This whole thing started out with me pledging a lot of my relationship capital for “something different” for the weekend, my way of trying to make 270+ minutes of driving (one way) seem like a grand adventure. And she didn’t even have to drive. I would man the helm for this voyage and let her…well, sit bored out of her mind the entire time. Win-win, right? The deciding factor was The Biltmore. She’d go if I’d go, but she made it clear she expected the scheduled meeting to be a huge disappointment.

Since I like to start out every trip the same way, I opened with my standard say-or-do-something-utterly-infuriating move to ensure an uncomfortable silence until the first call of Nature. Oh, and a huge “thank you” to satellite radio for ensuring all the songs played during that freeze-out were of the “oh no he didn’t” variety. And yes, apparently he did.

We made it relatively unscathed to Asheville and found that we couldn’t check in to our hotel room for another three hours. Just the right amount of time to skip lunch and slog through a massive mansion and trek across the immediate grounds. Until the shuttle driver mentioned it on the way up, it never dawned on me that what took us 5 minutes by car would have taken the original owners 45 minutes by carriage. Imagine that bumpy ride after dining on your own shoe leather. At least you’d have the massive house to lose yourself in once you got there. Since we weren’t the only members of the unwashed masses who decided to punish ourselves for not having all the money, there was not only a line to get in the house, they were staging the entry times; like Disneyland if you took out the rides and attractions and didn’t tell anyone.

It turns out I was not immune to the charms of this insanely huge residence. While I managed to keep my disaffected half-scowl in place, I couldn’t help picturing myself in a smoking jacket sitting on one of the plush couches in the massive library, waving away the crowds of people with my brandy glass. Muffy, I thought the peasant parade wasn’t until next month. Everything about that place said, “Get your ass to Mars!” Wait, that was me daydreaming while stuck parading past the closed guest rooms. What it actually said was, “hands to yourself, slacker”.

There were so many twists and turns and nooks and crannies in this place that you could start a game of hide-and-seek as a kid back then and finish it as a Discovery Channel mystery corpse today. After many upstairs floors and rooms that reveled in excess, we followed the ever-babbling crowd down into the basement, where everything that made the house function properly was to be found, including a larder that modern grocery stores would be jealous of, a 3-part kitchen, a laundry, the servants’ quarters, the deepest indoor pool I think I’ve ever seen and a gym with old-school dumbbells. There was so much more to this monument to wealth, but I can’t do it justice, and not just because I didn’t want to go there in the first place. It simply is too exceptional to be adequately experienced second-hand. I won’t lie, though: $74 per person seems a bit steep until you get to the winery.

All the wine samples “your system can take” is included in the ticket, but you have to remember that there’s the long drive out of the estate and back home once you’ve toasted excessively large houses a few dozen times. Since my girl isn’t fond of alcohol (one sip and she’s beet-faced and nearly comatose; cheap date, right?), we kept it at a few samples and meandered out by way of the gift store. Dinner and a few Harry Potter flicks on HBO later and the day was done. The much anticipated (by me) next day’s event was near at hand.

Even though I didn’t sleep well, a combination of itchy bed syndrome, noisy people and a sleep-sound generator on my iPad that sounded like a running toilet all night, I was ready to meet and greet this industry professional and make some sort of positive impression. By the way, unless you have no other choice, think twice about staying with any hotel chain that makes you come to the front desk to get the TV remote (and an iron). I’m talking about YOU, Crimson House Cover. Thanks for the bug bites.

We got to the venue, another hotel, and set up car-camp. Since we were there several hours early, we got to watch as other aspiring talent pulled into the parking lot and either primped like they were meeting Brad Pitt, or mulled around trying not to look at us and the others to determine if we were who they were here to impress. For our part, we played “is it him?” for a good hour. When it looked like enough people had gathered to make seating inside the cramped hallways iffy, we made our move. Strutting in, like you do, we planted ourselves right at the door to the conference room and waited to be met and greeted. What ensued was more like a livestock round-up, in more ways than one.

When something is billed as a “meet-and-greet”, you get the idea that you’ll get the chance to do more than fill out paperwork, smile, nod and move on. Will you have to do some soft shoe and sing show tunes? Hopefully not, but you’d better be prepared to fake it if they ask. People came dressed…differently. Some seemed to show up ready to be cast as “less than virtuous”, while others could have rolled right out of the closet after a rough night at the pool hall. Regardless of how you looked, or what your expectations were, this is how it went: walk in, fill out the contact information sheet, get briefly judged and walk out.

I told you so.

That unspoken sentiment coming from the passenger seat made the first several hours of the ride back a bit tense. It’s not her fault that she was right…again. My hopes were so high that they couldn’t help but be dashed. I mean really, what did I expect? Mr. McDuck! We’ve been searching for someone JUST like you! When can you start accepting a huge salary from us for looking so perfect?? We don’t admit it, those of us who have chosen to ask others to judge us in pursuit of a career in front of a camera, but these are the dreams that keep us going in the face of rejection upon rejection, week after week. I mean, it’s happened before, right? It could happen to me. They could need a bald, goateed man of medium build to be the next big thing. And not just any of the thousands of bald, goateed men from this region alone, but me. You never know; only secretly, we do know.

After getting back and taking out my pent-up frustrations on innocent(?) digital aliens, I reflected in secret that if not for the visit to the big eff-off house, this trip would have been more frustrating than the time I “volunteered” to paint NO TRESPASSING signs for an area that didn’t previously have any (which is why I was there in the first place, your honor). As it was, the balm of imagining myself as lord of that massive manor was enough to soothe my irritation from the cattle-call…almost.

Explore posts in the same categories: Acting, Me, Travel

6 Comments on “The Biltmore Punishment”

  1. Katie Says:

    You know, we didn’t see the Biltmore when we were there last week. Just couldn’t stomach the entry fees. Although someone at our B&B fed us a little tip on the last day — apparently you should give your girl an engagement ring (just for show, mind you), and tell them you’re looking at it as a potential wedding/reception site. They let you right in! (So I’m told.)

    • renpiti Says:

      Hmm, since they won’t even let you drive up to the parking lot without the pricey tickets, I’m wondering where you would show the ring and who would care. There were a ton of bicyclists and runners, so maybe, I don’t know, show up sticky and sweaty with a ring? Wait, they might think something else was going on.

  2. Al Says:

    We went there for our first anniversary (I know, right) and stayed at Comfort Suites… which happily threw in 2 tickets to the Biltmore and 2 to Chimney Rock. Package deal I found online. I didn’t feel ripped off or anything 😉 Glad you made it out alive, and fully clothed to boot. Sorry the rest was disappointing.

  3. Dad Says:

    Oh! I get it! “Crimson House Cover”= Red Roof Inn. Very clever, and I don’t think their attorneys will figure it out.

  4. Jenn Franke Says:

    You still make me laugh.:) Sounds like a fun adventure to me! At least you didn’t have to pay for parking!:)

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 )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ 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

%d bloggers like this: