Monday, January 18, 2010


I don’t really remember when I first heard about the concept of reincarnation, but my first clear memory of it was the movie “The Reincarnation of Peter Proud” with Michael Sarrazin in 1975. I remember being so excited about the movie mostly because of the 1936 Cord he drove in his previous life and how he remembered every last detail of that beautiful car even right down to the little crank handles on the dash board that rolled the hidden head lights up and down. Michael Sarrazin wasn’t so bad to look at either.

Prior to that I’d had a couple of strange dreams that seemed really important to me at that time. Sometime in 1973 I dreamed I was walking up to a huge mansion sitting on top of a hill. As I was walking towards the house I was filled with a feeling of sadness and loss as I knew the house had once belonged to me, but since I was no longer that person it wasn’t actually mine anymore. The house was unbelievably huge and seemed to go on forever as I wandered from room to room feeling sad that it had fallen into such disrepair after my death. Much of the furniture was missing, or covered by sheets, dust was everywhere and the wall paper was peeling away, or even missing from the some of the walls. The feelings of sadness just seemed to deepen as I saw more and more of my former home. When I finally made my way to my bedroom I was almost in tears as I looked at old black and white photos in ornate frames of my wife, my daughter, and myself. I held them up and looked at them wistfully because I missed them so much and I felt that my death had left them all alone. There was even some turn of the century type greeting cards wishing us a “Bon Voyage” sitting around the room. I wasn’t sure what had happened to me, but I knew I had gone somewhere and hadn’t returned.

I began to feel a sense of urgency that I must get what I came for and get out before I was arrested for trespassing. I walked to the closet and began to look over my clothes. I picked several pin stripped suits off their hooks and as I looked them over I thought to myself, “I was taller then, but I can have the pants hemmed to fit me now.” I decided I couldn’t use any of the hats, or the shirts without collars, they used paper collars then, so I decided to look at the shoes. Much to my dismay they were useless to me, not only were they too big, they were all “spats”. “I could never get away with wearing shoes like that in modern times.” I thought. With an arm load of suits draped over my arm I made my way down stairs to leave and I remembered that there was a safe behind a mirror in one of the rooms. “Maybe she forgot about it.” I thought. When I walked into the almost empty room I could see the mirror swung open on its hinges and I knew the safe had been emptied, but I walked over and stuck my hand in all the way to the back just to make sure. “Yes, she remembered.” I thought.

As I was walking down the hill away from the house I felt sad and lonely, but I comforted myself with the fact that I wasn’t doing anything wrong. I wasn’t stealing because the clothes had once belonged to me and I could at least put them to good use instead of just leaving them to rot.
The dream was even more bizarre because even then I knew I was gay, so why would I be dreaming of a wife and daughter?

When I woke up I told my mother about the dream in great detail. For the first few minutes I could remember my family name, but I soon forgot it. My mother suggested that maybe I’d been reincarnated from someone who’d died on the Titanic and I should go to the library and look for a book on the subject. She said many men had died on the ship while their wives and children had survived. That was the beginning of my life long fascination with the “Titanic”, and Walter Lord’s book “A Night to Remember”, but I never did recognize any names from the list of survivors, or casualties, of that fateful night. I would think that if I had gone down on the Titanic that I’d have dreams about that and not about my former home and clothes.

Within the next year I had another dream where I was on the roof of a large estate, or castle and since I’m terrified of heights the dream seemed more like a nightmare. The pitch of the roof with all its many peaks and valleys scared the hell out of me and it was a long drop to the ground. I woke up out of breath and in a panic. For some reason those two dreams stayed with me through the years. Then sometime in 2003 I had a dream where I was wandering through this grand house and it just seemed to go on and on. Every time I’d walk into one room there’d be another even larger room even more spectacular than the other. The dream was so real I could see every last detail and every piece of furniture. I don’t know where such dreams come from I usually dream about cars.

Luckily while I was selling Porsche’s I won the annual sales trip every year and I was able to go to “The Grand Hotel” on Mackinac Island, Michigan the “Stanley Hotel” In Estes Park, Colorado where Stephen King began writing “The Shining, yes, I stayed in room 217 and two trips to Germany, where on the second trip I was able to drive a new red Porsche Carrera convertible and revisit all of King Ludwig’s castles that I’d toured in my youth. Somewhere in the back of my mind I thought the roof I was seeing in my dream might have been the castle “Neuschwanstein” , but after seeing it again I knew it wasn’t what I’d seen.

After deciding to quit the Mercedes dealership and accept a sales job with Aston Martin I had a free round trip ticked anywhere Southwest Airlines flew, so I studied things carefully and decided on “Biltmore House” in Asheville, North Carolina. Even though we lived in North Carolina for several years I never knew “Biltmore House” existed until I saw the credits of the movie “Private Eyes” that was released in 1980. I was stunned that I’d never heard of it, but it seems I read somewhere that it really wasn’t open to the public until 1973 and we moved from there in January of that year.

In late October, 2007 I booked the trip and had a great time despite the fact that I went alone. I flew into Raleigh and had to drive the rest of the way there, so I reserved the cheapest rental car knowing that sometimes they will run out of those cars and upgrade you for free, just as often there are times you reserve a Cadillac and they stick you in a Pontiac. When I got there my Ford Escort was waiting for me just as they promised, but the power outlet in the dash wasn’t working and I needed it for my portable GPS system. After forty five minutes of them trying to fix it they upgraded me to a Dodge Caliber, which is some kind of a crossover SUV, but definitely better than an Escort. I’d tried to book a hotel right on Biltmore Estate, but since it was full they booked me at the “Homestead Inn, or “Home” something or other. I finally reached Asheville, sometime after 10:00 PM it had rained on me most of the way, the room was a suite and fairly nice, at around two hundred thirty five dollars a night it had better be nice. It was pouring down rain and my room was on the first floor with a wonderful view of the parking lot. I kept hearing a loud noise like someone playing music too loud in their car with the bass turned all the way up. It would start and then stop and I got so mad I walked around the parking lot after midnight just to see where it was coming from and only then did I realize it was the air conditioner for my room. The next day I was upgraded to the top floor of the hotel. It was only six stories, but I had a beautiful view of the mountain just across the way.

They offer a personalized tour of Biltmore Estate for one hundred fifty dollars and it includes a “Behind the Scenes Tour”, a “Rooftop Tour”, and a “Guided Tour” of the house, or you can do each one for fifteen dollars each. Even though I would have liked the personal tour I decided to let good sense prevail and I bought individual tickets. After seeing photos of Biltmore on the Internet I was somewhat intrigued by the rooftop tour and knew I just had to take it. The guided tour of the house is only once a day at 4:00 PM, so I had time to walk around and eat before it began. When I arrived at the table in the grand entry hall I found out I was the only person who’d booked the tour, so I got a complete one on one tour of the house by a sweet little old lady how lucky is that? It rained on and off all that day, but during the “Rooftop Tour” I knew it was the exact roof that I’d seen in my dream. I regretted leaving my camera in the car, so I went back the next day while it was sunny enough to walk all around the grounds and take photos. I went on the “Rooftop Tour” again, so I could get some breath taking shots from the roof.

While on the tour of the house I found out some things that I hadn’t known. The house was built by George Washington Vanderbilt II and was finished in 1895 while he was still a bachelor. The two hundred and fifty room estate is the largest home in the United States. He filled the mansion with Oriental carpets, tapestries, antiques, and artwork by Renoir and Whistler. Three years later he married and they had one daughter. In 1912 they booked passage on the Titanic, but changed their plans before departure, due to a premonition of Mrs. Vanderbilt's sister. It was too late to stop Mr. Vanderbilt's valet from boarding the ship and he went down with their luggage when the Titanic sank. George W. Vanderbilt II died in 1914 of a heart attack in Washington, DC. after an appendectomy. His wife later remarried and the house was almost vacant several times throughout the years before being restored and turned into a tourist attraction and a winery.
I won’t say I had an epiphany, but it truly was like the last piece of the puzzle fell into place. All of those dreams suddenly made sense to me after all those years, was I George W. Vanderbilt II? I can’t say, but it was a very strange feeling and now my dream is to live in Asheville someday.

1 comment:

  1. I think you were more likely George W. Vanderbilt II valet!