Howard Hughes with Jane Mansfield.
Now that's one part of being rich
I wouldn't mind at all.
When I was in the hospital recently getting the new pacemaker put in,
they lodged me for the night on the 7th floor in Deaconess Hospital. I
had my own private room, for some reason. It was the first time in all
my hospital visits since childhood that I had ever had a private room
all to myself.
It made me feel a little like Howard Hughes, having my own room like
that. The rest of the hospital kind of faded into the background. The
only nurses and doctors and phlebotomists I saw came in to the room
seemingly to attend to me only. It was quite a deal, really. I didn't
have to worry about the volume or the hours of the television set. I
didn't have to worry about drawing the curtain every time I needed to
adjust my gown. If I wanted the window blinds open, I opened them — or
even better hit the buzzer and someone came in and opened them for me.
I was even able to drink the colas that I snuck in without anybody saying
much about it. I felt like Howard Hughes, living in a tower in a world
that was centered on my self.
I met a guy a few years back who had actually worked for Hughes for a
good number of years. He was about as close to Hughes as it was possible
to get back then, one of the inner circle that surrounded Hughes and did
the stuff that Hughes required. This guy, let's call him Hank, was what
you might call a Facilitator. His job was to form an advance party that
would set things up as Hughes traveled from place to place. If Hughes
was planning to go to Palm Springs, for example, Hank would be one of
those who went in and made sure that Hughes had the right place to stay
at and that everything he needed would be waiting of him.
Back in those days, Hughes moved around from town to town in various
States about every 180 days to avoid taxes. He was already pretty much
on the crazy side, and a recluse. Very few people actually talked with
him or met with him. Hughes kept his existence within increasingly
remote concentric circles.
It's hard to imagine someone being that way. But at that point, Hughes
had already lived enough to fill at least three ordinary lives. So perhaps
it is understandable, when looked at from that vantage point. And of course
he was Obsessive-Compulsive, which probably only amplified it. Maybe at the
end of his life there simply wasn't a lot left for Hughes to do. He had already
done it all, dated them all, broke records and built companies, or simply had
bought it all — as he said about Hollywood once, "Nice town. I'll take it."
Me and my sister had a pretty interesting conversation when she was over
here last. We had just gone over to the Casino in Idaho, and we got to
talking about money and what we would do with it if we had more of it —
specifically a LOT more of it.
My final thought on the matter, strangely, was that if I were to win a
billion dollars that my life probably wouldn't change all that much. I might
possibly by a car, perhaps an early 50s sedan, one of those big old tanks of
the type that my character Pat Maginess passes by on the streets. I certainly
wouldn't have to worry about the little bills that come up every month, and
could get some needed dental work done. And I probably would jump on a plane
or two and travel to a few places that I've always wanted to see.
But I'm pretty much doing what I want right now and without being a billionaire.
Having a lot more money wouldn't make writing any easier or get a book done any
faster. And I don't think I could spend more than a couple of months traveling
without wanting to get back home — Home Sweet Home.
I imagine that money would change a lot of people's lives if they were to
come in to it. On the other hand, there are people, people who have what
you may call a dedication or a calling to something — nursing, teaching,
exploring the world through archaeology or mountain climbing. Money may
make the lives of such people a little easier, but they probably aren't
going to leave nursing and helping people (for example) simply because
they are suddenly rich.
When it comes right down to it, it's not what you have in life, it's what
you do in life that matters. And you don't necessarily have to be a Howard
Hughes to do it.