Money Can't Buy Happiness
The friends who came to see him at the Michaelangelo Hotel in New York
City had been instructed by the concierge that he was indisposed for a moment and would be down shortly. A formally
uniformed waiter rushed to their side, offering cocktails and antipasti
courtesy of the their host. The concierge just sniffed and tried to avoid
looking these people in the eyes; he could tell that of the bunch, perhaps only
one appeared as if he could possibly afford to enjoy the myriad luxuries to be found in every
corner of this bastion of excess.
Long experience had taught him that despite how snobby and despicable it was,
he was behooved to apologize to the concierge and manager for the very casual
attire worn by his friends. He'd intentionally removed his tie in order to make
the casually-dressed group feel more comfortable.
A decision had to be made. At the top of mind was the concern that if whisked
upstairs, offense might be taken by his guests. This for two reasons; because they
were being removed from the public eye, and also that perhaps they'd think he
was showing off. He voiced his concern about ostentation, and agreement was
reached. Thankfully, they concurred that they wanted to see more of the
building, and the suite, out of pure curiosity. Their beverages of choice
arrived at the door shortly after they were shown in by the guard who
accompanied them upstairs. They were impressed; he was disgusted. The hotel's management had acceded
to let him ascend on his own after he pooh-poohed the need for security in the
elevator and public spaces. (The guard was there this time because the hotel was probably
dubious about his guests.)
The sheer luxury of the suite was beyond what any of them had imagined it would be. The server who
arrived with beverages (and a complimentary platter of cold hors d'oeuvres)
entered quietly through the suite's service door and startled some of them when he
showed up, seemingly out of nowhere, from the suite's pantry.
Hours were spent in conversation
(lubricated by a lot of premium liquor). The books on the bookshelves in the
living room were studied, and approved of by the rag-tag group; all of whom were avid readers. Nearly all in attendance excused themselves to the bathroom not once, but twice, in
order to get a look at both bathrooms.
That evening, a stretch limousine was hired, not for luxury's sake, but
merely to move the eight persons about at the same time. Dinner was taken at one
restaurant, and after-dinner cocktails were taken at another. All returned from
the trip safe and sound, and said goodbyes in the Michelangelo's lobby. A valet
brought the half-dozen rather threadbare compact cars to the door.
He returned to the empty room. A half-hour's television watching failed to
dispatch him to sleep. He called downstairs and a cognac was brought up
promptly. Perhaps by Divine intervention, (for the server's sake) his attempt at
conversation with the server was cut short because of language differences. He
was frustrated by the fact that he couldn't communicate. The Internet yielded
nearly as unsuccessful results. An online chat revealed a person of dubious
gender who wanted to perform fellatio; there was no absorbing conversation
there. He snapped off the computer and decided to go to bed.
He shouted an expletive, out loud, to nobody in particular. He was damning
his lonely state of mind.
A mere eight months later he was alone when he entered a different, opulent mahogany-panelled
lobby. The draperies resembled those he'd seen in Newport
- a hundred coats could be crafted from this fabric. The thought crossed his
mind that a bar would be very appropriate. There was no bar. Not
here, not within a mile or so.
After he showed identification and signed in with the cheerful security
guard, he proceeded through the glass doors. Shortly before he reached out his
hand to push the door, a discreet "click" came from the locking mechanism.
The decor went down hill from there. The decorator wallpaper was replaced
with something ostensibly innocuous but obviously easily scrubbed with
disinfectant. He smiled a forced smile at the few individuals in their
wheelchairs (some motorized) who'd suffered severe head injury.
After what seemed an eternity, he arrived at his
destination. He was greeted by the man in the bed with a big smile.
No concierge, Maitre d', limousine driver nor any other of the people upon
whom he depended to take care of him ever did, nor ever would, smile at him so genuinely. It made
him feel a little bit better.
The smile was blissfully ignorant. The man who smiled at him had not the
slightest idea the fate that would eventually befall him. That at that moment, the cancer was
spreading, unabated by the chemotherapy that had been dismissed as too
dangerous. But he knew.
The visit went well. The man in the bed had enough energy for a (wow!)
forty-minute conversation before he drifted off to sleep.
He walked back past the draperies, the conference rooms, the other
sumptuous appointments (including fresh flowers) without even paying attention.
When he started his car, he cursed the chimes that politely, yet assertively
warned him to fasten his seatbelt, and the beeper that guided him out of his
parking space. He backed into a streetlamp with a "BANG" that woke him up. The
back-up warning that had gone unheeded was now effectively destroyed. He didn't
bother to tell anyone inside; the scratch on the light-pole was negligible. It
wasn't his car that bothered him, it was the entirety of the situation, and at
that moment, he began blubbering. A bout of weeping followed this, and endured
longer than he thought it would, although he didn't bother to look at the clock.
The impact and resultant indentation in the back of the rental car was his
He'd always paid lip service to his good fortune, offering up the occasional "God's been good to me." The truth was that good fortune had found him via one part luck and four parts hard work. Money, though, could not assuage his feelings, now. But that moment he swore to Buddha, or God, or whomever was in charge, that
he'd give every last penny he had just to be able to see, to touch; to
talk with his father for a few more years.