Warren Buffett is among the richest men in the world. But besides playing the ukelele, he doesn’t appear to be having much fun. We in Nebraska love him for that. Midwesterners are known for helping you up if you suffer misfortune, and if you suffer too much fortune, we’ll chip you back down. We put great value on being average.
The fun of being rich is doing things other people can’t afford to do. That’s hard when everyone else around you is rich too. Los Angeles is among the toughest places to be rich. Look what Michael Jackson had to go through to stand out.
The hardest place of all to look rich? Dubai—everybody there is rich. So how can you look richer than rich? One guy built a ski resort.
First he built a full-size mountain, then put a building over it, and made it cold enough inside that it snowed every day. This is in a land otherwise made of sand, because it’s too hot and dry for dirt to survive. In Nebraska we don’t cherish snow so much—indeed, we’d be happy to export it to any of the Arab Emirates—but it’s not about the snow. It’s about snow in Dubai, a land so hot and dry that you brush your teeth with steam.
Outer space was supposed to be the next frontier. The rich guys at Virgin are already taking reservations for regular commercial trips to space. But the crazy rich are not sold yet on building vacation homes out there, because there are no poor people nearby to watch them in awe and mow their astroturf. That spoils the fun of blowing money. Until someone builds really cheap, really powerful telescopes so the rest of us can watch the rich float and tumble and try to go swimming in weightless wonder, they’ll have to be ostentatious a little closer to home.
My friend Skye skidded up to us, arms waving, as we sat at the bar. “Ohmygod-ohmygod-ohmygod! The next big thing: underwater.” We’ve learned not to interrupt Skye when she gets like this. “People are going to start building fancy houses underwater. Oceans are the new suburbs!”
She’s right. It’s hard to resist watching underwater films of dolphins and octopuses and other sea magic. We proletariat can’t afford to live underwater, but our imaginations would whirl as we watched some rich Hefner dude throw an underwater dinner party in his underwater house, everyone fitted with black velvet oxygen tanks. We’d oooh and aaah as a romantic couple drifts away from the dinner crowd to enjoy alone the balcony view and a martini, extra dry, as their hair wafts dramatically in the current. Later, someone could strum an underwater guitar as they gather around the underwater fireplace. Perhaps a midnight dip in the underwater swimming pool.
Skye points out all the little things that will impress us. “Imagine how much it would cost to get a FedEx delivery to your underwater house?” She thinks like this. “You’d have to buy a new everything. An underwater pet. Underwater furniture. An underwater hair dryer that blows really hot water.”
The rich would never again swim in the regular ocean—heck, any any schmo can do that.
To look rich in Nebraska, all you have to do is hire a housekeeper and a lawn service. Your neighbors will gasp! But for the poor rich people in Dubai, the only impressive step left will to build a giant artificial ocean above ground, right on the desert sand, so passers-by can be dazzled by your underwater extravagance as they walk on their way to the plain old ski lift.