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How I Killed Howard Hughes

My blogging may be a bit more inconsistent over the next few days, as we’re traveling as a family. The young’uns have no school next Monday and Tuesday, so we’re yanking ‘em out early to get in a mini-vacation. If you haven’t spent twelve hours in a car with five young children, then you haven’t lived!

Right now, we’re mid-journey. I’m writing this from the belly of the beast – the fifth floor of the Annie Oakley tower in the Buffalo Bill Hotel – Primm, Nevada. Classy joint. It’s only $37 a night, and, believe me, it’s worth every penny, almost.

We’re driving down to Los Angeles to visit family and spend a couple of days at Disneyland. (I also have some secret meetings at the Black Tower – don’t tell Languatron!) We’d promised our children we’d do this long before the wildfires broke out – so far, no one in our family is at risk, and the blaze may actually keep the Disney crowds small. (That’s probably too heartless to mention, but I’d by lying if I said we hadn’t thought of that.)

I don’t know that there’s much to say about the wildfires that hasn’t been said, except that those who blame these on global warming or whatnot ought to go soak their heads. I grew up with Santa Ana wind-fueled wildfires every year, and some were pretty nasty. Nature has been burning that spot of earth for millennia, regardless of property values. To think this is some kind of new or remarkable phenomenon is to be willfully ignorant.

Anyway, I’ve made the journey from SLC to LA more times than I can count. The summer of ’87, Foodleking and I made the 700+ mile drive about every other weekend. As a kid, the family used to trek up to the Wasatch Front to visit both sets of grandparents. We’d always stop over either in Vegas or St. George. I was passing this info along to my kids as we ate dinner at the Cedar City IHop.

I told them how their grandfather, like many Mormons of his era, used to work for Howard Hughes, and that meant he’d spent some time seeing the casino business up close and personal. I reminisced about how, as a teenager, he walked me through the Desert Inn and pointed out all the one-way mirrors above the Blackjack tables where thugs spied on all the players to catch card counters. He demonstrated in exquisite detail why the house always wins, and that all the bright lights of Vegas weren’t paid for by casinos that lose money.

Then my wife reminded me of another Howard Hughes story, which made the kids laugh out loud. It’s one of my earliest memories. It’s certainly the earliest of my memories that involves poop.

The year was 1972. I was about three and a half years old. My father, for reasons I couldn’t possibly fathom, brought the whole family to Florida and, since he was working for Howard Hughes at the time, he was able to finagle the use of Howard Hughes’ private Florida residence for the duration of our stay.

I don’t remember much about the house except that I wasn’t allowed to touch anything. (Hughes had never touched anything in it, either – word was, he’d never even been there. And after my visit, I made sure he never would be.) The one thing I do remember, however, was the large, elegant indoor swimming pool.

I wasn’t yet able to swim, so my brother and I just waded into the water from the shallow end. We played quite cheerfully, and my brother, three years my senior, was a treasure trove of information. He told me of many things that day, but the lesson that made the biggest difference was his explanation of the wonders of chlorine, and how you could pee in a pool all day long if you wanted to, because the chlorine in pool water made the pee magically disappear.

Well, I was only three, but I was a prodigy when it came to the rules of logic. And in my mind, everything that happened in a bathroom was all part of the same miracle of life. And if chlorine could work wonders on #1, just imagine what it could do on #2?

That’s why I took a dump in Howard Hughes’ pool.

The log I dropped floated aimlessly out into the water, and I seem to recall wondering why I could still see it. Shouldn’t the chlorine have vaporized it by now? I asked myself. Oh, well. I can’t be bothered. Who wants to play Marco Polo?

It wasn’t until a few hours later that the turd was discovered, and the whole world turned upside down. I remember seeing a man with a net fishing the thing out of the water. I remember hushed voices and a general sense of panic. Nobody was wearing a nuclear fallout suit a la Bill Murray in Caddyshack, but the pool was drained and the whole place scrubbed. I wouldn’t be surprised if the house was summarily burned to the ground the day after we left.

And that is how my life began.

Is it a coincidence that Howard Hughes died just a few years later, pathologically obsessed with microscopic germs? Could it have been my bowels that brought down the billionaire?

Make of it what you will. As for me, I don’t believe in coincidences.

I believe in poop.

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