I had been very poor as a student, often living from hand to mouth. I supported myself by selling antique engravings, but it was a precarious living, with money sometimes coming in and sometimes not. I left with a significant bank overdraft when I went to the United States with no money, no job and no prospects. I surfed a friend's couch for many weeks, and eventually landed part-time work editing manuscripts ahead of publication. I lived on salads, with boiled eggs and cheese as protein.
When I was appointed Professor of Philosophy at Hillsdale, I was bringing in a decent salary for the first time in my life. Indeed, by UK standards it was positively handsome. In general US salaries were higher and US prices lower, so standards of living were much higher. There were things I wanted to do.
I wanted a yard of plastic, so I took out several credit cards, store cards and gas station cards, and had myself photographed with them on the steps of my house, alongside a tape measure to prove they came to over 36 inches. I bought a gold Cadillac. It was several years old and cost a few hundred dollars. I used to joke that it reminded me of home, being about the size of the house I was brought up in. It was a real gas-guzzler, doing about 16 miles to the American gallon, but since gas was about 70c a gallon in those innocent days, this hardly mattered.
One of the Hillsdale professors ran a small syndicate that invested in wildcat drilling for oil and gas, so I joined and invested at $500 a time in some speculative drilling. Two of the drillings came good, so I owned shares in oil-wells that paid annual dividends. I had myself photographed jumping for joy in front of a 'nodding donkey' oil-well.
There was one other thing I had resolved to do in my days of student poverty. I went to the bank and drew out money in individual one-dollar bills, and had myself photographed taking a bath in money, before paying them all back in again.
It was all a great deal of fun, and it emphasized just how much my life had changed in so short a time. I still have the photographs put together in a display mount and framed. It hangs on my wall and brings back memories whenever I scrutinize it.