12 June 2011


In a day-dream long ago I thought about "falling into" a medium-sized fortune.  I'm sure this hasn't happened to anyone else  ;=)

This day-dream, however, didn't compute - made no sense to my right brain.  This is because my parents were solidly middle class - and because I consider the Lotto a tax on the computationally challenged and won't have anything to do with it.  From somewhere, nevertheless, the very specific number of $26,000,000 came to me (the origin of that number is lost in a twilight dream).  By today's standards, this would be more like a small fortune

I first thought that I would build a round turret-shaped study, something that Louise had always dreamed of.  For the record, she loves her current study with a territorial view of Clark County and a peek at Mount St Helens.  She's more than earned it: raising 5 kids in harsh circumstances in Venezuela and Saudi Arabia, going back to school - starting from scratch twice after a long absence - to first earn an MA in Linguistics and now an MS in Biology-Ecology.  Her typical work-week is 60 - 80 hours. She deserves something nice - but I can't even talk her into a camera for her birthday.  Sigh.

I next thought that I would buy a house in the neighborhood for each of our kids - a nice house.  Then I thought of investing in Don's med school education so he didn't have such a hideous debt, and Cory's college, and Jared's film industry career...

But a house in our neighborhood would effectively clip their adventurous wings; all five kids have lived for extended periods of time in three or more foreign countries, speak multiple languages - and what could they do here?  Walk in the rain a lot, that's certain.

I also thought about getting a trawler for myself: a motor-vessel around 15 meters long that I could motor up the west coast to the remote coves and bays of SE Alaska that I used to work in.

Then reality set in:

Three of our kids who completed high school in Switzerland while we lived in Saudi Arabia had up-close contact with the children of Russian billionaires and wealthy mafia bosses... and my kids couldn't stand even one of them.  They were spoiled, incredibly self-absorbed, and every one was startlingly unhappy.

I can't think of a better way to ruin your kids than to throw money at them.  They would never learn how to make their way through the world on their own, and would have badly skewed perceptions of their own self-worth and that of others around them.  Might as well break both legs - they would at least recover from that.

And I can't even buy jewelry for Louise: she politely accepts any ring I buy her and promptly stashes it in some un-findable safe place so it doesn't get lost.

Finally, I faced the reality of my motor-vessel dream: In my professional work I have had a lot of experience on motor vessels in rough seas.  I've done geophysical mapping from a ship in southeast Alaska. I've developed a (now patented) electrical geophysical towed-streamer technology to map minerals buried beneath the seafloor.  In all the sea-trials, I am now 4-for-8 for getting seasick.  The old saying is that "Five percent of human beings never get seasick, five percent never recover, and the rest of us fit somewhere in between."  True that.  I'm personally acquainted with puking shoe-peg corn through my nose.  Ech.

Finally, the most unhappy person I have ever known up-close for an extended period of time was my sister's second husband, who would never tire of letting me know that he was worth $10,000,000 or $15,000,000 or $20,000,000 (the number evolved over time).  He lived for his next toy, but a toy for him was a Ferrari, or a Steinway player piano (he couldn't play it; he never applied himself to anything except weaseling money from widows).  The day after any new toy arrived he was unhappy again.

In a detailed study of 10 people who had won the Irish Lottery, nine of them said that it had completely ruined their lives - and 8 of the 9 were in debt!  A similar study of winners of the Virginia Lottery was 100% ruination: in debt, kids messed up, the whole works.  The lone exception in Ireland was a shepherd who lived in a dirt-floored hut on an island.  He put the money in the bank and forgot about it.  Ten years later he was living in the same hut and said he was quite happy, thank you.

What was I thinking?!??


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