Saturday, April 30, 2011

Nothing But Numbers

Modern "money" is so bizarre. It's all numbers, stored in different computers, sent back and forth. Long ago, a man would be concerned wealthy if he owned great stores of precious metals and gems. Now, a man is wealthy if there are lots of zeros, preceded by a higher number, in his bank account(s). Of course, he probably buys precious metals and gems and fancy houses, cars and other stuff with those numbers in his bank accounts, but his net worth is all about the numbers. Think of it in terms of us everyday working stiffs. We get jobs. On Friday, we get paid. The "pay" consists of numbers, sent electronically to our banks. The numbers are added to whatever numbers that were left in our bank accounts from previous pays. Most of us have various bills (mortgage payments, utilities, etc) taken directly from our bank accounts. We don't even write a check to pay them. Numbers are just subtracted from our accounts and then added to our creditors' accounts. For the bills that we do pay by check, it's still just transfering numbers from our checking account to the creditor. No actual cash changes hands. If we go shopping or out to eat, we tend to pay by credit card. No cash, except perhaps to tip the waitress.

- On the rare occasions we do use cash, it feels like it's tangible wealth; it looks valuable, it has heft. But really, it's just promisory notes from the U.S. government, not backed by anything of actual value. I remembered how shocked I was, way back in college when I was taking Economics I, and I was told that our currency was not backed by gold. Just the full faith and something-or-other of the U.S. government. Those greenbacks in my wallet suddenly felt lifeless. But compared to today's sterile numbers shuffling back and forth over the banking internet, currency still seems somehow more valuable.

- How do you feel about it? If you were to win a million dollars in a lottery, would you feel richer if you were handed one thousand thousand dollar bills, or the number, $1,000,000, printed on your bank statement?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Next Time I'll Keep My Mouth Shut!

Recently, I was walking home from town with a friend, when I felt a pain in my chest and then felt dizzy. I told my friend I needed to sit down for a while. Unfortunately, he had his cell phone handy, and the next thing I knew, I was being loaded into an ambulance. I was taken to a hospital and given lots of tests, which I passed with flying colors. I wrote the following nonsense while I was in the emergency room, waiting to be dismissed and suffering from extreme boredom.

When is a life worth saving?
Is every life worth saving?
Is my life worth saving?

Five hours ago, I was fine.
Walking down King Street, not a care in the world.
Now I'm in the emergency room, connected to tubes and moniters,
wondering if I'll leave here on my feet...or feet first.

Will this be my "last write?"
Will a priest give me last rites?
Will a lawyer read me my rights?
Am I in the right?
Will my good health be right back?

I'm not writing with my right hand.
For me, my left hand is the right hand.
My right hand is the wrong hand.
What is wrong with me?

I'm fine!
I'm good to go!
And when the paperwork is done,
I'm outta here!


Since then, I have been traumatized by the results of that paperwork, the part that involves dollar signs. Lots and lots of dollar signs.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Stick 'em up!

There have been several holdups in Lancaster in the last few months. I often wonder how I would respond if a man shoved a gun in my ribs and told me to hand over my wallet. Being more disposed to discussion than violence, I'm pretty sure I would try to talk him out of it. I would explain to him the error of his ways. I would convince him to reconsider, to go back to school, to get a job, to go off drugs and eat right and exercise. He would then thank me, and with tears in his eyes, he would wave goodbye and go off to start his new life. Either that, or he'd pistol whip me, grab my wallet and shoot me in the head, just to shut me up. An alternate approach I have considered would be to tell him that I am a voodoo priestess, and if he harms me, I will come back from the dead and haunt him until his dying day. He'd probably still shoot me, but at least he'd feel a little uneasy about it. I could come up with some other ways to reason with the misguided fellow, but probably the wisest course of action would be to just hand him my goddamned wallet.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

The Wine Is Fine, But Don't Ask Me to Walk a Straight Line

So...what do you suppose happened when I, a definite light-weight in the alcohol department, was talked into having a glass of wine tonight? I told the hosts that if I were to drink a whole glass of wine that they would have to take me out to my car in a wheelbarrow, but did that make him give me a glass of cola instead? I think you can guess the answer to that rhetorical question.

"It's just wine, Zelda, not straight whiskey!" -
"Yeah, but..." "C'mon, it'll relax you!"-
"Well, I have had a stressful day. So give me just half a glass." -

Now, to me, a chronic pessimist, a half a glass means A HALF A GLASS! To my host, who wanted to be entertained, a half a glass meant A FULL GLASS, which was regularly re-filled as I sipped at its pleasantly dry red, relaxing contents. And then, we played cards. I was the scorekeeper. All I can say is that it's a good thing we weren't playing for money. My normally faultless arithmetic skills disolved into the winey mist. No one could remember whose turn it was to deal, how many cards were to be dealt or who had played what card.

But we had a good time, as far as I can remember. And someone, who could hold his liquor infinitely better than I could, drove me home. I think. Well...I'm home anyway. In one piece. And I'm smiling.