Another couple of days and this year is over. I can think of a few things from 2017 we could all live without: Trump, Hurricanes Irma, Maria and Nate, Kim Jon-Un, the Rohingya genocide, the senseless war in Yemen and the BC and California forest fires. A stiff wind blows cold across Georgia Straight, rippling the chilli waters of Howe Sound. Not too much activity in the harbour and nary a boat coming or going. Which brings me around to a nagging concern ghosting through my mind as the year draws to a close.
As I entered the pub I passed Vicky who gave me a thumbs up and then pointed a pistol finger towards our table and my friend Campbell, or Camp for short, already seated in front of two blond mugs of the frosty brew, which sometimes seems like the only constant in my life. How did she know that I was about to walk in?
I sat down, rubbing my icy hands together. “What’s on your mind this week, you look a bit peeved.” Camp said. Am I really that transparent?
“Camp, do you ever get the feeling that you missed the boat or to use another metaphor, that your train has already left the station and you’re not on it?”
“Wow, what brings on this fatalistic mood of yours? Is it the weather?”
I ignored the dig and ploughed right ahead. “Well for one, remember when I touted the Bitcoin craze a couple of months ago, shaking my head at the stratospheric price of the block-chain currency. At that time one Bitcoin was nine grand, now it’s over twenty. I should have, could have and did not buy into the bonanza.”
“Hold your horses there my friend,” Camp said, using another popular turn of phrase. “You sound like you want to get money for nothing, get rich quick for no value added to society? Looking for that free lunch?”
“Well, I wouldn’t mind making some easy money once in a while. It seems that all the money we have, Clare and I, didn’t come easy, only by way of work rendered for pay. I’m not a gambler but surely, reasonably smart guys like us should be able to cash in once in a while.”
“My, oh my. Stop chasing that elusive grail, money isn’t everything and free money always has a price as well. Imagine if you would suddenly come into a few million bucks by sheer luck, like a lottery or some pyramid scheme or if you found a hand full of long forgotten Bitcoins in your underwear drawer? Then what? It would change your life. Suddenly your comfy house wouldn’t be big enough, and how would you deal with all those new friends you would instantly acquire. Next, the taxman knocks on your door and every charity in the world miraculously has your number and what about all those long forgotten relatives crawling out of the woodwork, or those needy friends, like me for instance. I would love to borrow a bucket of money so I could renovate the store, add better lighting, buy a new computer, increase the stock and hire some help. Could you handle the added pressure of being rich?”
I had to admit that Camp had a point. Sudden riches would probably change my life, it might even wreck it but I sure as hell would like to give it a try. I know money doesn’t buy happiness but it facilitates contentment and opens doors and offers opportunities.
“I think I could handle being rich but then again I already have everything: Good health, a loving partner, a decent roof over my head, a mitt full of true friends, time on my hands, a trove full of unread books, and money in my pocket.”
“As Anheuser Busch, the famous brewer, once famously said: No matter how rich you are, you can only drink between ten and twenty beers a day.”
“Words of true wisdom, those,” I said “but I still feel like I’m missing the gravy train somehow. What do you think will be the next bubble, Camp? You always have your fingers on the pulse.”
“Water. It’s going to be water, specifically the latest desalination process, reverse osmosis powered by solar. Or it could be seaweed, farmed for fertilizer, finger food and a carbon trap. Maybe oil pebbles, as in turning crude oil into floating pebbles to be shipped risk-free by rail or boat. No more pipelines. Watch out for all those trains and boats still in the station or the harbour.”
I couldn’t be sure if Camp was pulling my leg or if he was serious. Then again if he would be that clever why wasn’t he filthy rich already, instead of running a ‘non-profit bookstore’ as he calls it. When I put that to him he just laughed. “Exactly my friend, so obviously it’s not a lack of knowledge that prevents us from getting filthy rich, it’s a lack of desire, a lack of naked ambition and an adversity to risk and gambling. Let’s face it, we’re never going to get rich sitting here chewing our cud and drinking our beer.”
“Maybe we’re already rich,” I mused “compared to the rest of the world, and all that angst about missing the boat is just about the passage of time. I feel I have just a limited amount of time left to do all the things I should have done. The Germans call it ‘Torschlusspanik’, literally ‘closing-of-the-door-panic’. Clare thinks I should just relax and smell the flowers and watch the birds instead of the stock and real estate markets.”
“You’ll never be wrong listening to Clare who is surely amongst those exalted few who can tell reality from fantasy.”
“How many beer did Anheuser Busch mention? I think we’ll manage another one. By the way, Happy New Year to you, wishing you good health, prosperity and a few good laughs along the way.”