Wednesday, May 4, 2011

What Would Happen If...

Within a couple of days I've been commissioned to write three, count 'em, three different projects. In addition, I'm shooting some new film stuff starting this weekend and about to start rehearsals for a tightly-written, new play at The Bootleg Theatre here in Los Angeles. So, in light of all this, I decided to start looking online for a new car. I told Angie awhile back that we need to embrace the fact that LA is a car culture. Now, don't get me wrong, we have a fun, reliable, little Saturn station wagon at this time. It's a great car, not a dent on it with a great engine. It's only given us minor troubles over the past year and gets us unfailingly from point A to point B.

So I found this great site online which compares and contrasts seemingly every car ever made. In my spare moments during the day I pour over it.

I've decided Angie needs a 'classy' car 'cause Angie's a classy lady. The site gives one the option of choosing the price range in addition to a host of other categories. I'm looking at the 25 to 35 thousand dollar range.

At this point I've narrowed it down to three cars for Angie: the Audi A-4 sedan, the Chrysler 300 or one of the Mercedes C-class autos. For me, either the Toyota Cruiser or the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 4-door. Frankly, I haven't had so much fun shopping since I looked for some platform shoes for my 8th grade Sadie Hawkin's Dance.

I've never before been interested in cars, really. My entire life I could've cared less what someone was driving. Cars have always bored me, to be honest. But now that we're honestly considering different brands, it's all quite exciting.

For myself, I'm leaning toward the Toyota Cruiser because it looks like a giant Matchbox car. It looks like one of my old Hotwheels blown up to a human scale. Angie, quite astutely, told me it would probably be best if I didn't mention that when we actually go to the dealer and check them out. She apparently feels it would give the salesman the idea that I'm a bit naive about the whole thing. She may be right.

We've gotten into the habit lately (and this is more than a little embarrassing to admit) of buying one, and only one, Mega Millions lottery ticket twice a week. We do this for several reasons, but the biggest is because it gives us license to fantasize. Currently the lottery is up to 42 million dollars, which means, should we win, we would get a one-time cash settlement of approximately 21 million dollars. This possibility stirs me to my very core.

Now don't get me wrong. I'm fully aware that money can't buy happiness. But, as Bill Gates once said, "People that say that have never had money."

On the other hand, this incessant fantasizing (I really only do it while walking our dogs...somehow I've designated that time as my 'silly dreams' time) gives me no small amount of comfort. But the thing is, it also constantly makes me appreciate the wonderful life I have now; all the amazing things in my life that I might otherwise take for granted.

I'm perfectly aware that the odds of winning the Mega Millions lottery is approximately a kajillion to one. But I still do it. Two dollars a week is a very small price to pay for the wonderful fantasies it gives me.

It also tells me a lot about myself. I inevitably start the fantasy by thinking of all the things I could buy to make our lives more comfortable: a small ranch here in LA, new horses for Angie, a BMW 750i, a Range Rover, a second home in Manhattan, a vacation home on Captiva Island, possibly even a 99-seat theatre complex to run (my lifelong dream). But as the fantasy progresses I start whittling away, in my mind, some of these purchases. I begin to think of the myriad ways I could use the money to help other people, friends and family. I begin to think of the difference it might make to various charities that desperately need an influx of moveable cash. In short, I begin to think of how I might be of service.

And by the end of the long walk with Franny and Zooey I have, in my mind, given away most of the millions I acquired at the beginning of the walk. It's annoying.

The better angels of my nature always assert themselves. I start voraciously greedy. My intentions are entirely selfish. But then my damned moral conscience rears it's ugly head and my fantasies turn to other people. This would not have happened ten, even five, years ago. Recent events, mostly personal, have rudely intruded upon my belief system.

I'm not proud of this and I certainly wouldn't admit it out loud but I think, much like the diabetes I was diagnosed with late in my adult life, unexpected things happen to us as we age. In my pathetic case, I have been burdened with an unwelcome sense of right and wrong. Everytime I begin to visualize the new BMW 750i, it is abruptly replaced with feeding hundreds of hungry children or giving some talented kid a chance at college that he wouldn't ordinarily get or helping every close friend and family member I know finally get out of the nearly unavoidable financial debt that living in the twenty-second century incurs or allowing some struggling drug and alcohol half-way house continue to operate. The stupid, altruistic list is virtually endless.

Damned brain. Pisses me off.

See you tomorrow.