Can money buy happiness? Sure it can.

Posted: July 4, 2018 in Miscellaneous, music, Record reviews
Tags: , , , , ,

Every year on my birthday, my grandparents sent me cards with cash in them. My father’s parents, Rose and Sam, sent me $5. After Sam died, and as Rose came to depend more on her children, my Aunt Edith took over this birthday chore. She sent me the card, tucked in the $5 bill, and signed her mother’s name. I once asked her to stop. “I know it’s you behind this, and not Grandma,” I said. Aunt Edith repeated this to my father as further proof that I was a mensch. She thought I was adorable. By the way, I was 22 when we had this conversation, not 12. Edith sent the cards until Rose’s death and I kept raking in the $5.

My mother’s parents, Bella and Sol, were more affluent. They started me at $5 but through various cost-of-living adjustments raised me to $25 by the time I got to college. There I remained for many years after Grandpa Sol’s death, an early victim of contemporary capitalism’s rule that no one should ever get a raise. When I married the woman with whom I share a mortgage and put on parties, Grandma Bella sent her $25 on her first birthday in the family. I was outraged. She should start at the bottom and work her way up! Bella’s curt ruling: “Tough luck!”

It’s been many years since I received a fresh-from-the-bank $5 bill or a check written in the penmanship of someone who was born in 1904. But every year on my birthday, my current employer gives me a $10 gift card roguishly tucked into colored tissue paper inside a festive bag.

Last year my card was good at an upscale supermarket, New Seasons. I bought a fried chicken lunch and some stickers. This year the card was for the Pacific Northwest department store chain Fred Meyer. What the heck was I going to do with $10 at Fred Meyer? Buy socks? The closest store to our office doesn’t sell lunch, unless I wanted to buy something wrapped in plastic and vacuumed into a skinny box printed in primary colors. But I was up for the challenge. “I’m leaving now for Fred Meyer,” I told the boss at noon. “Don’t be surprised if I don’t come back.”

It was a beautiful day here in Portland and I drove with the windows down and my music playing. Though I am a man of a certain age, I felt ageless as I walked in, and I realized I was thinking of my grandparents and their birthday gifts and all the useless stuff I bought and how much fun it all was. I’m not saying my job is my family, but I am saying thanks for the free money.

I bought 18 colored pencils and I still have $1.02 remaining on the card. The sky’s the limit.

To my readers in the United States (what’s left of it): Happy Fourth of July! I hope you’re enjoying our nation’s birthday as much as I am. It’s late in the day. Soon I shall be drinking the Bloody Marys of Liberty. I don’t expect Trump to send me a card with five bucks in it, either.

Random Pick of the Day
Smashing Pumpkins, Pisces Iscariot (1994)
My father-in-law used to say about dogs, “They only have one thing to say and only one way to say it.” Billy Corgan’s voice is about as versatile. He usually sounds as if he has a grievance, if he could just remember it. The rest of the time he sounds like his voice just changed, or maybe he’s feeling faint.

Despite this handicap, when Smashing Pumpkins starts to move, they’re a blend of Cream, Hendrix, and Led Zep in a Nirvana shot glass. They can be unexpectedly quiet, too, as on the cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide.” Corgan doesn’t have much of a voice, but I can forgive him for his guitar-playing (“Starla” and everything else).

Random Pan of the Day
The Rolling Stones, Blue & Lonesome (2016)
Their first album since A Bigger Bang in 2005. This time around we have 12 covers of old blues songs. They did this in 1964! Eric Clapton helps out. He could’ve helped out in 1964. Yawn. The only person who triumphs on this record is Mick Jagger. His voice and his harmonica are in excellent shape, plus Mick still weighs less than a wet hobbit in a bathing suit.


  1. Helen Dezendorf says:

    Another great post, Steve

  2. Mr. Seaside says:

    Nice colored pencils for 49.888888888888888888888888888888 cents each (doing the math)!

    Five dollars seemed to be the standard gift from grandparents, when $5 could purchase a bounty of goods. Mom’s mother would send my brother and I $5 on each of our birthdays, when we were in college, to take ourself and each other out for a birthday dinner. Since our birthdays are 10 days apart, that meant 2 fine meals, within a short time-span, at a local sit-down restaurant (NOT KFC) where five dollars would cover the cost of two tasty chicken dinners.

    Happy Belated Birthday!!…other then old enough to know better, just how old are you?

    Trump sent me $1,000 on my most recent birthday…the check wasn’t signed “Donald,” but since he is prone to using aliases I can only assume that it was actually from him. Better luck next year.

    • Run-DMSteve says:

      The nice colored pencils were not 49.888888888888888888888888888888 cents each, they were nothing each. I used a gift card, you big dummy!

      I agree that $5 was once a grandparent standard. I have no idea what that standard would be today, though I assume the grandparents would send an e-card or use PayPal. $5 won’t even buy you a sit-down dinner at KFnC.

      Never you mind how old I am. I’m keeping you and your BFF Trump in the dark.

  3. Number 9 says:

    A wet hobbit in a bathing suit??? You are brilliant.

    • Run-DMSteve says:

      In 1960, when John Updike wrote about Ted Williams’ last game, he referred to a Boston sportswriter in 1939 (back then they were “scribes”) who took one look at the rookie kid Williams and wrote, “I don’t believe he’ll ever hit a midget’s weight in a bathing suit.”

      I just updated it.

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