Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. My Mini-Me and How I Became Rich

 

Each age in my life has had a few surprises. When I reached middle age, for instance, a mini-me suddenly appeared in my brain. The little guy was a stalker who watched me closely, especially when I was doing adult things.

I would be attending a cocktail party for members of the University’s English Department, for instance, the women in evening dresses, the men in coats and ties — all very grown-up, you know. I’d be standing there, a cocktail in my hand listening to an intellectual blowhard go on about postmodern something-or-other, when I would sense the presence of 13-year-old Kent in my head. “Damn,” I would think, “What are you doing here? I thought I had left you behind a long time ago.”

But there he was, my adolescent juvie self from the old days in Compton, CA, mocking my pretentiousness, dissing my airs: “What’s that in your hand, some kind of fancy-schmancy drink? Bud Light no longer good enough for you? You think you’re so hot. You’re not, Mr. Professor. You can’t keep up. Besides, you look like a walking and talking cliche, with your eggshell-blue shirt, striped tie, tweedy jacket, and leather elbow patches.” (He got me there. I was proud of my tweedy jacket with leather elbow patches.)

That bratty second self was awakening my insecurities, turning me into a kid among adults. I was suddenly not really adult enough or good enough to stand around shooting the breeze with hyper-educated academics. I remember one guy who told a joke at one of these get-togethers that started with “So Socrates and Chagall walk into a bar….” I joined in the laughter at the punchline, but I didn’t get it.

I’m reminded of a Ray Bradbury short story in which a guy becomes suddenly aware of his skeleton. “My god,” he thinks, “I’m walking around with a skeleton inside me.” And I would think, “My god, there’s a smart-ass kid stalking me from within.”

But old age has produced the biggest surprise when I discovered, quite unexpectedly, that I was rich. I had never been rich before. When I was younger, I wanted a Porsche 911, the best-looking car ever made. I also wanted a BMW opposed-twin motorcycle. But I could afford neither. (I drove an old Dodge van and rode a Honda scooter.)

I could see myself in the driver’s seat of that Porsche, cradled in soft leather, flicking that short-throw gear shift into third, feeling the wheels bite into the asphalt and push me back into the seat. That unrealized Porsche left a small ache in my heart.

Now in my old age, I drive a 16-year-old Prius (with 206,000 miles on it) and it suits me to a T. I can afford a Porsche 911 now, but I don’t want one. That’s being rich, isn’t it? To buy whatever you want.

I think some of my old lectures on the Greek stoic philosopher, Epictetus, must have finally made sense in my old age and become a part of my mindset. “Wealth consists not in having great possessions,” Epictetus wrote, “but in having few wants.” I don’t suppose it’s a coincidence that Epictetus’s message resembles the messages of two other great philosophers, the Buddha and Jesus. When three great teachers agree, one ought to take heed.

I never was much of a clotheshorse, but now with Epictetus as my guide, I buy my clothing at Goodwill and at a used-clothing place called Value Village. And I dress better than I ever have in my life. In middle age, I could never in good conscience buy an expensive cashmere sweater for myself, but now at Value Village I sometimes come across an almost brand new cashmere sweater for ten or fifteen bucks. That’s all I wear now: cashmere sweaters. I’m rich. Macy’s and Nordstrom, go suck eggs.

Our house is full of furniture. I have a fondness for the stuff that’s been around for a long while because it’s been around for a long while, but I’m particularly fond of the furniture I made myself. I‘ll stop every now and then and look at a maple display cabinet I made 40 years ago and remember how hard I worked to join the top and sides with hand-cut dovetails. My furniture is now more meaningful than it’s ever been and it leaves me satisfied, not wanting more or anything different.

I now buy anything I want. Isn’t that a good definition of being rich?

There’s no telling, of course, how all of this will turn out. All the good luck in my life could turn on me when it’s endgame time. But if my luck holds, here’s what’s going to happen: One fine day, with Marie and Bob the dog looking on with concern, the sun shining brightly outside, I will leave this plane of existence and land softly on the other side, wherever that is.

Sure, that’s the ticket. I’ll finally be sitting in the catbird seat. I deserve that. My wife Marie and Bob the dog can vouch for me. I dry the dishes and take out the trash without fail, and I tell Bob that he’s a good boy at least five times a day, and I take him for walks in the dark, rainy Oregon evenings.

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There are 42 comments.

  1. Arahant Member

    Love it. It’s amazing the transformations we go through.

    • #1
    • December 14, 2019, at 6:40 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  2. Stad Thatcher

    Super post!

    I know what you mean about the Porsche. I could buy my dream car tomorrow (Porsche 911S twin turbo), but I know I wouldn’t be as happy as I think I should. I could never park it anywhere in public, worrying about dings or some jerk keying the thing. I could never take it out on the Interstate and open it up, because I’m a cop magnet. My insurance company might refuse to insure it, or limit me to 2000 miles per year. No, I’m content with my hybrid Camry.

    But boy, if I won the lottery . . .

    Update: If I bought the Porsche, I also wouldn’t have any money left over for gas!

    • #2
    • December 14, 2019, at 6:42 AM PST
    • 7 likes
  3. Arahant Member

    Funny thing about Porsches for me. An old cow-orker has made me associate them with totally useless jerks. All he would do all day is watch Porsche videos on the Internet.

    • #3
    • December 14, 2019, at 6:51 AM PST
    • 8 likes
  4. She Thatcher
    She Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Your best, wisest, and most delightful post yet. And that’s saying something. I see that Bob the Dog finally made an appearance in the last two paragraphs–done to insure promotion to the main feed, no doubt. Oh, ye of little faith!

    KentForrester: I would be attending a cocktail party for members of the University’s English Department, for instance, the women in evening dresses, the men in coats and ties — all very grown-up, you know — and I’d be standing there, a cocktail in my hand listening to an intellectual blowhard go on about postmodern something or another, when I would sense the presence of thirteen-year-old Kent in my head. “Damn,” I would think, “What are you doing here? I thought I had left you behind a long time ago.”

    LOL. It must be an occupational hazard. My own inner self, at such gatherings, came out in the form of the rather plain-spoken farm girl with a yen to discourse upon the more organic aspects of ovine and porcine obstetrical emergencies, or to talk about the infectious and parasitical opportunities displayed in livestock wounds which had been left unattended too long. Either of those topics usually emptied the room pretty quickly, leaving me alone with the food and the booze. Win!

    • #4
    • December 14, 2019, at 7:07 AM PST
    • 15 likes
  5. Rodin Member

    Ahh, the formula for success: matching your wants and needs to your means. Age does have an effect of forcing that balance assuming a reasonable level of income and avoidance of great misadventure. To achieve that at an earlier age requires more maturity and discipline than many.

    • #5
    • December 14, 2019, at 7:22 AM PST
    • 8 likes
  6. aardo vozz Member

    She (View Comment):

    Your best, wisest, and most delightful post yet. And that’s saying something. I see that Bob the Dog finally made an appearance in the last two paragraphs–done to insure promotion to the main feed, no doubt. Oh, ye of little faith!

    KentForrester: I would be attending a cocktail party for members of the University’s English Department, for instance, the women in evening dresses, the men in coats and ties — all very grown-up, you know — and I’d be standing there, a cocktail in my hand listening to an intellectual blowhard go on about postmodern something or another, when I would sense the presence of thirteen-year-old Kent in my head. “Damn,” I would think, “What are you doing here? I thought I had left you behind a long time ago.”

    LOL. It must be an occupational hazard. My own inner self, at such gatherings, came out in the form of the rather plain-spoken farm girl with a yen to discourse upon the more organic aspects of ovine and porcine obstetrical emergencies, or to talk about the infectious and parasitical opportunities displayed in livestock wounds which had been left unattended too long. Either of those topics usually emptied the room pretty quickly, leaving me alone with the food and the booze. Win!

    Unless your plan backfires and drives everyone else to drink 🙂

    • #6
    • December 14, 2019, at 7:41 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  7. Jon Gabriel, Ed. Chief

    Epictetus is The Man. You can read his very short Enchiridion here for free. It’s basically the notes one of his students took in class.

    • #7
    • December 14, 2019, at 8:51 AM PST
    • 7 likes
  8. Randy Webster Member

    I’ve never read any Epictetus, but I read a couple of RA Lafferty short stories where the all-knowing, and if I remember correctly, able-to-predict-the-future computer was named Epictetus. I assume there’s a connection.

    • #8
    • December 14, 2019, at 9:13 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  9. KentForrester Coolidge
    KentForrester

    She (View Comment):

    LOL. It must be an occupational hazard. My own inner self, at such gatherings, came out in the form of the rather plain-spoken farm girl with a yen to discourse upon the more organic aspects of ovine and porcine obstetrical emergencies, or to talk about the infectious and parasitical opportunities displayed in livestock wounds which had been left unattended too long. Either of those topics usually emptied the room pretty quickly, leaving me alone with the food and the booze. Win!

    She, I just love that paragraph. Unhappily, it shows that you could have done a much better job writing my post than I did.

    Thanks a lot, missy!

    • #9
    • December 14, 2019, at 10:29 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  10. KentForrester Coolidge
    KentForrester

    Jon Gabriel, Ed. (View Comment):

    Epictetus is The Man. You can read his very short Enchiridion here for free. It’s basically the notes one of his students took in class.

    Jon, I never appreciated him, not even when I taught a section on him in a humanities class, until I was older.

    • #10
    • December 14, 2019, at 10:34 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  11. The Reticulator Member

    She (View Comment):
    LOL. It must be an occupational hazard. My own inner self, at such gatherings, came out in the form of the rather plain-spoken farm girl with a yen to discourse upon the more organic aspects of ovine and porcine obstetrical emergencies, or to talk about the infectious and parasitical opportunities displayed in livestock wounds which had been left unattended too long. Either of those topics usually emptied the room pretty quickly, leaving me alone with the food and the booze. Win!

    That might have gone over OK at the academic ecologist receptions I’ve attended, because they include some agricultural ecologists. I do remember one discussion involving three of us, wine glasses in hand. She (not you) was going on and on about James Fallows being a misogynist and a Neanderthal. I mentioned that Neanderthals have rights, too. He laughed a little. She walked away. That was maybe 25 years ago. It might have a different ending nowadays.

     

    • #11
    • December 14, 2019, at 11:04 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  12. Doug Kimball Thatcher

    Lovely post. It’s funny how enamored we are of things we can’t afford, then when we can, they turn out to be mythical and impractical. The same can be said of young, attractive women. I have a rich friend who drove a Porche and a Harley and married a beautiful woman half his age. Now on his fourth wife, he’s back to a woman one year his senior and he drives a Volkswagon diesel sedan. And he’s happy and a bit less rich (three ex-wives will do that to a man) but, thanks to recent inheritance, still rich.

    Then there is my father in law who bought himself a Corvette convertible at 87. He’s not rich; perhaps that explains it. After three years he’s finally talking about trading the Vette and his SUV in for a smaller vehicle. Given his recent track record, he probably shouldn’t be driving at all.

    Enjoy your Prius. Might be time for a new one.

    BTW, since you brought it up, how did you become rich?

    • #12
    • December 14, 2019, at 11:05 AM PST
    • 11 likes
  13. KentForrester Coolidge
    KentForrester

    Doug Kimball (View Comment):

    BTW, since you brought it up, how did you become rich?

    Doug, I started to believe what Epictetus had to say.

    • #13
    • December 14, 2019, at 11:29 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  14. Doug Kimball Thatcher

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    Doug Kimball (View Comment):

    BTW, since you brought it up, how did you become rich?

    Doug, I started to believe what Epictetus had to say.

    Duh! I get it now. Somehow I was thinking of Publisher’s Clearinghouse or a deceased rich uncle. I guess a loan is out of the question…

    • #14
    • December 14, 2019, at 11:51 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  15. She Thatcher
    She Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Doug Kimball (View Comment):
    Now on his fourth wife, he’s back to a woman one year his senior and he drives a Volkswagon diesel sedan. And he’s happy and a bit less rich (three ex-wives will do that to a man) but, thanks to recent inheritance, still rich.

    LOL. I don’t know anyone who actually “likes” getting older, but some of us handle it with more grace than others. Glad your friend finally grew up wised up.

     

    • #15
    • December 14, 2019, at 12:54 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  16. CarolJoy, Above Top Secret Coolidge

    You haven’t yet trained Bob to dry the dishes?

    Or is it that he retired from dish drying and instead trained you.

    In any case, intriguing tale of life as a grown up. May it keep on getting even better!

    • #16
    • December 14, 2019, at 1:46 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  17. D. B. Robinson Member
    D. B. Robinson Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Epictetus provides useful teaching. Seneca’s On the Shortness of Life–Life is Long if You Know How to Use It (as the Penguin Great Ideas edition has it) is well worth the time, too.

     

    The Stoics weren’t and aren’t the be-all-and-end-all of wisdom but there’s a lot there.

    • #17
    • December 14, 2019, at 2:15 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  18. MichaelKennedy Coolidge

    Arahant (View Comment):
    Funny thing about Porsches for me. An old cow-orker has made me associate them with totally useless jerks

    A friend of mine had a Porsche and lived in a very upscale gated community in Laguna Beach (actually south Laguna). One night he heard the car alarm go off on his Porsche which was parked in his driveway. He walked out to see two guys loading it into truck, alarm still going. One of the guys turned toward him, held a gun on him and said, “Go back inside and don’t call the police for 30 minutes.”

    So he went back inside and did not call the police for 30 minutes.

    Porsches did not last long in Laguna unless garaged.

    • #18
    • December 14, 2019, at 2:39 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  19. Steven Seward Member

    Now that you’re rich, Kent, don’t tell Bernie or Pocahontas. You’re the kind of guy they’re looking to fleece!

    • #19
    • December 14, 2019, at 8:44 PM PST
    • 6 likes
  20. Titus Techera Contributor

    Epictetus is really big in Tom Wolfe’s second novel, A man in full, as the title suggests. American Stoicism is certainly due for a comeback, I mean, beyond the military-

    • #20
    • December 15, 2019, at 2:13 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  21. Doctor Robert Member

    “So Socrates and Marc Chagall walk into a bar”…can we finish this joke?

    • #21
    • December 15, 2019, at 4:25 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  22. MACHO GRANDE' (aka - Chri… Coolidge

    KentForrester:

    Sure, that’s the ticket. I’ll finally be sitting in the catbird seat. I deserve that. My wife Marie and Bob the dog can vouch for me. I dry the dishes and take out the trash without fail, and I tell Bob that he’s a good boy at least five times a day, and I take him for walks in the dark, rainy Oregon evenings.

    Well, you got me on this one. Whew.

    Funny how a sentence can kick you hard.

     

    • #22
    • December 15, 2019, at 5:48 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  23. MACHO GRANDE' (aka - Chri… Coolidge

    MichaelKennedy (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):
    Funny thing about Porsches for me. An old cow-orker has made me associate them with totally useless jerks

    A friend of mine had a Porsche and lived in a very upscale gated community in Laguna Beach (actually south Laguna). One night he heard the car alarm go off on his Porsche which was parked in his driveway. He walked out to see two guys loading it into truck, alarm still going. One of the guys turned toward him, held a gun on him and said, “Go back inside and don’t call the police for 30 minutes.”

    So he went back inside and did not call the police for 30 minutes.

    Porsches did not last long in Laguna unless garaged.

    That’s some solid decision-making right there.

    • #23
    • December 15, 2019, at 6:01 AM PST
    • 1 like
  24. Randy Webster Member

    I’m afraid I’d have had to plug the guy from an upstairs window with my AR-15.

    • #24
    • December 15, 2019, at 6:10 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  25. The Reticulator Member

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    I’m afraid I’d have had to plug the guy from an upstairs window with my AR-15.

    What if he’s standing in front of the Porsche?

    • #25
    • December 15, 2019, at 6:53 AM PST
    • 1 like
  26. KentForrester Coolidge
    KentForrester

    MACHO GRANDE' (aka – Chri… (View Comment):

    KentForrester:

    Sure, that’s the ticket. I’ll finally be sitting in the catbird seat. I deserve that. My wife Marie and Bob the dog can vouch for me. I dry the dishes and take out the trash without fail, and I tell Bob that he’s a good boy at least five times a day, and I take him for walks in the dark, rainy Oregon evenings.

    Well, you got me on this one. Whew.

    Funny how a sentence can kick you hard.

     

    Macho, you must be a dog lover like me. Since my wife and I brought Bob home from the Portland Humane Society, we’ve become a bit dotty over the dog. It’s our first dog after innumerable cats, and we love him to death.

    • #26
    • December 15, 2019, at 7:17 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  27. Stad Thatcher

    Doug Kimball (View Comment):
    The same can be said of young, attractive women.

    Which reminds me of one of the few pleasures we older men enjoy:

    There are a lot more beautiful women available to admire . . .

    (If you don’t understand, you must be under forty.)

    • #27
    • December 15, 2019, at 7:20 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  28. KentForrester Coolidge
    KentForrester

    Doctor Robert (View Comment):

    “So Socrates and Marc Chagall walk into a bar”…can we finish this joke?

    Doc, this was almost 40 years ago. I remember being left out of the hilarity a couple of times, but I have completely forgotten the punch lines that left me fake laughing . Sorry. 

    • #28
    • December 15, 2019, at 7:36 AM PST
    • 1 like
  29. Rodin Member

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    Doctor Robert (View Comment):

    “So Socrates and Marc Chagall walk into a bar”…can we finish this joke?

    Doc, this was almost 40 years ago. I remember being left out of the hilarity a couple of times, but I have completely forgotten the punch lines that left me fake laughing . Sorry.

    Duck Duck Go isn’t giving me anything except for some interesting search suggestions.

    • #29
    • December 15, 2019, at 8:04 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  30. Kay of MT Member

    Rodin (View Comment):

    Doctor Robert (View Comment):

    “So Socrates and Marc Chagall walk into a bar”…can we finish this joke?

    They would have to have been ghosts as born about 2000 year apart. Never heard the punch line. I have a Marc Chagall painting on my wall.

    • #30
    • December 15, 2019, at 9:11 AM PST
    • 1 like