Article Category: Rick LaClaire 1 Comment
Pot ‘O Gold By Rick LaClaire As my readership (Hi, Mom!) alreaady knows, I do not sleep well. At my age this is a common malady, exacerbated by a shrinking bladder and an annoying recurrence of something called “acid reflux.” I have also heard it referred to as acid reflux disease, but I find that description a bit harsh. To me, a disease is something you haplessly blunder into; something you catch. Acid reflux is basically self-induced (What? You mean tequila and birthday cake don’t mix?), and it was that affliction which drove me from my sheets a few days ago, gasping for breath. What a lousy way to wake up. On fire from paunch to palate, jerked upright with the worst taste in the world in your mouth, flailing the nightstand for the Tums. ‘Course then, once you’re up, you have to pee. On go the blinding bathroom lights and they induce a sneezing fit. This one’s for the boys: have you ever tried to pee during a sneezing fit? Not a pretty sight. After breathing flames, blowing your nose and mopping the wall, sleep becomes elusive. It being a weekend night, I figured I’d stay up and read till I got sleepy again. But then, what the heck, there sits the tube and remote — why not take the couch potato route? There’s not much on television at 2:30 in the morning. You can get yelled at by religious people, yelled at by appliance salesmen, yelled at by pitchmen hawking bathroom cleaner, or yelled at by somebody cooking a chicken in what looks like an old mimeograph machine. I don’t watch TV to be yelled at. I want escape. And finally, after four full minutes of being yelled at, I found it on the “Cheesy Western Channel” (CWC, for short): back-to-back episodes of “Bonanza” till dawn. What about “Bonanza” does not cry out “escape”? It’s got everything. You have three sons, a paw, a Chinaman, and scads of horses, ensconced firmly upon the glittering waters of Lake Tahoe. Supposedly they raise cows, but I’ve never seen one on the show. Maybe they’re raising something else… Supposedly, Ben Cartwright made his fortune at sea, outlived three wives and then bought two-thirds of the Wild West. Something fishy there. How come his wives keep dying? How do you make money at sea? Smuggling? Piracy? How do you segue from seafaring to animal husbandry? They do not relate. Lots of unanswered questions here, Ben. I’ve assailed “Bonanza” before (see The Beachside Resident, July 2008: “AC/TV”). My readership (Hi Mom!) is already keenly aware of the fact that they never change their clothes and never eat Chinese (couldn’t Hop Sing put the Kung Pao on a cow?). My favorite “Bonanza” episode is the one where Adam wears black, Little Joe shmoozes a girl, and Hoss says “Dad-burn it, Paw.” (Old joke…) Anyway, the episode I caught on this particular foray had to do with leprechauns. Have you seen it? The boys are out poking cows or whatever they do on that ranch and Hoss starts seeing Little People. Of course everyone thinks he’s been sampling the local cactus, but a veritable gold rush occurs as all the neighborhood cowboys invade the Ponderosa attempting to capture a leprechaun with hopes of getting their hands on the ubiquitous pot o’ gold. Madcap slapstick ensues, but I will not reveal the outcome. That is not the point. The point is that the entire metropolis of Virginia City is turned upside down while everyone scrambles for a quick buck. Except of course Ben Cartwright — he’s already rich as Croesus from his piracy/smuggling/wife-killing/cow-poking days, and doesn’t need to. What if you really did stumble upon a pot of gold? How would you handle it? I’m of the opinion that when you really go looking for something, you don’t usually find it. Like buying lottery tickets, dropping coins in a slot, guessing at beans in a jar — you never win; at least I don’t. But then you’ll just be walking along and, well… Like the time I found a pot of gold. Actually, it was silver, not gold. And it wasn’t in a pot. It was in a gutter. Loose. Thousands of pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters just laying there. I was on my morning walk and happened to look down and there they were. Now were this pile of money in someone’s yard or driveway, I would have kept walking. But this was fair game in my opinion. It was in the gutter of a public street. No man’s land… No, I did not dive on it, even though it looked like a few score bucks. I let it go that first day, because I wanted to make sure I gave the owner a chance to reclaim his loss. Two days later, on my next walk, it was still there. Hmmm… I gave it two more. Bingo, still there, and this time I bent and filled my pockets with all the quarters I could find. This was nine or ten bucks worth and it almost pulled my shorts down with the weight. I jingled all the way home. Two days later the pile was still there, minus the quarters, naturally. I stuffed my pockets with dimes. There were hundreds. I wore a belt that morning, so’s not to moon the dog-walkers. This was just too easy. I hoisted the nickels on my next walk. How come no one else had found this? Maybe other people are too proud to bend for change. I’m not. Especially when there’s so much. I stopped at the bank that day, not to deposit but to get coin wrappers. I asked for extra penny rolls. There had to be a of couple thousand of those in the pile. That would be my next quest, and for it I rolled up a Crown Royal bag and stuffed it in my gym shorts. I was going to clean the gutter. It didn’t happen. Someone had beat me to the pennies. Not a big deal, I’d already harvested the meat of the pile. But so ended that Pot O’ Gold — or Pot O’ Copper by this point. I hope a kid found it. The fact that someone found it at all made me feel guilty; maybe it was the person who lost it. Such is luck: someone wins, someone loses, right? That’s what I tried to tell myself. I once knew a guy who found two hundred bucks on a barroom floor. That was a lot of money in 1974. He was broke, a barfly who owed everybody money and immediately wanted to pay everybody back. A nightlong bar crawl ensued, and our host paid for everything. We’d finally hit every bar in town and were back at the bar where he’d found the money. It was closing time and ours was the only table still drinking. A distraught college coed interrupted our brew-ha, tears streaming, and inquired if any of us had seen a packet with $200 — it was her monthly paycheck from a work/study job, and all she had to live on. That was a buzzkill, to say the least. Our host produced the envelope and apologized. There was only $40 left. Lessons were learned on both sides that night: if it’s not yours, it’s not yours; and pay attention to where you put your money. My next pot of gold was neither monetary nor metallic. It was plastic, vinyl to be precise. You may recall the gift my sister gave me last year, a rack of old 45s from the ’50s and early ’60s (see The Beachside Resident July, 2010: “Big Sis”). In retrospect, that too was a pot of gold, but I found another, right here in my house. It seems that some time ago my father-in-law was cleaning out the closets in the old homestead and he too came across a stack of 45s. They were shipped in an old “train case” — you know what I’m talking about; one of those small, deep suitcases with a mirror on the inside of the cover (also known as an “overnighter”). The records, being concealed in luggage like this, went unnoticed. The bag had been moved from pillar to post and never opened. Well, the other day, while searching for something else, I opened it. It’s been kicking around so long, we don’t even remember when or if it was sent. We might have carried it ourselves, we don’t recall. But what a treasure trove it is! There’s a good hundred discs in that train case, all classics from the late ’60s to about 1972. It’s Beatles mostly, with some Creedence, the Mamas and Papas, and the Rolling Stones scattered amongst for good measure. Got some real classics in this pile, too. “Spirit In the Sky” by Norman Greenbaum, “Abraham, Martin and John” by Dion, “Eight Miles High” by the Byrds…. And of course some clinkers: Bobby Sherman, the Monkees, Herman’s Hermits… The funny thing is, this collection seems to pick up right where my sister’s collection ends. So I’m good from about 1956 to 1972, almost the entire length of my childhood. A pot of gold, indeed! Now I need to find an old jukebox. I’d love to have these things all together, ripe for spinning. Think I’ll find one in the gutter or the back of a closet? Probably not. But I’ll keep my eyes open. Who says leprechauns don’t exist?