Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Regrets (I've Had a Few)

But on the other hand, there are some things I don't regret at all. To wit: In 1981, an acquaintance whom I'll call Binky had recently inherited a sailboat and proposed that I and my girlfriend at the time help him smuggle 800 pounds of top-notch marijuana into Miami. He had it all figured out. There was a seller in the Bahamas offering an excellent price. He had the sailboat and knew how to handle it. My girlfriend was also an experienced boater. He had even secured a cache of guns in case we were attacked by pirates or intercepted by the Coast Guard. The payoff would be $25,000 apiece--not a bad sum in the early 80s--which could, if we were interested, secure future, larger purchases. The likelihood of success, according to Binky, was 99.9 percent.

My gf and I talked it over. I was recently divorced, flat broke, unemployed. She thought it was a worthwhile idea. I did not. In the end, after much argument during which I was called all sorts of inelegant names, I persuaded her that we should pass on this golden opportunity.

Within a month Binky found two other partners and I drove to Annapolis to see him off. On the dock where his boat was moored, he hugged me and, grinning, called me a pussy. Three weeks later, the stripped and bullet-ridden hull of his boat was found off the coast of Ft. Lauderdale. Neither Binky nor his partners in crime were seen or heard from again.

Now it's possible that this was all staged and that today Binky is drinking Pina Coladas on a beach somewhere, surrounded by half-naked women, but I don't think so. I'd have heard from him, if only so he could gloat and propose another project. No. I'm pretty sure Binky bought it. So this is an adventure I do not regret not having participated in.

I do regret having to sell stuff prematurely because the economy blows and I need money. I've sold a car, guitars, amps, real estate, a lot of stuff I thought I really needed but didn't. And this brings up an interesting conundrum.

A regret encompasses a feeling sadness about something, a sense of loss and longing for what is not--or soon will no longer be--there. Right now, I am balancing regret against peace of mind. I will miss the use of what I've had to sell, but the money gained will allow me to sleep at night without a panicked awakening in the wee hours. I remain angry at the situation, still feel that the people I trusted with my savings were not worthy of that trust, but I have to accept that by and large, the fault was mine. Had I paid more attention to economic trends, had I questioned the monthly financial statements rather than accept them blindly, I would not be in this situation. I was lazy, like millions of people who have suffered economically a lot more than I have. In a way, I opted to have others lead my financial life for me, and that was a mistake not to be repeated.

My mother, when she was alive, wrote every expense in a large brown ledger. Rent, mortgages, the price of a dozen egg, a sheet of stamps, getting her shoes resoled, a dinner at the local restaurant, all were entered in her high cursive hand. To the best of my knowledge, she never actually did anything with these figures--they were just there, reassuring her that money was available to do the basic things.

I tried the modern version--Quickbook--and was a dismal failure. But maybe I'll try again. My mother was right about a few things in life, and perhaps this was one of them.

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