When you’re flat-ass broke — as I often am — you look to sell things. That big-screen TV in the back room. Those expensive fly rods you hardly use anymore. That old Fender Telecaster you can only halfway play. Whatever it is that you have to spare that someone else might want. Whatever you can give up without too much regret.
Selling off material things you treasure is not fun, but it works when times get tight. Or, I should say, it works for a while; you never get nearly what the objects are really worth, but you typically get enough to get by for a while.
Enough to pay that unexpected repair bill. Enough to keep the lights on. Enough to take someone special out for her birthday dinner.
But enough is never enough. Not really. You are still living past your means. You are still shelling it out faster than you’re bringing it in. You still haven’t really fixed anything. And sooner or later, it catches up with you again. Sooner or later, you don’t have anything left to sell.
That’s where I’m at now. I’m down to the core. There’s nothing extra left to trade.
But I have an idea.
I’m selling my memories. The things I’ve done and seen that nobody else has.
Like having sex with that chick from the bookstore, hiding under a picnic shelter during a thunderstorm. I still have the faded ball cap she wore to dinner later that evening, after we got soaked hiking back to my truck.
Or the poncho that I wore at my first Bonnaroo trip, when I dropped acid with those guys who had worked with Tom Petty’s road crew.
And the cowboy hat from the week I spent with that redhead on Grand Bahama. I eventually had to convince her husband, of all people, to transport my sorry ass back to Florida on his boat.
You see where I’m going, right? These things are worth very little on their own, obviously. But when you consider their history? Their provenance? Well, it’s a whole different ballgame in that light. Because your story is what matters in the end.
Imagine the worth, if you will, of a single pair of gold hoop earrings — earrings that carry the memory of 30 minutes spent fucking Kimmy, your 22 year-old wife, on her parent’s porch swing. It was just a few brief hours after she had promised you forever. You begged her to lift up her sundress, and you nearly lost your mind when she did exactly that. She’s gone now — lost first to an ugly divorce, then again, for keeps, to ovarian cancer in 1992. But those hoops still carry the memories of how it felt, and how beautiful she was. And the finality of her death, coupled with that fragile beauty she carried… well, those earrings have to be worth thousands, all things considered.
And imagine what I’ll get for my kid’s almost life-sized wooden rocking horse. A person couldn’t look at that horse without seeing the way his face lit up when you carried it through his mom’s kitchen door on his birthday. Imagine what someone would pay for that sort of karma.
Surely there must be thousands of people; people with money who have lived out their days working and doing what’s right, instead of chasing trout and dreams and pretty girls like I did. Surely they’ll pay good money for all these memories. Imagine what they’ll give to be able to tell their grandkids about drinking a $300 bottle of wine on a moonlit mountain top with a woman they had just met downtown earlier that day. Imagine telling that story, instead of a tale about spending that same summer Saturday at a desk in an office cube. Imagine what they’ll pay me for that.
And I’ll finally be filthy rich, and I won’t ever need to remember those days anymore.