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We're Rich!

Navigating the road to fortune

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If you ask me -- and bear in mind, I know shit-all about shit -- I'd have to say that Lary's mail-order mosquito-larvae venture is a bad business idea, especially since he plans to ship the stuff in those medical cups they use for urine specimens.

"Will you please get that crap off the table, you booger-eating blow-tard?" I shrieked at him. We were waiting for our food, and five million festering mosquito larvae sitting right there on the table between us completely cremated my appetite. "Jesus God, don't put it on the seat," I protested. "Put it outside."

Lary ignored me, of course. "I'm gonna get rich," he insisted. "RICH!"

Grant was there, too, acting as if he wasn't at all disgusted. And this is the guy who waited to be gay until he was 42, out of fear he'd have to encounter sullied underwear. We were all at the Majestic diner trying to figure out the roads to our next fortunes, and between the three of us, I'd say I'm last in the running.

Lary himself is sitting on a gold mine with that factory he bought 20 years ago for nothing -- not that he manufactures anything there, not unless you count the mosquito larvae that just naturally cultivate in the mystery puddles that form on his concrete floors. But the neighborhood itself became the focus of a real-estate frenzy awhile back, in spite of Lary's efforts to run people off by roaming the streets while waving a handgun over his head. So, literally against his will, Lary has become a man of standing in his community. Keep in mind, however, his community still has masturbating bums who live under the freeway overpass.

And Grant is richer than all of us put together. None of us knows how he makes his money, but we get glimpses from time to time. Once, I came over to his place to see him frantically trying to rub off the old yard-sale prices from his collection of second-hand ceramics, because he'd sold it all to some lady in Indiana for a whopping price, having billed it as "authentic mid-century Italian pottery" on the Internet.

And I notice that Grant's "classic" Chrysler Fifth Avenue, Gold Digger, is on Craigslist as we speak. "GOLD DAMN VELOUR tufted and buttoned original upholstery!" the ad blares. Don't bother looking it up, as I'm sure it's sold by now; that man can sell you an abandoned mattress and make you think you bought a butterfly net full of diamonds. "We're rich! RICH!" he's always hollering, so much so that I thought of him when I was in a thrift store in Salt Lake City last winter, where I saw a ski mask with the name "Rich" embroidered all over it. "Here," I told him when I gave it to him, "You can wear this the next time you rob somebody."

I always stop in that thrift store on the way from the airport into Park City, where my girl and I ski every year. There, I can get her tricked out with skiwear for under $10. The way she grows, it's the only way we can afford to keep her in gear. In fact, the entire trip is done with bare sawbucks; we fly there on buddy passes, stay with a good friend from my former life as an airline scullery plebe, and ply the Chamber of Commerce to see which resorts give free lift tickets to kids. Usually, I can pull the entire trip off for less than what it costs for a four-top dinner at a decent restaurant in Midtown.

Believe me, I am damn proud of this. Because the first time I took her skiing, it was on a side excursion during a writing assignment, so I skied as skillfully as a sack of cement and didn't expect to do it again. But then I saw my daughter soar through the snow like she was born in it, and I knew right then that I was bound to bring her back. Because believe me, when you see something like that -- your child soaring -- you will do anything to see it again.

There is a picture of us in our living room (taken for us by a nice passerby) where Mae and I are perched at the mouth of the lift with the mountain behind us, dripping out in our tragically outdated wear. I got my jacket and gloves at St. Vincent DePaul's, where some ski bum trapped in the '70s must have sprung free one day and dumped the contents of his closet. Mae is decked in her customary second-hand gear, her goggles a little askew because I'm hugging her so hard.

I love this picture, because when I see it I always remember what we were doing moments before it was taken. We were sitting on the ski lift as it ascended the mountain, shouting into the horizon, hoping to hear the echo of our voices as we drifted upward. We never heard our echo that day, but perhaps the voices just take time to come back around; perhaps there are people in Park City right now, wondering where that laughter is coming from, wondering what it could mean, these soaring voices, a mother and daughter shouting through the mountain air. What's that they're shouting? "We're rich! RICH!"

Hollis Gillespie is the author of Confessions of a Recovering Slut and Other Love Stories and Bleachy-Haired Hony Bitch: Tales from a Bad Neighborhood. Her commentaries can be heard on NPR's "All Things Considered."

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