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My game of Put and Take

When I was a kid, we had this little pinball machine called Put and Take. Depending on where the ball landed, you either got points or lost points. It was a fairly mindless game, but it served to kill an hour when you were bored.

There were other versions of the same game; the commercial machine with lights, bells and buzzers and the board game version. I think the old-time casinos had the money version.

Well, guess what: It seems I have never stopped playing. I just didn’t recognize the format — my checkbook. In the movie “Lawrence of Arabia,” Omar Sharif plays an Arab sheik who proclaims, “The Turks pay me a golden treasure, yet I am poor. Because I am a river to my people.”

That’s me. Only, I am a river to my creditors. The amount of money that has passed through my bank account during my lifetime is staggering.  It is amazing how little sticks to me, just enough, it seems, to keep me from moving into a box behind the Grand Union.

Of course, it is people like me that drive the engine of our economy. I invested, having been assured that mutual funds were the way to go. Do not leave that money in a low-interest savings account, they said.  

I seem to have gotten Woody Allen’s character from his film, “A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy,” the investment broker who takes people’s money and invests it until there is nothing left. It didn’t help that a month after taking the plunge, one of the worst tragedies in the United States occurred, the World Trade Center was attacked, plummeting the stock market into the worst fall since the Great Crash. My timing may have been somewhat flawed.

Then there was real estate. My first house was bought on a shoestring and cost less than a used car does today. Nonetheless, it was a big deal for me. Then I took a new job that required relocation. It was, of course, at a time when it was a buyer’s market. I lost my equity. The buyer made out fine, just not me. There’s that river again.

Contractors love me. That is because once again I am a homeowner. If it’s not the roof, it’s the cellar, or something in the cellar. It could be inanimate, like the furnace, or animate, like that skunk that moved in under the foundation.

They have a thing called a taxi stand in areas of high usage. Cabs that don’t have anything going on can pull in there and wait for business, which usually doesn’t take very long.

Welcome to my contractor stand. It’s right over there, by the river of money.

Bill Abrams resides, alongside that river, in Pine Plains.

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