Friday Free-for-All #17

Friday Free for All

In which I answer a random question generated by a website. Here’s this week’s question Feel free to give your own answers in the comments.

What are two things you’ll never spend money on?

I do consider myself frugal, but I don’t think of myself as cheap. There is a difference. Someone who’s frugal will look for the best deal and, if that means spending a little more now to save later, I will make the trade. Someone who’s cheap will just go right for the least expensive version of whatever — which does wind up costing more in the long-run.

Now, I am a fan of the 99-Cent Store, because I do know that buying the right things there does save you money. That’s because a lot of the stuff you can get is going to be single-use anyway, like party supplies or gift-wrap, or cheap tchotchkes. They’re also great for dishes, glassware, mugs, and non-mechanical kitchen tools, like measuring cups.

On the other hand, there are things to not buy there, some because they’re just crap, and others because they’re not really cheaper. I mean, that 10 oz. bottle of shampoo at the 99 really isn’t a better deal than the 10 oz. $1.99 bottle at the grocery store, you know?

I also like thrift shops, bust mainly because you can find unique things you won’t find anywhere else, and for cheap. For example, I have a room mood-light that’s actually an old X-ray light box from some medical clinic that cost me, believe it not, all of $30 once upon a time. I also have a full-size, 3×5 cloth California State Flag — $5 at a thrift shop, at least $40 to $50 new at the time, and who knows how much now.

So home décor, used clothing, books, DVDs, and random whatnots from Thrift shops are great deals.

And dog knows that in my day, I’ve certainly spent a ton on all kinds of electronics, particularly if they were related to computers, tech, or musical instruments. In fact, I’ve owned exactly as many synthesizers as I have cars — although I still have all of the synths and only one of the cars — and needless to say the number of computers and printers I’ve gone through probably outnumber both.

So what won’t I spend my money on? Well, a no-brainer is that I won’t donate it to political candidates I don’t agree with, but that’s true of everyone, so I’m not going to count it. And I really can’t say I won’t spend my money on cigarettes or other forms of tobacco because, while that’s certainly true now, at one point in my life it wasn’t, to my great detriment and shame.

But two things do stand out and, oddly enough, in the future, it may be easy enough — or even impossible — for any of us to spend a lot on one of these. I’d like to hope that it would also become at least unnecessary if not impossible for the other.

I was going to originally define the first as “sporting events,” but then realized that, for me, it’s a little bit broader than that, and there are a few parts to it.

One is that I don’t really like being at any event that takes place in a gigantic arena full of screaming and frequently drunk people. Hell, I don’t like doing that in even a small venue — a little ironic because I used to be a musician in a band, but at least we only ever played only the smallest of venues.

Second is that I’m not really that big enough fan of any group or band to want to deal with their fans to see them play live in less-than-ideal acoustic situations when I can just listen to the studio version at home.

The only exceptions are when I know someone in the band, but that’s most likely going to be in a small club anyway.

Third is that I really have less than zero interest in sports, which take place mostly in arenas, but I can extend that to non-arena places, like race tracks.

Oddly enough, the one time in my life I went to the horse races, I did enjoy it, and made a little money betting, but I didn’t pay for the trip and, given what I’ve learned about horse mortality rates in the pursuit, I never will.

This kind of brings me to the third part of my disdain, and those are events that take place in large areas that are not arenas and not concerts, but which still attract gigantic crowds of seemingly oblivious people. (Hint: county fairs.)

Again, I only went to one of these once, it was a paid-for company trip, and I hated every damn second of it. Everything was over-priced, most of the visitors would probably go on to be future MAGAts, it was mobility scooter galore, the only healthy food I could find in the whole place was a $12 smoothie, and it boggled my mind that the city of Los Angeles was even a part of this County.

So, what to call it? I won’t spend money on mass events of the “bread and circuses” variety. No sport, no arena shows, no… well, you get the idea, I hope.

The other thing I will never spend money on? Guns. Well, guns, bullets, things that shoot, arms. That kind of thing. For one thing, I don’t need them. They’re expensive, they’re only designed to kill, and when it comes to self-defense, oh, don’t worry. I’m well-stocked in that regard. I’m just not going to advertise it.

And yes, I actually have fired guns, doing target practice, and yes, it was fun and exciting to do so. The feeling of that kick in your hand, followed the “thwap” of the bullet hitting the target is powerful.

But, for me, it was really only a power I needed over some paper targets stuck up on a dirt berm on a friend’s family ranch in the middle of nowhere. Over a person? Nah. Never. There are betters methods of defense.

I have two very direct contacts with guns in my life, both of which oddly enough involve my father. In the first, I’m in my early teens, and discover, in a cardboard box on the top shelf of the linen closet at the end of the hall, two of his war-time souvenirs: a small pair of binoculars and a service revolver.

Both of them have taken on a green patina since they were decades old by this point, but I sneak them out of the box and into my room because — teenage boy, interesting shit.

The revolver is not loaded, which I confirm by figuring out how to swing open the cylinder by pulling the release at the front of the frame, then spinning it to see that all six chambers are empty. Then closing it back up, cocking the cylinder, and… click.

In my mind, my interest is more historical than anything else. Why did my dad have a gun in the war? What did he see through the binoculars? Did he ever kill anyone?

When I got bored, they went back into the box, and I thought nothing of it until later, when I went back up to grab them a year or two later and… gone. The binoculars were still there, but the gun had vanished.

I never said anything to my parents about it, and they never said anything either, but I would guess that it was my mother who told my father, “Get rid of this” once they figured out I’d found it.

My other gun story with my dad takes place near the end of his life. Mom was long dead and, to be brutally honest, my father was always a racist fuck. Fortunately, I escaped that by growing with such diverse friends that I didn’t even have any idea that race, religion, native language, gender, or whatever was even a thing.

Dad, not so much.

So… around the turn of the century and just before Alzheimer’s swooped in, he one day proudly pulled out a fancy walnut box, opened it, and showed me the gun he’d bought. It was a 9 mm, I forget what stupid amount he told me he paid, but then he told me he’d obtained it in case the (record scratch… oh, Dad, fuck no, you did not just say… Oh shit. You did.) showed up.

Yeah, my dad was fucking racist as hell, and now he was armed. And all I could think was, “Okay, how long is it going to be before I see him on the news being arrested for shooting the mailman?”

It got worse as his dementia ascended, and especially when he started accusing me  of suddenly materializing in the middle of the street with my friends and having loud parties in the middle of the night when I’d been nowhere near the house.

And then he landed in the hospital for the first of the last two extended stays, well into his 80s, and on one of my visits, he was simultaneously hallucinating the presence of an old fellow officer named Larry and sincerely telling me where in the house his gun was, then asking me to go get it, bring the box to the hospital, set it next to the bed and leave so that he could blow his brains out.

That was, of course, a hard “fuck no, Dad.” Ironically, in one of the last conversations I had with my half-sister who stole everything later, I told her what he told me, and she did to that gun what Mom and Dad had done to his service revolver when I’d found it, even though I’d never expressed any interest at all in shooting myself or anyone else.

But there you go. Sports/Stupid Crowd Evens and Guns will never get my money. And you?

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