Commentary: I’m Rich Beyond Belief

By Louis A. Zona

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The other day I received an official looking letter from a lawyer in Winnipeg, Canada, breaking the good news that I am now rich.

That‘s right. Someone named Allen Zona died and no one has come forward to claim his fortune. There are no Allens in our family nor have I heard of distant relatives named Allen.

But hey, I suspect that should I respond, the “lawyer” will want me to give him my bank account number, Social Security number, and bank PIN so my fortune can be directly deposited.

Wow! Can you believe this? Somehow, I knew that someday my ship would come in (as my dear mother used to say) and, hopefully, not that extra-large cruise ship, like the one under construction that will be five times as large as the Titanic.

On the other hand, this new passenger liner will have ticket prices into the thousands of dollars. But what am I worried about? I am filthy rich since my letter from Winnipeg.

This morning I stopped by my local gas station/corner store for my usual cup of joe. Don’t you hate people like me who try to be cool by not calling coffee coffee? It’s better than saying “java” but I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because java sounds elitist and joe seems like a laborer’s morning brew.

And another thing: I don’t like the word brew either since it also means beer. In fact, a former student of mine opened a coffee shop that closed abruptly. He called it a “brew house,” which sounded like he served beer in the morning.

So, what’s in a name? There is plenty in a name although games can be played with names. Take my late friend Curly, who was as close to being bald as you can imagine. And then there’s Shorty, who was about 6 feet 5 inches tall.

But getting back to my newfound riches and my late uncle Allen. How about calling U.S. currency “bucks” or my favorite, “Simolean”? And there is always “moola.” I have also been fascinated by the doodles people write and draw on paper money.

There is the famous story about an American visitor to Picasso’s studio. The artist was making small wood block prints for his art dealer to sell.

The visitor asked Picasso if he could buy one of the prints. Picasso answered, “I’m sorry but every sheet of paper is accounted for but I would be happy to make a print on any piece of paper that you have in your pocket.“

At that the visitor remarked that the only paper that he could come up with was a dollar bill.

“So, Mr. Picasso, would you make a print on this dollar?”

“Sure,” Picasso answered as he began to print on the man’s dollar bill. The fellow, watching the renowned artist making a print on the money, says, “You know, Sir, it is illegal in my country to make any kind of mark on that money.”

“Well,” Picasso responded, “in your country this dollar bill printed on by me is worth a heck of a lot more now!“

No doubt you’ve heard that the government will soon begin the process of eliminating cash in favor of electronic payments. I don’t know about you but I have a heck of a time using my cellphone to pay for my morning coffee. There is no question that when cash disappears, I will be the guy holding up the line at McDonald’s.

And there is something that has bothered me for some time and that is state-sponsored lotteries. When I was a kid, lotteries run by housewives in our old neighborhood led to several of these women going to jail. I distinctly remember walking up to a corner store for my neighbor, Bonnie, and handing the proprietor a small piece of paper with the number 595 written on it.

That nice woman and another neighbor ended up in prison for “booking numbers or playing the bug.” Now the same state government that put those nice women in prison encourages playing the numbers. In a just world, the people who innocently booked numbers for 3 cents or a dime back in the 1950s should have their records expunged  – if any remain alive.

There must be a way to make up for this injustice of decades past. But state legislators need not think about financial reparations since the Winnipeg letter that landed in my mailbox probably appeared in numerous New Castle mailboxes causing moola to flourish for all.