It was a relief to get out of bed this morning shortly before 8:30 am. A Sunday morning. I hadn’t the intention to go to church. Or anywhere else for that matter. When lately reflecting upon what I have done over the past decade to amuse myself whether in Canada or the United States of America it has been a monotonous affair. I say that with reservation because the monotony is by most standards a passably acceptable one, celebrating as it does the sometimes magical environments of riparian vistas or along roadways and seas in subtropical climates. Assessing oneself in these terms is both cheering and detracting. Clearly one mustn’t complain of the monotony of having to cycle for miles upon an open beach adjacent the Atlantic Ocean; or having to endure 80°F temperature while rolling upon a sheltered pathway overlooking Florida Bay or swimming in the sea.
Historically – that is, looking back upon the whole of my life and what little accomplishment I’ve been pleased to effect – the picture is somewhat less rapturous. I appear to have been overtaken by perfection at every turn. All that is except the more arduous and less demonstrative adherence to what P. T. Barnum called “The Art of Money Getting”. His short book on the subject (“Golden Rules for Making Money”) is defined primarily by what not to do. For example, “Don’t Mistake Your Vocation”, “Avoid Debt”, “Don’t Get Above Your Business”, “Do Not Scatter Your Powers”. In retrospect that’s all good advice. My time however centred more upon spending money than getting it. Granted most of the expenditure was upon real estate which was my particular translation of investment, homes, a condo in the city, 25 acres in the country and an office building. But a lot of it was not. Gold wrist watches by Rolex, Breitling and Cartier for example. In fact just about anything in gold. And sterling silver, jewellery and flatware. Even descending to brass, ornaments and sculpture. Exotic clocks. Mahogany furnishings. A Heintzman Grand and a Steinway Salon Grand piano. Paintings. Lalique and Crown Derby. Persian rugs. Tailor made suits and shirts. Silk scarves and a fur coat. And don’t get me started on automobiles. By my calculation I have owned 25 new cars in my lifetime. Over a period from ages 23 to 73 (I didn’t get out of law school until I was 23) that averages a new car every 2 years. And this is before I get to my law office with its furnishings, bespoke bookcase, more Oriental rugs and the hardware such as IBM typewriters and computers, etc., not to mention having to buy the antique hardware of the late Raymond A. Jamieson QC. I am reminded of the quip, “Any damn fool can make money but it takes a smart man to keep it!”
It’s too late now to turn back the clock. And one wonders, would I do so even if I could? Would I do anything differently? No question I would counsel anyone starting out to read Barnum’s book rather than follow my path. But as for myself, the urgency was to express myself in the best manner I could. Clearly much of that resembled the disgrace of a show off; but I prefer to think of it as an education. I learned for example first hand (well actually on my right wrist) that Timex and Bulova are overall more reliable than Breitling in spite of all its posturing. I learned that exotic real estate, cars and furnishings all require constant maintenance and related expense much of which is never recoverable and can only be excused as a fleeting pleasure. But then I have to ask myself, what else were you going to do with the money? Save it for the future? And what if the future never came? Was it all for an expensive funeral?
I recall as well the cigarettes and the booze. I shall never forget the large martini glass with the huge green olive at La Société on Bloor St W with our dear friends Gilles and Scott. And my Dunhill lighter. The Brigham pipes. The handmade cigars in Key West.
What greater object is there than to have spent a lifetime doing what you wanted to do rather than doing what you should do? Is it not an achievement to die with a smile on your face and a protuberant belly?