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This post is part of my 2022 Word Project. You can read what that’s about here.

Thursday, June 8, 2023

This post comes to you courtesy of my brother Stephen’s ScratchNY livestream. I watched him scratch tickets tonight and did 6 miles on the Peloton while he was not winning.

I sit there and throw shamrocks at him but so far the universe hasn’t caught on. But it did get me fantasizing – as it often does – about what I’d do with… I was going to say a million dollars but the answer to that is “not much”.

A decade ago when Ralph and I fantasized-planned building our dream house, we ran some numbers and decided we could do it with 3 million. That is laughable today. You’re lucky to get a shack you might be able to flip. My income has not gone up proportionally.

So what would I do with some unspecified about of money that is “a lot”, where a lot means money is no object?

Not an infinite amount of money, like I can’t buy the planet.

But enough that I could have basically anything I truly wanted.

Ready? Go.

First thing I’d do is buy a lot of land. A lot of QUIET land. With enough land I could build myself a house in the middle of it and never see another human or hear another truck for as long as I lived.

Unless I wanted to, of course. There are humans I’d want to see but they would be very special humans and not your average human walking down the street or playing their car stereo loudly.

On my land there would be beehives for honey. And chickens for eggs.

On my land I would have NO GRASS, or, if I did, I would have a commensurate amount of goat so that nobody would ever bring a lawnmower or a weed whacker near me again.

Grass is ok but it can’t be the precious kind that you have to coddle and coo over, water copiously and weed out all the dandelions. My grass would have dandelions. And be tall.

If not grass, there could be trees or flowers or vegetable gardens or patios or swimming pools or ponds.

On my land there is a house. It does not have to be a huge house, not one of those 10,000 square foot monstrosities because if that was the case I’d need to hire another human to clean it and we already discussed the thing about other humans.

My writing room would have to be in the house, along with my library, my bar, and my convenient kitchen.

My very convenient kitchen with a gas stove.

Notice I didn’t say big kitchen. There is a difference between big and convenient. I’ve seen some big kitchens. They think that just because there is a half a mile between the counter and the nearest island, that’s impressive. But it is not as helpful as having a kitchen where you can reach the island when you’re juggling twelve things from the refrigerator.

My kitchen has two wall ovens, and an industrial-style gas stove with a hood over it, not a microwave that ends up covered in sausage grease, because when you cook on a stove it is supposed to vent, not spatter onto the bottom of your microwave.

My kitchen has one full sized refrigerator and one full sized freezer, the kind of freezer where you can fit a half cow if you’re so inclined.

It has measuring spoons that you can read the amount on, and a place to put my blender so I don’t have to move it from here to there every time I want to purée a tomato.

And it walks out onto my herb garden. It would probably have to be a greenhouse because I’d need basil and mint at all times. Maybe a greenhouse with a retractable roof and big sliding doors so in nice weather the hummingbirds and bunnies could come in.

My house also has a craft room and a living room and an office. It has a master bedroom with a luxurious bathroom, which means it has heated floors and a steam shower with NO GLASS DOORS because I’m so over them getting cloudy and moldy. And no shower curtains, either, because see above about mold. My shower has a lot of beautiful stone.

I don’t even need a jacuzzi or anything because I’m not a fan of just sitting there in water, no matter how cool it looks in the movies to have your toes sticking up out of the bubbles and a glass of wine in your hand. Tell you what, forget the tub and give me a glass of wine when I’m wearing my giant oversized Brigantine sweatshirt in front of a real wood-burning fireplace.

So far so good.

My house is big enough so that I can have a space for everything I want to do without having to cram my puzzles onto the dining room table or under the bed when company comes over. It is big enough that I can have some completely tech-free space with no wires or cables or glowing screens.

It also has a lot of windows.

Now I need to buy some property in other locations across the country so that when I want a change of scenery I have a place to go. These other properties don’t need to be big, but they do need to be beautiful. I wouldn’t mind a cottage in Olema, for example. Just two rooms and a horse outside the window.

Not my horse, preferably. It can be the neighbor’s horse, the neighbor who lives in a house in the middle of their own land and doesn’t want to see other humans, either. But maybe once in a while we could nod and smile and say hello over the fence.

I wouldn’t mind a studio in Manhattan, somewhere on top of a very tall skyscraper with a guy who I could hire to ride with me up and down the elevator so I don’t have a panic attack.

I think a bit of property on both coasts, and maybe two in the middle – one norther and one souther – would suit nicely.

If I have a stupid amount of money we might as well buy a small island, too. I’ve seen a few for sale for less than your average house in Franklin. So that’s not asking a lot.

Here’s something I can tell you about my house: it will not be white. Not inside, not outside, nowhere. I don’t understand this obsession with making everything white. Every home makeover show, they delete every color except “a pop of red” in a pillow somewhere. It’s cold and ugly and boring.

I watched a home makeover show recently that redid a family’s living room area where they had a whole wall of bookshelves, and they turned all the books around backwards so only the white pages would show.

Can someone please explain the point of that? How does that look more inviting than a shelf of actual books? Were these people Nazis or something, and they couldn’t show the titles in their collection?

Anyway there won’t be white in my house. Do you have any idea what a white bathroom floor looks like after ONE hair from my head falls out onto it?


I want everything in color. Not like, hot pink. But don’t put so much as a single white daisy in my house. Beige and brown and gray and cream, fine. A pop of red, of course. But not stark white.

So far I have land and a house, and bees and chickens. My chickens would need a really nice house, too, mostly because I would need to keep them safe from predators. I’ve seen how wily foxes can be in pursuit of a chicken. They’re like little fox Houdinis so you have to be very careful and make sure the chicken coop has a floor that cannot be dug under and windows that cannot be pried open.

I don’t need expensive artwork or marble staircases in my house either. Give me a bunch of seashells and a table made out of reclaimed barn wood and I’m happy.

And my Peloton. Also I would need to buy their treadmill and rower because you need variety. You could call that a gym but I don’t need any other nonsense and certainly not wall-to-wall mirrors. My Peloton room just has windows so I can see outside while exercising.

The only other animal I’d really need at my house is a cat. Maybe ten. If I have enough land, I can have a cat sanctuary and they can roam freely and find me when they want a snuggle in my writing room.

All I want out of my house is something naturally beautiful with a lot of light so I can see my gardens-not-grass, and lots of stone and warm colors. Space, but not so much of it that you feel like you’re walking into the lobby of a hotel instead of a home.

And all I want out of my land is peace and quiet and pretty scenery and a place to sit and a place to walk.

Ok, so since I’m not putting in a tennis court or an indoor pool (an outdoor one would not be a terrible idea though), and I don’t need six cars or jewelry or art (a few first edition books maybe?) and I’m not interested in having a boat or a plane or even a jet ski, I will have a little money left over.

Which means that once I had my roots, I’d dig them up and travel. But I would travel in style. I would go see all the national parks and stay in nice hotels. That doesn’t mean the most luxurious ones, but it does mean I’d need the room with the best view and be able to eat the best scrambled eggs. So like, no self-serve pancakes off a conveyor belt at Holiday Inn.

Don’t get me wrong, the pancake thing is cool. I ate a lot of pancakes from it when I first learned it was a thing. But if I have a lot of money I am staying in suites with fireplaces overlooking waterfalls and having pastries for breakfast.

I’d visit all the distilleries and all the vineyards. I’d find the coolest events like the whale migration in California and tulip season in Michigan and go see them all in person. I’d drive every inch of coastline and collect a shell from every beach along the way.

What else would I do.

Not work, I can tell you that much. I would be way too busy tending my bees and writing and photographing glaciers for that.

I’d definitely spend more time with approved humans. I would fly them out or hire a limo to drive them from wherever they are to my big but not ostentatious house because when you have enough money you need your people to travel in style, too.

I would put them up in my beautiful and luxurious but not ostentatious guest room with warm colors and a pop of red, and make them buttered biscuits for breakfast and cocktails at lunch and we’d have a great time. They’d have their own bathroom with big fluffy towels and no shower doors or curtains, and maybe even a little suite so they could watch TV or light a fire before bed.

If they wanted new houses, I’d build them, too. And buy them land and chickens or maybe dogs and pot belly pigs if that was their thing.

Maybe this sounds boring. Maybe I should be thinking beyond “want a good set of measuring spoons”. But really, that would make me happy.

What this boils down to is that I want a place to live in peace, with space to do it. I want to do what I love, which is read, write, cook, make drinks, be outside, sleep with cats, and see beautiful things in the world. I want to see the people I want to see and not see anyone else, and I want to make the lives of those people as good as mine.

Money can’t buy happiness but it can sure buy a few things that would make you happier. And while it can’t buy you more time than you already have, it can give you the ability to do more of what you want with the time you do have.

Since the scratch tickets were a dud, we’re all going to work tomorrow. And I’ll get the puzzle out from under my bed, and mix up a couple of cocktails while balancing the measuring spoons on the edge of the sink, and be happy with that. Still… chickens! Just imagine.

Photo: the horses in Olema, who would most certainly be outside my window when I have my cottage there.