The secret is to get out of the house. Wear long underwear. Listen to the ice whirl, moan and whistle. I’m going to get out my new ice skates after I drink a cup of hot chocolate. The lake has frozen solid all the way across to New York State with no snow cover. A hundred miles of an ice rink. I was standing on the ice, in some places a foot thick, thinking about the joy of walking on thick, not thin, ice for a change. Feeling solidly alive without dread, fear, anxiety about tomorrow — For a few frozen, white, quiet moments I was worry-free. Not thinking about money. Realizing that if i didn’t have any money instead of a little, I could not worry about money alot more. I think I will spend every last dime of my money so i don’t have to worry about spending it. I’ll just save enough money for fifteen tanks of gas, which will take me anywhere in the United States when my electricity gets turned off and the gas company refuses to refuel.
Yesterday, in Middlebury, while goofing it up with a couple of people in a consignment store, I handed out one of my “Can I borrow Five Dollars?” business cards to a boomer aged hippie-type man who was getting a receipt for his donation of goods. He was dressed in an old sweat shirt and ripped pants, hiking boots; very Vermont, with a day growth of beard, rosy cheeks and disheveled hair. He said he didn’t have a five dollar bill, and I believed him. Then he asked if I would accept a ten.
I said, “no, no tens”.
“How about a twenty?” He shoved a twenty in my hand.
“No, I don’t do twenties. Only five dollars. It’s a performance installation. I am monitoring peoples reactions to being asked for exactly five dollars.”
“I completely get it!” he said, and I really felt he did get it. He exchanged his ten for two fives from the cashier and gave me one.
“Thank you — and, it’s a loan, of course.”
“Oh, no, no, please, and thank God, not me. anyway, I really like giving money away! thanks for asking” and he left.
I followed a few seconds later. He was backing out of the drive-way in a Mercedes mega-vehicle. One of those black chrome plastered monsters, fully loaded, costing more than a small house.
“Ha!” I shouted. “Now I get it.”
“The car?” he said. “Ah, I’ve got other cars, too; cars are nothing. I can show you how to get cars like this, easy. It’s about God.”
“I think I’m a Buddhist, but what’s your name?” I asked.
“My name is Henry of Vermont!” he announced with a big grin. “and being a Buddhist is just fine. No worries, if you want to find me, I can be conjured.” He drove off.
Henry of Vermont, unlike approximately 80% of the population, was giddy with the joy of giving. I had provided him an opportunity to enjoy his most honorable qualities: generosity and a sense of humor.
There are alot of wild minded trust fund hippies in the Vermont hills but I have been given five dollars from those who could not afford it, and been turned down by people wearing mink coats and fat diamond rings.
It is rather the WAY a person reacts to the request — not whether they hand over the five. It reveals alot about their humanity, their relationship with themselves, their possessions, their property “rights”, their value system. — AND, whether they are secure or fearful — whether they feel they are walking on thick or thin ice. The question, “Can I borrow five dollars?” should be the first thing you ask a new acquaintance and a deciding factor in whether you continue the relationship. Nobody likes a cheapskate, true, but worse than that –a person without a sense of humor. You put those two qualities together and you’ve got an asshole on your hands.
I am collecting the reactions and responses I get from the five dollar question as I shape a sociological performance piece, entitled, of course, “Can I Borrow Five Dollars?” and I promise it will be enlightened.
Meanwhile, I give the fives I accept to the Humane Society, although I did buy some 5 year old aged Vermont cheese with Henry of Vermont’s five because I knew he would prefer that I spoil myself until I get my own Mercedes.