"One a week is entertainment," the wise man said, "but two? That's gambling."

powerballShe buys one a week, usually on Wednesday, which, even though it’s her least favorite day, somehow seems to contain more lottery juju than Saturday.

She lets the machine do the picking. She used to have a complicated system of birthdays, ages, personal lucky number and multiples thereof, but then she decided to throw caution to the winds and let the machine, in its infinite wisdom, decide what was best for her.

These days it’s Powerball, because if you’re going to dream, you might as well dream big, right?

Back in the day, when she and Oatie and the roaches shared their fourth-floor walkup in Boston, she bought Megabucks. Once a week she and Oatie would walk down the block to Joby Liquor, where Oatie would buy a six-pack of cheap beer and she would buy her lottery ticket.

Nowadays she buys her Powerball at Winner Gas, at 44th and Nicollet. Winner is a lucky store with a lucky name, and besides, she loves Winner Gas. Everyone who works behind the counter is nice, and the store is a cross-section and meeting place for all manner of human beings, which is one of the great pleasures of urban life. Or should be.

Once bought, the ticket goes straight into its special powerball compartment in her fat black wallet. She doesn’t look at the numbers, because why should she? She has given over her lottery fate to the machine.

Now commences the dreaming, but only after she has plotted out how to get her sweetheart to share the many millions that are about to come their way. She’s done her research. The back of the ticket must be signed before the millions can be collected, in the form of that enormous check that will be presented to them on television (the thought of which she hates, but she’ll do it anyway because, after all, it’s a small price to pay).

So she will have to persuade him to sign the back of the ticket too. Despite the fact that he is ardently against powerball on principle’s sake, and despite the fact that he scoffs at her Wednesday purchase, she feels sure that she can get him to sign his name by dangling before him the thought of all the cool things they will then be able to do for all the people they love.

That will get him.  And if it doesn’t, she’ll tell him that she won’t collect the cash without him. She will rip this ticket into tiny little shreds unless you sign your name on the back. To show how serious she is, she will even begin to rip it a tiny bit if he won’t sign.

If he still, still refuses to share the cash, will she take the money anyway? This is a moral dilemma over which she has pondered more than she wants to admit. The answer is probably, but then she will buy him all sorts of  things which he will not be able to resist, such as  a flat in Paris, a small herd of goats, and a lifetime supply of chili dogs.

Now that that problem is solved, she can begin to dream. What first?

The financially prudent thing to do would probably be to put it all into an account right away and spend the interest only, but surely winning the powerball means a little fun is in order. How pathetic that would be, to win the powerball and just be all grim about it.

First they will take care of their families. How do you take care of your family best, though? Do you pay off everyone’s mortgage for them? What if some are doing fine financially and others are struggling – do you still give everyone the same amount? For those with children, do you give them the money in the form of college funds for their children? Any parent would surely welcome a college fund for their child, right?

Great care must be taken to insure (ensure? she always struggles over the “i” vs. “e.” But maybe she’s tempted to put “e” because she’s thinking of Ensure, that milkshakey type beverage that gives you all your daily vitamins and a bunch of calories, a beverage that she herself has partaken of in the past and which is much tastier than you’d think, given all the vitamins and minerals) that everyone happily accepts the cash and doesn’t get thorny about it.

So maybe the college fund idea is best. But then what about family members who don’t have children? What’s the best way to give them their cash? Maybe just set up a trust fund of some kind, however those things work.

She’s sure that there exist many certified financial planners out there who would be happy to advise her on how to set up college funds and trust funds in return for a reasonable hourly rate.

So, good. Family members, all set.

Now on to friends. This gets a little dicey, because they have many beloved friends, and she wants to just throw big wads of cash at them and sing a happy song about how “Here is some money for you! Do with it what you wish!” But where do you draw the line? Lots of friends + lots of cash = greatly diminished powerball winnings before the bank account sees its first deposit.

She doesn’t like thinking about where to draw the line, so she quits thinking about it.

Back to the fun. Which always includes an apartment – small, nothing big – in an old building near Columbus Circle. They’d be near the Park, on virtually all the subway lines, easy access to Chelsea and the Whitney and the rivers.

And a houseboat, which ever since she was a little girl and read that book about the girl who lived on a houseboat she has wanted. A small houseboat. It wouldn’t even have to run very well, because really all they want to do is live on it, hooked up by a rope to a dock somewhere. Or a tree, even.

And can they also buy a canned Airstream ham? Have you ever seen one of them? All her life she’s loved trailers, and an Airstream is a kind of trailer, only it’s the best – so beautiful and shiny – and the canned ham is the tiniest one of all. Everything in a canned ham fits perfectly, and that’s how she likes it.

What would be the most fun of all? Setting up a private foundation – surely that reasonable-hourly-fee financial person would know how to do that too – and then giving away tons of money. To whoever they want! (whomever? yes, she thinks that it’s whomever, but will leave up the whoever so as not to be grammar-police-ish.)

Little micro-grants to artists in need, but only artists who really are in need. Of money, not ideas and talent, because ideas and talent should be a given in an artist.

First, last and security on apartments for homeless people.

Quarters placed in gum machines everywhere, to make small children happy.

Micro-loans to penniless people with great ideas as to how to help other people.

Paying for the groceries of the person with the nice smile ahead of them in line at the grocery store.

See how fun it is? This is her favorite part of the powerball dream. This is where the virtually-free entertainment aspect of the weekly powerball ticket comes in. Way better than most movies, for example, and only 1/8 of the cost of a movie ticket, let alone the bucket o’ popcorn (free refill, and believe her, she’s taken advantage of that more than once) and large Hawaiian Fruit Juicy Punch.

If there’s money left over, and it wouldn’t have to be much, maybe she could indulge herself in a few clothes. Some vintage cowboy shirts to add to her collection? How about that tunic coat that she can see so clearly in her mind but that doesn’t seem to exist in real life, not that she would know because she and shopping don’t mix well.

And, to go out on a limb, what about some handmade shoes for the both of them? He is a shoe fanatic and her feet are tough to fit, tough tough tough, and she always thinks about the olden days, when the cobbler came around and made a last that fit your foot exactly, so that the damaged nerves in the right one would be cushioned, somehow. It’s impossible to find that in a store-bought shoe, but a handmade one, surely it would be possible. Italian leather, maybe.

Everything is possible, with powerball. Even if for only an hour or so, on a Wednesday, at Winner Gas on 44th and Nicollet.


  1. oreo · June 5, 2009

    Thank god I’m not the only person who has actually worried about the fact that they’re going to have to accept that big cardboard check on t.v. when they win.


  2. Lucy · June 10, 2009

    What reckless orgies of altruism she’d have!


  3. Dave · June 10, 2009

    My spouse hates the Lottery. I enjoy an occasional purchase, and the dream has become not spending the money but rather facing the cameras to answer to question of what you will do now. My answer would be keep farming until the money is gone. And I think that is what Cheryl dislikes most about the lottery.


  4. alison · June 10, 2009

    Dave, I have to say that Cheryl has a point. Farming is a dream of wonderfulness in and of itself, but how about one tiny little non-farming dream? Just one.


  5. alison · June 10, 2009

    Lucy, the cowboy shirts and handmade Italian shoes are not altruistic, are they? Unless there’s such a thing as self-altruism. Not to mention the houseboat, the little apartment on Columbus Circle, and the Airstream. And the live-in treehouse! I left out the live-in treehouse!


  6. alison · June 10, 2009

    Oreo, I’d pay you large sums of money if you got up there on t.v. and pretended to be me accepting the check. LARGE sums of money. Think about it.


  7. oreo · June 12, 2009

    i would think about it. i would spend all night tossing and turning, bemoning the fact that my phobia of public speaking or public-anything is going to cost me large sums of money. i would moan and tear at my hair, wondering just how large is LARGE when it’s offered by a woman not wont to use all capitals. i would, i would, had i need of one more thing to worry about or had i not a rather concrete idea that they don’t allow that sort of thing. awarding the check to a impersonator and all that.

    i have a better idea: let’s move to north dakota or delaware. those are the two states that allow the winner to remain unnamed. now you know how very sick i am, that i actually checked that out.


  8. Judy · June 21, 2009

    This post makes me smile.

    First, I relate to the spouse who refuses to participate. He swears he would not accept a million dollar prize if the conditions included being photographed or filmed holding the big check. I would love to call his bluff.

    I dont think we’ll have to worry about it though. In the 20 years we’ve been married, we’ve bought about three lottery tickets a year and never. matched. one. number.

    I kid you not. Not one number.

    You could trust me with big money. I promise. Try me. I beg you, lottery gods. Try me.


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