Milt Abel is a stand-up comedian traveling the world, and places closer.

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Lottery

By Milt Abel | April 27, 2010

| April 27, 2010

I once saw a roadside billboard in California meant to increase state lottery sales by asking, “What if someone else won your money?” I didn’t like the emotionally manipulative approach: vaguely inferring that the prize was already yours and just how upset will you be when we give it to someone else because you failed to pony up the dollar(s) to be officially eligible, ‘You’re the winner, we just need to do a little paperwork first.’ I think my reaction was the intended one; not the obvious and logical one which would be, ‘other people have won every other time, and it’s not my money, so I guess it will be okay.’ No, they want you to think you’re avoiding trouble by buying a lottery ticket.

I’ll buy a lottery ticket every few weeks. Powerball really. They call it Powerball because that name engenders some kind of vigor and authority over the chancy balls that determine who wins or loses. If they called it Randomresults sales would plummet. But when the jackpot gets over a 100 million, as it will do when a few weeks run by without a winner, I jump in. At a 100 million there is some real entertainment there, an emotional roller-coaster; fun peaks when I think about what I’d do with all that money, bottoming out when you don’t win. Logically, I’m more likely to win the conciliatory five dollars, or maybe if I got lucky something in the $1,000 to $10,000 range, but I don’t find those figures entertaining. Tens of millions of dollars opens up all kinds of fantasy spending sprees, a couple thousand means I’ll be able to pay my bills, and being self- employed I already ride that emotional treadmill every month.

There are few sure things in life, and ironically, I’m not certain how few. I can say, however, that every time I’ve gone to the Portland farmer’s market in downtown Portland, I’ve been rewarded. An outdoor Saturday market held 8:30 until 2PM right next to Portland State University has treasures aplenty.

This past Saturday I was there under typical oregon spring weather: sunny, rainy, windy, partly cloudy, repeat until done. I didn’t count the specific number, but dozens and dozens of vendors set up canvas covered mini-kitchens and product displays. Some sold only mushrooms, there were three selling just varieties of honey; others offered produce, or poultry, or other lamb or pork, prepared by the person you meet eye to eye when you buy, implicitly removing a lot of the chance lurking in mass-produced meats. It’s just more rewarding to buy something from someone who invests themselves in every aspect of a product until it becomes yours. Pride comes freely attached to the cheese or leeks at the Portland farmer’s market. The produce manager at your local supermarket chain just can’t offer that.

As the weather churned through it’s daily cycle I saw a lady with her own burlap shopping bag that had printed on it a slogan I wanted to photograph. I explained the back-story of the significance of the slogan to my twelve year-old daughter. “During the Vietnam War, a war that was just as unpopular, if not more so, than the Iraqi War, John Lennon of the Beatles bought a billboard that said ‘War is over if you want it.’ Telling people they had the power, more power than maybe they thought they had, to change the situation.” I then told her about the slogan on the lady’s home-brought shopping bag. A slogan that fit for a blustery Oregon spring day, it read: ‘Spring is over if you want it.’ Just seeing that made the day a little sunnier.

The farmer’s market also offers its own no-cost game of chance. Almost every vendor offers a free sample. Everything from cured beef to multigrain breads, from goat cheeses to varieties of salt, is offered as a free sample taste; and you might not like it. But you probably will. If you plan your day right you can have the free samples for breakfast at the farmer’s market, slip over to Costco for lunch with their free samples there, then a happy hour menu item at a local restaurant, and you’ve fed yourself for the day for under six bucks; if you throw in the cost of gas your outlay is almost triple that figure, but it’s far more entertaining to think you’ve got something for almost nothing. Just like the lottery.

Topics: comedy, humor, travel | No Comments »

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