Thursday, May 9, 2019

What are you saving it for?

Louis Irwin is perhaps the richest man whom I have ever known more than casually.  I hesitate to say we were close or that we were hard and fast friends but he did at least visit me at my residence on more than one occasion.  There is an old saying that inviting someone into your home is the height of intimacy.  I believe it is true - especially so when the visit is unattended by anything other than the same sociability which would customarily prevail. Though he owned a Fleetwood Cadillac, Louis normally arrived in my driveway in an unpretentious putt-putt of an automobile in the front seat of which sat his mangey sheepdog (which Louis had the courtesy to confine to the vehicle throughout the duration of his visit).

I first met Louis when he consulted me about the acquisition of a local newspaper. Louis was I believe a pedagogue by profession but he had translated that sophistication into a country gentleman who raised long-haired Highland cattle. From his 100 acre farm he flew his own plane to Vermont to inspect 35,000 acres of forestry.  Louis' former wife (Peggy) was a descendant of the Buckingham lumber people (the Maclaren family), an association which extended into the coffers of the INCO nickel smelting operation. It was Louis who introduced me to Country Life (which I subsequently heard jokingly - and accurately - called "real estate porn") and who gave me a number of paintings including one by Frederick S. Coburn.

What however was salient - and largely singular - about Louis is that his apparent overriding interest in commerce was its production not the exploitation of its profit. When I say exploitation I mean the vulgar habits of those who are intent upon demonstrating their wealth.  I don't think I ever saw Louis in a business suit - including the time he retained me to escort him to the board room of Perley-Robertson, Panet, Hill & McDougall, Barristers &c. for a consultation about some esoteric tax matter. What I knew of Louis' residence (which I had only seen in passing when driving through the nearby countryside) was that it was strictly functional and I venture to say without hesitation was likely cluttered with the usual trappings of barnyard occupation. I never felt the necessity or desire to rush to the interior - which was somewhat odd in that Louis clearly accepted my own preoccupation with domestic comforts.

It plainly stretches the imagination to suggest that a devout capitalist is not moved by money.  From beginning to end Louis always left me with the impression that he valued the act of expression more than the manner. I can't imagine how he might otherwise have tolerated me.  It is only my undisguised adoration of nice things which could possibly have excused me in his eyes. Others may have hounded him for advice regarding the latest profitable investment - a theme which he occasionally visited with me - but which I roundly dismissed as little more than amusing. My focus was clearly not upon production but consumption. As shallow as I may have been I was nonetheless guided by my overwhelming commitment to foreseeable pleasure, admittedly a weak apology for lack of foresight.

Speaking of foresight - and its collateral hindsight - I hasten to record that I haven't any second thoughts about my indolent past. If anything I am - obviously - inclined to visit the doubtful wisdom of doing otherwise. By what measure for example has Louis surpassed my wanton achievement? If there were any lesson here it is that one must fuel one's own appetite - a diatribe which importantly applies equally to me as to Louis. I have perhaps the advantage of not feeling remiss about what might have been. This is not mere complacency; it is recognition that satisfaction derives from performance and resolve - not pretence and hope.

No comments:

Post a Comment