This story comes from student daze, and maybe you'd have to be
an old hippy to understand how it could even happen. It comes
from a time when you were considered shallow and bourgeois to
care about money AT ALL. And of course you would share any
food or money you had, because our culture heroes like Jim
Morrison told us we should.
My roommate Anne had a buddy whose name was Richard Rouda.
They were graduate students in the Political Science
department. Richard would sometimes tease me for writing
poetry, and tell me that sooner or later I would
have to take a Planet Earth job. I was employed, typing
themes for other students. It was very poorly paid. Richard
didn't have a job, but potheads were not expected to work.
"He's so lazy he wouldn't move his bony butt off the sofa if
the house was on fire," Anne said. But she spoke tolerantly.
We were always supposed to be tolerant.
One Saturday afternoon Rouda dropped in looking for Anne. She
was gone, but when he saw I was making a dessert, he stayed. I
didn't venture to mention that whipping cream and good
chocolate and angel food cake were expensive.
That chocolate mousse was magnificent. Since he was sitting
right there slobbering like a dog, I offered a serving. He ate
the luscious mound, rolling it around his tongue critically.
Then he served himself a big hunk more. And after that, as I
watched in shock, he began devouring the serving dish. At that
point I was brave enough to put the rest of it in the
"I'm...just...not...sure about this stuff," he said
frowningly, gobbling away. "I think it needs more..or maybe...
No," he concluded with a discriminating air,
scraping the rest of his mousse and putting it in his big fat
mouth,"I don't think anything could help. It's too rich, and
I really didn't enjoy it that much."
This was a surprise, since most of the batch was in his
belly. But I was very shy and very polite, and said nothing.
He began to put his jacket on,then looked slightly embarrassed
and asked for a loan.
"I'm really sorry, I was going to ask Anne. But she's not
here. Just whatever you have will be fine. No problem."
Obviously it was no problem for HIM. It was for me, since I
had so little money. But this was the era when you were supposed
to be generous, not grudge helping others, not be obsessed with
"possessions" like your hard-earned money. And he was Anne's
friend. So, with many a painful private twinge, I handed over
most of the few bills I had.
Immediately he became quite brisk. He secured the money in
his wallet, pushed the wallet deep down in his jacket pocket
and zipped the pocket. He said his goodbyes,
and started to walk down the stairs. Then he turned and looked
up and added, as if in passing:
"My grandmother just put a thousand in my bank account,
but I didn't want to break into it right away. I really like
the idea of it being intact." He looked at me after this
idiot statement as if expecting congratulations
on his prudent hoarding of his money. Then he scampered
light-heartedly down the stairs and out the door.
Do I need to add that a thousand bucks in those days had the
spending power of at least five thousand today? That's five
So that is the instant when a hard shock taught me two
First, I learned the way some rich people think. Not all
of them. But some.
Second, I learned that the friend of a friend can be a
terrible jerk. In fact, there is probably a continuous line
of good friends alternating with assholes all the way from
Jesus Christ to Hitler.
These are lessons worth knowing.
As for Richard Rouda, who does a person like this grow up
to be? Since he devoured weed as a rat gorges cheese, he's
probably long since smoked himself into a wee shriveled
little roach of a humunculus. I should probably, out of
compassion, forgive him.
And will I?
Not bloody likely.
Some you win, and some you learn.