Best $20 I ever spent

Long wait to tell this story

I’ve been carrying around elements of this story for 30+ years. It’s about a friend, money, family and life in between.

Early financial deal

The day I met my friend Wox was actually a financial transaction.
I heard about someone in our new middle-school, that might be interested in buying my Atari-2600. Yes, you heard that right. Atari-2600. I was so kick ass at “Missile command” that I almost didn’t want to sell it. But I was on the path to seeking something I would come to know as “FIRE”. Who knew?

Someone knocked at the front door of our home. He came in, after slight introductions, and looked at the console and games. “It’s a good deal” I said as I scooped them up, and he handed me about $120 in random, loose bills. DEAL. I knew the sun was setting on Atari, but it was a fair trade.

Music and cars

After that deal, I slowly got to know Brian (Wox) around school and we would become pretty good friends. I would hang at his house occasionally in high school. His family had an above ground pool, which was like a millionaires home, compared to what I knew growing up.

Wox was also an early licensed driver, he looked about 10 years older than any HS kid I knew. He had shockingly orange, frizzy hair and a matching red goatee. More importantly, to any HS kid, he had his own car. I’d get my own car about a year or 2 later. However, his car, was our “cruise machine” for transport to HS for me and one or two other friends. We had our own cars, eventually, but Wox was an “early adopter” and a bit of a motor-head.

My friend wasn’t the most attractive person, and he was far from a ladies man. but he liked cars, music and girls. Worked for me. When Wox would pick me up for school, or anytime, he would do the “Bomp, bomp, badabomp, bomp” on the horn, and I’d come bounding out of the house. Thinking about that now, as a home owner, I think that’s rude and disturbing, but back then, it was cool. Gotta see things from both sides.

Wox would also, usually have some new music to introduce me to, as soon as I entered the car. Sometimes, it would just be blasting before I got IN the car. Van Halen, Def Leppard, Quiet Riot, we loved it. (“..have you seen Junior’s grades?”) But Wox was kind of a “super fan” of AC/DC”. I knew their more popular songs, but I wasn’t overly impressed and/or didn’t follow them in particular. Wox did. This is also, not the first time I’ve written about music and how it relates to financial lessons.

So when AC/DC was in town during a desolate Winter night, Wox showed up at my house.

“Take a ride to Philly?” Sure.

Filling the gas tank on $3

Wox was always putting one and two dollars in the gas tank, so I knew he didn’t have any money to see the show.
Wox was “tapped out”, but he knew I was squirreling away my money ever since he bought my Atari-2600 a few years earlier. He was right too. I was one of the most flush students in HS. However, it didn’t elevate my status, because I was basically still poor. When you start below the poverty line, you gotta fight to break even.

We arrived late, as was standard for Wox, and it was almost the start time of the show. Wox kept suggesting we go in and check out the show. We cruised slowly around the wide and deep, parking lot. It didn’t have that many cars, so I figured the show was not that popular. I was really still on the fence about the entire thing. We went to the FAR end of the Spectrum parking lot, and I remember seeing the light snowflakes blowing across the fluorescent lit black top.

We pulled up on 2 souls walking. He just lost a sale, but as we pulled up and asked how much. I don’t remember his original price. But when we figured out it was going to $20 bucks each, I remember closing the door and talking to Wox, with the inside light on. I knew this was going to be “on me”. Wox just kept saying, these guys are great, and it’d be cool to see them. I must say, it’s one of the few times I’ve been “sold” on something, but it was about to get fun.

The face value on the tickets was about $15, so I figured I’d take a chance at a 33% mark up. I threw the dude $40 and grab the tickets. We zoomed back across the parking lot in the noisy muffler car, to get closer to the entrance. Plus, Wox wasn’t wearing a jacket. He never wore a jacket in the Winter.

I had only been to one or two concerts before that, so I was still getting used to the “theatrics” of Rock & Roll shows.
We got in there, after the warm up band, and got straight to our seats.

When you know every song

I sat on the right side of Wox, as we stood in our mid-level, mid-row but excellent view seats, I just enjoyed the show. But the entire time, I observed how much my friend was enjoying that show. Wox knew every song, and clued me in on the one’s that I wasn’t familiar with…like “Whole lotta Rosie”, etc. We just sat back and watched.

I really enjoyed it myself, but (at the time) I wouldn’t have been sorry if I missed it. Me and Wox didn’t stay in close contact after high school, but I’d see him once in a while. I stopped in to see him where he used to bar tend, and I was lamenting my MBA coursework and he paid me a nice compliment about my efforts. The next time I stopped in to say hi, he no longer worked there. He passed away about 10 years ago from complications from alcoholism.

All these years later, I sometimes think on that simple $20 bill and how much joy it brought us both, but him in particular. Wox was grateful, and I learned something about friendship and money that night. Sometimes you gotta let go and loosen up or you’ll miss out on some great memories.

Do you remember spending on something that carries a story?

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