Jim Burt:  “That was a fun quiz in yesterday’s column.  I got five and a half right (I gave myself half credit for 108 years on the Hundred Years’ War).  The item about the camel’s hair brush (which I didn’t know came from squirrel fur) reminded me of a double tap joke I spring on unsuspecting suckers whenever I wear a camel’s hair sport coat:  “When I bought this jacket, it had a label on the sleeve that said ‘100% pure virgin camel’.  That made me think, ‘How do they know?’  But then I realized it was false advertising.  There’s no such thing as a virgin camel.  (Pause.)  They’ve all had at least one hump . . .'”

Tom Adams: “When did the Canary Islands move to the Pacific?  They are usually in the Atlantic.  Maybe the quiz isn’t that smart either.”

Paul deLespinasse:  “You said [of the guy who promised his kid a car]: Actually, if you find yourself in that spot — you had had a little to drink when you made the promise, and you weren’t sure your child was even listening, for crying out loud, let alone would have made a contemporaneous note of it in his or her diary that could now be used as credible evidence if the matter were ever litigated (you didn’t even know she was keeping a diary!) — there’s a possible way out:’  . . .

“Two of the cases we read in the Contracts class the year I was a Fellow in Law and Political Science at the Harvard Law School (1970-1971) were relevant to your comment.  The first was Hamer v. Sidway,  a 19th century case in which an uncle had promised his nephew to give him $5,000 ( a LOT of money in those days and, indeed,  still in our day) if he would refrain from drinking,  smoking, swearing, or card-playing until he was 21.  When the brat turned 21 he approached the executor of the uncle,  who had died, demanding the money, and brought a lawsuit for breech of contract when the executor refused to pay up.  The executor claimed the nephew had benefited from abstaining from all these things, and that there was no ‘consideration’ which is legally necessary to constitute a contract.  Also that the statute of limitations had expired on the promise, even if it was a binding contract.  The court ruled that since the nephew had refrained from possible actions on the basis of the promised money,  that was good enough consideration to make it a valid contract.  It then agreed the statute of limitations precluded enforcing the contract,  but deemed that the promise had created a ‘constructive trust’ for the nephew, and there was no statute of limitations on trusts, or at least not as stringent a one.  So the nephew got the money.

“The other case involved a contract to sell real estate made when the seller was drunk.  I can’t remember the name of that case, or how it turned out.  Well, that was over 40 years ago.”

☞ One of our fine readers will surely know what rules apply to real estate sales made when drunk.  Counselors?


I wrote a piece for New York Magazine once laughingly titled, “Getting By On $100,000 A Year” — laughingly, because back then it was as silly a notional hardship as getting by on half a million would be today — silly to most, but felt as real by many a family living in Manhattan, even though their doorman gets by on a tenth as much.

For a better sense of the real world, I share an email from one of you — an octogenarian dad and veteran who worked all his life — smart, honest, paid his taxes, suffered no addictions — retired, living alone in small town America.  He shares his financial picture, starting with his ancient pickup truck:

By odometer over the last nine months, I have driven an average of 103 miles per month, or about 1200 miles per year. I can drive roughly 150 miles on ten gallons of gas @ $3.80 per gallon (as of this date) which means I  fill up eight times per year for $304.00. I don’t carry collision insurance any more because my truck is almost 20 years old and I carry only the minimum amount of liability as required by law.  Six months’ premium is $131.86 ($263.72 per year).  I paid $6.59 vehicle tax to the county last year.  My annual license tag cost is $28.  Add the four together = $602.31/1200 = 0.50 cents per mile. Add in the average cost per mile for repairs since I bought the truck (20 cents a mile), and the total comes out as 70 cents a mile, or $840.00 a year ($70/month) just to drive the damn truck. The library is about six miles round trip, so it costs me $4.20 every time I go to the library.

To take it one step further, my Social Security, $926 + $76 a month EBT (‘food stamps’) = $1,002.00. Deduct  out of that rent + electric + phone (includes internet) + above + groceries is $738.00.  Which means I start out each month with $264.00 for everything else. Prior to my paying off a bank loan this month (for my son’s cremation), that figure would have been $164.00, and I always seem to end up the month with about $100 left over in my checking account. Not too bad.

☞ I know people who spend that much on avocados.  Do Republican politicians know — when they seek to cut food stamps, depress wages, close libraries, and repeal affordable health care —  how close to the margin so many of our fellow citizens live?



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