About two weeks ago, one lucky (in the literal sense) individual in Iowa won $241 million in the Powerball drawing (it turned out to be a group of 20-coworkers who held the single ticket in a pool, so technically, it turned out not to be an individual per se). If you do the math—assuming they take the immediate pay-out, as most lottery winners do—each of them is looking at $5.6 million after taxes.
It says a lot about America that most of us can wrap our heads around that figure (as opposed to the $112 million that an actual individual would receive). It’s life-altering money, as opposed to life-changing. Depending on your age, $5.6 million is enough to do everything you hope to without having so much spare change that you’re out buying a yacht and an island to go with it.
I bought two tickets for this particular drawing, which is something I rarely do; in fact, I never buy a lottery ticket before it hits $200 million or more. I play simply as a psychological exercise. When I read that a single ticket won in Iowa, I figure, “Oh, well, that was a waste of $4.” However, if I would hear that the winner bought a ticket from my neighborhood bodega and I hadn’t bothered to buy one, I’d be pissed. I would think, “If only I had bought a ticket, that could have been me!” So, I buy a couple of tickets (I used to buy five, but they raised the price from $1 to $2, so my budget is still a $5 maximum), simply as a barrier against feeling I “could have won, if only…”
I think most Americans dream of winning the lottery (before the lottery went nationwide, we would dream of wining the Publisher’s Clearinghouse Sweepstakes—if you remember that, you’re definitely dating yourself). We imagine how we would spend our millions. We fantasize telling our boss to go jump off a bridge, to sending our kids to Harvard, to buying a dream home, to get out of debt for once and for all. The reality isn’t that simple, and there are horror stories about what has happened to lottery winners. However, the fantasy remains: How would I spend my winnings?
I recently came across a fundraiser for Just Food and The Sylvia Center that allows a ticket-holder to have dinner in a private home with a personal, celebrity chef, hosted by a dignitary of sorts (e.g. a well known author, musician or food personality). I desperately wanted to go to one of these dinners, but the tickets are $500. While I appreciate giving to charity, I simply do not have that kind of money to spend, even when it’s a worthy cause.
That’s what got me thinking about how I’d spend my lottery winnings. NYC has so many great food events at various price points (many are free with pay-as-you-eat options). I would love to spend my days going from food event to food event to food event, writing about them. Unfortunately, even if I could wrangle a press pass (and, often, I can and do), I do not make money from writing this blog. Indeed, I barely make enough to survive even when I’m writing for pay. That’s the sad reality of being a writer in the Internet age: practically everyone has a blog these days, so even us professionals are cutting our rates just to get “heard.” If I won $5.6 million, I wouldn’t have to worry if my posts were picked up and netted me some income. I wouldn’t have to worry if there were no press passes available to a food event I wanted to attend. I could afford the travel to get to where I want to be (my next hopeful journey will be to The Great American Beer Festival in October).
One recent food-centered activity in which I participated was the inaugural launch of Smorgasboat, a fundraiser for City Harvest. The party cruise (yes, sigh… I was among the oldest people there, which turned out to be a good thing since I left my ID at home) went from Williamsburg, Brooklyn, around southern Manhattan, to the Statue of Liberty, up to the Intrepid where the newly docked Space Shuttle Enterprise loomed large at sunset, and then back to Brooklyn for an after-party (you gotta love a party with an after-party) at the newly opened King & Grove. Other than drinking too much (I guess vodka is for the young… I shoulda stuck to Brooklyn Brewery’s beer options), I had such an amazing time, eating food prepared by Smorgasburg vendors such as kimchi dogs from Asia Dog, pulled pork sandwiches from Sunday Gravy, and mackerel on cornmeal crackers from Pig & Egg.
I don’t know when or if there will be another Smorgasboat, but I do hope to be able to go again. I also hope to attend as many food-centric events as my wallet and waistline can afford. Of course, if I win the lottery, I can always hire a personal trainer to help me burn all those yummy calories.