Wallace, a retired English and creative writing teacher, lives in Lake Forest.
I didn’t believe in the power of cryptocurrency until a black Lamborghini pulled into my driveway. It was a Saturday, and I’d just stepped outside to water a dying drought-tolerant plant when 600 horsepower roared up the street. I stood staring, glaring even, at a car that cost more than my house. It slowed and pulled in. The door opened, and out stepped a young man in a hooded black sweatshirt.
“Hey, dad,” he said.
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It was a moment I’ll never forget. Was it really my 20-something son, a guy who not all that long ago was careening down the street on his bike?
“It’s an investment,” he said, tucking the key into his pocket.
Just then my wife came out, surveyed the scene and said, “Aren’t you hot in that sweatshirt?!”
They went inside and I stood alone, dumbfounded and drowning my planter. My neighbor, standing beside a normal person’s car, threw up his hands then pointed at the beast in my driveway. “Wow!” he shouted. “Vegas? The lottery? Must be nice!”
No! Definitely not nice! That big chunk of bad judgment had just parked on my peace of mind. My thoughts raced, ludicrous mode, from shock to confusion to horror, genuine horror — a sensation I’m used to as a Padres fan. But as a father, this was new territory. How on Earth could my son afford a Lamborghini, and why on Earth would he even think about buying one?
Cryptocurrency, curse you!
I knew my son was making money buying and selling things that don’t really exist anywhere outside computer code, but he’s an adult and on his own. It’s his job. I don’t ask for profit and loss statements. His work is legal and involves the blockchain and associated lexicon, and to be honest, I’m not really interested in learning a new vocabulary. If I did, I’d take French.
That thing in my driveway also forced some unexpected self-reflection. Had we encouraged this kind of extravagance? When he was a boy, we always read bedtime stories, but had we accidentally read from “If you Give a Mouse a Lambo?”
My neighbors, like zombies, were smiling and slowly shuffling toward my driveway. Quick, I thought, run away! I headed inside. My wife and son were at the kitchen table chatting as if, out front, a slow-motion hurricane wasn’t spinning the gossip mill into a frenzy. I sat down. Finding a break in the action, I said, “So, I take it Bugattis were out of stock?”
My son laughed. It reminded me of the time, a year before, when I advised that if he was lucky enough to turn a profit on “this crypto thing,” that he should put it “in real dollars, in the bank. For something you can actually use.”
He laughed then, too.
“I don’t mean to sound rude, dad,” he said. “But you just don’t get it. Banks are for old people!”
Banks aren’t just for old people, obviously. That’s the enthusiasm of youth talking, the evangelism of an early adopter. My son embraces the changes that come with technology more readily than I, and we have entirely different tolerance levels for risk. For me, taking a risk means vegetarian lasagna. For him, it means buying and selling things like NFTs and Bitcoin. And, unfortunately, a high-performance sports car.
Our time together that day was brief, but not so brief that I couldn’t speak the truth. As he stood to leave, I said, “I’m really proud that you’re working so hard and doing so well.” We hugged and I added, over his shoulder, “I just never dreamed you’d make enough money to buy something that scared me.”
He pulled back. “It’s an investment, dad,” he said. “I know what I’m doing.”
Maybe, but my unsettled thoughts lingered for weeks. My son and his car. Too flashy, too much money, too much power. Why not invest in a down payment for a house? Are houses for old people?
Fortunately, my concerns ended a month later when I received a text.
“Good news.” my son wrote. “I sold the Lambo. For a profit.”
“Yes!” I replied. Maybe now I could relax a bit. And maybe now he’d take that profit and put it into something a little more down to earth. I sent a follow up. “So what are you going to do with all that money?”
He replied, “Bugattis out of stock. Just bought land in Hawaii.” Followed by, “It’s an investment.”