May 25th, 2005


Winning the lottery

Hisae and I saw a sign at a Hackeshe Markt news kiosk yesterday saying that the Lotto jackpot has reached €24m, so we decided to buy a few tickets. If we win we plan to split the money 50/50, €12m for me, €12m for her.

Hisae wasn't clear how much it was, so I said "Think of twenty-four quite impressive houses in a city like London. That's what it's worth."

Then I started thinking about what all that money would do to my life. Would people like me more, or only pretend to? Would I be taken more or less seriously as an artist?

I'd probably want to build a house in Tokyo, perhaps designed by Atelier Bow Wow or Ushida Finlay or Rem Koolhaas. But that would take years, and involve endless hassle with contractors, inspections of sites, decisions about materials, hold-ups, unforeseen problems, conflicts with the neighbours and the authorities... and meanwhile I'd have to sort out Japanese citizenship, another series of headaches. I'd inevitably fall out with Rem, either because he was being a stubborn bastard, or I was. Soon the name "Koolhaas" would have me wincing. "Foolhaas, more like!" I'd grumble, before launching into nightmare anecdotes about his unreasonableness, and the things I'd heard he'd said about me behind my back. And I'd be nostalgic for the days when I could wander through a Koolhaas building full of wonder and admiration, as I did last week in Porto's Casa da Musica, without spending one euro cent.

Meanwhile, how much more food would I be able to eat? Well, better quality food, probably, in more snooty restaurants with fussy wineglasses and plied white linen napkins instead of paper ones, and unemployed actors for waiters, and a chef who drives a Porsche. Would I get fat? And would I buy a Porsche myself, despite feeling that private cars are the curse of our age? I'd certainly want to build a private sento in my new house, but I'd miss the colourful characters you see in the public bath-houses. The fact is, I like public transport, public buildings and public life, and what really gives me pleasure is money spent on things that make life better for everyone.

How many baths would I be able to take a day without shrivelling like a prune? Would I live much longer with money than without? I wouldn't have to work, but I already don't work. I'd be able to travel a lot, but I already travel a lot. Would my money make the air cleaner in the city where I live? It wouldn't be enough to do that. Would the graphic design on the labels on the food in the Thai supermarket please me any more? I probably wouldn't see them any more, because employees would buy my food. Would I be able to tile the walls of Berlin to make it as beautiful as Lisbon? It wouldn't be allowed. Would my money make people's conversation more interesting, or would I just gravitate towards other rich people who talk about their money all night?

I could record in big expensive studios, with professional arrangers and the latest gadgets, but that would just make my records sound more "standard". I'd be able to promote my records with major advertising campaigns, but that's no guarantee that sales would increase substantially or that people would suddenly see things the way I see them. Word would probably spread that it was a sort of vanity publishing situation and that I was a rich amateur. I'd certainly stop updating Click Opera, because it would be embarrassing to tell you exactly how much I'd just spent on a new sofa then sit back expecting half-hearted comments of congratulation through gritted teeth.

Would I be able to guarantee that votes would go to better politicians, or that wars would stop? I could certainly give money to charity, but it would be a drop in the ocean. I could have sex with umpteen women instead of one, but there would no longer be any way of knowing that anyone loved me for who I am rather than for the money and the lifestyle that came with me.

About the only thing the money would be good for would be having the best medical care, getting my teeth sorted out, travelling first class instead of economy. Well, actually, I wouldn't mind starting my own art college, a bit like Fabrica, Benetton's college outside Venice. That would be fun.

I'll tell you (actually, on second thoughts, perhaps I won't) if I win the lottery. But on reflection I think Agnes Bernelle had it right when she sang, in "A Nightingale" (on her album Father's Lying Dead on the Ironing Board)

You want to be rich?
Well, isn't that what you are?