Over Easy: Billions and billions

  • Dan Mackie (Courtesy photograph)

For the Valley News
Published: 7/30/2021 9:44:15 PM
Modified: 7/30/2021 9:44:20 PM

Our billionaires are getting restless. After accumulating wealth beyond our wildest dreams, though not theirs, they are looking for new diversions.

As you may have heard, super-tycoons Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Richard Branson seek to go boldly where no billionaires have gone before: space, the final profit frontier. So far they have reached only near-space, technically, but the view from some 60 miles up is priceless.

It’s hard to relate to their net worth. The Google calculator tells me that if I had a billion dollars, I could give something like $95,000 to every Valley News subscriber. Sign up now! (Some restrictions may apply.)

Of course, I am a little jealous of Bezos, Branson and Musk. But I write today not to mock them, financial gnat that I am, but to urge them and other billionaires to give Earth another look.

By Earth I mean, specifically, the Upper Valley.

While not as spiffy as space, this region has its charms. We would roll out the welcome mat for most any billionaire. (Please, please, please pay some state and local taxes, even if you are a genius at opting out.)

According to a USA Today list from 2020, neither New Hampshire nor Vermont has a billionaire to call their own. Even Fargo, N.D., has one. The Upper Valley may not be New York or Silicon Valley, but it surely can hold its own against Fargo.

But maybe I am selling it short. Fargo companies offer food, bar and walking tours. There are attractions that could realistically be called “major.” Here, once you get past the usual suspects — the Montshire Museum, Billings Farm & Museum, soft-serve ice cream — things get dicey. No. 9 on Tripadvisor’s list of things to do in Hanover is Dartmouth Coach, a bus service dedicated to helping you get out of town (and optionally, coming back).

Still, it’s enormously pleasant here, with all the trees you could want, clean rivers, fresh air, green stuff all about. Some residents are crazy about solar panels and others about gas-guzzling trucks.

The Upper Valley is a big-tent sort of place.

A billionaire would find much to love. There are more cows per capita here than in San Francisco (with its 39 billionaires) and Los Angeles (27).

Many people find cows preferable to humans. Cows have their downside (check your shoes), but they are placid and aesthetically pleasing to tourists and others. Same goes for our strawberries, blueberries, apples and maple syrup.

Upper Valley weather is whimsical. There are fine days with a quality that even a billionaire’s money couldn’t beat. Then there are droughts, floods, tempests and other temporary conditions. Can’t live without heat waves? We’ve got ’em. Like a Siberian cold snap? We’ve got those too. Sometimes both in a day! Just kidding, it usually takes more than 24 hours to swing from the tropics to the Arctic.

Upper Valley fashion ranges from Carhartt Casual to Remote Work Comfortable to I’m Just Not Interested in Impressing Anyone Anymore. Then there’s I Remember Some of the ’60s, and Thrift Shop Je Ne Sais Quoi. You will save a bundle on clothes, and the friendly locals are willing to share their 30% off coupons at Kohl’s.

No space flights originate from here, but planes leaving the Lebanon Municipal Airport go pretty high up (over mountains, at a minimum) and parking is free. You didn’t get to be a billionaire by being price-gouged at major airports, I bet.

Even better, you can ride all day for free on Advance Transit, the people’s bus service that can take you all the way from Canaan, N.H., to Hartford Village, Vt. Worried about living in an elite bubble? That bubble will burst in one round-trip if you keep your ears open.

It’s not Coachella, but the Tunbridge World’s Fair is good fun, as are other summer fairs in the Upper Valley. Don’t miss the oxen pulls. They are a whole other take on alternatives to the combustion engine. Have some fair food. Your manicured gut biome will think you are back in orbit, spinning even.

Home prices are rising, but you will get a lot for your money — maybe even a county of your own. If not that, maybe a Bezos Town, Branson City or Musk Corners.

If you miss your high-flying former life, give Dartmouth College a ring. A (your name here) Graduate School of Aeronautics and Space could be just the ticket. And you’ve got the money to punch it. The associate vice president for naming opportunities awaits your call.

Don’t hesitate, billionaire of our dreams. You aren’t just one in a million. You’ve set your sights even higher, and so have we.

Dan Mackie lives in West Lebanon. He can be reached at dan.mackie@yahoo.com.

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