Monday, February 12, 2007

I'm Baaaaaaak!

Patty (NOT) here

It’s me again. James. The other James. That’s James Grippando.Patty is in the beautiful city of Birmingham today, so she asked me to entertain you. Since I can’t tap dance, this post will have to do.Today’s topic: Colorado.

Friday the Grippando family leaves on its annual ski trip. Wooo-hooo! It’s my favorite family vacation. We do Beaver Creek, which is next door to Vail.

I love Colorado. I love it so much that when I decided to do a book outside Florida, I set it in Colorado. No, I didn’t do it just to make my ski trip tax deductible. I actually had a good reason.The book is called Found Money.
One of my favorite jokes is the old W.C. Fields classic. "Madam, would you sleep with me for a million dollars?" She mulls it over and says, "Yes, I think I would." The man counters, "Would you sleep with me for ten dollars?" Indignant, she asks, "What do you think I am?" His reply: "I think we've already established that. We're merely haggling over the price."

A funny joke. But there's plenty of wisdom in it, too. Do we live on a sliding scale of morality? Does right and wrong depend on how great the temptation is, how high the stakes? Or do we live by a code of moral certainties? Somewhere between those deep questions and the timeless humor of W.C. Fields lies Found Money.I've always been fascinated by the concept of sudden wealth. The way it changes people - friendships, families.

The spark for Found Money was simple enough. My father's cousin bought a new house. He started renovating the basement, and demolished a wall. Behind it, he found a coffee can. Inside the can was cash — $20,000! He knocked down another wall and found another can. In it, another $17,000. His dilemma was this. Should he tell the former owner that he'd packed up and left without his money? Or should he zip his lip and keep the loot?

You may be interested to know that, after several speechs over the years to school children across the country, the vote is in: "finders keepers."

So, you must be wondering: where’s the Colorado connection? When I started writing Found Money, there was the strangest of coincidences. I saw a report on the news that an armored truck overturned on an expressway outside of Denver. Almost a half million dollars spilled out onto the highway. The money blew all over, but most people returned it. All but a few dollars was recovered. Then, about two weeks later, another armored truck overturned, this time on I-95 in Miami. About 400,000 blew into the air. Only one person came forward to return the money, a teenage boy who turned in two dollars. The rest of the loot was gone for good. The city practically threw a parade in this kid’s honor—the only honest person in Miami.The problem I had was this. The key to the plot in Found Money was that my protagonist actually needed to agonize over his decision to either keep or give back the found money.

Obviously, I could not set this story in Miami. There is only so much disbelief that a writer can ask his readers to suspend. So Colorado it is. Good place, good people . . . and good skiing!

James Grippando


  1. What if the house is located in New Jersey?

    And the new owner finds all this stashed cash. And it being "found money," he says, what the hell...and blows it in Atlantic City.

    Turns out a prior owner of the house was Tony Soprano. And when the guy gets back from the Jersey shore, penniless, Tony is sitting in the living room, along with Paulie Walnuts. (Not Polly Levine).

    And Tony says, where's my money?


  2. Oooh, I like it, Polly.

    On the other hand, the money may not belong to the previous owner. What kind of coffee can was it? Was there an expiration date on the can? Did it have one of those keys that you used to have to use to open the can? What if the new owner kept on digging behind those walls and found the previous owner wearing an armored car uniform...

    Thanks for taking over for me, James. You're a prince. Still in Alabama where I'm running into all sorts of NakedAuthors fans!!!!

  3. That's a great story James. It kind of reminds me of the movie 'A Simple Plan' where all kinds of murder and mayhem take place between the dicoverers when they find a downed plane full of money. We came out of the theatre completely de-energized and dazed.

    Welcome back to the Naked Authors lineup - however temporarily. Just so long as Patty doesn't make you wear her dresses whilst you'm pretending to be her. :-D

    Hi Patty. Hope you're having a good time in Alabama. :-D


  4. A Simple Plan was defintely more of an exploration into the dark side than Found Money. But I have to say, I think Paul is on to something (or, perhaps, on something) with Tony Soprano. Nice try on the "expiration date on the can," Patty. I think Tony would have his own idea about expiration dates.

  5. James, lad, good to have you back!

    I don't know, now, what I would do with a stash of money, if I found it, but when I was a kid I would have kept the lot. I desperately wanted a horse, and when I announced this wanting to my mum (I was ten), she just rolled up laughing and said, "Do you think money grows on trees?). Around the same time, there was a notorious crime in Britain dubbed, "The Great Train Robbery," the spoils of which were never found (the spoils being used paper money on its way to be destroyed), though there was a rumor that it was stashed somewhere on a farm in Kent. I lived in Kent, in the midst of several farms. You'd see day trippers coming down from London (and not all my extended family, either) with shovels and bags, and a claim to know someone who knew someone who said the money was in a ditch alongside a hop-garden, or buried in a cattle-field. I confess, my brother and I took to serious searching, clearly to no avail.

    And did you ever see that movie, "Millions," about the little boy who had the cash from a robbery literally land on him - thrown from a train? It was supposed to be picked up by one of the gang, only the boy and his brother had taken it home and stashed it. I adored that film, knowing how much I would have loved to have been that kid when I was about ten, and wanting a horse so badly.

    Reflecting about found money, I think the decision "to keep, or not to keep" would depend entirely upon where I found it. Then, of course, I think of that recent hero, the taxi-driver in New York who ensured that a walled stashed with about five grand, and left in the taxi, was returned to the owner.

  6. "Obviously, I could not set this story in Miami...So Colorado it is. Good place, good people . . . and good skiing!"

    And good tax write off?

  7. Found money in house? Unless the previous owner had a contingency clause on found/hidden things, new homeowner most likely owns it.
    My favorite true story about found money--
    A family sold a house knowing there was a safe for which no one knew the combination and no one wanted to foot the bill to crack it since the wife said nothing important was in it before she died after a long and happy marriage.
    Naturally, the new owners cracked it. Found a modest roll of silver coins dated to the time of the wife's marriage. Most likely it was "get out and run" money if the marriage turned bad since it was almost exactly the amount needed for a first class one-way ticket by train across country.
    But those large stashes of bills? Someone's life savings abandonned so finder's keepers? Or one might ask the US Treasury Dept if any bills with those dates and serial numbers were reported stolen if you care to let a legal creditor recover a loss. Would be interesting to see who owned that property during and right after the dates on the bills.

  8. One girl in the third grade--the exception to the "finders keepers" viewpoint among school children in my sample--focused on the age of the bills. If they were all really old, she'd keep the money, figuring that it wasn't the seller's money anyway (it probably belonged to an owner a really long time ago). If they were new, she would call the owner and say he forgot his money. I thought that was pretty clever for a 3rd grader. Maybe we should throw a parade in her honor, too.