'I'd rather die a pauper in the shadow of the libraries of Chicago than roll in wealth in Oklahoma.'
That's what my great grandfather wrote to his (relatively) wealthy family in Oklahoma. To me, it's a really defiant and cool thing to say: knowledge (and maybe even more importantly, the pursuit of knowledge) is worth more than a fancy house or the envy of the other folks in town. He got his wish, actually, dying in a flophouse that was walking distance from a really great library.
I respect the guy tremendously for doing his thing, but I seem to have fallen pretty far from that tree, spending a fair amount of time in Martinsville, IN enjoying a lake house and hot tub and all that noise instead of strugglin' in some metropolis or another. But we do have the internet, wikipedia, all that good stuff now. There's no substitute for a good library (or restaurant, come to think of it - Golden Corral just wasn't doing it for us, and has as much to do with our Exodus from Martinsville as anything else), but if you want to learn a thing or two, or escape from people who don't, you can, easily enough.
He also wrote a book that he believed debunked the theory of evolution, and spent considerable time orating and debating this topic on Bughouse Square in Chicago. He'd be pretty disappointed in my heathen ways.
His was also one of those strange stories where his son, forced to step up because Dad was so often off writing or debating or drinking, turned into a truly amazing individual. WWII veteran, steady provider for a ridiculously huge and coincidentally Catholic family, greatest generation and all that. Maybe a crappy childhood is good for kids? Not unlike in the book Dune, where the Sardaukar are raised in an environment where 6 out of 13 die before the age of 11, so the ones that survive are incredible, merciless warriors? My wife's childhood wasn't always Full House with Bob Saget, and she's pretty amazing, too.
Don't get me wrong, I'm still taking my daughter for ice cream this weekend, I just hope I don't ruin her future by doing so.