Americana: About the Right to Dream

For Charles Walsh, 54, it was the computer-age equivalent of the BANK ERROR IN YOUR FAVOR card in Monopoly: the Commercial Trust Co. of Jersey City mistakenly notified him that $100,000 had been credited to his account. A bachelor who eked out a living buying and selling coins, Walsh quietly withdrew the money and set out to pursue his modest version of the American dream.

He bought a new car—not a Rolls-Royce but a Ford LTD—and headed west. He stopped in Las Vegas and lost some money gambling, but just a modest amount. He...

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