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Joining the 1%

One day I walked out, and what do you think I found just lying there on the pavement but ten billion buckaroos. It must have fallen out of somebody’s pocket. I decided to join the 1%. On the way home I hired a lawyer, accountant, publicist, personal assistant, and ordered my trophy-wife. I hired a security company who promised to secure the perimeter as soon as I had a perimeter to secure. I knew having these billions made me a target.

Before I even got back to my apartment I was very pleased to be violently slammed to the ground by two monumental thugs, Bill and Bill (not their real names). They picked me up, dusted me off, and congratulated me on having survived a close call. They displayed credentials from my newly hired security outfit and announced that from then on they would be my personal bodyguards. Henceforth, they were to accompany me everywhere, even to the toilet. They were authorized to slam me to the ground to save my life whenever they sniffed a threat. Apparently they had both passed some rigorous course and were paid up members of the International Brotherhood of Henchmen. Potential kidnappers, they explained, were multiplying in the shadows. And some of them were certainly state sponsored. Only deluxe coverage can really protect against that sort of thing. I immediately upped my coverage to “deluxe.”

Ten billion smackers doesn’t go far these days so I told my personal assistant to find out what sort of schmoozing opportunities with other “people of the clouds” I could possibly take advantage of to double, triple and quadruple my dough. Nouveaumulti-billionaires have a hard time being accepted by the crème de la crème. But I was feeling lucky and full of chutzpah, or at any rate ready to use extremely bad manners in service to myself.

Turns out the major league schmoozing is in the Hamptons. My house in the Hamptons was a steal at a hundred mil. But I had to add another twenty for the tower the security outfit needed for “horizon to horizon” protection. And I had to up my coverage to super deluxe to get the extra thugs required to supply “full spectrum” lock down of the perimeter. The ten mil for bleeding-edge XWF (not the real designation) radar I don’t count because I will get to keep the system even if I and my security outfit ever bid one another adieu.

My house had a nice long rectangular pool beside a wonderful terrace made of flagstone hewn from the rock face twenty thousand feet up Mount Everest and trekked down by Sherpas who were paid a pittance. In the pool I floated inflatable swans upon which languid neighborhood trophy-wives could wile away the hours while I drank single malt scotch and schmoozed with their big-hitter husbands who would, once we were chums, let fall knowledge with which I could double, triple and quadruple my moola. Then I would contribute to the good of mankind, namely, myself. And if the wives were big-hitters they were welcome to the party. I’m no sexist when it comes to money. I poured Champagne for the trophy-wife and myself and we waited for the neighbors to drop by.

Soon I began to feel like the proverbial guy without a yacht to piss in. What, exactly, was wrong with me? Entertaining opportunities were passing me by. I took comfort in the fact that I was a newbie. I could learn. I vowed to have parties. But before that I thought I should be on the safe side so I checked with my insurance guy. Naturally, with all those potential attorney-enabled people, security had to be number one, and I added a “special occasions” rider onto my security policy. That allowed for extra thugs on a per Diem basis in times of great need. If, God forbid, some breech occured and terrorists wiped out a certain percentage of my guests I didn’t want to be one of those guys whom the “all due care” criteria jumps up and bites the ass. It meant paying another umpteen thugs to creep around and sniff for danger up every cranny, but that is a small price to pay when you consider that having to go to court is no picnic.

I dumped my lawyer, accountant, broker, and publicist. They couldn’t think outside the box. They couldn’t raise their games to the next level. I had outgrown them. I hired top drawer replacements. The security outfit took my trophy-wife to their secret “trophy-wife care facility” where she was put in hospice and her court-appointed guardian persuaded to sign the divorce papers. They only charged ten percent of what she might have gotten in a settlement. Then they helped me with the paperwork for getting a new trophy-wife, one of their operatives. That would, they said, plug the last hole in their coverage.

For security reasons, I cannot name my security outfit. My new trophy-wife slash operative I will call M14 though that is not her real number. M14 looked and played the public part of trophy wife. But I must admit that this combination trophy-wife/operative was not my cup of tea, for she was quite a bit more operative than trophy-wife. I did convince her to come to bed with only an AK-47 and to leave the RPG’s in her Hope Chest. But she insisted on keeping the semi-automatic between us. She said it was for my own protection. Security again. Alas, true love eluded M14 and myself.

Just when I thought all was lost, I found the guy to build my yacht. He is known only by his first name, actually his first initial, G (not his real initial). That’s because otherwise he would have too much business. I mean he is not the guy: he is THE guy. To get him to build you a yacht you have to know someone who knows someone. Normally you have to apply and he has to find you worthy. You wouldn’t believe the big names G has told to go fuck themselves. Most of them scurried out of town with their tails between their legs. G already has enough orders to keep him busy until doomsday. His claim to fame is his mastery of rare woods—teak from Borneo, a special ironwood from a sacred grove near Machu Picchu, you name it. If it’s wood, G has turned it into paneling, exquisite paneling. Some pretty big names have allegedly been rendered speechless with admiration when faced with G’s paneling. He spends much of each year in the outback searching for wood. Forests are where the wood is, but G wants it clearly understood that he does not call what the average tree is made of “wood”.

G’s yachts smugly outclass everything else on the bounding main. Sleek but not too shiny is his motto. It is said that his boats look like boats. Old school. And, as luck would have it, he and the head of my security outfit, known simply as “Head” to his friends, go way back. That was why I got slotted in, at of course a hefty surcharge, ahead of a very big name who must remain nameless.

Head (whoever he is) also convinced me that he couldn’t provide sufficient security on the yacht no matter how many thugs were crawling all over it. Threats can come from anywhere on the planet. We needed a cutter to accompany the yacht, a sister ship with sufficient fire-power to blow any fucking thing they might send at us out of the God damned water and/or fucking sky. For there are people who want to kill people like me and, he revealed, to kill me in particular. He mentioned only an agent of an obscure shady group as subtle as germs who goes by the nom de guerre of Fred.

But G was not the man to build this cutter. Apparently a Romanian, Nigulescu (not his real name), was the cat’s pajamas of private high-tech naval escort craft. Trouble was Nigulescu’s reputation rested on his use of high tech shit he wasn’t supposed to know dick about. Legally, nobody was supposed to suspect that that shit even existed. Of course it was just that bleeding-edge unauthorized high-tech shit that drew big names to Nigulescu like flies in the first place.

As soon as the cutter was launched it was a hot potato. If Uncle Sam got a whiff of the cutter I would probably have enjoyed a substantial stretch in the slammer. And that’s if I was lucky enough to convince The Uncle that I knew nothing about all that high tech shit. Otherwise it would likely be curtains. We had to launch the cutter in the dead of night to slip past the harbor guys. It was forced to tootle around in circles in the middle of the ocean while waiting for completion of the yacht. If it docked outside the sacred American shores, Uncle Samuel’s enemies might confiscate it for the high-tech shit that Negulescu had crammed into its bowels. They would break the cutter down into a million tiny pieces and reverse engineer the high tech shit to sell knockoffs on eBay. That would endanger national security. There really was no place for the cutter to dock except under the protection of the pricey former SEAL team Head added to my policy at substantial cost.

The need to keep under the official radar made refueling the cutter a headache. The cutter could only land by deploying the SEAL team as an invasion force to secure the gas pump. And then there was the race to beat the harbor patrol out into open water and escape. I was afraid they would twig that the cutter belonged to me. Everyone involved, including me, was cruising for a long stretch in the hoosegow just for being involved, however remotely, with the cutter and its purloined high tech shit. The thought that Uncle Sam might at that moment be looking to bump me off crossed my mind. Every time the cutter picked up fuel I became persona non grata in a new country if they ever figured out who I was. Luckily we found an unstable corrupt banana republic that I was more than happy to do business with.. One of Head’s friends just happened to run the place, and we stashed the cutter there at a rather exorbitant fee. But we had to double the number of operatives on board to protect the cutter from the insurgents who roamed the neighborhood hills and refused to embrace Western ideals.

The yacht wasn’t finished because G was waiting for some birds-eye maple he found during one of his treks into the once-frozen Canadian north. G had gone ga-ga over this particular log and hired some mountain dudes to haul it back at my expense a thousand miles to the nearest sawmill that met with G’s approval. Apparently they had stopped at one too many bars along the way and were cooling their heels in some half-baked lockup. Meanwhile I remained in the Hamptons, twiddling my thumbs and worrying about the cutter.

But it was not all bad. During this time I attained what we in the Hamptons call “grudging acceptance”. This I achieved when Robbie McMaster (not his real name) strolled past with his tennis racket. For it is well known that the young Hamptonians dropping by and lounging at their ease with their tennis rackets beside your pool proves that you are accepted. However, Robbie did not drop by and lounge. He merely strolled past, which meant I had been grudgingly accepted. But because I was always worried that Uncle Sam had twigged to the cutter and might show up at any moment to drag me off to the slammer, I was unable to fully enjoy my hard-won grudging acceptance.

I knew, and they knew, that all I had was my billions. They had that je ne sais qua. That made life rough. I can’t tell you how many times I and trophy-wife, M14, sat out by the pool thinking positive up the yin-yang. Not so much as a beach ball with a child chasing it came wafting from the lively yard just on the other side of the hedge. We ended up talking, against Head’s strict instructions, to Bill and Bill, my two mountainous bodyguards, thus voiding my security outfit’s responsibilities under our contract. Grudging acceptance can take you only so far. Schmoozing opportunities were nil.

But one day Harry the Horse (not his real name) sauntered up. Harry noted that I had security. Duh? What did he think I was, an idiot? Harry’s security guys were nowhere to be seen, though they had to be there somewhere. Turned out Harry paid extra for “discrete security,” and it was completely undetectable. Everyone had “discrete” these days, Harry let drop. Right there I upped my policy to super deluxe “discrete”. All my security guys melted into air, just like Harry’s. “The Hamptons are so much nicer without thugs roaming around everywhere,” I nearly blurted out. But before blundering into what would have been an appalling gaffe, I woke up on the precipice of what was nearly a fatal faux pas. Noticing thugs in the Hamptons is like worrying about earthquakes in California? Just not done.

In passing Harry mentioned his safe room and asked where mine was.“You never use it, but if you need it, its there,” Harry explained. Apparently something ( Harry wouldn’t say what) happened to somebody ( Harry wouldn’t say to whom.) some time ago. Now everyone had to have a safe room. Without one I couldn’t expect to be accepted in the neighborhood. Would I ever be able to live with myself if something happened to my trophy-wife? The thought of someone trying to molest M14 had me rolling around on the Mount Everest flagstone and begging for mercy.

I was lucky that a fairly decent chunk could be dynamited out of the center of the house to make way for the safe room. Harry advised that this be done with “stealth construction” so that nobody would know that I had a safe room. M (not his real initial), Harry’s friend, did all the stealth construction in the Hamptons. M hired Fun Films Inc. to provide distraction by pretending to make a war movie on the beach while we did the deed. They scheduled Normandy to coincide with the detonation of M’s explosive charges. M smuggled in a crew of starvelings from a famine stricken land to silently masticate the debris that was once the heart of the house and so prepare for the disposal of the now more-manageable, thoroughly-masticated, completely-untraceable “cud” through a narrow tunnel system of M’s devising.

M brought in homeless cave-dwellers to build the underground tunnel through which to move the cud from the house to the beach in secret. Illegal pre-school orphans from war-torn countries backpacked the cud through the narrow dust-clogged tunnels. At tunnels end undocumented aliens fleeing persecution loaded the cud on a garbage scow. Rogue sanitation engineers towed the cud-loaded scow out to sea where they dumped the cud in the ocean in the dead of night. And no one was the wiser, because none of these dudes would ever be believed if he went canary. And if one did, M knew a guy who knew a guy who would blow him the fuck away. The construction crew who then showed up in the morning carried tennis rackets to allay suspicion. All this cost me a bundle

I was really excited when the safe room was finally finished. I pushed a button hidden in some molding and a panel (lined with birds-eye maple to subtly echo the yacht’s future paneling) slid into a pocket-wall and revealed the safe room. It was glorious. I went in and found the button to close the panel. It closed with a solid thunk. Perfect silence. No one would suspect I was in here. There was a small kitchen and bathroom. I could stay in here for days, weeks. And M had been so clever that no one was likely to notice the missing space. Or the missing person, for that matter. M14 certainly wouldn’t cotton to my absence. She barely looked up from oiling her weapon. I hadn’t even seen the Bills since I signed up for “discrete” security. I could hide out there if the Feds traced the cutter back to me. I didn’t relish making tracks and going on the lam like certain oligarchs who shall remain nameless now lying low on the international space station. I was alone. I looked around and realized I had duplicated my old apartment, but without windows.

 

 

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Michael Doliner studied with Hannah Arendt at the University of Chicago and has taught at Valparaiso University and Ithaca College.

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