Sunday, June 29, 2008

Dirty Money and Pasta Anxiety

We are ensconced now by the sea in Cambria in a vacation house that is extremely comfortable but sort of disappointingly void of character clues to ferret out, like the flotilla of matzah and LDS planner we unearthed in the last rental cabin we occupied. But there are no teddy bears either. There are deer all around which I badly photographed. There were so many friggin’ deer everywhere that I felt sort of stupid for getting all gaga over the first little spotted fawn I spied in the neighbor’s yard. There is a little Virgin Mary fountain there and the car in the drive bears a RIGHT TO LIFE voter bumper sticker. Given this, and while I have all of my medical marijuana ducks in a row, I feel sort creepy about medicating out on the deck. Intolerance to the enlightened use of cannabis is not necessarily part and parcel to hardcore Catholic, but it’s not like there’s death metal blaring and a vegetable oil eating car in the driveway either.

I fumbled with all the impossible Russian names and read to Spuds, a summer reading requirement, 20 pages of War and Peace. I admire the school’s lofty ambitions but I note that Spuds, albeit pretty smart, is TWELVE YEARS OLD and that the teachers are females of the same general age as I, and therefore I surmise that the assignment is evidence of menopause induced insanity. The fifteen year old is condemned to afternoons tapping away with Mavis Beacon, typing being one of the subjects on his summer school schedule. It’s not War and Peace. Himself and I have walked on the beach and read and talked and cuddled. He is obsessed that a bowl of pasta I made be eaten before we leave. I dislike wasting food myself but this friggin’ pasta is really in his craw. I woke in a cold sweat at one a.m. and left the connubial bed and ate a bowl of it just to diminish the quantity. During our walk he mentioned it twice again.

I got note from John O’Malley recently that he won a suit in Las Vegas and I gleaned from the tone that it was a monumental triumph. I ascertained that a tremendous effort and stunning intellectual agility must have gone into winning success in a case of such magnitude. The verdict was forty eight million dollars. This spoke to me but neither of the players were on my radar until I read a story about Sheldon Adelson by Connie Bruck in the NewYorker. This was one of the most deft and nimble profiles I have ever read and it climaxed in John’s recent victory in a case against Adelson for having cut out the guy who facilitated a deal for him.

Adelson is a scrappy Jew from that hearty breed of scrappy Jews from which I am bred. He introduces himself as Sheldon Adelson III. The response to surprise that Adelson’s pop had been a II was, "He wasn’t. I’m the third richest man in America." This is the same sort of joke (too bad he didn’t make the money to tell this one exactly) that my Dad would have told, and told. Adelson started out dicking around and selling packaged toiletries to hotels and anything to make a buck stuff. Like my old man. Like me. He founded the Comdex Convention. He owns the Venetian Hotel, among other concerns, in Las Vegas and having manipulated the first western foothold into the Chinese gambling market in Maccao while screwing over the guy that helped arrange the deal, his fortune exploded into multi -billions.

My sister, in addition to the other attributes made her life a sad one for me to think about, was a compulsive gambler. The economic consequences of this to effect financially my business and family now, nine years after her death. I buy a lottery ticket once in a while but when I think about a man, particularly a Jewish man, making billions and billions of dollars from gambling, knowing the misery and degradation it causes, I’m sickened. Adelson’s wealth has enabled him to wield enormous political power in Israel and his position is staunchly against even the smallest concessions to the Palestine. It is shit like this that makes me fear that organized religion will make the world topple.

I humiliated myself this week and requested a scholarship for the kids to attend the same Jewish sleepover camp which was hugely formative for me some forty years ago. We are lousy about attending temple and flaky about Spuds and Sunday school and while our shabbat observance is pretty regular, except during baseball season, the center of it is usually an "R" rated movie replete with lurid violence, graphic sex and lots of potty talk. I know some of the JCA spiel is Israel stuff that it probably too jingoistic for my tastes but the community experience and the act of worship in nature softened and sweetened my boys and I am determined that they have this again this summer.

I hope too that they attend the Birthright program, which provides any Jewish American teenager a trip to Israel, free for the asking. This program is endowed mainly by Sheldon Adelson and for this opportunity for my own children, I will make the painful judgement call and I will help him launder his money.

My father grew up so destitute that he would exploit any available source of income with no reference check whatsoever. I have refused to provide footage for a number of "right to life spots" and have also, I am embarrassed to say, scrutinized projects of Middle Eastern origin for signs of malice for Israel before committing to them. I have read quite a bit about China recently and I think it would be prudent economically to explore business opportunities there but it is hard to ignore what a cesspool it sounds like. Hating the human right’s violating, pollution spewing, Godless giant that is China is an odd area of convergence for the far left and the evangelical right. There is agreement that things are fucked up but conversely, and probably largely by virtue of this, there are huge fortunes to be earned by westerners who carpe diem pronto. For this one, the good of the world vs. putting food in my children’s mouth, I will do no active outreach specifically for Chinese business, but I will not turn it down if it comes in.

While I was struggling with the application for the camp scholarship I got a call from a researcher to bid on a nice job and I negotiated a nice deal for her client and I had a nice license fee cemented in my brain and heart. Finally, she informed me that the project was for the Boy Scouts of America. There was a pause sufficient for the client to fear disconnection. Himself says I overreact but I would just as soon have my children participate in Hitler Youth or Nascar than let them become card carrying members of the Boy Scouts of America. It’s particularly sad because, and if you’ve read here at all you would agree, the things that the Boy Scouts do and much of their philosophy would be absolutely tonic for my spawn. But there is also that official policy that prohibits gay men from leading troops. It is amazing to me that a group with such an august history of nurturing human relationships and building character would promulgate the fallacy that gay men are pederasts. Far more pedophiles are heterosexual than are homosexual, but lets go ahead and teach our boys to be hateful and fearful of gay men.

I do have hope that Israel will see the fairness of sharing hallowed ground with the Palestinians and that the Boy Scouts too will see the light and maybe even offer a merit badge in Human Sexuality. My kids’ Jew fix is undoubtedly being subsidized by some inevitably dirty money. Likewise, I took the Boy Scout gig and will pray for the organization’s enlightenment while I sign next week’s paychecks. Nothing I’ve read makes me feel very hopeful about China but maybe history will prove me wrong. We are spending shabbat afternoon at that famous monument to diirty money, Hearst Castle and returning to finish that fucking pasta.
Shabbat Shalom.


Cari said...

RE: China..if you haven't already, get your hands on National Geographic May 2008 issue, dedicated in whole to contemporary China, pros and cons.
Re: Deer..after hitting 4 in 4 consecutive years, totaling one car and causing extensive damage to others, they are in my humble opinion, "rats with antlers". Sorry, Bambi.

FionnchĂș said...

You did not mention the follow-up note from the outraged owner of the VRBO proprietess of the "Maisons de Cambria", but discretion may rule. Yes, I did like "long walks on the beach" with you regardless. xxx me