Primum Non Nocere
by Michael Ingles
A hippopotamus can weigh up to 10,000 pounds, and is swift enough to outrun a man. The fastest man in the world is Usain Bolt, of Jamaica. Hippopotami are not native to the islands of the Caribbean.
Given this information; you might surmise that Usain Bolt, need not worry about being overtaken by a hippopotamus running amok on his home island/nation of Jamaica, in the Caribbean. Given particular facts; it’s only reasonable to reach certain assumptions.
1) There is order in civilized society.
2) Capitalism is the mechanism controlling the production of broccoli.
3) Broccoli is a primary source of flatulence.
4) Wealthy people seldom pass gas.
5) Flatulence is a significant source of greenhouse gases.
Considering these gastronomical assertions, you might necessarily deduce that capitalism is a pox on the planet, and it’s not wealthy people, but capitalism that stinks.
There are no guarantees in life. On that reflective week between Christmas and New Year, my son and daughter came for a visit to my home in Connecticut. It had been unusually warm for the start of winter season. Still it was comforting to be near New York City, and watch a great city adorn itself during the holidays; no matter what the weather it’s always a privilege and one that I cherish. I had planned to offer my son guidance. I had presupposed that I would afford my children absolution. I knew they might very well decide to disregard my request; what I deemed to be their sacred obligation. I was careful to avoid the broccoli and cheese appetizers, and sat downwind. Cognac was to be served.
Conceivably a rogue hippopotamus could escape a zoo in Kingston, Jamaica and ramble onto the outdoor track where Usain Bolt practices the 100 meters; squashing him like an atom in the Large Hadron Collider, located on the Swiss-French border.
The Hadron Collider is seventeen miles long; its circumference is much too small for a Hippopotamus.
I’ve written a book; a satirical account of rogue capitalism, replete with scholarly semicolons. My son is humorless; he’s a college student, not a capitalist. William is not in the book.
I don’t particularly enjoy writing.
Two literary stalwarts in New York City, Bob Diforio and Martin Asher, are trying to determine if my book is worthy of publication. Meanwhile I wait. I spend time looking up certain facts on the Internet; how much does a hippo weigh, and who is the world’s fastest man, and where Kingston, Jamaica is on Google Earth. I drink a bit. I’m a little stir crazy, but that’s okay. I can afford to be a little of this and a little of that. My family is and probably will always be rich, or more properly wealthy. If you’re not sure of the difference, then don’t kid yourself; you’re not a capitalist. Maintaining your family’s money is a derivative of capitalism. It takes little effort. I’m perfect for the job.
Logic demands that given certain information, you might reason, since I’m wealthy and will probably always be, at least rich, and since I don’t like writing, and because my novel is a spoof on capitalism and acquiring ill-gotten wealth, and because I know exactly where to place coordinating commas within a run-on sentence; having never learned anything more about writing than this peculiar art at Brown University, but having learned the science of Economics at the University of Chicago, under the tutelage of Dr. Milton Friedman, the Nobel Prize winning economist, and wondering just how far this run-on sentence can go, without losing the point of this diatribe, if there is a point, while maintaining your fast attention. There I’ve stopped, 118 words. Go ahead and have a sip of coffee or a shot of something brown. Which reminds me of Brown University, where I learned to type, got laid, got hammered, got married, and learned about the Oxford comma, and occasionally the irreverent use of semicolons.
As you might properly surmise, my father, who is also wealthy and who has always been wealthy, is not proud. My stint at the University of Chicago was his idea. Father was concerned that I might grow to be a bum, or a socialist, or worse, a democrat! Little d. But Father needn’t have worried; my having used the social engineering knowledge attained from Brown University, about the unequal and debilitating derivatives capitalism places on a free and open society, and the pertinent use of semicolons, went for naught. He had nothing to fear. I have never had the courage to face the convictions of my youth. I had too much time; I had too much money. I acquiesced to the information taken from university; I am more equal than my fellow citizens.
From the novel “Animal Farm”: “All Animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
Do they still read dystopian books at university nowadays? Semicolons, colons and socialistic novellas, such as “Animal Farm” are primarily what a liberal education is all about. Little l.
My first and second wives were blond, as were my first and second children. I’m bald now; but I once had long brown hair, shoulder length, and wavy. Blond, college aged women liked my hair, and my liberalism, and my semicolons. I was not unhandsome; a double negative, which I follow with this dependent clause, followed by a semicolon; followed by this independent clause, in order that I might make the effect of the earlier comma grammatically satisfying. My children are satisfying; William attended Princeton University, and Margo is flunking out of Dartmouth College. The difference between a college and a university is semantics nowadays; at one time colleges were four-year institutions that offered narrow choices in their degree programs, whereas universities offered postgraduate degrees and a multitude of different core curricula. You might also notice that I do enjoy a good compound word occasionally. My son, William wants to change the world; he’s my eldest, and I presume he’s been contemplating placing our family trusts into a non-profit charity, to be distributed to the poor when it’s his turn to takeover control of our family’s fortune. Keeping only a stipend to see his way through ten years of Ivy League schooling; so he might prove his worth as a man by making his own way in life, and thereby establishing his own fortune. But I wondered, for whom will he amass this newfound fortune? Please notice the correct usage of the word whom, object of the preposition--for. And now I suppose, you will cry foul! Say that I ended this last sentence with a preposition. Ending a sentence with a preposition is no sin nowadays. Things change. Nowadays is a lovely compound word; I’ve used it thrice already. I had decided to send William off to the University of Chicago for some grounding. I was sure he knew almost nothing about Capitalism (often capitalized at the U. of C., and in The Wall Street Journal and Forbes); but like his father he would be expected to learn; like his father he would make the proper decisions when it came time to manage the family’s money. Margo, my daughter, is a rebel; a rich rebel. She hopes to inhale or ingest every psychotic drug known to mankind; she tells her girlfriends she is a “doer of boozers”; meaning she takes sexual gratification in getting laid by brewski-guzzling fraternity brats. She has a non-stimulated vagina; this is hereditary. There is little or no feeling in and around her vagina By taken on as many partners as she can she is rebelling against her biological dysfunction. This pulsation problem can be corrected by a fairly simple operation, but I had chosen not to let her know this in hopes that she would not become promiscuous in her college days. It didn’t work. There is an economic and social law covering this irony called, the law of unintended consequences. And you think wealthy people don’t have problems. I was going to make this a run-on paragraph, but I’m bored with it and don’t like the subject. I’ve stopped.
Martha Stewart, collects hippopotamus dung in cowpie form, flattens it with a rolling pin, grounds it into a fine powder, and uses it to make a bread served with Chinese foods. She calls it, Dung-pi; it’s a delicacy in certain European capitols.
That’s not true. I made that up. This is what writers of great fiction do with their time; they make up facts that are interesting and worlds in which you might believe. However, I’ve not been entirely dishonest with you; my son and daughter are real. As is Usain Bolt, and the Large Hadron Collider, and I am rich, or more properly wealthy. And those two guys in New York do have my book trying to decide if it’s worthy to be published. I can be trusted to tell the truth 77% of the time. Sometimes, I drink too much. Cheers!
My Great-Great-Grandfather established our family’s fortune. He founded one of the first aluminum extrusion plants in the world just as aviation hit its peak during World War Two; when wealthy, intelligent human beings decided it would be okay to drop incendiary bombs on innocent bystanders from 10,000 feet. Then my Great-Grandfather took this fortune and expanded upon it by developing and manufacturing aluminum siding for tract houses being built in the 1940’s and 1950’s; when the GIs were coming home from war with their fists full of discharge money, and their G.I. Bill financing.
When an employee of my Grandfather’s aluminum plant discovered how to form plastic granules into vinyl siding, our family went from being rich to becoming wealthy. My father took this wealth and sold plastic car parts to General Motors, and Ford, and Chrysler; he effectively doubled my Grandfathers wealth.
The half-life of some plastics is 10,000 years! Our planet is full of unwanted plastics. Landfills can’t be reclaimed because of all the plastics imbedded in the soil. If I had to clean up the mess my forefathers have made planting plastics in the soil, and be responsible for all the flatulence they left behind to corrode our pungent Ozone Layer, it would take more money than my family’s various trusts could bear. That’s bear as in endure and not bear as in the animal. The haze you see around the corona of a full moon is acerbic, Hydrogen sulfide and methane; which comes from the flatus of bears and humans and hippos. But I don’t feel guilty about my forefathers shaping this malodorous universe to fit our purposes any longer. However, I fear my son William has a young man’s heart and utopian dreams founded by reading used inexpensive novellas at a liberal arts college. After four years he thinks he’s a little d democrat. It’s my duty to show him he’s wrong; that wealth has its privilege, but wealth also warrants responsibility, along with the proper urbane use of our elite little semicolon.
I had already accepted the fact that William would try convincing me he wanted nothing to do with our family’s money, and the trusts that I rely on for my livelihood. Isn’t livelihood a perfectly marvelous example of a compound word? No? William graduated with a degree in Social Psychology, spring quarter. Social Psychology is a perfect major for a postgraduate degree in Economics. Most people don’t realize that Economics is a social science; they think it has something to do with mathematics or statistics; in reality Economics is the study of what people will do with scare resources and cowpies. Okay not cowpies. I made that up. But I did induce a compound sentence using two semicolons, and without using a FANBOYS connector. They don’t teach that at the University of Chicago!
I realized that I must be resourceful; I was aware that I must fine-tune my message; I was confident I would be able to convince my young steed to embrace the family fortune; persuade him that his duty was to carry on the tradition of family responsibility. Three! The late novelist, Kurt Vonnegut Jr. distrusted semicolons, and said they were useless, and only served to show that the writer had been to college. Most less-informed people use a period to end a sentence, and start a new sentence with a capital letter. Vonnegut went to Cornell. e.e. cummings, the poet, so distrusted capital letters that he refused to use them; the punctuation in his poetry is indeed odd; he attended Harvard University. Martha Stewart went to Barnard College, never graduated, and is one of the wealthiest mens rea, capitalist in the United States; she is the riches ex-con in Connecticut; that’s not an easy thing to be. There’s a lot of money in cowpies! Cow flatulence is also regarded as a threat to our atmosphere. Spewing methane gas across the cosmos. Scientists are now extrapolating cow farted gas vapors to power electric substations in the Bronx. Okay, I made that up.
At two O’clock in my study, my son, daughter, and I spent an enlightening, but brief talk about wealth and capitalization. Not how and what should be started with a capital letter, but the way in which we use money to improve production. And we discussed, Gini Coefficients, and marginal tax rates, and what people will do with scarce resources. Gini Coefficient, or GC is the measurement of the disparity of the wealthy and the poor in a country. My children didn’t realize we were discussing economic theory; they assumed we were talking about family trusts. I wanted to take a moment to explain to them that although, I never took much interest in managing the holdings of our fortune; had I not been born into wealth; I would have been a most productive citizen. However, because I was burdened with all that money, it was my responsibility not to enlarge our family empire. Once again I have failed miserably. I thought that by choosing to become a nihilist, I had selected a most noble vocation to dedicate as my life’s work. I believed I was helping untold millions of poor people not to become poorer. There are just so many pieces in the American pie.
In 1978, while at the University of Chicago, I wrote my doctoral thesis, on the macroeconomic and mathematics certainty, that the United States of America would run out (here I pause just long enough to explain that I feel the two words run and out should be joined to make a new compound word, runout, and I am hopeful the new editor of the Cambridge Dictionary will agree) of useful work and employment for the majority of its citizenry by the year 2022. For those of you without math degrees, or a Texas Instruments calculator, this equates to 44 years; the irony being that Texas Instruments calculators are made in Holland nowadays. Forth time using this most nimble word.
I was able to prove, scientifically, and with economic certainty, that the demand for labor would be so sporadic and uneven that 53% unemployment would be the acceptable norm by 2022; only people holding postgraduate degrees from Ivy League schools, M.I.T., Cal Poly Tech, and the U. of Chicago would have paying jobs. I further clarified with the assertion that because of the demise of labor unions, and therefore decent paying blue-collar jobs, most people would be working for food and not wages. Car production would diminish to absolute zero; home ownership would fall to levels of pre-World War One; education in public schools would become worthless; food production would be taken over by conglomerates running artificial farms and laboratories, where they’d distribute foodstuffs such as synthetic cheeses, oat fiber, and dehydrated broccoli; bundled with Tripotassium Phosphate and good old Tocopherols; increasing flatulence and methane gas to attack the corona of the moon. The military would be the largest employer in the United States; the masses would pray for war even though they would have to rationalize the slaughter of innocent people with deadly, invisible drones at 10,000 feet!
Five semicolons in a single sentence is a record in the, Southern Cross Review! SCR is published by college graduates; the average college graduate jettisons intestinal gases 14 times a day!
The primary economic problems associated with American Capitalism are insatiability and ego; my family was living proof. There is nobody to blame. My Great-Great-Grandfather wanted for his family what all people want for their families; he wanted more. Great-Grandfather suffered from the same malady; wishing for a worry free life for his progeny. Grandfather relished the idea of never-ending prosperity, and my father asked that I try to improve upon the family fortune, explaining that it was our destiny to provide jobs and the dignity of work for the workingman.
Workingman is a lovely compound word; it sounds rugged and connotes images of unshaven men in a Steinbeck novel, stooping on the thin dust; I now have an irresistible inkling to wear a denim blue cotton shirt with rolled up sleeves, and smoke a Shag cigarette, and grow unruly hair on my balding head. But I don’t smoke; and can no longer grown hair on my domed head. Technology and science have rapidly improved productivity in the American economy; marginal tax rates in foreign countries have dropped dramatically; over the past thirty years, most large companies have exported labor-intense jobs to 3rd world countries; leaving small business to be the engine of job growth in America. Most employment created by small businesses are positions offering little pay and few benefits; necessitated by the fact that the owners must keep labor cost down to become competitive and profitable, but still needing their employees to work hard and to be productive. Quite a paradox, but wealthy capitalists and the minion politicians we afforded had the answer: Import more people into America, to create competition for these low paying jobs.
This works well during periods of growth, but as we are finding out today, during periods of recession, it’s like being run over by a rogue hippo in the deep white sands of a Caribbean island; you just can’t seem to get any traction; even if you’re as nimble-footed as Usain Bolt, of Jamaica. Sometimes I feel as clairvoyant as a tealeaf reader. A tealeaf reader is a character in my unpublished book, which the two literary capitalist in New York are discussing over lunch at a swanky restaurant; where they can rip open my heart and dissect it with a nice chardonnay, and finish with strawberry cheesecake. Tax Deductible!
My children met with me in the study of my colonial house with five bedrooms, six baths and a pool. I live alone except for Mrs. Lilly. It’s the smallest house in this gated community. Mrs. Lilly, my housekeeper, was to have the study warmed with a fire, and a bottle of Hennessey Paradis Cognac. She has been with me for sixteen years. She has also been blessed with a son and a daughter. Her son is in lockup for dealing drugs, and her daughter is at Spencer Community College, studying culinary arts. She aced her midterms with a sizzling dish I suggested called, Dung-pi flambé. Okay, that’s not true.
I was in a bar having a beverage when I was struck with the magic of this wonderful compound word--notwithstanding. Wow! I wrote it on a paper napkin and stuck it down my pants. When you say it, it’s like vocal orgasm. It's a lawyerlike word and so when I got home I had to use it right away, I wrote to my family trusts attorneys:
Humpstead, Deuschbag and Grammercocki,
Attorneys at Law
Inasmuch, and notwithstanding, the lawyerlike disemboguement, whatchamacallit, of my family’s various trusts downwind and upward of duties better suited by my housekeeper, this unhandsome workingwoman, everyman, would better administer my livelihood, henceforth and with aforethought do ordain and afterthought nevertheless better reason to not forward this compound message, compounded by compound words, therefore you needn’t reply.
At two o’clock, Miss Lilly said it was too warm to have a fire; she hid the Cognac again. No matter. All I needed to do was remember what my father had said to me when I was young and liberal and learning about semicolons. I tried to recall the highlights of a conversation I had nearly thirty years ago. I called Father to tell him I was about to have the meeting all wealthy fathers must have with their progeny after sending them off to a liberal arts school for four years.
Father is retired in Arizona and in Monaco. He reads The Wall Street Journal everyday. Our trusts were designed to afford both of us three million dollars a year, and for us to live tax-free in Monaco. I can’t spend three million dollars a year. I don’t speak French or Monegasque. I freckle. William and Margo will be given one million dollars a year, with additional funds increased every ten years, until they reach their cap of three million dollars. Of course, this is adjusted for inflation; we wouldn’t want them to starve. If you’re fairly bright and enjoy math, you can figure out how large our family trusts are with these additional dollops of information; our fortune was established assuming our investments would offer a return of 7.2% interest per year, acquired from inception in 1957, with average annual inflation of 2.2%. But over the past twenty years, our investments have produced an average yearly increase of a whopping 37% in non-taxable earnings; inflation has been nearly flat, due to the stagnation in middleclass wages. I have gone forward and multiplied; with little effort expended. Laws have been changed to allow our trusts to take advantage of certain loopholes created by politicians and money managers feeding these denizens. These assumptions were also included in my doctoral thesis. There was a time when we wealthy folk had to worry about the whims of free-market capitalism, and our fortunes being subjected to the, ups and downs, up and downs, in stock prices and tumbling exchange rates. No more. We have learned how to insure ourselves against these pitfalls; when we can’t, we simply have the government bail out our investments. Pitfalls and loopholes are handy compound words. I must write a letter to my attorneys soon.
Margo arrived first.
“Hi Margo, you’re looking well.”
“Thanks Father. Has William arrived?”
“No, and I’m glad you got home first. Sit down a moment dear. I’ve something to discuss with you.”
Margo took a seat on a leather chair across from the vacant fire. She tried to smile, but I’m afraid she’s disremembered how to smile when in my company. That’s okay; I’m not supposed to be her BFF. I really like what this generation has done with the English language; they’ve simplified it by using acronyms; one day some smart college graduate might reduce Othello to a two-page brochure with stick drawings. While I’m thinking about this there is a debilitating silence in the room; I fumble for my glasses. Mrs. Lilly enters the study with a tray of lemonade, and a few pecan-candy cookies she’s made with a recipe taken from a Martha Stewart cookbook. Cookbook is a straightforward kind of compound word; there could be no misconstruing a grounded word like cookbook. It’s a word that says, “Don’t try reducing me to slang or abbreviation cocksucker.” LOL. Which reminds me of Margo.
“Margo, I’ve asked you and your brother home to discuss some very boring thoughts about your inheritance. Before we get around to all of that, it’s my cumbersome job to explain that we’ve received information about a delicate medical condition you’ve apparently been suffering with for a long while. I would like to tell you I’m sorry; I didn’t know. I wish, for your sake and mine your mother could be here. But she’s in Europe and so it’s left to me to tell you that Dr. Imue has suggested you have an operation to repair a female part, so that you might function properly.”
“So that I a might function properly! Is that what you said Father-functioning properly! I don’t think I want to discuss this now.” Her shoulders drooped, she hung her blond head, and her eyes disappeared from my sight. I sometimes wonder what the emotional defect is that causes such embarrassment to fathers and daughters when talking about the female anatomy, when I know full well she shares her body so willingly with total strangers.
“It’s a fairly simple surgery. It can be done as an outpatient, as I understand things. Isn’t outpatient a lovely compound word?”
“Father please! Don’t start with your idiotic talk about the beauty of compound words! Not now. Not ever. I’ll wait until Mother returns and discuss getting ‘functioning properly’ with her.”
“I’m afraid you’re boyfriends will be disappointed. Your BFF Mother will not be back for a month. But college kids are resourceful nowadays; they’ll find something else or someone who is functioning properly to entertain themselves with. Isn’t nowada…”
I excused myself and found my way to the bathroom down the front hall. The mirror was deceitful once again, and promoted the reflection of an old man. I tried to figure out why it is that our conversations always end with me upsetting her with language, and vilifying her with guilt; the only two weapons I have been left with in my convoluted existence. I love her and want the best for her. But that never seems to be what comes out of my mouth. I blame the English language.
On the tiny island/nation of, Wannatutu, all adjectives and nouns are compound words and joined together like: greatfish or bigtits. And, you may only use one verb with each adjective/noun; so a typical sentence is, “greatfish swims” or “bigtits bounce.” There are no wealthy people on the island, and therefore no politicians to buy or coerce into changing the laws. No one can own land; all the land belongs to the “Keeper of the Palms.” Marriage is almost always forever; the exception being that if you want to divorce your partner, you must paddle an eight-foot dingy four miles out to sea, and catch a marlin that’s at least as long as your boat, as an offering to your father-in-law. Few have the courage to seek separation, or as the natives call it fuckbuddy dump. Sons and daughters must gather food for their fathers in the mornings, and in the afternoons, when they all sit down to a nice meal to discuss the sweet potato crop this year. There is quite a bit more information about Wannatutu in my little book about capitalism. If those satiated guys in New York City ever get off the schnide.
I went back into the study; William had arrived. He was eating a cookie and drinking a beer. He and Margo were whispering. There are mirrors on both the east and west walls; my children’s reflections became multiples of hundreds, perhaps thousands.
“Good to see you sir,” he said, as he reached out his well-tanned hand, and handsome manicured fingers.
“Sit down son, you too Margo. Welcome home. I’ve been following your progress in school; William it looks as though you’re about to graduate. Margo, you have a little more work to do. Regardless, children soon you will both be given an extraordinary opportunity and responsibility. As you may be aware our family’s money has been placed in trusts. Soon you kids will takeover control of these assets. I can quite understand given the amount of poverty you young people are exposed to in the media, and you see in the streets and shelters of America, that you might wish to help those less fortunate by giving away or sharing a great deal of this money. While I find these traits quite admirable, I’m afraid …”
“Excuse me for butting in Father, but Margo and I have no desire to share our wealth with anyone but ourselves.”
He was smiling at me; I felt as though I’d been undressed; my penis assumed it had been exposed and shriveled to the size of a bee-bee.
“I can’t imagine why you felt Margo and I would wish to give any part of our family’s fortune away. Why should we? There are the higher and the lower in society; we are not ashamed of our wealth; on the contrary we relish our birthright; who better than we to tether the reins of unruly capitalism.”
He took a swig of his beer to flush down the cookie, and made a grotesque snorting noise. Margo studied her nails; they were short and pink, like a hog’s snout; my children reminded me of the piglets within a famous novella.
“Have you kids ever read “Animal Farm”? It’s about horses and sheep and ungrateful piglets.”
“Is it fiction Father?” Margo looked up from examining her fingertips. “No one reads fiction anymore.”
“I just though maybe in high school or something,”
“I saw an animated movie like that when I was about three or four” continued the fruit of my bee-bee loin. “Didn’t make much sense to me then. Although, I remember I did like the floppy ears on the donkey.”
“Students within our class primarily read non-fiction books by Zuckerman or Laura Ingraham. Or perhaps sort through magazines like, The Weekly Standard or, The National Review. Nobody cares about made-up worlds; we have our own world to manage.”
“You know Margo,” interrupted William, “the Journal had a must-read about investing in gold and yen and staying away from American stocks for a time. They were right about all that fed money helping Goldman Sacks’ stocks; now they’re warning about double-digit inflation next year. Some economists are expecting we’ll need a return on investments of 50% just to overcome lost opportunity cost!”
I excused myself once again, and scurried off into the bathroom. I began to consider if having this meeting was worth the emotional capital; I had to wonder if having a conversation with these two junior-grade capitalists was worth the cost of doing business. I felt as though I had been punched in the stomach after eating Shepherds Pie.
Martha Stewarts’ Jailhouse Recipe for Shepherds Pie:
1. Ask the warden for an oven. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Season lamb generously with salt and pepper. Working in batches, cook until golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.
2. Slip into your best prison-issue pajamas. Reduce heat to medium. Add onion and garlic to pot, and cook until softened, about 4 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in wine, bring to a boil, and cook for 1 minute.
3. Ask your cellmate to give you some space. Add browned lamb, stock, bay leaf, and thyme to pot. Bring to a simmer; cover, and transfer to oven. Cook for 2 hours.
4. Write a flowery last will and testament, leaving your entire estate to your dog. Add parsnips, celery root, and cipollini, and cook until vegetables and meat are tender, about 1 hour.
5. Drink a quart of juniper berries gin provided by the gals up on C Deck. Bring potatoes to a boil in a pot of salted water. Press hot potatoes through a ricer into pot. Add cream, butter, and 2 teaspoons salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until warmed through.
6. Call your best friend, minister, priest, rabbi or imam to say so long, explain that it was you all along, who was the devious accomplice of, Lee Harvey Oswald, hiding on the grassy knoll, and that you know where Teamsters president, Jimmy Hoffa’s, hat is buried, and Elvis has been your houseguest for 33 years! Using a slotted spoon, transfer lamb to a dish, reserving sauce. Remove meat from bones, shredding it into bite-size pieces. Skim fat from sauce. Discard bay leaf and thyme. Return meat to sauce in pot, and add peas. Season with salt and pepper.
7. Leave your dog one last MilkBone treat, and a kiss on the nose. Preheat boiler then spoon lamb into a 6-cup baking dish adding just enough sauce to moisten; reserve remaining sauce. Spread potatoes over lamb. Broil until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Serve immediately with reserved sauce and a side of Dung-pi.
8. Turn on gas, and stick your head into the oven.
While sitting on the toilet I recalled why I had named my daughter, Margo. She was named after the Mexican actress, María Margarita Guadalupe Teresa Estela Bolado Castilla y O'Donnell, whose stage name was Margo. She starred in the World War Two movie “Gangway for Tomorrow,” about five people who all work at a munitions plant and carpool together; each of their lives is examined, and although they think they know one another well; they really don’t know squat. It’s one of my favorite movies.
William is named after my Great Uncle William, who served on the Secret Service detail guarding, President Kennedy. Great Uncle William worked the nightshift, and after President Kennedy was assassinated he wrote a book about the nocturnal comings and goings of our 35th President. The book was never published; Uncle William didn’t know squat about commas and semicolons; and knew nothing about the reverence that civilized people gave to a president back then, dead or alive. The book would be an Oprah! blockbuster today.
There are over one hundred semicolons in this homily, which should be enough to prove worthy of publication even in a magazine as prestigious as the Southern Cross Review.
Back in the study with my capitalist kids, I asked if they had considered what charitable organizations they would like to support with their trusts. There was a quantum of edgy silence in the room; abated by my mumbling suggestion that I had several brochures and pamphlets laid out on a parsons table with information about worthy charitable organizations I had supported. There was St Jude Children’s Research, and Save the Children, and the Greenpeace Fund Inc., and the American Kidney Fund, and National Jewish Health, and even the Elephant Sanctuary of Tennessee. Altogether, I had contacted over forty worthy charities in which my children could take pride in watching their fortune make a difference in the quality of life of those less fortunate.
“Father,” whispered William with a condescending smile, “this is not the 70’s. We will invest in whatever Humpstead, Deuschbag, and Grammercocki advise us. They have the latest information on that sort of thing.”
“After all Father, they have served you and grandfather well over the years,” explained Margo. “Charities come and go, but money must be revered; must be allowed to grow at all cost. Our attorneys know the better tax structures and the best way for us to invest in charity, if that sort of thing is useful. We’re not distrustful of philanthropy; only cautious of the rewards.”
I reached for the Martha Stewart cookies, “Have a cookie,” I said. All those children in the mirrors had one.
Here, I should say something about the times we now live in, as opposed to the time when all those longhaired types nurtured me on a college campus, and I suckled at the teat of paperback books written by, Vonnegut and Baldwin and Ginsberg and Pynchon. And, I suppose I should say something about the apple not falling far from the tree, and it’s not anybody fault that the world has changed, became a harder, colder, more crowded place. But somehow I feel more complete, and better connected than my egotistical offspring, although I know the root of our disease is the same. That day was the last time I spoke with William and Margo. The snow has finally started to accumulate in the hills, and there is a thin white crust covering the ground around my patio. As it turned out, I had nothing to fear but fear itself, that my little porkers would squander the family riches on the unwashed. On the contrary these two indifferent hams believe in the, Marie Antoinette School of Wealth, "qu'ils mangent de labr brioche.” Eating cake and that sort of thing. 97% of the cake in America is baked by a handful of wealthy pastry chefs.
Margo has since had her vagina physically repaired. In keeping with the universal, laws of unintended consequences, she is contemplating being gay. I sent William off to The University of California at Berkeley, to become a more rounded individual. He’s started a “Young Republicans Club.” Capital R. I’m happy to report that they have only six members. Most of them are poor, but with big egos and high expectations!
Back in 1978, I never received my PhD. in Economics. My dissertation was passed over. My counselor was alarmed at the conclusions of my thesis and contacted Father. There was some discussion about sending me away for a rest. But when I realized how untenable I had made the economic philosophy of my family and my professor. I decided to incorporate the mantra of “This above all else do no harm.” And so I complied. In urban terms, I sold out. Given certain facts, I reasoned that it might be best if I did nothing to try to increase my family’s fortune, thereby saving a bigger piece of the cake for my fellow citizens. And so I acted like I had the biggest snout at the trough, and spent money like a prince of Dubai. The conclusions of my doctoral thesis scared the hibigeebies out of my father, but like most economists, I was wrong about my macro assumptions, or at least nearly wrong. There was that pesky economic, law of unintended consequences, which I had overlooked. By leaving the investments to be managed by lawyers and politicians and economists our family’s fortune increased tenfold over what I could have done if left to advance the money on my own talents. Our hired help made us so much money that I couldn’t have spent all of it in a hundred lifetimes, no matter how gluttonous my ambitions. God forgive me. So, now I’ve decided to do the only thing that makes sense. I will takeover control of the family’s trusts. Try my best to increase our fortune and fail miserably, which I have always done. I will sit back and watch as my piglets run off to become feral hogs, which when left alone can grow to be as large as a gluttonous hippo.
So now we have come full circle.
And I will keep on writing, although I do so with disdain, and a shot of Jack Daniels, neat, by my side. If those two cheesecakes in New York don’t give me an answer on publishing my little book soon then I will self publish. It will be the first investment I make in managing our family’s trusts. The book will cost about six bucks to print and five bucks to distribute. Being a rogue capitalist, on a heartfelt mission, I will sell the book for a dollar. If I can sell 30 million copies a year for forty years our trusts will be about even from its inception back in 1957. Henceforward, I will give up on all those snooty semicolons. Each time I have a complete thought, along with a verb and a subject, I will a use period to end the sentence. Start a new sentence with a capital letter. From this moment on I will instead explore the varying uses of ellipses in punctuation.
[Wish me luck!]
© 2010 Michael Ingles