And then suddenly, just like magic, I was $600 richer.
SIX HUNDRED DOLLARS!!! OMG!!!
Even to the least contemptuous members of Congress—each of whom is paid $174,000 per year, plus bribes and kickbacks—that figure is apparently an example of what is a lot of money for your average American. At last, I’ve been led to believe that with such an increase in my bank balance I’m suddenly a member of the elite.
With such new-found wealth at my disposal, it seemed like a good time to weigh the various ways I might spend it.
Not to ignore the obvious—food, utilities, car repairs, insurance, medical care—but I want that new-found wealth to be discretionary, to be spent willy-nilly on the luxuries enjoyed by my now-fellow one-percenters.
I might feel more comfortable with my sudden wealth if I dressed more like the other guys at Club One-Percent, now that the venerable 21 Club has closed for good. A new suit, perhaps, and a cashmere sweater for those casual days when chinos seem appropriate.
Brooks Brothers is a reputable men’s clothier and for just $998 (sale price) I can get a Madison Fit Stretch Wool Two-Button 1818 Suit. I don’t know exactly what that means, but the suit looked pretty nice on a guy thirty years my junior. Of course, I’ll need a dress shirt with French cuffs ($75), diamond cuff links ($400), a silk necktie from Passaggio Cravatte ($160), and Brando Semi-Brogue Oxford shoes from Paul Evans ($399). For casual days, those chinos will cost in the neighborhood of $150; that cashmere sweater, a mere $223.
No wonder I feel so impoverished buying a pair of jeans from Costco for $19.
My new-found wealth should allow me to take up golf again. I played Hillcrest Country Club in Los Angeles once and found it to be much to my liking. (Milton Berle was having lunch at the next table.) Founded in 1920 as an alternative to other clubs that didn’t allow Jewish members, the initiation fee today is a mere $185,000. My game would probably be passable there, as the average age of members is 80—each one a pedigreed alta cocker.
Obviously, there are monthly fees. But, as I’ve heard some say, “If you have to ask, you can’t afford it.”
Speaking of affordability, one advertisement I’ve being seeing recently announced that flying hither and yon on private jets is finally affordable. How affordable these luxurious flights are is difficult to ascertain. Skipping around the various websites to hundreds of references in search of pricing led me to believe that perhaps “finally affordable” might apply only to those who don’t have to ask, or at least have a black American Express card—that card with a credit line that allows for the easy purchase of islands, yachts, and helicopters.
I’m looking into making those purchases, although I would prefer a half-mile of private beach in Malibu, a reasonably short limo ride to Hillcrest.
From what I could determine, the easiest way to fly around the country in luxury would be to become a profiler in the Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU) of the FBI on “Criminal Minds.” My favorite part of the show was whenever the agent leading the far-flung investigations in crime-ridden suburbs of Topeka says, “wheels up in thirty.” And the end is always good, as well, when everybody is having cocktails and playing chess, while the narrator reads pithy quotes from Thoreau, Proust, or Groucho Marx.
The super-rich, of course, don’t stand in lines to deal with the pesky TSA, which is why they flit about the world in private jets. They also don’t own Barcalounger chairs with cup holders, or their own bowling balls. What they do share in common is the ownership of influence, which may come in the form of politicians and others charged with public service. It used to be that only members of the organized criminal class owned police captains, judges, and senators—the pezzonovante, as Michael Corleone would say—because nobody else really needed them.
That’s changed, hasn’t it?
Like any of the things mentioned above, I doubt $600 worth of bribes would go too far toward the purchase of unbridled and loyal influence.
I’ve been told that some of the powers-that-be have advised Americans to use their windfalls to start businesses. Short of selling beaded necklaces and trinkets from a blanket on some urban street corner during tourist season, I can’t think of any business start-up one could fund with $600.
Hell, even the Cash Cow Hot Dog Cart will set you back more than three grand, plus delivery.
And besides that, there have been countless, well-established businesses that have haven’t been able to weather the storm brought on by this pandemic. It doesn’t seem like there’s a lot of opportunity on the current business front.
For anyone to suggest that we take $600 and make investments in our futures is about as cynical as one can get. I would imagine that such advice comes with a full serving of condescension and a pat on the head.
My advice is to treat yourself to some small luxury that will ease some of the pain of the last ten months.
Photography by Courtney A. Liska
Soupe aux Choux (Cabbage Soup)
This is my variation of the classic French cabbage soup. Fresh cabbages are blanched, sliced and cooked with smoked sausages, carrots, onions, and chicken stock. The chunky pieces of cabbage and sliced sausages give this hearty soup its character. The soupe au choux, typically made with pork belly, is one of the most iconic French soup there is.
1 medium size cabbage (Savoy or white cabbage)
8 cups of homemade chicken stock or water
1 “horseshoe” of smoked sausage, sliced
1 medium carrot, cut into chunks
1 onion, halved
1 Tbs. butter
salt and pepper
4 slices of bread, toasted and cut into chunks
Quarter the cabbage and place into a pot of cold, salted water. Bring to a boil, then drain and rinse under cold water. When cool enough to handle, coarsely cut the cabbage into chunks. Melt the butter and add the carrot and one half of the onion, chopped. After a minute or two, add half of the cabbage. Layer the sliced sausage on top and nestle in the clove-studded half onion. Cover with the rest of the cabbage and add the chicken stock and season with pepper. Cook over low heat for an hour or so. Serve with the toasted croutons.