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Hacktreks Travel

Hacktreks 2

First Chapters

in New York

Ronald Silver

...gets a call from
Congressman Delay
The National Leadership Award

I cut him off right there. "How much is it?"
"Three hundred dollars," he said, his tone now quite matter-of-fact.

It’s a struggle living in the world today what with war on the horizon, scandal and vicious thievery in our corporations, obesity and low test-scores in our citizenry, and a dearth of leadership in our politicians. That’s why I was so excited when my assistant Christina beeped me on the walky-talky one day last autumn, just before the primary elections, to tell me that I had won an award.
"What do you mean an award?" I beeped back. "What kind of award?"
"You won a National Leadership Award. Congressman Tom Delay called you in person!" she beeped.
"No." I beeped back in disbelief. Why would Congressman Delay give me an award? I wondered. I tried to recount and list any possible reasons for being so deserving of an actual award from congress. Perhaps it was because I have been in business, running Bubby’s, a perfectly good restaurant, for twelve years, helping make Tribeca a community before it was the most expensive real estate in the country. Perhaps it was Bubby’s proximity to the World Trade Center, and Delay was only trying to exploit our traumatized neighborhood by having a few poster-child posters made up: a blown-up four-color image of him giving us the helpful handshake and the big wide smile. Or perhaps it was because he found out that Bubby’s is a sucker for giving donations to schools, art openings, AIDS organizations, neighborhood functions, PTA meetings, soccer teams, and the like, and maybe we surpassed some magical "petty donors of America" mark that triggered congress to acknowledge all those brownies and dinners for two. A bona fide plaque will come out of this, I thought proudly.
I called my ex-step dad to tell him. "I won a National Leadership Award," I said proudly.
"That’s great, son," he said. "What does that mean, exactly?"
"I assume I at least get a plaque out of it," I answered smugly, knowing full well that he didn’t have any kind of National Leadership Award plaque in his office. "I have to go," I said, "We’ll talk soon." I called my mother, both of my ninety-something year old grandmothers, and some friends I hadn’t seen in… awhile.

I wanted to find out the details of the award before I sent out a general mass e-mail with the announcement or changed my stationery, so I called the number Christina had given me over the hand-held.
"Hello. This is House Whip Tom Delay. If you wouldn’t mind holding for one moment…" began the recording. It is a rude product of this society that we are asked to telephone someone and then are greeted by a machine with manners. It was at this point that I first wondered if I even wanted this goddamned award. But, having already told everyone about it, and requested special sensual favors from my lovely wife for being such an esteemed citizen, it seemed worth the time on hold to at least find out what this award was all about. I was only on hold for about fifteen seconds before a charming young man answered.
"Thank you for calling Representative Delay’s Office, this is Matt speaking."
"Yes Matt. I need to speak with Charleen." Christina had told me to ask for Charleen.
"Yes Mr. Silver…" There was something very pop-psych in the way he said ‘yes’ when he meant ‘no’. "…Charleen is not available right now, but perhaps I can help you," he was very accommodating and had a helpful tone in his voice. I’m Matt Anderson."
"Mr. Anderson, I received a call from Congressman Tom Delay this afternoon regarding some kind of award I have supposedly been awarded," I explained dryly.
"Yes, Mr. Silver. That’s right. In fact, I would like to play a message for you from Congressman Delay himself." Matt Anderson was making me feel real proud right about then, something in his voice just made my chest swell and the tears pool.
"A recording?" I asked.
"Yes," assured Matt Anderson, "hold on. Here is Tom Delay."

I heard the click of a button, then a moment of silence and then, the voice of himself, "Hello, this is Congressman Tom Delay. Thank you for taking time to call. The United States Congress needs to hear from small business people like you, to hear just what it’s like out there, and to hear how much a tax-break would help you. Your voice is important to congress, and we want you to help us shape policy that will help small businessmen like you in communities like yours. Thank you. Please hold on and someone will be right back with you."

Why would congress want to hear from me? I wondered and continued to hold. My politics aren’t anything worth noting. I wish they would legalize pot; that’s my biggest concern. I wish more people would vote. I was upset on election night when the news announced the winner before the winner had stolen the election by creating confusion at the polls in the state where his brother was governor. I’m not without political feeling. But I could never pound a podium or anything. I couldn’t sit in front of one of those microphones in congress and spout my opinions in front of the news cameras. But, perhaps congress will ask me what it was like being in business in downtown Manhattan after Al Qaeda mowed down six or eight perfectly fine buildings. I thought of a few more reasons why House Whip Tom Delay, and, as he said, all of congress, wanted to hear from me. It was still worth holding for, and so I continued to hold as the constantly replaying message so politely asked me to do.
Then Matt Anderson came back on the line. "Did you get all of that?" he asked me politely.
"Yes, Matt, I did. What’s the deal? Did I win an award? And how much is it going to cost me?"
"It doesn’t have to cost you anything," he assured me. "And yes, you’ve won a National Leadership Award."
"Is this some kind of political scheme?" I asked, showing more skepticism than I had in conveying the honor to my grandmothers and everyone. "Because I’m not a Republican," I informed him, remembering then that I am a registered Democrat, even though my participation in the party has been less that visible, and my respect for either party even less.
"The question is, do you want a tax cut?" Matt asked frankly.
"Well, Matt, it depends," I said. "We’re on the verge of a war. Tax revenues are down. Unemployment is skyrocketing. The United States has one of the lowest tax rates in the civilized world. And gasoline prices are cheap enough to allow every Jones in the country to drive a Sport Utility Vehicle. I suppose it depends who’s getting the break, and who’s going to suffer for it. Now, what is the story on this award?" I wanted that plaque.
"Mr. Silver, the National Leadership committee is asking if you can participate, as a local business man, in a full-page ad, your name printed right there in the New York Times asking congress to pass the President’s upcoming tax plan…"
I cut him off right there. "How much is it?"
"Three hundred dollars," he said, his tone now quite matter-of-fact.
"Will I get the award if I don’t pay the money?" I asked.
"Absolutely," he assured me, and he took down all my information and said I would be hearing from them soon.

These are hard-times, and running a restaurant in downtown Manhattan these days is not the champagne-and-roses life it once was, plus being a father, and newly married for a second time, well, I quickly forgot about my National Leadership Award. My grandmothers have known me long enough to know that some of what I say comes to pass, and some of it just passes away quietly. Even my ex-step dad apparently didn’t take my NLA seriously enough to ask if I had received my plaque yet.
But, as a National Leader I looked forward to sharing my views with the good Congressman. I sent him a letter, followed by an email inquiring after my award, asking if he would ring me back. I have been waiting around evenings for the phone to ring, expecting a call, but so far there has been no attempt to reach out, to say: "come on down to Washington, DC and shake my hand, you’ve done a good job." But I have a spot cleared on the office wall for when that plaque gets there.

© Ronald Silver 2003

Like this? Then pop into Bubby's 120 Hudson Street to tell him so.

So also Big Brother Gates

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