...gets a call from
National Leadership Award
cut him off right there. "How much is it?"
"Three hundred dollars," he said, his tone now quite
Its 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. Thats
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
"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 Bubbys, 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 Bubbys 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 Bubbys 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.
"Thats great, son," he said. "What does that mean,
"I assume I at least get a plaque out of it," I answered smugly,
knowing full well that he didnt have any kind of National Leadership
Award plaque in his office. "I have to go," I said, "Well
talk soon." I called my mother, both of my ninety-something year
old grandmothers, and some friends I hadnt seen in
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 wouldnt 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 Delays 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. "
is not available right now, but perhaps I can help you," he was
very accommodating and had a helpful tone in his voice. Im Matt
"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. Thats 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 its 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 arent anything worth noting. I wish they would
legalize pot; thats 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. Im not without
political feeling. But I could never pound a podium or anything. I couldnt
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
Then Matt Anderson came back on the line. "Did you get all of that?"
he asked me politely.
"Yes, Matt, I did. Whats the deal? Did I win an award? And
how much is it going to cost me?"
"It doesnt have to cost you anything," he assured me.
"And yes, youve 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 Im 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. "Were 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 whos getting
the break, and whos 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
Presidents 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 dont 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 didnt
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, youve done a good job."
But I have a spot cleared on the office wall for when that plaque gets
Ronald Silver 2003
Like this? Then pop into Bubby's 120 Hudson Street to tell him so.
So also Big
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