21st Century
The Future
World Travel
Books & Film
Original Fiction
Opinion & Lifestyle
News Analysis now
Film Space
Movies in depth
Kid's Books
Reviews & stories
Dreamscapes Two
More Original Fiction
Lifestyles Archive
Politics & Living



The International Writers Magazine: New York Living

The Roman Empire Right here, right now
•Dean Borok
Nobody ever got rich from working, and I am a sterling example of that precept. My old boss, Pops, used to repeatedly tell me, “You are as ethical a person as I know.” This coming from one of the most accomplished thieves in the Metropolitan Area (this was back in the relatively innocent era when stealing was measured in the millions, as opposed to the modern standard of billions). Pops brought me up to industrial-scale standards of thievery from the Sponge Bob Squarepants world of bottom-feeding where I had previously resided.


We were ostensibly in the fashion line of work but everybody had a sideline. Pops got indicted for, get this, counterfeiting and went through a two-year trial in federal court before squeaking out an acquittal. He spent his mornings at the court building trying to stay out of jail, and then he would come to the office and attempt to steal whatever he could in the afternoon. Not that he was involved with engraving plants and printing presses. Pops didn’t have the hands for work. He was a concept guy, at the investment end. What he lacked in brains he made up for in terms of distilled venal greed. Pops was like a fine Swiss movement of perpetual larceny. When he would praise me for my honesty, it was an expression of confidence that I wouldn’t steal from him. Maybe it was a veiled insult.

That’s how you achieve true popularity in New York – you get the thieves on your side. Witness Mayor Bloomberg’s immense success. He hasn’t made any enemies despite so many years of swimming with the sharks. This reminds me of former Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley, who never touched a dime and lived all his life in a modest bungalow in the working-class Bridgeport neighborhood, but that doesn’t mean that he ever stood in the way of permitting his colleagues to do what they did best.

That doesn’t mean that Bloomie doesn’t know what’s going on. Bloomberg Business News is not here to bury Caesar, but to praise him. A comprehensive appreciation of finance has to arrive at the conclusion of a vast racketeering enterprise. People used to get thrown in jail for expressing this fact, but the tsunami of destruction unleashed by a methodical deconstruction of regulatory oversight over the last generation is forcing people to confront the magnitude of the vampirism that has drained the liquidity out of the system.

The emperor has no clothes, and all the tailors have moved to China. In other words, nobody can even get a handle to understand the system, much less correct it. As you know, economics is an art, not a science, so any kind of crackpot notions can be brought to bear. All those economists drawing big salaries are being forced to admit that they are clueless.

I spent an unfortunate afternoon with a couple of friends of my girlfriend, Magpie, tooling around the Connecticut countryside in their red Mercedes convertible. Let’s call them Tweety and Sylvester. I must admit that they were less than enthralled to be in my presence. Try to imagine: he was a securities analyst for Citicorp and she was a lawyer with a JD. I, on the other hand, was an accessory designer whose job had been outsourced to China and who had used his retirement money to retrain as a paralegal, and was working as a coding supervisor for a legal services firm, far lower than they on the social hierarchy of the Upper East Side. Nevertheless, when they came to pick me up, I was still living in a fancy prewar building on East 83rd Street with an elaborate stone façade.

Despite my reduced circumstances, which I was convinced were temporary, I had still retained my original élan. Instead of wearing the prescribed uniform of the day for a car ride in the Connecticut countryside, which is the autumnal forest greens and browns portrayed in the Thanksgiving dinner scene of Woody Allen’s picture “Annie Hall”, I opted for the iconoclastic black leather jeans and motorcycle jacket more appropriate to a moshpit punch-up at CBGB’s. Call it antisocial perversity if you wish, but I still felt that I had some latitude for sartorial expressionism.

Unfortunately, Tweety and Sylvester were conventional people, and if you expected to remain in their company you had better be conventional too. In addition to which, they were hierarchical, meaning that those with less money deferred to those with more money, and it was their car. I had been much reduced for what was going on several years now. None of this was my idea. As usual, Magpie had dragged me into a social situation that was an ill fit for me because, modern New York woman that she was, she insisted on having a man in tow.

I was not in my element. In a society of artists and writers, I might have had a better chance, but in an environment of bankers and lawyers, I was soon reduced to the role of a pestilential presence better ignored and avoided, which is what I was. I first tried being friendly and joking with them from the back seat. I played them the Grace Jones arrangement of “La Vie en Rose” on the harmonica, which was met with revulsion. Eventually, on the way back, I was reduced to the role of a dog in the back seat of their Mercedes convertible while they conducted a three-way conversation about New York City real estate valuations and who had what money. It was reminiscent of being on a smarmy Sunday afternoon car ride in my grandfather’s Dodge sedan when I was a baby, except these idiots were still on the bright side of 30, but with prehistoric consciousness. That really smarted, to be treated like hamburger by these somnambulant twits. I resolved that this would not happen again. And it didn’t. For years after that, when Magpie and I would run into these jackasses, I would blatantly ignore them.

Maybe I am being overly judgmental. If I were driving a red Mercedes convertible and I had a joker in the back seat who was wearing a leather suit and playing the harmonica, would I have accorded the guy much respect? Maybe, depending on the arrangement (which was OK). If the guy had told me that he was in a major biography of Saul Bellow that had just been released that week, I hope that I would have at least withheld judgment until I saw the book. I’m a liberal person, and I like to feel that I am at least a little comprehensive, given that amazing things happen in New York on a daily basis.

Later on the facts did emerge. After reading the passages about me in the Bellow book (standing up in the bookstore), these idiots decided that I would be appropriate company to pursue their social climbing agenda. But I had moved on by then, you better believe it.

The facts I learned about Tweety and Sylvester from the information that Magpie subsequently revealed to me convinced me that my instincts about them were entirely correct, that they were totally phony. Despite the fact that Tweety had her JD and bar certification, she had not been able to support herself in New York City, even though her father was paying her rent. Like a lot of ambitious young women, she had induced her parents to subsidize her rent in Manhattan in the hope of her snagging a husband who would support her, which she had succeeded at accomplishing. Prior to that, she had been so strapped that my girlfriend, Magpie, had had to convince her to invest $40 for a pair of stylish shoes. Now that she had netted the sucker and was sitting in the front seat of his convertible, she felt comfortably in the position of disdaining me. It’s so laughable. Her husband, Sylvester, had an accounting degree and was recruited and trained by Citicorp as a bond analyst. Fantastic, except that since that time, Citicorp stock has sunk like a stone from $100 a share to an adjusted price of 25¢ a share. Fine job. Nevertheless, these two are still living on Park Avenue. It’s an entitlement program for Long Island preppies. These kinds of people are complaining about freeloading welfare cases purchasing macaroni dinners on food stamps, while they themselves are living on Park Avenue on the government’s dime (Citicorp is now 100% owned by the Fed). Of course, I didn’t know any of this on the day in question. I thought I was being snubbed by big shots.

This roundabout explanation is meant to lead back to the Madoff racket in the sense that Bernard Madoff, who is serving life plus 150 years in federal prison, and his imbecilic brother, Peter, who has copped guilty to enabling the thefts as director of compliance and is facing a 10-year sentence and forfeiture of all his assets, had installed Madoff’s niece, Shana, who also has her JD, as the company’s head compliance attorney.

What do you do as the head compliance attorney for a racketeering enterprise? Nothing,OK? Steal. Her job was to extract funds for her own spending purposes. According to The Wall Street Journal, the trustee seeking to recover funds for victims of the Madoff fraud is seeking to recover $15.2 million in transfers to Shana Madoff, including $4.6 million in salaries and bonuses (“You’ve been doing such a fine job of doing nothing, we decided to grant you a little bonus. Keep up the good work”); $2.9 million to buy a summer house in East Hampton; $242,000 for Manhattan rent payments and, get this, $374,860 for clothing and cosmetics. $375,000 for cosmetics! Believe me, she don’t look that great! Totally ordinary. For that kind of money she could have bought one of those French face transplants, and a personality transplant to match. Without ever having met her, I guarantee you that had I been seated beside her at a dinner party, I would have been sadly disappointed. On the other hand, I don’t guess Shana Madoff would have been enthralled to be in my company either. As Magpie’s brother-in-law, Great Rockhead, once critiqued me, “You shouldn’t be living uptown. You’re not pretentious enough,” and he didn’t mean it as a compliment.

An Internet blogger, James Irwin, had the inspiration to write a science fiction story called “Rome Sweet Rome”, where a company of U.S. Marines is inadvertently shifted back in time and vanquishes the whole Roman Empire, which is causing an Internet sensation. My first thought was that the concept was so low-minded and trivial, the equivalent of a Marvel comic book! I figured that it would have been much cooler to bring the Roman Empire up to modern times, where they would hold the world in thrall by the use of modern legions equipped with jet bombers and artillery, but retaining the core elements of slavery, poisoning and conspiracy. But upon further reflection, I decided, why bother? We got the Roman Empire right now!

© Dean Borok - 200motels July 2012
Any Given Friday in New York
Dean Borok

The workplace may not be an equitable standard for evaluating people’s character. I always killed myself to do the job, but it availed me little.

Share |
More Comment


© Hackwriters 1999-2012 all rights reserved - all comments are the writers' own responsibility - no liability accepted by or affiliates.