UNITED STATES—It was a waste of time to see “My Fair Lady,” what a pile of crap, seeing a 15-year-old show. On the plus side, it took my mind off my own business troubles and everybody’s abuzz about Nixon. Thank G-d nobody needled me for being a supporter, but a guy like Nixon was great for Allied Fruit. Once we left Lincoln Center, it came back with redoubled force: I needed to press graphite to paper and write inconsolable etudes to debentures.
I had my secrets, like a shine for the Great Poet. It would seem incongruous that his verse, an unlikely pairing with me the head of Allied Brands, would appeal, and it was a way of punishing and cleansing, purging the inherited blood on my hands.
Inscrutable are the ways of the L-rd, and it is possible, if implausible that all the macabre machine and the sins of the Allied Fruit Company came from the same mold. Just some restless goyim who had already set the wheels in motion ions ago. Eve had already given birth and Adam was just carried along…
“Lecha lech,” (Go forth, move! “is what I heard facing the quarter-inch-thick tempered glass in the 55th floor office. These exact words are what Abraham heard G-d tell him when it came time to go forth to the Promised land. So I went for it—the big leap. Who am I to ignore the words of the Almighty.
Tell you what: my Promised Land was not where Sam Delaney found it, and as I looked into the company the cash flow wasn’t there, the corporate structure had stagnated. With the look of cigarettes that have guttered out, it looked like a bunch of old train depots going to pot as jungle crept in, the vines and the scorpions, the railroads, the schools, the hospitals, the administrative offices windows broken and dusty, their decrepitude revealed by a sharp cone of sun. What divine force allowed it to fall into the state of ruination I saw doing a glad-handing trip to Bananaland. There was a joke that the Allied Fruit Co., hired an architect of train deports for everything.
The Poet came out better than most—he got a good poem out of it, yes he did. They passed it around the office and snickered about it, were afraid I’d find it, but they had nothing to fear. More than likely El Che Guevara got a eureka when he read the Poet’s poem on Allied Fruit as he was morphing from physician to revolutionary:
When the trumpet blared, and everything was prepared on the earth, and Jehovah doled out Caoca-Cola Inc., Anaconda, Ford motors, and other enterprises: the Fruit Co., Inc was reserved for the most succulent, the central coast of my earth, the sweet slender waist of America. The new lands were christened as “Banana Republics,” and over their sleeping dead, over their restless heroes who conquered the grandeur, the liberty and the flags, established a comic opera: banished free will, gifted crowns of Caesar, unleashed envy, unleashed the dictatorship of the flies, the Trujillo flies, the Tacho flies, Carías flies, Ubico flies, humid flies of humble blood and strawberry jam, drunken flies that buzz over mass graves, circus flies, wise flies well-versed in tyranny, Among the bloodthirsty flies the Fruit Co. sailed away, dragging coffee and tropical fruit, in their ships that glided along like platters piled high the treasure of our submerged land. . . (translated from the Spanish by Graydon Miller)
I saw an easy opening, the stock price was way down, I bought 755,000 shares, and became the largest shareholder. I patted myself for being the Wizard of Vertical integration: I selling them the banana peels and now we’re growing the bananas. When I got home to out Park Avenue apartment, Rega said, “What did you do today?” I said, “Rega, I bought ourselves a Banana Republic…”
I felt bad about that the minute it slipped out of my mouth. Honesty, such a lonely word. There’s a boy’s club around and you get trapped into moronic locker-room speech to show off sometimes. Like why did I tell that guy who interviewed me and brought up that I had been a rabbi did I, “Forget about the rabbi business.”
Take two steps back, Max, and better yet three…
But Rega had a way of making things all right. “You’re right, Max,” she said. “We need a new nana for Lily and Sarah.”
Gosh, Rega and I were having two different conversations. Isn’t that how it always is. I felt better for awhile. Still, the more I looked at it, the worse it got. The stock was in the doldrums when I first saw it, and I thought there’s something worthwhile. The kind of bargain I looked for: overlooked and undervalued.
To be continued…
Grady is the Wizard of Fiction