Monday, October 27, 2008

Retaining Retainers

Irving, my butler for many a year, approached me yesterday with a problem. Apparently the TV cable to the servant's quarters had been inadvertently cut by some oaf hired by the city to clean out culverts. Attempts to have the cable company rectify this situation had all fallen flat, with a series of little trucks appearing off and on, with their occupants all bearing the same message: "Your cable is cut." This Irving already knew. What he wanted was someone to fix the damn thing.

"Well," one cable employee said, "we will need a permit from the city in order to dig. This may take between six and eight weeks." Irving, knowing that the staff would find this intolerable, came to me.

Now it has always been my policy to keep retainers happy, and if access to such things as cable TV fell into this category, so be it. Although why both the upstairs and downstairs maids were so intent on gardening and food channels escaped me. What is "Reality Cooking" anyway? Surely not haute cuisine, a phrase, to my way of thinking, that describes food eaten on the moon. Nevertheless, a happy staff is an industrious staff, and action was called for.

Actually, the whole matter was resolved rather easily. I placed a phone call to the CEO of the cable company (on his private line -- we have had dealings before -- and suggested the problem should get fixed within the next half hour, reminding him as well that I was privy to certain of his actions with regards to just who could, and who couldn't, get the food concessions at a little baseball emporium he owns. Within the aforesaid half hour, three trucks appeared along with a small army of technicians, and all was done, permits be damned. (I suspect he has a number of permits already filled out for just such occasions.)

That night the staff were especially attentive, reinforcing my policy of contentment breeding contentment. As for my own TV needs, a discreet satellite tucked under the east wing eave serves all my HBO needs, a small gift from NASA for certain services rendered in the past.

I wonder, however, what people must go through with cut cable lines when one doesn't have access to the CEO? Perhaps it is just as well that Canada has very strict gun control laws.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Great Financial Fiasco

Well, finally back in Toronto from Washington, and sorry about the delay in writing these little slices of life. The time has been spent in endless meetings with financiers where hands were wrung, sweat wiped from brows, and everyone bemoaning, and bemoaning, It was really sad. I mean, it was not rocket science to see this thing coming. I had, of course, liquidated most of my holdings in mid-2007, following the advice of a good friend (and maybe somewhat more) of my great Aunt Maud, Bernard Baruch, who once said, "I made all my money by selling too early".

The prevailing zeitgeist in Washington was not to do anything, and leave the whole mess in the lap of the incoming President. However, things were a bit too hairy for that, and so massive infusions of capital were decided upon, with the U.S. Government buying into a number of financial institutions. This received my full support -- needs must -- but of course the action provoked howls of outrage from a number of the more diehard Republicans, who saw the dandruffy head of socialism arising. Maybe so, maybe not, but one thing is certain -- the American taxpayer is on the hook for a lot of cash.

Yet all was not entirely gloom and doom. The Watergate being under renovation, I was forced into The Willard, and while sipping a fine martini in the Round Robin bar encountered my old friend, the Compte de Rienville, who had made, and continues to make, a fortune in sugar beets.
Way led on to way, as these things will, and in his five room suite, the earth moved that night. To divulge any other details would be prurient, and sex in the city is not what this column is about. At least not this time.

As for the second major topic in Washington, the election, I will have more to say on this in another post. Suffice it to say that there are troublesome fiscal seas ahead, and a sturdy ship is called for. McCain looks to embark on the U.S.S. Phil Gramm, while Obama hopes to board U.S.S. Paul Krugman. McCain's choice would be a disaster (Gramm saw the Dow Jones Index surpassing 30,00 some six months ago) while Obama's looks shrewd, particularly after Krugman has just received a Nobel Prize for his work in international finance. And if you don't really know who Gramm and Krugman are, well dig, folks, dig -- I am not writing these things for an audience that says, "Oh, who cares what economists think. I don't have to -- I watch Oprah."

See you soon.