Sunday, June 08, 2014

Mike's Story Part 44 - The Importance of Being Ernest

 By Jenna Orkin    

February 13, 2007

Missing Ten Grand, Continued: 

   “Dumb question: How do we know it wasn’t just some employee who scribbled a signature, said, ‘Sorry, my dad’s taken ill,’ and quit the next day?”

   Mike nodded.  “You have enough bills, the Mylar can be scanned.  You don’t know what Mylar is?  It’s a code like RF fucking ID.”  He took out a fifty dollar bill and held it up to the light.  Towards one of the short edges a lead line was visible.  I knew about that line but didn't know its name.
   “A postal worker would have scanned it and taken it to an Inspector," he went on.  "They don’t just take packages like this.  It could be being tracked by Karl Rove.  They know the CIA sends packages; some are decoys.  That’s how some of the [I didn't catch the word] got caught in LAPD.”

   If Ray asks questions, he could get the sender in trouble: Ten thousand dollars is the threshold for an investigation into money-laundering and terrorist financing.

   Mike looked at me as we faced the insolubility of the problem.  “It isn’t you.  You couldn’t be more kind, more loving.”

   “I could be smarter about who the enemy is.  I may have been the one who tipped them off.”

   “That’s just fate.  Don’t blame yourself.”

   When Mike got out of the shower, I showed him a video that had been sent of an interview between him and an FTW reader.  

   “That man is dead.  He’s gone,” Mike said flatly.  “What’s left is this shell.”

   “And the people who loved you before love you even more now.” I was thinking of a Peak Oil activist in New York who'd been helping with the books as well as of the people who’d written from everywhere from Thailand to South Africa to Norway.

   “That’s probably true.” 

   We sat in silence while he ate lunch.  Pressing on my mind was the urge to tell him that his thinking wasn’t straight.  If money was the problem, I could help.  If the problem was that the government would pounce if he spoke, well, he’d often maintained that he had said everything he had to say anyway.

   “I keep thinking about that judo principle,” I said.  “Use the enemy’s weight against him.”

   “I know judo and I don’t understand what you mean by that.”

   “The enemy is using you against yourself.  They’re using you as a weapon against yourself.”

   “Ten thousand dollars gone.  Are you suggesting I do a jig about that?”

   “No, but anger is not the same thing as what you’re talking about doing.”

   “What do I have?  There’s nothing.”

   “There’s me.”

   “No offense darling," he said, making an effort to keep the sarcasm out of his voice, "but you’re not the universe.”

   “Not me personally; the resources I’m offering.  What kind of asshole do you think I am?”

   “Resources...  I don’t need resources.  I need a miracle.

   'How can they be so cruel?” he asked rhetorically.

   “Probably it’s like the people flying airplanes who dropped bombs on civilians; they couldn’t see the damage they were doing.

   ‘Or for that matter, all of us who live well while other people are starving.  It would be morally reprehensible to eat gelato if a starving person was sitting here.  Why is it OK if they’re far away so you can’t see them?”

   “You’re not a murderer for eating gelato.”

   “It’s not illegal but it may still be immoral.”  Morals are mores; ethics in the ether.  It’s OK because everyone around also does it.

   As he got ready to go to his psychiatrist’s he said, “I don’t have anything in my pockets.”
   Like a gun?  What did he mean?  But I didn’t ask as I didn’t want to imply a belief that he was at imminent risk of suicide; perhaps the mere comment itself could exert influence of the wrong kind. 
   Meanwhile the New York Times published a front page story about how Cesar Borja, the latest Ground Zero worker to die of his exposure to 9/11 dust, did not, as previously stated in the Daily News, rush downtown on 9/11.  The implication was that therefore his illness was not related to the disaster.
   This revelation was intended to undermine claims linking terminal illnesses to the air quality following the attacks, not to mention questioning the heroism of some of those filing for compensation.  The irony is that it hadn't been Borja's family who put out the "myth."  On the contrary, they were the ones who brought attention to the inaccuracies.  But such details tend to get lost in the ensuing brouhaha.
   This imbroglio was one of a string of such sordid efforts which would come to include allegations that James Zadroga, for whom the 9/11 Health and Compensation Act was ultimately named, was a drug addict.  He did require painkillers at the end of his 35 year life but was not capable of administering them himself; that tragic task fell to his parents since his wife had died, partly, the family believed, from the stress of tending to his illness.  (Zadroga's father, Joseph, said privately that when James Zadroga died, his daughter told her grandparents, "I knew he was sick; I just didn't know it would be so fast." She was four years old.)
   The media furor functioned as an obstacle along the road to securing health care by Senator Hillary Clinton and Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney who'd invited Borja's 21-year-old son to the State of the Union address. (Borja Sr. died on the eve of the event.)  In addition, it distracted readers from recognizing an inconvenient truth:  If Borja had died of his exposure without working on the pile, the implications were even more dire for residents, students and office workers. 
   Great news.  The package was signed for by someone called “Ernest” (not his real name) at Ray’s house.  The money might be gone but at least not due to government interference.    

   Mike said if that money didn’t come through, he "didn’t know what [he] might do."

   “This is going to make you mad but I have to say it again,” I said.  “If it’s the money, that can be replaced.”  That seems sappy of me now but he was truly suicidal, I was acutely aware this was a once-in-a-lifetime event and I didn't want to look back some day and think, "If only I'd offered..."

   “As a man, I can’t accept what you're saying.”

   “You take donations all the time, including from me.  Is it easier when you’re not living with the person?”

   “But I’m in love with you....”  He stopped.  “That’s all the more reason I should take it, isn’t it?”

   For the rest of the evening, he was calmer which was further enhanced by a Scotch and a beer.

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