I confess: I hated paying taxes. Wherever I have lived and worked before, I have tried to avoid it, to escape it, or to defer it as much as possible.
I liked to get the cash into my hands, rather than fill and feed those cards or bank accounts. Some people called me old fashioned! Others said I have been poisoned with the ideas of anarchy, and my way would lead me to crime or criminals one day.
“Well,” thought I, “not bad: being old fashioned is not a crime.”
For your information, the heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano also accepted only cash, in a time of cheques! So I was not a great anachronism, I just loved to sense the cash. Nothing personal – with all those scandals, schemes and suicidal tendencies in today’s business-like supreme financial spheres, I have simply lost any trust in the banks, their plastic cards and their e-money.
As for the route to crime – you know, I was not going to enter into politics or to wage wars, and thus I felt no closer to criminals than, say, to the Martians.
It depends how you classify it and what you consider to be a crime!
My way was almost as innocent as the wolf’s in the wild forest. The wolf wants to eat – would you penalise him for that?! The wolf wants to be free in his choice of what to eat; so do I.
For me, the freedom, so much talked about and advertised in America over recent centuries, is an ability to live my own life with no pressure on me from all those loafers who tax me and suck from my pocket to create all that nonsense they call “stability”.
“Hey, you guys at the top, d’you hear me now?! I don’t need your stability! It becomes way too expensive for a guy like me! Ok, call me what you will, but I consider myself a ‘cautious tax payer’; too cautious to follow every bill I receive, and that’s why I try to receive as few bills as possible. Easy living when you are bill-less!”
One day, going about my lovely smuggling job, I crossed the border with Mexico to meet a client of mine, to whom I was delivering … books! Yeah, a strange business.
He had opened a sort of public library in his home. A large house, lots of space, and it was like a kingdom for the books. He did not let the people take the books outside, but he let them read in the reading hall of his castle.
With such a large space and just a trickle of visitors, from those who could read in English, loved to read, and could find the time to come and read, the whole idea of this client of mine lacked any commercial sense.
However, my client was solvent. And, ah, let me introduce the man: Silvio De Granito.
Normally, he sends me an order by fax only, as he doesn’t trust the internet. I collect the books for him in LA, or order them via the internet from New York, Seattle, or even from Canada or England from time to time.
Once I complete the order – I cross the border and deliver the goods. And he pays me triple the price or sometimes even more! A very generous man with a very strange business, but you’ll find it interesting in a moment.
He told me a story, a life story. There was a storm outside and I asked if I could stay at his house for the night, until the weather calmed down. He liked the idea and immediately agreed. It felt like he had been missing good company for a while.
With some whiskey consumed, in an hour or so we saw that the storm had just become stronger, and there was no hurry for me to rush even in the morning, so we had plenty of time to talk.
Silvio, (I am still not sure if that was his real name) told me his story, and if someone believes it the way that I did, then I am happy to share what he told me!
He was a gangster, and well, the prophecy was true – the one about love for cash. By the way, Rocky Marciano who I mentioned before, also had his way to the criminals, so the theory shows a trend. But people are people, good or bad – they all love cash but only a few will admit it openly.
Silvio and his gang planned and executed seven armed robberies of jewellery shops in the New York area and then got caught by police and the FBI. He was sentenced (thanks to his lawyers) to eleven years in prison. But his organisation survived and continued to generate income for when freedom came, while he received accommodation and food from the State.
After he had served his term and was released, he met with the former crew. But times had changed, you know …
What I mean, is that as per the criminal code, they owed him his share, a sort of a pension fund. Part of it had already been spent on food, drink, light drugs, and other pleasures of life, since all of that had been supplied and delivered to Silvio while he used the cell paid by budget.
Now, all money transactions had become complicated. Bankers were no longer reliable and were likely to share the data with the Federals, so big cash transfers attracted too much attention.
But he insisted on getting the cash. Like me, he loved to see de facto money.
His boys consulted with a nice guy, obviously a smart one – a lawyer who was used by their organization (for the sake of causing no harm to myself, I have left the real names off the deck, you know!) and Mr. Shemkis (the lawyer) advised them to use a private foundation in Belize to remit the cash as a grant for some piece of art or a book et cetera.
The book seemed, most of all, a legit idea.
Silvio had to write a book to get his cash, so his brotherhood found him a young writer from New Jersey who had written some novels but could not sell them well.
They found their way to him and then their cash did the same. So, speaking openly, a young writer, let’s call him Andrew here, sold them the rights to the book he had written along with the authorship. Hey presto! Silvio became an author!
All was fine – the transfer proceeded safely but to prove the story was very true, his brotherhood convinced a small publisher to print a few thousand hard copies that went to the bookstores.
Again, the cash made it happen, otherwise who would be aware? No name, no number…a new author. All of a sudden, the book sold well!
Wow!, the orders were coming in thick and fast, which was a serious concern for our author, as he wanted to take his time and not to become an advertisment with reporters following his every step. He had been eleven long years in a public institution, so it was absolutely natural that he wanted to stay away from being photographed and interviewed.
He hired a manager and Mr. Shemkis protected his rights and his privacy from a legal standpoint, and for some time, life stablilized. Silvio thought he was a lucky guy and that it was a case of “God’s will’ to pay the bill after his years of service to the State!
But Andrew, the young writer, had other ideas. He also hired lawyers, and they smelled blood! They lodged a claim against Silvio in the courts and demanded that he disclosed the name of the actual author, Andrew Bolshowitz, who wrote the book.
After almost a year, those hyenas, as Silvio called his opponents, managed to prove the authorship of the book (apparently, one of the early originals was found at one publisher’s house…the legacy of one of Andrew’s early efforts to find a way to success) creating quite a problem for Silvio.
His solicitor told him to go speak to the journalists as silence only made things worse. As you may imagine, the FBI, knowing Silvio, were showing a lot of interest in the Charity Foundation which had paid almost a million dollars in ‘grants’ to the gangster, who was now involved in a scandal over the fake authorship of a famous book!
Silvio started to give interviews. He spoke about his hard life in prison and how he spent the long days and nights writing the book…
A few of the former prison officers, who had known Silvio for years, were recipients of luxury Swiss watches and confirmed, “Yeah, this guy spent all his time in prison, writing his story…”
And in public, Silvio showed good manners and gentle speech, was modest and dedicated to his art, so he looked to the journalists like the samaritan victim of unprecedented lies.
Andrew, his opponent, on the other hand behaved aggressively, and the journalists made him out to be a gangster-like person; disregarding the fact he had no relation at all to the Mafia before this story began. Again, cash was king!
Finally, Silvio started to get the upper hand in this battle, and his brotherhood paid a visit to Andrew Bolshowitz to persuade him to accept an “amicable solution”. The guy gave up… which was understandable in the circum-stances!
The Mafia team celebrated the victory, but it was, unfortunately, a bit premature, for after a few days, when the court convened to rule against him, Mr. Bolshowitz made it all just a bit more complicated! He took his revenge on Silvio and his organisation by committing suicide… leaving paperwork explaining “who is who” in the game and blaming Silvio and the Mafia for “destroying the Life and Hope of America”!
There was a huge campaign against Silvio on the TV, and the FBI visited him for an “interview” again. Knowing he had to act really fast, he approached his banker and asked him to cash whatever was left in his account.
The banker was scared, but Silvio was prepared, and the banker received a phone call, and heard his wife begging him to execute all “their orders” otherwise “they will execute me”. The cash was handed over.
Silvio was due to pay a visit to the FBI the next day, for questioning, but instead, overnight, he secretly joined a truck driver who was delivering his cargo to Mexico, and, accompanied by his cash, was next morning beyond US legislation.
Later, his body was found in a burned out car somewhere in Boston, and of course his Mafia connections and prison relations were remembered by newsmakers. The cash made him a dead man, while he was drinking tequila at his hacienda.
“You know,” he said, “I never intended to harm this guy, Andrew, but he did it to himself. He just refused to compromise with us and this was taken as a betrayal from our side. But I confess, it was never personal – the whole dirty job was done by greedy lawyers and journalists!”
I took the liberty of asking Silvio “What was the book about?!”
“Oh, it was about a young author who so much wanted to be famous, that he sold his soul to the Devil. And then he dies in the end … the name of the book was “The Story of Life”, as the main hero’s name was John Life.”
His face took on a sad smile as he continued, before we finished the bottle and our talk: “You know, man, I was lucky in life, and the other guys did not have the same luck. I felt a bit guilty about Mr. Bolshowitz, and all that nonsense, so I changed my name here in Mexico and am no longer associated with any author of this book. As I told you before – both authors are dead, officially dead, completely dead!
“I have started a new life here, bought this house and welcomed a lot of books into it. I find myself in good company, among wise people…Plato, Hemingway, Tolstoy, Kipling and an army of other good names. But sometimes I miss a life I wasted, and once a year I find a guy like you to tell this story to. Fresh ears. Nobody believes me, but who cares! It was on another planet, and it’s late now for any more talking, so let’s go and get some sleep. Ciao.”
I returned to the US the following day, and standing by my house in the suburbs of LA, I could not shake off the impression this story had made on me. I felt myself a witness to a crime but also a listener to a good lesson! I found a copy of “The Story of Life” and have read it.
I must say: the real story behind it was way more interesting, and what came to mind was that Silvio requested those books to be delivered by that kind of courier service for a special reason! He could have made all his orders through Amazon, or other sources and that would not have raised any suspicion. But he wanted me (or someone like me) to invite in and to listen to his story, because he had to find someone who was somehow connected to literature, illegal activity and the United States of America, to get the picture well enough. My consciousness tried to find me an answer as to why, and I finally understood, a few days later, one summer’s morning. He wanted to have the story continued, to let the readers know what was behind the official truth.
The Mafia kept him alive because he spoke no word to the FBI and disappeared just in time. His brotherhood made a gesture and misled the Feds from his trail using a decoy body, dead already, and a car to be burned out in Boston. That was their final contribution to Silvio, instead of simply finding him there in Mexico and silencing him for ever.
But you know, Mafia men, they always talk about reputation, and possibly that was one of the reasons Silvio wanted to rehabilitate himself in the eyes of the public! You see, during his brief role as the author of a book he had never written, he was loved by the public. It changed his life and he was looking to pass on his story, his legacy, to someone else on this earth, to ensure that it continued and was known. And that seems to be one instance where just the power of cash may be useless.
And here’s my story!
Imagine: I changed my job afterwards; I rented this bar and I sell drinks to my clients to generate an income for living. A tiny drinking station, called “Eddie’s Place”. Things are going well, and I pay my taxes. That is no longer a big issue for me. I may pay them since I have a great mission ahead, still to be completed.
I use my free time to write a book, which I hope will reach lots of readers once it is published. And you may guess what it is about – a life story, as usual.
PARABLE OF THE DRAGON
Once, long ago, my dad invited Andrei over to visit. Andrei was tall and well-built, and he had a black belt in karate.
Dad and Andrei were having a drink and talking about something or other. I don’t know what.
Before he left, Andrei told me a parable.
“There was once a monastery in the mountains. There were very few in the congregation because it was so high up. The monks gathered brushwood and carried it down to sell in the villages below. They also caught fish from a beautiful lake next to the monastery.
“‘If only I could do something to let the whole of Japan see how beautiful the lake is,’ thought one of the monks to himself.
“And so it happened that one of the monks, without any malicious intent or self-interest whatsoever, started to tell the people in the village at the foot of the mountain that in the fourth month, Uzuki, a Dragon would appear from the waters of the lake. He could be seen, and anyone who caught sight of him would enjoy success and good health for the whole year ahead.
“Well, this tale gradually spread around the whole empire. It was embellished with all sorts of new details, and one day it came back to the monastery. Thousands of people travelled from all corners of the country to get a glimpse of the Dragon.
“What a wonderful time that was! There were fireworks, rice dishes and baked fish… it all created a joyous atmosphere and generated profit.
“But the awaited day came, as described in the legend: ‘And so at midnight the Dragon will emerge from the waters of the lake.’
“The monks knew that the Dragon did not exist. But they also knew how much the visitors needed him – and how much the monastery needed him.
“So they joined hands and prayed. But their prayer was not sufficient, so they announced that if all the visitors were to join hands and start to pray, the Dragon would appear. The people started to pray, and when the prayer gained force, it created the Dragon and he emerged from the waters of the lake.
“This parable shows how weak the Dragon is inside each of us individually, but how strong it becomes if everyone makes a concerted effort to create something together.”
Not long afterwards, Andrei was killed in a shoot-out in the street. Bullets fly wherever their master sends them – all targets are the same to them.
I saw another dolphin. It looked quite big, but its skin had started to go dull in the morning sun. Something had happened after the storm, and the creature was on the shore. The storm had raged on the island for two days, and at a few narrow points the waves had leapt across strips of land from one side to the other. That was the type of storm they experienced there!
I had counted three of its kind that morning, cast out by the sea. Two of its fellow creatures had died, but this one was still alive.
I dragged it into the water. It was ever so heavy, but I was sturdy back then and plenty strong enough.
The dolphin circled in the water, jerking its tail in a peculiar way; then, when it had swum a short way out from the shore, it came back onto the sand. By itself. It accelerated, and in a flash it was back on the beach.
It had probably already decided to die, and how can you counter such resolve? I’m not joking, this isn’t what usually happens when they want the opposite – to survive! Then they thrash about, squirm, make a din and generally use all the energy they can muster. In this case, there was simply a sense of peace.
When I went back half an hour later, I noticed that there was barely a glimmer of life left in the dolphin. It looked at me through the film covering its eyes. I felt sorry for it and desperately wanted to help it survive. But even then, it was quite clear that it would not waver from its intention…