Yesterday (after paying suitable respect to Abe, Teddy, Ike — and even tricky Dick) I offered my favorite rejection of all time and a recent success. Today, the converse: my favorite success of all time and a recent rejection.
I got an e-mail from one of you in 2006 asking if I had any thoughts on a stock he owned a lot of shares of. “Sorry, no,” I wrote back, “but what do you mean by ‘a lot’?”
“A lot. It’s my entire portfolio.”
“Well, then,” I replied, “I have two suggestions. The first is to diversify; the second is to join Howard Dean at George Soros’s house for dinner in the Hamptons this Saturday to help us save the world. What part of the country do you live in?”
“OK,” he said. “I live in New York.”
Turns out he was a retired marketing exec – 79 at the time, 87 now – and when I explained that the ask for the dinner was $25,000, NOT tax-deductible, he replied, “OK. I’ll bring a check. What’s the address?”
And I’m thinking, oh, boy: this has so many ways to go wrong. Way better to get a credit card, for starters, so I know if this guy is for real.
“Don’t you want the frequent flier miles?”
“Nah. I’ll bring a check.”
But he did seem sincere (had volunteered at the 1992 Democratic Convention, he said; seemed really affable on the phone) . . . and so my next worry was getting him there.
This was before GPS, he was 79, and every intersection in the Hamptons is either Admiral Halsey Street, Admiral Halsey Court, Admiral Halsey Lane, Admiral Halsey Terrace, Admiral Halsey Road, Admiral Halsey Avenue or Admiral Halsey Boulevard. I am, frankly, terrified of the Hamptons. And no, I don’t know “the back roads.” I have searched for years for the illusive traffic-free Shuttlecock Road that somehow connects the badminton courts of East Hampton with Manhattan’s FDR Drive. (Oh: it’s Scuttle Hole Road? Well, I still couldn’t find it.)
“Let me send a car for you,” I said.
“Oh that’s okay,” he said. “I like to drive.”
“But how will you find it?”
“I’ll get a map.”
I could think of nothing but calamity. He would get lost. His car would break down. He’d show, but having forgotten to bring the check. The check would be for $2,500. (“I’m 79; my hearing’s not so great”). It would bounce.
And do you know what happened? Up to Mr. Soros’s (wonderfully understated) house he drove, handed me the (slightly rumpled) $25,000 check, which cleared, and he has become a great pal who now, at 87, delights in driving a Tesla and has given us eight more max out checks. He is my hero. (And that one stock in his portfolio? A drug company called Celgene? It’s quadrupled.) All from a stranger’s email.
It is July 5th, I am up the circular staircase on the crowded rooftop of a house at the beach (obviously not the Hamptons) beside an open bar watching the sun set over the Bay with hundreds of very happy people dancing below. I am having a fine time seeing old friends and making new ones, including one who comes over to thank me for a book I once wrote that he read in high school – “you must get tired hearing this,” he’s saying; “are you kidding?” I’m thinking, “I live for this” – but it turns out he has some bones to pick with me.
He totally agrees with my politics, but he is really steamed we haven’t been able to get more done . . . that the Republicans have blocked so many things . . . that we haven’t rallied the people to see their self-interest and throw Boehner out . . . that we might actually now lose the Senate (because it’s true: we might) . . . and he is basically saying all the things I say all the time, and work my little heart out to try to make right, and at each pause in his diatribe I ask, “So, hey, can you help us?”
And each time he says no, because he’s angry we haven’t done a better job of winning, etc., and finally – did I mention the open bar? – I said, with some heat, “LISTEN! We totally agree on all this stuff. We could be THE SAME PERSON, almost. Except for one crucial difference. I’ve done MY big check and you’ve done zero. How about coming to meet the President July 17 and pitching in like the rest of us?”
He said yes.
And it made sense. He seemed to have the means; we were in passionate agreement on the urgency of the issues; and with the dark purple clouds, the sea breeze, pulsing music, ample vodka — yikes: it was almost as if God Himself were telling him to do it. A chance to meet and thank and support the President of the United States.
He was IN! And right on the spot gave me his Secret Service vetting stuff – date of birth, Social Security number (“you’re not going to steal my identity, are you?” “no, I’m not”) – and then . . . the moment of truth . . . I wrenched the American Express card from his hand – 3797-555555-26002 expiring March 2018.
Does it get any better than this?
At 11am the next morning, just as I was about to press SUBMIT to process his contribution, I get a text: “Great chatting with you last night. With regard to the contribution, I’ve had a change of heart. But let’s keep talking.”
So here’s what I want you to do, and why I want you to do it:
Click here to join the enormous effort needed to bend the course of history in the direction of those who “believe in” science. And diversity and diplomacy and a higher minimum wage, comprehensive immigration reform, enlightened regulation, reproductive freedom, universal background checks, investment in infrastructure – even in the notion that we should make voting easier, not harder.
With your help we’ll be able to fund the tech team that keeps our ground game ahead of theirs and maintain the voter file that gives us the edge in turn-out — and other tasks essential to a good outcome in November and that paves the way to holding the White House in 2016.
If you’ve already done all you can, please just consider this a thank you note. And maybe find someone else to inspire to help? We need all hands on deck.
Quote of the Day
Every debt is ultimately paid, if not by the debtor, then eventually by the creditor.~Jim Grant
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