Balczak on Balzac

Sometimes I like to imagine how much better I’d be doing if only I were a sociopath. Allow me to explain.
Balzac (and here I’m referring to the 19th century French playwright; not that weird and annoying rhetorical device of referring to oneself in the third person like Bob Dole and many professional athletes do…because by the way that would mean I misspelled my own name – Balczak – Um, OK, now this is too long a parenthetical for the original idea of the sentence to be decipherable, so let me start over now that you know I really mean Honore’ de Balzac and not myself).
Take Two.
Balzac once coined the phrase “the oily wheels of every fortune” – essentially alluding to the idea that where there’s wealth, there’s probably what Waylon Jennings in his role as the narrator on Dukes of Hazzard would refer to as “some shuckin’ and jivin'” going on in the backstory of how so much wealth concentrated in one place.
Now if you’re rich and feeling all defensive reading this, it’s not my intent to accuse you of chicanery, flimflammery or even hijinks. The only point here is that in the abstract, there are very few ways to honestly come by wealth without employing at least a little bit of gamesmanship. And the more money that’s involved, the higher the probability that some portion of that wealth is “unearned” in some sense.
Put another way, you will never come by a dollar more honestly than by slaving over a vat of refried pinto beans for minimum wage at a Taco Bell. (It took me all of 9 days before I finally said “fuck honesty”). Conversely, further along the economic continuum, you might pull down an ample check in a cushy office gig even while devoting portions of your regular office hours to frivolous avocations like blogging (a purely hypothetical for-instance, by the way).
But if you really wanna make the big bucks, you have to totally free yourself of all guilt and compunction and just ask questions like “what sells?” and “how can I make the most amount of money for the least amount of effort?” Unfortunately, most of us have some glitch in our character that gets in the way of this. Usually it’s something like ethics, pride, respect, or one of those other hang-ups our parents instilled in us at an unfairly young age before we were capable of putting up much resistance.
But not Tony Davis. He’s reaching for the big brass ring. And so is his Turkish/Afrikaner lawyer buddy, “The Vast Cooter.” Get a load of what scam these two have been running.
Now I know what you’re thinking: “Harry, do you really need to mock a man’s name in order to make your point?” My response: It ain’t mockery if it’s the truth. It just so happens that “Engin” is indeed a Turkish name meaning “Vast”. My best guess is that “Derkunt” is Afrikaner, but I think we can all agree on the universal meaning of that name. So there.
Anyway, the point is, these two have made money hand-over-fist by selling an illusion of hope to desperate people willing to pay dearly for that illusion. In short, Tony D and Vast Cooter sell shit at premium shinola prices. My objection here isn’t so much that they con prisoners looking for a way to dodge responsibility for their own actions. In that sense at least, these two are just karmic agents restoring some balance to the universe. (There’s a jumping off point here to rant about people victimized by their own stupidity, but that’s a whole ‘nuther post, if not a theme for a whole ‘nuther blog).
No, my real beef is that when I compare my prices to theirs, and consider the amount of effort that goes into my end product versus what apparently goes into theirs, well hell. I’m insanely jealous. I’ll just leave it at that.
But at least today there is some consolation. As this story teaches us, there is great risk in the Balzacian pursuit of fortune. Sometimes people reach for the fortune and get caught while still oiled up between the wheels, as ol’ Honore` might say. So it is gratifying to see that at least for Tony D and Vast Cooter, crime doesn’t always pay.
It reminds me of a saying we have in our profession, “pigs get fat; hogs get slaughtered.” If you’re going to pursue the grand fortune, it might be your demise. If, on the other hand, you’re willing to settle for a mere comfortable living, hawking your wares at a reasonable price in a nice office with time to occasionally blog, well, you just might get away with it.

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