Monday, July 30, 2007

Green with Greed

One of the various things that I actually cherish about travel is the time it affords or, perhaps more accurately, requires to maintain sanity by catching up on reading. This trip is no different, with five or six books pulled from the "when I get around to it" pile. There are a couple of the usual spiritually/getting one's life in order that I throw against the wall for their annoying simplicity. "If you are feeling stressed, it's a good sign that there may be too much stress in your life." Then I pick it up the next day, amazed by how profound it is. I'll refrain from going into all the details of those.

A somewhat trite but compelling read that I've always wanted to get around to diving into is a bio by Charles Slack on the life of Hetty Green, the Witch of Wall Street. A woman so miserly that she refused to take her son to a free clinic until his condition worsened to the point of amputation of his leg, she has been someone whose dark tale I've always wanted to know more about. So far it's worth the time but not exactly superbly written. Mean, greedy women of means have always fascinated me, much more than men of the same ilk. Mr. Burns on The Simpsons has his appeal, but a woman squirrelling away her fortune is just somehow more intriguing. No wonder Zazu Pitts, the San Francisco lottery winner hiding her winings from her man in Greed is just more example to cite for it's fascination.

Hetty's story really cries out for the proper over-the-top stage or film adaptation, though let's hope to God a musical version does not lure Stephen Sondheim out of semi-retirement.

Greed has always been the opposite of my compulsions, and perhaps that's why the Hetty Greens of the world hold so much lure. If I ever got into the billionaire category, I am sure it would be gone within months, although I'd have every edition of the Criterion collection and several warehouses full of doorknobs that I could give away to friends for decades to come.

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At 6:35 AM, Blogger Salty Miss Jill said...

Oooh, thanks for bringing Ms. Green to my attention! I'm both fascinated and repulsed by greed. Interesting how in these extreme cases of miserliness, money is treated as an object to be hoarded rather than a means to obtain objects or power or what have you. For example, compare Donald Trump with Hetty Green (or the Colyer Brothers, or my ex's father). To me, he is disgustingly greedy while they are compulsive hoarders. What do you think?

hmmm...fascinating. I am going to pick up that book immediatly!

At 8:59 AM, Blogger Joy said...

WOW, blasts from my past!

JT you brought up Zazu Pitts and then Miss Jill brings up The Collyers and I'm back in my childhood with my father telling me that my room looked like "the Collyer Brothers lived there!" And, who, ironically died in a HOUSE that looked like the Collyer Brothers live there. He would also go on and on about Miss Pitts! (But I think he just liked the way the name sounded!)

At 12:42 PM, Blogger rich bachelor said...

Wow. That wasn't a picture of Queen Victoria?

At 11:06 AM, Blogger J. David Zacko-Smith said...

Oh my God! What a GREAT post! I know if I ever became REALLY rich - or even just a little rich - I'd give most of it away (and/or spend it on friends and family) - that would be so much fun.

At 7:03 AM, Blogger Salty Miss Jill said...

Yeah, if I had all the money I spent on overtipping and for the dinners and rounds I bought for my friends, I'd be able to pay off that student loan!

I wouldn't change things for the world. :)

At 9:29 AM, Blogger Gary said...

I know what you mean salty! I can't seem to hold on to money - just enough to get the bills paid and then it needs to be shared. Great post JT. I had to laugh about the changing perspectives on the same bit of information, one day a pearl of wisdom and the next pure BS. Funny. Happy reading.


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