When I was 27 years old, I learned a very important lesson from my father, which is this: we must pay our bills, even if that means taking out a dubious loan to do so.
Let me give you some context. I had been living in Paris for a year, having a go at being a writer and basically trying to soak in a much life as possible from “la ville qui m’adore.” If you haven’t spent much time in Paris, I suggest you do. Of course, you’ll need to first learn French, and because the cost of renting a decent place is astronomical, I suggest you have a friend who lives there who can lend you his flat while he finishes his MBA at Columbia.
Anyway, Paris is a costly city. Eating out is not the problem. You can have a very good dinner and not spend more than sixty or seventy dollars. What’s really expensive is daily life — you know, shopping for clothes in the Marais, buying new furniture for your friend’s flat so it doesn’t look like an Ikea ad from 2009, and going to “discothèques” where a simple cocktail can run 25 dollars.
During my year in Paris, I dated a woman whose uncle was a government minister. I won’t give any names, of course, but he was considered quite important at that time, having been named by the influential magazine Le Canard Enchaîné as one of France’s sexiest socialists.
Although she couldn’t make sense of my French, the girl and I were very much in love. I was enchanted by her beauty, particularly her scarves that never seemed to be the same. Her uncle the minister was on the board of a charity organization that provided little butane stoves to the city’s homeless street artists. If you are French, you will certainly recall this program. Vanessa Paradis appeared in the posters that were all over the métro.
Anyway: butane stoves to keep homeless artists warm at night and give them a means to cook their food — a very worthy cause, wouldn’t you agree? Since I appeared to have no shortage of money — thanks to my proud last name and my impeccable choice in clothes — my girlfriend convinced me to donate to the cause.
Normally, I wouldn’t have hesitated for even a second. We who are comfortable must help out the less fortunate — the impoverished, the miserable and the weary. That’s something I learned at a young age from my father — or, at least by watching him on television giving speeches. However, there was a problem, and I’m ashamed to admit it. Despite my monthly allowance of (I’m not going to tell you how much, you curious cat!), I had fallen into severe debt.
What would you do, dear friend, had you been in my shoes? Deny money to this most worthy of causes, thereby ensuring that the street artists of Paris freeze and eat cold coq au vin? Or help out, as much as my credit would allow?
I called my French banker and asked him to further extend my line of credit. Then, I called my aunt in New Hampshire and secured a loan from her, agreeing to an interest rate of 27.5 percent. I even called my bank in New York and took out two new platinum credit cards. That is how committed I am to today’s most vital social issues.
Alas, you know how this story ends. Months later, the piper came to collect his pay, but as I had not yet begun to earn an income, my tweed pockets held no coins.
There are details I might be leaving out, but they’re not important. For example, it’s not important that the charity soon collapsed after my sizable donation, and this was not only because some of the homeless were set up by a television crew who recorded them inhaling the butane to get high. The charity also went bust because the good minister himself had been embezzling funds for his own serious butane addiction. And it’s also not important that my girlfriend broke up with me when I could no longer take her on trips to Capri, Corsica and Cape Verde. (For reasons I never understood, she only vacationed in places beginning with the letter C. She even refused to go with me to Australia, but that may have been due to her fear of large spiders more than anything.)
What is important is this: I called my father and yes, he was angry. Yes, he scolded me for having fallen for the old ruse “my-uncle-who-runs-a-charity-providing-butane-stoves-for-homeless-Parisian-street-artists-would-like-your-financial-support.” Apparently, that scam is as old as time itself. However, he agreed that he and I (well, mostly he) needed to pay off my debts. The problem was that despite his wealth and numerous properties, he lacked liquidity, he said. So he took out a rather sizable loan from some of his more nefarious professional contacts. And this is the happy conclusion:
I paid off my debts, every last penny.
You are clever enough, dear friends, to see how this story pertains to the current standoff between a few rogue conservatives and the more sensible Democrats and moderate Republicans. We have accrued debt, and we must pay the debt no matter what. Even if that means we have to ask our fathers to get their hands a little dirty by dealing with shady loan providers whose company we’d rather not admit to having.
Be safe during this government shutdown, and I wish you luck with eating food that hasn’t been tested by the Food and Drug Administration.
Thank you for reading The Dandy Goat and I remain your humble servant,
Franklin J. Dubbles
-Letter no. 3