Clutching a bag of nails in one hand and wielding a hammer in the other, Marshbaum broke out of semi-retirement and into my office. It could mean only one thing.
"I 'm going to be rich! "
In the three decades I have known my faux friend, he always had a scheme for how to live the affluent life of a no-talent pop celebrity. He did extremely well on the first part of it. Now and then, he came up with a scheme that brought him a comfortable living --until his next scheme drained him of his savings. But, at least he was persistent.
"The Gulf Coast! " he declared. "I 'm headed South. Gonna take care of houses. Planning to become rich from the government! Halliburton/KBR got up to a half billion. Bechtel, Fluor, Dewbury, and something named CH2M each got $100 million. Their profits are bigger than the oil companies. " Without missing a beat, he added, "This will guarantee me a home in Pacific Palisades. "
"Marshbaum, " I carefully explained, "there are two reasons why that won 't happen. "
"First reason. You aren 't politically or economically tied to the President or Vice-President. Not only did you campaign against them, you tried to get everyone named Bush or Cheney deported. "
"It was a good idea, " he said.
"Second reason. You don 't know anything about home repairs. Your first wife got an annulment because she said you were useless around the house. Your second wife divorced you after you fell through the roof you were fixing and later burned down the house while trying to screw plate covers onto electrical outlets. Even the insurance company got a restraining order against you to keep you from doing any more home repairs. "
"I know I 'm incompetent, " said Marshabaum. "That 's why I 'm going to be a consultant. Media companies and schools hire the bunglers all the time. I figure the government needs my incompetence in the Gulf. I 'm going to advise people how to fix their houses. "
"You 've had more than a thousand get-rich-quick schemes, " I said, "but this one has jet-packs to put this scheme at the top of the list as the worst idea you ever had. "
"Michael Brown? " I said unbelieving. "You sure we 're talking about the same Michael Brown? The incompetent that Bush appointed to run FEMA? The guy who was more worried about what he looked like than what a catastrophic storm was doing to New Orleans? The one who disregarded every advance notice and blankly told us a couple of days after Katrina hit that the storm was bigger than anyone anticipated? The guy who hid out from the storm just as his boss had once hid out from the Vietnam War? That Michael Brown? "
"Same one. All suited up and ready for action. "