Today is the birthday of my stepfather, Saul Schwamm, affectionately known as 'Puggy', for the underthrust of his jaw, and, I wouldn't be surprised, his attitude. Ready, more often than not, for an argument, he was also surprisingly kind and insightful, and, probably, a romantic. My novel, The Motherland, ostensibly about my mother, the captious, facetious, and spectacularly original Helen Finkelstein Davis Schwamm, was, more pointedly about him, an incredibly touching and sensitive man who was forced by reality to abandon what deep yearnings he had for greatness as it manifested in his time slot, and become a stock broker, a trader on Wall Street, half of a duo consisting of him and his older brother Harvey.
The day Roosevelt closed the banks, they took an ad in the Wall Street Journal saying-- approximately, I think: "Business will be conducted as usual in the offices of Schwamm and Co." So everyone in the world who wanted to trade that day had to do it through their company . So they made eleven million dollars in one day. Today that would probably be many multiples of that.
Naturally they were despised, and considered and called Jews.
Puggy was an extremely sensitive man, a secret dreamer, probably a poet had he had a pen late at night in bed, when it turned out his wife was less or other than she seemed. The first one was sickly, an invalid, mother of his brilliant but troubled and clumsy son, Mickey,-- the second was, my mother, the zappy, charming, clever, secretly bitchy and destructive and probably crazy Helen, the third was Kathy, maybe with a C, the Gentile heiress who had been engaged to his son, probably the reason for Mickey's attempted suicide, and later an alcoholic. How much later I do not know for sure, as it was my creative task and pleasure to pull this all together for what was my really good novel THE MOTHERLAND which Michael Korda, an excellent editor except when it came to supporting my book said was "the only book we are publishing this Spring," though he forgot about a little thing called "ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN."
So Fiction hit up against reality, and the near collapse of the United States, and as I said, wittily I was sure, God had to choose between saving our country and my novel. It was a heartbreak I could hardly feel at the time I was so busy being political, having been adopted by many prominent Republicans in Washington at the time-- I was staying in the home of Gerald Warren, the Deputy Press Secretary under Nixon, my best friend being Muggy Hoffmann, wife of Martin Hoffmann, underSecretary of the Army, and best friend himself of Donald Rumsfeld, too clever to seem the villain he turned out to be. Somehow I was in all the front rows of the trials taking place at the time, and had I been smart enough to parlay it all into Huffingtonian shit, I probably would have become a political figure myself. Instead, I just really loved my country, and worried about what would happen to it.
Truly I hadn't a clue.
That I am still alive to be able to grieve for my favorite, Benjamin Franklin, at what has become of the country he was so clever as to imagine could lift the rest of the world into intelligence, is, I suppose, its own kind of miracle. In any and all cases, I am more or less happy for Puggy that he is not here on his birthday to see that things became even worse than he could have anticipated.