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Banana Yellow (81)

Banana yellow in the hand.

UNITED STATES—Sam early on discovered one of the secrets of his success. He could not fret over what he could not control. He’d be politely reading, even in advanced age this invisible eminence who was flattered by his friends’ indifference to his earthly achievements. He would see a lady with a baby stroller struggling with the door during the cold December months, halfway up to helping, she got in, and then while he was riveted by a business item in the Times’ Picayune regret that he’d failed to see her needing help on the way out. He was so engrossed in reading was he, it hurt a little that he hadn’t been right here and right now, but out there in the space of numbers and percentages and profit margins.

Thanks to relinquishing this overmastering desire to control; he controlled just what he could and cleared from the chambers of heart, mind and stomach what he could not control. It led to a supremely charmed life: the daughter Sarah and lovely Rebecca both loving and stoic, just what Sam needed.

He was so lucky, he was charmed. He was in New Orleans, the most wonderful city in the world with its louche Catholic vibe. The most charmed lives eventually collide into something beyond their power of manipulation. He grew up fascinated by aviation and it was the only way for him…

 Sam lost his son, a fighter pilot, during the opening battles of the Second World War. It changed him. He was in a grief trance. What happened to his son, Sam Jr., was the thing that have the people a chance to say his was never the same after that. Right here, right now. Damn them. It was a battle for Sam to stand on his head after that and do his exercises. It’s when he met Rabbi Weintraub.

Sam needed something to take him out of his grief. It came in the form of something real that had been dreamed of. Of course nobody is ever the same, everything changes with the next breath and the last. But something would engage him, he needed a menace to freedom, a demagogue like Willy Long to engage him or some political intrigue. Why hadn’t he had more children, Sam asked himself at times. But he knew from talking it over to Rabbi that to be at odds with the tests given by life is to blaspheme the creator.

“I’m fine,” they said over breakfast of melba toast and buttermilk, for Sam as Spartan as ever if he’d been drinking a bit the night before.

A piece of toast or half a grapefruit. She did a perfect job of making him believe she believed he was fine, as he munched desultory on his scrap of nourishment. Here he was groping with the aftermath of his son’s crash into a mountainside in Greece. He must have been a barbecued potato chip. No remains were ever found. (play with the return)

It was that that made him say and drop the pretense:

“I am running hot and cold.”

He became determined to help create the Israeli state and he used his pull and power in Latin America to change votes. Countries a lot of people could not arrange on a map: Honduras (country of great abysses), Nicaragua (embraced between who knows, but of course Sam knew), Beliz, Guatemala, Panama (much more than a hat). That were crucial to the United Nations vote that established the Jewish state. He worked directly with Ze’ev Schind, who took over the Mossad in 1947, by helping him secure the banana ships from the Great White Fleet and visas Schindler needed to smuggle almost 40,000 Holocaust survivors out of Europe and into Palestine.

Sam or Sol, as he pleased to be called at this stage of life by the Bananaland denizens, in abeyance not so much as to the wise king, but the radiance of his own smile and beneficence, became interested in building schools and hospitals in the countries where his banana plantations flourished. Sam offered substantial funds to his hometown Tulane University in New Orleans, where his wife and daughter still lived the chalk-white mansion deemed the most beautiful residence in New Orleans, fruit of Sam’s abortive retirement as the 20s roared to a halt, now beginning to look a bit long in the tooth.

To be continued…

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