Monday, January 23, 2006

Felber's Billion Dollar Bully Blind Item

Schadenfreude is a German expression (from Schaden: damage, harm; and Freude: joy) meaning pleasure taken from someone else's misfortune or shameful joy.

Way back when you couldn't Google everyone and everything, I did a comic piece about my high school bully on a pal's comedy webzine. My brother Michael illustrated it and my talented pal Bob crafted it with neat features. It included an artists rendering of the time the bully threw a red slushie on me in the cafeteria. It was very pretty; it was very silly.

Years passed and the technology to find anyone and anything improved. But I had long since forgotten about this feature floating in cyberspace. Then a few people from high school found it, emailed me and said it was hilarious. See, he wasn't just my bully. This Long Island kid had been like an 80's teen movie villain come to life: a rich kid who was actively cruel to the poor, the freaky, the ugly. I knew he had tormented and upset other people a whole lot more than he ever bothered me. Because in Jr. High and High School I was a nerd, a drama freak, a marching band geek, a newspaper loser, a hippy chick -- but I was, comparatively, very secure in these roles. Good parenting? Naturally thick skin? I don't know, but the dude only made me cry once, which considering the effect he had on others, is impressive.

More time passed. A letter was left on my mother's doorstep from a private investigator in Queens who wanted to talk to me. He had also been calling for me. I, understandably, freaked out. The P.I. didn't say what his contact was about and the name of his firm was "Whitehall."

My mind ran wild. The name made me wonder if it was about my British man -- did he have a secret life? Or maybe it was about my high school friend whose father had been accused by the FBI of trying to sell nuclear materials to the highest bidder?* Or was, Thor forbid, someone I knew involved in a murder mystery?

None of the above; it was about the bully webzine piece. And I learned from talking to the P.I. that in the time since high school, my high school bully had apparently become one of Manhattan's biggest real estate moguls. A quick search revealed an article that showed he had recently raffled off large-ticket items, including an airplane, to attract tenants.

There's more to it, but it's for another time and place. In short, I quickly agreed to have the piece taken down as I didn't want to cause problems for my friend who owned the site, my mother had become scared by the P.I.'s harrassment and because I truly didn't hate the guy all these years later.

And yet, did the fact that he was a hot shot who controlled billions bother me? Nah, I never bought into the stuff about the meek inheriting the earth. But did I secretly hope that his wife left him for a gardener with a hunchback? Or that he'd lose all his money in some mega scandal of baroque proportions? You bet.

More years passed. I forgot all about him, only reminded when I happened to come across fawning articles that hailed him as the next Trump.

But today, in the shower I was thinking about the absurdity of the P.I. who came to my mother's home all those years ago, and for the first time ever it occurred to me that the P.I. had done that not to intimidate me, but because as I was in a sublet, he couldn't find an address with my name attached to it. I decided to Google the P.I. from Queens (couldn't find anything) and then, for the heck of it, the Billion Dollar Bully.

And so, when I discovered via a recent article that the Billion Dollar Bully was: no longer controlling billions, being sued for millions by members of his own family, being investigated by the DA for possible shady dealings, and that he had represented himself in court in one recent lawsuit because he, inhis own words, couldn't afford a lawyer...

What can I say?

Deus ex machina?

Maybe there is something to this meek-inheriting-the-earth jazz?

I don't know, but no, I'm not mentioning his name, or linking to the article. I learned after the incident that although I like my revenge like I like my borscht, and although the guy deserved even more than my silly Internet swipe, I have matured. It's not only bad karma, it's just not right to do the eye for an eye thang. Plus now, the dude's got enough problems and I truly find it in my heart to feel sorry for him.

Have I, via Google, finally found religion?

Nope, but I am a tad closer, that's for sure.

*True dat, and no, I'm not going into it.