My first feelings of jealousy came when I read that among the Forbes list of 946 billionaires worldwide, 10 lived in Houston. Somehow I didn’t make the list, but I recognized the names of those who were on it — my friends and neighbors. Well, not exactly my friends and most, maybe all, were not my neighbors.
I wanted to be on that list, but it would be a challenge since my last financial investment, an Irish pub called the O’Bama &O’Sama, went bankrupt. I kept the same Celtic décor, but changed the pub to a watering hole for displaced Dublin tax accountants and called it When IRS Eyes Are Smiling. It went belly up due to non-interest-bearing customers. Then I opened an amusement park, Six Flags Over Sixth Ward, but nobody came. I don’t know why, since I put a full-page ad in The Houston Post.
It was time to check with my financial adviser. I found him in his office at the International Investment Advisory Center &Bait Camp, conveniently located under the Milam Street bridge. “What do I do to get on the Forbes Billionaires List,” I asked him while he pried open his lunch from an unlabeled can.
“That’s an easy one. Ever since Halliburton announced it was moving to Dubai for the climate, everyone else wants to move there, but they don’t speak the language or know the culture. So, start a language and culture school and give it a distinguished name.”
“Good idea,” I said.
My financial adviser frowned, “Why do the grocery stores throw away these bent cans? It’s a lot of trouble digging them out of the dumpster.”
Knowing the real reason for Halliburton’s move, I opened the George Dubai Bush School for Tax Dodgers. It was quickly closed by the Arab League. So I looked at other possibilities to take advantage of what’s hot in Houston. The David Carr Quarterback Camp was a bust, even though the most popular event was the sack race. The Calvin Murphy Planned Parenthood Clinic didn’t do too well, either.
“This idea of getting on the Forbes Billionaires List isn’t easy,” I whined to the fount of all financial wisdom the next time we met.
He swatted a cockroach on the wall of his temporary office, the men’s room at the Greyhound Bus Terminal, and advised, “Every day we hear that people are tired of the local TV news shows with their cutesy small talk and emphasis on murders, car wrecks and apartment fires. So start a local news program that carries only serious matters such as politics, government, the environment and international events. That’s what everyone says they want. You’ll have viewers and commercials galore.”
That I did. My ratings were below the Anchovy Channel, and the program was cancelled.
But I had a better idea. All we get on Houston’s talk radio are right-wing hosts spewing hatred and misinformation, so I started KIQ, the Intelligent Station, featuring well-read and well-traveled hosts willing to listen to and discuss all sides of weighty matters. Arbitron said my ratings were so bad that I should hope to catch up with Air America. Next, I started a flea market, but soon discovered there was no market for fleas.
Time and again I failed in cracking the Forbes Billionaires List by investing, so I figured maybe a high-paying job would do the trick, especially if I got a golden parachute. My tenure as executive director of the Ship Channel Sierra Club didn’t last long. Then I worked as a safety inspector for BP. The EPA sentenced me to 30 hours of community service by having me teach humility to Dan Patrick. For awhile, I had a good job as an adviser to METRO. That is until I asked Congressman John Culberson, “Why don’t we rip up all that concrete on the north side of the Katy Freeway and put in a rail line?” I was thrown under the bus.
It was time to return to investing. My ski school and lodge, the Ice of Texas, got nowhere because the plan had a drawback. There was hardly any snow in that part of town, and to think that I spent good money to lease the east slope of Mount Houston.
However, I had some successes. My parole program for suicide bombers had few recidivists, except for those who forgot to light the fuse. When I learned that Homeland Security was building a 20-foot-high fence along the Rio Grande, I made good money in Juarez selling 21-foot-high ladders. And my temp company scored big when we found part-time government jobs for Bob Eckels and Shelley Sekula-Gibbs. But that company went under when another of my bright ideas failed. It was a plan to find employment for deadbeats. I called it American Idle.
It became clear that I was a long way from the Forbes List of Fat Cats, so once more I sought out my financial adviser. He wasn’t at his branch office in the lobby of the Star of Hope Mission, but eventually I found him — it was visitor’s day. “What you need to do,” he said over the phone, as he looked at me through the glass, “is get in on the billions of defense dollars being spent.”
“Time’s up,” said the guard.
That’s when I rented a lot across the main gate at Fort Hood and opened an Iraqi pub for troops coming home, the Shock &Awe. It was closed after Fox News accused me of serving Buffalo left wings. Next, I formed an express lane at Bush Intercontinental for returning soldiers with six tours or less. My situation became worse and worse with my Katrina evacuees program, High Floods Lift All Bloats, although FEMA said I was doing a heckuva job.
“I don’t understand why my last venture didn’t work,” I sobbed to my new financial adviser. “They were halfway houses for people who ran yellow lights.”
“OK,” the guard said to me. “Time’s up, Forbes.”
Editor’s Note: Please do not try at home. These attempts at becoming a billionaire should only be attempted by trained professionals.