The Greed that destroyed Harry Marx

The news was on the front page of the Toronto Star, it was all about the death of Bernie Madoff while in prison. It caused Harry Marx to stop and think. He actually felt bad for Bernie. Yes, he had been dishonest, and yes he took advantage of people, but to end up dying in a crappy prison, it didn’t get much worse than that.

Harry knew how hard it was to succeed and while he had made it to the top of the financial world, he had also paid a price. He knew he never screwed over people on a mass scale like Bernie did, but he also knew he had taken advantage of situations to benefit himself while causing others problems. It was all in the fine print.

Having a normal family life while making it to the top was not an option. He remembered his first wife. Sophie had been the ultimate good person and he had basically ruined her. When they married she was full of life and optimism, when they divorced she was bitter and frustrated. Harry wasn’t surprised when she married an Australian guy a few years later and moved away. She had received a big settlement from him and had said to her divorce lawyer that no matter how much she got, Harry had caused her so much stress no amount of money would ever be able to cover it. Harry thought about the way he screwed around while married, and he knew she was right.

He remembered the first time he went on a private jet with Ho Ling. He was a billionaire from Hong Kong. He had met Harry through a banking associate and they had hit it off. Ho wanted to park some money in Canada and Harry had done a very good job of accomodating him. The end result was besides doing business they became friends.

Ho had a massive suite at the Wynn, and he went to Vegas once a month. The first time he invited Harry to go with for the weekend, it coincided with his third anniversary to Sophie. Harry bought Sophie a diamond broach and explained that under normal circumstances nothing would make him miss his anniversary, but Ho was a major client and he needed to meet with him, their future depended on it. It was a pile of bullshit. Sophie reluctantly agreed to postpone their anniversary date, and Harry went to the Toronto airport. He went to a private hangar and got on Ho’s Learjet 75 Liberty.

As soon as the plane took off Ho looked at him ‘’From this moment on, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, what happens on this jet stays on this jet.’’ Almost on cue, two of the most beautiful Asian women that Harry had ever set eyes on walked out from the back of the plane and sat down beside them. ‘’My woman is Pearl and you have Wei. They will keep us company for the weekend. Wei will make sure you have more pleasure than you could ever imagine.’’ Again, almost on command, Wei took Harry’s hand and headed to the back of the plane. There were two rooms, she pulled him into the first one and they started kissing. Before the flight landed, Harry had joined the mile-high club.

That was the start, after that Harry was a regular to Vegas with Ho and other women. In between, he tried to discreetly date other women. Sophie would wait patiently at home as he ignored her needs to satisfy his own. The party ended when Sophie’s brother saw Harry at the Shangri-La Hotel with one of his dates. Her brother Eddie, immediately contacted Sophie and when Harry came home she confronted him, and even though he lied and denied, the divorce proceedings began.

Harry had a number of relationships after that, and they all flamed out. Most of the women who wanted to get serious were more interested in his money than him. So, he lived a playboy’s lifestyle but it was very unfulfilling.

Harry looked at the Madoff headline again and thought about the people he had crushed to get where he was. He had at times been ruthless and had violated trusts and walked through Non-Disclosure Agreements, but he had done it in ways that were perceived as legitimate. He knew he had screwed others over so he could live a luxurious lifestyle, but for some reason these days it didn’t feel so fulfilling.

He gave charity and tried to be a philanthropist but it was more for tax purposes. When he would visit with old friends, and there wasn’t a lot of them and they started talking about their Grandchildren, he wanted to throw up. He and Sophie had talked about having kids but never had any. He had heard that she had three children with the Australian guy. There were times he envied Mr. Australia, Sophie was an excellent person and to have children with her would have been a blessing.

He had for all intensive purposes made it, he had wealth beyond compare and could do anything he wanted with his life. So, why did he feel so miserable? He was sixty years old and felt empty. What did the future hold? He had two sisters and they both had married great guys and had wonderful kids, but he was basically estranged from them. When they were younger and needed some financial help, he had walked away. He told them he had a policy of not lending money to family or friends, that’s what banks were for. They had survived but they never forgot that when they needed their brother, he was nowhere to be found. He left them high and dry and the fact they survived was almost a miracle. They did perfunctory things with him, but never anything beyond that.

Harry had been through a lot of assistants and he regularly lost people who worked for him. One of the women who left had said that Harry never showed any type of loyalty, why should she.

The Madoff story was bothering Harry because of one line. It was about the fact that at his sentencing, not one person wrote a reference letter. Not one person said a good thing about him. Not one person vouched for him or his character. Nobody gave a shit about him. He was a self-centered prick who had gotten caught. Harry kept thinking about it. Who would vouch for him? Once his buddy Ho had placed a lot of money in Canada, he had moved on to new friends who laughed and dismissed Harry if he joined them for anything. Ho soon started treating him differently, and before long that was the end of that. Nobody laughed at Harry Marx, even if they did.

Harry left his office early and went home to clear his head. He had alienated friends, family, business associates all for one reason, self indulgence and greed. Now looking back, it wasn’t worth it. He was living a life that didn’t seem like it was going the way it should have gone. He wanted to call Sophie to apologize but that train had left the station so what was the point.

When Harry got home, he put on his pajamas and got into bed. Nobody would be calling, as he turned off his cell. Before putting his head on the pillow, he kept thinking that nobody would believe him if he acknowledged that he had made mistakes, they would think he was being insincere and was up to something. He would change that starting the next day.

Harry was going to try and make amends for being a shmuck. Someday, and he hoped it would be in a hundred years he would pass. He would have a funeral and he didn’t want people attending to say what a jerk he had been. He didn’t want his service to be filled with insincere people who actually despised him and were glad he was gone. He kept thinking about Bernie Madoff’s sentencing and he didn’t want the same thing to happen when he left the mortal coil, no references, no good words about his life. He would change.

The new Harry was going to call his Sisters and apologize for past behaviour and provide them both with large financial gifts to enjoy with their families. He was going to get to know his Nephews and Nieces. He was going to get in touch with Sophie and tell her he was thinking about her and send her a nice sum of money for her children to use however they saw fit. He was going to try and find a quality, decent woman to spend the rest of his life with. He was going to bonus his employees, and he was going to start treating people he dealt with better. He would be open, honest, and fun. No more living by the small print. He would be a new Harry Marx.

He owed his change in attitude and the way he was going to live the rest of his life to Bernie Madoff. He didn’t want to end up alone and miserable. He didn’t want to be left without anybody loving him. There was an old adage that you couldn’t teach old dogs new tricks, he would flip that script. He was going to start new. He was going to be a better person. He had years left to give charity because he wanted to, not just to get a tax break. Harry Marx was going to be a role model, his life was about to change.

As he fell asleep, for the first time in sixty years, Harry Marx was finally happy with who he was about to become, because he no longer wanted to be who he was.

Alan Schwarz loves life. He is the founder of JAMS Productions, a television production company based in Toronto . His passion is writing.

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