I was not even 10 years old, but I understood that The Old Man had the kind of charm that could hold the world together. It took be four decades to realize how right I was. He was irreplaceable, but after holding the mobile world together since before World War Two, he was also getting old.
I don’t know why I was told he was the richest man in the world. Maybe to get me to treat him with the same kind of distant awe that all the sycophants, who followed him to the historic little far away middle class mountain resort with fine food, unique wine and some of the best musicians in the world, showed him. To me he was more of a pal. To my Grandparents who owned the resort, that drew such great musical talent because of a painful depression co-history with the early Jazz movement of such a caliber to entice his musically talented son’s family, they were a nuisance that eventually destroyed their resort.
In a summer only tourist town, a mass of people parking themselves on your best tables all night to unhappily complain about having to be there but staying to be there with The Old Man, left good happy customers lined up outside, in the back room or driving away to give their quick turnover money to other food venders. All because a word from The Old Man could make or break them. So everyone sat grumbling near the giant fireplace, bandstand and amazingly huge carved bar waiting much longer than was normally acceptable in a business like ours.
I might have been told to keep me in line. Leaving me to watch not only my 3 1/2 years younger sister, but his similar aged brother who clung to her, while he disappeared to read the Comic Books he so highly recommended to me was only a little helped by the 2 years younger than me friend of the family Christopher who seemed to be along to watch Billy.
Grandpa was there only in the evenings. His family’s farm took his days. Grammie was always so busy it became my job to dance with Grandpa, an extraordinarily smooth dancer, when the sycophants brought the energy down so low the dance floor cleared. I took it very seriously. I had to be flawless. What I learned from my afternoons being “watched” by Grammie’s old friend the arranger was that you don’t have to be flashy. It wasn’t about ego. You just did what you could, but like a good doctor, just try to do no harm. Be with the music – don’t try to rule the music.
I don’t know if I knew that the women who were very kind to help me, with my little sister in the bathroom and such, were different. In the seventies the differences between men and women in the Muslim world were not as great, as the people at a loss as to how to control them without The Old Man’s charm later made them, as the only way they could think to control their people. I wonder if it was so they wouldn’t have to deal with women like me.
It was my secret place that made them jealous. If you could make it up the large pile of exposed boulders it was still hard to find the meeting place. It was a good gathering place because people who had a difficult time sitting Indian Style, like I learned at my progressive deskless school in the new suburbs of South Denver, could sit conventionally on the lip of the very large bowl at the top of the pile a couple dozen feet above the restaurant back door. Special adults made it up there and the Grandkids of The Old Man knew the way because they were there often, but it put many others at a disadvantage and “take me down little Susie” was a plea that lost musicians and others had to ask in desperation to find the secret safe path to ground level. Some didn’t like my power.
Finding ways to get around feeling so helpless, to a female, might have been the straw that they grasped at when The Old Man died and the family sold the oil rights, he had won to half of Saudi Arabia, to Chevron. Leaving men, like the Koch Brothers who had to have desert crude for their type of refineries, with memories of painfully embarrassing inadequacies in rock climbing skills they could cure by turning the desert people against themselves with ancient recently removed restrictions on women that left those people hated by the world and very easy to control.