Emergency: This Book Will Save Your Life - Neil Strauss (2009)
Part III. ESCAPE
Some people talk about the power of intent. They say that if you set your mind on something you really want, it will come to you. This is often misinterpreted as a rationalization for laziness, because it’s a lot easier to lie in bed and dream than to go out and work.
Personally, I believe in the power of the odds. If you interact with enough people, and you look for clues leading to what you want every time, you’ll eventually find someone or something that can help you.
This was what had happened with the conspiracy theorist at Alcor. And it was how I found my first real ally in this heretical quest: Spencer Booth.
He picked me up at JFK International Airport in a black Mercedes, which, like him, was tasteful but not flashy. Pale-skinned, with large red lips, ears that thrust violently out of his head, and a fleshy nose that seemed designed for a bigger face, Spencer didn’t look like a billionaire. He reminded me more of an albino Mr. Potato Head. It was only when he spoke that his cheeks filled with color and his eyes with light, and it became clear that he was a man to be respected and reckoned with.
Road trips with strangers are long. Especially when they involve New York traffic. Along the way, I was indoctrinated into the world of Spencer Booth. He was from a world I’d never visited or even imagined before. It was the “B world,” as he put it, full of “B people.” B, I gathered, stood for a billion dollars. And B people, most of them big businessmen, were worth at least that much.
Spencer had just made a B after selling his latest technology company. Bored in the downtime afterward, he’d contacted me after reading my books because he thought I should start my own business. So he invited me to the house he was renting in the Hamptons to discuss it.
I took him up on the offer not because I actually wanted to be a businessman, but because I’d never been to the Hamptons before. I didn’t have those kinds of friends.
Spencer pressed play on the CD player in his car and the deep, somber voice of one of my favorite songwriters, Leonard Cohen, prophesied through the crystal-clear sound system: “I’ve seen the future, brother: it is murder.”
“The way to take over an industry,” Spencer was saying over the music, beginning my first business lesson of the weekend, “is not to fix the current model, but to completely destroy it and replace it with a model you know is better.”
“So let me ask you something, since you’re a businessman.” I didn’t know why exactly—perhaps it was the music, perhaps it was a plea to the gods of the odds—but I felt like Spencer might understand what had been on my mind since Craig’s terrorism speech at my book party. “Don’t you think that’s exactly what the terrorists want to do to America? They don’t just want to destroy the country. They want to destroy the entire model.”
“I do.” Spencer turned onto the Sunrise Highway and sat silently in traffic. He glanced at me, scanning my face for something he could trust, then turned back to the road. “That’s why,” he continued slowly, nodding, deciding, “I hired a lawyer to help me get a second passport.”
As soon as he said the word passport, my face exploded with color. I was excited, nervous, and, mostly, relieved. From the shift of energy in the car, it was clear this was no longer a business trip. I’d met a fellow runner.
It suddenly felt as if a weekend would not be long enough to talk about everything we needed to.
There is a theory called memetics, which suggests that ideas move through culture much like viruses. Thanks to the catalysts of 9/11 and Katrina, the escapist meme had clearly spread from the minds of fringe extremists to early adopters in mainstream society. It was only a matter of time, I began to worry, until countries further tightened their immigration policies because of the large numbers of Americans leaving, like their forefathers, for somewhere safer, more prosperous, and more free.
“What have you found out?” I asked Spencer. “So far, the only thing I know about is this organization called the Sovereign Society.”
After returning home from Alcor, I’d found the Sovereign Society website. I’d actually stumbled across it earlier in my search but assumed it was just another scam to sell foreign real estate, international currencies, fraudulent passports, and expensive consultations.
This time, however, I noticed that the society was holding its first-ever Offshore Advantage Seminar in Mexico the following month. So I’d signed up in the hope of finding a community of like-minded escape artists who were further along in their quest for a safe haven.
“I’ve never heard of them,” he replied. “I’ve been working with a lawyer, Holland Wright. When you get back to L.A., call him and tell him you know me. He’ll take care of you.”
Between the Sovereign Society and Spencer, I was no longer fumbling in the dark for an emergency exit. Suddenly, I had options.
Spencer parked in a gravel driveway outside his rental house and ushered me inside. Considering that he was sharing the place with one of the owners of a media empire, the vice president of a large mortgage company, a major hedge fund manager, and a venture capitalist from one of New York’s wealthiest families, it was very un-opulent. Just a two-story white wooden building with five sparsely furnished bedrooms and a communal walkway that led over a ravine to the sea.
“So what country are you going to get your passport from?” I asked Spencer as he showed me to my bedroom. I had so many questions I wanted to ask, and so far he was the first person I’d met with any answers.
“I was thinking about the European Union.”
“But I doubt Europe is going to be safe if there’s another world war.” I had discounted Europe immediately because anything America was involved in, Europe would surely be swept into as well.
“That’s not the point. There are twenty-five countries in the European Union. And those countries possess territories all over the world. So with an EU passport, you can get somewhere safe from just about anywhere.” His potato head contained so much knowledge. That’s why he was rich and I wasn’t.
“So what does it take to get an EU passport?”
In response, he brought me to the balcony, where a short man with a round, boyish face was talking on a cell phone.
“Neil, I want you to meet Adam,” Spencer said. Adam was the venture capitalist. “He just got his Austrian citizenship this week.”
I’d definitely stumbled into the right place.