Emergency: This Book Will Save Your Life - Neil Strauss (2009)
Part V. RESCUE
Maybe it was when the price of a gallon of gas broke the $5.00 mark in some parts of the country.
Maybe it was when Bear Stearns became the first brokerage house to be rescued by the government since the Great Depression.
Maybe it was when IndyMac became the fifth American bank to fail in recent months.
Maybe it was when the government gave customs agents authority to confiscate, copy, and analyze any laptop or data storage device brought across the border.
Maybe it was the housing market crashing, the unemployment rate rising, the stock market slumping, the credit card debt ballooning, the cost of living increasing, the national debt skyrocketing, the public-high-school drop-out rate hitting fifty percent in major cities, and Afghanistan and Iraq showing signs of becoming the longest wars in U.S. history.
Maybe it was the unshakable sense that the worst was still to come.
But I was no longer alone.
It was a hot summer, and pessimism hung thick in the air. Most people I talked to felt as if they were inching closer to some darkness they couldn’t understand, because they’d never experienced it before and didn’t know what it held.
The grimmer the news became, the more I harassed Maxwell in St. Kitts. I began to worry that I’d have to start looking for a second passport from scratch, which wouldn’t be as easy now that the idea of an exodus was starting to spread.
Even Spencer’s housemate Howard, who had once made fun of us for taking precautionary measures, was now looking into Caribbean islands. As it turned out, he would beat all of us there when his company collapsed and he had to hide from possible indictment.
“I’m so glad we started preparing ahead,” Spencer told me over dinner at the Chateau Marmont, where he was staying in Los Angeles.
Having struck out with the Swiss, I took Spencer’s advice and opened an account with a Canadian bank that had a branch in St. Kitts. Since both Canada and St. Kitts are part of the British Commonwealth, he’d explained, I would have easy access to my money if anything happened in America. Unfortunately, in the process, I discovered that keeping international accounts secret is now illegal: the IRS requires Americans with over $10,000 in foreign accounts to file an annual report disclosing not just the amount of money and the banks it’s kept in, but the account numbers.
Meanwhile, Spencer was moving forward with his ten-year plan. He started an Internet business in Singapore, enabling him to open a private banking account in the country, which he claimed was fast becoming the new Switzerland. Though he hadn’t gotten his St. Kitts passport yet either, Spencer had done more research into buying an island.
“I’m looking at islands in the north, around Iceland, because no one will think of looking for anyone there,” Spencer said, his thick lips spreading into a self-satisfied smile. “If I can get some other B people to go there with me, we can build underground homes and use geothermal energy.”
“What about your submarine?”
“It’s a great way to move between islands undetected, but we’re running out of time. We need to move faster. This is only the beginning.”
“How bad do you think it’s going to get?” Spencer seemed to understand the economy at a higher level than most people did, perhaps because he knew so many of the people who ran it.
“I don’t think the whole country’s going to collapse, but we’re looking at the worst economic disaster in America since the Great Depression. What I’m also concerned about is the increase in violent crime that’s going to accompany this.”
Everywhere I went that summer, the demon of Just in Case seemed to follow me, growling in my ear louder than it ever had, its jaws terrifyingly close to my jugular. I’d learned so much, changed so much, tested myself so much. It now was time to stop preparing, turn around, and face the demon—and my fears—head on.
And a musician would lead me there.