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Those who've been in New York's Trump Tower must be amused by the audacity of tourists who gaze in wonder at its grandeur and say-with the determination of an ant aspiring to be an elephant-that some day they're going to own a tower too.
I'm not denying that science might in the future actually create an elephant out of ant sperm and a pinch of pachyderm DNA. I'm just saying that I'm relatively certain that this ant-meaning me-will not likely ever be transformed into an elephant, meaning a Donald Trump. But I'm trying.
My wife, the adventuresome Cinelli, and I began seeing ourselves as the Trumps of L.A. when we purchased a 5-unit, half-century old apartment building. The idea was to begin creating a real estate empire that would trump anything Trump ever dreamed of. This fiefdom would fund a retirement of martinis, trips abroad and days of leisure while the rent money flowed in. We were ants on the hustle.
When I actually did retire from the L.A. "By God " Times, we used pension money to buy a 10-unit apartment building and two houses, inching ever closer to our days of wine and roses, but simultaneously realizing that it takes money to make money. Profit was dwindling while the loss column was growing. In other words, I could boast of my property possessions while lacking the cash to get a haircut.
"Don't worry about it, Elmer," my wife, the buoyant Cinelli, would say. "It will all come together when the recession ends." She calls me Elmer because I tend to slur my name and people think I'm saying "I'm Elmer Teenez."
We bought when the market was low, she explains, so just as soon as it inches upward we'll sell at a profit and move on to Retirement Phase Two, whatever that may be.
I say, "That's just ant talk and I will never be an elephant."
She says I lack the daring to be a Trump, but I do look nice with my hair combed forward.
The rental income from the property would have sustained us in retirement, but then everyone began reaching into our pockets. The city and county demanded various fees, property upgrades, safety additions and cosmetic changes. The tenants never ceased complaining about burned-out light globes, squeaky hinges, barking dogs, noisy children, slow-flushing toilets and the need to pay rent.
Additionally, when a unit suddenly becomes empty, it has to be filled fast by offering prospective tenants such enticements as free rent for a month, restaurant gift certificates or the repainting of a freshly-painted living room to yellow because the color blue makes them sad.
Cinelli, however, still aspires to the lofty heights where Trump abides.
I, on the other hand, remain an ant named Elmer, pleased to afford martinis now and again and not anxious to give them up for a haircut.