“Please Don’t Tax the Billionaires”
I nod at the sign and my guide Kevin, an Australian ex-pat, explains, “Billionaires are shy and elusive creatures, easily frightened by loud noises and progressive tax rates.”
There’s a flurry in the underbrush and then a convoy of lawyers and accountants speeds by in their cars. Kevin, an experienced tracker, gives chase. He’s at ease as we speed through the Montauk Billionaire Reserve, casually navigating around obstacles while we chat.
“Because billionaires have access to modes of transportation not available to the rest of us, we have to track them by indirect means. When they’re nearby you’ll often hear a flurry of professionals and a chit-chat through the corporate jungle floor. Listen.” My city-boy hearing isn’t as attuned as his, but I can clearly hear chatter about how charming Elon Musk is. This surprises me. From media reports, I had always assumed Elon was an insufferable ass. But I guess this is why you go on safaris – to learn about nature in situ, rather than mediated through journalism.
Suddenly Kevin stops our jeep and turns off the lights. The misty dawn air is thick, warm and heavy. I’m confused for a moment and then the silence is broken by a low guttural (glottal?) sound, not unlike that made by a peacock in heat.
As quietly as I can, I look around, searching for the source of the sound There is a rustle in a nearby copse: something large moving through the brush. The sound repeats.
“Torte torte torte”.
Kevin leans over and whispers into my ear, “There’s a billionaire nearby. I think its a big one. His lawyers are beating the bush for prey.”
Suddenly the forest goes deathly still. Without realizing it I stop breathing.
A flurry of “tortes” explodes around me and then a “YOWWWWWWWWWWLLLLLLLLLLL” pierces the thick, damp air. The sound chills me to the bone.
Kevin explains, “Non-compete clause. Prey always sounds like that when it realizes it can never work again. C’mon. Let’s check it out.”
We carefully exit our jeep, landing silently onto the loamy forest floor. We cautiously move toward the recent commotion. I’m anxious to press forward but Kevin cautions me, “Careful mate. Lawyers are prickly creatures, even when not in the service of a billionaires”. We arrive at the seen of the recent hunt but find nothing but a few shreds of a high thread-count suit and a power tie. The trail is lost.
Tracking billionaires requires patience.
Kevin sighs. “That’s enough for now. Let’s set up a blind and wait.” As he speaks, the Australian unveils a life-sized doll which resembles Heidi Klum in her prime. We crack open a couple of Fosters and kick-back, listening to the noises of the corporate jungle: the brack-a-brack-a-brack of intellectual property lawyers, the cha-ching cha-ching of cash registers, the chug-a-chug of mugs of coffee being quaffed by tired workers, and the sighs of mothers abandoned by their workaholic spouses.
[From the sounds of it, he’s about to make his prey sign a non-compete clause.] I begin to make a comment about Peter Thiel but my guide sententiously touches his index finger to his noise, winks at me and then pulls his lips together like a zipper, so I say nothing.
[…. One woman says that she wishes her boyfriend was a rich as Richard Branson so she could afford to have children. A bevy of others sigh in agreement …]