Thursday, June 25, 2009

The price of one ICBM: 386,250 dinners at Chez Panisse!

(Photos are of Chez Panisse, Specchio's kitchen and baby Mena at the zoo -- just thought I'd throw that in as an example of Enlightened cuteness)

What is the most prestigious status symbol there is? A 20-karat diamond necklace? A Rolls Royce? A mansion in Beverly Hills? Nope. An Intercontinental Ballistic Missile is the absolutely most prestigious thing. Just ask anyone who owns one. ICBMs are hot!

I wanna own an ICBM. THEN people will like me. Where can I buy one? How much do they cost?

According to John Clay, a missile expert at Northrup-Grumman, "The last ICBM [system] cost $100 billion, in current dollars." And according to an official U.S. Navy website, the unit cost for one Lockheed Trident is 30.9 million dollars. Guess I'm going to have to save up.

And speaking of prestigious things, me and my daughter Ashley and my son Joe splurged bigtime last night and went out to dinner at that famous gourmet French restaurant in north Berkeley -- Chez Panisse. We had three things to celebrate: My birthday, Father's Day (Joe's a dad), and the recent settlement of my lawsuit against the Department of Defense.

Our dinner was excellent. We had "Canard aux abricots" (roast duck in apricot sauce) and "Halibut carpaccio with shaved porcini mushrooms" (halibut-mushroom Jello), with "Almond panna cotta with plum coulis" (cottage cheese pudding and fruit) for dessert. "Our featured wine of the evening is called Lacryma Christi -- the Tears of Christ," said our waiter. Joe had a glass in honor of Neda Soltan and the other recent victims of out-of-control militia thugs in Iran.

How come when out-of-control militia thugs kill a girl in Iran, it's considered an outrage and every newspaper in America shrieks about it in their headlines -- but when hundreds of girls get killed in Palestine by out-of-control Israeli militia thugs, it doesn't even make the back pages. And when hundreds of peaceful American protesters are attacked and jailed at Republican conventions in New York and Minneapolis, you only hear about that on the blogs. That's not good journalism. That's propaganda. But I digress.

For our big night out at Chez Panisse, we really tried hard to find a babysitter for 18-month-old Mena but we couldn't, so while the three of us were eating our roasted duck, we each took turns walking around the block with baby Mena in our arms until she finally fell asleep. And the staff of Chez Panisse was most gracious about our having to bring Mena at the last minute and kept bringing her fruit and bread. Mena loves Chez Panisse bread!

After two glorious hours of eating totally delicious stuff, the final bill for our wonderful evening came to $60 apiece plus wine, tax and tip. That's a lot of money, but so what -- the Department of Defense was paying for it.

The DoD also pays for ICBMs (actually, we taxpayers are the ones who get to pay through the nose for these prestige items). However. What if we stopped spending our hard-earned money on ICBMs and started spending it on sending people to Chez Panisse instead? I figure that for the price of one (1) ICBM, we could seat approximately 386,250 people for a nice duck dinner at Chez Panisse.

Which is the better value?

Chez Panisse of course!

I figure that if we calculated the cost of a whole missile system as suggested by Northrup-Grumman (you gotta have the whole system for the freaking missile to work -- otherwise it would just be sitting uselessly around forever out in your garage), that cost would equal approximately 10,000,000,000 dinners at Chez Panisse (or approximately 33.3 dinners for every man, woman and child in the U.S.) -- so lets be practical here and just go with the $30.9 million unit cost.

"But if we got rid of all the ICBMs, how could we survive without them?" you might ask. "What will keep America safe?" Hmmm. Did the Minuteman III missile system keep us safe on 9-11? No. Maybe all those dinners might have kept us safer. For instance, if Cheney and Mohammed Atta had simply met for dinner at Chez Panisse and gotten all mellowed out, there might not even have BEEN a 9-11. And now that the Taliban is giving us all this trouble in AfPak, I bet that if Hillary Clinton had dinner at Chez Panisse with a few of those misguided Taliban mullahs (minus, of course, the Tears of Christ), she could straighten them right out. Or Obama could take Kim Jong Il there and end the nuclear crisis in North Korea. And Bush could have taken Saddam Hussein to Chez Panisse (instead of just serving him up some over-cooked Shock and Awe) and saved us taxpayers three trillion dollars right off the bat.

PS: An ICBM really does appear to be the world's ultimate status symbol and super-prestigious thing. Parking one of those babies in your driveway will surely make the neighbors all drool. But a dinner at Chez Panisse is a very nice status symbol too. Or you could have brunch at that new gourmet Italian restaurant over in San Francisco's Mission District -- Specchio. We went there for Fathers Day and Mena loved the bread there too. Plus they served the world's best beet salad and pumpkin-amaretto raviolis....

Never mind.

What I am trying to say here is that the ultimate prestigious thing one can possess in this world isn't an ICBM missile or 386,250 dinners at Chez Panisse or even brunch at Specchio. The most ultimate prestigious thing one can possess in this world is ENLIGHTENMENT. Nothing you can have or own is more valuable than Peace of Mind and Non-Attachment to Stuff. However, be that as it may, the most valuable thing in all existence -- Enlightenment -- cannot be bought. No Wall Street billionaires or Pentagon generals or Saudi princes can buy it. But every man, woman and child in the world is capable of owning it for themselves, no matter how rich they are -- or how poor.

So. Screw the material world. I've decided to spend the next 20 years of my life seeking Enlightenment. Ha! That'll show 'em. Then I will be better than anyone else and will get invited to sleep in the Lincoln Bedroom, have tea with the Queen and even be asked to meet with the Dalai Lama, Vladimir Putin and Osama bin Ladin in his cave. Perez Hilton will write about me. I will be HOT!

PPS: Does anyone have any suggestions on exactly how to go about obtaining Enlightenment, the most valuable thing that there is in the entire world? Our colleges and universities all offer degrees in searching for gold, selling and buying on the stock market and even designing ICBMs -- but what university offers us a PhD in Enlightenment? And which department in the Pentagon specializes in procurement of that top-secret weapon? And how many of our Congressional representatives are allowed to eat in the special "Enlightened Members Only" section of the Senate cafeteria? And will NATO get any Enlightened Beings to surround Russia with?

And if I perchance DO become Enlightened, does that mean that I will have to give up my blog?