This morning I toured the gold vault at the New Federal Reserve. They keep it all in the basement, five levels below the subway. It’s stored in little cells as if it’s being held prisoner in the Mayberry county jail. I don’t know much about the nuances of the federal economy. I really just wanted to hold one of those $300,000-worth-of-gold bricks in my hand. Carolyn, who gave us the tour, pointed out that ever since the gold standard was done away with, gold only retains value based on how beautiful we seem to find it.
And it is beautiful. Since gold is so malleable, the bricks have to be mixed with another precious metal to hold their shape. The gold mixers, (who are they? Do they mix it up in a big vat? Do they wear chef’s hats?) generally use either bronze or silver, so that when you take a few steps back and look at all those chunks piled on top of each other, you can see how their tint varies from red to white, their quality from old to new, all sparkling even though they are kept too far deep in the earth to catch the light of anything.
One brick would change my life! And there are so many down there, over 500,000. Who would know the difference?
When I was little, my dad took my brother and me on a tour of the Denver Mint. In the gift shop afterward, my dad bought us each a coin stamped with the face of our favorite American president. My brother chose Carter. I chose Nixon.
That was right after I’d seen the Anthony Hopkins film about him. I cried so hard when Paul Sorvino, (Kissinger), exclaimed “Think of the greatness this man could have achieved if he had only been loved.”
Who could have loved Nixon enough to free his greatness from its little cage? Could Pat have scrambled his eggs with more tenderness? Could Tricia and Julie have brought him his slippers with more sincerity? No, only Nixon could have loved Nixon enough to achieve the greatness he fell short of. He didn’t, but only he could have.
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