Playing Chess With Life
At Age 81, Dan
Mayers Lives in the Fast Lane
Aged eighty one, I am in radiant health; my physician assures me that I may live indefinitely if I avoid fast cars and the Mafia. In this chaotic world, everyone enjoys strokes of luck; the secret is to take full advantage of them. In this I have excelled.
Running monopolies is my profession. I love capitalism, free competition and the American way of life. But nothing is as enjoyable as a closely held monopoly. All my monopolies began with a stroke of good luck.
My highly intelligent parents raised me according to modern precepts; I grew up wholly unfit for any gainful occupation-I regarded working for a living with profound distaste.
I have never worked a day in my life; business is merely another hobby to be pursued with dedicated passion. No normal businessman can compete with an enthusiastic hobbiest. I played chess, with the world as my chessboard.
My parents gifted me a superb education and gave me two pieces of sound advice: Freedom is the ultimate goal, and the only reason to make money is to buy time. I added two corrolaries: Making money must be amusing, and if one is rich, one meets a better class of women. These precepts have guided my life.
On graduation in 1944 I was drafted and assigned to Los Alamos where they were making atom bombs. They were the laboratory nightmares of mad scientists, which killed two cities.
I met all the leading scientists, either through my work or at my simultaneous chess exhibitions. I was the 1939 N.Y.C. High School Champion. Oppenheimer, Bethe, Feynman, Uhlam, TellerLaura Fermi were in my group and I sometimes picknicked with the Fermis on weekends.
I took up card magic seriously, taking lessons from Dai Vernon, the century's greatest magician, during furloughs and practicing six hours a night. Sometimes I dealt blackjack weekends in Doughbelly Price's Saloon in Taos, banking the game and splitting the winnings with Doughbelly. All his games were crooked.
Demobilized, I spent six months collecting minerals, making one of the century's greatest finds-Adamite at the Mina Ojuela, Mapimi, Durango, Mexico.
Harvard invited me to become a graduate student, working towards a Ph.D. After three years my professors threw me out in disgust with an M.A. after discovering, to their intense chagrin, that I was making more money than they were. They told me to stop wasting their time.
While a Harvard student I was running my optical calcite mine in Chihuahua, had become the world distributor for Optovac Inc.-whom I had saved from bankruptcy, was smuggling goods by air into Mexico, was acting as buying agent for Mexico's leading stone dealer and purchased the output of Chatham Research Laboratories, who grew emeralds. Perhaps my professors had a point.
After winning the New England Chess Championship I spent nine months in Brazil, helping my friend Ing. Theophilo Badin. The climate was unbearable and I left.
For the next few years I traveled about Europe and the Far East, cherishing my monopolies and becoming an expert skier. Then I had my life's greatest piece of luck: hiring a gorgeous English secretary-traveling companion. Barbara accompanied me to Mexico, where I had foolishly invested in a lapidary operation in Erongaricuaro, Michoacan, Mexico bordering Lake Patzcuaro.
We were married on Thanksgiving Day and lived in Mexico for the next five years, Barbara running the business while I traveled for half a year. Our children, Vanda and Randell, shared our home with two spectacular Great Danes. I remain persuaded that the Great Danes were the real reason Barbara married me.
Another improbable stroke of luck made me the world distributor of the famous Sandawana Emerald on behalf of Rio Tinto Mines. I effectively controlled the world emerald market for years.
The Sandawana business caused us to move to England, where we bought a historic house with 120 acres at Wadhurst, and created the Loth Lorien Arboretum; Barbara produced Gayle and Darrel.
My luck continued, giving me the world distribution and partial mine ownership of Kundalilla Amethyst-the world's finest. A prosperous decade later we declined to allow our partner, Tiny Rowland, to steal our share of the business, so he sued us for $15,000,000. After spending eight years in court and some $5,000,000 in legal fees, Tiny realized that he was merely amusing me and settled the lawsuit on terms which I dictated. A great adventure.
When our children left home, my beloved wife became England's largest breeder and exporter of tropical fish. When a disco with a glass dance floor-under which swam Barbara's Pirhanas-became alarmed lest the glass should break, Barbara reassured the owner that, though his customers were probably of inferior nutritional value, the Pirhanas were unlikely to suffer harm.
Barbara often accompanied me as I perambulated the globe-perhaps she needed a new wardrobe, decided to see the sun rise over the Himalayas, or had to hire additional labor for her fish house; she could curse in three Chinese dialects. I speak Spanish, French and German with the same fluency as English.
Tragically, Barbara the only woman I ever loved deeply, passed away a few years ago from a massive heart attack following a fall. Without her loyal and loving support of my improbable shenanigans I never would have had such success and enjoyment. I miss her terribly.
My cherished business associates have either retired or died; my present life consists of liquidating our business, skiing for three months each winter in the world's finest resort-Sun Valley and playing chess all over the world. I am one of the world's strongest players of my age and compete in the annual World Senior Chess Championship. I was the 1996 Senior Champion of Great Britain; many of my games have been published.
I enjoy numerous other hobbies. In 1939 in Milwaukee I won the U.S. Junior Open Field Archery Championship, shooting my own equipment. I also supplied the Women's Athletic Department at the University of Arizona with their arrows. As the path to the archery field led through the girls' locker room I would call out: "Close your eyes, girls, I'm coming through!" I enjoyed their unconcern.
Monty Montana (famous roping and riding cowboy) helped me with my trick and fancy roping routine on his annual visits to Tucson.
The New York Academy of Jiu Jitsu awarded me a Black Belt; I also study at the Kokokan in Tokyo. I discovered and cherish my chi.
Our oriental business was based in Hong Kong, home of my dearest friend and partner, C.H. Hu, a man of extraordinary intellect and culture.
Visiting Japan with Father Hu I became a collector and dealer in Japanese Wood Block prints, Ukiyo-e.
I became enamored of shakuhachi-the Japanese end-blown Zen bamboo flute. Eventually I became president of the International Shakuhachi Society, editor of its Annals and became a Zen Master. I am the world's leading dealer in shakuhachi, being the only person able to hold a large inventory-shakuhachi are danmably expensive.
My mother, a distinguished physician, believed that as one ages one's body loses its youthful ability to metabolize efficiently the splendid nutrients a healthy diet contains. Thus, as one ages one must take supplements-a diet suitable for a youth will leave an elderly person starved of important nutrients.
Following my mother's advice, and benefiting from the invaluable information contained in Life Extension magazine, I take some 200 pills per day. I attribute my good health to this regime.
Taking so many pills is an infernal nuisance. However, my body has been my dearest friend for all my life, affording me incomparable mental and physical pleasure. It would show the grossest ingratitude to starve it for want of adequate nutrients. If I were so criminally ungrateful it would be entirely justified in dying on me. So I do my best to cater to its whims and keep it alive and healthy.
Dan's father's bio
Lewis Mayers, B.A., M.A., Ph.D., Pi Beta Kappa distinguished authority on consitutional law, author of numerous books, including the standard work, The American Legal System. Head of the Law Department Baruch School of Business, C.C.U. N.Y.
Dan's mother's bio
May R. Mayers, B.A., M.A., M.D., distinguished physician and diagnostician, Head of the Medical Unit, New York State Bureau of Industrial Hygiene, personally responsible for setting industrial exposure limits throughout New York State; a pioneer in Industrial Medicine, author of the standard text of that title.
Dan's upcoming book
THUNDERBUNNY-The Memoirs of a Professional Hedonist, a hard-cover illustrated three-hundred page volume to be published 2003/2004.