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November 25, 2009

con story

One of my strangest Thanksgiving memories occurred during my Freshman year of college in 1996.

My good friend and college roommate, Tom Marczak, also went to the same high school as I did so we also usually traveled together back and forth between college and home. From Syracuse, New York we traveled via Grey Hound bus to Worcester, Massachusetts where his parents were waiting with a cooler full of Mrs. Marczak’s famous egg salad sandwiches to feed us as we dove the rest of the way back to Maine. And let me just tell you, if you haven’t had one of Ginny Marczak’s egg salad sandwiches than you just don’t know what an egg salad sandwich tastes like -- although it’s probably similar to what you think an egg salad sandwich tastes like.

Anyway, after spending four months away from home, I actually missed my family and I was even looking forward to spending a little time with my parents. And I was also excited to see my extended family as well since we were going to be having Thanksgiving Dinner with my Aunt Joan and Uncle Remo, and my cousins, Tracey, Nina, and Angel.

When I finally got home, my parents were so excited to see me -- especially my mom who hugged me until about eight o’clock the next morning. However, there was something besides my arrival that they were even more excited about.

In the short time that I was away at college, something had taken over my parents’ lives like an alien parasite from another planet -- and that parasite was called the Fortuna Alliance.

The Fortuna Alliance was some kind of “investment opportunity ” that my Uncle Remo was fortunate enough to become involved with. According to one of their pamphlets, the Fortuna Alliance describes themselves as:

"Fortuna is an innovative, profit-sharing cooperative that combines the elements of membership, natural networking and global cooperative buying. By combining the purchasing power of its many members, Fortuna Alliance can offer substantial profit-sharing and/or discounts on traditional name-brand items, as well as unique products and services available only through Fortuna Alliance. These comprehensive offerings will also be available world-wide through Fortuna’s online catalog and computerized order entry system.

Simply by sharing the benefits of membership in Fortuna Alliance with friends and family, a member can earn a substantial residual income from their share of profits. All members order directly from Fortuna or an affiliated provider, so that there is no inventory loading or product selling required from a member."

Now, I never claimed to be a smart person -- and I never really understood the Fortuna Alliance when it was first explained to me, and doing research on it now, I still don’t quite understand it -- but apparently it starts with one sucker initially signing up to join Fortuna. And once that original sucker has successfully joined, it is then their job to sign up all the suckers they know -- and then those suckers get all the suckers they know to join, and so on and so on -- BUT -- it was not a pyramid scheme. Which is a good thing, because my Uncle Remo suckered my dad into joining.

The Fortuna Alliance was created by some new-age salesman named Augie Delgado.

Above is a picture of Bob Saget and some guy named Augie Delgado that I found off the internet. I’m not sure if it’s the same Augie Delgado that created the Fortuna Alliance, but at the very least, it’s a great picture of Bob Saget.

According to Augie, the Fortuna Alliance wasn’t a pyramid scheme for a couple of reasons. First of all, a traditional pyramid scheme is designed so there’s a few rich people at the top who are supported by the majority of broke suckers on the bottom row. Fortuna was different because they turned the pyramid upside down.

See?? It’s different because the rich people are on the bottom and the suckers are on top. Not a pyramid scheme.

And Augie also had some kind of math formula that explained everything:

1 + 1 = 2
1 + 2 = 3
2 + 3 = 5
3 + 5 = 8
5 + 8 = 13

Now, once again, I’m not that smart, but isn’t 13 an unlucky number?? And I’m pretty sure that’s one of the math equations that Russell Crowe had a hard time figuring out in A Beautiful Mind.

Anyway, that’s all anyone talked about at Thanksgiving. It was Fortuna this and Fortuna that. My Uncle Remo was talking about all the Mercedes he was gonna buy as soon as his first check came in. He even told me I didn’t have to go to college at Syracuse anymore because Augie was creating Fortuna University and I would soon be able to transfer there. My cousins were talking about al the trips they were gonna take, and my mom was talking about finally being able to buy a house.

It was a little scary. My older brother Mark and I were the only two people at Thanksgiving who weren’t completely brainwashed by this Fortuna bullshit. It was like everyone else at the table had joined a cult. And I’m not kidding -- at one point, my dad stood up to make a toast, and he proceeded to let out an enormous fart as he shouted “Fortuna!” Seriously. That really happened.

And the Fortuna Alliance didn’t end at Thanksgiving either. On Christmas morning I found out that my parents had bought me two whole shares of Fortuna as a Christmas gift. And lemme tell you -- that’s the gift that keeps on giving all year long. That’s waaay better than the winter jacket I asked for. I mean, who needs a winter jacket in Syracuse, New York in the middle of January? Not me -- that’s for sure.

Eventually, Augie Delgado took all the money and ran off to the Bahamas -- or someplace like that -- and the Fortuna Alliance was proven to be a pyramid scheme. The Federal Trade Commission got involved and shut everything down and an attempt to refund all the suckers was even made – although, I’ve never been compensated for that stupid Christmas gift I got that year.

And for the record, I don’t blame my uncle. He didn’t realize it was a scam. Hell, he was the biggest sucker in all of this and he probably lost more money than anyone else. But I think the worse thing about Fortuna is that my parents weren't rich. They barely had a pot to piss in, so they used their credit cards to buy into the Fortuna dream -- and they maxed out all those credit cards trying make that dream a reality.

Actually, you know what -- I do blame my uncle… what an idiot…