Stephen Horenstein
Music, Arts and Society

What would YOU do with 3 million dollars?

What would you, what COULD you do with three million dollars? A good friend of my, Gerald (Gershon) Swirsky, just imagined that he won the lottery in Australia to the tune of three million dollars!!!  I feel so happy for him.  For some time now, Gershon has been diagnosed with stage 4 melanoma; 8 years ago they didn’t give him much hope, but he is STILL alive to day.  So even without the three million in my book he’s a winner!

I recently interviewed Gershon over coffee in Ben Ami (Emek Raphaim, Jerusalem).  This is our favorite hangout, primarily for people watching.  I love talking to Gershon, he’s a Renaissance man from New York, filled with stories about a time that both of us shared (the 60’s). At Ben Ami, the coffee is good too and the people watching is often interesting.  I start my the interview with the simple (and perhaps quite anticipated) question:  “”I’m totally flabbergasted that you have won this.  Now at the ripe old age of 72, what are you are going to do with that money?”.  Here’s what Gershon said:

GS “Well, I always wanted to take a cruise around the world:” SH “Would you want to invite your family”? GS “Yes, I would invite them all…”  SH “But that wouldn’t use up all the money?…GS “I’d also get a condo  in Nice, Cote D’Azur…SH “What would you do there?” GS I’d buy a International Herald Tribune and go the beach!.

(Judith Margolis)

Gershon continued: GS “Then I would decide what I would leave my kids in my will, because that will be soon, given my condition. After the condo, I would like to travel a lot, to Budapest, Prague (Kafka’s grave, he’s definitely one of my heroes, a lot of what’s going on today, especially with governments, the bureaucracy, Kafka said!)..  Yeh, I’d like to travel.  It would be nice traveling with someone in my family, if they had the time to go…What else would I do?  I definitely would think of one worthwhile charity to give the money to; which charity?. Cancer research. In 1969 I worked in an IBM medical lab on 116th street, on the other side from Columbia U.   I worked in basement, in the storehouse. One day I went up to the coffee shop for coffee and saw some papers lying on a table. A worker was ready to throw the papers in the garbage.   It was cancer research!  So I picked up the papers and brought it to the scientist to whom it belonged; he said he didn’t know where he had lost it.  And now, how many years later is it?  It”s amazing how long it’s been going on, that cancer research.”

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SH “Hey we should go on the radio”.  GS “Yeh have our own radio show, like Abbie Nathan”.  SH “Hey we should write a book”.  GS “Maybe about Moondog! (the mythical figure dressed in a viking costume; he stood outside MOMA in New York all the time, playing alto saxophone and selling his CD’sSH “Yeh, I saw him in person, and talked to him! He was great! But people were afraid of him.”

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Picture above: Moondog

And that’s how our morning conversations ususally go, with or without the three million dollars. While looking at Gershon’s beaming eyes, I silently reminisce about another friend, the late Black beat poet Ted Joans; I recall this following poem, which had an impact on me:


If you should see

a man walking

down a crowded street

talking aloud to himself

don’t run

in the opposite direction

but run toward him

for he is a POET!

You have NOTHING to fear

from the poet

but the Truth.

Conclusion: Everything in the above story is true, except of course the three mil, which in its imaginary grace led us on this journey of discovery.

About the Author
Stephen Horenstein is a composer, researcher and hermit. His repertoire of musical works has been performed and recorded worldwide. He is Founder and Director of the Jerusalem Institute of Contemporary Music, established in 1988 to bring the music of our time to a wider audience.
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