Day in Sun Shadows His Twilight Years

NEW YORK. Mel Sewanicki, Columbia class of ’47, still can’t buy a drink in this town even though it’s been sixty-seven years since he made “The Catch,” a diving grab of a fourth-quarter pass that enabled the Lions to defeat Army, 21-20, ending the Cadets’ 32-game unbeaten streak. It put him in the College Football Hall of Fame along with the pigskin that he clutched to his chest as he hit the cold October turf. The victory is still counted as one of the greatest upsets in college football history.

“Everywhere I go, that’s all people want to talk about,” he says with a smile and a shake of his head. He moved on to a successful career as a banker with four kids and now thirteen grandchildren. “I’ve got a lot to be thankful for,” he says, and it’s clear from the expression on his face that he means it.

As he strides powerfully into Dominic’s Steak House in Manhattan it is par for the course that other men signal their waiters or the bartender that they want to buy Mel a drink, and by the time he reaches his regular table and sits down there are six vodka martinis, two beers and a glass of merlot waiting for him.

“Hello, Adolf,” he says to the waiter who regularly patrols Sewanicki’s corner of the room. “Take care of these in the usual manner, please.” “Yes, Mr. Sewanicki,” the club employee says as he places them on a tray and takes them back to the kitchen, where he will pour them into empty milk cartons and return them to Sewanicki’s table when he finishes lunch.

Sewanicki has a passion for New York’s homeless but he refuses to indulge in euphemisms. “They’re winos, plain and simple,” he says bluntly. “My old man had the same problem–he could never get enough to drink–so I know what they’re going through.”

More drinks arrive as Sewanicki makes his way through a Cobb salad with smoked scallops on top, and with each delivery Adolf appears as if by telepathic command to take the libations back to the kitchen. “I like a glass of wine with lunch,” the ex-football great says, “and a scotch when I get home at night, but that’s it.”

Sewanicki dabs at the corners of his mouth with a cloth napkin as he finishes his meal, and Adolf reappears bearing four gallon jugs filled with a dark brown mixture composed of beer, red wine and hard liquor. “If you served this at one of my grandkids’ parties they’d call it ‘Long Island Iced Tea’, drink too much of it and puke their guts up,” he says with a tone of disapproval in his voice. “But for the guys out on the street who know how to handle it, this can be a life-saver.”

We leave the restaurant and Sewanicki hails a cab. His long arms extended over his 6’4″ frame make him an easy figure to spot, and in half a minute we are sitting in the back seat of a taxi. “Take us down to the Bowery,” Sewanicki barks, the New York neighborhood that has traditionally been the home of the transient, the vagrant, the down-on-their-luck. “We used to call ‘em bums,” Sewanicki says. “Now they’re ‘homeless’,” he says with evident distaste for a feel-good sociological term that he says carries the implication that all a man needs is a roof over his head. “A man is more than flesh and blood,” Sewanicki says with almost religious fervor. “He’s got a soul, too.”

We stop at a red light and one of the neighborhood’s “squeegee” men comes up to the car to wipe the windshield, hoping to cadge some change out of us. Sewanicki rolls down his window. “Here you go, buddy-try some of this!”

The ex-football great takes a plastic cup from a bag and pours out a slug of the brownish liquor mix that resembles the water in the East River.

“What is it?” the hobo says. “Diet Coke?”

“Name your poison and it’s in there,” Sewanicki says with a sympathetic smile. “Whatever they want you to remember, it’ll help you forget.”

The man takes a sniff and, after the alcohol fumes hit his olfactory cells, begins to drink.

“Ah,” he says after taking a long pull. “God bless you, sir.”

“Don’t mention it,” Sewanicki says. “Let me pour you another–I’ve got to make my rounds.”

He refills the man’s cup and the grizzled denizen of the streets accepts it with gratitude. “Take it easy, partner,” Sewanicki says as we drive off.

“I’ll be here tomorrow, too!” the man yells after us.

Sewanicki instructs the driver to slow down as we roll through the dark streets where hope returns only rarely, like a prodigal son with a maxed-out credit card. “You see those guys sitting over against that building? They’ll probably spend the rest of their lives within a block or two of here. Think of that.”

I do as instructed while Sewanicki tells the driver to stop and he opens his door. I follow him, party cups in hand.

“How we doin’ today, guys?” the aging athlete calls out as he approaches three men sleeping under an arch. One looks up warily and starts to scramble away before Sewanicki reassures him. “No need to get up,” he says, “my partner here’s got the cups.”

“Oh-good. I thought you was the cops.”

“No–just a humble little mission of mercy.” I again hold out cups as Sewanicki fills them up. The men each shiver a bit as their first sip goes down; one polishes off the remainder in a single gulp. “That’s the spirit,” Sewanicki says, then reaches into his pocket. “Here, I forgot,” he says. “I’ve got some beer nuts.”

“Thanks, man. I haven’t eaten for days,” one of the men says.

“Then you better take it easy–go slow at first,” Sewanicki says. “You want to lay down a good foundation of liquor. Otherwise, it’ll come right back up.”

“Okay-thanks for the tip,” the man says. We leave them with one of our four jugs–”They need it,” Sewanicki declares–and climb back in the cab.

How exactly did you come to adopt this particular mission as your life’s work, I ask Sewanicki as he scans the streets for more mouths to fill.

“Well, I got so tired of people buying me drinks, knowing it was just going to be poured down the drain. I’d say to myself–there’s people going to bed sober all over this city tonight, and you can’t finish half the booze that people put in front of you.” The lessons of his hardscrabble youth have stuck with him. “‘Waste not, want not’, mom used to say,” he says with a audible lump in his throat. “I had to eat what was put in front of me, even if it meant I missed The Lone Ranger” in the early days of television.

That thought–the waste of precious alcohol and the potentially harmful effect it was having on oysters and other shellfish in the Hudson River watershed–persuaded Sewanicki to take the unpopular step of seeing to it that no man goes without a nightly drink in lower Manhattan. “Not on my watch,” he says with unmistakable seriousness.

We turn a corner and Sewanicki sees something that causes him to lean forward in his seat. What is it, I ask?

“The enemy,” he says. Two women and one man dressed in practical clothes make their way deliberately down the street, looking for “homeless” men they can persuade to give up lives of freedom on the street in exchange for food and shelter. “Do-gooders,” he says with undisguised contempt.

He rolls down his window and, as we pull even with the three, lets go with a shout.

“Hey–why don’t you leave them in peace,” he yells.

The three–not social workers, as it turns out, but N.Y.U. students doing field research for an advanced sociology lab–turn with looks of surprise on their faces.

“Yeah, you,” Sewanicki continues. “Do you think those guys want to go back to living with people like you watching them all the time?”

“Well–yeah,” the male says hesitantly, his world-view suddenly called into question.

“Gimme a break,” Sewanicki continues. “They’ve spent their whole lives running away from milquetoasts and school marms. They haven’t got much longer to live-let them drink themselves into oblivion if they want.”

The three are quiet for a moment, as they consider the public policy and philosophical aspects of what they are being asked to do.

“You mean–do nothing?”

“Right–just . . . go . . . away.”

The three look at each other, then the male looks at his watch. “There’s a 2-for-1 Bud Light special at McSweeney’s in the Village tonight,” he says to the women. “You guys up for it?”

“I’ve got a mid-term in Stochastic Variables in Quantitative Research,” the woman begins, but Sewanicki cuts her off.

“Listen sweetheart,” he says. “Once you get a job you’ll never touch another stochastic variable in your life. Believe me–I worked for four decades, and the only thing I needed to remember from college was one lousy football play.”

“Is that so?” the male student asks.

“Yep.”

“In that case,” he says to the women, “let’s party!”

Available in Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “The Spirit of Giving.”

Fake Your Way With Biz Cliches

If you want to get ahead in business, it is not enough to be intelligent, hard-working, and decisive.  The Great Plains of Commerce are littered with the corpses of men and women who possess these qualities, and who were nonetheless stung to death by a swarm of buzzwords.


“. . . at the end of the day, it’s the end of the day.”

My own shortcomings in this regard became apparent a few years ago when I made the mistake of saying in a meeting that a proposed course of action, while potentially sound, might be perceived as a bit too–I groped for le mot juste; aggressive? greedy? rapacious?  Everybody ignored me and we plowed ahead until a v.c.–that’s a venture capitalist, not a Viet Cong–who had arrived late stopped us in our tracks.  “I don’t like it,” he said.  “The optics aren’t right.”

Of course! everyone agreed.  How dense we’d all been! What were we thinking? How did we lose sight of long-term fundamentals?  It’s the optics, stupid!  Deep down, we’d been very shallow.


“. . . in order to interface our core competencies with our first-mover advantage . . .”

In the mad scramble to the top of the heap, it is thus important that you know just the right thing to say if you want to avoid claw marks on your back and inflict them on others.  Thankfully, the friendly folks at MSN CareerBuilder.com have compiled “12 Workplace Phrases You Probably Don’t Know . . . But Should,” so you can acquire a core competency in first-mover advantage while you bladda-bladda . . .


“Let’s all touch the screen on Bob’s laptop and leave greasy fingerprints!”

 

Wait a minute.  The first rule of business is–you don’t have time to read!  That’s what assistant vice presidents are for!  That’s why they put business books on tape, or edit them down to the length of a candy bar wrapper.

In the interest of saving your valuable time, I have distilled the top 12 workplace phrases currently in circulation down to the really top 4.  After all, you don’t want to be in the lower two-thirds of anything!

Let’s Not Boil the Monkey:  In order for a business phrase to achieve widespread usage, it is essential that it be both colorful and obscure.  Thus when Todd Breathmintsky from the Midwest regional office flies in to corporate headquarters to propose a consolidation of distribution centers to maximize supply-chain efficiencies (yawn), the only way to cut off his path to the promotion that is rightfully yours is to furrow your brow, purse your lips, put your fingers together in a little church-and-steeple and drop this stink bomb on him:  “That’s all well and good, Todd, but let’s not boil the monkey, okay?”


“Todd is such an idiot!”

 

What does it mean?  Who cares?  The all-knowing way in which you say it will cast doubt upon everything Todd has just said, and will ever say again in his miserable career.  In six months he’ll be sleeping under a bridge.

Who screwed the iguana?  A few years ago the phrase “screw the pooch” became popular, for reasons that remain obscure.  It meant “make a terrible mistake,” but this wasn’t always apparent from the context of the discussion, or the tone of the speaker’s voice.  As a result, those who didn’t “get it” would return to their offices and search for “screw the pooch” on their computers.  When they were directed to bestiality websites, the guys in the information technology department would report them to compliance, and security would usher them out of the building after giving them just enough time to remove family pictures from their desks.  Maybe that was the plan all along.


“Officer, I never met that pooch before in my life!”

 

A backlash resulted, and “screw the iguana” was eventually accepted as a conversational safe harbor because there are no pictures of anybody screwing an iguana on the internet–yet.  Even iguanas don’t like to screw iguanas.

Sparadigm.  Thomas Kuhn’s “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” is a highly-readable work of philosophy, and for that reason alone we ought to cut him some slack.  But his term “paradigm shift” entered the business world and became an all-purpose chew toy, something to gnaw on when your jaws needed a workout.

As a result of overuse, there has been a paradigm shift away from “paradigm shift” towards “sparadigm,” which refers to a course of action that, while it may not be the best, is the only one your company can afford.

It’s not rocket surgery.  When sniveling, weak-kneed, limp-wristed eunuchs in the engineering department raise objections to your Five-Year Plan for Market Domination, saying it can’t be done without an investment of resources comparable to that which went into the Space Race, turn your most withering gaze upon them and say “It’s not rocket surgery, you nimmy-not!”


“No, really, it’s safe.  You go first!”

 

Like a sucker punch, this out-of-the-blue non sequitur will stun your critics, who will be left scratching their heads, while you torpedo their careers by whispering to the CEO “I think you’d better check those engineers for head lice–they seem to scratch a lot.”

 

Available in Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “Take My Advice–I Wasn’t Using it Anyway.”

Barkley Takes Baby Steps on Road Back From Gambling

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama. Charles Barkley’s revelation that he’s lost $10 million gambling over the years has led to an outpouring of support in his hometown, where locals point to the good he’s done for numerous charities.


Barkley

“He’s one of our biggest supporters,” says Children’s Hospital CEO Mack Doolin, M.D. “We’re going to stick with him until he gets this thing licked. He just needs to learn how to set limits,” says Doolin, who has counseled others with addictions.

And so Doolin is at Barkley’s side as he enters Leeds Elementary School to participate in “Fall Fun Carnival,” a fund-raiser for its PTO. “It’s a baby step,” says Barkley, “but I’ve got to start out small.”


“Shh–don’t tell him. The Fishin’ Hole’s rigged!”

 

Barkley draws a crowd of excited fans as he steps up to the Wheel O’ Fun, where fifty cents entitles a player to a spin for a toy or stuffed animal. “Fifty thousand on the red,” Barkley says before Doolin can intervene. “One ticket at a time, Charles,” he says, and the man known as “The Round Mound of Rebound” during his playing days with the Sixers, Suns and Rockets reluctantly agrees.

“Okay,” Barkley says sheepishly before laying down two quarters and winning a noisemaker that makes an annoying “clackety-clack” sound. “I’m gonna shake this sucker next time somebody asks me an embarrassing question on NFL Today,” Barkley says with a mischievous grin, referring to his comments on Adrian Peterson’s use of corporal punishment on his children that got him in hot water.

He moves on to the Action Figure Fishin’ Hole, where children drop a pole behind a bed sheet and the school’s fourth grade class officers attach a plastic superhero to the hook. “I want one of them Ninja Turtles,” Barkley says. Behind the sheet, Nancy Rouchka, class president, giggles as she picks Kimberly, the Pink Power Ranger, from a cardboard box and puts it on the line. When Barkley sees his girlish prize he explodes at Rouchka, causing Assistant Principal Morris Byrum to come running across the cafeteria.

“What’s going on here?” Byrum asks in an excited tone as the class president sobs loudly. “What kinda clip joint you runnin’ here?” Barkley yells at the hapless administrator, before picking him up and tossing him onto the conveyor belt that takes dirty plates back to the dishwasher.

Barkley moves on to the Pez Dispenser Ring Toss, where he decides to try for the Popeye model. “I like that dude ’cause he’s like me–I am what I am.” Barkley plunks down ten dollars for twenty rings, but he soon needs to buy more as he collects Batman, Spiderman and Snoopy–but no Popeye.

A half hour later Barkley is down $50 when Doolin again intervenes. “C’mon, Charles–just walk away–okay?” he says as he takes a roll of quarters from the former Dream Team member and leads him out of the building.

Even though he always said he wasn’t a role model, the kids are sad to see him go. “I wanna be as good as him when I grow up,” says third-grader Tyrone Williams. “Not everybody makes it to the NBA,” his dad cautions him.

“Not at basketball,” Tyrone says. “Texas Hold ‘Em!”

Couples Find Anatomical Gifts Pay Off for Both Spouses

EVANSVILLE, Ill.  Beth Dennis, a slim, 44 year-old mother of two, is dressed in surgical scrubs this morning, but she’s not a doctor or a nurse.  “Neil was there for me when I delivered the kids,” she says of her husband, “and I want to be with him all the way today.”


“When you wake up, we’ll both look better, honey!”

 

Neil is about to undergo breast reduction surgery to correct what Beth joshingly calls his “man boobs,” a drooping condition that affects men’s useless mammary glands as they age.  “I was starting to look like Bib the Michelin Man,” Neil says with a laugh that seems a bit strained.  “I’m doing this as much for Beth as I am for myself,” he adds as he is wheeled into the operating room.

Bib the Michelin Man:  “Don’t tell anyone, but I’m having surgery too!”

 

While Neil’s parting words might seem defensive, in his case they are literally true since the excess tissue that is removed from his breasts will be added to Beth’s as the couple recycles unwanted body mass from him to her.  “Having kids and getting older takes a lot out of you,” she says, her eyes misting over with tears.  “I’m just so lucky to have a husband who’s willing to suffer so that I can have the big knockers he craves.”

 

According to entertainment lawyer Norman Schwein, Neil and Beth’s saga “is like something out of an O. Henry story.”  He is referring to “The Gift of the Magi,” in which a husband pawns his watch to buy combs for his wife’s hair, while the wife cuts her hair off to buy herself an early version of the Black and Decker DustBuster.

“We’re looking at a movie-of-the-week, maybe an ‘as-told-to’ book,” Schwein says as he speed dials an assistant vice president at Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Productions.

Anatomical gifts were illegal in much of America until the American Law Institute promulgated the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act in 1978, and twenty-seven states quickly adopted the model statute in the hope of reducing holiday traffic jams.


Veriform appendix:  “I absolutely love it!”

 

“Anatomical gifts can be great stocking stuffers if you find yourself short on presents for someone you love,” says professional shopper Nan Kane O’Riley.  “Who wouldn’t love to find an appendix under the Christmas tree, as long as it’s packed in a styrofoam cooler with plenty of dry ice?”

For Beth Dennis, this Christmas will be one she’ll never forget.  “Neil’s gift will be one that I’ll wear proudly wherever I go,” she says, “unlike some of the stupid sweaters he’s given me in the past.”

High Court Hears Arguments in Right-to-Watch-World-Series Case

WASHINGTON.  The World Series begins tonight in Kansas City, but today lawyers stepped to the plate facing a different team of nine; the members of the U.S. Supreme Court, who heard arguments on a legal issue that tears the nation apart every October:  Does the Constitution protect the right of male fans to watch the fall classic even if they have no rooting interest in either team involved?


“I forget–what’s a DH?”

 

Lawyers for Ray Duncan of Danville, Illinois, say yes, while advocates for his wife Lurleen say the Bill of Rights does not recognize a man’s right to watch the World Series if he is not a fan of either the San Francisco Giants or the Kansas City Royals.


“U-S-A!  U-S-A!  What?  Both teams are from America?”

 

“Men watching sports and scantily-clad pom-pom shaking women on TV is what makes this country great,” said former Solicitor General Kenneth Starr, now Dean of the Pepperdine University School of Law and line judge for professional women’s beach volleyball matches.


MacKinnon:  “You really should be watching Masterpiece Theatre.”

 

Feminist legal scholar Catherine MacKinnon wrote an op-ed piece in yesterday’s New York Times urging women to support a bill sponsored by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi that would require men to hand the remote to their spouses as soon as their previously-designated “home team” was mathematically eliminated from contention.


Virginia Woolf:  “Can I at least watch ballet during the beer commercials?”

 

“The right of a woman to watch ballet on Bravo, while not explicity protected by the Bill of Rights, may be found within the subtext of most Virginia Woolf novels,” MacKinnon wrote.


Jack Nicholson

 

A constitutional right to watch the World Series was first suggested in the film version of the Ken Kesey novel “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nurse,” in which Jack Nicholson, playing the role of Randle Patrick McMurphy, rebels against a prohibition imposed by Nurse Ratched, played by Louise Fletcher, and watches an imaginary World Series before a blank TV screen.


Starr:  “To get the best reception, you have to twist both knobs at the same time.”

 

The right has not subsequently been recognized by federal courts, although it has been defended by law school professors with too much time on their hands and cited without authority by husbands across the country once their home team is eliminated.  “Our forefathers fought and died for the right to watch baseball,” asserted Duncan, who is a Cardinals fan.  “Yes my team was eliminated, but does that mean I have to watch a disease-of-the-week movie on Lifetime?”


Ruth Bader Ginsburg:  “I was hoping we could watch some ice skating for a change.”

 

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, one of three female justices on the high court, has spoken critically of a right to watch the World Series in speeches.  “Republican appointees on the Court who claim to be strict constructionists suddenly get all loosey-goosey when it’s about baseball,” she said in a commencement address at the Judge Wapner School of Law in Burbank, California, last spring.  “Whenever I want to watch ice skating the Chief Justice takes the remote away from me.”

 

Available in Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “The Supremes Greatest Hits.”

Spam in the Terror Closet

Fall has come to New England and as I ventured into the storage closet yesterday to get out my boots–the ones I use to track wayward clients into the woods–a shiny metallic object caught my eye. I picked it out of the junk on the floor–a can of Spam?

“Honey,” I called out to my wife. “Why do we have Spam in the closet?”

“You mean unsolicited bulk messages sent electronically?”

“No–the canned, precooked meat product made by the Hormel Corporation.”

“Don’t you remember,” she said. “We set up a terror closet after 9/11.”

Of course–how could I forget! We take terrorism very seriously here in the suburbs of Boston. The 9/11 highjackers flew out of Logan Airport and spent the night in a motel not far from our home where we’d had dinner many times with our kids. And not too long ago they arrested a Pakistani teenager one town over who was plotting a Mumbai-style assault on a popular mall in bankruptcy proceedings that our kids patronize for over-priced branded sportswear.


The ultimate Chapter 11 shopping experience!

 

“Now I remember,” I said. “We were advised to stock a secure room that could be locked from the inside with staples in the event of an attempted takeover by Islamofacists. But why Spam?” I asked. “You hate the stuff.”

“I know, but if al Qaeda is going to establish a world-wide caliphate based on sharia law . . .”

“Which they’ve sworn to do . . .”

” . . . one of the first things to go will be Spam. It’s got pork in it!”

I hadn’t thought of that, but she was right. “What else did we . . .”

“You mean me . . .” Okay, so I’m not the most conscientious anti-terrorist in the world, but I’ve got a job to go to every day. After this brief stream-of-consciousness interlude, I returned to our conversation.

” . . . put in there?”

“Well, the boxed set of seasons one through six of Sex and the City.”

“Good call,” I said, even though I have never been able to sit through a single episode. “You know when the mullahs reach Route 128, the first thing to go will be an HBO series that glorifies female promiscuity in what Jesse Jackson . . .”

“Ahem–I think you mean the Reverend Jesse Jackson.”

“I stand corrected–fondly refers to as ‘Hymietown.’”

“That’s what I thought. ‘Rob and Big’ may survive, but I have to think that Sex and the City would be done for.”

“So we’ll be eating Spam and watching Sarah Jessica what’s-her-name. What else?”

“Well, I stocked up on vodka. Liquor will be banned under sharia, and I figured it packs more alcohol per square inch than white wine.”

“Right–we’ve got to conserve space. How about money? We may have to pay ransom for the kids if the destruction of the American Way of Life comes at a time when they’re at lacrosse or baseball practice.”

“Not to worry,” she said. “I stuffed $200 . . .”

“Do you really think that will be enough?”

“It should be plenty. I can’t spend more than a few hours with them, and I’m their mother. The Taliban will probably let them go for a bargain price.”

I felt comforted, reassured. She’d thought of everything. Still, we can’t let the terrorists rule our lives–if they do, they really have won.

“Is that envelope still in here?” I asked. “I’m a little short of cash, and I need some red wine.”

She came in and rummaged around for a bit, and finally produced the envelope from behind a box of Pappagallo pumps.

“Here’s $10, that’s all that’s left.”

“What happened to the rest of it?”

“I dipped into it a couple of times when the pizza guy showed up and I didn’t have any money.”

Monkeying Around With My Money

Scientists are studying monkeys for clues on human financial behavior.

The Boston Globe

It was time, I figured, to bite the banana.  My brokerage statement from Simian Financial Advisors had been lying on my desk for a week, staring at me in silent reproach.  At some point I’d have to actually look at it and see how much I’d lost, on paper at least.

I ripped open the envelope to see the bloody trail of how I got to where I am today.  Ouch–down 25% since the end of summer!  While not as bad as some of the chimps I play cards with at my club, it still hurt.

I picked up the phone and called Hairy, who’s been handling my money for years.

“Oooo-ooot GREET!” he screamed into the phone.  It wasn’t a good idea to call him before 4 p.m. when the market closed.

“Hairy–it’s me.  Or what’s left of me,” I said grimly.

“Chatta,” he boomed over the wire.  “Great to hear from you.”

Once a saleschimp, always a saleschimp.  Guys like Hairy just can’t turn it off.

“It’s not so great to be talking to you,” I said.  “I just opened up my account statement–I feel like I just read my own obituary.”

“C’mon, it’s not that bad,” he replied, trying to buck me up.  “We’ve got a hot little tech stock that’s ready to take off.”

“Tech, schmeck,” I said.  “I should have opened a Christmas Club account!”

“Now, don’t start in with that,” he said.  “You know, you’ve built up a little cash in your account.”

I was stunned.  “I have?”


” . . . but exchange-traded funds are hot!”

 

“Yeah–I don’t know if it’s dividends or what, but I’ve got a nice little play for you–assuming your wife hasn’t castrated you since we spoke last.”

That was always his sales pitch.  Whenever he’d call me with a short play against the box on cocoa futures, I’d tell him my wife wouldn’t let me.

“Excuse me,” he’d say, his voice dripping with testosterone.  “Has your wife made any money for you today?”

Well, no, I’d always have to admit.  “But I have to give her an end-of-year statement.”

“Why?” Hairy would ask.  “Is she your bank or something?  Did you go public and not tell me about it?”

“It’s called trust,” I’d say.  “And love.”

He’d hold the phone at arm’s length then, because he’d be laughing at me.  This is a guy who always hires a Jane Goodall-lookalike stripper for arm candy at his firm’s holiday party.


Jane Goodall and sock monkey:  Kowa-bunga baby!

 

I swallowed my pride.  “Okay–tell me about it,” I said, and he launched into his sales pitch.

“It’s a banana-backed securitized obligation.  Your yield can never be less than 13%.”

“Who’s the issuer?” I asked.  I’ve learned to ask the tough questions.

I heard him inhale, trying to work up an air of self-righteous umbrage.  “Why Simian Financial Advisors, of course,” he said, ending on a huffy note.

“Is that the full legal name?” I asked skeptically.

There was silence at his end of the line.  “Well, actually,” he said after a moment, “it’s Simian Financial Advisors IV, S.a.r.l., a Luxembourg special purpose limited liability company.”


“Who gave you this god-awful frost job?”

 

“. . . with no operating history, and no assets except banana-backed receivables–correct?”

Like a lot of people, I’d started to pay attention to what was on my account statement now that I knew that members of Congress fly all over the world on the bankers’ dimes while pretending to get tough with them whenever a television camera light went on, and their portfolios remain curiously–stable.

“So my yield could be a big fat goose egg if that special purpose vehicle goes belly-up–correct?”

All I could hear was the sound of paper shuffling.  “Say, listen, would you like some tickets to a Patriots game?” Hairy said after a while.

“No, and don’t send me one of your chintzy leatherette checkbook covers, either.”

He was silent for a moment.  “So that cash balance–what do you want to do with it?”

I thought for a moment.  “I’m going all in on commodities!” I yelled in a “Eureka” moment.  It was the one kind of investment Hairy didn’t handle.

“You don’t want to get into commodities,” he pleaded with naked self-interest.  “You don’t want a truckful of pork bellies to get dumped on your lawn someday, do you?”

“Who said anything about pork bellies?” I asked derisively.  “I’m talking Planet of the Apes Souvenir Drink Cups!”

 

Available in Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “Wild Animals of Nature!”

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