Saturday, March 22, 2008

Women and Children Last

Bianca has mold, the Helmsley has bedbugs, and I’ve got Bear Stearns in the house. Like green slime, these investment banking types have seeped through walls and usurped larger and larger apartments in my building. Surreptitiously, like a growth—they wheeled and dealed, wined and dined the gullible and naïve among us, flipped mortgages until—lo and behold, hocus-pocus three-card Monty—they have a majority, have voted themselves via secret blackberry-driven bloc onto the pivotal seats of the board of this old venerable co-op and now sit there like shiny new Porsches in a used-car lot.

And they are hungry, these boys. They are hungry beyond what is humanly possible to consume in a lifetime. It is hard to imagine what happened or didn’t happen during the adolescence of these people…because where most of us move on to a life and some semblance of maturity, they are stuck in that infantile phase where one cups one’s hand over the testpaper and looks over at the desk beside. Just checking! Or those furtive sidelong locker-room glances. The rolled-towel smack to cover it up. Hmmm…

Good thing we had that nasty Eliot Spitzer scandal to distract us from the version of 3-card Monty played by Wall Street, the Fed, Bear Stearns and JP Morgan who appeared like a fairy godfather to wave their wand over the whole matter. While America downloaded the latest Girls Gone Wild video and rated the Emperor girls alongside their NCAA brackets.

But what really happened? That $2 a share price. Well, seemed like a good deal to me. Apparently only for the bottom half of the totem pole, the meat and potatoes of the firm-- those in operations, salaried workers with pensions who are now unemployed and reeling from having their bear-rug pulled from beneath them. The ‘caviar’ of the firm? The players? The ones who cheat the government by claiming an on-paper salary of $200,000 and receive 7 and 8-figure bonuses even when the billions of dollars is loss? They cut a deal with Uncle JP. Not only were they not punished, but to console the poor humiliated criminals…they received huge bonuses and awards of Morgan stock to seal the deal. In other words, they threw their rank and file under the bus so they wouldn’t miss a single 5-star meal. And of course the stock has risen. God and the Feds smile on JP Morgan.

In the good old days of true corporate spirit, everyone shared. Everyone took a pay cut. How about Bloomberg at the helm of our city ship? He takes nothing from the till. One has the feeling that if his companies and holdings were bleeding out, he wouldn’t be pouring Drano into the holes the way these Bear Stearns executives did. Can you imagine their version of the Titanic? Fuck the women and children! Save the traders. A little submarine equipped with wireless service and sushi and vodka would have appeared to take them to safety. Of course… because they would have been the beneficiaries of the insurance policy, would have sold the ship the insurance in the first place—no backs! Etc., etc. They may even have been filmed by TV cameras contributing to the Titanic memorial fund once safely onshore and dry, with sad TV faces.

Well, at the moment these peg-head crooks are at the wheel of my building, my home. They don’t even know the place— they just got here. They don’t have a home, they have ‘homes’. They trade real estate and sometimes roost there long enough to turn a profit. When they are bored on Saturdays they smoke a cigar together and plan how to take over the building. Like a merger. First they will bankrupt the small shareholders. They will vote in expensive unnecessary improvements and services. A gym. Yes, a gym, because many of the older tenants are handicapped, have had a stroke, and can scarcely make it to the elevator. A yoga room! A play room! They will even hire their architect friends and receive commissions! Pocket money! Don't forget expensive faux-furnishings for the lobby. Oh such fun to run up a bill the old homesteaders won’t be able to pay. Compulsory manicures? No, that’s silly. That was from one of the attractive wives who is on the nouveau decorating committee. Can she tell real wood from fake? Of course not, silly! But they can also cause massive service inconveniences and refuse to compensate. They can flood and drill and crack old walls and install air conditioning vents in windows of the poorer apartment-residents, so eventually, if they are not dead of stress, they will give up and sell their shares for $2. Just like the corporate model!

They say the meek shall inherit the earth. Well, these are the nouveau meek. The old guard has been driven to a sorry state by this corporate bedbuggery. And this building is a corporation…it is illegal for the government to interfere with the ‘will’ of the corporation, no matter how the old majority hands have been bilked and tied and our mouths gagged. How come the Feds come running in to bail out the banks and no city agency will witness the criminal and reprehensible behaviour of these insatiably selfish people? We couldn't even get a crooked inspector to do battle with the slime because they had already been paid to not return our calls.

My old building had a lending library in the laundry room. When there was a strike, we all manned the elevators, bagged up the trash. When our finances were low, the richer of us bought paint and painted. We cooked for one another and shared Christmas cheer. The green thumbs planted the garden. We babysat and borrowed and loaned our children.

Good Friday. I stopped by the Morgan Library tonight…thought about old JP and looked at some of the Books of Hours on display. Thought about all the great old masters he could have bought instead of the Bear Stearns pretenders. I also thought about justice. “JP”, I said, to that great portrait—“these people belong in prison, not on your staff! They are Judases and Enrons. You know what they’re up to! Sam Waksal is a schoolboy by comparison.”

On the way home I gave my change to anyone homeless even though I scarcely have money for bread tonight because of the pretentious hideous faux-furniture for the lobby which no one will sit on. And has anyone noticed the price of eggs these days? Forget about gas and oil—it’s Easter.

The lobby as I enter now looks like a once beautiful woman in drag with garish make-up. You want to leave it behind as quickly as possible. But there is a God. I know it. His son was crucified on this day. Unforgivable. He rose and forgave. On the other hand, I am not a god. But the Bear Stearns 'heroes'? On Easter these people will eat Godiva bunnies. They are praying to St. Bart's. I will be looking at my drilled out bathroom—the one my new neighbors-on-the-board apologised about and promised to fix the next day, and now basically tell me to shove it. I have the status of a share of Bear Stearns stock. I remember my old building…in my bathroom… ‘Andy was hear’ on the wall. I miss him. I miss everything great. Everything real. Even Andy-style real. I hope Andy rose, God.

Does anyone remember several months ago there were bedbugs in Spitzer’s father’s building? Was this an omen? A plant? An ironic parallel to the bugs and wiretaps on his son? Come back, Eliot. Next to these people, even you are a saint.

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