A few weeks ago we all woke up to an issue of 'The Economist
' with three slices of the gridded World Trade Center skin impaled in the ground like a coronet
on the cover, entitled 'Six months on
'. The pain of war
partially lies upon forgetting it for a while for pettier stresses and more frivolous pursuits, reading about Bush's short-sighted steel tariff
s, riots in Argentina, and the death of Anderson
. I still have it on my desk, face down, with the ubiquitous "ORACLE
NEVER BREAKS" (hah) back-cover advertisement facing up.
Act II Scene 2 of Prokofiev's 'War and Peace' at the Met always opens spectacularly with Napoleon and the 'Armies of Twelve Great Nations of Europe' preparing for the Battle of Borodino, with the stage molded into a tableau of a rocky hill on a stormy evening with a circle of French riflemen searching the horizon on bended knee. The opera was more Götterdämmerung than Wagner's Götterdämmerung: I like the idea of war in Napoleanic court dress; but one should always recognize the propoganda machinations behind the ideals. Profokiev himself never got to see his opera performed in its entirity due to 'official revisions' that the 1940's Russian government insisted upon. It (both the plot and the propoganda machine) was then eerily relevent to the Nazi attack on Moscow as it is eerily relevant now. I suppose to some degree it is always relevant.
On the first day of spring break, which was also the day that I received 'Six Months On' in the mail; at the end of the day after a stochastic finance meeting in a rare moment of leisure we three are standing side by side on the roof of Stern, with our thesis advisor. Our professor said that we will all go on to make a lot more money than he is; but the tradeoff is that he could do this every day if he wanted to. Leaning on a terrace in a knee-length denim skirt, belt made out of a VESPOLI boat-rack strap, and Bottega Veneta pointy-toed shoes with palladium fittings('It's important to flirt with the idea of eurotrash but never become it') smoking recently-smuggled cubans with my research partners, when we are in business school and will be Very Successful, in a vaguely farcical manner at 3:00 in the afternoon, sharp blue sky, solitary in the middle of tall buildings in ambitious Manhattan. (Stringing along very run-on sentences and abusing semicolons.) I know that holding less risk is one of the primary benefits of becoming an academician. A cyclical economy (a cyclical world) is easy to ride out by being a professor. In finance we are paid for the risk we hold.
Florian, another Brazilian MBA in a subtle pink-and-yellow windowpane ('I call it the oxymoron 170's cotton') English-tailored shirt done in an ostentatiously bespoke manner with french cuffs and a triple-button cutaway collar, stands on the terrace and has the same issue of The Economist as I have. He holds it rolled up with the cover on the inside, like everybody else in Manhattan that day. He had landed an offer with McKinsey & Co., the firm of firms, ('which will henceforth be known as "The Firm"') and actually turned it down. He's gone back to Sao Paolo over the break to interview some more down there; he was an i-banker there for a couple of years pre-grad school, and he says that the lifestyle is better since there are so many attractive women and very few 'good' men.
On the way out from my 40th unsuccessful Goldman Sachs interview I gave my free 'GOLDMAN SACHS, MINDS WIDE OPEN' recruiting t-shirts to the OE-drinking homeless men directly outside their offices. I can see them now, wearing the shirts outside the famous 84 Broad Street, muttering something about recent i-banking layoffs ('Will underwrite IPOs for food'). Maybe illustrating that in this economy it doesn't take much to go from 'The Street' to 'the street'.
I ended up pulling one very exciting offer at an energy trading desk at BofA, that I accepted last week for which I rejected one from UBS Warburg Fixed Income. It's a little bit ironic how an 18-year-old cannot gamble in most places in the US, but they can be fingerprinted by the securities-fraud division at the FBI to possibly bet billions of dollars of exposure on the derivatives market.
In New York there is talk of building a World Trade Center memorial of two piers jutting out from lower Manhattan the exact same width and length of the twin towers; to help people remember its size and scope. At 'Six Months On' it's difficult to really remember exactly how we felt; the people whose jobs are gone and whose friends are gone, on our way up the sine curve again.
My recent trip to Europe last week has reinforced my belief that in America and especially New York memory is very short; America is the great equalizer. My friend's parents came over from China, uneducated and not speaking English, and sent 2 children to NYU and one to Harvard. I know a girl who is a von Bismarck working in PR in the city, when her great-grandparents ruled half of Europe. The scaffolding over the sidewalks is one of New York's hallmarks, constant building, and constant tearing down.
Kind of like Napoleon invading Moscow, then two years later being put away by the treaty of Fontainbleu, kind of like Nash beating out Ohlin for the Nobel after 40 years, like Oracle getting unprecedented publicity on March 9-15, kind of like Wall Street, like things falling down and coming back up.