Call it a rump family reunion. Two of my three children met my wife and I in New York City Monday night. We spent yesterday roaming the streets and seeing the sights. It was part orientation, as my youngest begins medical school in the city in July.
"Do you hear that?" I said to my wife. She stopped and was attentive.
"Yes," she said. "What is it?"
There was a gentle roaring sound, barely distinguishable from the city's midday gurgle. We were standing a block from the New York Stock Exchange.
"That's the bottom being sucked out of the American economy," I grinned.
But yesterday was a good day on the market. It climbed nearly six percent. We wanted to see the market in action so we walked over to the exchange. A security guard barred entrance. It turns out there is no public access to the exchange, no gallery from which you can stand and watch your IRA vanish. Odd, isn't it? The market rises, falls, tumbles and soars and all we can do is stand outside the building and wait for signs and portents. Oz, the College of Cardinals, the Exchange.
One cabbied wanted to talk about Bernie Madoff. What sentence would he get? The man is a pirate. He ran off with billions. And now his wife is trying to hide some of the money as she dumps him. The cabbie was enraged, somehow. I doubt he lost a dime to Madoff.
As I stood outside the New York Stock Exchange I did not feel anger, fear or anything other than mystification. One year ago, my IRA was fat and happy; today it is not. The market made off with the money, I suppose. At least Madoff did not make off with my funds.
Today the city is a blur and I am back at home. It is quiet here. No neighbors within sight. Birds chirping, and the ground thawing, struggling to shake off a tough winter. Today is a gray sort of day, nature indecisive and perhaps overwhelmed with all the choices it has: Snow, Sun, spring, winter? Anything is possible.
But at least here the concept of value is not quite extinguished. I know what it takes to mend a fence or clean a chicken coop. I have a given quantum of energy I can pour into a project. I make choices here about how to spend limited capital. That is foreign to New York and its hussle, bustle and jive. I am glad to be back home.