It is quite difficult to avoid judging people by their possessions in our culture. The way we define people has more to do with their surroundings, and the surroundings they create around themselves, than it does with who they are. This was just not a problem with Armin. Armin is a tall EU citizen of about 52 and though he was standing in the midst of the most remarkable estate I think I have ever seen, there was this light about him that made his surroundings just that. Surroundings.
There was such a high contrast between him and everything and everyone else. The things around him looked like mere accouterments because they stood out as so bland in comparison. Certainly he was very wealthy, but in the end those were just the rewards of doing very well what he did.
What he did for the past 15 years of his life, as I would later find, was serve in the senior executive corps of one or another Fortune 500 company, including presiding over two of the more spectacular breakups in U.S. corporate history. Just to hear him talk about finance you could tell he dreamt in capitalization tables.
I can't even remember what any of the other people there that evening, his wife, his daughter, one of his employees, the housekeeper even said. I was that lost in listening to him. I had heard of Bud Tribble's "Reality Distortion Field" before, but Armin was the first person I had ever met who possessed one. Granted, it wasn't hard to talk me into a private equity position, or any job at all, by this point, but he was so adept at the art of persuasion and I felt under his spell so naturally that later I would wonder exactly how voluntary it all was.
Everything around him had a sheen of perfection to it. His wife was beautiful, and young. His estate was the envy of even the more rarified segments of the local demographic. His dogs were perfectly behaved, obeying three sentence verbal commands as if English was actually their first language. He was in private equity. I suppose it shouldn't have been surprising that he was also a gourmet chef. Still, he might not have even bothered with dinner.
I had pretty much accepted the job before it was even described to me. It grew later and later. My chauffer, Ron, showed no signs of departing and after his fifth glass of the most wonderful red wine I had no desire to be in the same car with him anyhow. Armin didn't miss a beat. "You'll stay the evening, of course," he said. What the hell else was I going to do?