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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Spreading Holiday Sneer

palace of angels?It is probably counterproductive to admit to having a thing for the Vienna Boys Choir no matter what your position in the world (or your gender). The Vienna Boys Choir is one of those things (like substance abuse) that, even should it move the very foundation of your soul, must be celebrated with discrete subtlety. Of course, any all boys group that attends boarding school at Palais Augarten from kindergarten on, well, you should expect this. Not only this, but, owing to the suspicion its public appreciation would bring, one must initially frown gently on mention of the Choir until it can be determined if one is in friendly company. This is best established by careful observation of the other frowns that accompany mention of the Choir and careful observation of the careful observation by the other frowners. By the fourth derivative of observation it is safe to vocalize careful and caveated approval to test the waters of the group.

For reasons beyond understanding, a public address system, which during my tenure has never been used, was installed in the New York offices of Sub Rosa. I bring this up because, as I no longer work in the New York office with any regularity, I was forced to search out an empty office for my recent temporary stay. Unlike many market participants who want broad exposure to the tenor of their office and its comings and goings, the theory being that this permitted you a better view of the way the wind blows, my goal was to find the most isolated and sheltered office- the theory being that in this way I wouldn't have to talk to anyone. The office that gave no external hint whatsoever that it might entertain an occupant was an ideal choice. Armin had gotten quite a deal on space in New York, by what hook or crook I do not wish to learn, and accordingly, Sub Rosa's New York facility is (and has even been) barely 50% full. I don't for a moment imagine he actually felt the firm would grow so large as to fill the space, only that he couldn't pass up the rate he managed, like the middle schooler who buys a three pound bag of M&Ms because the unit price is 25% of that paid with the small bag and then throws up chocolate for three days. My little temporary enclave was, therefore, surrounded by abandoned (or perhaps more accurately, never originally occupied) space. The perfect "land moat" for the anti-social finance professional. It also had the advantage of a great view of the city.

Being a mostly Londonesque denizen now, my first task was to stow the indispensable tool of London finance: My long coat. Opening the office's closet what did I find? Thousands of dollars in audio equipment hooked up to the office PA system. A thick layer of dust covered the stuff.

Of course, finding such a setup there was nothing I could do but abuse the discovery. I was right in the middle of hooking my old iPod Nano to the RCA to 1/4 inch stereo adapter and plugging the cord into the jacks reading "CD IN" when my cellphone rang.

"Where the fuck are you?" It was the Debt Bitch. I had been foolish enough to tell her I was coming.

"Uh, in the New York office?"

"I know that screwball, where?"

"I don't know, let me look." I walked outside the office and looked for the room number tag. "Nowhere I guess. There's no room number or nametag." I smiled to myself. Why do I delight in being difficult? Years of experience perhaps?

"You harlot. I'll be right there." She hung up before I could ask how she planned to find me. All the better. She would have taken it as a challenge.

I left my door open and continued to fiddle with the system until I heard a distant cry in the halls. "Marco...."


"Marco...." More insistent now.

Oh. Duh. "Polo," I bellowed back.

"Marco...." Laura rounded the hallway corner.

"Polo." She walked in and then just stared at me, or, perhaps, the many cables issuing from the closet in my office. Or both. "Don't ask," I said.

"But I must know," this delivered in as perfect an imitation of Inigo Montoya as a girl could possible render. (And it's pretty good. I'm not sure if that's a reflection on Laura's femininity or Inigo Montoya's manhood. Or both).

"Get used to disappointment," I replied without even the thinnest effort at imitating Wesley. It is an "in-joke" of ours. I continued to connect the iPod.

Suddenly, an audio-equipmentesque pop and crackle issued from the round, white speaker grill above our heads, and, I assumed, the rest of the offices, and as if from the heavens.... pure, uncorrupted and floating voice. The sound of the divine. Or, at least, as close as an atheist like me can get to such a thing.

The Debt Bitch stared at me for a long, long moment. Or rather, she stared through me, her eyes lost. I knew just how she felt. The first song was "In Dulci Jubilo," and, no matter when I listen to it, including this particular occasion, it always pulls hesitant tears into the corners of my eyes until I have to look away and pretend to sneeze to find a tissue and hide what a sentimental being I really am. I am not even sure why. It just has the most mournful, and yet hopeful tenor to it. The most humbling and wonderful air.

Laura seemed just as lost, until, after a deliciously long twenty seconds, her eyes lost their glaze, her focus returned to me and a rare smile crept across her mouth. "Oh my god!" She said breathlessly. Another long pause. "Is that playing in the whole office?"

"Well, gee wiz, Laura. I don't know," I smiled. She laughed out loud. "It's too bad I only have three songs. I guess I will just have to leave it on repeat."

"You know," now the look of real mischief was in her eye. "People will wonder where this is coming from."

"They will?"

"Of course, and we will have to make sure there are some answers. There's nothing worse in a private equity firm than unanswered questions." This was actually intensely amusing since it was a highly overused pet phrase of one of the partners.

"That's true," I nodded. "Well, I will make sure that a few people know that it is because the building broadcasts holiday music on all the floors during the holiday season."

The Debt Bitch frowned. "Well, if your three songs are all the same, won't some people be offended by the rather obvious lack of religious diversity in the material?"

I hadn't thought of this. "Well, that's true. I guess it would be unfortunate if the management office was populated by Catholics."

"Even worse if it was populated by Jews."

I laughed.

"Did Seuse write anything for the chosen people?" She asked. This was alarming. How anyone, much less the Debt Bitch would be able to pull out Seuse was beyond me. I didn't even know he held the writing credit until I looked it up the next day. Laura continued, "I'll spread the rumor that it's Armin's idea. He's in Europe anyhow right? Who will know the difference?"

"My rumor is better."

"Ok, then you tell two people yours and I'll tell two people mine. The losing rumor buys dinner."


And so, after 9.5 hours of repeat, I won.

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