I grew up in Greenwich Village in the 60’s and I lived in Boca Raton, Washington, Baltimore and Connecticut before finally making it back home to New York. I once said I’d never leave the City again – maybe for a long weekend, or a vacation, but now I’m living in Bozeman, Montana, looking at the Bridger Mountains, watching the elk herds.
I barely graduated from a small liberal arts college in the Northeast, was granted a BA in Economics despite the fact that I found other things besides academics to be my real calling. For some reason the administration didn’t understand my priorities. But, since I was a student senator, and editor of the campus newspaper, and my English professors stuck up for me, they let me out with a degree.
I played football in college for a few years. In high school I had been All State and been recruited by a few schools. Even though I was somewhat ambivalent about sports in general, it seemed like a good way to avoid class work, so I gave it a go. After sophomore year playing really began to hurt. The new recruits were bigger and stronger and I was either injured or tired all the time, and perhaps most importantly, playing was cutting into my extracurriculars (see above), so I hung up the pads for the last time in 1981, drawing to a close my prime-time sports career.
Over time, priorities change, and after the usual early career stuff I went to B-School, this time, graduating at the top of my class with the best cumulative GPA in the MBA program’s history. Honors, Sigma Alpha Nu, Summa Cum Laude, lots of Latin. That put my professional life on the fast track. I was still intensely interested in extracurricular activities, but I figured that commercial success would lead to more quantity and quality of that, and I was right.
Twenty-five years later, I rose just about as far as I could in the New York finance industry. Then I quit. Gave it all up — the eighteen hour days, the never ending BlackBerry buzz, the grossly over paid subordinates who would have starved if they were on their own, all of it. The powers-that-be did everything they could to keep me from leaving, but I knew it was better to get out at the top than to get pitched out like they did to those guys at Bear Stearns. You never recover from something like that, and it would have happened eventually. That’s how corporate life is. But now I have nothing to recover from since it was my decision to go. I will say, however, that the transition has been profound.
During those 25 years I was a strategic planner by trade and a corporate finance executive by experience. I operated at the board level which allowed me to work with some amazing and historic people. It allowed me to do things that I’d read about in The Wall Street Journal or the New York Times the next day. That’s heady stuff, especially for a kid whose parents never went to college. One of my proudest days was when I took my Dad to the board room and had him sit in the same chair that three Presidents of the United States had once sat in. My father was man of great strength, but that day he cried.
When the “deal of the century” came along I was reporting to our Chairman of the Board and CEO, Bob Benmosche, and he asked me to lead the integration of the $14 billion acquisition. Then he said I had to finish the integration in less than nine months, something that had never been done before, by anyone, anywhere, ever. I chose my team, we set to work, and we did it, and he was with me every step of the way. I’ll never forget that, or him, and I’ll never forget the 996 people who worked with us to make it happen.
After that I went to IT and ran Global Business Management, Portfolio Management, Quality, and Systems Architecture for our global IT organization. One day the grizzled IT veterans got together and gave me an honorary propeller hat award as a sign of my acceptance, an outsider, into their world of the systems priesthood. I learned that the best way to gain respect at an SOA strategy meeting was to tell everyone you’re a hardened on-line gamer in a kick ass clan, which I was, hence the propeller.
So, career success mounted, and my resume grew with newly important stuff added and used to be important stuff dropped. But I had stories to tell and characters to create, and before long I realized that if I didn’t start doing some of that soon, I wouldn’t have time to do any of it. But still, I needed a little push. During the deal of the century I was flying back from Japan after a meeting with the chairman of a major Japanese conglomerate. Bob and I had just been through India and Croatia; one of those ten days and around the world trips. That’s when the clot formed in my leg. It went away after the coumadin, but it was like a life-signal from the source. So after the integration, after running strategy and governance, after serving honorably in the land of IT, I said, “See ya, I am so f*cking out of here,” and I walked out the door.
I am a writer now, and have been for a few years. I know I’m a writer because I’ve been through writer’s programs in New York. I’m careful to say that I’m a writer not an author because an author can point to a published book on a shelf, and say, “that’s mine.” I’ll be an author soon, but for now, I’m just a writer.
I’ve learned to read all over again. I’ve learned to see people differently, to see them with more compassion, as Whitman did. I’ve learned that I always was a writer, that I was just trapped in a role someone else created, fulfilling my family’s version of the American dream.
Two decades ago I met my partner Shannon. Before that I thought I’d be alone forever, even surrounded by family and friends; I’m just that much of an odd duck. But with Shannon I found the only other person on the face of the earth who could (or would) be my partner. Every day I do whatever I can to make sure that she will always be by my side. In addition, there are two great kids, my daughter (who is off to Portland to join a hip architecture firm) who has figured out that Dady is as good at holding clothes at Barnies as he is at paying for them, and my son, who went to the same undergrad school that I did, this time with much better results. He doesn’t talk about his extracricuulars much, but I have my suspicions.
Now I’m in Bozeman, so there’s no opera at the Met, no underground clubs to hear Drum and Base DJs, no Vanguard to hear Jazz, or Tonic for experimental music (Marc Rebot, etc…but it closed, bummer) — except when we fly back, which is easy from Bozeman. But there are ungulates of various kind, some we ride, some that just sit in the paddock below the house and look at us looking at them…No golf, no tennis, used to pay squash, used to sail, used to ski, now I do a lot of CrossFit, and can squat what I could in college (no I can’t, but it sounds good).
And thats about it. In a nutshell: a post-postmodernist writer, fighting to catch up with his art after serving time as a capitalist oppressor of the people. Yep, that’s me.
Here’s some old material about my corporate background…