Excerpts from "The Pride"

The Pride – Chapters 13 & 14

Chapter 13
Paul
And so it begins…….

As I sit listening to Miles Davis riff his way through “Silent Way” with a young Chick Corea, I still can remember so many details of Winner’s memorial service. I certainly remember how cold that day was. I don’t think I will forget my sunrise dalliance with Lisette anytime soon. And it would be hard to ever forget that surreal and bizarre encounter with Bonita Woolsey.

As the doors of the church opened, the chilled early morning mourners eased their way through the massive wooden doors, searching for their assigned seats so that they could assess the status which had been accorded to them and to others. These things were very important to some people.

I was simply looking for my seat, which I knew would be in a “special” row given my relationship with Winner. As I turned to go down the center aisle however, I happened to run into Ed Koch, the former mayor of the City of New York.

Ed Koch had been defeated by David Dinkins in his bid for a fourth term as mayor. He had been mayor for so long that some younger New Yorkers thought Koch’s first name was “Mayor”. When he was first elected mayor by a coalition of blacks and Puerto Ricans and liberals who found him to be far more progressive than the more “questionable” Mario Cuomo (who later became governor of New York), it was fully and absolutely expected that Ed Koch, the never-married Greenwich Village citizen and native New Yorker, would move forward in the liberal tradition of Robert Wagner, John Lindsay and Robert Kennedy.

Ed Koch fooled everyone. He turned out to be the Democratic Mayor of New York who had no problems endorsing of Ronald Reagan. He turned out to be the Mayor of New York City who actually bragged about closing the hospitals in the historically black communities of Harlem and Bedford Stuyvesant.

Ed Koch turned out to be the Mayor of New York City who wanted to be portrayed as the one white politician in New York City who would “stand up” to the swarming black and brown mobs who always wanted something, who always wanted more, more and more, who always wanted something for nothing. He was the one Mayor of New York City who would call a spade a spade (so to speak), and not bother to apologize. He was Rudolph Giuliani before there was Giuliani – or maybe it was the other way around.

Koch was elected at the end of the Sordid Seventies in New York City. It was a time which had witnessed the President of the United States telling the town and its indomitable people to “drop dead” during its legendary financial crisis. It was a time when the moniker “Sin City” had replaced John Lindsay’s “Fun City”.

Being the astute and seasoned politician that he was, Koch decided that he would found his administration on the twin pillars of High Ideals and Good Government. By getting the reformers and good government types on his side, he would be free to show his real colors when the time suited his purposes.

Prior to his actual inauguration as mayor, he decided to demonstrate his belief in Good Government by selecting only “The Best” as the commissioners who would preside over the Byzantine complex known as New York City government. He established an almost infinite number of screening panels, one for each of the over thirty departments.

These panels were composed of experts who, in many instances, were in serious need of a life. After all, the Parks Department panel was composed of people who spent their every waking moment worrying about New York City parks (to each his own). Each panel was supposed to interview every possible nominee to be commissioner of their area of expertise. It was not a pretty sight and only the brave needed to apply.

The final part of Koch’s Good Government Plan was that he would interview the top three survivors of this veritable Iroquois Gauntlet. As fate would have it, he found himself interviewing me, one Paul Taylor, a young, black, Ivy League-type, who was a candidate to be Commissioner of the New York City Department of Human Rights.

In 1977, that position really meant something. Legends and leading lights like Eleanor Holmes Norton had held the job in the past. I had no way of knowing that Ed Koch had other plans for that job in the future – namely evisceration.

I remember that we met in the basement of a nondescript office building on Park Avenue. I also remember that I was focused and locked in and ready for this job interview. At the time I really wanted to be the next Commissioner of Human Rights of the City of New York. I had come to feel that it was my destiny. I had already convinced myself that I was by far the best person for the position.

I had read everything about the job. I had done my research. I had already drafted a series of bold and brilliant new initiatives and proposals that was going to put into effect in my first ninety days in office.

I knew everything about the job. I was ready for anything that the new mayor could ask me. I wasn’t arrogant or cocky. I was just supremely confident. I was ready.

And then, after shaking hands and going through some perfunctory resume questions, he asked his first substantive question. A question which I presumed was meant to begin his serious inquiry into my qualifications for the position of Commissioner of Human Rights for the City of New York.

“Do you have any white friends?”

There was a nanosecond or two of shock, disbelief and realization before I could say anything. I felt as if I had either lost my hearing or my mind. I tried desperately to recover my equilibrium.

“Excuse me?”

“Do you have any white friends?”

I have had many interviews and conducted many interviews before and since that fateful meeting. One thing I have learned is that there are times when you know that you have the job or client, no matter what, and there are times when you know that even if you could stand on your head and spit gold doubloons, you are not going to get the job.

Initially I was shocked, that Ed Koch, someone that I knew, albeit tangentially, could ask such a stupid, asinine, bullshit, racist and idiotic question. I could not believe my ears! And then I composed myself and got a grip. I recognized the situation for what it was.

Ed Koch had no intention of appointing me to this job. His mind had been made up long before he came into the room. And then the perverse streak that I harbor and nurture, a side of me that is rarely exposed to the light of day. It slipped its leash and made its appearance on center stage.

“Actually Mr. Mayor, there are very few people who I call friends, and none of them are white But, I do know a few white people if that would help. I actually think I can remember their names if you give me a minute to think.”

No response to the response. And I must confess to some disappointment as I was hoping to engage in a little rhetorical fandango with this knucklehead who presumed to dupe so many millions. Ed Koch had an agenda that would not be denied. And it his mindset was certainly not going to be disturbed, much less derailed, by a wisecracking nonentity who wasn’t even going to be in his administration.

“What do you think is the reason for the high level of anti-Semitism in the black community?”

A Greek chorus in the back of my mind started chanting “Oh shit!” over and over. The issue was no longer whether or not I would get the job. The question was would I have to fight my way out of the small cubicle in which this interview was being conducted? Koch was not a small guy. And I knew that his biography was lavish in its reference to his being a real deal combat veteran. But the perverse side of me was not going to back down. No way. The fun had just begun.

“Well Mr. Mayor, its not that we black people hate Jews. We just hate all white people and in many instances, particularly in the ghettos where we live, Jews are usually the only white people that we see. Actually, the black Jews in Harlem don’t have a problem at all.”

There were some perfunctory parting words and that was pretty much the end of the interview. Not only did I not get the job, I didn’t even get a “regrets” letter thanking me for my interest. After that dance with the devil, nothing that Ed Koch did as mayor ever surprised me.

As I was escorted to my seat by a white-gloved usher (about five rows from the front, immediately behind the Tomlinson family members) there was not too much time to dwell on my Ed Koch saga. As visions of the former mayor evanesced into forgetfulness, I do remember thinking that Winner would have loved the white glove touch, although in his earlier years he had been nothing like a white glove type of guy.

It was getting close to show time. It was time to absorb and observe. The memorial service for Winner Tomlinson was another occasion and another reason for The Pride to gather.

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CHAPTER 14
Paul
Introducing……. Diedre and The Pride

The Pride is the term that I have used to refer to the black men and women, lions and lionesses actually, who have risen to prominence on Wall Street, in corporate America, and in the canyons of its law firms, accounting firms and management consulting agglomerations.

Being in New York, I am, of course, speaking of the New York version of The Pride. But The Pride is in Atlanta, Detroit, Chicago, Houston, Dallas, Philadelphia, Washington, Miami, New Orleans, Oakland, San Francisco, Denver, St. Louis and Los Angeles. Actually, The Pride is to be found all over America.

As a charter member of The Pride, I know that we are the beneficiaries of the seismic changes that hit America in the sixties and seventies. It was a change that allowed some black men and women to actually achieve on the basis of their ability and some limited opportunity.

The Pride consists of some of the most interesting, talented, intelligent, bizarre, insufferable, heroic, treacherous and memorable people that I can ever hope to know. I don’t kid myself, whatever I see in The Pride, the good and the bad, is in me too.

Many of them I genuinely like and some I love like brothers and sisters. Others are just too grasping, self-centered and opportunistic to suit my tastes. However, these are character traits that have virtually insured their success in these United States of America.

As I sit here now, pleasantly ensconced in my Sugar Hill townhouse, I know that I cannot afford to be too self-righteous or judgmental. After all, on that cold winter day, I sat in the sixth pew wearing a custom-tailored Giorgio Armani suit with a shirt sewn to my specifications by a Romanian shirt maker on West 43rd Street named Georges Tourvarian. My solid gold cufflinks were from Zimbabwe and the tie that I just happened to wear that day I had picked up at a little shop just off Bloomsbury Square in London. I know that The Pride is a part of me and I am a part of The Pride.

But as I sat there that morning, I couldn’t help but feel that I was a participant in some kind of surreal game. I have always known game when I saw it, and this was one of those times.

After all, most of the members of The Pride who were in attendance were certainly not there out of love or respect for Winner Tomlinson. They were there out of curiosity or speculation. They were there because there was business to be done, contacts to be made, acquaintances to be refreshed and refurbished.

I am not being judgmental. Its part of the American way of doing business, and there is no reason to begin to suggest that the charter members of The Pride would conduct their business any differently.

Consider this analogy: Dr. James Naismith put a peach basket on a wall and “invented” the game of basketball. It was meant to be an exercise regimen for football players in the off-season. But after Oscar Robertson, Jerry West, Michael Jordan and Fly Williamson got involved, the game became The Game.

Business and finance and politics have danced a dance for many years in this country. But the dance never saw the likes of Bonita Woolsey, Gordon Perkins, Edwin Tomlinson or……….Diedre Douglas.

“Hello Paul. No surprise seeing you here. You do seem unusually thoughtful this morning. I hope you don’t mind if I join you?”

The always intoxicating fragrance of Ivoire de Balmain announced the arrival of my ex-wife as she slipped into the pew and somehow materialized next to me. I have always tried to pay attention at such events and to this day it still amazes me that she was able to appear at my side and surprise the hell out of me.

I don’t think of myself as some kind of all-knowing, ever-vigilant Yoda prototype. Nevertheless, I would like to think that I would have some vestigial awareness of the fact that my ex-wife was in the house.

But then Diedre Douglas has always been something of a surprise. She has always been a luminous presence and a wondrous woman.

“Good morning Diedre. Now I know this is an important event, if the divine Miss Douglas is making an appearance!” I spoke sotto voce.

“Don’t yank my chain Paul. It’s too cold and too early for your usual nonsense. At least try for an original line or two.”

It has always amazed me how Diedre could use words to cut to the bone. More amazingly, I have never seen or felt the blade, until it was too late. Every time, it has been too late. This was yet another one of those times.

“With all due respect to Winner, it looks like the usual suspects are filing in. No surprise there.”

“No, Diedre, I guess there is no surprise. The surprise would be if the usual suspects didn’t show for something like Winner’s memorial service.”

I couldn’t help but noticed the understated by entirely elegant black dress with purple trim that she was wearing. I am no expert on women’s clothing, but I would have bet that it came from the St. John’s collection. Of course, that would only be a guess on my part.

Even though the mink that she wore was also understated, I am certain that it cost a year’s salary for some midlevel corporate executive. Even now, when I think of her wearing that mink I have to smile at the thought of the next part of our conversation.

“Lovely fur you’re wearing, by the way.”

“How kind of you to notice, Mr. Taylor. What happened, did you take your “happy” pills this morning? Or is there a teenage cheerleader convention going on in town that has you in such a pleasant mood?”

“Ouch! You should be careful with that tongue of yours. You’re using live ammo today.”

“I’ll thank you to leave my tongue out of this conversation.”

Diedre has always had a way of delivering lines in an absolutely stern fashion with only the hint of a flash of humor that dances through those large and lovely eyes of hers for the briefest of moments. I thought that I saw that flash that morning. Was that double entendre or was it just my imagination, running away with me?There was no way that I could be sure. So I continued.

“Duly noted, Ms. Douglas. But have you noticed how many of your sisters are wearing lovely furs this morning? I mean, the fur is flying this morning!”

“No Paul, I did not notice. But now that you mention it there is some excellent taste in furs being shown here this morning. What’s your point?”

We were able to carry on this conversation more or less freely, as the doors of the Riverside Church were now wide open and the invited guests were streaming in. Even as people tried to maintain proper decorum and solemnity there was a great deal of energy in the air. Our conversation was not particularly noticeable.

“Well Diedre, even my untrained and unsophisticated eye can see minks of every description–nutria, blackglama, what have you. I have seen beaver, sable, fox, raccoon and ocelot. But doesn’t it make you wonder why, at a high profile event like this, we haven’t seen one animal rights activist. Doesn’t that surprise you in the least?”

This was not the first time that I had raised this issue with a woman of color, so Diedre’s response didn’t surprise me in the least. However, even though I had known the woman for twenty years at the time, the crystalline gravity and sheer intensity of her response took me by surprise. As she arched her eyebrows I knew that I had treaded on very thin ice indeed.

“Paul, my dear, you don’t see any animal rights activists here because they know that they would have the living Jesus beaten out of them if they even thought about spilling paint on one of these sisters.
“I’ve got to tell you, as a black woman I have to put up with indignities every day that you men can’t even dream about. I have to take shit from white men, white women and my beloved black brothers. I will be goddamned to hell if I would let some chucklehead who cares more about a glorified rat than black children in Harlem or Tunica put a drop of paint on anything that I own and have earned. Anything!”

There was silence between us as I absorbed what Diedre had told me and reflected upon it. In all the years of protests concerning the wearing of leopard, raccoon and mink furs, I realized that I have never ever seen even a tiny story or article about paint being thrown upon a black woman wearing a fur coat.

A few people spoke disapprovingly about Aretha Franklin after she wiped out an entire species of fox to get the fur for the outfit that she wore to Bill Clinton’s first inauguration. But I don’t recall any cans of Sherwin Williams being opened in protest of her outfit. Talk is cheap and hospital bills are not.

In fact, ever since that conversation with Diedre, I have paid more attention to this subject. I am still waiting for the brave and noble animal rights crusader who loves those cute little minks so much he or she is willing to risk their lives by throwing a can of Malaccan Cinnamon Crimson Red Dutch Boy paint on a female member of The Pride in a mink coat.

The sense I get is that activist would be dead before the last droplets of red paint hit the ground as cunningly concealed scimitars, Uzis, stilettos and tridents were drawn from scabbards, holsters and other unknown and unspeakable hiding places. I have to confess that it would certainly be worth the price of admission at any price.

Diedre’s comments rang sure and true. And on a very real level I could understand what she meant. Even after all the master’s degrees and Perry Ellis outfits and American Express Platinum credit cards, as a black woman she had to stand guard over her dignity, her self esteem, her personhood. There was no telling from which direction the next dignity-denying assault might come.

This was deeper water than I had anticipated in initiating this conversation. Maybe, just maybe, I thought, Diedre and I might have an opportunity to talk like human beings again. At the time I had no idea of what fate had in store for the both of us. For the moment, we both realized that it was best to just let the intensity of the moment pass so that we could resume our role as voyeurs.
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Excerpts from "The Pride"

The Pride – Chapter 4

CHAPTER 4
Paul

Mourning in the morning

I can’t remember when I fell in love with the night. I know that I am a true night person. I have to work too long and too hard through too many daylight hours for that to be truly the case. But it must has been more than long ago that the night became a part of my life.

I cannot tell you when I became enamored of reading and writing and thinking and loving and dreaming in the middle of the night. I just know that it is a part of me, and that nighttime will always be a part of me.

And so it is no surprise to me that I am wide awake, without the benefit of caffeine or anything else, wondering about the wonder of it all. I am not usually given to boundless introspection, but I have noticed certain changes in my life and myself as of late.

In another room, on an upper floor in the Harlem townhouse that is my home, is the absolute treasure of my life, my baby son, Paul Jr., now two years old – “the last gasp of the baby boom” some of my friends have called him – and yet, it was just over three years ago that my life began to change, forever. My story begins on a very specific day that I will always remember.

There was a memorial service scheduled for that day. But as I attended my friend Winner Tomlinson’s memorial service on a cold January morning, new beginnings and baby boys were definitely not on my mind. Far from it.

After all, I was a member of The Pride, that select and pre-selected group of black investment bankers, corporate executives, government officials, lawyers, entrepreneurs and assorted professionals who were determined to make it in America. We stalked the majestic canyons of Wall Street and prowled the murderous halls and treacherous boardrooms of corporate America. And we have more than survive, we have prevailed and succeeded, beyond even our wildest dreams.

And, although I have hated funerals and memorial services for my own personal reasons, I planned to attend the Tomlinson memorial service at the Riverside Church that day, because Winner had been my friend and because, as a charter member of The Pride, it was all about business. I simply had to be there.

Actually I am getting a little ahead of myself, and if I am going to tell this story right, I have to go back down the stairs of my Harlem townhouse and pour myself a proper glass of Graham’s Malvedos Vintage Porto (1984). Once cannot very well tell a good story without at least a few glasses of good port wine – that’s a given.

Also, before starting, I want to look in on my son, just because that’s what my father would do, and because it’s what all fathers do – look in on their sons and daughters and make sure that everything is alright. Even when they know that everything is alright, it still makes sense to check.

Paul Jr. is resting comfortably and Miles Davis is going through his progressions of “Seven Steps to Heaven” on the CD player in his nursery. Paul Jr. has been listening to good music on a regular basis since the third month after his conception. He has been listening to Beethoven, the Soweto String Quartet, Cesaria Evoria from the Cape Verde Islands, Wayne Shorter, Horace Silver, John Coltrane, Gary Bartz, Dave Brubeck, Thelonius Monk and Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes. It is no wonder that the boy loves music, as does his daddy (and his mommy, but to a significantly lesser extent).

As I go back to my study to savor the port wine and consider the beginning of my story, I feel very much in the mood for Stan Getz, “Desafinado” conjuring up the right mood. I have always found this Stan Getz selection to be melodic and mysterious in a samba-like way.

It begins at the memorial service at the Riverside Church for Edwin “Winner” Tomlinson, undoubtedly the most successful black businessman of his. And now, at the age of fifty-one, in the newborn infancy of his prime, he was dead.

Who was he? He was a black lawyer in New York City just like me. He was a friend, running buddy, drinking companion and sometime professional colleague. But he was so much more.

Sometime in the eighties, in the heyday of the capitalist era, Winner decided that billing life by the quarter hour and hunting and gathering clients was not the life for him. He left the life of ordinary lawyering to saps like me. And he never looked back. Not for a single solitary moment. At least that’s how it always seemed to me.

With luck, consummate skill and the nerve of a one-eyed river boat gambler, he managed to parlay his part-ownership of a barely profitable UHF television station in Charlotte, North Carolina into a controlling interest in one of the largest home furnishing manufacturing companies in the world, with facilities throughout the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, Latin America and Asia. He died with plans waiting for his approval for plants in Nigeria, Indonesia, the Czech Republic, Morocco, Cuba and South Africa on his desk.

I always believed that Winner’s success was all the more remarkable because he accomplished his most important early corporate coups with the support and assistance of the now-defunct investment banking firm of Wilson, Pearson & Borderon. WPB whose very own Master of the Universe, Jake Dusenberg, had gone down in flames before the onslaught of the myriad of junk bond transaction investigations directed by then-U.S. Attorney Rudolph Giuliani.

I remember the time well, and Giuliani was to junk bond traders what Attila the Hun was to the Holy Roman Empire – nothing less than “The Scourge of Christ”. He left nothing but the bones and flayed skin of Wall Street bankers, traders and lawyers in his wake – a legacy that preternaturally ambitious Giuliani parlayed into becoming Mayor of New York City.

Nevertheless, WPB sought to defy the mighty Giuliani – and the entire firm, with its 5,000 employees went down without a trace like a small stone in a big country pond. And at the end of the day, Winner Tomlinson was still standing.

remain amazed by those particular facts to this very day. Indeed, the story almost defies the laws of nature as they exist in these United States of America.

There were some unattributed cocktail stories, the kind told after three or four free martinis, to the effect that Winner had somehow “cooperated” with the federal prosecutor’s office in return for what amounted to immunity from prosecution. These stories were invariably based on no known facts, only the repetition of rumor giving credence to the first rumor in the first place.

Of course there has never been any proof of such an arrangement. And now that Winner is dead you can pretty much bet that any such proof went to the grave with him.

There were also stories about the enduring hatred that Jake Dusenberg harbored for his former favored client. I myself have heard many stories about how Dusenberg, after he paid a record $4 billion fine and served thirty months in a minimum security prison, plotted and planned a spectacular revenge against Winner, even as he, Dusenberg, worked on high profile charitable endeavors in black communities around the country as part of his court ordered community service.

Once again, Winner came out the winner. He died before Dusenberg could implement whatever plot he might have been hatching. As was the case with a lot of things about Winner Tomlinson, the true story would always be the subject of conjecture, and much of that true story would be buried with him in the soil of his native Alabama, just outside of Birmingham.

It’s strange how memory works. I can’t remember the names of all the people that were on the conference call that I endured earlier this evening, but I can remember the details of that fateful day as if they were occurring this very moment. Almost like replaying a video.

Of course I did not know that it was a fateful day at the time. Then, it was just another day in the life of The Pride. It was a day full of the very routine and the very special.

I do remember that on that January morning it was cold as hell and that I had made myself get up at my normal time of 5:30 a.m. so that I could complete my morning workout and still get in some work time on my computer and telephone before going to Winner’s memorial service. Getting out of bed that morning was a little more of an ordeal than usual due to one Lisette Bailey.

It would be hard for me to forget Lisette Bailey. She was twenty-seven, five feet nine inches tall, lithe and slender with a tawny, café au lait complexion that perfectly complemented her auburn hair. That hair was spread across my pillow of as I strove to keep to my conditioning schedule despite the allure of her somnolent beauty.

Paul, could you really have a reason to get out of bed so early?” A mischievous smile danced across her face, chasing the sleepy look away, replacing it with an expression that promised to awaken dawning embers of passion. Fool that I was, I had thought that she was asleep.

“I am sure that I don’t have a good reason darling, its just that…..”, to this day I am not quite sure what I was going to say next, but I am sure that it would not have really made a difference.

“Its just that what? That you have a reason to do something other than this……? Is that what you are really trying to tell me?”, and with that she threw back the bedcovers with a flourish revealing her gorgeous body, entreating arms and long slender legs waiting to grapple with mine once more.

“Because if that’s the case, I can just get up right now and start getting ready for work, after all, you aren’t the only one with things to do this morning.”

The sight of Lisette, naked, warm and luminescent, virtually glowing in the pre-dawn rendered me temporarily speechless. For a few moments I thought that my routine would be broken. After all, I have always thought of myself as a man possessed of discipline and self-control.

I wish that I could tell you of the triumph of my remarkable discipline and that I simply continued with my workout routine for the day. Actually that is not my wish as I returned to bed and Lisette and I continued our lovemaking from the night before. And let me say that, as it always was with Lisette, it was wonderful.

A word about Lisette Bailey: just a few words actually. She is not Paul Jr.’s mother, and she is not my wife. My wife, Paul’s mother, is actually my ex-wife as well, and that is part of the longer story. Like one of those riddles that the Sphinx would tell.

It is enough for me to say that as this story begins, I was a single, divorced attorney, in his early forties, living alone in a luxurious, remodeled townhouse in Harlem. My library bar is now a nursery, my gym has been replaced by a guest room, and I now exercise in an unfinished basement with no skylight to brighten my morning labors.

As a single man in New York City, I had an opportunity to enjoy the delights of the town, home to some of the most beautiful and sensual and intelligent and demanding- women on the planet. But my story is not about my romantic escapades and sexual adventures. Let it suffice to say that I did not work all of the time.

Later that morning, as the January sun actually began to insinuate its dull glow through the skylight of my townhouse, I began to push myself through the rigors of my typical morning exercises. For me there has never been an alternative in my universe.

I spend so much time sitting behind desks and luncheon tables, lifting nothing heavier than a telephone or a silver soup spoon or a martini glass, that without a regimen of regular exercise I am sure that I would have succumbed to stress or that I would have strangled an adversary, a client, a stranger, or all three by now.

The physical benefits of regular exercise were always known to me, but as I became more involved with my practice as a lawyer and a member of The Pride, I have found that I needed exercise to keep my brain clear and to have a chance at managing the stress attendant with being a lawyer and a member of The Pride.

Indeed, it has always amazed me that so many of my colleagues have been able to keep the pace that they do and that they don’t exercise. Of course, I was getting ready for a funeral of a colleague that morning, and I am afraid that there have been several more since then. And I know that there will be even more, sooner than later.

Interestingly enough, Winner Tomlinson didn’t die from overindulgence or lack of exercise. A week earlier he had died of liver cancer. No one saw it coming, least of all him. It had been diagnosed in August of the previous year. Quite simply, he was dead within six months and all the sit-ups and pushups in the world probably wouldn’t have helped him a damn bit.

It has been these intimations of mortality that have contributed to my general unease at funerals and memorial services during the past few years. And now that I had to go to yet another one I tried to exorcize my personal demons through exercise on that soon to be fateful morning, Bob Marley’s jammin’ on the house sound system punctuated my movements. The sounds of Lisette showering in the master bathroom and the CNN announcer were barely noticeable as I started to enter that “zone”.

Entering that zone had become more and more important as the years progressed. And it has been the mental health aspect that keeps me getting up at ungodly hours and doing certifiably insane things like leaving a warm Lisette Bailey in a warm bed.

Another reason I remember that morning is because I have such deep dislike for these ceremonies that celebrate death. So I felt like an extra surge of exercise would help me manage my way through what promised to be a particularly trying personal and professional experience. I remember that on that particular morning, I really pushed myself through a much more strenuous workout than usual.

Instead of one hundred sit-ups I did five hundred. Instead of bench-pressing for ten minutes, I battled those weights for almost a half hour. After thirty minutes on the stair master I added another fifteen minutes on the Nordic track.

I have my reasons for disliking death services. Almost two years to the day before Winner’s funeral, my father had had “minor surgery” to correct a slight gall bladder malfunction. I will never forget the doctor telling me that with this corrective procedure, my father, then seventy years old, would live to be at least eighty-five.

I guess you could say that the doctor miscalculated somewhat. My father was dead within forty-eight hours of the first incision. I vaguely remember the doctor mentioning something about complications from the anesthesia.

I never bothered to listen to the complete explanation after I was told that my father was dead. I had been biology major for my first two years of college and probably would have understood a good part of the explanation but I never saw the point in taking the time to clinically understand the cause of my grief.

My father was dead. What was the point of any further explanation? Like I said, I had my reasons for preparing for stress that day. As I battled with the free weights that day, my brain felt like the “kaleidoscope” mode had been enabled.

I started working out at an almost frenzied pace as I thought about too much. I thought about all of the wakes, funerals and memorial services that I had attended.

I thought about how I used to believe that the worse thing that could ever happen to me was delivering the eulogy at my father’s funeral. And, as the sweat poured off me that morning, I remembered that I had already found out that there could be something far worse.

By now any observer would have seen a six foot-plus dervish, moving feverishly from floor exercises to machines to weights, like some gym-bound Sisyphus. I barely heard Bob Marley telling me to Lively Up Yourself.

I know I don’t remember hearing Lisette leave, although I do remember that she had a seven thirty conference call with London that she had to attend at the Broad Street offices of Goldman Sachs in the Wall Street district where she worked. Once the business day started, passion and romance and lovemaking had no place in Lisette Bailey’s world. Of course, she
was not unique in The Pride, or on Wall Street for that matter. As I moved into the final stages of my workout, Lisette was long gone, and that was O.K.

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