Excerpts from "The Pride"

The Pride – Chapters 13 & 14

Chapter 13
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.


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.

Excerpts from "The Pride"

The Pride – Chapters 11 & 12

Showtime on Riverside

As soon as I heard that shrill voice braying and careening over my shoulder, I knew who it was. Bonita Woolsey, Esq., the Corporation Counsel of the City of New York. In her role as the de facto Attorney General of the City of New York, she had a lot to say about which lawyers would write the legal opinions verifying the validity and probity of the billions of dollars of bonds that the City of New York sold every year. These were legal opinions that generated huge fees for the firms fortunate to be selected by the esteemed Ms. Woolsey.

And so, she was definitely someone with whom I had to speak. And, in the bizarre nature of my personal universe, she was also someone that I definitely could not stand. It was nothing specific. It was just something incredibly visceral and undeniable.

“Ms. Woolsey. Its always a pleasure. It’s been much too long since we have had lunch or breakfast or drinks. How is life in City Hall treating you these days?”

“Mayor Dinkins has me on 24 hour standby, or that’s what it seems like. I thought that being a partner at Shearman & Sterling was hard work, but this job is eternal.” Bonita smiled through teeth that would make an orthodontist retire to a monastery on a desert island, taking a vow of eternal silence upon entry.

I had to marvel at how, in one sentence, she managed to make sure that I remembered that she had been the first black partner at one of the top law firms in America, that she held a very, very important job in the biggest city in America, and that she was a confidante of the first black mayor of New York City.

Bonita Woolsey was one of those people that you could stand being around for about……ten nanoseconds. After that she seemed to be the manifestation of all annoyances. There was her braying laugh, her phony veneer barely covering the nudity of her hypocrisy and her unbridled ambition. And probably worst of all was her clear disdain for everyone and everything she surveyed. She was possessed of the unshakable belief that Bonita Woolsey was the undeniable center of the only universe that counted – hers.

What I remember most about her that morning was her…….teeth. After all, I had to be cordial, my business, and that of some of my best clients, was connected to the peremptory whims of the esteemed Ms. Woolsey. I have always felt that I could stand the company of anyone if business was involved.

So I was prepared to converse with Bonita and to make sure that at the end of our conversation I had done everything to make sure that my business interests were unimpeded and unscathed. But her teeth! My God!

All of her front teeth seemed to wander in boldly independent directions making her smile seem something straight out of a Salvador Dali painting, perhaps during his Mescaline Period. But on this particular morning there was, could it be? Something was clearly stuck between two of her front teeth.

Was it this morning’s whole wheat toast or, heaven forbid, last night’s collard greens? There was no way of knowing, and that was information that I simply never wanted to know. There is such a thing as too much information.

This was a living, breathing, braying illustration.
But her particle-ridden smile was hypnotic, and as we chatted, I felt myself trying to resist staring. It was like trying not to look at a hairy mole that resembled Mount Everest or a scar in the shape of a palm tree or a tattoo of the image of the Virgin Mary on someone’s neck.

“If it was going to be an easy job Bonita, Mayor Dinkins never would have needed to choose you.” I felt my eyes wander toothward.

I simply had to find a distraction. Anything would suffice. I could feel the precipice of disaster approaching, beckoning, begging me to make the jump into the abyss of mockery and perdition. It was simply too early in the day for this kind of bullshit.

“Flattery will get you everywhere Mr. Taylor. But to tell the truth, the private sector never seemed more appealing. When Mayor Dinkins gets reelected this year, I have promised him one more year and then I’m back at S&S, unless a better offer comes along.”

“That’s understandable Bonita. You have certainly served your time.” I remember thinking, why is she telling me this? And then I found out.

“I know that our conversations are always off the record, but this is really and truly off the record, O.K.?”

“Bonita, my lips will be sealed for eternity.” A few more cars were pulling up to let off passengers in front of the church. The press was starting to stake out their positions for their television cameras and still photographers.

The sun was bright and it was still frightfully cold. I continued my silent, subliminal prayer for someone, anyone, to rescue me from the impending risk of embarrassment and professional doom. No one came.

“Frankly Paul, I am seriously thinking of going back into the practice of law. Of course my former partners at S & S will have been back in a heartbeat. But I think that I am ready for new challenges.”

“You have already overcome so many challenges Bonita (I suddenly, and with horror, realized that a subtle insult might be perceived and prayed that it would fly below her radar. It did), what mountains are left for you to conquer?”

I must confess that at this particular moment I had not a clue that this conversation was about to take a more than serious turn. After all, I was just making conversation and trying to stay occupied until the doors of the church opened. I was also trying not to stare at Bonita’s many and multi-angled teeth.

“Let me get right to the point Paul. We can talk about this later. But I want you to think about us being partners. With your experience and my contacts we would be quite a team. I think “formidable” would be a good word, don’t you? I can make money at S & S, but I don’t kid myself, I can be there for one hundred years and I will only be a partner in name only. To tell you the truth, I don’t know if that is what I want any more. What I do want is a chance to find out how good I can really be. I know that this is something out of left field for you, and that we have to make time to talk about this. But think about it for now, will you?”

“Here comes Mayor Dinkins now, I have to go. Speak to you soon. Ciao!”

Bonita turned on her stiletto heel and I was truly one stunned buffalo soldier left in her wake. I was reminded of the expression from some old Stepin Fetchit-type film character, “Well slap my face and call me stupid!” And frankly, I could have not been more shocked if Bonita had done just that.

There was no way that I could even begin to fashion a response to her non-proposal. Although, I must confess that even that at that moment, despite my having something less than warm and fuzzy feelings for Bonita, the practical aspects of our alignment, as she so succinctly pointed out, had some real advantages. Of course, Winner Tomlinson’s memorial service was neither the time nor place for such discussions.

But given the flow of events in the near future, it was a discussion that I did not forget. But at that moment, it was time to go into the church.


Now about that church….

The Riverside Church is a colossal monument to God built by the colossal fortune of John D. Rockefeller, Jr. John D., Jr. was the eldest male heir of the greatest businessman and possibly the most rapacious entrepreneur in American history.

We will never really know if he built Riverside Church to atone for his father’s many sins. It may be that he felt that it was more important to fulfill an edifice complex, a construction/building disorder that was clearly transmitted genetically in its full glory to his son, Nelson Rockefeller, the governor of New York State a few decades later. Or maybe John D., Jr. just liked Gothic cathedrals. Or maybe he just felt like it.

It stands like some granite sentinel across Riverside Drive from Grant’s tomb. Indeed, the Riverside Church is a huge, silent stone commitment to the belief that there may be something more to life than life itself.

As I entered the church that morning, I couldn’t help but think about medieval times in Europe when huge cathedrals were built as part of a socio-political effort on the part of the powerful to keep the powerless occupied. After all, idle hands are the workshop of the devil and political dissidents. Revolutionaries and dissidents of varying pedigrees and radically differing degrees of success have been known to also show up when there is some of that nasty idleness lying around.

The royalty of a particular era would get together with the reigning religious leaders to declare the need for the construction of a monument to God and His everlasting glory. The church would openly and actively support such an initiative from the pulpit. In turn it would support the taxation and control over society by the State that royalty would have to impose in order to finance and complete such a project.
Since a project like the construction of a gothic church literally took centuries, this meant that generations of the poor and powerless would be employed as poorly paid, but busy, masons, carpenters, stone cutters, glaziers and bricklayers.

While the Riverside Church did not take generations to complete, there is no doubt in my mind that John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and his inherited fortune represented a part of America that could be called royalty. After all, he was the son of the same John D. Rockefeller who engaged in price-gouging and shockingly monopolistic strategies that strangled any hint of competition. And he was the son of the same John D. Rockefeller who employed the rather interesting labor relations tactic of having his employees shoot and kill striking workers (along with their wives and children) at one of his silver mines.

John D. Rockefeller probably never felt the need to receive approbation from anyone. On the other hand, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. had the luxury of reflection and contemplation. He did not need to build a fortune. His task was to institutionalize it, nurture it, and humanize it. And maybe, at the end of it all, maybe that’s what building the Riverside Church was really all about. Only John D. Jr. himself knows, and he is certainly not telling anyone anything anymore.


Excerpts from "The Pride"

The Pride – Chapters 7,8,9 & 10

A friend in need

I have found that most Americans think of Scandinavia as a region of four countries made up of the same people. Most Americans think that the difference between Finland and Denmark is like the difference between Los Angeles and Long Beach – not enough to spend time thinking about it. Clearly their ignorance is based on lack of information.

The Danes hate the Swedes; the Norwegians hate the Danes, the Swedes
hate the Norwegians, and nobody understands the Finns. Or cares.

After all, Finland is a country where the primary form of recreation is dancing the tango (!!!), yet it has a suicide rate just below that of the local lemming community. Even within each of the Scandinavian countries there are serious differences, and that is where my story begins.
Norway has been a monarchy for centuries, and even though there is now a democratically-elected parliament, there is an anti-monarchist movement that continues to believe that the institution is an anachronism that simply has to go.

Before I dropped out of the university in Bergen, I was part of a student anti-monarchist organization and when I came to the United States I continued to stay in touch with my former colleagues.

I should add that, like many student protest organizations, the Norwegian Anti-Monarchist Movement, or NAMM, was not that serious and was certainly no threat to the monarchy of Norway. I remember that when I was at the university, we used to spend most of our time sitting around drinking beer and smoking Turkish hashish, and telling sordid, bawdy jokes about the king and his family.

We composed an inflammatory pamphlet or two along with a few half-hearted demonstrations hardly drew flies and certainly drew less attention. But we thought that, in some way, what we were doing was important, and we managed to maintain an inconsistently consistent persistence about our point of view.

I guess that is why, when I got to New York, I continued to stay in touch with my friends from NAMM who, if the truth be told, were my only friends at school. And that is why I would send a few dollars back to Bergen from time to time to help support the activities of my friends in NAMM.

And, when I say a “few dollars”, I mean fifty dollars here, a hundred dollars there, since there was never a lot of money in the dishwashing business. It all seemed completely innocent and somewhat noble and righteous.

So you can imagine my surprise when two FBI agents were waiting for me at Ilse’s apartment when I came home from work at two o’clock in the morning. Waiting for me!

It turns out that some of my erstwhile friends with NAMM had turned their infatuation with Turkish hashish into a commercial enterprise, selling the potent product in more than a few neighborhoods in Bergen. And, not being satisfied with being minor league drug dealers, they had also accessed the Internet and gotten instructions for constructing a rather primitive pipe bomb which they managed to explode under a Carlsberg (the irony of it all, a Danish beer!!) beer truck in the vicinity of the king’s palace in Oslo.

The FBI agents questioned me through the rest of the night, first at Ilse’s and then at their headquarters in lower Manhattan. I was allowed to go with the very dire warning that I was in a lot of trouble and that I should consult a lawyer as it was very likely that I was going to be questioned again in the near future.

I remember as it were yesterday. I dressed for work at the Water Club that late afternoon feeling absolutely adrift and in a haze. I had been stupid and I had been betrayed by stupid, stupid friends, a really great combination in life. Now every hope and dream of mine was sitting on a tiny bubble of hope that sat in the FBI offices. A place where hopes go to die. I knew that I needed to consult a lawyer and had no idea where to turn.

In retrospect, I imagine I could have asked my employer, Mr. O’Keefe to recommend someone. And maybe I should have. But something told me that it would have marked me forever in his eyes.

No boss wants to hear that a trusted employee is in trouble with the FBI. Just like no boss likes to loan money to his employees or hear about their marital problems. This problem was my problem and it was just too much of a problem to take to my boss.

As I finished dressing for work that evening and came out of the employee’s locker room and into the restaurant area of the Water Club, I spied Paul Taylor at the bar, waiting for his date as it turned out. As soon as I saw him, it was like an inspiration and a revelation. When people speak about an “epiphany”, I now know what they mean, because on that early afternoon, seeing Paul Taylor was my epiphany.

I immediately realized that Paul was not only a lawyer, but he was devoid of obvious pretensions. He was not like a number of people who felt that owning a Platinum American Express Card gave them the right to look down their noses at other people and to act in any way they felt. I don’t know how I knew that. I just did.

Maybe it was in the way that he remembered the names of the waiters and the bartenders, or maybe it was in the solicitous but sincere way in which he treated his guests, male or female. All I know is that all of my intuitive, lifesaving radar told me to talk to Paul Taylor. Now!

In the twenty minutes before his date arrived I was able to tell Paul my entire sad and sordid story. To his everlasting credit, he showed little or no reaction, but clearly understood the gravity of my situation.

He gave me his card, told me to call him the following afternoon to arrange an appointment to see him before the end of the week. Needless to say, at 12:01 p.m. the next day, I called his office and was given an appointment at 4:30 that day, which would give me just enough time to get to my job in a timely fashion since Paul’s office was at 57th Street and Seventh Avenue, not exactly a stone’s throw away from the Water Club. But, of course, I had no choice but to be there.


Just like magic

To make a very long story very short, by the time I had gotten to his office, Paul had called one of his ubiquitous classmates from college (Dartmouth) or law school (Harvard), who in this instance worked for the FBI. As Paul put it, “Once I explained to him that you were a Norwegian knucklehead who posed no danger to the security or safety of the United States, it was a pretty simple conversation.”

There was no plea bargaining, because there were never any charges. It was as if the entire nightmare had never happened and Paul Taylor was Mandrake the Magician. I mean it when I say that, from that moment on, I was eternally grateful to Paul, and he certainly has had my full faith, support and loyalty ever since.

The best part is that, aside from not charging me a fee for an invaluable service, Paul has literally never mentioned this episode again. Ever. It was like it had never happened. And for that I am thankful as well.

There are too many people who want to lord their good deeds over you until you are sorry that they ever helped you in the first place. That was not the way with Paul Taylor. I simply consider it my good fortune that he has considered me a friend, then, and in all the years since.

And it has been through Paul Taylor that I learned about The Pride. After my NAMM episode, I could not help but be more attentive to him when he came to the Water Club. Of course he never had to wait for a table again. There were the other courtesies, the best tables with the best views, the complimentary cocktails and bottles of wines and champagne. As far as I was concerned, that was the best that I could do to make sure that Paul knew that I had a good memory.

A few years later it was Paul who suggested that we meet privately. By then I couldn’t help but notice that he had a regular crowd of extremely impressive friends, most of whom were black, and all of whom seemed to have something to do with Wall Street, corporate America or the practice of law.

When I came by his office that spring afternoon, I simply couldn’t imagine what the purpose of the meeting could be. I only knew that a summons from Paul Taylor, my American savior, was reason enough for me. I will confess, however, that there was this nagging, gnawing feeling that perhaps my idiot friends in Bergen had been acting up again. I whispered a long forgotten, brief prayer to St. Ursula, the patron saint of Norway, in the elevator on my way up to his office.

You could have knocked me over with a feather when Paul told me that he, and several of his friends, were interested in starting a first class restaurant and wanted to know if I was interested in managing it!

He told me the names of his colleagues, one of which was his ex-wife. He mentioned some numbers regarding the financing of the restaurant. And it was clear that these were big league players. And, as much as I loved Buzzy O’Keefe, I said yes on the spot.

Neither Paul nor I used the term The Pride that day, or at any point since. Indeed, I can’t remember where I first heard it with reference to the coterie of accomplished black men and women in business in New York City. All I know is that as soon as I heard it, it seemed to fit. Lions and lionesses, aspiring to majesty and dominion in the hostile jungle called corporate America and Wall Street.
And, as soon as I heard the term, “The Pride”, I knew instinctively that Paul Taylor and his partners in Dorothy’s By the Sea were all charter members that I had been privileged to have a front row seat to be able to watch all of the inner workings and comings and goings of a truly unique group of Americans.

When I was a young man in Bergen and Oslo, there was no one and no thing in Norway that could have prepared me for what I have learned because of my relationship with The Pride.


Get me to the church on time

At some point, long ago in my professional development, I decided to be early for every appointment and function that I planned to attend – at least ten to fifteen minutes. Aside from the fact that it means that I am almost never late for anything, it has provided an interesting advantage, one that I never expected at the outset.

Many of my friends and colleagues have told me that this particular habit is an overreaction to the legend/myth/supposition that black people are always late. Every black person knows the term “CP Time” and most have come to despise it.

As I have told my friends, my habit arose from my reading a biography of Lyndon Johnson by the Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Robert Caro. In it, he refers to the fact that Johnson always arrived early to meetings in order to achieve a strategic advantage over whomever it was that he was meeting. This bit of logic struck me the right way and I thought that I would try it. And, believe me, it has worked.

Also, as I have told my friends, the truth is that almost every culture believes that lateness is a group characteristic. When I was in Tel Aviv I was introduced to the concept of “JP Time” (Jewish People’s Time). And when I was in Tokyo, references to “JP Time” (Japanese People’s Time) by my Japanese law firm hosts truly flew in the face of the myths and legends regarding Japanese efficiency and reliability. I know that many of my Italian friends use the term “IPT” (Italian People’s Time”) and are amused to find out that black people have a similar phrase. Clearly we all need a little help trying to be on time.

Being able to get to functions like Winner’s funeral before the rest of the lemmings gives me an opportunity to observe – who’s in attendance, who is with whom, who is trying to align with whom – that kind of thing. I know that this has a certain voyeuresque aspect to it, but we all observe other in one way or another, being early simply provides me with my own peculiar perch. Kind of like sitting in the catbird seat, as the old Yankee broadcaster Red Barber was known to say on occasion.

As the car pulled up to the Riverside Church, I could not help but notice, standing like some mute, granite sentinel, Grant’s Tomb. This final resting place of the alcoholic warrior, the frightfully, almost poetically corrupt president and his absolutely anonymous wife is a huge, silent, stone commitment by humanity to the belief that there may be something more to life than life itself. At least that’s my guess.

There has always been a lot of that going around, of course. We call them pyramids, burial grounds, burial mounds, skyscrapers, multi-use sports arenas. We all want to be remembered.
I know that I want my son to not only know me, but to remember me. Not just as a good father but as someone who is there for him on an absolute and unconditional basis. In this life and in all the lives to come.

And then I was in front of the Riverside Church, its massive doors facing the nearly frozen Hudson River. The service was scheduled to begin at ten, and it was just turning on nine. A few dozen people huddled in front of the church, speaking in low, almost frozen tones. While I saw the faces of a number of people that I knew, I didn’t feel compelled to meet and greet just yet. I had come extra early for a reason – and funerals have really come to bother me anyway.

That morning I figured that a walk across the small park across the street from the church would give me the assurance that I could maintain my composure. It would also give me time to think about Joel’s e-mail note and to rethink a strategy that was already starting to take form in my mind. And it would also give me time to think about Samantha.

Taking that stroll down memory lane…

Samantha Gideon was the lady of my life at that time, all other amorous experiences and fun frolics. I would guess that if I were to have described our relationship at the time, I would not have objected to the use of the word “serious”. In retrospect, if she hadn’t died, there is every reason for me to believe that she would have been the mother of the little boy that is sleeping upstairs from my home office right now. Of course life is full of those elusive “might have beens” and “could have beens”, when, of course, all that really matters is what is.

On that January morning, there was no way that I could see that far into the future. I just knew that I missed her. She was a singer, and quite a good one. She was just not fortunate enough to have experienced the life-changing serendipity that would get her the stratospheric recording contract that would let her talent carry her to deserved stardom.

She did have a contract with one of the major cruise lines. So I am reasonably certain that she had been singing “Guantanamera” and “Impossible Dream” and “The Greatest Love” for the umpteenth time the night before.
She was way beyond adamant that I not use any of my contacts, friends and relationships in the music business to try and help her.

I had once tried to surreptitiously arrange for her to have an audition and she found out. Even though the audition represented the chance of a lifetime for her, it was almost the end of our relationship – right there on the spot. She wanted to do it her way. Which meant no help from me.

On one level I understood her desire and need for independence. On the other hand, this was something about Samantha that I never really understood. After all, from my perspective I had (and have) helped people who have meant so much less to me. I have helped them because I could.

What’s more, I know that Samantha could not have possibly believed the mythology that anybody actually made it “on their own”. I always thought that if I was simply an acquaintance, someone else in her life, Samantha would have permitted me to help her, and her life would have been so much different. Although I guess she would still be dead right now.

Instead, to the day she died, she stubbornly clung to the notion that she had to succeed without my help, assistance or participation. The only thing she would accept from me was my support. And that she had. The fact that she never let me be a contributing factor to her success is one of the few regrets that I carry in this life.

And so, I was walking away from the church, headed west towards the river, alone with my thoughts – thoughts about Samantha – thoughts about Winner. Thoughts about warm sheets that had cooled too soon that morning, thoughts about…..
“Paul! I knew I would see you here.”


Excerpts from "The Pride"

The Pride – Chapters 5 & 6

What a tangled web….

It was O.K. because no number of sit ups or pushups or bench presses could make me forget that there was something worse for me than delivering the eulogy for my father. That’s because six months after my father died, my younger brother died in a freak hang-gliding accident in the hills east of Monterey, California.

For almost a year, I spent almost all of my nonbillable time on estate matters, insurance matters, closing down residences, selling furniture and poring over endless piles of personal effects. There is certainly worse torture; I just don’t want any part of them.
A psychoanalyst might say that these serial deaths were the reason that I pursued such a self-indulgent lifestyle, but the truth is much simpler – I like to have a good time. And someone like Lisette Bailey could make a man forget almost anything.

It was almost as if she realized that there was this cloud, this burden, and she seemed to dedicate her time with me to make it all go away. At least that’s how it seemed to me. She probably was just having a good time too. Her angelic smile and endless, eternally creative, devilish desires always made me want to forget.

I could never forget the pain and sadness that I have felt in losing my father and brother that way. And she could never make me forget Samantha Gideon, although I never would have dreamed that Samantha would be gone from my life someday.

Even now, married and with a son, a day does not go by that I don’t think about her. I have grown accustomed to the reality that her memory will be with me as long as I live.

There are a lot of theories about true love, and none of them are wrong and none of them are right. I believe that it’s all about time and space and circumstance and serendipity and the lottery-like happenstance of romance. I love my wife and my son, but who knows?

If Samantha hadn’t gone away so suddenly, maybe she would have been the mother of my son. How different would my life be now? I have no regrets at this stage of my life, but still, I can’t help but think about these things from time to time.

Finishing my shower, I still had time to get dressed and attend to my home computer and the attendant e-mail messages before leaving for the funeral, which was to be held at the Riverside Church, no more than a ten minute taxi ride from my house.

Before going to my home office, which was on the second floor of my townhouse, I went down to the first floor kitchen, with its appointments of a Garland industrial range and a Norge refrigerator/freezer.
It had a free standing island of marble-faced counter space, rubber tiled floors and indirect halogen lighting. I had to begin my morning have a blended shake of yogurt, fruit juice and soy powder to go along with a veritable pharmacopoeia of vitamins and herbal supplements. I took my cup of Kenyan mountain roast coffee back up the stairs and logged onto my computer.

In the relatively few years of its existence in my world, I have found e-mail to be virtually indispensable. There was a point in my life when there was no e-mail, I just can’t remember it anymore. Just like I can’t remember when there were no faxes or overnight mail. I must admit that I do remember Special Delivery letters.

When I sat down to check e-mail that morning, I had no idea that a note from one of my classmates at Harvard Law School would give me a perspective and then an idea, that would change my life and the lives of many other members of The Pride.

Joel Rosenblatt was one of those people who saw public service as something more than an avocation. He had been in government since we graduated from Harvard, and he now worked as a senior staff member of the United States Senate Finance Committee’s Subcommittee on Banking.

He worked there because he wanted to and liked it, not because he was looking for a platform for a partnership in some K Street or Wall Street law firm. And, he was a good guy.

There is no easy way to put this – so consider this a word to the wise. The shit is really about to hit the fan for some of your investment banking colleagues “of color”. The Securities and Exchange Commission and the Justice Department are working with my subcommittee to hold hearings about the rise of black investment banking firms and the correlation of that rise to their political campaign contributions to black politicians around the country.

Can you believe it? There would be no Merrill Lynch or First Boston or Lehman Brothers without all of the contributions, cash and otherwise, that they have made to various government officials over the years. But it looks like your people are going to have to play the game by another set of rules.

The worst part is that these hypocrites have wrapped themselves in so many veils of self-righteousness that going after these black firms is going to seem like a holy crusade if they ever get any momentum going.

As I write this I realize that I should have some kind of advice or suggestions for you – and I don’t.

But I thought that you should know this, and I knew that you would know what to do with this information.

Take care.

Like I have said, memory is so strange. It can be so unreliable and useless at times, and then there are other times, like now, late at night in my Harlem brownstone, when it seems like I am the only one in the world who is awake, that I can remember every detail of something that, at the time, I didn’t even realize was so important.

For example, I remember that I stared at Joel’s e-mail message, understanding it, and, at the same time, trying to comprehend its greater meaning for a long, long time. While thinking, I sent an e-mail back to my former classmate and current friend.

Thanks for passing on the information. I know that you have a lot more to do than worry about the fate of black investment bankers (and their lawyers) who don’t know where their next BMW is coming from, but you should know (if you don’t already) that its a lot more important than that.

We both know that on a per capita basis, there are as many white knuckleheads on Wall Street as there are black knuckleheads. We also know that without some real power and influence and an institutional presence on Wall Street, the black experience in America will continue to be a series of parallel stories of individual achievements and collective frustration. You have to control sources of capital in this country to be able to play the game.

And, speaking of playing the game, it is so ironic that the moment black investment banking firms start to get a little traction that the SEC and Justice and the U.S. Congress (!!!!) start to jump on them for so-called ethical violations. What a crock of shit!

I guess that my clients can be more discrete in their future forays into the adjoining worlds of politics and municipal finance. But I would hope that I could give them more advice than that. If you have any bright ideas, let me know.


The note from Joel Rosenblatt set in motion a Rube Goldberg-like series of levers and pulleys in my mind that finally dredged up the bright idea that would change the life of so many.
As I logged off the computer, I remember thinking that Joel’s note, while newsworthy, was hardly surprising.

There were a lot of reasons for members of The Pride to be paranoid, not the least of them was that their very existence offended too many white people in these United States. There were otherwise intelligent, well-meaning and God-fearing white men and women in America who had grown up their whole lives with a certain sense of the natural order of things.

In their universe, black men as principals and partners in Wall Street investment banking firms and law firms simply didn’t exist. Black men and women who were chief executives and senior officers of major corporations simply could not exist. Black women with law degrees, MBA’s and partnerships in major law firms offended the Laws of Nature as much as a flying pig or a talking mule. Some things simply could not exist in their world.

And their response upon encountering this unnatural reality – after the initial shock – has been to deny. And then, if denial did not reassert their conception of reality, then it was time to take more aggressive and even violent actions.

Sometimes those actions might be as simple as not hiring someone for a job for which they might be overqualified. It could be a peremptory no at the meeting of a coop board in a particularly exclusive address on Park Avenue or Central Park West. Country club memberships and law firm partnerships and investment banking firm partnerships do not stay all white in New York City or the rest of America by accident or for the lack of qualified and interested black men and black women. All of these things are simply puny and pitiful attempts by some people to maintain the natural order of things as they had always known them and would like for them to be.

If I had let the antipathy and hurt feelings of white people determine my fate, I imagine that I would be lucky to be pumping gas somewhere far from Wall Street. Still, Joel’s note was not to be dismissed or ignored.

This guerilla warfare against key members of The Pride could have disastrous results. Municipal finance-based revenues were an important part of the financial foundation of a number of black investment banking firms and law firms. Whether that business resulted in the sale of mortgage revenue bonds or the investment of pension fund assets, this income represented the base upon which other business could be built.

Or should be built, I thought wryly, because now it really was time for me to start getting dressed for the funeral. Going through the eternal ritual of selecting a dark suit, white shirt and subdued tie, I thought about the fact that too many of my friends and colleagues in investment banking were content to frolic in the high cotton of municipal finance, never heeding the common sense thought that their success would eventually bring about serious institutional reprisals. But more than a few members of The Pride perceived the obvious – it was time to diversify and to solidify gains that have already been made.

That morning I finished dressing and called a local Dominican car service to send one of its seemingly infinite number of new Lincoln Continentals to come by get me to the church on time.

I decided that I would make it my business to invite a few insightful friends to a post funeral lunch. After all, Winner was to be buried near his birthplace in Alabama so there would be no need to endure an interminable ride to some suburban cemetery.

As I settled into the back seat of the car, salsa music gently tapping at the door of my consciousness, I started to think about a guest list. The right mix would be important as a plan started to take form in my mind. As I tried to sort these matters out, the always awesome and bold presence of the Riverside Church insinuated itself into view.

I was glad that I was early. This was going to be a very busy morning and, as the cliché goes, it really was going to be the first day of the rest of my life. Of course, at the time, I just had no idea how right I was going to be.

Through the looking glass

In retrospect, it would seem that I knew about The Pride before I knew learned about it. After all, Paul Taylor was not the first or only black patron of the Water Club. However, since there were so few blacks who were customers of the restaurant, I would always notice them. And since far fewer were anything like regular customers, it was hard not to remember the repeat visitors. And in any event it would have been almost impossible to forget Paul Taylor.

Working at the Water Club was an education for me in many ways. I learned, for example, that clowns and idiots come in any and all colors – that there were as many black idiots and clowns as white idiots and clowns. There were the kinds who were too loud, too ostentatious, too ready to treat the waiters and restaurant staff as their own personal servants, or worse.

I always have thought that such people were insecure about something in their lives, but then of course, no one ever asked me. My job has been to see to it that my patrons are well fed and satisfied with sufficient libations. Their manners and deportment have never been my department.

And, since the Water Club (and now Dorothy’s By the Sea) has always been an upscale establishment, during the past decade I have spent my working hours with people with decidedly high income lifestyles – or at least pretending to do so. And, I have found that the size of your income and the amount of disposable cash that a person might have has nothing to do with having class or even knowing how to spell the word decorum.

Paul Taylor always brought a certain amount of class with him when he came to the Water Club. He took the time to say hello to the coat check girl and was never superior or dismissive of waiters, sommeliers or the busboys.

I don’t want to make him sound like Mother Teresa in a pinstripe suit, but he was always a classy and decent person. I remember he would come with his (then) wife Diedre, and they would celebrate anniversaries, birthdays and the like, and he was always solicitous of her without being a phony romantic.

When you work at a fine restaurant, you get to see all the types. And you get to know the pseudo-Romeos who want to be sure that the whole world sees that they are making a big deal over the woman who is their companion for the evening -wife, girlfriend, escort, it doesn’t matter- regardless of whether any of the pomp and circumstance is meaningful to her. Paul was never like that.

I guess it was that something about Paul that gave me the nerve to talk to him about a serious problem that I was having at the time. And the way he helped me through it certainly gave me all the reason that I ever needed to talk to him a few years later about my idea which later became Dorothy’s By the Sea. But that came later.


Excerpts from "The Pride"

The Pride – Chapter 4


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.