My sleep had been deep and restful. But I awoke somewhat disappointed that nothing had come to me. No dream, no vision, nor epiphany that would change my course in life—I was hungry…
The big, black Suburban, with not even two hundred thousand miles on it yet, headed down 800 Street, Salt Lake City, towards the great mountains that make Salt Lake such a special place. On the right side of the road about two miles into the wilderness is Ruth’s Diner. Mike who has seen much of the world nodded his approval. They had renovated since last I had been fortified there, but quite smartly they had restored, rather than remodeled—Larger kitchen and bathrooms had been the primary goal. The rear patio, where one can imagine what it might have been like to have coffee and biscuits in Eden—was untouched.
The ride to Idaho Falls featured my thoughts on the economy:
“The Gaussian copula function, which destroyed our economy, was written by a Chinese national named David X. Li—doesn’t that bother you? He knew the formula was nonsense and he published it anyway…”
Mike turned his head toward me. “Stan, please tell me you wouldn’t spew this kind of bullshit to anyone else.”
My tone was even more resolved. “I’d blog about it…I don’t play the game like you and your friends in Washington. I’m loyal to the people…. What type of country bets its entire economy on the mathematical rant of a communist? What understanding does a communist have of our economic system?”
“It took a lot more than a formula…You say this dribble and get away with it because you’re an intellectual bully!”
“Of course it took more than a formula…I don’t even care about the Guassian copula function, people a lot smarter than me warned banks not to consider using it years ago. A second grader knows that you can’t couple debt variables and come up with a risk average. No, what is destroying our economy is a culture that would embrace not only such an idea, but the derivatives it was meant to enable. A credit debt swap, is by my definition, toxic at its inception—it’s insurance against failure, there’s no such thing. And there should be no such thing…What type of a people would rather make money through transactions than production?”
“Someone has to provide capital to producers…” said Mike, still more agitated with me.
“Credit debt swaps and collateralized debt obligations, otherwise known as the toxic assets choking our system have nothing to do with providing capital to producers…Nothing…They were instruments created for nothing other than sell in the financial sector. They were making and selling their own products out of nothing…And giving them a triple A rating. And then in the middle of the night our government gave these guys three hundred and fifty billion dollars and told them to work things out…”
“Stan, you don’t understand how things are done…”
“You’re right…I don’t understand giving private companies the public’s money with no accountability for it. In fact now that you’ve shed such light on the matter, I’m sure that the Fed will be issuing a check for ten billion dollars to downtownster tomorrow. And we could use the money.”
“Are you done?” asked Mike.
“Yeah, sorry. It’s such a great country I can’t stand to see what’s happening to it.”
I wanted to see what was going on in Idaho Falls so we drove around the town for a bit. Suffice it to say that it’s a nice town, but like all of small town American it is in need of capital for business and capital improvements.
Not long after, we pulled off of the road to do some shopping at an open-air produce stand. While Mike waited in line to pay for some sweet corn and peaches, which I had selected, I struck up a conversation with an old woman whose son had mortgaged her home to invest in the last several years of real estate scam.
Five hundred thousand he had borrowed on the home she had lived in for fifty years. And there is no government program to help this old woman because her home is still worth a little more than what is owed—and the banks have no problem foreclosing on little old ladies if there’s a profit to be had. And the son? In jail for beating up his girlfriend who not only cheated on him, she was the genius who devised the plan of borrowing the money and getting into the real estate game. So, I took down this woman’s name, address, and phone number and promised to get her the money she needed to live the rest of her life out in her home, which is all she wanted to do.
The rural beauty passed by my eyes for a few more hours as the black beast, whose back we rode on, continued to eat up asphalt. At a junction close to the Snake River I took the time, while Mike quenched the thirst of the Suburban, to find an old fashioned payphone—not easy to find in the modern age, but still useful for certain types of calls.
“I need half a million dollars that I can’t pay back,” I said to the person on the other end of the line, to whom I needed no introduction.
“Nice to hear from you Stan. How’s the weather up there? How’s the family? How’s my family you ask?”
“I can’t talk now…I just need the money.”
“Where are you?”
“On the Road To Nowhere.”
“Now you’re kidding…”
“Somewhere in Idaho.”
“Okay, but this better be good.”
“It’s for an old lady…”
“Pendejo…” was the last word I heard before hanging up the phone. Some of my old friends are still having difficulty accepting me as I am today.
Driggs Idaho, home of the now defunct, bank owned, Bergmeyer Manufacturing Company—until last year a fine maker of furniture. This would be the place where the blower motors, bought by Mike at the liquidation auction, needed to be loaded onto a trailer and towed from.
I leaned against the hood of the Suburban and stared at the back of the Grand Tetons off in the distance, letting Mike speak with Moritz Bergmeyer privately. Mr. Bergmeyer a tall, thin, man of seventy is the type of genius who used his hands and mind to build this country. His factory in this beautiful valley was far from what someone would normally think of as a factory—I found it to be the artist colony that I’ve always wanted to build somewhere, someday.
As Mike spoke with this fallen-giant of another generation I know what he must have been thinking, it is what we should all be thinking, “Will this be me? Will I be honest, work hard, innovate, invest all of my time and money and still fail?” Mori now lives in his mobile home. But Mori at least had his health and a motor home the old woman had neither. So I needed to help Mike load up, no small task since the forklift had already been carted off, and I needed to lose Mike for long enough to dig up some dough, quite literally, and deliver it to where it might do some good.
Mike approached. “C’mon, we need to find a forklift.”
To be continued…