Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Broken Ships

I was first hired by Lehman Brothers in 2001. For Wall Street, Lehman was a somewhat egalitarian place to be. I relished that I worked in the working man's Wall Street firm. My job was in expense management. They let me retreat into my life's centering identity: the little boy in the basement building models. For Lehman, I would construct mathematical labyrinths that would reveal where the firm could save money.

The culture of Lehman was such that no one should do one job for more that three or four years, lest they become jaded and stale. This was one of their few clairvoyant cultural tenants. So after four years in expense management, I had to find something different to do in the organization.

In 2004, Lehman acquired the asset management firm, Neuberger Berman. For years Neuberger Berman had been primping itself for acquisition and now finally, it was complete. Their CEO who'd orchestrated this enveloping quickly cashed out and left town, leaving behind a company filled with bitter employees who despised this Lehman Brothers who'd acquired them.

It was decided my next career path would be that of Lehman's ambassador to Neuberger Berman. I would entrench myself with them and facilitate the mechanics of their new environment. It was a disastrous move.

All from Neuberger Berman who encountered me despised me and repelled my attempts to integrate their process into the new Lehman order. I was hated by everyone at Neuberger Berman and their public stoning left me viewed as incompetent by all I'd left behind at Lehman.

Perhaps my memory's only redeeming attribute of Neuberger Berman is Roy Neuberger's dynamic support of the arts. He once said his two passions were art and finance. (I've never understood this statement as to me, it is akin to claiming passion for animal slaughter and vegetarianism in the same breath. Yet, I will forgive him for this as the offices of Neuberger Berman were filled with wonderful works of art).

Among these works were several enlarged photographs of giant tanker ships being broken up on the shores of India. These photographs were in a conference room on an upper floor. I first saw these while attending a meeting hosted by man whose throat upon which I wished I could mercilessly drive my foot. Seeing the images of broken, beached behemoths made me reflect on the enormity of my own disappointment. I'd been brought into this world by creators of enduring benevolence, and yet here I was giving the best years of my life to some of planet earth's worst denizens.

Those broken ships were enormous. And they were me. And then I painted this.

1 comment:

  1. It kind of conjures how all the promises of the world that these companies offer ultimately lead nowhere; they are too big. Yet people who are too poor to ride that great ship are left behind to hack it up for nothing.