I couldn’t be happier or more at peace. I’m currently house-sitting for Jay Gringer, aka Captain Pantywaste, freelance web developer and lead grunter for Sexy Sexy Sexy Sexy Hot Stuff. 25 minutes from judge city in Telly County, Jay’s house is a 3-room cottage surrounded on three sides by town forest. The Little Elmo river is a five minute walk down a piney trail; in the summer I’m sure you mix a gin and tonic and just float all day. As it is, Jay has left me custodian of his dog, Ramone, and his picturesque, if untunable, collection of second-hand instruments. Between walking Ramone and exploring Jay’s record collection, I’m finding it hard to fit in my customary 6-10 hours daily of procrastination and self-loathing. I should move here.
“Where,” you might ask, “did Jay go?” I’ll tell you. Jay, his girlfriend, and a couple of other local characters hopped a bus for NYC. They plan to camp at Zuccotti park and contribute however they might to the occupation.
“And why haven’t you come out in support of the occupation?” I hear you ask. “You are on the internet after all, it’s pretty much that or cats. Granted, yours is a local interest blog, and Occupy Judge City is barely a picnic. But it’s a worldwide movement and…” Jeez, if you’d shut up for a second I’d tell you. I would love to take a stand in solidarity with my poor uninsured brethren. Unfortunately, I fear that my position as a champion of the 99% has been irredeemably compromised.
Let me explain.
I knew a guy in high school – call him Larry – who grew up to become a quant on Wall Street. In ’06, hearing from someone that I was down on my luck and in need of cash, he contacted me out of the blue with some bizarre WPA-style make-work. Charity going as work for halloween. Specifically, he sent me a list of names and offered to pay me $12.50 for every new name I could invent in the style of those provided. Apparently, Larry remembered me, probably obscurely, as his honors-track inverse. The kid who did with words where he did with numbers. Someone who could make stuff up.
It was an odd and embarrassing list, like the index of a whites-only seed catalogue. Most of these names seemed to follow a simple schema, reminiscent of the “porno name” you construct from your own middle name and the name of your childhood pet. In this case, it was an exclusive country club followed by a tree. Heritage Elm, for instance, or Harbor Pine.
Properly understood, the problem was trivial. Armed with a 3-line perl script, 8 country clubs and 10 trees combined to produce 80 names. When I adjudged that it was within the idiom append “premium”, “premier”, and “apex” to these names, my total jumped to 320. I quickly sent these off to Larry, and already had another 640 in front of me when I received his reply, telling me I had far exceeded his expectation and to please please please not send him anymore. It was by far the quickest $4000 I have ever made.
Curious as to the fate of these mysterious names, I set up a bunch of Google alerts, then forgot the whole episode. Until 2008 that is, when my creations started turning up in news stories as the names of – you guessed it – mortgage backed securities.
Larry made it through the panic of ’08 with his fuck you money intact. He is currently living out his childhood dreams of doing basic quantum-mechanical research and deflecting inquiries as to the source and magnitude of his fortune. And much as I’d like to moralize about a system which lavishly compensated a few for destroying the wealth of many, I honestly haven’t a leg to stand on. For, as my expenses for the Mysterious Names project consisted entirely in the large bottle of Anchor Steam I drank while on the job, and as 2008 found me with no home, no mortgage, and no investments to speak of, it follows that I am a member of that suspect, crepuscular minority of Americans who realized a net gain from the mortgage crisis.