Monday, June 30, 2014
Wednesday, June 4, 2014
"The Golden Age of Cancer"
The Golden Age of Cancer
I have an interest in the stock market. A fascination, self-developed in high school prompting a younger me to waltz unannounced into a small brokerage office on Main Street, Ventura, California, at the age of 17 to ask the surprised suit-wearing inhabitants about their business.
I remember them asking me if I was doing a report for school. When I said, “No, I’m just curious,” they (three middle aged white males) dropped their guard and invited me to have a seat behind a desk and offered me a soda or coffee or ice water (they had an arsenal of drinks and snacks). This was 1988, pre-internet boom by a few years, their prime weapons of choice were telephones, lots of telephones, blinking lights and odd sounding micro printers, a strange atmosphere of high energy stress and casual lazy coffee drinking. I was duly impressed by the multiple clocks, showing key time zones labeled neatly in black block lettering underneath, New York, London, etc… strung across the undecorated office walls.
The place felt like a time capsule, something left over from the sixties that couldn’t die. Powerful, effective methods of making money resist change like oily duck feathers. Just three extremely similar men, working in this cave, making calls in suits and polished leather shoes. They each had large, heavy, hard wood desks. I saw signed golf balls displayed under clear plastic cubes, complete with the obligatory kinetic steel balls, tiny bull statues and calenders featuring aerial shots of Pebble Beach. I had to wonder about the suits. I suppose if I had wandered off the street and saw people in Hawaiian shirts and sweat pants, I would have kept on walking. I suppose I can see the logic behind a funny costume.
One of these fellas was between calls, and was kind enough to fill me in on the day to day operations of a real live stock trading outfit, a real eye opener. I was impressed and left with a head full of entrepreneurial thoughts, grown up thoughts of money and stuff.
A weird, California version of the business, connected by physical wires across the country to Chicago and Wall Street herself.
Trading stocks was one of the few vocations I could ever see myself excelling at, I had something close to a real interest.
A brain at a desk appealed to me, thoughts converted to cash with zero physical movement, air conditioned magic.
Behind the obvious set design was something close to Palmistry or reading chicken entrails on a stump… and possibly the promise of a BMW.
Yesterday morning (twenty years later), I was having coffee and decided to have a look at the talking heads for shits and giggles.
The CNBC gang of soapy affiliates were shiny and groomed like pure bred Dobermans trotting the fake, green, grass of dog show hell. The stock ticker ran its usual cycle and informed me of losses and gains (both imagined and real) while I simultaneously checked my email messages and poured a second cup of french roast. The professional narcissists were talking, but I wasn’t listening, I know better. They are reliably full of it. We all know it.
Three cups and a ball is all grown up and swindling in shifts.
Some of my personal strategy hinges on deducing fake smiles and reading uncomfortable micro expressions in order to turn them to my advantage. The social aspect is interesting to me, a language I can somehow traverse. A giant, mega media corporations awkward on-camera pause is a leaf on the breeze and a botched segue leaking snarky unintended audio into the world is an OPPORTUNITY large and tall, “The Cattleman’s Code.” But…
I’ve said all that to get to this.
The busy mumbling in the background came sharply into focus on the last sentence, before the raging volume-boosted Cadillac commercial assaulted my senses.
This is what I heard.
Mumble mumble mumble… something something something,
“The Golden Age of Cancer.” Smiles all around, swooping left to right boom camera, out of body experience angle, cut to commercial.
“The golden age of cancer?” You gotta be kidding me…I had to focus a little to remember what I was just witness to.
They were talking “Big Pharma,” a fuzzy pet name they give to their favorite auntie.
In spite of the overall country’s flat-lining economy, the nation’s largest drug companies are having a good time. Selling overpriced cancer treatments to dying people is the new gold rush, has been for some time now I gather.
I’m still feeling ill from it. Those words I can’t throw up, the message I’m unable to purge, the camaraderie and the smiles I can’t seem to unsee… a monster with soundtrack and a graphics team.
Just another great success story crawling out of my television.
I guess that’s where we are now… Clubbed over the head when we weren’t expecting it.
The whole country woke up chained to the Black Pearl, singing songs and driving Cadillacs.
Whooping it up in the Golden Age of Cancer.
B.E.B. June 4, 2014