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Uncivil liberties.


A young man of humble origins came toNew York from the Midwest to seek his fortune. He dreamed, in the American way, of becoming a millionaire. He tried his luck on Wall Street. He was diligent and shrewd and, when he had to be, devious. He put together the National Worldwide Universal deal, and he did some things with an electronics acquisition that wouldn't bear explaining. He succeeded even beyond his dream: he made $12 million.

At first, the young man assumed that everything wasworking out splendidly. "Isn't it grand?' he said to his wife, once it was apparent that he had made $12 million.

"No, it isn't,' his wife said. "You're a nobody.'

"But that's impossible,' the young man said. "I'm a richperson. We live in an era that celebrates rich people. Rich people are shown in the newspapers in the company of movie stars and famous novelists and distinguished dress designers. The names of the richest corporate raiders are known to every schoolboy. There are rich real estate sharks whose faces appear on the covers of glossy magazines.'

"Yours won't,' his wife said. "You're a nobody.'

"But I have $12 million,' the young man said.

"So do a lot of people,' his wife said. "They're nobodies,too.'

"I could buy our way onto the committees of importantcharity balls,' the young man said. "Then we'd be mentioned in the columns.'

"Don't kid yourself,' his wife said. "The important committeesare already filled up with people who are really rich. People like us would end up working on something like a dinner-dance to benefit the American Psoriasis Foundation.'

"But I own a co-op apartment on Fifth Avenue that'sworth $2 million,' the young man said.

"Two-million-dollar co-ops are a dime a dozen,' his wifesaid. "So to speak.'

"I have a stretch limousine,' the young man said. "It'stwenty-three and a half feet long.'

"No movie stars or famous novelists or distinguisheddress designers have ever ridden in it,' his wife said. "Henry Kissinger and Calvin Klein have never heard of you. You're a nobody.'

The young man was silent for a while. He seemed distressed."Are you disappointed in me?' he finally said to his wife.

"Of course I'm disappointed in you,' she said. "Whenyou asked me to marry you, you said you would surely amount to something. How was I to know that you'd turn out to be a nobody?'

For a moment the young man looked defeated. Then hesquared his shoulders and cleared his throat. "I'll make them pay attention,' he said. "I'll buy a professional football team, and argue a lot with the coach in public. Celebrities will join me to watch big games from the owner's box.'

"You can't buy a professional football team for $12 million,'his wife said. "Professional football teams cost big bucks.'

"Then I'll buy a magazine and appoint myself chief columnist,'the young man said. "A tiny but exceedingly flattering picture of me will run next to my column every week. The owners of professional football teams will invite me to watch big games from the owner's box.'

"You might be able to buy one of those weekly-shopperthrowaways for $12 million, but not a real magazine,' his wife said. "You can't buy a real magazine for chicken feed.'

"Is that what you call what we have?' the young manasked. "Is $12 million chicken feed?'

"It's not big bucks,' his wife said. "What can I tellyou?'

"But that's not fair,' the young man said. "I'm a youngman of humble origins who made $12 million. I succeeded even beyond my dream.'

"Some of those things you did with the electronics acquisitionprobably weren't fair either,' his wife said. "Fair isn't being measured these days. What they measure is money.'

"Then I'll get more money,' the young man said. "I'mgoing to go back to Wall Street and make $50 million.'

The young man went back to Wall Street, but beforehe could make $50 million a man from the Securities and Exchange Commission came and arrested him for having committed insider-trading violations in the electronics acquisition.

The young man was taken away from his office in handcuffs.A picture on the front page of the afternoon paper showed him leaving his arraignment, trying to hide his face behind an $850 Italian overcoat. A long article in the morning paper used him as an example of a new breed of Wall Street traders who were the victims of their own greed, probably because of their humble origins. His friends and associates avoided him.

Only his wife stuck by him. She tried to see the brightside. "For someone with only $12 million,' she said to the young man, "you're getting to be pretty well known.'
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Title Annotation:humor about insider trading cases
Author:Trillin, Calvin
Publication:The Nation
Article Type:column
Date:Mar 21, 1987
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