Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Food & WIne

"Oh, this is delicious."

"Right. And?"

"Well it's got to be at least $25"

"That's what I thought too! But in fact it's way better. $38!"

"Wow, I had no idea. I mean, when I first smelled it, I thought, 'north of $40 for sure' but then after I tasted it, it just didn't seem like a $38 at all."

"No, it totally is. I served it with ribeyes the other day and everyone was like, 'What's this wine, $55?'! It really depends on how the palette is formed."

"I guess you're right. Were the glasses expensive?"

"Yah. $25 per."

"That explains a lot. A good glass can add $5-$10 to any wine."


"What was that, Italian?"

"Something like that. $38! Delicious. I'm going to remember this one."

Monday, January 19, 2009

When a Tree Cries in the Forest

The woods were soft beneath his boots. The frost had given way to muck and there wasn't much left for the season. All was quiet except for the subterranean trickle of snow runoff somewhere somehow seeking lower ground.

Breathing deeply, he thought to himself how strange it is that Springtime represents rebirth and life, but smells more like rot.

Peering under the hood, he looked into the bucket: not much sap left. He pulled the spigot and a few drops dripped onto his fingers. Sweet but thin and watery. It was over.

He cleaned the spigot and emptied the bucket into the drum which he would wheel back to the shack for boiling. He looked back at the tree and noticed that a few tears of sap had squeezed from the hole drilled just a few weeks ago. In the sunlight, he could see a glistening trail was left behind as they trickled down the trunk.

"I'll be back next Spring," he said quietly.

"I know," she replied, "it's just that,"

"It's just that what?"

"I love you."

He didn't know what to say.

"Why?" he asked, meaning it.

But there was no answer. Trees, he thought, who could understand them?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Sepember 12th, 2008: LEH, MER, DFW - RIP

On one weekend this past September, between the 12th and the 15th, Lehman Brothers went bankrupt, Merrill Lynch suffered near insolvency and was folded into Bank of America, and David Foster Wallace died.

A good deal was written about these three deaths and I read most of it. Like many who sit in seats like mine, the disappearance of the major financial institutions that we dealt with, competed with, or simply looked to for leadership (Bear Stearns had already been dispatched to Davy Jones locker in the spring) lead to my spending much of that week staring in rapt horror at my Bloomberg screen and reading about the tectonic shift in my industry.

Despite the hysteria found in most of the newspapers, the disappearance of some of our continents oldest and most venerable financial institutions was met with surprising ennui among those I know who don't work in the industry. And though the breadth of the repercussions of these failings have become more obvious in the following months of economic recession, at the time a sense of schadenfreude was palpable.

Imagine living in a small town, I said to my friends who felt it was time for finance-types take a fall. Imagine that there were five or six grocery stores in that town from which you could choose to shop, though you probably had your favorite one or two. One of those shops suffered from some kind of contamination (listeria?) in its deli department and a number of customers got sick.

You decide that maybe you'll shop at the other store this week until the local paper gives the all clear. But it turns out they have tainted meat too, since they use the same supplier. The first store goes out of business and you are feeling a little iffy about your other store so you start to cross town for your deli slices when you can. Then, without any further warning, two more stores go out of business. Worse still, the two that still have the doors open refuse to sell to most customers.

In a matter of days, your small town has gone from being careful where it shops to simply not being able to buy food at all.

How long do you think this town lasts?

What would you do if you were in the food supply business locally?

These are life-changing developments for consumers and suppliers alike and require a major rethink of past choices and future plans.

And yet, even while these very personally affecting dramas were playing out in the pink pages of the Financial Times, while friends were losing their jobs, the tragedy of David Foster Wallace's suicide transfixed me.

More learned readers and better writers all weighed in on his accomplishments and what his sudden absence meant for letters, but all I can say is I felt a very distinct downtick in the intelligence of the universe. The strange thing about authors (and DFW had actually written about this) is that the nature of their medium gives the impression of a serious intimacy to the reader; the author, or his characters at least, are literally inside the readers mind. To this effect, I really felt closer to DFW than to many people that I know in real life.

And as often happens when you lose something you really don't know how important it is to you until it's gone. DFW was supposed to have been turning out essays and vaguely promising to follow up his masterpiece novel for years to come. I was willing to be patient. And then, all of a sudden, I found myself scouring YouTube for interviews with him so that I might know him better, and quickly.

To get back to thinking about me: even in a week as surprising as that one, I was most surprised that the death of DFW affected me so much more deeply than those of LEH and MER. Sure, one was a person and the other two simply entities, but frankly none of them had been to my house for dinner and two of them represented (indirectly) my livelihood. DFW never once held out any promise that he would help keep my children in jeans. But he did tell me things that I had never known: things about the tennis, things about philosophy, things about addiction, things about grammar, things about obsession, things about myself.

It has taken me longer to post about it than I had meant, but nonetheless I miss him.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

2008 - The Fed Bailout

I know, at first it seems like Roger Federer and I have a good deal in common. But if you look past the the grace under pressure, the similar hair-do, and the fact that we both apparently think its appropriate to date a girl for a decade before considering marriage, I think you'll find we're actually quite different.

And its more than just his Dubai address. He's clearly peaking earlier than me.

But this past year was a tough one for both of us. As a longtime fan, it was tough to watch him. It seemed like he wasn't enjoying himself as he used to. Lost that extra gear or something. He was *sweating* for God's sake.
And though he still had a pretty successful clay & grass season by most standards, something had changed; his sheen of invincibility was lost. Plus: Nadal really had his number. That cranky Murray was in his kitchen too. Shoot, my brother and I watched him lose to some teenaged French phenom in the 1st round here in Toronto!

But I think I understood him in a way that most couldn't. I too felt the crush of injury take the snap out of my serve. I wondered as I'm sure he did if it was the end of my tennis career, if age had finally caught me too. He would be relegated to a tumbling world ranking while trolling for a good draw at the Grand Slams while I would have to introduce a good deal of slicing and other trickery into my game. It was looking grim for us indeed.
Then came September. Roger quieted everyone with his US Open victory and I thought to myself, "I will not go quietly into the clubhouse." I booked my surgery and now as Roger no doubt runs his drills in the shadows of the Burj-Al-Arab, I will diligently work on my bizarre physio exercises (I've gotten to know our broomsticks well). We are both coming back.
Yes indeed. Together, Roger and I are taking 2009 by storm - look for us on the hardcourts this June.