I am going back to the beginning – i.e. 1970, as I left Rice, armed with new Ph.D., new Rice wife Karen Sagstetter, and new job teaching finance at Baruch College at the City University of New York. I had told myself I really didn’t want to live and work in New York, but there I went anyway. My reservations were many – too crowded, too dangerous, can’t use a car, too expensive, too dirty, too noisy, too unhealthy, too hard to get out of – but hey! It’s New York! For a while, an almost magical shield seemed to protect me from all the things I feared – I lived in Brooklyn, parked a car on the street, didn’t get parking tickets, didn’t get mugged, drove into the city and found parking spaces. Karen got an editorial job at Scholastic Magazine. The most dangerous part of living in Brooklyn appeared to be trying to walk down the sidewalk without stepping in dog poop. But New York reality could only remain at bay for so long and after 6 months my shield crumbled – I failed to park legally, got tickets, my cat fell out of the apartment window, my office was broken into on several occasions and books stolen. My modest reserve of good will towards New York City evaporated quickly and I started to look urgently for a way out. In my second year at Baruch, I was happy to accept a job at the Graduate School of Management at the University of Rochester.
Karen and I moved up to Rochester in the summer of ’72. I found it was a real rush to be in a department that was part of the big redefinition of finance that was taking place at that time. I learned a lot from my colleagues and endeavored to think Great Thoughts. Meanwhile, on the personal front, things weren’t going quite so well. Rochester academic life can be fun, but it’s rather inbred. Some of my friends’ marriages started to fall apart and cracks developed in ours. It was a rough time to be married – we were supposed to be free from the constraints of the old order, but we didn’t have a clear vision of the new order. There were also some serious disadvantages in living in Rochester, where the sun shines so seldom in the winter that the local papers publish photographs of it. (“Rochester man sees strange glow in sky! Pictures on page 10!”) In 1976, we moved again, this time to Washington DC for me to take a job as an economist working for the Federal Reserve Board. Although this was initially to be a one-year temporary job, I decided I liked it better than academe and quit U of R.
Karen and I split up after the first two years in DC. We were able to keep it reasonably amicable, seeing as we didn’t have a lot of stuff and, most importantly, no kids. The last I heard, she was working at one of the Smithsonian museums and had remarried. About nine months after my separation, I started dating Louise Lynch, who was sharing an apartment with a colleague of mine at the Fed. Louise grew up in Chicago and so I decided she’d fall for my ‘mountain man’ persona. I dragged her off on backpacking trips to New Hampshire and Wyoming and, sure enough, we hit it off and got married in 1982, as Louise was finishing off a law degree at Yale. Louise and I have now been married for almost 20 years and have two girls: Madeline, age 13 and Antonia (‘Toni’), age 11. Although I initially resisted having kids, I soon realized the folly of standing in the path of an express train, so I signed on as a Daddy – and, somewhat to my surprise, found that this has been the path to true spiritual fulfillment. (Yes, I know – a declaration that is both corny and mandatory, but true nevertheless.)
My career has continued to evolve, although not really because of any master plan of mine. I left the Fed in 1986 to direct the research department at Freddie Mac, one of the quasi-governmental corporations tasked to provide support to the US housing market by providing a secondary market in residential mortgages. In 1991, I moved again – of all things, back to New York City. I know – it’s too dirty, too dangerous, too expensive, etc, but – hey! It’s New York! I began to work for The Trepp Group, a company specializing in providing data and software for analyzing mortgage securities and owned by Richard Trepp, a successful New York business man and hiking buddy. The focus of his businesses has been the commercial mortgage sector and I worked for a number of enterprises connected with him and commercial mortgages - most recently, for Madison Real Estate Technologies, a company creating software to manage the origination and packaging of commercial mortgage loans. This company was sold at the end of 2000 and I switched to consulting work in 2001. In the fall, I hooked up with two former Madison colleagues to create a package of Web-enabled management reports for banks needing to report on the credit risk of their commercial real estate loans.
New York seems to have mellowed since my first gig here. Of course, I now rely on a more powerful shield against its evils – money. We live in Larchmont, a half-hour train ride north-east of the city, where the police blotter is full of dastardly crimes such as wives illegally stopping cars on the bridge by the train station to drop off their husbands, and the use of leaf blowers during prohibited hours. Our property taxes are now more than the gross national product of several African countries, but the schools are great. New York City itself is definitely more pleasant than it was earlier – the streets cleaner, the panhandlers gone. But I don’t know how much longer we’ll stay – I always have the feeling that I can only live here so long as I am prepared to work my butt off to pay the bills and my enthusiasm for doing this seems to be waning with my advancing years. I’d rather be traveling with the family or reading a book or, my most recent passion, rock climbing. So expect my next dispatch from the Rocky Mountains.
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