Friday, November 05, 2010

The Enterprise - 7

The year two thousand had begun auspiciously enough: when the clock struck midnight and the planes stayed in the sky, the grid kept humming and the burble of data crisscrossing the planet did not quiet, we all thought we had it made. A two followed by a zero followed by a zero followed by a zero! If you paused to think about it you might just lose your mind. It was the year two thousand for Christ's sake! We'd finally arrived in the long-promised future and it was magnificent, more than we'd imagined.

But a curious thing occurred before spring, even. A hiccup in the markets. A collective hesitation, as though someone had seen something that spooked them and everybody else reacted. An entire generation, ambitious and accustomed to success, tiptoed through the summer, hoping it had been a false alarm. This was our time, after all. The new millennium. How could we be doomed so soon?

That fall a second darkness encroached upon our days. Dot-com ventures were collapsing all around us, companies whose names were not long ago plastered on city buses, whose fresh-faced employees used to spill out on the streets at night, giddy and oblivious, and parade from bar to bar. They thought they'd stay young forever. Now they were packing their bags and riding the Peter Pan bus home.

We watched it all happen from our little enclave on 25th Street. By some dumb luck, Sam had secured our money very late in the game. We were swimming in it, still. Living the startup fantasy while our contemporaries' careers were devastated, their theoretical fortunes eclipsed. You could almost hear their wails of uncomprehending grief through the exposed brick walls of our hundred-year-old building.

In the meantime we were knee-deep in candy. Enormous bucketsful. Candy to make a child quake with desire. We had Sugar Daddies and Mary Janes. Jawbreakers, Necco Wafers, Gummi Bears. We had Bit-O-Honeys and Hot Tamales, Now & Laters, Lemonheads and Jolly Ranchers. Good & Plenty. Squirrel Nut Zippers and Root Beer Barrels. Tootsie Rolls, Atomic Fireballs and Zotz. It was all arrayed in psychedelic rows on the counter in the kitchenette. In the unlikely event that we ran out of something there were boxes and boxes and boxes stacked up higher than you could reach in the supply closet around the corner. What was it all for? I wondered. Surely it was not meant to be eaten. Were we trying to tell the world something about ourselves? To tell each other? This was the currency of our childhood: early indicators of wealth, privilege and pleasure. Was it there to remind us what we wanted?

Should you care for a beverage, Sam had arranged for the shipment of Coca-Cola in the iconic eight-ounce glass bottles from a distributor in Mexico at, it was said, substantial cost.

Every Tuesday we had a catered meal, sometimes every Wednesday too. Several cuisines were in rotation: Indian, Thai, Japanese. Grumbling was sometimes heard when one was expected but another provided.

Thursdays were massage day. If you signed up earlier in the week your travails would be punctuated by a half-hour of deep stroking and caressing by a cheery young woman. She'd set up in the morning in the reception area between the couches no one ever sat on, by the window overlooking 25th Street. She'd smile and indicate her table, a forbidding apparatus suggestive of a Guillotine, with a welcoming gesture of the hand and an instruction as to where to put your head.