This article in the New York Times - reporting a French Master of the Universe committing suicide, perhaps illustrates the big shift in the lives of the Haves. It took me back to a time – was it only ten months ago? – when the divide was so clear and so sharp that I could hardly say a word to the rich when they sat right next to me.
I was in San Francisco, a city of chance meetings with the beautiful and the transient. I sat in a downtown French bistro, a likely place for a single woman to have her meal at the bar. Next to me sat a Frenchman and we began some light talk.
He was a hedge fund guy. He tried to tell me that his business was just like being an artist and he was creative like me. I said to him: “Well why aren’t you making a living at art then, all things being equal? If it was all the same, then you could try to be an artist. But you don’t really know if you’re an artist or not.” He laughed and conceded that this was true. He didn’t know if he could be one. Sounds weird to recall this, but Baby you can have a lot of shit when you’re a hedge fund manager, but hands off my uniform! You got your jets and many homes and expensive women and now you’re telling me you get to be an artist too? Greedy boy.
But of course I didn’t say that. After he stopped laughing he told me he lived in Soho. “A cliché, I guess” he said. “Yes but you enjoy your life,” I feebly returned. It might not have even been true anyway. Neither of us could look at each other at this point.
During that entire trip to SF the contrast between the classes kept rearing its ugly head. The beauty of SF could only gloss over so much. I got the feeling it was the have-not masses who join all those pot clubs (medical marijuana) so well advertised in all the weekly rags. Ten months later, I wonder how that French hedge fund manager is doing today. Things are getting kind of hungry over here but at least we’re still artists and maybe they're a little less likely to say that they are too.