PAIR OF DEUCES, PART 4

Nine months after the botched installations at Mark Chapman’s Trade Mark Office and Molecules R Us, Inc., it was a chilly late February morning in 1995. I was sitting at my desk on the second floor back at the Weehawken office. During this period, I was responsible for marketing with no, as in zero, authority to actually get much done.

Suddenly, I had developed a new-found interest in curing our software defects large and small.

Behind me, Steve was tapping away on his keyboard, probably writing code for the Olcott Intellectual Property Management Software (“OIPMS”). Peggy was around the corner, attending to some marketing follow-up. Yoshi was downstairs in the Computer Center, which was a large room featuring several PCs, a mini-computer, various computer parts like mother boards, dead mice, shells, and, bizarrely, in one corner, a portion of Palisades’ basalt protruding through the cement slab floor.

With no warning, Dad rolled into the room and announced, loudly, “Steven!” This was his way of saying that he wanted to meet and review OIMPS. Occasionally, this included major design changes. Which presented, at times, some very tough engineering challenges.

These review sessions were typically dreadful and sorry affairs. Frequently, they started by Dad walking in and offering “on-the-spot guidance” only to end by shouting insults to the computer department staff for errors mostly (but not always) provoked by him.

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IN DEMAND, AND THEN NOT, PART 2

Off the north shore of Nassau, capital city of the island nation of the Bahamas, sits an island formerly known as Hog Island. Up until 1959, it was a private estate belonging to a Swedish entrepreneur named Axel Wenner-Gren.

Wennergren

Axel.  By http://www.ericssonhistory.com/templates/Ericsson/Article.aspx?id=2068&ArticleID=1336&CatID=366&epslanguage=SV, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4105629Axel’s may not be a recognizable name today, but in his time, he was one of the world’s wealthiest men. Born into humble means in 1881, he was one of six children, of which three had died in childhood. After spinning his wheels as a salesman of agricultural machinery in fin de siecle Germany, he wandered past a storefront in Vienna in 1908 to marvel at a new device called a “vacuum cleaner.”

The sucking machine obviously intrigued him.  Clearly, in this case, he was thinking “outside of the box,” especially when you consider that his past business experiences was in the spice trade or the aforementioned farm equipment. When his attempts to become a distributor were rebuffed, somehow he managed to purchase a 20% stake in the company. A few years later, he made his coup when he persuaded Electrolux to buy the underlying patent in return for shares of the Swedish company’s stock.

That was the winning ticket!

ONE KEEPS THE BOOKS, ANOTHER WRITES THE CHECKS

Hopefully, neither one grabs the cash and runs!

This story is a continuation of THE TROUBLE WITH CHERRY.

Mike dropped the forged checks back into a folder.  “We’ll confront Cherry later this morning,” he said to me softly, so no else could hear. “I’ll come get you.”

Shocked to learn of this episode of check forgery, I walked slowly back to my desk and tried to lose myself in the work of international renewals. As I wrote in my last story, I wasn’t sure why this discovery affected me so much. But it had. I could barely think of anything else. I pushed my papers around mindlessly and listlessly. Maybe I got off an order of renewals to Brazil or France when Mike popped his head downstairs, looked at me, and motioned with his head that it was showtime.

On the second floor, I joined Mike and my Dad. On the way over to Cherry’s office, Dad tapped Bob Gerhardt to join us. Seemed to me that Bob had been tipped off as well as to what was about to go down.

CRASHES NEXT TO ROOM 31, REVISITED

The 2nd part of the Room 31 saga.  I stop and visit the Bates Motel.  Personally.  A repeat from last year.

23 years after the events of my last story, “CRASHES NEXT TO ROOM 31,” would you know that your humble narrator is still plying the highways of the Garden State? In fact, I drive through the Lincoln Tunnel regularly on my way to work.

As I pondered this story, I was furtively glancing over my shoulder while exiting or entering the I-495 trench leading to the gaping hole of the Lincoln Tunnel. It’s a very busy place, a “great attractor” of traffic where cars merge and change lanes on a moment’s notice. I could only steal a glimpse or two safely of the former York Motel, more easily on the New York-bound side. It’s still there, looking much more polished in 2017 than it did in 1994 (or 1982). Gone is the sign advertising “hourly rates.” Up is the new logo of a national motel chain and what appears to be coat of fresh looking white paint.

I had never been a guest of the York Motel on a nightly – or otherwise – basis and thought that stopping by for a quick look around might be interesting. I wondered if I would be able to find the infamous room 31 and what the motel might look and feel like close up.

CRASHES NEXT TO ROOM 31

Today, on tap for you is a repeat, my number one post from last year.  Please do continue to look under those motel mattresses, if you are a road warrior.

Crashes were not always relegated to software programs. Sometimes I experienced other kinds.  And they often happened close to the office.  Or next to scary places nearby.

In late spring 1994, Dad and I made a marketing call to a potential client without Bob. It was a major telecom company based in northern New Jersey, about an hour’s drive from Weehawken. The prospect was already running one of our competitor’s patent management systems, and wasn’t looking for a change. Rather, this was going to be a straight-up discussion about annuity payment services, right down Dad’s alley.

After some preparation, we plunked down inside my Dad’s lobotomized Mercedes Benz and traced our way to the company via the Garden State’s ribbon of expressways as guided by a crusty folded highway map.  As mentioned in my post “HIS NAME WAS BOB GERHARDT,” Dad had a method of increasing gasoline efficiency in automobile engines. It involved disabling multiple cylinders within the engine based on the simple premise that each cylinder is a source of fuel consumption and combustion. If you can shut them off, you will consume less fuel.

What could be simpler?

HOW TO EXPLAIN THAT YOUR PARENT IS STRANGE

In a midtown Manhattan lawyer’s office in early 1995, I found myself sitting opposite from one of New York City’s sharpest legal minds. I had called Kord Lagemann a week or two earlier and asked for an appointment.  I had some important questions for him.  He had represented my Dad in his legal action (arbitration, actually) against Herby Wellington, the churning stock broker from “Slaminger” brokerage.  Kord had won a million dollar settlement in Dad’s favor, proving that he not only talked the talk but walked the walk.

Kord studied me intently as he lit his pipe. Although dressed professionally, he looked like he had stepped off a ferry at the Aker brygge ferry terminal in central Oslo.  Opening the meeting, I thanked him for his efforts on behalf of my Dad and the family.  After a serene pause, Kord responded that Slaminger’s actions and those of its broker had been clearly abusive and excessive.  He had been happy to help.

Pressing on, I explained to him the reason for my visit. My Dad had recently received a “present” consisting of a brand new red BMW from Herby. And, as a result, Dad had now reopened a stockbroking account with the aforementioned broker, the one that Kord had successfully sued.  Kord showed no reaction as he puffed on his pipe and listened to my concerns attentively.

“You’re right,” he told me, “There is reason for concern.” But there was nothing he or I could do.  Meeting over.  I was stunned.

BRAND NEW RED CAR

The events recounted in my post last week, “PANOPLY OF SWAGGER, PART 2,” took place in the mid-to-late 1980s. It was a tumultuous time for me. I had finally taken my place in the family business — the one I had grown up in — only to discover that the business that bears my name turned out to be a toxic place for me personally.

Specifically, it wasn’t the business per se.  The work and the employees were cool.  Even Yoshi!

It was my Dad, the founder and CEO, the man I looked up to, who had sadly become erratic and “eccentric.” So much so that, with great reservations, I decided to leave the company and go back to school to earn my MBA.  One market crash later, I found that, much to my shock and chagrin, I was back at the very same company in the mid-1990s. Things had not improved.

Last time, I introduced a character named Herby Wellington, a world famous stockbroker and financial genius of the storied Wall Street firm, “Slaminger.¹”

I suspect that Herby persistently cold-called my Dad until he somehow got through. As a matter of course, Dad dodged such calls, occasionally yelling into the receiver and slamming it down in front of the staff at Olcott International.  Everybody was entertained.  Except, perhaps, for the cold caller broker.