MA CHIGNY SITUATIONS

Battered and shattered, I fell to the canvas floor of my psychic boxing ring.  I had just been fired by my boss for sending a fax on the wrong stationery.  But this wasn’t just any boss.  This one was also my Father!  A total knock out!

The bow-tied referee, with either a halo over his head, or horns — I couldn’t tell which through the fog of broken dreams — stood over me counting to 15.  I couldn’t really hear him through the swirl of emotions pulsating through my head, body, or tendrils.  How exactly was I going to get a new job?  I had already made the supreme effort, by previously leaving this place of temporary employment.  Small businesses are the job creators of America, so the politicians always say.  Gee, I wish they could have created one for me.

Dazed, I made my way back home in the strangeness of an early afternoon.  What do you do when you get home after being fired for faxing a document with the wrong return address?  As a fan of film noir, I knew immediately.  I pulled out the Scotch bottle and poured a finger into a tumbler.  I sat on the couch and took a sip.  It tasted horrible.  I hate Scotch; I only keep this shit around for guests who like to drink it.

Film Noir au Pissoir

Film Noir au Pissoir.  Photograph by Robert Frank.

I sat there, immobile, until my wife got home.  It must have been a surprise for her to find me on the couch, drinking.  “Uh oh,” she said when she walked in, dropping her arms, “what’s wrong?”  She doesn’t miss a trick.

“I had a really bad day at work.”  I have always been fond of understatement.

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BUCKED OFF!

‘Twas not all gloom and doom at Olcott International.

Upon my return to the office that spring of 1992, I started hearing odd noises upstairs and soon met Bobby Edwards, the Jewish cowboy. This wisecracker could make Dad laugh endlessly. Soon Dad asked me to get involved with his (minor) investments in the Kansas oil patch.  “PANOLPY OF SWAGGER” recounts these welcome diversions.  I remain grateful to the Jewish cowboy to this day.

Speaking of foreign countries, Japan has always been an important client base for Olcott International. I’ve written a number of posts about how my Dad conquered the land of the rising sun in the 1970s, a country where American culture was imported wholesale, albeit with many local twists.

BACK IN THE SADDLE

It was good to be back at Olcott International despite certain ominous dark storm clouds.  And the odd soul grinder.

For one thing, Bob Gerhardt continued to be browbeaten and didn’t seem to like it any more than when I had left him to his fate back in 1986.  But still here he was, plodding along in Weehawken.

Bob continued to lead up the development of patent management software.  But oddly, there seemed to be more than one software project in motion in what ostensibly was not exactly a Fortune 1000 company.

Bob and my Dad had teamed up together in the late 1980s to create OIPMS, a DOS based application designed to intelligently manage the complete life cycle of patents.  These were classic black-screen applications with blinking white cursors.  They weren’t pretty but the design was so good that one of my readers here – a patent attorney no less – still uses his copy to manage his portfolio.  As this is being written in 2017, that’s saying something!

GREEN EGGS AND HAM

In April 1992, I had one foot in two worlds.

One foot was planted in the familiar lush flagship Polo Ralph Lauren store on Madison Avenue, a marvel of seductive, dazzling, stylish, and pricey eye-candy.  The other was a run-down office precariously hugging a cliff on the anus-side¹ of the Lincoln Tunnel, overlooking the double helix resounding with the roar of vehicular traffic.  I dubbed that sound in my post “THE NIGHT IS DARK AND FULL OF TERRORS,” as the ‘soul grinder.’

The first was glamorous, but offered me little future career growth.  The second was pretty much its antithesis on both counts (except, sometimes, for the travel).

To aspire to my greatest future potential, I had to risk the crushing of my essence.

ANALYZE THIS!

On October 19, 1987, the stock market crashed hard.  Together with my Columbia Business School classmates, we watched the market news that day with both awe and no small measure of trepidation.

That Fall, I had taken the trouble to enroll in a class very heavy in demand – “Securities Analysis” taught by one very notable professor (among several) named Jimmy Rogers.  I have mentioned him numerous times in this blog because he shares an interesting commonality with my Dad, Bernard Olcott.

Jimmy hailed from Demopolis, Alabama (some stop-light out towards Mississippi) and was one of the few faculty members who didn’t speak in a flat Manhattan accent.  No Sirree, he spoke with what could almost be called a southern “coon-dawg” accent.  The opposite of a very different accent spoken by Professor Elliot Zupnick, whose cadence was marked by the thickest Bronx-ese, complete with “dese, dems, and doses.”

Jimmy’s solitary affectation was wearing bow-ties, a habit he had picked up as an Oxford student.  (Leaving aside his penchant for asking of the birth years of attractive female students in order to send his servant to the wine cellar of his home in search of that very vintage).

GRAZING

Above: beautiful Charolais cows in France.  Livestock photo by the author.

During my furtive job search in 1985, Brown Brothers Harriman was obviously not the place where yours truly got closest to the Finest Escape from an injurious job situation.  That distinction belongs to an interesting entity called the Manufacturers Hanover Trust Company (“MHT”), otherwise known as “Manny Hanny.”  A storied bank that had grown on the back of multiple acquisitions, by the mid-1980s it was one of the largest in New York City (and the world, for that matter).

However come 1992, it was no more.  Kaput.

But in its day, one of its core strengths lay in its international banking operations, which was my particular interest.  Plunging my contact list, I came to visit the headquarters numerous times at 270 Park Avenue.  Astute readers may recognize that very same address from previous posts as Manny Hanny had purchased it from none other than Union Carbide.  This was the very same building that Dad had dragged me to when he went trolling for secretaries in the 1960s, see my post “THE BIGGER IDEA (AND ME AS WINGBOY).”

It was the locale of the big score in my family, in other words, hallowed ground.  Maybe it would be the same for me, personally.

HIS NAME WAS BOB GERHARDT

Sometime in late 1984, I drove out with my Dad to Newark Airport in his clunky 10 year old Mercedes Benz, the engine duly defanged so as to economize on the high cost of gas.  Dad wasn’t a great driver.  Driving with him was like taking a safari through cannibal-infested badlands.  His signature move was to pull out into highway traffic much too slowly to the taste of neighboring motorists, due either to the underpowered engine or his “hell-can-care” attitude — pick one.   Invariably, this would provoke generous amounts of honking and obscene gestures.  Massive flocks of New Jersey state birds (“boids”) arose quickly all around us, “wings” fluttering, taking flight quickly into the air.

In other words, New Jersey drivers set their alarms to 3AM so they can wake up and hate that kind of driving.  Across the river in New York, you would likely hear howls of “yer driving be stank, yo!”

Dad loved gratuitous comments about his driving.  NOT.  He certainly wasn’t shy about responding in turn.  Loudly.  Often at those moments, I wished I could disappear.  Or get beamed up.

But this trip to James Riddle Hoffa Memorial Airfield (a/k/a Newark Airport) was not a run-of-the-mill journey.  We were on our way to meet and pick up one Robert B. Gerhardt, a founding father of Master Data Center (“MDC”)¹, a leading competitor to Olcott International.  Bob was a veritable Giant in the Patent Annuity business space.  He was flying in from Detroit to discuss joining up with us.  A strategic spear to be thrust deep into the sides of our competitors, not just MDC, but also CPA and CPI.