No One Wants to End the Party

Read the papers, watch TV – and we’re told a global recession of almost depression proportions is taking place, fragmenting the social hierarchy. At the bottom end there is tragic chaos represented by suicides and rising crime. At the top, there’s divorce, misery and a small effort to be less ostentatious about one’s wealth. Meanwhile in the middle, according to the New York Times columnist David Brooks, there’s just depression – the mood. In this class you saw your dream – and now its gone.

Well, that’s not what I see around me here in New York where theoretically the pain ought to be the swiftest and most searing.

Yes, I hear from saplings at banks that they’ve seen all their friends fired and they’re so underused they’d like to quit. Yes, I hear from wealthy people that their stocks are worthless. But do I see gloom and doom in their faces? Have I noticed people staying home at night? Have I seen, as has been stated in surveys, that hemlines are turning long and Penthouse models are large, earthy types?

Absolutely not. Reed thin models are still on magazine covers. Hemlines are high, as are chins determined to party like never before – perhaps even harder.

Black tie Charity dinners continue apace with the women dressed to kill. At a movie premiere recently I heard a media executive brag about his bonus (oblivious apparently to how sensitive a subject this in on Wall st). A tycoon held a dinner party the other night where the only sign that anything was amiss was that the host – who, ordinarily might have his ear attached to his cellphone – is so bored he’s smoking pot.

“I preferred it when I was poor and busy,” he said.

Even an economist at the New York Federal Reserve told me he’s been somewhat perplexed by the time-lag between the true appalling state of the economy and people’s reactions – especially in New York.

Yet if you look real hard you see small signs of change, At book launches people swill wine instead of water and linger instead of leaving. People debate the financial collapse endlessly but as if it were a theoretical scenario far away on another planet not connected to them.

Even a retailer I visited was positive. “It’s all about Dubai now,” he told me.

So either we’re all in denial, putting on a desperate façade. Or,more likely, so the brainy man from the NY Fed told me, it’s just that the market moves faster than us humans who will shortly awaken to our moment of reckoning.

Then, the party will really be over. But, for now, we’re squeezing out every last drop. V

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