Sunday, August 21, 2011

4th of July, Investment banking style

James Z., a recent graduate of Yale University, lives on the 42nd floor of a Manhattan high-rise 3 blocks and 2 avenues away from Times Square, with his freshman year college roommate, Sanjeev, and his fraternity brother, Josh. Their apartment, which costs $5,100 a month to rent, has on its walls three framed prints, in a stylized, demure, tan-and-brown color scheme, of investment bankers lounging on art-deco furniture looking towards distant skyscrapers. On the walls of James’ apartment, the prints feel a bit like a slyly self-conscious attempt at a picture-within-a-picture, a homage to his start in investment banking.

During a sunny afternoon on July 4th, James, who is slim, with straight black hair and mouse-like eyes, was wiping down the kitchen, dressed in a casual button-down and cargo shorts. He had straightened up his own room, cleared out the balcony, and fluffed the couch pillows. “Who wants to go grab the booze from across the street?” asked Sanjeev. Josh volunteered. The two walked out, a soft click of the front door signaling their exit.

The party started at 8 p.m. It doubled both as a housewarming for their apartment and a 4th of July rendezvous. The main windows of their living room faced west, where, one block away, 5 of the 6 barges that would be shooting fireworks into sky were visible. As the guests trickled in, James, Sanjeev, and Josh lingered by the hallway, greeting each visitor with mirth and enthusiasm. Some were older friends they hadn’t seen in years; most were classmates, recent graduates that were similarly entering the world of finance.

“Sanjeev here’s working at a hedge fund,” James says, introducing three crew-cut, muscled West Pointers to the apartment, “and Josh is starting at Goldman. IBD.” The West Point boys were in New York for the night before returning to base the next morning. Two, George and Eric, were being shipped off to Germany in the fall, to work at the reserve camp. “Wow. This is a sick view,” George said. He stared out at the floor-to-ceiling windows for a minute. When every subsequent guest came in during the next hour, each would inevitably make their way to the window, or the balcony, and repeat a variation of what George had uttered first.

A girl wearing a white, slightly frilled dress walked in, carrying a cake and a pitcher. “James, where can I put this?” she asked. “I’m making you guys sangria.” Soon, the lights were off, Schwayze and Usher were pumping, and the eighty or so people in the apartment were talking, touching, flirting, checking their phones. Every few minutes, small shrieks reverberated in the entrance. “Oh my god, it’s been too long!” a tall, comely Asian girl said, bear-hugging a slightly rounder Asian girl. Most of the conversations, though, were of a more subdued nature, made stimulating only with references to their employers: Morgan Stanley, McKinsey, Jane Street Capital.

At 9 p.m., all eyes turned west, towards the Hudson river. Fireworks exploded in the sky, red, yellow, and green spheres of light dancing and falling against the contours of the New Jersey shoreline. For 20 minutes, the darkness was lit up erratically, a schizophrenic display varying in intensity, height, duration, and shape. In the end, though, traditional yellow sparklers bloomed across the sky, and the entire windowpane, from left to right, was lit with overlapping copies of the same show. “That was awesome,” someone said from the crowd. “I am so ready to start work tomorrow.”

No comments:

Post a Comment