The house lights dim. The screen behind the stage fades from black to a cerulean blue. A white “C” in the center. A spotlight is on Coronado walking to center stage. He looks like a swimmer on his eighteenth birthday but he’s got to be fifty, at least.
“I got one question. Who’d he have to blow to get this job?” This is Phil, the guy sitting next to me. Sometimes he can be a severely negative dickhead.
“The fuck you talking about?” This is me. I do not suffer dickheads kindly.
“I don’t know. I just heard things.”
“You just heard things? That’s bullshit. He worked at Goldman. Morgan Stanley. His father owns the company. He knows his shit.”
“I didn’t say he doesn’t know his shit. Just sayin’ he might have risen to a level a bit beyond his abilities.”
“Maybe he did. Or maybe he just blew his own father, Dickhead.”
We stand. Clapping until Coronado raises his hand.
“Gentlemen. Ladies. Others.” This is Coronado.
“Twenty generations ago Francisco de Coronado, my great grandfather many times over, then the Governor of Nueva Galicia, several hundred miles south of here, learned of the Seven Golden Cities of Cibola.
“Blinded by the prospect of enormous wealth, he led 300 of his men and a thousand Native Americans, likely captured slaves, hundreds of miles north, killing and looting Zuni villages only to find nothing of what he sought.
“He returned home to Compostela, poor, injured, and ridiculed. He’d seen the Grand Canyon, the Colorado River, the Rio Grande. They were not good enough. He wanted gold. He risked everything and he lost everything.”
The room got quiet. Coronado looked at us. A roomful of men and women. All not-so-secretly seeking the wealth he spoke of.
“What do you want? What do you seek? What will you risk? For what? For happiness? For gold?”
He was speaking to me. To all of us. Hundreds of us. Brokers. Managing Directors. VPs.
“Coronado Capital Management employs thirty-one thousand hard working people like you. Our largest cost center is salaries, benefits, and bonuses. The average annual employee makes around $350,000. Some managing directors make eight figures. Last quarter, that single expense line was close to 2.9 billion.”
“Holy fuck. That’s a shitload of beans!” This is Phil.
“Add to that rent, renovations, debt service, IT, PR, communications, travel, training, advertising, interest, and our operating expenses top 25 billion. With net revenues of 30 billion, we run lean. With 2001 and 2008 and who knows what 2016 will bring, we need to run leaner.
“You smell some doo-doo about to hit the fan?” Phil again.
“Putting money aside for a minute, I have to ask. Are we happy? Are you happy?”
Murmuring spreads. Scattered coughing. Butts shift in their seats.
“Remember Maslow’s hierarchy of needs? Food, water, shelter. A job. Personal security? Friendship? Self-esteem? Self-Actualization? Maslow said, ‘What a person can be, he must be.’ Are you being the person you can and want to be? What are you putting off? When was the last time you hit a baseball or went to the beach without your Blackberry? Read a great book? Thought thoughts you never get time to think? Doing nothing to do with work or money or taxes or obligations? Are you the person you can be? I will give you the chance to be that person.”
“Marx once said, ‘Money is the alienated essence of man’s work and existence: this essence dominates him and he worships it.’ Is this what we all have become?”
“Ninety percent of adults spend half their lives doing things they would rather not be doing at places they would rather not be. Know anybody like that?”
“At Coronado, you and I together can change that. Not the world maybe, but ourselves.”
He crosses the stage.
“We are over capitalized. We are in debt to our debt. My guess is that you are too. Debt is the killer. It makes us take risks we should not take. But… there is a way out.”
The walls are now washed in waves the color of the Mediterranean.
“Welcome to the Coronado of tomorrow! With our cash-on-hand we will pay off our debt. Pull all services inside. Buy what we need with cash. No more rent or mortgages on out-of-date office buildings. We will self-insure. We will owe no one anything. And, we’ll continue to be the same Coronado the financial world depends upon.
“How do we do this? What is in it for you?
“The company will pay for your home wherever you want, a car, your club membership, your food bills, vacations, everything you need. You do your job but you get no salary, no bonuses.
“What the fuck?” Phil.
“You won’t need any of that. Coronado will pay for everything. You work online. You continue to produce A+ work and you will own your own labor. Your own life. Coronado takes the burden, the worry, and risk of debt off of you. You will be debt and risk free. And, when you retire, you’ll get a great pension for the rest of your life. The company cuts its costs, lowers its risk, pays dividends, and you get a life truly worth living.
“If we can pull this off it will change the nature of work and possibly the nature of humanity.”
“I’m in!” This me shouting. Standing. I’m imbued with the spirit. “This guy is fantastic!”
“Whoa!” This is Phil. “You’re in? You’re in? Who’s the fucking dickhead now? You believe this bullshit? This Coronado dude is feeding you a hook in a hotdog. Marxism in a meatball. He’s a fucking commie-capitalist chameleon. What’s his game? Shiling for a suburban slavery ring? You think he’s not going to get rich off this shit?
Phil gets up, squeezing past the row of standing, cheering, men and women. Hands raised high.
“When you’re all done with this circle jerk, drop me a line from your yurt in the Urals, goofball!” Phil again, heading toward the door.
I sit down. “What the fuck just happened? This is me. “Yo, Phil…?”
One thought on “Seven Cities of Gold”
Like the dialogue, Joe. Insidious as some of the message is, I’m still laughing. Thank you for another thought-provoking piece.