Monday, December 05, 2005

Tom and Daisy Fall From Grace

Tom was a seventh-tier investment banker. Daisy was a social worker-turned housewife. Yet seemingly inconceivably, their lives were filled with fine Italian linens, custom cabinetry, handmade and designer clothing and an entourage of domestic servants. I lived nearby, I moved in the same circles. But their opulent lifestyle was beyond my wildest dreams and comprehension.

I met them because somehow, we had both obtained highly coveted places for our two-year old children at the same expensive, Madison Avenue preschool. They had recently moved out of the city to a smallish but newly constructed home in Stamford, Connecticut. It was Tom's dream house and Tom's dream life, but alas, it was not Daisy's. Daisy demanded that take their two daughters, sell their home at a loss and move back to the city...and this time, not to some schlocky First Avenue rental, but to something worthy of her aspirations (a clue of which could be discerned in her referring to her home in Stamford as her home in "Greenwich"). Such was Tom's desire to please Daisy that he could not say no. Even if it displeased him. Even if there simply was not enough money for it.

For a while, they commuted as a family, along with their full-time nanny, staying some nights in suites at four star hotels in the city, staying some nights at their on-the-market home in Stamford. It soon became clear that Park Avenue and Fifth Avenue cooperatives were not going to happen for them because their money was "new" and because they had arrived not all that long ago from Montreal, by way of Boston and Boca Raton, which made them an unknown quantity and hence undesirable in the eyes of the cooperative boards populated by socialites and their big swinging husbands. Instead, they found a condo, which permits new money, foreign money and mega-mortgages. And what a condo it was. Safely "west of Third" avenue, it was not yet even fully constructed, but the floor plan was generous and flexible enough for them to reconstruct it completely to suit their taste.

A brand, spanking new condo, fully gutted and reconstructed. It didn't make much sense to my sensibilities. But the theory was that it would be their forever home, and thus they needed to truly make it their own, rather than some "cookie cutter" new construction. Like their Stamford home, with its custom Clive Christian kitchen, they needed to place their own luxurious, mark of opulence on this home as well. Thus, Tom and Daisy created not a master bedroom, but a master suite, with an adjacent office (which was all the rage in New York City at the time); the doors to each of the master bedroom and the master-bedroom's office were off a small hall that one entered through yet another door: ensuite. They created not the standard kitchen, but a Sub-Zero refrigerated, Viking-stoved kitchen that met their specific, and seemingly endlessly romantic needs: a grill for thick luscious steaks, a wine-keeper for their expensive and elaborate collection, a double-sized Sub-Zero for their gourmet cooking, for throwing lavish parties. Accoutrements of the pampered life. No matter that Daisy didn't really eat much of anything other than salad. No matter that Tom was seldom home for dinner, or that there was no gourmet cooking at all, but rather nightly deliveries from Jackson Hole and Three Guys Diner.

The only party that I remember Tom and Daisy ever having was a Halloween party for the kids. And it wasn't even at the condo. It took place in the Stamford house. Not exactly romantic. Or lavish. But still, the illusion was convincing. The way that Tom and Daisy stood together at the door to receive their guests, the way they kissed everyone on both cheeks, explaining, "This is the way we do it in Montreal" was pure romance, pure urban bliss framed in a rustic, if "mcmansioned" home.

Dinners with Tom and Daisy meant, invariably, that the best wines would be ordered. Tales of how they had come to know these wines would be told - tales of trips through Europe, South Africa, tales of sommaliers from top international restaurants who knew them personally. It all felt so warm and delicious to hear it told. Inevitably, there would be hand-holding and passionate kissing at the table, the rest of us looking away, wondering what to make of such a display. Was it something that was done in their culture? Or was it something they were doing for us? Or was it possible that this simply who they really were?

Tom was tall and good-looking, flirtatious with men and with women, a true salesman. Daisy was petite, with a propensity to eat nothing but a scallop or two, to drink Chardonnay and to smoke Canadian cigarettes between courses. With the husbands, she was often quite flirtatious, albeit harmlessly. With the women, she was warm and engaging. Daisy had a way of making you feel important, of making you feel like you were the only other member of a very exclusive club of which she was the president and charter member. Daisy's trademarks were her hair (which can only be described as ""extreme-salon-blonde" and always brushed into her face, as if she were hiding acne scars, which she was not), her lips (which never were seen without lipstick, prompted the catty amongst us to wonder whether there were such a thing as a "lipliner tattoo" - I believe there is, but I am still not clear on whether she had had it done) and the fact that she only wore high platform shoes. Even in the snow. Imagine a life so glamorous that you could afford to wear your platform shoes to take your kids sledding. That was the image that Daisy cultivated. That was the image that Daisy lived.

In the end, it all came crashing down. Turns out that Tom really couldn't afford the opulent lifestyle that he and Daisy had been leading. Turns out that Tom was supporting their lifestyle using other people's money. Not borrowed, not begged, but stolen. Stolen under the guise of a get-rich-quick investment scheme that, at first glance, appears to be the rantings of a lunatic. Upon further thought, it becomes clear that Tom's scheme was carefully crafted to sound exactly like the rantings of someone so brilliant that one could not hope to truly understand it. One could only hope to be included by sending Tom a check.

As the FBI closed in on Tom, the illusion of romance was abandoned. Plans to part ways were made. Plans to sell the condo, which as it turns out, had been 100 percent financed (even the downpayment was a loan, which I assume were never repaid) were made and carried out. New lives were forged, still with a hint of opulence, such as Daisy's acquisition of a thousand-dollar cat, still with the head-held-high-dignity of those who had not fallen from grace with the Gods and the Federal Government.

But sadly, Tom has, indeed, fallen. And by "sadly", I mean sincerely, sadly. This should never have happened. The victims who handed him money believing that he could make more money out of it, even as he financed his opulent life with it, were to blame in their own greed and their own belief in their own stupidity: How many of them said to themselves before handing over the money with a wink and a prayer, "I have no idea what he is saying, and since he seems pretty smart, I must simply be too stupid to understand it"?

But the responsibility ultimately lies with Tom. The law, and the moral codes on which the law is based tell us: It's not fair to play people that way, to double-talk and convince them that they are, in fact, too stupid to understand, that they would be well-advised to simply trust him, he'll make them rich, as rich as he is, just look at the wonderful life he leads...

As for Daisy, who really knows what she knew?

Mostly, it's sad because mostly it's true.



boodiba said...

Wow! What a story. Makes me think of the Eagles song, Life in the Fast Lane. The thing I wonder is whether she knew all along. Kind of like Carmela on the Sopranos. (I'm mixing references here!)

Anonymous said...

Must have been rewarding to you to see people you envied so much fall.

yoga chickie said...

I know I shouldn't dignify your comment with an answer, but since it appears that my narrative didn't accurately convey my feelings about Tom and Daisy, I will clarify: I didn't envy them; rather, I was awed by them, although a bit incredulous because something seemed "off". I was disappointed to find out that Tom was a fraud. He and Daisy made all things seem possible.

Anonymous said...

In the grand scheme, there are a whole hell of a lot of things sadder than the fall of these posers. Yet another example of your glaring inability to see beyond the boundaries of your priveleged existence.

yoga chickie said...

No one said that this was the height of sadness. Certainly not me. I have known sadness far beyond the fall of a criminal and his pampered, possibly accomplice, wife. And I see well beyond my own existence. What I don't do is look for the bad in people and then find ways to prove it true.


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Northern Westchester, New York, United States
I live by a duck pond. I used to live by the East River. I don't work. I used to work a lot. Now, not so much. I used to teach a lot of yoga. Now not so much. I still practice a lot of yoga though. A LOT. I love my kids, being outdoors, taking photos, reading magazines, writing and stirring the pot. Enjoy responsibly.


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