mayhem

ďMayhem is what happens when everyone chases their own desires and nobody gives a fuck about anyone else. Now we begin the implosion.Ē ó O.S. 1981

 

There is some raw guitar strumming here. Maybe a kid who does not know what he is doing. Good chords but sloppy execution. Wrong chords but startling choices. It is ugly music. Music that will change and shape style. Music to run from and die for, music to deny and ignore.

 

After Dad adds Sears to his client roster, his earnings increase considerably. He and Mom enjoy prosperous years into the eighties.

Penelope apprentices as a stylist for a young photographer shooting a national corporate account. Then she lands a rewarding position representing a group of hip commercial photographers. She ascends in the advertising world.

Cousin Chris divorces Melissa. It is messy and costs him. He is hauling in a lot of money from the markets. He buys a boat and throws drunken bashes along the shoreline. He invests in an oil deal. It looks like there is no ceiling. He is the familyís biggest breadwinner and favored child.

Chris moves into a large two-bedroom newly built condominium with a terrace overlooking the lakefront. He decorates it with black leather couches and low imported glass coffee tables, a huge Sony TV and stereo system and other pricey Japanese electronic equipment including three cordless phones.

Most everyone in Odysseusís family are upwardly mobile achievers. His cousins in California are dentists and lawyers and real estate developers. He measures his life by Penelope and Chris. Their career accomplishments overshadow his endeavors. He wants desperately to be as good as them. He feels certain someday his painting and writing will pay off.

The family meets weekly for dinner. Everyone drinks. Dad is a heavy drinker. Mom and Aunt Rita like to get tipsy. All the children are good drinkers especially Odysseus and Penelope and Chris. They smoke weed and do cocaine and Quaaludes when away from the elders. They can be voracious party animals.

Odysseus remembers a conversation with Bayli. She urged they move on their own to New York City. He wishes he had listened to Bayli. He wonders when his stars will fall in place.

 

Odysseus agrees to go with Dad to the Gold Coast Country Club. It is quite exclusive and membership is expensive. Odysseus understands his parents want success for him. He swims while Dad plays golf with friends.

Later on the clubhouse terrace with a drink in his hand, Dad speaks. "I feel sorry for you, Odys. Youíve chosen to be anti-establishment by pursuing the life of an artist. Youíll never have any of the finer things life has to offer. Iíll continue to pay for your health insurance but otherwise youíre on your own. If you ask me, I think youíre making a big mistake."

 

Odysseus struggles to pay the rent. He sells most of his rather immense record collection including imports and switches to cassette tapes. He finds a job framing at a Michigan Avenue art gallery specializing in pricey small European landscapes.

He shows up to work wearing headphones. He listens to the Clash and Joy Division. He ignores his older coworkerís prattle. The coworker resents him. Odysseus dislikes the job. The gallery owner tells him he should be painting and suggests he find another job.

He reads Oriana Fallaciís ďA Man.Ē His dreams run wild with insurgency and the love of a woman.

 

He drifts from one job to the next, office assistant, waiter, whatever. He does not understand how the road to recognition works. He continues showing his portfolio to art dealers but they react indifferently. He does not know how to attain notice in the art world.

He begins to suspect there is no personal God watching over souls. Instead, he imagines an infinite force juggling light and darkness, creation and destruction, love and hate.

Mom and Dad insist he can earn a respectable income if only he will learn commodity futures like cousin Chris. Mom says, ďYou can work down at the exchange and paint on the side.Ē

A part of Odysseus wants desperately to please his parents. He considers perhaps Mom is right for the time being. Maybe build up a nest egg. It seems like a sensible plan.

He wonders why Dad and Mom never speak about how to save and manage money. They treat the subject of funds as a forbidden topic. Odysseus has no idea what Dad or Mom make or their investment strategies.

 

Odysseus is about to make a serious mistake. The decision to get a job working at the commodity exchange needs deeper examination. Why is he giving in to his parents? What attracts him to commodities trading? Is it Chrisís achievement and the money?

Does Odysseus honestly see himself as a winning trader? Or does it simply look like a big party with lots of rich men and pretty young girls. Is that where he wants to be? Why is he giving up on his dream to be a great artist? Does it seem like an impossible dream to reach? Who makes him think that? Is he about to give up on his true self?

 

He halfheartedly follows his parentís advice and begins working as a runner at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Cal and several other friends express disloyalty for entering the "straight world."

The commodity markets are not exactly "straight" in 1980. The clearing firms pay adequately and the hours are 8 A.M. to 2 P.M. Over the course of the next six months Odysseus runs orders out to the various trading pits.

Chris rarely acknowledges Odysseus. Maybe Chris feels a need to protect his image of success. Perhaps in front of his business associates, Chris is embarrassed by Odysseusís menial rank and goof-off attitude. Maybe Chris senses what a terrible mistake Odysseus has made.

 

Darkness descends upon Odysseus. His heart is not into the commodity business or more accurately he hates it. He loathes the battleship gray color of greed and envy. He resents the prevailing overcast of misogyny.

He meets many pretty girls yet most of them are only interested in catching a trader. It is rumored numerous high rolling traders hire young girls for the sole purpose of morning blowjobs. The remainder of the day the girls are free to mingle and run trivial errands. Commodity traders typically trash females. It is a primitive hierarchy.

Odysseus bounces from one clearing firm to another and then he moves to the Chicago Options Exchange then the Chicago Board of Trade.

On the foyer wall just outside the trading floor hangs a bronze plaque commemorating all the men who served in World War Two. Uncle Karlís name is on that plaque. Daddy Pat bought his son a seat hoping to set him up after the war. Uncle Karlís new wife wanted to break away from Chicago and persuaded him to sell the seat and move to California. Uncle Karl bought a car wash outside Los Angeles with Daddy Patís support.

 

Mom and Dad encourage and assure Odysseus the commodities business is the right choice. They promise to buy him a full seat on the exchange if he continues to learn the markets. They feel certain he can be saved from his artistic notions.

The markets are soaring in profits and cousin Chris is riding the waves. A number of Chrisís friends are the sons of parents who belong to the same clubs and dine at the same restaurants as Mom and Dad.

Odysseus is not an alpha-male like Chris. Odysseus is a dreamer, adventurer and experimenter. Unlike Chris, Odysseus starts out as a runner then gets a job holding a deck for some brokers in the Treasury Dollar trading pit.

 

Odysseus holds buy orders between his index and middle fingers and sell orders in the last two fingers arranged by time stamp, price and size. In his other hand, he holds a nervous pencil. He stands a step below his boss in a circular pit in a room the size of a football field full of raised pits.

Everything is traded: cattle and hogs and pork bellies, all currencies and gold. Numbers flash and change instantaneously in columns on three high walls. The fourth wall is glass with seats behind for spectators. Thousands of people rush around delivering orders, on the telephones, flashing hand signals, shouting offers and quantities. Calls came in frantically from all around the world.

The space is organized chaos and sometimes not so organized. Fortunes switch hands in a nano-second. It is a global fiscal battleground. Rallies to the up side or breaks to the down side send the room into hollering push and shove hysteria.

Banking and financial institutions and kingpin mobsters and daring entrepreneurs and old thieves and rich kids and beautiful people and pretty young females abound. Big guns suck in the same air and stand next to low-ranking runners and everyone flirts and sweats and sneezes and knows inside they are each expendable.

Odysseus is spellbound by the sheer force and magnitude of the place. He feels insignificant. His only real grip is his success with girls. It was not a conscious talent. He grins and females grin back.

Chrisís trader friends acknowledge Odysseusís ability. They call on him to introduce women to them. It is a way for Odysseus to level the playing field. He has no money or high opinion of himself. He simply knows how to pick up girls.