2 November 1929 / New York City

I took a walk through Manhattan’s financial district this afternoon. Last week’s events on the stock market made passage through its dark streets more claustrophobic and unsettling than usual. While the papers have taken ghoulish delight in reporting that the sky is thick with ruined brokers jumping to their deaths, I found this to be hyperbole. From what I observed, more people seem to be shooting themselves than anything else. The discharge of firearms was frequent and irregular, enough to remind me of popping corn. I like popcorn, and dislike suicide, so I chose to pretend I was at a carnival. Thinking on it now, I suppose it was not much of a stretch of the imagination. Both carnivals and Wall Street thrive on greed and the grotesque distortion of reality. To the common man, the market is as rigged against him as a pyramid of milk bottles glued together, imperviously withstanding the meager wads of savings he manages throw at it.

I recognize that my familial wealth has insulated me against any financial upheaval and provided me the opportunity to freely travel both the globe and the thoughtscape of my own mind, but even without it, I would never have resorted to working in finance. I would have been able to support myself with the patents I began to accumulate from the age of 5. (My first patent was a device that allowed commercial sewing machines to operate at temperatures below 780 degrees for the first time. My inspiration was, of course, the Triangle Shirtwaist fire of a few years earlier.)

I have nothing against affluence. I'm glad so many have prospered, and the '20's were a wonderful time to be a teenager. I celebrate the jazz of my age and wear my hair in a fashionable bob with pride. It is greed that I find objectionable. This has always been the case. At my birthday parties, I gave each guest the rights to one of my patents as party favors. I was often disappointed to find that one of my chums had used my invention to become a “captain of industry” and lived as a soulless, eight-year-old miser instead of helping the world or bettering him or herself.

I've always had a distaste for those who concern themselves only with money. I could not fathom how a child, or man, could relish the pursuit of money at the exclusion of knowledge. And I have even less understanding of those who simply manage their amassed wealth. The vast game of Hot Potato* they have been playing with their inflated stock vouchers and ill run companies has ended, and all of their fat hands have been burned.

So, I have little pity for those plutocrats who lost money on the market, and trust that the fallout will not extend to the working man. Ideally, it will serve as a lesson on the transient nature of material wealth, and our American society will emerge more mature and less money-addled. Even in the worst case scenario, I think we would end up getting some pretty decent folk music out of a national financial collapse.

* patent # 1874-HDF89, which Bent filed at age 7 –ed.