Monday, September 15, 2008

In Utter Shock

Rarely does something occur that leaves me so confounded that I simply must write about it. Even more rarely does something of that magnitude occur that does not involve video games.

When I found out today that Merrill Lynch had been bought by Bank of America, I was so astonished that I was sure I must be misunderstanding what had happened. When I became certain that this financial stalwart had actually been purchased, I was just speechless. I just kept repeating "what?"

It's not the financial import of this event that has struck some vital chord. I do acknowledge that Merrill Lynch has become synonymous with wealth management and that this is an important sale. But...

The real crux here is that the symbol of Merrill Lynch has been shaken, if not dismantled. Since before I was born, my dad has worked for Merrill Lynch. When I was growing up in Texas, my brother and I would go into the office with my dad on weekends and play among the filing cabinets and dry erase boards—this was really cool technology to us at the time. I remember the plastic plants and the enormous lunch room. It seemed cavernous at the time and we would run among the tables and chairs and build puzzles and play Othello. For my entire life, my dad has brought home t-shirts and dufflebags and mugs adorned with the iconic Merrill Lynch bull. For summers in high school, I even worked at Merrill Lynch: in the mailroom getting to know all the names of the most important people and what all the acronyms meant for all the Merrill Lynch departments.

And for my entire life, I have had my savings account, checking account, and stocks with Merrill Lynch. Well past the time when it was convenient, I grasped onto my Merrill Lynch account and my blind devotion to Merrill Lynch services. I say blind, but I think there's a reason they're the best at what they do and had lasted (until now) for 94 years. I've never encountered better customer service with any bank, investment firm, or company of any kind. When I moved to Boston, I decided I needed something a little more logical for day-to-day banking. A bank with more convenient, local services and easy, friendly online banking. Ironically, I opened a small Bank of America account. While I use this to automatically pay my rent and put money in a small savings account every month, it doesn't hold most of my money. I still have my Merrill Lynch account. My FA manages my pitifully small investments, I have an equally pitiful IRA, and I faithfully mail my checks in whenever direct deposit isn't an option. I love the little bull imprinted in the corner of my ancient faux leather checkbook.

So when I say that I was astonished, I'm not sure it's possible for you to grasp my full meaning. To me, it's as though I found out that Pepsi bought out Coca Cola or that Microsoft bought out Nintendo.

And I'm still reeling from the gravity of it all.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Tuesday Tribute: Graeme Base

Beyond the ken of mortal men, beneath the wind and waves,
There lies a land of shells and sand, of chasms, crags and caves,
Where coral castles climb and soar, where swaying seaweeds grow,
And all around without a sound the ocean currents flow...