The loss of my grandfather notwithstanding, life had never been better, at least as measured through a monetary lens. While others struggled with the fire sale on Wall Street, our fund made big money, and I lived the lifestyle to prove it. My buddy Lionel and I ventured to the Hamptons to look for a summer rental in my brand new BMW M5, which I had bought a few weeks prior without so much as looking at the sticker price.
A broker from Sotheby's had called to tell us of a house in Sag Harbor that had to be seen, and the moment we drove into the compound, we knew it was perfect. "We'll call it Ruby Ridge," I said before we got out of the car to explore the grounds.
It was sensational. The Philippe Starck-designed house was stocked with Lichtensteins and featured a meditation tower, a media room, and a wraparound terrace that overlooked Sag Harbor. There were immaculate rolling grounds with an eight-car garage, an adjacent two-bedroom casita, and an outdoor dining pavilion with a working fireplace and kitchen that surrounded a black gunite pool. A croquet field sat between the compound and a 200-foot private beach, all within walking distance of town.
"Seven bedrooms," one of us said, "there's a lot of space here." The broker told us the house was listed at $150,000 for the summer, and it was ours before we got back into my car. We pulled in five or six friends, turned the garage into a nightclub called Shagababy, and smiled amongst ourselves when we eventually overheard others talking about the new, private club somewhere in Sag Harbor.
There were hundreds of people at Ruby Ridge on any given weekend, and we partied like rock stars through the night. It was a summer of debauchery straight out of a movie, a twisted tale of revelry that could have been called "The Top of the Market." As a trader with my finger on the pulse of trends and turns, I should have seen disaster coming from a mile away.
I left for Hawaii on Labor Day weekend to fulfill a promise I had made to my father, that if he stayed clean, I would return the next year to enjoy quality time with him. He looked good when I saw him; he was off drugs, and his condition was properly medicated. He had volunteered at an animal refuge and proudly walked me through the grounds while I was there.
As we talked about life and the ways of the world, he was eager to hear about my journey, what I was doing on Wall Street, and more importantly, if I was happy. "Sure," I said as we sat by the pool at the Four Seasons Hotel. "I'm the President of a $400 million dollar hedge fund, I made millions of dollars last year, and I've got everything I could ever want absent my own family, which is only a matter of time."
I suppose we were anxious to impress each other, albeit for different reasons. I yearned for parental acceptance after years of feeling like a substandard son while he, in his own words, wanted to make me proud of how he climbed out of his own abyss. In the end, our motivations didn't really matter; I had a father again, and the week passed quickly.
The night before I returned to New York, we sat at an outdoor restaurant that overlooked the ocean as a gentle Maui breeze made for a perfect backdrop. I'll never forget the last thing he said to me before the check came, as I shared my future aspirations. "Relax, son, and enjoy life; you never know when a plane will fall out of the sky and ruin your day."
The following Tuesday was September 11th, but before I get to that, perhaps I should start at the beginning .