I've been in this game a long time.
Picture me in a suit and a sharp haircut. This ID card shows what I looked like in the early 90's when I was a project manager for a major international bank. I designed networked trading systems for a living, so when I started to hear buzz about this new thing called the internet I was able to jump on and start building stuff right away. I created LitKicks at my desk at work, in a two-week haze of FTP sessions and HTML FAQ printouts. This was a long time ago. Back when LitKicks hit the airwaves, Amazon.com didn't even exist yet. We've seen a lot of changes, me and LitKicks.
I was the first person in my bank to join a dot-com, in early '95. I took a pay cut for this new job, and my co-workers all thought I had lost my mind. But eventually New York City morphed into Silicon Alley, and soon everyone I knew was working for a dot-com.
Then the IPO's started. I got in for a little bit of a few IPO's. It was nice money, and I needed it because I was supporting a family with three kids and we were struggling. Gradually the whole Silicon Alley craze started getting outta control. It was cigar and martini party night ... every night. We were usually celebrating somebody's IPO. I was still waiting to get in on a big one myself.
Then things started going faster and faster and the money started to get just plain wacky. In April '99, one of the companies I was working for pulled off the sixth-largest IPO in history. I looked down at my options sheet and found out I was a paper millionaire. Everybody I worked with was suddenly rich.
Then about a year later, the stock plummeted and my paper million was gone. And then Silicon Alley was gone too, as fast as it had ever appeared.
I never cared much about my money, either the paper money I was still vesting into or the actual cash that was flowing around. None of my friends at work cared much either. It didn't seem real to us. And we were all working too hard to find time for shopping. We were fired up with our "mission", and the intense energy of it all. Now that the stock market has crashed and the dot-com craze days are over, I miss the mission -- the adventure, the sense that anything could happen and happen fast -- more than I miss the money.
I guess I had fun throwing bills around for a few months. I paid off a bunch of credit card debt, bought a lot of CD boxed sets and ate at a few cool restaurants. Everything else was pretty much the same.
Now the money is gone (save? what's that?), the economy is a wreck, and I'm a working class stiff again, living paycheck to paycheck like I always have. But I've learned some lessons and I think I've smartened up a lot. I've seen a lot of website companies come and go, and I'm proud to have kept LitKicks.com chugging along, getting a little bit bigger and better each year. I guess we're a bunch of survivors over here.
A lot of my techie friends have left the web business and gone back into banking or insurance, or whatever. I am trying to stick it out -- Silicon Alley's last man standing. Money is hard to come by, but I've got a few steady consulting gigs, and I'm teaching web development classes at night to help pay the bills. Most importantly, I'm working on bringing LitKicks to the next level.
Yeah, I'm poor, but you know what? That crazy old sun still shines up there in the sky. My kids are doing great and I'm in a good relationship that really makes me happy for the first time since my divorce. Music still sounds good when you're poor -- in fact it sounds better. And there's still nothing in the world so bad that a Shea Stadium hot dog can't cure it, and you can still get a Shea Stadium hot dog for a buck and a half (actually you can't get one for less than five bucks, but work with me here).
I want to always hold within me a lesson I learned. Unlike many people in the world who wish they were rich, I actually once got to play rich for a year. I don't remember that year being any happier than any other year of my life. My marriage broke up, I argued constantly with my co-workers, I smoked too much pot and drank way too many flavored martinis. And I had to listen to some really rotten CD boxed sets that I should never have bought.
Anyway, if you want to help a starving writer living with three kids in the QB projects by buying a copy of his excellent novel, you can check it out here. This would be an award-winning novel if only somebody would give it an award:
I update my profile or home page every once in a while, and if you want to hear the whole story of me, and all that madman stuff, you can read my biography in reverse, starting with my previous home page, which is here:
During the last two years I got very into writing poems, some of them based on Sept 11. My chapbook is coming out soon and I think it will be a good one. I was going to try not to talk about Sept 11 anymore, starting with this profile. Well ... that didn't last long. Here's the story of how I spent that day.
I've been in this game. A long time.
-- Levi, the LitKicks guy