Out on Our
One of my investment accounts is with Wachovia, and on Friday, September 19, I tried to reach my broker Chuck there. First, I telephoned the regular Wachovia (800) number I have called many times before. This time, there was no answer. The telephone just rang and rang. So, I called Chuck on his cellphone. He said not to worry, everybody at the main Wachovia office was just out getting pizza, including the switchboard and the robot answering machine.

After we had talked for a few minutes, I thought I heard background noises like those of a small airplane warming up, but perhaps it was just my imagination. Chuck said he had to ring off, mumbling something about getting strapped in, and added that everything at Wachovia was going swimmingly. "Glad to hear it," I replied, "and when will I hear from you again?" Chuck assured me that he would keep in touch and then wished me to have a nice day, as his voice was drowned out by a sound strangely like the propeller of a De Haviland Beaver.

I also have an account at Merrill Lynch in Seattle, so I called my broker there, a charming young woman named Erin. I thought she might have some inside information on goings-on in the financial world. She did, and confided that Wachovia would soon have a new telephone number in the Cayman Islands, where they would share an office with Morgan Stanley, Paine Webber, Washington Mutual, and A.I.G. Unless, of course, the Bank of Kazakhstan stepped in to acquire the latter first, in which case CitiCorp might be forced to take equal positions with Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein, or vice versa.

There have also been worrisome signs that the turmoil in financial markets is spreading to other currencies. A merger of Credit Lyonnais and Credit Bordelaise had to be postponed until the Banque de France restored the system's liquidity through an injection of brown stock, and arranged for a transfer of chopped shallots from Credit Béarnaise.

I gave Erin my best wishes on Merrill's joining the Bank of America family, and asked her if anything would change. She assured me that matters would be pretty much the same except, one thing: if I wanted to add anything to my account, they no longer took US dollars but accepted deposits only in real money, like Irish Punts, Kazakh Tenges, or Bhutanese Ngulthums.

Erin also explained that the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve were doing everything they could to increase confidence in the financial markets. To start with, they were making De Haviland Beavers available to the management of every brokerage house and investment bank. In addition, the companies themselves were now on a continuous, intravenous feed of Paxil and Wellbutrin, while Flomax was being administered directly to the memory bank of the companies' accounts.

Merrill Lynch, for one, was setting up a system in which account-holders could come down and visit their money. There would be regular visiting hours, just like a hospital, and the visitor could bring flowers to make their assets feel better. I told her that my money was feeling especially fragile these days, and should receive a complete anesthetic before it underwent any major financial operations. Erin reassured me that my money would have a choice of being converted into a Structured Investment Vehicle, or into a Principal Protected Note with Fully Embedded Stent Options. Either way, the operation was absolutely painless, although now and then a patient did die on the operating table. Would I, she asked, be interested in taking out a small insurance policy, with Merrill Lynch as co-beneficiary?

While my investment accounts are in the Intensive Care Unit, I am trying to bring in some funds by writing a movie script. My current project is a sci-fi scenario in which a legendary Japanese monster attacks Alaska. it is called "Godzilla in Wasilla." In the end, Alaska's insufferably perky governor vanquishes the monster by performing her cheerleader routine on ABC-TV, at which Godzilla flees in horror into the sea, never to return.

On the other hand, these might be the wrong times to mix politics with cinematic art. Perhaps I will change the ending to have the monster attack an Alaskan pizza parlor and simply get stuck in the melted cheese. In that case, the movie would be entitled "Godzilla Versus Mozzarella in Wasilla."

--- Dr. Phage
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