That old gang of mine
By Stanley Bing

(FORTUNE Magazine) – THE ELEVATOR ROSE FROM THE lobby of the historic art deco tower. Perched over the East River, with a view in every direction of the greatest city in the world, it had always been a building I loved, built at the height of the most elegant period of American architecture, every surface festooned with filigrees of silver and gleaming stainless steel, lots of shiny black and polished stone and granite. Such ornamentation would be considered unnecessary now. We do things more efficiently.

I caught a glimpse of myself in one of the reflective surfaces inside the elevator. It was not a thoroughly encouraging sight, although it could have been worse. I still have fewer than two chins, for instance. And certainly a lot of guys are balder than I am.

Somewhere up above me, in the penthouse of the skyscraper, a party was going on--a reunion. I won't tell you how many years ago this group was together as a functioning entity within our company. I will say that some of you reading this magazine were still figuring out what to do with a potty at the time. Congratulations on working that out, by the way, and moving on to other matters so successfully.

Things were different when we were last at play in the fields of the corporation. I don't want to sound like a geezer in a rocking chair, because I'm not. I could still probably take you, vodka for vodka, T-bone for T-bone, until you were under the table begging for oxygen. Because I trained with these people. And they were world-class.

Back in the day, the team would take out a bunch of buyers for dinner. After dinner they would take their visitors from Detroit or Atlanta or St. Louis out for a night of fun in the big city. Night would turn into morning. At 6:30 A.M. the crazy sales team would call in for replacements from the Park Avenue headquarters, who would hit the street and crash into the nutty buyers for yet more festivities while the exhausted, poisoned night crew would wash their faces, comb their hair, and go to work! Men and women of steel! And how they sold, ladies and gentlemen!

Today business largely stinks. But we're sober. When I meet you for a drink, we may have one or two, but that's it, because who wants to get all sloppy? When we go to dinner, at least one of us is likely to order a salad, dressing on the side. The world has been Whartonized.

So what would this bunch of loose gooses be like after all these years? Weird and gray and responsible? How about Silverstein? Would he be there, fit as a tough gray wolf? He left the company a couple of years ago, forced out in a meaningless putsch so that a new boss could look as if he had a clue for a couple of minutes. What would be his deal now?

And O'Meara? Now, there was a guy who made selling ice to Inuits look easy. If you hung with him a little bit, you bought what he was offering. Last I heard, he had entered the realm of golf. Would I find him shrunken, vague, nattering about bogies and niblicks?

Why was I going to this thing? I barely remembered most of these folks. Did I need another drink? Another golf story? Another pull on my memory banks that have long since frizzed out because of too much time and too much wine?

And as I tortured myself with these ruminations, I heard a noise, small at first, then growing. It seemed familiar, although I hadn't heard anything like it for so long. And then I knew. It was the sound of many voices fusing together in one great shout of laughter and joy. It was the sound of friendship and energy and life. And as I neared the top of the building and the roof garden that was my destination, the noise grew into a roar, like the voice of a great beast waking. The elevator doors opened and the voice of that big, tough, happy animal hit me square in the chops. "Wow," I said, a dopey grin spreading across my face. "You guys!"

And, yeah, Silverstein! He was there. He looked great, still works out all the time. He's with a startup now, the upside looks very substantial. And there! O'Meara! Could the guy look any better? He's got his hand in a bunch of stuff, but he has enough money to do pretty much what he wants. On a big white screen by the bar was a slide show featuring everybody in the room--younger, thinner, sexier, swimming, playing tennis, and having fun.

I went to the bar and got a drink and turned around to take in the room, full of heat and life and a big crazy racket. In spite of all that had gone before, all that would be no more, we all still looked toward the future with hope and lust for the next great achievement. You know why?

Because we're still in business, that's why. And that, my friends, is enough sometimes.

STANLEY BING's latest book, Sun Tzu Was a Sissy: Conquer Your Enemies, Promote Your Friends, and Wage the REAL Art of War (HarperBusiness), is available at finer bookstores everywhere. He can be reached at