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A Visit from the Loan Officer

Category: Center for the Future Of Museums Blog

For a decade or more I’ve had the privilege of co-authoring an annual Xmas poem with Sally Shelton, collections manager of the Museum of Geology at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, and John Simmons, principal of Museologica. This year we look at a potential future in which St. Nick has transitioned into a higher paying profession, and pays a visit to our fictional museum in his new capacity. May it not come to pass….

So, without further ado, led by red-nosed reindeer with the speed of light, a cloud of dust, and a hearty Hi-Yo Silver Futures! We bring you… the Loan Arranger!

On the night before Xmas, throughout the museum

‘Twas totally quiet, a damn mausoleum;

The offices empty, except for our claimants,

All because, gosh, we were late on some payments.

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(OK, so we’d stretched when we took that last loan,

But it was so easy! Just pick up the phone,

And voila! A mortgage so big and so splendid,

More money than any trustee comprehended.

It bought us a curvy new Gehry addition

The pinnacle of our director’s ambition.

But now, stroke of midnight, the loan had come due,

And I knew that our mortgage wouldn’t pass peer review.

Hark! There was Loan Santa, cigar in hand,

Over the rooftop, preparing to land.

Skidding across our titanium curves,

I heard him cry out with great gusto and verve:

“Now Buffet! Now Volker! Now Merrill and Lehman!

Come on Fannie Mae! On Greenspan, and Krugman!”

Out he leapt, landing square on his Pucci-clad feet

“Hallo,” He called out “I’ve come straight from Wall Street!”

“Fear not!” he continued, “I’ll not let you default,”

And plunged down the vent with a grand somersault.

Scrambling inside I found him in collections,

Tallying objects, noting his selections.

The fluid collections provoked an epiphany:

“These could hasten your early return to liquidity!”

He poo pooed taxidermy; the conclusion was tacit:

Preserved with arsenic they were—toxic assets.

The fossils were tagged for early foreclosure

“We’ll sell them,” he cried, never losing composure.

“In China I know that they’ll fetch quite a penny,

So don’t ask which ones, just ask me ‘how many?’”

He explained that auctioning New Guinea weaponry

Would help to defray that negative equity.

He enthused over panthers whose shipment was pending:

“Now that’s what I call predatory lending!”

He gathered our registrars, deployed in swarms,

And put them to work auto-signing his forms.

“I know” he observed, “You’re all working part time”

“You should have been leery of that term ‘sub-prime.’

Curators linked arms, defending the vault.

“Oh really,” he sneered, “would you rather default?”

I cried that his moves were moral abrogation

“Nonsense,” he demurred, “financial innovation.”

“Would you rather have squatters lay claim to your foyer?

Be sued by your broker, not to mention your lawyer?”

And opined, packing specimens into his crate

“You should have avoided ‘adjustable rate’”

When the shelves were all bare, file cabinets empty,

The museum pillaged from attic to entry,

He brushed himself off and leapt onto his sled

Checked the straps, grabbing one last axe head.

Looking me in the eye he sagely concluded

“Its your lust for grand space that left you denuded”

I heard him cry out, fleeing into the night:

“Here’s my advice to all–next time rent it outright!”

–Elizabeth Merritt, Sally Shelton and John Simmons wish that your holidays will never be sub-prime.

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  1. That was deep and rather brave of you all to put out there. Let's carry that sense of out-in-the-openess into 2011. It may help ensure it doesn't come to pass.

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