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As many of you know, to call Hank Paulson a fan of birds would not do justice to the special relationship between the former Treasury Secretary and his feathered friends. Birds get nine mentions in his memoir (verus Warren Buffett’s six), he was said to “freak out when [they’d] fly into the glass windows of 85 Broad,” they’ve become the third person in his marriage (Wendy Paulson, also a huge fan, was apparently “jealous” of a recent outing Hank took without her, preferring to have them all to himself), they were the ones he was referring to when he said 20 percent of the staff at Goldman added 80 percent of the value, and, despite having to neglect them in order to deal with the whole Bear Stearns situation (he said he was sorry and he meant it), birds have remained unflaggingly loyal, among HP’s closest confidants, the sources of his most joyful and precious moments in life and just really great buddies. That’s why it doesn’t hurt that people aren’t banging down his door to kick back and watch the game over some non-alcoholic beer and learn about the observable differences among types of manure.
The other day, with the now homeless Occupiers still flooding the streets downtown, railing about bailed-out bankers, Henry Paulson, the former Treasury Secretary, Goldman Sachs C.E.O., and bailout architect, was uptown, taking a nature walk in Central Park. It was a drizzly day, and Paulson showed up at the Boathouse wearing a baggy suit and carrying a London Fog rain jacket. In person, he seems less like the “Superman” villain Lex Luthor, whom his grandchildren thinks he resembles, or William Hurt, who played him in “Too Big to Fail,” and more like a park ranger, full of jerky energy. “My wife’s jealous,” Paulson said, of his walk in the Park. (His wife, Wendy, is a naturalist who led bird walks there when the couple lived nearby.) Spotting a logbook where visitors record bird sightings, he flipped through until he came to a good entry. “See, this is someone who knew what they were doing,” he said and read off the species: “Everything from a house finch to a tufted titmouse and an Eastern towhee.”
Paulson doesn’t meet many hecklers, but he did have one bad encounter, about a year ago: “I was in the airport, and this guy kept staring at me. And he said, ‘Are you Hank Paulson, the Treasury Secretary?’ And I said, ‘Yes.’ And he said, ‘Do you really hate it when people come up to you like this?’ And I said, ‘Oh, no, people usually thank me or say something nice.’ And he looked at me, very perplexed, and said, ‘Yeah, I guess people try to be polite, don’t they?’ ” Near Bow Bridge, Paulson headed toward the western edge of the Park, where a car was waiting. “You know, I’m not looking for more friends at this point,” he said. “Everybody would rather be liked than not liked, but . . .” He trailed off. There was a stink in the air, and Paulson identified it: “Horse manure. I grew up on a farm—I know the smell of horse manure. It does smell better than pig manure.”
Probably feeling a bit regretful about not trading digits with him now, aren’t you, guy? Too little, too late, not that he cares. His manure knowledge is reserved for those who actually give a shit.
Birds And Bankers [New Yorker]