Sunday, October 12, 2008

Aluminum has crashed.

I don't trade aluminum. The last I heard, it was near all-time highs. But I learned today from the most unlikely aluminum trader that, no, it's crashed.

The weather in Manhattan is beautiful. And as the trains downtown are on their spotty, weekend schedule, I have ample opportunity to walk across the gaps in service. One of these brings me through City Hall Park and past the tourist-saturated Ground Zero before getting home a couple of blocks to the south.

Making my way there, right in front of Ground Zero, I noticed a man struggling with an overloaded shopping cart full of junk nearly in the middle of the very busy street. Some of the junk, which was piled high on the cart, had shifted, and some had fallen off into the street. He looked like a particularly obsessed homeless person -- scruffy beard, unkempt hair, shabby clothes, and of course, the cart full of junk. I thought he looked too young to be so destitute. For some reason, maybe it was to see if anyone would help him (nobody did), I stood there and just watched him wrestle with his cart load of junk.

I watched with what I later realized was a misplaced pity, as he pushed, pulled, and tied over and over, a load of discarded metal. I had decided that, no matter what it looked like, I was going to offer to at least help him get out of the street. As I walked over, the pieces of the puzzle came together, and I realized that everything he was lugging was aluminum. He wasn't destitute as much as he was industrious.

I asked him, "would you like some help with this?" "No, no thanks," he replied, in broken english that was otherwise lucid. No, he wasn't a street person. "Are you taking this to the scrapyard," I asked? "Yes." "How much do you think you can get for all this?" "Maybe about thirty dollars, now," he answered. "The price has come way down." "When," asked the man who works on Wall Street? "All this week," replied the aluminum trader.

So I looked up the price of aluminum and, sure enough, it had.


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