A homeless New Yorker among passersby, February 6, 2019. (Photo: Susan Jane Golding)

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People generally do not embark on a career at Goldman Sachs expecting “work-life balance.” For junior bankers and traders, the Goldman environment is known as especially competitive and demanding.

Given the sacrifices that junior employees have to make to stay alive at the firm and the singular focus on making money, it may surprise some to learn that pay for people starting at Goldman falls short of industry standards. As reported this past weekend in a Financial Times article, “Goldman wrangles over whether to pay junior bankers higher salaries,” you can expect to make less in your first year at Goldman than at other Wall Street firms.

The article cites Wall Street Oasis figures indicating that first-year Goldman analysts on average earn a little under $86,000 in salary along with a $37,500 bonus, compared to a median $91,400 salary and $39,700 bonus elsewhere on Wall Street. The rationale for this discrepancy is that Goldman rewards based on performance, not some arbitrary median, but the article details how Goldman’s executives are in a somewhat awkward position. The question is how to maintain merit-based pay while avoiding the poaching of young talent by higher-paying rivals. JPMorgan Chase, Barclays, and Citigroup are offering base salaries in the $100,000 range, while Wells Fargo and Bank of America have recently offered handsome raises.

As the Covid-19 pandemic turned life everywhere upside down, one of its most distorting effects on day-to-day life stemmed from the policy, undertaken by the administration of New York’s progressive mayor Bill de Blasio, of moving homeless people out of crowded shelters, and into luxury hotels. The arrival of hundreds of homeless people in an upscale neighborhood like the Upper West Side can catch residents totally off guard and, given the prevalence of substance abuse and severe mental health problems among the homeless population, can degrade the quality of life and endanger the safety of ordinary people unprepared for the onslaught.

With the pandemic finally on the wane, efforts have at last been underway as of June 16 to move the homeless out of hotels and back to shelters, but activists for the homeless have met these efforts with a flurry of spirited street protests and legal challenges. A report by Molly Crane-Newman in the New York Daily News on July 14 quotes Diane Smalls, a lawyer representing the homeless, saying that she and other plaintiffs who have successfully blocked the Department of Homeless Services’ relocation plan do not seek to stay resettlement of the homeless permanently, but simply to put the plan on hold until DHS has a better plan in place that will not uproot people in a matter of minutes from the hotels in which they have lived for a year.

Political science as we understand the term today is said to have originated with Machiavelli, but the truth is that every age has had its diplomats and ambassadors, and the high point of ancient Mayan civilization is no exception. Archaeology magazine’s July/August issue contains a fascinating article by deputy editor Eric A. Powell, “Autobiography of Maya Ambassador,” which details the career of an official named Aipach’ Wall, who made his home in the city of El Palmar in what is now Mexico, near the border with what is now Guatemala. Aipach’ Wall held the official title of lakam, or bannerman, and carried out highly important diplomatic functions as an envoy between city-states.

His life and career have gained increasing attention from archaeologists since a team from the University of California Riverside discovered in El Palmar a nine-foot-tall stone staircase displaying hieroglyphs that detail how, at the behest of the leader of Calakmul in the Kingdom of the Snake, Aipach’ Wall set out on a 200-mile trek from El Palmar over sometimes hostile terrain to the city-state of Copán. There, UC Riverside archaeologist Kenichiro Tsukamoto speculates, Aipach’ Wall held a meeting with Copán’s king, Rabbit 18, to try to form an alliance pitting Calakmul and Copán against the mighty city of Tikal. The mission’s success in the long term is open to question, given that Calakmul later encouraged rebels from the city of Quiriguá who captured and beheaded 18 Rabbit on May 3, 738, and Tikal ultimately crushed Calakmul.

By Michael Washburn

Michael Washburn is a Brooklyn-based writer and journalist. He is the author of the short story collections Scenes from the Catastrophe (2016), The Uprooted and Other Stories (2018), When We're Grownups (2019), and Stranger, Stranger (2020). Michael's story "Confessions of a Spook" won Causeway Lit's 2018 fiction contest.