By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Health Insurance $0/mo.
Mortgage$1462/mo. (paid by two tenants)
Is Ava Gerber like Dostoyevsky's Alexey Ivanovitch at the gaming table, when he says, "At that point I ought to have gone away, but a strange sensation rose up in me, a sort of defiance of fate... "- Would she, like Ivanovitch, stick out her tongue at losing four thousand guldens?
"Sort of," Gerber said. "I lost my money four times in the past few years, all my money-$60,000, $70,000. I trade online. I got it back three times. I lost it again just this past July, August. It was the slump. I always know I'll make it back. My one friend lost $300,000. He went into a severe depression. I never had anything anyway." Her father is a retired steelworker.
"It all seems like a big Monopoly game," Gerber, 37, said, sitting in a former hair salon called House of Beauty that she bought in Fort Greene-$175,000 for three floors, 25 by 50 feet. "It was cheap. Houses on the park in Fort Greene are $675,000." She renovated it herself for about $80,000, making three apartments. She lives on the ground floor with midcentury furniture, Tibetan lamps, an altar with Nigerian and Haitian saints, golden Buddhas, and photographs of relatives in Ohio.
"I don't see the money I trade. It's in the bank. It doesn't mean anything to me. If you lose all your money, as a creative person, you become resourceful. Loss gives me power in a way. If someone leaves you or you lose something, you have to toughen up. It forces you to come up with a solution. There's nothing worse to me than being mediocre or in the middle. I'd rather be really happy or really depressed.
"Basically I gamble on high-tech stocks. They're racy, sexy. A good friend got me into it a few years ago, an art historian. Then I got my friend into it. He's an East Village filmmaker."
Gerber's day can go two ways. She either makes sculptures with wire and paper flowers and butterflies so light, if you sneeze, they could take off, or she sits at her Marcel Breuer desk and goes wild online. "I'm so impatient, I also trade on the phone." She only has one phone line, so it is a problem if a friend calls "just to talk about some cute boy they met.
"If something's going up really fast, I buy if I'm in the mood. Somebody called yesterday and said watch such and such. I didn't. I think it's up 12 and a quarter from yesterday to today. If it had been on a spunky day, I'd have made 1600 bucks. You get high from trading.
"Just before I bought my building, I lost all my down-payment money in the market. I went on margin, bought stocks on borrowed money. All the rules of trading I ignore. I don't diversify. I buy very high-risk stocks. Within two days, the market crashed. I lost all the money. Then I figured out another way, sold some ephemera I'd collected. I got the money I needed for the down payment. Then the market began to come back.
"I spend whatever money I want. I don't know how much I've made every day. I just sold a lot of my sculptures in Europe. I've shown internationally for 10 years. I'm always buying and selling things. I brought back Mission furniture from Ohio to buy mutual funds. Once I got that, I got some art grants, saved up my money. Started investing in the market." Now, she said, she makes about $1000 a month selling modernist furniture for R 20th Century Design.
She travels-Asia, Africa, South America, the Caribbean. "I love being in continuous motion. That's why I'm so attracted to dance. I go to African-Haitian dance class every day. It's my fix. If you sit around, you think about things too much. I used to play basketball. I have a lot of energy that needs to be dispelled. I woke up this morning thinking about business. I said, What is this, go back to sleep."