Tal was born in Manhattan to parents who lived in Connecticut but whose souls resided in Manhattan, especially on the maternal side. His mother held on to her labor for an hour past when he should have been born so that he could be born at Manhattan’s Lennox Hill Hospital, which nearly overlooks Central Park, instead of some other, non-Manhattan hospital.
His mother also named him “Talent,” from which you can infer that his father had almost nothing to do with Tal apart from conception and, of course, providing the money and a very great deal of it.
Tal’s never been specific about what his father does but it has something to do with high-end commercial real estate. His parents apparently own a 3-bedroom apartment on the Upper West Side somewhere near Central Park, which his father lives in while he works. The family actually resides in a Connecticut estate flanked by other estates owned by other very wealthy people who all vote Democrat but prefer Reublican taxation policy.
Since his birth, he notes, he has only been to New York City a few times, once with schoolmates on a trip to tear it up that didn’t actually tear much up.
He was sent to the finest boarding schools that New England had to offer, where he learned Latin, Greek, algebra, and the fine art of sneaking a lot of drugs and alcohol into the school.
Tal’s father gave up on him early, when he casually asked Tal’s opinion on whether derivatives should be regulated by the government, and Tal wondered just how you could pass a law that would change mathematics.
After graduating around the top-middle of his class without really trying, he declined offers to study business at Yale or political science at Harvard, deciding instead to study chemistry at Brown, crushing his mother’s dream of a President in their line. Still, she remained proud of him until he expressed a desire to move to a big city for further study, but instead of choosing Columbia or another school in Manhattan, he decided to pursue a doctorate in mathematics and chemistry at UC San Diego.
“San Diego!” his mother squawked. “That is not a CITY, that is a BEACH! That is a VACATION! It is a place you go to VISIT, not a place you get an education!"
“Mother,” he tried to soothe her. “It really is a city. It’s one of the largest cities in the United States.”
She argued some more, but eventually wound down. “I... I just... well, I know you young people will have your fancies. But at least it’s not Los Angeles,” she finally sighed.
He could have eased her heart by telling her that UC San Diego was actually located 15 miles north of San Diego, in a vastly rich beach town called La Jolla where the principal pursuits were shopping and golf, but he held that knowledge back, because it might have occasioned terribly painful parental visits that involved shopping and golf, neither of which held the slightest interest for him.
Better to have her assume that the university was an outpost of some sort of horrifying California cow town that would make her shrivel up and die should she find herself there.
Occasionally he would call his mother with stories of visiting places in California named “Tulare” or “Bakersfield” or, when she was agitating for a visit and the heavy artillery was called for, he would regale her with tales of “Victorville,” which would cause her to shudder again and remain safely tucked away on the east coast.
As it turned out, Tal found himself unable to finish either of his degrees in mathematics and chemistry, but he stayed on in San Diego, living quite easily on the $4500 monthly allowance he received from his mother, who was terrified that any smaller amount of money would land him in some sort of Brooklyn-type garret or, worse, in Harlem. She still hadn’t quite accepted that he wasn’t living in Manhattan, and Tal was certainly not about to inform her about the differences in rental values.
Bored, he found work as a clerk in slightly terrifying downtown hotel called The Pickwick, next to the Greyhound bus terminal. The salary was essentially useless, but he relished the contact with the sort of people he’d never known for the first 22 years of his life, people for whom renting a room for 35 dollars for a night and spending a few hours with a 75 dollar whore was living large.
He learned, eventually, to fend off touches from the various grifters with a great story who just needed a free room for “just this one night.” He learned that Mr. O’Hara really did not want Mrs. O’Hara to know about what Mr. O'Hara was doing, and to not cringe when the Mr O'Haras of the world talked about "brown sugar," no matter how much he wanted to and was embarrassed for the Mr. O'Haras of the world.
In short, he learned about life outside of the rich parts of Connecticut. He learned that he never, ever, ever wanted to go back there. And he learned that while being rich does not make you a better person, being poor certainly doesn’t either; and that if you have a choice, you should go with rich, if for no other reason than that it gets you a little bit more courtesy from the police.