Sunday, March 30, 2008

Post# 9 - The 'Young Turks' of The TSE (3)

The Young Turks. This is the best way I can describe the group of younger, mostly male, hard working, harder partying floor traders from my early days on the floor of the TSE. The adrenelin and bravado and the money created many interresting moments both during work hours and most especially after hours.


continued

MIKE GARDNER

In my career as an Arb trader I had to deal with almost every 'Pro' trader at one time or another. There were certain Pros' that I had to deal with more than others depending on the stocks I trading at any given time. When I traded lots of RCI.A & RCI.B, Rogers Cable stock I had to deal with Johmmy Massin in the GM square quite a bit. That was usually a nice calm square to hang out in and GM Johnny was rarely overly excited. The other Pros in the area were fairly calm types as well. Pros like Dave Bond and Lenny Amon were like kittens in the lion's den. At least in the way they treated other pros' compared to how some other traders often acted, which is to say...viciously! Then there was the area where Mike Gartner traded, which was the same area as Pros Bobby Churchill, John Morrison, Dixie Duggan, Denis McColgan and several other very hard assed traders who rarely took prisioners. Did I mention...viciously?

Having butted heads with Mike as often as I did we developed a mutual respect and slowly became pretty good mates. Mike was as hard assed a partier as he was a trader, and he was a really good trader. If you measured 'good' by the amount of money you made, then Mike was very good. Mike learned his chops unter the close tutaledge of one of the Vetran greats, Dixie Duggan. Dixie was a very serious guy and had alot to offer an up and commer like Mike was in his early days. They were great friends and Mike was very lucky to have Dixie watching his back. Mike, with his well earned, substantial ego, would probably never admit how much Dixie had to do with his ultimate success as a trader. However, if you were to ask the people that would know of this process between Mike and Dixie, few of them would ever discount Dixie's worth to Mike.

Mike was a 'shooter' trader and a very good one. I loved watching him in action. He always had this wonderful smirking face when he traded and you couldn't help but think that he knew that he was winning the game. He was!

I had some great parties with Mike. On occasion, and when we felt the need for heat and if we were just bored enough, we would get a crew together and grab a limo and head down the road, an hour and a half, to Buffalo, to the Anchor Bar for their world famous 'Buffalo Wings'. We always had them with suicide sauce cause' it just made us drink more and more and that was the point. Sometimes we would take in a hockey game while there, sometimes we would just have the wings and about a million American beers.

Mike is still in the business today, as are many of my friends. In Mike's case I believe he is still in the business more because he wouldn't know what to do if he wasn't a trader. It's not because he doesn't have enough dough to retire or just relax more...He just wouldn't know HOW to relax or retire. Adreneline junkies have a really tough time going 'cold turkey'. It would probably kill him to do anything, or nothing else.

I always enjoyed my time with Mike. Although he is nearly impossible to get close to, we were pretty good pals but not really good friends. When I needed a change of scenery from the Burns Arb, as good as they were, it was Mike who talked Dixie into offering me a job trading Pro for Nesbitt, which I accepted. I will always appreciate that because in our business, the trading business, if you recomend someone and call in a favour for that someone, that someone better not screw up. To this day there is still a sneaking suspicion, deep in my head, that getting me to trade Pro, far away from Mike and Dixie's area and having Burns have to try and come up with someone as effective as I was in that square, was part of the reason for the helpfulness. My replacement in the square was not much to speak of and Mike later told me that it was so easy to play this 'new' guy that he actually missed my aggrivation. Makes a guy think..haha!

Mike had alot of friends both in the 'old school' and within the 'young turks'. His popularity was easy to understand. He worked for Yorkton Securities, where another friend of mine, Pier Donnini, became a wheel which fell off in a spectactular way. That, however, is another story. 'Teaser Alert'! That story, and the stories of the other 'bad boy' friends of mine that have gained one sort of 'infamy' or another, will follow in this blog at a later time. I will study the laws pertaining to those disclosures just a little before I discuss my litigious friends and their indescretions. Hi Larry! haha

Mike now works in an office to do his trading as do almost all the other office clones who used to populate the floor. Forced into the 'clone wars' with the death of the trading floor and the floor trader. Mike and his great 'floor' personality are definately out of place in an office and off the floor. All of us would be and are. I for one was never able to, nor did I have to, choose a move to the office to trade. I got out, well I was screwed out, which is another post, but nonetheless I was out before the machines took over and killed all the floor traders. For that I am eternally greatful. I hadn't seen Mike for 11 years of so and I am looking forward to seeing him at the reunion. I hope to hell he hasn't gotten old. He has a Harley now, the new middle aged Porsche replacement for mid-life crisis control. I bet he looks great on it. I should take one and go for a long ride with him one day...maybe to Buffalo. Maybe have some wings. Probably not quite as spicy and definately not with as many American beers!

STEVE CURRY

I have said a great deal about Curry in the preceeding pages. That's because he was my first boss and we shared some great times together.
Let me say, if I haven't all ready. that I love this guy. Ok, relax homophobes...it's man love. He gave me an opportunity to go where few men have gone. The opportunity to experience what few men have experienced. The opportunity to have been a member of the most elite and elusive jobs in the world. The opportunity to have made so many very good friends and acquaintences which I would never have without his intervention. The opportunity to have an exciting career and make lots of money while having more fun than I ever had a right to. Yeah, this guy Steve Curry was important in my life's direction and for that alone I owe him eternal thanks.

My memories with Steve are endless it seems. I will just give you some brief highlites and I am sure you will get the message. Steve was a drinker. A REAL drinker. Almost every single social moment with Steve involved our being totally hammered. SO many nights in the Cork Room. So many nights that lasted too far into too many mornings. Some of the best times were around the famous and entirely infamous Montreal 'Oyster Party' weekends in, of course Montreal. From all of our perspectives, as traders on a real 'Exchange' floor, and in consideration of the fact that Montreal had an exchange, which they called a 'boursse', Montreal was good for two things. French women and more french women. Where was the best place to find french women in Montreal...well almost everywhere. Where did we go to 'find' these french women? Club Super Sex, that's where. And when we went there, Steve Curry was the king. On one night there which started at about midnight, Steve dropped something like $1400. Those were like 1983 dollars so that would be about a million $'s today.

At that time it was about $5.00 for a dance. A naked french girl would dance in front of you for as long as it took for the song to end, say 3:00 minutes. Well if you do the math it should boggle the mind as to how he actually drank and lap danced away that amount of money. That was just for him. Radar spent something like $700. that same night in the same club, so it wasn't like Curry was paying for anyone but Curry. Well, back to the math, that amount over the three hours we were there would pay for about 200 dances and 100 drinks! Seem like alot? Welcome to the world of the floor trader. Welcome to the world of Steve Curry and the rest of us...crazy bastards at the best of times!

RICK WALKER

The first time I met Rick was, I believe, the first day on the job at the TSE. He came up to the booth to chat with Chris Martin and barely noticed my presence. Chris didn't introduce us and I didn't introduce myself. Rick was making plans to go to the Cork Room after work to have a few pops.Where I actually met Rick, in the traditional sense, was in the guys can in the Cork Room later that night. He was one of a group of about 6 prople piled into a cubicle of sorts doing what people would do in those circumstsnces. What else! As we got to know each other I soom came to like Rick, mostly because he had such a great sense of humor. The humor was a very common thread among the group on the trading floor. Rick also was a hockey fan and played pick-up games. I was also a hockey fan at that time and had seasons tickets to the Leafs, which was cool. I was always going to games with different people and when Rick and I went it was always cool. Rick's brother and I split the seasons tickets a year later and it was all good.

One of the interresting things I did while I was working on the floor was to coach the TSE hockey team, the Rockets. I still hold Dave Richardson in some contempt for my having to be associated with a team of men playing a men's game and having a lame girly name like 'rockettes' haha. Anyway, Rick was one of, if not my favourite player, on the team. He was my kind of player...gifted and dirty. hahaha. Yes you were Rick, don't lie! Rick was also an excellent goal scorer which on our mentally and talent challenged team was a gift from God.
He played with great intensity for an industrial league and he always showed up to play. We were in a playoff series against a team that kicked our arses all season and we were down in the series 2 games to 1 and down 3 to 1 in the third period when a cool brawl broke out in front of the opposing net after Rick had scored a goal to make it 3 to 2 in the game with 10 minutes to play. Scoring wasn't the thing that started the little brawl, it was Rick bringing his stick up into the air to celebrate his goal in a calculated manner and kind of banged his stick off the face of one of the other defensemen. The guy went down like he had been shot and Rick looked like he didn't notice. The opposing center DID notich and made a bee line for Rick and banged him hard with a crosscheck which Rick responded to with a fine spear to the nuts. This didn't seem to calm the other guy down and he gave Rick his stick over Rick's head, breaking Rick's CCM helmet, popping out a rivet and leaving an actual crack. After this scrum ended in this 'no-contact' game, Rick was assessed a 2 minute minor for the stickwork and his over aggressive assailant was assessed a 5 minute major for the head shot to Rick and a game misconduct for intent to injure. When Rick was in the box and we had a power play. Henry Brazil scored to tie the game. With about two minutes to play and the other teams best scorer thrown out of the game, Rick scored the winning goal and did a fine salute to the other bench in his little celebration.

Rick and I have many many memories together and I cherish almost every one of them. I say almost because in some of our times together I might have lost consciousness for any of a number of reasons and might not necessarily have cherished those actual memories. haha!

I always considered Rick a friend and I always will. I hope it's mutual.
Rick was great friends with Bill Walsh, who had been a friend of his for most of their lives, John Moir Jr., Chris Martin, Stevie Gilbert, Jack Harvey, Matt Taugher, Jack Dunbar, Joe Turner and I am glad to say, me.

Now Rick, I could have gone into much detail about your notorious reputation as a ladies man and a heartbreaker of some renoun...but, I didn't. I also could have related a wonderful funny story about you and an incident at Sammy's that Chris shared with me recently...but I didn't. I didn't because discretion is the greatest part of valor or something like that and I know Rick didn't really want me to write anything about him. Mostly I think because Rick is a humble guy, but also, like the rest of us, because he has an interresting, kind of exciting past.

BILL WALSH

Bill and Rick were great friends, as I have mentioned and they had much in common. They grew up together, played sports together, lived together,dated girls together, had friends in common and worked, obviously, in the same business. They were both big hockey fans, but Bill was a Red Wings fan. A HUGE Detroit Red Wings fan. Bill was a client trader for DS I believe, which was a good gig. I didn't have much of a trading history with Bill but I do have a cool social history with him. I spent alot of time listening to Bill talk about what a great team the Wings were, which they were. Compared to the Leafs they were a powerhouse to the Leafs' shithouse. It was the Ballard era, the middle of the worst of the Ballad era, and there wasn't too much to chirp about if you were a Leafs fan. Bill was a huge Steve Yserman, Probert and Federov guy and who could blame him. I remember lots of great conversations with Bill, Lenny Webb, Bill Webb and myself, mostly about hockey. Bill was a hockey pooler like myself and a goon pool vetran as well. Might even have won one.

I partied alot with Bill and he was a really cool cucumber. He wasn't overly excitable but you had the impression that if you pissed him off just the right amount, he would, I don't know....kill you! Just kidding...or am I Bill? haha.

Bill was good friends with Rick Walker, Terry Blackwell, Jack Harvey, John Moir Jr., Chris Martin, Matt Taugher, Jack Dunbar and Stevie Gilbert. Also friends with many other guys and girls, Bill was well liked.
I enjoyed visiting Bill's assorted residences for parties. The Bayview and Eglinton house was the best with the Seneca townhouse being a close second.

I haven't seen Bill for over 11 years, maybe as long as 16 years and I am excited to see him soon. Bill is out of the business these days and it will be good to have some of the years since I've seen him in filled with detail when we talk. I always liked Bill and I am sure I always will.

JACK HARVEY

Although Jack might not have been a 'young turk' in years, he absolutely was an honorary member and a very deserved one. Jack was a vetran trader when I started on the floor of the TSE and was a client trader DS. Jack was a party animal and fit right in with the group 'peter pan' syndrom that overwhelmed all of us on the floor. One of my first memories of Jack was at a Jimmy Barkwell party on Wellington. Jack was on the patio with a large group of partiers and was laughing uncontrolably. This laughing lasted for about 20 minutes and it was hilarious to watch and listen to. He was hammered and was the absolute life of the party, which considering the group he was with, was saying alot.

Jack was always great at happenings like the 'bun toss' parties. The Bun Toss was a semi-formal party, usually at a very upscale hotel banquet hall with very good food and drinks and a full contingent of floor traders. At such meals, there was enevitably a bun at every plate, you know, for dinner. A dinner roll. As the tradition went, and these were pretty loose rules, we would wait till after dinner when the little speeches started , and then pick out a likely terget and let them haet the bun, usually right in the head. Then, everybody in the place was throwing buns at everybody else. Yeah, we were big time floor traders at the Toronto Stock Exchange. Man, did we ever know how to have fun. When it came to knowing how to have fun, Jack was at the front of the line.

I enjoyed Jack's company alot. Jack was indeed one of the really 'good' guys on the floor and I only hope he is happy and doing well. I wish him nothing but good!

To Be Continued (Part 4)

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Post# 8 - 'The Young Turks' of the TSE (2)

The Young Turks. This is the best way I can describe the group of younger, mostly male, hard working, harder partying floor traders from my early days on the floor of the TSE. The adrenelin and bravado and the money created many interresting moments both during work hours and most especially after hours.
continued

CHRIS MARTIN

Chris was not your prototypical floor trader. He seemed much more refined and measured compared to the 'got to have it nows' that made up the majority of the traders'...myself definately included! Perhaps it was his British ancestory or his very laid back approach to life. Whatever it was, it served him well in his chosen profession and made him an interresting subject. Maybe that is why Stevie Gilbert and I were so drawn to him. Stevie and I were both insane and required a balance in nature so we didn't implode. Chris provided us with that balance.

Chris has an amazing sense of humor and was a perfect straight man foil to Stevie's comedic wanderings. There are so many of my TSE memories that revolve directly around Chris that he will be forever linked to almost everything I did during my time as a 'floor trader'. I am pretty sure Chris didn't have any enemies. Even his old girlfriends still really liked him. What a wierdo!

When I started socializing with Chris, he was living with two other floor traders, Bill Walsh and Rick Walker in a house at Bayview and Eglinton in Toronto. This place was the home to way too many great parties and after hours get together. Since all three residents were on the same party page, in the same line of work, there were very few disputes over things like being kept awake all night. Cleaning the dishes...well that was another matter. I have some great memories of that place and the guys there but unfortunately I am not at liberty to discuss too many of the details. Once again, to protect the guilty.

When Chris was working the greenshields wire (arb) and training me for the 'floor wars', I used to be amazed at how much shit he could tolerate. The sources of this shit were mostly on the other end of the phones and on the floor in the form of barely competent traders making his life hell. I was in that category for awhile, so I can speak from experience. In my case I just didn't give a shit at first. In the case of some of the other traders...they just sucked!

Chris and I shared a lot of quality party time several bad habits. Although, to be fair to Chris, he was, or always gave the impression that, he was much more in control of things than I ever was. Some of my fondest memories of Chris involved the pre-tanking meal rituals he introduced me to before going on a weekend binge or two. While Chris lived at Bayview and Eglinton there were a couple of restaurants on Mount Pleasant that we used to frequent that provided you with an ample serving of comfort food at a very reasonable price. It didn't matter how much money any trader made, they invariably would hunt down the cheapest meals and then go out and blow $1000 on a weekend of booze and happy time indulgences. Yeah, if we were anything, we were ANY trader! I have great memories from tons of parties like the 'bun toss' and Montreal 'oyster' parties with Chris. Sharing rooms at the Manoir Le Moine in Montreal or the Harbour Castle in Toronto, where we would house ourselves when the serious party season was upon us. I remember being in the Harbour Castle at 4:30am and having probably 35 people in the room, fighting for the ever decreasing oxygen supply and barely being able to focus on the other side of the room because of the bellowing cigarette and weed smoke. Yes, it's true. People DID smoke the ocassional joint at parties. Relax, we all feel shame today. Oh yeah!

As I mentioned in my Steve Gilbert blurb, Chris and Stevie were the best of friends. Together there was nothing but good times and happy memories, at least while Stevie was alive. After Stevie died, Chris was never quite the same. Many of us felt that way as well, but with Chris it was much more tragic. Being as close as they were, I can only imagine how much pain was and still is, involved in Stevie's death.

I lost touch with Chris after I left the business. When I did leave the business and moved to the Caribbean to do a tourism development on the islands of St. Kitts and Nevis, I tried to get Chris to come down and hang out there with me but it never did come to pass and we didn't connect again until the 'new' floor closing in 1997. Even there we didn't spend much quality time together. There were just so many people to talk to and share memories with that it was virtually impossible. It wasn't till this Mark Grimes inspired reunion event came up that I finally tracked him down and we spend much phone time reconnecting.

I feel like I owe Chris alot for the great friendship and good times we shared. He was one of the truely GOOD guys on the floor as could be measured by the huge number of people that counted him as a friend. I was lucky to be one of them.

STEVE WELCH

I think everyone on the floor that knew Steve Welch really liked him. You can count me among those numbers.
Steve was a very good friend of Stevie Gilbert and was almost as funny. He was also a person that was well respected as a trader and hockey purist. Steve was a charter 'Goon Pool' member, like myself, and although he once drafted Bjore Salming as a goon, which was a stretch, he was a fan of the hockey pugalist. Stevie was long time friends with George Ellerby, Terry Blackwell and Dennis Hill and Terry Blackwell going back to the time he first started as a floor trader. When I started on the floor Steve was good friends with Chris Martin, Rick Walker, Stevie Gilbert, Jack Harvey and Bill Walsh from the 'Turks' and old schoolers' like Ike Ross, Lenny Webb, Frank Koren, Jack Elliot and too many others to mention. Steve was always a smart guy and a dependable voice of reason when things got hairy. He could bring a chuckle to almost every situation, which in our line of work was an amazing saving grace.
Steve Welch was another of my favourites on the floor and I will always count him as a wonderful friend who could make me laugh when I needed a laugh.
Steve is retired now and I only wish great things for him and his family. Oh yeah Steve, thanks for the great Ricky story in Vegas. You still got it and my cheeks still hurt from laughing!

Ralph 'Radar' Ditchburn

Way back in the day there was a TV show called M.A.S.H. which was really popular and one of the most popular characters was called Radar. That name came about because he could tell when things were going to happen and when things were going to be said, just before they actually occured. Kind of like he had built in radar. The character of Radar was a diminuitive guy with receeding curly hair, glasses and a very shy, scared of his shadow personality. He rarely lost his temper or fought back against his attackers.

This brings us to Ralph Ditchburn, aka 'Radar'. He got the name because he was a diminuitive character with receeding curly hair, glasses (later on) and a very shy, scared of his shadow personality. He rarely lost his temper or fought back against his attackers.
I mentioned early on how important a role intimidation played in the everyday activities on the trading floor. Ralph was one of the victims of that intimidation but it never outwardly seemed to bother him too much. The fact that he didn't ever come onto the floor one day with an automatic weapon and just spray the place in a very postal manner will forever be a mystery to me. Ralph had to suffer the physical and emotional wrath of almost every bully with shark blood in his veins, and there were many. Ralph was the proverbial guppy swimming with the floor trading sharks. But there was a little 'smart' shark in Ralph as well! Radar was able to use his victim persona to his advantage as often as not. Radar was, after all was said and done, a pretty decent trader, certainly above average. One of the wierdest things I observed with Radar and his interactions with his fellow traders in general was his ability to be 'kept in' on trades when he had orders. Now this surely wasn't all the time. However, unless you were Bainey, there were lots of times when the 'Pros' wouldn't 'keep you in'. Being 'kept in'meant that the 'Pro' in the stock would keep you involved in trades in his stock instead of using the information from your order against you to profit from it himself. This being 'kept in' thing with Radar was because he provided a kind of outlet for the bully boys and they probably, at some really deep level, felt bad about the way they sometimes treated this 'nice' guy, Radar. Yeah, I know. It sounds really wierd but remember that we worked in one of the wierdest places on the planet.

Ralph was trading Pro with George Chisholm for a period in his career and was a decent student of the 'charts'. I remember thinking that it was kind of wierd that George, who was known to be quite the bully himself from time to time, would hire someone that he had probably victimized was rather ironic. Obviously George considered Radar to be a good trader, which requires respect, yet still be capable of treating him with the least respect imaginable. Wierd is surely wierd!

Ralph and I were friends for a long time and he is one of the few people from the floor that I spent any time with after I left the business. Ralph used to hold annual 'super bowl' parties which were really good. While attending these parties for several years I got to see a few other floor people which was always cool. One of the neat features of the parties was the outdoor touch football games in the street in front of Ralph's house. In addition to the parties I frequently hung out with Ralph to 'jam' with him and some of his friends. Ralph and I both played guitar. Although we hated each others idea of cool music, we always seemed to enjoy playing together whenever we could. Another cool thing about the times at Ralph's place was that he lived with Peter Morrison at the time and Peter made the best organic homemade pizzas. I hope you like anchovies! We always enjoyed really good food at Ralph's place with Peter there and the close proximity to 'Greek Town' in Toronto. Love those cheese and spinach pies...mmmmmmm!


CLIFF JONES Jr.


When I think about the excesses of the 1980's where there was lots of money and the good times seemed like they would never end, I can easily envision Cliff. Cliff was born into privlidge and he wore it very very well. He was the Richie Rich of the 'young turks' on the trading floor. Cliff's dad, Cliff Jones Sr. was a bit of an institution on the floor of the TSE. Cliff Jr. was definately Cliff's Sr.'s blood. They both carried an air of money and privlidge that was as palpable as it was annoying to some of his peers.
Like almost everyone else on the floor, Cliff had to pay his dues, but maybe it was a little easier to pay those dues when you have a bloodline guardian on the floor to watch over you. But to be absolutely fair to Cliff, he had to show up to work just like everyone else. He had to know what he was doing to be successful. He had to take chances and put his ass on the line just like everyone else. What might have made some of a little envious was the fact that if Cliff screwed up, he had a pretty nice pillow, filled with cash, to land on.

My first memory of Cliff was in my first couple of days on the floor when people were rushing to the front of the 'old' TSE building to witness an obviously exciting event. The place came to a virtual standstill. What was so important that it could cause such a stir and bring the crowd out into the street? Well it was Cliffy pulling up to the front of the building in a shiny new candy apple red Mercedes 450 SL with a totally hot and gorgeous blonde in the front seat beside him. Truely, it was something to behold. They were both dressed to kill and with those oversized shades that were so popular in the day, they totally looked the part. This was so very hollywood. This was so very Cliff. This flair for the dramatic and the 'in your face' style with his money made Cliff an easy target for his critics. But really, he didn't have too many. Personally, I never had a problem with Cliff. We didn't socialize except at the countless stag parties at the enevitable craps games with him and Larry Farrel and of course the bun tosses and Jimmy Barkwell's excellent swarees' on Wellington. He certainly didn't bother me except for the envy I probably felt for his silver spoon situation. That, of course, was my problem...not Cliff's!
Cliff had some tough times trading, like everyone else, but always had a smile on his face and a fearlessly positive attitude toward the future. He always maintained that wonderful 'swagger' that served him so well in his professional and personal life. Ah...money is honey after all. So I guess Cliff was just a little sweeter than most of the rest of us.


DENIS McCOLGAN

Denis was one of the ultimate 'shooters' on the TSE floor. He loved to gamble and rarely missed a hockey pool or any other such opportunity to make some extra cash. Denis traded like a madman from time to time. He was courageous and very on the edge. He had a lot of balls which was a proverbial 'curse and blessing' for Denis. I used to love talking to Denis about trading. He didn't have the holier than thou attitude so many 'shooter' traders had. They gave the impression that they were always afraid you were just going to somehow hone in on their trading action and steal their secrets. Denis wasn't anywhere near that insecure. He felt very confident in his trading style, his very on the edge trading style, which of course drove his assorted bosses absolutely insane. An excellent example of that ability to induce insanity in his boss came from his time with Bainey. When I was with Burns Arb and trading American Barrack Gold in Bobby Churchill's square every day, I had a real opportunity to see Denis in action. It was an exciting sight well worth seeing. Bobby was a 'close to the vest' Pro Trader that rarely shared ALL of the information that he had. He always hated dealing with the Burns Arb but had to keep us in because we could hurt you as a Pro if we wanted to and we often did. Bobby could be partictularly difficult for other pro traders, like Denis, to deal with. Denis actually got along amazingly well with the crumudgeon Bobby Churchill. When ABX (Barrack) was trading in its hey day with huge swings and volumes, Denis was all over the stock sometimes holding hugh positions. Huge positions required tying up HUGE amounts of capitol by the company that the trader worked for. In Denis's case with the ABX, he was working for Daly at that time. That meant that his boss was none other than Don Bainbridge...Bainey. On a partictular day when the stock was going crazy, Denis was going even crazier. I am not sure of the amount of stock that Denis was positioning, but it was huge. When he was already holding a large position in the stock, Denis kept comming in and buying, and buying, and buying and buying. I'm sure you get the idea. At one point late in the day, Don Bainbridge was informed about Denis's trading and almost blew a gasket. With the trading square absolutely filled with frantic screaming trader and the stock trading going nuts, Bainey ran into the square and tried to get Denis's attention. Failing to get Denis's FULL attention, Bainey grabbed Denis and litteralt and figuratively dragged Denis out of the square and basically forced him to limit his exposure. As it turned out Denis was absolutely right about the stock but was so far over his $100,000 trading limit funds that he had to dump stock and what would have been a ton of additional profit. Denis was looking to relocate shortly after that for what we will call 'mutual' satisfaction.

Denis was one of the fastest talkers I ever came across. He was an absolute wealth of information and his charting skills were superior. Whenever we talked stocks, I could barely keep up and process the information that spilled from Denis's lips. I really like Denis. He always treated people well and paid his lost bets promptly. We once had over $600 in bets on a playoff series. He lost...with grace. Montreal Canadians Denis...You know you should've known better! You gotta love a good loser. Denis was good, but I would never consider him a loser.

Stay Tuned For 'The Young Turks' of the TSE (3)

Monday, March 24, 2008

Post# 7 - The Young Turks of The TSE

I classified the vetran floor traders as 'over thirty' but some I mentioned might not have actually been over thirty years old. This is because there is a line that is drawn that transcends real age and is superseded by attitude. Some people who were 'under thirty' acted like old men, and as such failed to make the grade as 'young turks'. In this post I will include several people that might have been 'over thirty' in years but nowhere near that age in their attitude and friends. These individuals are and always will be 'young turks' in spirit.

There are many reasons that make it nessecary for me to curb my enthusiasm in discussing ALL of the details that might normally be a part of the true story of the younger group of traders on the floor. There are people that might suffer in their jobs, still in the business, from full disclosure of the relevant details and others who might not like to have their family and friends exposed to the realities of this piece of history. There are also many darker things that went on in those days that everyone in the business was aware of but those things were never allowed the to be considered in the light of day. Such disclosures would have hurt the industry and many of the people who benefited from the industry. This is not an apology for anything or any lifestyle that I and many of my contempories may or may not have indulged in. It is just a qualifier for the missing ingredients that would be the icing on the cake of the whole story of our world at that time. Most of you know exactly what I am talking about because, like me, many of you lived in the grey areas associated with the lifestyle usually considered with the high life. Before I bury myself any deeper in this disclosure, I will go on to the matters at hand.

The Young Turks. This is the best way I can describe the group of younger, mostly male, hard working, harder partying floor traders from my early days on the floor of the TSE. The adrenelin and bravado and the money created many interresting moments both during work hours and most especially after hours.

This group was living the dream and hard drinking and indulging away the huge pressures of the job. These pressures often created intense adversarial moments between individuals. There were many huge conflicts on the floor as everyone fought hard for the best 'fill' on their orders and 'Pro' and 'Arb' traders, risking huge positions which fluctuated between enormus profits and career ending losses. The pressure was on every single day and when you consider that we were all under the same kind of gun, just with different bullets, every once in awhile the pressure cooker inevitably exploded.

Intimidation was a fact in almost every area of trading. It was just a fact. In my first months as a floor trader I was in several HUGE dust ups and none bigger than the one I had with Stevie Gilbert. Stevie and I got off to a shakey start from the beginning, I had the distinct feeling that he didn't like me. This was because my work mate, Chris Martin, who was Stevie's best friend, didn't think too much of me either. I didn't really give a shit what they thought of me because I just didn't care that much about the job, or so I thought. I was trading on the Greenshield's Arb, as a six week vetran trader, and went into the Bow Valley square with a large, 15,000 share buy order, to take out the offer and buy it up to a quarter of a point above the listed offering price. There were 5000 shares, or so, showing offered at the time. 3000 shares of that was offered by the client desk of a competing Arb, the dreaded Burns Arb. Kenny Wegg was watching Stevie's orders which included the 3000 shares of BVI stock. Kenny sold me the stock to fill the order and within seconds I was trying to buy another 10,000 shares of BVI a quarter of a point higher. This was of course a very nasty thing to do. For one thing the competition Arb was completely pissed because we beat them to the trade out of New York and Gary Eamon, the Burns Arb clerk on that side of the floor, was calling me a sucker of male organs. I was absolutely giggling because this was my first ever 'good' trade of that magnitude. When Stevie Gilbert got back from his coffee break, Gary called him up to the booth and absolutely reamed him out for not keeping him in on the order to begin with. Out on the floor Kenny Wegg was screaming at me for being an asshole and making him look bad and the Burns client who offered the stock was going nuts because he got a bad fill when I up-ticked the stock a quarter. Stevie stormed down into the square and he and I started what was one of the 'great' scream fights the floor had seen in a very long time. We were toe to toe and spit to spit calling each other everything disgusting and crude that we could muster. It went on for about 10 minutes until floor Govenor Tommy Milligan threatened to throw us off the floor and fine us. I was absolutely exhausted after the pissing match and Stevie and Gary Eamon muttered shit at me for the rest of the day. At the close of the day Steve Curry, my boss, insisted that I go to the Cork Room to have some drinks after what he called 'busting my cherry' on the floor against the Burns Arb. After i consumed a conservative 5 drinks over a couple of hours Gary Eamon came into the Cork Room with his girlfriend and they sat down with me and Steve Curry. Gary was absolutely hammered and it took him about 35 seconds to call me out by telling me he didn't like my face or my suit. Duh! He told me he wanted to punch my face in. He didn't scare me, but Steve kept one arm across my chest to let me know I better just suck it up and relax. There was no way I was going to get to fight with this guy because he could barely stand up and as Steve later told me, he couldn't fight worth a shit. He told me that the best thing I could have done was to just stand there and take the abuse. Gary's girlfriend was getting really pissed off with him and dragged him out, visably embarassed by his display. Oh well. When my heart rate finally came down to workable levels, Curry sent me out to get some Kentucky Fried Chicken for him. That was the life of a rookie. Take the shit, suck it up and get the chicken...and like it!

Stevie Gilbert came up to me about an hour after the opening the next day and took me aside. He told me it was a really good fight we had the day before and that he knew I was just doing my job. I kept waiting for him to sly poke me in the eye when no one was looking. It never happened. Stevie and I went on to become very good friends and I love him (man love guys) to this day. One of the darkest days in my life was the day Stevie died.

The point of this story about fighting on the floor is to demonstrate that no matter how hard you had to work to keep your job and no matter who you had to hurt along the way, it was rarely personal. Although, Gary Eamon hated me forever. Even when I worked with him on the Burns Arb. Oh well. Life went on!

I will attempt to give you a glimpse of some of the great individuals and personalities I had the pleasure and the pain of working with as a floor trader at the TSE. In no partictular order...

STEVE GILBERT

I have already told you how I felt about this guy. Now I will tell you why almost everyone else felt the same way. He was a great example of a 'young turk'!

Stevie was perhaps the funniest guy I have ever known. Every day he found new ways to amuse and entertain his friends. Stevie was friends with everyone, well almost everyone. He was a man's man. He was fiercely loyal. He would go to the wall for his friends without a thought for his own concerns. He was a hockey player. He was a hockey fan. He loved sports. He was filled with passion. He loved women and he really loved his wife Kelly and his son Jessee. He was a leader. He was a party animal. He had a HUGE heart with a soft spot for every sad story. He had very little patience, which was a blessing and a curse, both for him and his friends. Steve was a unique individual. There was only one and will never be another. Anyone that had the pleasure of knowing Steve was better off for the experience. If you took Steve into your confidence on any matter, you knew that your words were safe with him. Steve did not suffer fools lightly. He chewed them up and spit them out.

Steve had a really special friendship with my friend Chris Martin. He always spoke so highly of Chris that you knew that what they had was special. I have to admit that when I was good friends with both Stevie and Chris, I was a little envious of the great friendship they shared with each other. Chris was one of the few people that could be critical of Steve when it was called for and Steve knew that if Chris was speaking the words, they must be true. He accepted them...always!

Stevie Gilbert had skin cancer when he was in his late teens and recovered. This was from way too many sun burns as a kid growing up in Toronto's Beaches along the shores of Lake Ontario. He had that pale white bread complection that burned at the mere thought of sun. When Steve was way too young and full of life, he died from a cancerous tumor which started in his back, the area of his previous melanoma, and spread through his body before it could be treated. The day he died was one of the most painful days of my life. Believing in God became very difficult after that day. Knowing how much Stevie loved his life, his friends, his family, his wife and his much beloved son is something that haunts me to this day. If ever there was a person that shouldn't have gone that way, it was Stevie. Like most of Stevie's friends, and especially his very good friends and family, I miss Stevie almost every day.

MARK GRIMES

Mark was bigger than life figure, and a bit of a legend on the trading floor. He was an ultimate prankster and a party animal of great renown. Mark was, enevitably, the life of every party. He knew how to enjoy himself and how to bring enjoyment to everyone around him. There were so many great things that happened on the floor that eminated from Mark's leadership. The kinds of things that we always needed to break the strangle hold of pressure every day would bring. Mark was the creator of the 3:33:33 phenomenon. This was the celebration of the digital clock on the 'new' floor hitting the 3:33:33 mark every day. At a minimum it would bring on a unanimous, simultaneous cheer from every trader on the floor. On the odd occasion it would bring a huge floor stopping celebration with special celebrity guests and fanfare. It was the wierdest thing ever and we all loved it.

There was a trader on the floor that Mark had a special relationship with. This trader was Eddie Lewer. Eddie was a very special guy. He had been on the floor forever. He was probably in his late fifties in this era and he looked like he was in his late seventies. Eddie usually made it to about 11:00am before he disappeared. The Cork Room and a Marta's opened around that time. I am not telling tales out of school, this was just the way Eddie liked to do things. Mark was forever playing tricks and pranking Eddie. Mark would regularly run up to Eddie when he came back from the land of liquid lunches and have one of his surprises ready for him. The funniest of the surprises was the roll of packing tape, one of many, that Mark kept for special occasions like Eddie's return. He would run up behind an unsuspecting, half in the bag Eddie and start to wrap him up. Not just a turn or two. Mark would spin Eddie one way and roll the tape around him till me was completely 'mummy' wrapped. I mean COMPLETELY!

It was the funniest thing I ever saw. Eddie would curse and sware at Mark and everyone else around him till he could sware no more. Then Mark would carry him over to his square and sit him down at the post and just leave him there...until whenever. Usually someone would feel sorry for Eddie and cut him loose, but not usually right away. Everybody just cracked up seeing Eddie like this. This might sound kind of mean, but it really wasn't. Eddie really liked the attention he received from the boys and he took the pranks in stride with a great sense of humor. At other times when Eddie came back hammered, Mark and associates would get a pad full of post-its and write all kinds of hilarious things on each note and then stick them all over the unsuspecting Eddie. Sometimes he would be wearing like 100 post-its and not even be aware at all. It was absolutely juvenile....and hilarious.

Mark also loved to play fight. If you know Mark, that can be a life threatening event. He was, and probably still is, as solid as a rock and as strong as a hangover shot of tequilla. When we used to share booth space, both on the old and new floors, there were the enevitable tussles. The only way I could avoid being obliterated was to grab his fingers and bend them back to the point of breaking. If I didn't get the fingers, I was dead! The only chink in his seemingly inpenetrable armor was the fingers. On the occasions when I did get the fingers and bend them back I would do it until I had him bent on his knees on the floor. Then I would run for my life. Not a quiet little trot but a life preserving, screaming dash right out of the building. I would be laughing so hard it hurt. Both from glee and fear. When Mark finally did get me I knew I wasn't walking away without my just desserts. OUCH! I think I still have the bruises.

Mark was and is one of the best guys I have ever known. Most of the best guys I have ever known came from my time on the floor of the TSE. I used to worry about Mark because he lived life so fully and I hoped that he would calm down to a dull roar when he got married. He did. His beautiful wife Ann and his five beautiful children seem to have done the trick.

I guess life as a floor trader wasn't quite exciting enough for Mark as he has now gone on to a successful career as a City of Toronto Councellor. Talk about jumping from the frying pan into the fire...Whoa!


John 'Mad Dog' Bickerton


John was a very imposing figure on the trading floor. When I mentioned how important a factor intimidation was on the trading floor, John might have been the king. He didn't have to do much to intimidate. His well earned reputation as a hard ass preceeded him. He did very little to dispell the myth of the 'Mad Dog'. This gave him a great deal of leverage and advantage in his dealings with other traders on the floor. John was an ultimate warrior on and off the floor. He never saw a confrontation he didn't like, once again, on and off the floor. When I first met John I was with Steve Curry in the Cork Room. Are you beginning to see a trend here? That night we all got hammered and sat and talked trading all night. Steve told me that I didn't have to worry about John. He said he was areally a pussy cat. Well, I thought to myself, maybe a lion! He did roar after all. As I got to know John more intimately and we socialized a few times, I came to really enjoy him and his ways. John wasn't everybody's cup of meat, but in my books, he was a great guy. John never gave me a reason to dislike him. Although many people would speak ill of John from time to time, I always thought it was more from envy of his success and attitude that anything else.

MAN, this guy could party. He never seemed to get too anything, no matter how much of anything he did. Never too drunk, even though he might have or should have been. Never too buzzed. Maybe too angry once in awhile but, hey, that's what reputations are built on and John had a reputation as large as his physical presence. We did a lot of Leafs and Marlies games at the old Gardens back in the day. There was never a dull outing. As an example, one time at a Marlies game, the whole Markham Waxers team wanted to kill John and I because they thought we wern't respectful enough of the horrible Marlies team. John was absolutle ready and willing to go at it with every last one of them. When I told him I didn't think it was a very good idea to take on the whole team of 17 year olds, he told me to sit down because he would take care of them. Seriously! Calmer heads prevailed and the Waxers coach told the little asswipes to go sit down and shut up. Probably a good idea which undoubtedly saved at least a few sets of teeth. John was great in those days. Like so many other friends of mine from that time, I didn't keep in touch with John. John is fighting some serious battles these days and I am sure he brings the same will, determination and guts to the table that he always did. I am equally sure he will prevail in these battles as he always did on and off the floor.



Stay Tuned for the Continuation of 'The Young Turks of The TSE'

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Post# 6 - 'The Cast Of Characters' (The Old School)

The people who populated the floor of the Toronto Stock Exchange as Floor Traders, Posties, Clerks, Exchange Staff etc. were as uncommon as they were predictable. This is not a value judgement, it is merely an observation. As for the predictable, I consider the fact that the TSE has a long history as a bastion of capitalism, trade and commerce. The Stock Market is the 'alter' the investment community worships. So, as you might expect, there are some stereo-typical 'stock broker' types, mostly from the group of 'older' traders that were on the floor during my time as a trader. These gentlemen, at least the 'Pros', were feared and respected and as long as made money, which is what it is all about, it didn't matter which you felt for them.

The older generation of traders from my time on the floor will be in the 'over thirty' group, as in years of age. Both registered 'Pro' traders and client traders are considered here. I might not remember everybody, but I do remember a lot of them.

DON BAINBRIDGE

No discussion of the vetrans traders could be started without first paying appropriate respects in talking about GOD! On the floor of the TSE there was only one omnipitent being that was everyone's god and that was Don Bainbridge. Bainey, as Don was also referred to, was a giant among his peers and was evidenced by everyone that ever traded in the nickle square. Nobody ever gave Bainey anything Bainey didn't want and Bainey never had to give anybody anything that he didn't want given. His dignity and style placed him in a category all his own. There were very few bad words spoken about Don Bainbridge on the floor, his domain. When people called him God, it was well deserved. His brokerage firm R.A. Daly was one of, if not the most respected house on Bay St. and that started and ended with Don Bainbridge. As a President, Govenor, Head Trader and TSE citized Don had carved out a place in the history of the TSE that is universally recognized for his success and the class he brought to the floor every day he stepped onto it. I had the pleasure of having Don as a boss in my travels and he was always fair minded in a very biased business. All my memories of Bainey on the floor are a pleasure and watching him do a slow dance with a stripper with the same grace he used dealing with the best of the business establishment was part of his charm. He was God!

GEORGE CHISHOLM

George was as 'old school' on the floor as you could get. He was the last of a multi-generational family that owned and operated the brokerage house, Hector M. Chisholm & Co. Inc.
I believe the family was a charter member of the Exchange from its beginnings. They may well go back to the pre-historic floors trading clubs for spears. He reminded me of the Mr. Monopoly character and was about as rich and powerful, but didn't smile quite as much. George was often blustery and grumpy and didn't like to be asked questions about his stocks, such as 'how much offered' haha! Comming from an old money tradition, George was less a Pro Trader than an instituition. It seemed to me that he only came to work every day for the buzz of excitement and the lifelong friends and enemies he worked with every day. That's not such a bad reason to come to work though. Rarely was he really on the bid or offer, other that keeping an imaginary spread. He didn't like the Arbs or the Arb traders, of which I was a most annoying example to George. He thought we were thieves. I used to think that it was really cute that 'he' thought we were thieves! I wish I could say something cute and funny about George...but I am not really that creative.
My fondest memories of George was being in one of his TV commercials that was filmed on the floor. I simply walked by looking busy with every take. George had no idea I was doing a walk on in his commercial and I am sure if he did know he would have had me removed, forcibly. These commercials ran during Blue Jay broadcasts and made me a local hero, for about a day, in my hometown. My real pleasure was telling George how good I looked in his commercial, which always brought on a slow burn.

CLIFF JONES Sr.

Cliff was one of the 'old guard' and came from the 'old money' and had an air of well earned superiority, if that can be noted as a personality trait. This distinctive gentleman is most well known to me for his footstep following son, Cliff Jr. Cliff Jr. was a bit of an institution himself and will be discussed in Part Two. I don't really know that much about Cliff Sr. other than to say that I know him. Rich guy!

JIMMY ACKERS

One really good thing I could say about Jimmy Ackers was that in all my time working on the floor of the TSE I never, I mean NEVER, heard anyone speak ill of him. That would be just one of many.
Jimmy was the face of the 'floor trader'...every floor trader. As the head of the Floor Traders Association Jimmy was one to take his responsibilities in that position very seriously. I remember him spending time with me before I took my Govenor's test. He would tell me how to approach the test depending on the Govenors involved. In my case I had Tommy Milligan and Bainey, so I HAD to get it right. Thanks Jimmy, I think it worked.
Jimmy would always be the guy that organized everything 'trader'. I think that if he was with us today, there would not be one single former trader or floor employee that would have missed the 25th anniversary of the closing of the 'old' exchange event because Jimmy would have tracked down every one of them and made sure they knew how important these few and far between gatherings were. He got it. He got that something that it seems has escaped so many of us, as a group, from the time the TSE floor expired in 1997. I cannot believe how many of us simply DO NOT keep in touch with ANYONE from the floor. Jimmy would have done whatever he could to make sure we would have good reasons to get together more than once every 10 or 15 years.
As a character on the floor, Jimmy was another 'one of a kind'. He had a stare that could bring on a shitfit..haha When he looked pissed, he REALLY looked pissed and you just didn't want to get in his way. That usually lasted about 2 minutes at a time because there were few times that Jimmy, with that big buddah heart, could keep a smile off his face for any measurable length of time. He was a much befriended man on the floor, opening himself up to any and everyone that needed an ear or a career advice councellor. He helped alot of guys in alot of quiet ways and everyone on the floor respected him for all of his efforts.
Some of my good memories of Jimmy include the interresting items I occasionally bought from him, including a great ancient barber chair with a marble stand that weighed about 400 pounds. God knows where he got those from!
Jimmy was the man responsible for some of my greatest party memories from the fantastic 'bun tosses' to annual christmas and golf events. These parties were legend and anyone that can remember being at one can attest to this fact.

When I hear the name Jimmy Ackers, I think of many, many good things.

CARL CHRISTIE

I didn't know Carl very well on a personal or professional level, other than I spent every day of my TSE life in the same confined spaces. From a distance I did know that Carl was a character. He was always a sharp dresser. Not my idea of cool, but certainly his. He also had a great sense of humor and was one of the vetran pranksters who loved a good gag.
His chauvanism was well known and demonstrated. Remember, back in the day being a chauvanist was pretty much status quo. He was just really good at the status quo! One of the things I remember about Carl was his golf wardrobe from the annual golf tournaments. If you have seen Rodney Dangerfield in 'Caddyshack', imagine a thin, 6'-4" version of Rodney, then you pretty much have a picture of Carl and his classic golf gear...only a little more garish. Carl was a likeable chap...and I had no reason not to like him.

DAVE BOND

If Don Bainbridge was God, then Dave Bond was the Jesus. Also a member of the R.A. Daly dream team, Dave was one of the 'big boys'. Dave was a prime time player and a bit of a chart legend. Dave was a soft spoken man that carried a substantial trading stick. Dave was a good position trader in a well financed and leveraged firm and his reputetion was that of a 'top level' player.
Dave Bond was not exactly Mr. personality and he seemed like he was hard to get close to. I know he was a curling fan and rock tosser and he was always fair with me, so I guess I liked Dave. Or more to the fact, I just really know I didn't dislike him.

GM JOHNNY MASSIN

Well, GM Johnny was the long time GM pro in a time when GM was one of the cornerstone stocks traded in North America. Just being the pro in such a stock gave you an excellent opportunity to prosper, because that stock was a winner. Not so much these days, but in THE day, it truely was. Johnny was kind of an oracle and handed down beads of wisdom from time to time and always seemed like he was not quite equipped for the stresses of the job. He was rarely intense, which was probably a good thing. He didn't so much hang out with the boys for drinks and such and his private life was and is, a mystery to me.

JACK MAX

Oh man, Maxie was a very cool dude. He looked like a Johnny Carson clone, which probably doesn't mean a thing to anyone but boomer types like ourselves. He was a very sharp dresser and a very smooth ride. He did get upset on occasion, but was rarely anything but cool. He actually made Bill Brough laugh with regularity, which if you know Broughie is quite a coup. Jack was a very fair trader and never told you something that wasn't the case. In our business, the Arb business, knowledge was power and money and an honest piece of information was like money in the bank, so to speak. Jack was also quite a gentleman, something of a lost art even in our time on the floor, and almost completely lost now. He always treated the ladies on the floor with nothing but respect and kindness, unless they didn't take him off the bid...Just kidding!
I enjoyed Jack alot in my time on the floor. We had some great conversations and he was always a respectful guy, and he has my respect forever.

THE OTHER PEOPLE I ENJOYED ALOT

Lenny Webb, Dixie Duggan, Ike Ross, Frank Pike & Ian Braithwaite, always together, Jack Elliot, Jimmy Dimson, Russel Whittier, Frank Koren, Fredrick Douglas, Joey Fricker, Red and Moose Ferguson, Bobby Churchill, Lorne Fallon, Jim McGann, Dave JAmes, Lenny Amon, Barney Donahey, Dave Sewell, Jack Glass, Joe Hannan, Eddie Lewer and Bob Point.

THE REST OF THE GANG

These are the other traders I remember from the floor of the 'old' exchange.
Joe Pope, John Huckstep, Bill Pirie, Gary O'Connell, Harry Abbey, Bob Beggs, Harold Maine, Jim Dempsey, Jim Taugher, Tom MIlligan, Bill Barry, Paul Barry, Doug Mowatt, Al Hawkins, Tom Carley, Rick Craig, Dave Turner, Ted England, Herman Zander, Roy Lewer, Bill Brough, Tony Torella, Bill Budd, Don Moss, Charlie Mitchell, Bob Pete, Peter Green, Ron Westacott, Dave Wilkerson, Earnie Walker, Al White, George Marshall, Roy Black, Don Berrard, Dave Scott, Ross Hebert, Ron McQuaig, Tom Popovitch, Norm Oliver, Kenny Johnson, Tony Lill, Hugh Nickle, Howard Ellis, Jerry Reid, Bob Dunbar, Tom Fischer, John Moir, Brian Banford, Bill Davies, Bob Williams, Roy Coons, Alex Miller, Ross Miller, Bob Alexander, Dave Luke, Don McKittrick, Mike Accera, Kenny Wegg, Roger Rapson, John Morrison, Cam Jones, Jack Ayres, Tom Carmichael, Bill Schmidt, Bill Carnegie, Dave Prince, Ed Noonan, Jack Monteith, John Lawrence, Jim Taugher, Danny Brown, Harry Attack, Tim House, Ed Dempsey, Andy Thompson, Jack auder, Harry McGuire, Ross Brennen, Dave Scott, Ross Halbert, Gary Yarmulchuk, Peter Gemakis, Joe Ladera, Arnie Coombs, Pat Driscol, Lou Jones, Dave Farr, Roger Pesce, Bert Carmichael, Gary Sneddon, Charlie Faultless, John Bazar, Gord Fenn, Bob Williams, Nick Iannanou, Howard Jones, Bob Christie, Ken Rozell. And all the rest....

Stay Tuned for Part Two...The Young Turks.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Post# 5 - "I Can't Believe It's A Job!"

Growing up in small town Nova Scotia I had a variety of jobs early in my life and was happy to get them for the most part. The first 'real' job I can remember having other than a paper route, was cutting and clearing brush for power line right of ways. That was when I was about twelve. It involved being intimate with a chainsaw. I also had a few summer jobs which all revolved around picking things. In the summer it was strawberries, blueberries and cranberries. I also made hay every summer, but that wasn't a picking job, per se. Mostly piling bales of hay and it sucked!

When I was fifteen I spent the summer vacation in Boston with my mom and step dad Frank. Frank drove a black station wagon for the McCool Funeral Home in Boston. He was the guy that picked up the bodies from wherever they might find themselves after passing on to other less earthly plains. From hospitals, retirement homes, peoples houses and sometimes hanging in closets for three weeks. I was Frank's helper for that summer and to this day it still creeps me out. I won't bother telling you too many details, but all you need to know is, I spent the summer, in a heat wave, in Boston, picking up dead bodies and delivering them to a funeral home. Eeeeeech!
When I started university, I spent my summers and off times operating my own painting company. It helped me tremendously to get through without incurring too much debt. It was pretty much what my idea of a job was, working long hard hours for enough money to get by and thinking it was great.

None of my labour related experiences prepared me for what was to become, by far, my most thrilling and fulfilling career direction. I feel absolutely blessed to have had the opportunity to have a job that most people could only dream of having. Amazingly it felt like this job was as much a source of entertainment as it was a career. It was unique and exciting!
After I got over the hate I had on for capitalism, which took about two paychecks and I started to actually pay attention to the details of my job, I realized that I was in a very enviable and interresting position. If I were to start taking this job even a little seriously, I thought I could earn enough money to do whatever I wanted after five years or so. I would later realize how insane that thought was because in THIS business, probably more than ANY other, the more you made the more you spent. Man...did we spend!
Being on the Arb wire and getting to know the cast of characters on the floor at the Exchange was an absolutely life altering experience. I used to believe that ALL stock broker, trader types were stereotypical tight assed money obsessed anal idiots. As I later came to realize, for most of the people I worked with, nothing could be further from the truth. The group of individuals who made up the population and work force on the floor of the Toronto Stock Exchange were the most diverse, grounded, funny, serious, professional, goofy, hard working, hard playing and just plain GOOD people you could ever want to be associated with. As with most things in life, there were of course exceptions to the rule.

There was a certain air of cockiness that came with the job and the territory and we earned every bit of it. When people came to the Exchange to the visitors galery, or on the floor, they were enevitably amazed and excited about the whole energy driven environment. It was a magical place where dreams were manufactured, and in some cases actually made to come true. It was equally true that many dreams were left lifeless on the floor like so many dead orders at the end of the trading day. None the less, this was a place of dreams and how many other jobs could make that boast.
When you went to a bar for drinks after work and people found out that you were a floor trader at the TSE, there was an absolute respect and awe, sometimes begrudgingly, that was palpable. At the absolute risk of sounding chauvenistic and elitist, office girls would swoon and office guys would leer with envy. We were the front line warriors in the battle for the buck. We were the mercenaries, the secret hand-signaling heartless bastard capitalists that everyone wanted to be, or be associated with. In the words of Gordon Gecco, "Greed is good"!
It was a really good feeling to tell someone I was a floor trader and have them look at me completely differently from that moment on.
It was a fact that we did indeed fuel our own image by being hard partiers, huge tippers and aggressive ladies men. This was because we could...and we did! When you went out with the guys from the floor, to a bar or a party, there was zero doubt that it would be an exciting, one of, time. Our adrenelin was worn like a badge of honour and we rarely missed an opportunity to put it on display.
Too many party nights ended with the closing of the boozecan we usually ended up in. It should be noted that we usually made it into work that same morning.
I might be guilty of overly gushing about the way this job made you feel, but I don't think I am guilty of exaggeration. It was all that and more, at least in my eyes and humble opinion. It was hard not to live the moment to the fullest and my regrets are few and far between. I don't think I would trade that part of my life, as a floor trader, for ANY other job or career.
When I talk to people about my job experience as a floor trader at the Toronto Stock Exchange, I am enevitably filled with pride in the job, pride in the powerful friendships and pride in the esteem it created in me.
With all due respect to the Marines, 'there was 'no life like it'. We were kings and queens of our own domain and we all share the battle scars to prove it.

Stay tuned for..."The Cast Of Characters, Part One"

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Post# 4 - Arbitrage..."The Arb"

Arbitrage..."The Arb"
ar·bi·trage play_w("A0398900")(ärb-träzh)n.The purchase of securities on one market for immediate resale on another market in order to profit from a price discrepancy.intr.v. ar·bi·traged, ar·bi·trag·ing, ar·bi·trag·esTo be involved in arbitrage.[Middle English, arbitration, from Old French, from arbitrer, to judge, from Latin arbitrr, to give judgment; see arbitrate.]Noun1.arbitrage - a kind of hedged investment meant to capture slight differences in price; when there is a difference in the price of something on two different markets the arbitrageur simultaneously buys at the lower price and sells at the higher pricerisk arbitrage, takeover arbitrage - arbitrage involving risk; as in the simultaneous purchase of stock in a target company and sale of stock in its potential acquirer; if the takeover fails the arbitrageur may lose a great deal of money investing, investment - the act of investing; laying out money or capital in an enterprise with the expectation of profitVerb1.arbitrage - practice arbitrage, as in the stock marketccommerce, commercialism, mercantilism - transactions (sales and purchases) having the objective of supplying commodities (goods and services)
These descriptions are accurate but they don't really capture the magic that was trading on 'The Arb"! When I was hired by Steve Curry, he informed me that I would be working for an arbitrage operation run by Greenshields out of Toronto and Montreal, my first employer on the floor, and Drexel-Burnham Lambert out of New York. The Toronto operation was run by Peter Mitchell in the office and Steve on the floor. The Montreal operation was run under the Toronto operation but the voice of Montreal was Frankie Breaker. The New York arb operation was run by Norman Reich and Bobby Lupo and his number one man, Chickie, a Puerto Rican that was both funny and ball breaking. An interresting factoid is that Michael Milken was employed by Drexel, at that time running their junk bond department. Of course we called it 'high yield bond trading', which was a much cuter name. We traded for him on many occasions, according to Bobby Lupo, but we didn't get rich from his dealings. We were strictly on the equities side of the ledger. The movie 'Wall Street" was based on his story and the 'Arb Trader' in his office in the movie was based on our New York Arb Trader, Freddie, or so the story goes. In 1989 Milken was the fall guy in the largest fraud investigation in Wall Street history at the time. He did time. Today he is worth about $2.8 Billion. Crime pays! If you have enough money, justice can be eased if not denied.
Chris Martin was the head Toronto arb clerk, whose job it was to turn me into a clone, if possible. Chris was as smooth as silk in that job. He always seemed to know just how to calm down the ever crazy New Yorkers. They never seemed to be very happy, even when things were great and we were making scads of dough. It wasn't that they couldn't be pleased, it was more like they 'wouldn't be pleased! Even though they were very high maintenance you had to admire their drive and skill in this very competative arbitrage game.
When you traded the 'arb' you were required to be aware of every change in the exchange rate of the american/canadian dollar, the price of gold, the amount of shares bid and offered on a huge number of stocks, who had the big orders and how much and always, ALWAYS, everything that your competition was doing. Every time you didn't report a change in the status of any stock we were trading, the New Yorkers would blow your ears off with seemingly senseless screaming so you would never ever let it happen again. This happened about 100 times a day. That Chris Martin was able to handle this job as smoothly as he did was a tribute to him and his skilfull interpersonal tactics.
The job was unbelievably demanding. That was offset by the respect the job commanded and the amount of money you could make. People always stayed out of our way and for the most part, we traded the way we wanted. Always 'within' the rules but we knew the grey areas better than anybody else on the floor. The Pros' had to keep us in because if they didn't we could put a serious hurt on them. This just added to the hate but we really didn't care. We were there to make money and I was told every day that "you are only as good as your LAST trade" by Norman. He was right. Never has there been a more 'what have you done for me lately' attitude than on the arb.
At Greenshields we were a distant 'second' in the Arb world. Burns Fry was king. They were legendary. They had been Timmons, ultimate intimidating arb vetrans. In Toronto, Ricky, Marty Whittenbols, Scott Douglas, Gary Eamon, Frank 'Guido' Gradini, Paul 'the wop' Napolitano...they were a machine. The New York operation was second to none. Our guys were good...Steve Curry could trade with the best of them and Chris Martin was a great Arb Clerk, but these guys were unbelievable. In my career I was fortunate enough to work on the Burns Arb and it was as fearsome and professional as I always thought it was. Thanks Marty.
In 1980 the number three Arb operation was Midland-Doherty. They were as far behind us in the rankings as we were behind Burns. They had some great guys working for them, but they were more 'nice' than feared.
If you were an asshole, the Arb was where you wanted to be because being an asshole was a tremendous asset. Steve Curry told me that was why he hired me and I couldn't question that logic.
It took me awhile and cost Chris tons of patience, but I became, at the risk of ringing my own bell, a pretty decent Arb trader and loved every minute of it. All this despite Peter Mitchell's efforts to have me fired on at least three occasions in my first year or so. I just didn't drink enough for him, or something! Thanks to Steve and Chris, I was good enough to trade Arb for Greenshields, Burns, R.A Daly, Gordon Capital, good enough to trade pro for Nesbitt and good enough to start and run an independant Arb operation for McNeil Mantha, although they were responsible for the worst hatchet job I ever had to endure as a trader. Thanks Larry Hoes. McNeil-Mantha was a Montreal operation...So... Enough said!
Everyone in Toronto knows EXACTLY what that means.

Stay Tuned For..."I Can't Believe It's A Job!"

Post# 3 - The Cork Room

The Cork Room. Just the sound of those words brings me back to so many of my wettest memories as a trader on old floor. Just down the street from the TSE it was the most conveniently located drinking establishment ever. What better clientele than the 'work hard, party harder' crew from the floor. It didn't take me very long to realize what an intrical part of this job involved hanging out with the boys and comming in with the men.
At the end of my first day on the job at the TSE I met with my boss Steve and my teacher Chris. As I walked into the Cork Room it seemed like almost everyone I had seen on the floor all day was now here. The noise level was almost as bad as it was on the floor for the opening and closing bells, when everyone is screaming loudest. It was like a party. No, it WAS a party. The place was absolutely thick with cigarette smoke and reminded me of a 1940's black and white movie. The only thing missing was the piano player in the corner. This place didn't really need the piano player character...it was wall to wall characters. The decor was not exactly what you would expect when you think about where stock broker types might hang out for a few after work. The bar was classic, the lighting was dim at best, and the best part of its design was the large number of darkened areas where one could duck away for a quick whatever you wanted. Basically fill in the blank and that's what was available. There were lots of girls from the floor there and there were also alot of other single girls, office workers and secretary types that knew this was where the 'brokers' played. So, if you were interrested and after a few drinks who wasn't, you could meet and greet and hook-up without too much effort. This was equally true for all consenting adults. I don't think it was any kind of great pick-up bar, it was just where people in our business congregated and people do what people do. On a friday night you could get just about anything you wanted. Lots of the younger guys were into everything that you have ever heard people in the business might be into. Sex, drugs and rock & roll baby!
I could barely hear him but Steve was explaining to me that we were arbitrage traders and that everybody hated us. Everybody. He went on to explain that we were basically the pirates of the industry. We were the guys that tried to take advantage of every gap that might exist in the markets and information, real information was everything. That was why it was so important to develop relationships with as many other traders as possible and what better place to do it than here, at the Cork Room.
Chris was just up the bar in the middle of a small crowd, holding a Carlsberg and talking to a cute blond and an equally cute brunette. He didn't seem overly concerned with much of anything I might want to say to him, so I just kind of sat back and watched. After a little while he asked me if I wanted to come down to the can for a minute. I wasn't sure what for, but I was excited at the mere thought of what it might be. There was a small group of us crowding into a tiny area in the pisser and a couple of joints flared to life and I was well on my way to earning my first 'come in with the men' hangover. The 12 or so drinks I consumed that night didn't allow me the luxury of remembering too much after that and perhaps that is for the best.
Many generations of traders consumed way to many cocktails at the Cork Room. The place reeked of history, beer and piss. It was an unbelievable, unpredictable ride. Every night brought something new. Lots of black eyes that walked onto the floor in the morning after had received their lumps courtesy of an evening at the Cork Room the night before. More importantly, many many deals were put together over too many beers at the Cork Room. Steve was right, this is where the after hours action started but rarely ended for most of the crazies on the old floor. Most of the people on the old floor qualified for that designation...crazy!
Freddy was the favoured bartender because he was simply the best. This guy had heard and seen more bullshit in his job than any beef farmer ever shovelled. It would be hard to even imagine the Cork Room without Freddy. Then there was Nat. I bought more wierd crap from that guy than you could ever imagine. Upstairs in his barely lit office, you could buy almost anything. Almost nothing that you would ever use. He as kind of like a one man dollar store. If the TSE had trade relations when Nat was dealing, he would have owned the Exchange! He regularily sold snow to eskimos (pre political correctness remember) and everything else to the traders. He was a very cool guy and you just couldn't say no. When the Toronto Stock Exchange closed the old floor, 234 Bay St. wasn't the only piece of historic real estate to die. It took a little while, but the Cork Room died of progress as well.
The last thing I remember that first night at the Cork Room was Steve asking me if I wanted to come with him and some of his friends for Kentucky Fried Chicken. I don't know if I went or not, but I smelled pretty greasy when I woke up in my clothes the next morning.

Stay Tuned For "ARBITRAGE"...is that french?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Post# 2 - April Fool's...My First Day!

I spent a very interresting weekend pondering the consequences of my decision to take a job in the biggest of all 'Big Business' jobs. What the hell was I thinking! Everything I had done in my life to this point was almost the complete opposite of what I should have done to have a business career. I hated the idea of pure capitalism. I had read Trotsky, Tolstoy and Lenin. Socialist values seemed so much more humanistic that capitalism. I was a dreamer, not a doer. Every political discussion group I had ever sat through in university had demonized the capitalists as evil, calculated, greed motivated assholes. Yet, here I was, not just heading into the lion's den...but directy into the lion's mouth. I should have brought some floss!
I kept thinking that I would hang out and watch for a couple of weeks, maybe the summer, and take their stupid money and run. No problem.
It was April 1st...April Fool's Day! I woke up at about 8:00am on tuesday and had a huge coffee to start my day. I needed it. I borrowed a tweed jacket and a white shirt and tie from a friend of mine and stood looking at myself in the mirror for quite a long time. It was so wierd looking at myself dressed like that and yet not going to a wedding or a funeral. I wondered if this job was going to be like working for the devil while I prayed to God and then I remembered that I was an athiest. I had gotten a haircut, sort of, and felt like that was about as far as I would be prepared to go for a paycheck from the enemy. It's not like I'm selling my soul...I kept trying to convince myself. My bank account balance made that rationale much easier to swallow.
I walked over to the Eglinton subway station from my bohemian apartment at Avenue Rd. and Eglinton, which was a nice way to get the blood flowing. A necessity with my lifestyle choices to date. As I got on the subway train for the first time as a 'businessman' I actually felt like I was in my skin but somebody else was working the machinery. I just then realized that I had absolutely NO idea where the Stock Exchange was. I knew the address was 234 Bay St, so it would be between the Yonge and University lines, somewhere close to Front St. Close enough! I got off at Union Station for the first of many, many times and walked toward Bay. As I walked up Bay St. in the brilliant morning sunshine, on the east side, I looked across the street and saw, for the first time, the exterior of the Toronto Stock Exchange. Looking at that building, in awe, I began to feel a sense of fear and excitement that nearly overwhelmed me. I really needed to take a shit! I crossed the street in a j-walking blur of traffic and stood in front of the wierd and oddly powerful archetectural gem and tried to let it all set in.
As I opened the huge steel and glass door for the first time and made my way inside, my chin litterally hit the floor. I had never seen the TSE before and only knew of it in reputation and repudiation from my former peers. The walls and ceiling height were amazing. The art-deco design was oddly breathtaking. The huge clock, the cool windows, the posts with all those chalkboards and screens. The history was as obviously layered as my own fears and insecurities. Most of all I noticed the dull roar of activity that made you raise your voice, just a little if you wanted to be heard. This was before the opening, and I soon learned that dull roar was just a precursor to the real roar that was to follow the opening bell.
I asked an old guy, can't remember who now, where I could find Steve Curry. He looked at me and turned around and absolutely screamed...STEVE CURRY! Holy shit! Was this how they actually located people here. The answer is YES! Steve walked over and gave me a quick up and down, once over from his rather imperious perspective and quipped, "get some decent shoes". Ok I thought, that was better than I expected. Oh shit! I forgot his double double. The next thing he said was , "where's my coffee"? Oh shit! I forgot his double double. Nice way to impress the new boss. Ok, it can only get better from here. Steve then proceeded to give me instructions to Druxy's to get coffee and toasted bagles with cream cheese. I blazed throught the catacombs of the TC Centre and returned loaded with breakfast goodness and teeth dulling coffee from hell. When I got back, just before the opening bell, Steve told me I might want to loose the earring. I was immediately incensed. He assured me that it was nothing personal, but people were going to hard time me and might think I was a fag. Keeping in mind that in those pre-politically correct days, very few guys had earrings, and absolutely no guy from the floor. It might have been good advice. I didn't take it.
Steve walked me over to what he called 'the booth'. As we walked up a couple of steps, I could feel about a million eyes drilling through me to see exactly what I was made of. In the 'booth' in question I first set eyes on this skinny, kind of 'geeky' looking guy with glasses and a notable glare. Steve said to me, "this is Chris" and then he said to Chris, "this is Jim...teach him"! Then he walked away. I wasn't sure whose shock was more palpable, mine or Chris's.
As the opening bell went off to start the trading day, Chris leanes over and gave me a WTF are you kind of look and plugged some wired headset into the booth and told me to put it on. I did. It took me awhile to figure out what to do with it, but here I was. Chris told me to just listen and try to get a feel for what was going on. The opening was unbelievably intense. People, masses of people screaming, yelling, frantically waving and within minutes people were comming up to the booth and dropping piles of slips of paper in Chris's lap saying things like "bought 1200, leaves a thousand". Chris would yell things like "What's the market?" This, I would soon realize, would become the question that was indeed the most important question of all. How much bid, how much offered? Whose on the bid, whose on the offer? What is Timmons doing? These and about a million other questions were being fired into Chris's ear, non-stop, for about the first hour. I assumed that he was being asked these questions because he kept giving the answers to these questions to whomever was on the other end of the headphones. I just tried to take some notes and not be too noticable. I couldn't for the life of me figure out what all the hand signals were for or what the hell they meant.
When I finally figured out that I had no noise comming through the headset, Chris gave me a disgusted look and flicked the switch to the 'ON' position.
On the other end of the line were these totally wild, wierd accented guys who seemed awfully excited about things...all the time! These guys sounded completely and totally insane. What were they all about? I kept asking Chris questions, mostly of the stupid variety, and he kept dutifully answering and getting increasingly irritated with my presence. I really couldn't blame him. As the day went along and the sureal grew exponentionally, I asked Chris when the breaks were. Then, for the first of time, I heard him laugh. Not just a chuckle, but a genuine belly laugh. It was a laugh I would hear and laugh with so much in the years to follow. When he stopped he told me that when it was busy, there were no breaks and when it wasn't busy, it was a full time break. I thought he was just jerking my chain. He wasn't!
As the day wore on and things got a little more sane, as if, a strange cast of characters started making their way up to the booth. They were comming by to chat with Chris and to check out the new meat. There were tall ones, Kim and Rick. Short ones, Scott and Ralph and an assortment of every other kind, male and female...and then there was Stevie. Steve Gilbert. When Chris introduced us Stevie shook my hand in an overly hard fashion, squeezing the crap out of it. I thought he was just joking, but he wasn't. It was my first indication that he really didn't like me. Ok then, I decieded I wouldn't really like him either.
The rest of the day went by like a blur and as the closing bell went off the noise gradually rolled down to a minimal din. People were running up to their booths frantically reporting last minute trades and fills. I was completely overwhelmed and quickly realized how 'over my head' I actually was. There was no way in the world I could ever fool these people into thinking I could ever do whatever it was that they were doing. Chris hated me, his friends hated me...the building even seemed to hate me.
Chris finished going over the totals and said he had to go up to the office to finish and then he was going to go for a beer at the Cork Room. Did I want to go? Not really, I thought, but yes was my answer.
Steve Curry came over to see if I had survived. He asked me what I thought about the place and the job. As I started to answer he stopped me mid sentence and advised me I could finish that thought with him over a beer at the Cork Room. WTF was a cork room? Was this like a rubber room only made of cork. Seriously, I had no idea it was a bar. Not just A bar...THE bar.

Stay tuned for "The Cork Room"

Friday, March 14, 2008

Post# 1 - How It All Began

It seems now like it was just yesterday. Of course, that is what everyone says about their lives when they reach an age where the past is significantly longer than their likely future. In the dream that was my life when all of this began, it will always be right now. In reality, it was a lifetime ago. In reality it was so many things. I am sure of this, I was part of a unique social experiment that opened my eyes to a life of rarified air. Many people have what they consider to be great jobs, great careers, unbelievable success and riches. The unfortunate truth and reality for most is that very few individuals in the work force will ever  have really great jobs, great careers, unbelievable success and riches. Most just keep chasing that carrot. It is the dream that keeps on keeping on.
When you are young, it is true, you can dream of being anything you want and in some cases these dreams can actually come true. My story, 'My TSE Life', is a story of personal evolution and culture shock and something a different as a dream that never was, coming true.
In 1980 I had just finished my second year of university at York where I was majoring in Philosophy and English. I was working for a year to pay for my ongoing educational costs and to put food on the table and a roof over my head. I was a good student and did ok but the truth be known, like many other university students of the day, I was there for the social experience and the party. My time at Glendon College of York University was fantastic. In addition to my studies, I was totally immersed in the social life on campus. I was the President of Residence Council, which gave me the greatest room in residence. I had a radio show on Tuesday and Thursday nights from 8:00 to 10:00 pm. I wrote Jane Does' for the newspaper, Pro Tem. I was a #3 seed in the squash rankings at York. I played hockey regularly against the dreaded Chiropractors whose campus was just down the road on Bayview Av. I ran 5 miles 3 times a week. I played in a couple of bands on campus and I consumed copious amounts weed, hash and honey oil. Mostly with Brian Cook. Hey bud! So it was hard for me to take my 3rd year off to work, but my meager financial aid was not forthcoming after my second year, I had no choice. Unlike so many other students of that day I was there on MY dime...not on daddy's dollars. Like almost every other Canadian university student of that day and this, I was a raving socialist. I thought that the most dangerous enemy we all had to face was raging capitalism. I literally didn't have a conservative bone in my body and immediately hated anyone that I thought might. This brings me to my mentor and bastion of capitalist thinking....Steve Curry.

I first met Steve Curry in March 1980. He was dating my girlfriend Jodi's lifelong best friend, Andrea. At the time I thought Steve and Andrea were the most unlikely couple on the planet. Steve was bold and brash and loved to throw around his money in lavishing Andrea with little gifts like mink coats...that sort of thing. Andrea was brash and bold and looked very, very good on Steve's arm. Don't get me wrong, I don't think there is anything wrong with flash (today it's bling) and arm candy, it is just that from where I came from, with marxist cravings for socialist dogma, these two were akin to a toothache. They wern't really such an odd couple, they were just...different. Different from me and everyone I knew.
Steve and I argued alot. Well, mostly I argued and Steve laughed at me, during the time we spent together. One thursday evening as we sat in Jodi's kitchen, waiting, forever again, for the girls to get ready for the evening, Steve and I had one of our philosophical discourses around the topic of 'money'. Steve said that people who thought the way I did usually had no money and were more jealously than philosophically driven. I immediately flew off into a rant about how that was the only kind of real argument people like Steve could ever hope to use against guys like me because he couldn't argue points with me based on logic. Steve laughed at me and asked me how much money I made last year. I knew this was going to hurt because I was a student but ran my own painting and renovation company, which being a part-time job, was unlikely to impress Steve Curry. I told him I made $20,000.00. It was a lie. I actually made about $12,000.00 but just couldn't bring myself to tell him the truth. It wasn't bad for a full-time student, Steve quipped about the $20K. He then told me 'That is about what I paid in my last bar tab and laughed his ass off. I became so pissed off I could have sucker punched him and felt OK about it. But I didn't. He told me he wasn't trying to hurt my feelings, which he did, but was just trying to make a point. He told me I was wasting all that good 'in your face' arguing with my socialist bullshit. He challenged me and my so called principles, saying he could make me forget my commie ways and change my mind and distaste for capitalism. I thought he was nuts! He asked me if I wanted a job. A REAL job. I snidely asked him what kind of job? He answered "What the fuck is the difference, I'll start you off at $30,000 and if you are any good at all you can make alot more in bonuses". At first my ego was insulted. That was my socialist ego. My capitalist ego (I didn't know I had one) was quite intrigued by the offer. You have to keep in mind that these were 1980 dollars. The equivalent dollar value today would be roughly $75,000.00. My other egos were just stroked, so they were happy. I told him I would take him up on his challenge but would NEVER change over to the dark side with him. He told me to steal a white shirt and tie and show up on the floor and ask for him on tuesday morning at 9:30 and to bring him a double double. He, of course, knew he had me then. He told me that everybody has a price, but the real secret was never undervaluing yourself...because surely everyone else will. Shit, I thought I was the philosopher!
I woke up Friday morning feeling the effects of what would soon become a pattern in my life and times with Steve Curry. Man, what a hangover!
I drifted through the weekend in a bit of a daze. Some part of me knew that I was about to embark on a significant life journey. No matter how hard I tried to deny myself even a tiny bit of excitement over the coming challenge, I could not deny the overwhelming feeling that I would never be the same after putting my foot in the door and my head into the mouth of the capitalist beast. Even though I told myself I would work until September and take my money and run back to school laughing all the way to the bank, I didn't really believe it. I said it, I meant it. I just didn't believe it. Then something struck me. I realized that the comming tuesday was April 1st...April Fool's Day. I thought for sure that he was playing a cruel and unusual joke on me by having me show up and then he and his capitalist buddies would have a great laugh at my expense. Oh shit! What kind of an idiot was I being. 
But what if he wasn't setting me up! Wow, this was scarry!

Stay Tuned For 'April Fool's...My First Day'!