Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Post# 10 - The Rest of My Friends At The Toronto Stock Exchange



There are many reasons people become friends. When people spend alot of quality time together under stressful and sometimes very high pressured situations over a long period of time, people become close. I was always privliged to considered many of the people on the floor my friends... good friends in many cases. Yet recently, when I called as many of my old friends as I could, it was the first time I had spoken to many of them for 11 to 15 years. Every time I think of a friend of mine from the TSE floor, any friend really, I have to give my head a real shake to try and understand why I have made so little effort to maintain a friendship with people that have meant so much to me. It is not just me...It is almost everyone that I have spoken to that is out of the business and about half of the people that are still in the business. It speaks to the human condition and the fact that sometimes when people are forced do battle together, when that war is over, maybe people all just needed to forget the war and unfortunately, the people they fought beside. I know the war analogy might be a bit over the top but I am sure that everyone of us feel and know that we have had to give up little piece of ourselves just to be in this business. This is much the same way a soldier who comes back from battle is never quite the same. That is definately very true in our business. This being said, I am thoroughly excited to re-connect with so many excellent people. Although I may not EVER know why I allowed so much time to piss away without even so much as inquiring about any of my friends, something really interresting has taken place in my cold calling of friends from days past. In almost every single case, with almost every single individual, it is as if I last spoke with them...yesterday. Sharing the memories and the laughs, the victories and the defeats and the fact that we were all so very lucky to have been where we were, doing what we were doing, in the very best of times.
At the risk of sounding really puss...to all of my 'floor' friends I just want to say that I missed you. I missed you all and I hope that this reunion will help all of us to appreciate who we are, what we are and who our FRIENDS are.

These Are Some Of My Other 'Floor' Friends in No Partictular Order

Joe Turner
I have many great memories with my old friend Joe. We had so many hours of terriffic conversations and even though he was a Habs fan, I still really liked him. Those great hot dogs in the Montreal Forum..oh yeah, and the games. haha A little baseball, a little hockey, Argos...cool memories. Joe was a really steady, even keeled trader and was well respected. A great sense of humor and a good laugh when that ketchup pack Joe was playing with exploded all over his white shirt and cool silk tie. Sorry Joe, but it was hilarious. I told you not to play with it...hahaha Joe is a really good guy and everyone that knows him will agree on this. It is great to be talking to Joe again and I look forward to getting together for another shared revisionist history lesson.

Bill Webb
My very best hockey conversations I ever had were with Bill. He was such a calm relaxed guy you would never be able to tell he had serious GOON blood flowing through his veins. Great times with Bill and his cool dad Lenny, Bill Walsh, Steve Welch and an assortment of hockey experts. Bill was one of the most informed and intelligent people on the floor and his hockey knowledge was vast and accurate. So much fun and great laughs with the 'Crunch' goon pool and every other pool that existed. So many good laughs on the floor keeping each other barely sane sometimes. Watching Tim Taugher threatening to go after Bill Brough to, I think, kill him while we stood by and laughed. Oh yeah, the good old days on the floor. Murder and mayhem...that was Bill...haha The fact that Bill and I were so, so different made it really cool to be friends. Bill was so measured and collected and I was...let's see...insane. Bill was a real calming influence on me, which was required once or twice...haha Thanks Bill. Go Wings!

Rick Perogi
Rick was an absolutely great guy. I enjoyed his company as much as anyone on the floor. I have great memories of Rick including the time he came up to my farm in Brougham to enjoy some nature...like the trees that were made available to us from the tree nursery adjoining my property. OK, so we had to wait till it was kind of dark to dig them up, but there you are...hahaha
Paper balls were king on the floor and Rick was an ace. No one was spared. He even threw a rocket that hit Tommy Milligan right on the top of his head, causing Tommy just a little aggrivation. I once threw a sugar pack at Rick, never believing I would hit him, but I did. He was so far away but the stars were aligned. I threw the pack on a very high arch, because he was so far away, and it went perfectly...as if in slow motion. BANG, right in Rick's right eye. It was so funny in a paper ball kind of way. Rick marched over to my booth as soon as it happened. He couldn't see that it was me, but yet he knew. He walked up to me and said, "nice f....ing shot Jim" and turned and walked away. What a true warrior. Just a great guy with a really good attitude. Once again, sorry Rick, but it was my best shot ever. Thanks!

Gord Gladney
I worked with Gord through part of my Peter Mitchell period as a trader and we shared a lot of hockey pools and pick-up games at midnight. Those games were tons of fun and I will now apoligize to any of my team mates that I injured through the course of our playing time together. Chris Martin, I am sure you can relate. Gord, I forgive you for the Peter Mitchell inspired plank walking in the Gordon/Davidson fiasco. I did OK by the way.

Owen Ritchie
Owen and I were kind of a ying/yang on the floor. He was a more soft edged and considerate individual to my rather hard assed approach. Of course, my being an Arb trader always kept me on edge. Pressure baby. You gotta love it!
Great Owen memories from the soccer pitch, hockey pools and chats about the 'carting' life. Owen was always so good to see. Always so positive. I only saw him loose it one time and it made me realize that it would always be better to have Owen as a friend than an enemy. Owen made having Owen as a friend very easy and rewarding. He and Bob Point could always be counted upon to provide lots of entertainment and general good cheer. I am glad I have Owen memories from the floor because without Owen, it would just not have been the same place. He was one of the truely 'good' people that helped make my job as a floor trader such a rich and rewarding experience.

Jeff Gamble
I used to really like Jeff and the times we spent together. Back in the Tow Truck days, the condo with Mike McCarthy, the boozecan experiment we almost followed through with, all of which I'm sure Jeff will deny ever existed, we had some great times. After Jeff went to New York to join the Larry Hoes gang, he was never the same guy, or so EVERYONE told me. Yeah, I thought that too Jeff. That was a real shame because Jeff was such a good friend and terriffic guy. Jeff would always help you out in a pinch and never want anything in return and was terminally friendly. I have no idea if he is any of these things anymore. Maybe some time he will tell me!

Colin O'Handley
Colin was a guy that I had much in common with. We were both musicians, motorheads and enjoyed a good party. I used to like going over to Colin's place to jam. Hey, Cherry Bomb! Pink Cadillacs'!
Colin gave the greatest parties. His annual 'corn roasts' were always so much fun...well, what I can remember from them. Colin actually served corn, boiled in huge pots with open fires and there would be butter melted into empty apple juice cans, ingenious, and the corn dipped in just right. The entertainment at these parties was always live bands and Colin and Brian Duff were in their element. What great memories!

Ah yes, Ed. Well Ed Szolopiak had one of the best names of my friends on the floor (except for maybe Rick alphabet) but for whatever reason really didn't look like his name...if you know what I mean. Ed wasn't nearly as exotic looking as his name sounded. Since he wasn't a stripper, I guess that didn't much matter. Ed and I used to spend a great deal of time hanging out and talking during the many down times on the floor. Ed had a great sense of humor, which it seems was a prerequisite to being a floor trader. Of course there were an awful lot of guys that had no sense of humor at all, so it kind of balanced out in our little universe. (see Tom Milligan) Ed was a perfect straight man and had excellent timing and demeanor for such a designation. I loved bouncing my rather extreme viewpoints off Ed because he always had such a deep measured response. His perspective on things was intelligent, while at the same time being quite funny. I believe Ed was an Acadia grad with a football major and an english minor...haha Like most of us on the floor, his education had little to do with his career. I really enjoyed my friendship with Ed and when we got together for a few after the closing of the old floor I didn't realize it would be 11 years between beers. I sincerely hope that it is not so long between the next!

Marty Whittenblos
When it came to characters on the floor of the TSE, Marty was near the top of the heat. Marty never met a camera he didn't have a passionate love affair with. Almost every clip on the news shows would enevitably be of Marty shouting and frantically hand signalling, real or imagined and sometimes including such well known 'arb' men as Arnie Coombs. I worked with Marty at Burns Arb and I enjoyed socializing with him off the floor. Marty wan not a drinker or a party animal, so it was hard to find common lines of interest. Marty is a long time Corvette man and once recorded a 'Taking Care of Business' cover video with Stevie Gilbert and I at a studio I had. Marty played drums. Marty was never as happy as I thought he should have been, although I am not really sure why.

Ike Ross
Ike was way happier than I thought he should have been...just kidding Ike! He was such a pleasure to have on the floor. A funny voice of reason in a world of turmoil. His take on life made you look at yourself just a little differently than you normally might. I think Ike was a trader, but I can't actually remember him actually doing a trade...haha Sorry Ike.

Jimmy Dimson
Swish, as Jimmy was known by so many on the floor was a really tremendous guy. Very quiet by floor standards, but a wonderful sense of fair play and a grounded personality. I thoroughly enjoyed my many and varied conversations with Jimmy. I always appreciated the fact that he would patiently listen to my many gripes and always offer calm relaxing advice. Jimmy was an absolute pleasure.

Mark Houghton
I just loved this guy. He was so gregarious and fun to be around. I spent many an evening after work having a beer with Mark and it was never ever boring. When I recently heard that Mark had died, I was absolutely shocked and could hardly believe my ears. I had been calling Mark's number trying to get in touch with him and didn't even realize that he would not be picking up. Mark spent many summer days and nights at the Exhibition, working in the family business selling home made beer nuts, which were delicious. At the end of the Ex he would often come by my apartment and drop off like 20 bags of these beer nut sweets. This was a very good 'munchy' appeaser. I miss Mark Houghton.

Sharon Butler
In my time on the floor Sharon was one of the coolest girls I ever hung out with. She was hot and could hang out with the boys and never feel like a third wheel. She was so much fun to spend time with and talk to and it was cool to have a female friend, of the hot persuasion, that you could just have fun with without the tension. Only the boys will know what I mean by that one. Sharon had a ton of friends and admirers and I am happy to have been one of them.

Kelly Gilbert
Kelly was one of the first girls that I became friends with on the floor. She was a great post clerk and we spent hours and hours of down time talking. She was the most energetic person I had ever met. Boundless energy and full time smiles. Kelly was a beautiful girl and soul. The night Kelly and Steve Gilbert became an item, and later married, was a classic. You know what, I think I will just leave that night at that. I just loved Kelly because she was such a great friend. She used to confide in me alot and I always felt like she cared about my opinions. I miss our good times together. Still love ya Kelly!

Little Carm
Carm, I am so sorry that I can't remember your last name. OK, you can shoot me. Carm was one of my very good friends and like Kelly, we spent countless hours talking and flirting. She was probably the only person that I talked with EVERY day on the floor. Carm was such a kind soul and so generous to me. She was always worried about me. She didn't approve of my lifestyle choices and always let me know when she thought I should curb the enthusiasm. I have such great memories Carm and I will cherish them forever. Love you too Carm!

Sheila Barry
The first time I met Sheila I was upstairs at the Cork Room with a group of non-traders types from the floor. Since there was a bit of segregation in the Cork Room which had the traders on the main floor and the non trading staff of the floor relegeted to the 'upstairs' portion of the establishment. Sheila was kind of hammered, like everyone else there, and people were talking about going to a party at Jimmy Barkwell's place. Most of the good parties were trader exclusive, to a degree, and the party ay Jimmy's was going to be a coup for the postie people to attend. This was to be a more 'open' party than most of the usual 'trader' parties, so people were excited. Meanwhile, back at the bar, Sheila was a real 'life of the partier' and was as funny as hell. She was toe to toe with a couple of guys and matching them gross out for gross out. She was no shrinking violet and I could tell I was going to like her. I owe alot of good laughs on the floor to Sheila. She was just a really funny girl. Since she came from a fine floor trading pedigree with trading vetrans Paul Barry (dad) and Bill Barry (uncle and gruff of note), you just knew Sheila was cut out for the job. Her North Toronto roots served her well in the wasp bastion of the trading floor of the TSE.
She was friends with Sharon Butler in those days and those two together were quite the party tag-team. (no, not that kind of tag team). Sheila almost always had a HUGE smile on her face and she really knew how to enjoy herself, which usually meant those around her enjoyed themselves as well. I always liked Sheila's company and her terriffic sense of humor and ascerbic tongue. Along with all the laughing I did with Sheila, I also considered her a great friend.

Vic Ciampini
Vic and I recently spoke about his first day on the trading floor. Vic was not your average postie in any demonstrable way. The day he started he was immediately the wierdest looking guy on the floor and discovered the attention that went with that distinction. In brief, Vic had the piercings and spiked hair of a hard core punk of the day. Not exactly a white shirt and tie guy. Vic was a musician and looked the part. Vic and I shared a rehearsal space for our individual musical needs and I loved the way he played. I was sure he could have made a career in music with a few breaks. Vic went on to become a wheel at the TSE which I am sure he wears as well as his musical endeavours. Vic is a great guy and I am indeed very happy to have spent time with him and share lots of cool moments.

Bob Mullet
I spent a lot of time with Bob on the floor as we both traded on opposing Arbs for many years. Bob always with Dorhety. Although we had an adversarial relationship, we never let that get in the way of our having a good time. Bob was a S&P 500 guy from way back which was oddly out of place for an arb trader. Bob was smart and funny and could snap you in two if he wanted to. Luckily a friendly guy. I remember Bob telling me there were way too many nights at The Keg Mansion, so many in fact that Bob actually had a nameplate there...sort of a wall of fame thing I guess. Thats a whole lot of steaks and drinks Bob...haha Ah, memories! I am hoping I get to see Bob at our reunion. That's right Bob, I'm talking to you buddy!

Larry Hoes
Larry was a good friend of mine for a long long time on the floor. When I first started on the floor a whole lot of guys thought Larry was kind of a dick and he didn't have too many friends. To be fair to Larry he was good friends with Mark Grimes, Jeff Gamble and myself. He was very hard to get to know, a very 'to himself', arrogant kind of guy, dying to be accepted by the 'in' crowd. He never was. Larry was always a smart guy and we had some great conversations. Great memories from Kensington Market, the St. Lawrence Market and endless bargain hunts. He was a driven capitalist. He traded client orders for Burns but wasn't much of a trader as I recall. His specialty however, was in the office and management. Not Burns office however because they fired him over something that probable litigation prevents me from going into. Larry went on to New York where he teamed up with a questionable wierd grey area character that I never liked or thought too much of. Larry went on to made his fortune in 'hedge fund' heaven, and lost alot of it, in 'hedge fund' hell, if the rumors be true. But that all went kind of south for reasons that probable litigation prevent me from discussing. I do not believe that his company, Sharpe Capital Inc. is doing much business these days, for reasons...well, you get the point I'm sure. Larry is, I believe, alive and that is a good thing. I tried to contact Larry in Parry Sound where he has land and some real estate holdings but he did not respond to my fax, which was the only available technology my efforts were able to come up with for him. Just doing the hermit thing I guess.
The one thing that I most regret about my dealings with my former friend Larry was that I set him up with my good friend, Carm. She was totally wierded out by the guy, which I can't go into for the previously mentioned legal reasons. She forgave me but I didn't! Larry completely sandbagged me at McNeil Mantha. Et tu Brutus? Nice friend. He usurped my power within the Arb operation I had created there while I was in the hospital and laid up for 6 weeks. Did I mention, nice friend! Other than the money it cost me and the pain of being back stabbed by a 'friend', it was wonderful. I'm not so bitter anymore however because it got me to move to the Caribbean for 4 years, which was ubbelievable, and helped me develop my current career. So, thanks Larry...I guess. It also taught me that friend is just a word...and words are cheap. Betrayal and Larry are just words too! It is odd to see me keep using 'Larry' and 'friend' in the same sentencses. Wishful thinking I guess. Larry has gone through a lot of friends, like everyone he took from Toronto to New York, and a lot of wives. Oh well! When you have the dough, you can always buy more friends I guess. Larry was never one to let friendship get in the way of his career. When Larry was getting married to one of his wives he invited me up to Parry Sound, to the wedding on his island property. I didn't go. He never forgave me. Get over it! She divorced him and so did I.

Pier Donnini
When Pier, pronounced 'Pierre', started on the floor he was an open book. A very young impressionable spirited guy with a good, if mildly depressed, attitude to life. The depression part is from Pier, not from me. He was ok at his job, certainly nothing special, which seems really wierd considering the executive position he would later go on to hold with Yorkton. He played keyboards in a band with some friends of mine and myself, mostly because I just convinced him he could. You see, he didn't play keyboards but was up to the challenge none the less. That did take some kohones! Ok, I know. We did Brian Adams songs. Come on, it was the 80's! It was great fun and I am glad Pier was with me to share in the experience.
Pier was a good friend for awhile, but when he didn't need too much more from our relationship, he abandoned it...at least I think he did. I was kind of the same way myself, so I don't have the luxury of being judgemental. Pier went on to become an executive wheel of some note and prestiege with Yorkton Securities, which was absolutely shocking to me. Not because I didn't think he could attain such a position, only that he did. He was, unfortunately front and center in the ultimate demise of that operation. You probably remember him for such courageous but career killing moves as taking on the Ontario Securities Commission...! Ouch, Ouch!
According to my spies Pier is currently the owner of an eatery and watering hole in Port Elgin or where ever that long weekend biker spot is. I informed Pier of this reunion, but because of the huge OSC publicity and accompanying crap that goes with it, he has had to suffer, he might not allow himself to come to this little reunion. I know it was tough for me when I got burned at McNeil Mantha, so I would understand. Those kind of wounds run deep. I hope he does come and I hope we can work out our differences... whatever they are. Good luck with the planning commission Piergeorgio.

In Conclusion and a Eulogy

Although one of the last two people I mentioned, in my humble opinion and based on my very personal experience, was of questionable character as a friend, and one just drifted out of friendship with me (I am sure you can tell which) something that was proved to me is that Larry was indeed the exception to the rule. That considered, it has been my absolute pleasure to have been associated with this fine group of people...these 'floor' people...traders and staff. The friends I have made far outnumber the idiots I have known by a huge margin, which is not the norm in the 'real world'. We hardly ever had to be in the real world. Our world was a more protected, more elite environment. Our world was a little more secretive and mysterious. Our world and our lives were definately more exciting than the 'real world' and average lives in it. Our world was always very rewarding and we always felt just a little better about ourselves because of the nature of our world.
My career as a Floor Trader on the Toronto Stock Exchange trading floor was more than just a job to me. It truely was a way of life. We were the foot soldiers in the never ending war that is the securities industry. This war takes few prisioners and the casualties are many and varied. We were in the trenches and on the front lines of the Canadian business world. We were warriors, without a war. We were a culture on to ourselves. There was no work like it. There was no atmosphere like it. There were no people like floor people. Truely, there was no life like it.
All of that is gone now. Chewed up and spit out like so many other casualties of the computerized trading world of today. Today the trading world is a spirit killing office devoid of personality and truely a more heartless and hostile territory. Who's to blame? Well, the short answer is WE are to blame. We fighters who put up NO fight of consequence. We dreamers who were incapable of seeing the value of the situation we were in. We loud mouths who were too afraid to speak up when it meant the most. We just allowed the bean counters and bankers come in and use us to create our own ultimate demise. It is probably difficult for many of us to agree on where or when it all went wrong but we all know that we did indeed let it happen. The Toronto Stock Exchange is dead. The Floor Trader is dead. The culture that was the 'floor' is dead. The only question remaining is...will we allow it to be buried?

Well...will we?