As the three or four of you know, I write this blog to record what it’s like to live a life of local radio. My theory is that in a few years there may not be any of us left. It will be good to remember what it was like.
But this, to use the parlance of the day, is not my first rodeo. I also lived a life of local trading that went away. Let me explain.
First of all, “local” means something different when you apply it to trading. Whereas in media, if you say “local radio,” you think of school closings and high school basketball games, election coverage and a toy drive.
When you say “local trader,” it means that you were a trader in a pit and you traded your own money. That’s what I was for most of my years at the Chicago Board of Trade. A local trader.
There are a lot of similarities between my life of local radio and my life as a local trader. Foremost is that both are or were in the process of dying. Radio’ been around for about 100 years. It’s being pushed to the side by the internet. Pit trading lasted about 170 years. Then it too got pushed aside by the internet.
And since I have been involved in both of these deaths, I should have recorded the dying process. I didn’t do it with trading. I am doing it now with radio.
And it bugs me to no end that I didn’t do it with trading. I tried it a couple of times, but back then there wasn’t blogspot or blogger or weebly or even Facebook. There was just websites. And I hired a guy to take my observations from the day and post them on a website. I don’t even remember what the website was called, but the process of posting what I wrote took about three times as long as it did to write it. After a couple of months, I just stopped writing the blog.
And that’s too bad. I’d really like to be able to go back and read what I was thinking back then, what was happening to the other guys in the pits, how the technology was interfused with the open outcry system, and how we could basically hear the slow thud of the grim trading reaper come to work along with us every day.
I hear the thud now with radio. I sense very strongly that radio will be something other than radio in a few years. Will radio go away completely… as, for the most part, pit trading has?
I don’t know. There’s a guy I used to trade with who says –
“They were trading in pits for 171 years, and then when I come along, it closes down. What rotten luck.”
That could be the future for radio. Or it could not. The jury is still out. I’ll record the death as it comes, if indeed it comes, but I won’t sit still. I over-invest in new technology basically because I underinvested in it the first time around.
And it is the first time around that I’m thinking about on a rainy Tuesday afternoon in June. Word comes down to me that another trader that I used to know has killed himself. I don’t know the details. I don’t even know if it’s for certain that it’s a suicide. Maybe it’s just a misunderstanding. What is true, though, is that a lot of men have left the pits at the Chicago Board of Trade and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and they went slowly, or quickly, downhill. Many have died, either from killing themselves quickly, as in hanging or jumping off a bridge or using a gun, or killing themselves slowly in a process that used to be known as “consumption.”
It bothers me, this phenomena. I knew these men. True, the day I left the Board of Trade in 2004 I changed my phone number. I refused emails and Facebook messages and phone calls from guys and gals I used to go to battle with every day. I hope that some of them will forgive me for being such a jerk about it. But to me, it was the only way to get out.
And to be straight about it with the three or four of you, I’m not entirely certain that I am totally out of pit trading. Sometimes I wake up with bad dreams that I got a couple hundred bonds on and there was an explosion somewhere in the world and I’m losing a ton of money… while I’m sleeping. The dreams seem so real. The pain of carrying a losing position into sleep and then waking up to a really painful loss, of course, is something that I did hundreds of times. The pain is still real. The actual trading is not.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that it hit me harder than I would have thought to hear about another guy that I knew who killed himself. I can’t figure out what it was exactly about the Board of Trade back in the day that led so many men to falter afterwards. I have no idea, and I have one of them there Sociology degrees from Berkeley.
There must have been something about the swashbuckling lifestyle. The extreme cash and the extreme partying… I can’t really explain it without getting myself into trouble. I loved the life, the action, the partying and the sense of self worth. I became addicted to all of it. And, believe me, it was quite painful when it all went away.
But there has been plenty of sunshine on the other side of pit trading. I’m guessing that a number of guys just couldn’t believe this. And then they’re gone, dead, or for some, simply broken. I don’t know what led to all of this. Sometimes I fantasize about writing another line of bullsht, this one called “My Trading Life: what happens after.” I could interview the loved ones and friends of former traders who are dead. What happened after they left the pits? How did they cope with the transition? What did they expect out of life? How did they kill themselves?
It’s a real thing, a real problem. There was for me an expectation that after trading the world would still offer up riches and notoriety. I had to bend my expectations to the reality of working tons of hours for none of either. After a while, I realized what the new norm was, and, as I look back, I’m probably a lot happier now than I ever was as a trader.
But it still doesn’t mean that I don’t berate myself for not writing it down as I lived the death of trading. The computers came in, the traders were forced out, and next thing you know a bunch of them are dead way too young. It doesn’t make any sense. There isn’t one theory that observers offer up that makes sense to me. I wish like hell I could go back to my blog of 20 years ago and look for clues about what was happening then to form an opinion about what is happening now. Oh well. Another thousand words and still the three or four of you and I are getting nowhere.
RIP, my trader friend. It must have been hell.