10:53pm on a Friday evening
My day started about 4:30am when I woke up to my phone beeping and I hit it once and then again and again. It went off and on until 5am and by 5:32 I was standing in the dark talking on the radio. At that hour, truck after truck barrels down Indianapolis Boulevard. I can watch it all through the many windows at the Purdue Calumet Commercialization and Manufacturing Excellence Center. If I said it wasn't beautiful, I'd be lying.
That was a 17 hours ago. In between, wife Alexis and I took daughter Jeanie and her boyfriend Daniel to Chicago for Jeanie's medical procedure that she gets four times a year. Jeanie's a recent graduate of the University of Wisconsin and she's living in Queens, but the best way with insurance and all is to fly her in four times a year to get the procedure. Afterwards, the four of us aet at a place called "Quatrino" on State and Ohio. It cost me 39 bucks to park and I'm still a little sore about that.
This is all fine and dandy about our trip to Chicago and then later sitting around watching the movie "Concussion" and all.... but what I really want to talk about is a coincidence that happened today that either means something or it doesn't.
While Jeanie and wife Alexis were in with the doctor, I sat out in the waiting room with Jeanie's boyfriend Daniel, another recent Wisconsin graduate. He works for a big financial consulting firm in New York - Bloomberg - and he kept asking me about trading in the pits of the Chicago Board of Trade.
So I told him. I talked for a good 20 minutes straight about trading... how I did it and some of the mistakes I made and how it consumed my life for 18 years and... how I could absorb loss after loss after loss as long as I stayed in the game long enough for the big watershed winner to appear. I talked about trading freely and openly for a good 20 minutes in the waiting room of a Chicago doctor, and then I turned to Daniel and said -
"Wow, that's kind of weird. I haven't talked about trading like that in years."
That would be the first part of the coincidence. I stopped short of telling him perhaps the most crucial part of my trading story - that I was a trading addict and I had to stop or I would self destruct and destroy my family - but I gave Daniel at least enough to make it sound interesting.
Fast forward to when we get back to our home in Munster, Indiana. The Wall Street Journal was lying on the kitchen table. Here's what the headline reads.
The Unraveling of a Wall Street Scion - Andrew Jaspersen lost millions in trading binge, including mother's money
Evidently Andrew, who's under all sorts of indictments, had a problem. And it's curious in that I've been reading the Wall Street Journal since I was in high school. My grandfather, a stock and bond connoisseur, suggested that I do this when I would stay at his house over breaks when my family would go to Florida. I love my family, but I'm the oldest and there's four younger brothers and sisters and it was preferable to stay with my grandma and grandpa than pack into a car with my four little brothers and sister and mom and dad.
So there's grandpa parked in front of the television. He could barely see so he'd sit with his face about two inches from the screen and it was the old days so the numbers would flash across the bottom of the screen all day long... and he'd watch the numbers all day long. Every once in a while he'd pick up his phone - hold the keypad right to his nose so he could see the digits - and he'd call his broker. I have no idea if he made money doing this. I do know for certain, however, that he really enjoyed doing it and he'd get all annoyed if grandma called him for lunch during a market move.
One day, my grandpa came out into the driveway as I was going back home after a week stay. He handed me some white bound books.
"I want you to have these," he said and walked away. They were a bunch of his old Barron's, you know, the traditional financial magazines. Grandpa had had them bound, and he gave them to me.
I read them, of course - he's my grandpa after all - but I really didn't make too much heads or tails of the many charts and graphs and listings of numbers. There were ads for fancy suits and places to eat in New York, and that always conjured fantastical mental meanderings of what it must be like to understand the numbers and buy nice suits and eat in really booghee restaurants.
So if the three or four of you think about it, it's not really the Wall Street Journal that I've been reading since high school. To be precise, it's a combination of Barron's and the Wall Street Journal that I've been reading since high school.
And I gotta tell you in the 40 years of digesting these financial journals I do not recall ever having once read about something that has turned out to be recurring theme in my life - trading addiction. I must have learned a little of it from my German grandpa, and I certainly carried it out for 18 years as a nearly 24-hour-a-day trader... even on vacation.
After 40 years, here's what the WSJ said to me today about Andrew Caspersen -
"Mr. Caspersen was able to perpetrate his alleged fraud even though some investors suspected things seemed amiss. The scandal marks a stunning fall from grace for a man who seemed to have everything going for him..."
That's the setup of the tragedy. You're wondering - what could have gone wrong? Me too. Turn to page A8 for the answer to the mystery.
"Some people who know Mr. Caspersen well now say they he was feeding addiction, not to drugs or casino gambling, but to market speculation... (It) became a compulsion that consumed a personal fortune that once stretched well into the eight figures."
I'm guessing that the three or four of you by now have gone onto something else. You're looking for stuff that's directly about My American, Radio Life. I get that. But to understand #MyRadioLife, at least to get a full understanding of it, you'd probably have to understand how I came to even have a radio life. And all that I can say is this -
Radio rescued me. Pure and simple. I don't feel like going into it right now in that Alexis is laying next to me and she just put down Scrabble on her iPad. It's probably time I give her a little attention. Just know this - Andrew Caspersen is not alone. There are others of us out there.