One of the things I noticed near the end of my so-called trading career was how long it took to get ready to trade.
In the beginning, I could wake up and rush to the train and be on the floor in an hour, not thinking at all about what I would be doing that day. The bell would ring and I would simply open my mouth and start yelling with the rest of the fellas.
As time wore on, I started to do things like read charts the night before and wake up early to meditate. If you put both of these together, you’re a little bit prepared in case the market moves a lot and at the same time you’re in touch with your inner core, whatever that is. This took a lot of time. I’d have to say to my wife at night, “Excuse me, honey, but I have to go down in the basement and review some charts.”
“Okay,” she would say. “If that’s what it takes. But this was kind of nice watching TV together.”
And then I would wake up about 3:30 in the morning to start psyching myself out to be ready mentally to trad. All of this took a lot of time. Then, no matter how early I got up, I’d have to rush out the door and down Cline Avenue to make it to the train on time. There, I would find a seat and write my ass off for 40 minutes. Then I’d put my notebook in a backpack and walk down Van Buren Street.
Sometimes there would be a restaurant open and I’d buy an egg sandwich and eat that. You have to have nourishment to be your best in the pits. Then I walked into the Board of Trade and to the jacket counter and put on my jacket. A few minutes later I’d be reading the charts again, sitting in the pit waiting for it to open.
In the latter days of My Trading Life, there would be computer trading. You could find a computer somewhere and put some trades on early in the morning. I’m not sure if that ever helped my performance, but it felt good to be in the game. Once the bell rang, I felt real. It took a while to unwind all of the mental and physical prep that I had put myself through, but every once in a while amongst the smell of garlic and yells of ecstasy, I would feel real. I can’t explain it, but near the end it took way too long to get ready in the morning. That’s usually a sign that the end is near.
Here it is 3:52 in the morning. I’ve been up for an hour or so. It’s not that I’m getting ready to do my radio show. It’s just that sometimes I wake at odd hours and start thinking about things. This morning, I started thinking about Charles Bukowski, so I read some of his poems online.
Not that I’m a poetry lover or anything. It’s just that sometimes you wake in the middle of the night. The fan from the heater gives the house a nice rhythm, and there are only a few lights on so you can simulate the serenity of the womb. It’s just that once in a while you try to type the night away and there aren’t any words that make sense, let alone beauty.
But what gets me is that you can type any poet or songwriter or essayist or lyricist or sonnet writer into the search bar… and a moment later you could be reading what took them a lot of hard work to produce. Flash, zim, splank. There it is. Their life’s work on a computer screen. And it didn’t cost nuttin.
Once in a while I’ll type in Grateful Dead songs just to read the lyrics or Emily Dickinson or, mostly, Bukowski. Allen Ginsberg would be okay if I could get past the self love of the line. Hemingway wrote to act like a man. At first it works, but then after a while you want to peel an orange to get the bad taste out of your mouth. On the way out the door, if you read any Salinger you’ll feel like chucking it all and renting an apartment in West Hollywood that’s so small the bed has to come out of the wall.
I went to a guy’s apartment once in West Hollywood that had a bed that after you slept on it, it springboarded its way against the wall. There’s a name for this kind of bed but I can’t think of it.
The man was from Hammond, Indiana. He was friend of my buddy’s dad. My friend, Jeff, was out visiting me at college. We drove over to Ray’s apartment on the second floor and knocked. It took a while for the door to be answered, and when it finally opened, it wasn’t a man but a woman. She wore a nightie. That’s all we saw as she opened the door and scrambled back to the bed that came out of the wall.
The apartment, of course, was messy. There was an endtable with all sorts of stuff on it – cigarette ashes, a deck of cards, several beer bottles, a magazine. I think it was Sports Illustrated, but I can’t be sure. It was a long time ago.
This man, Ray, and his friend, Patty, laid on this bed that came out of the wall while Jeff and I sat on chairs. There was a lot of laughing, but there wasn’t any getting out of bed. You got the feeling that the bed that came out of the wall wasn’t necessarily just a bed. It was also a piece of furniture. They may have laid in that bed all day.
“You want a beer?” Ray asked. It was about 10 in the morning. It didn’t seem appropriate for the time of day, but somehow in the presence of Ray, a beer didn’t seem out of place.
“Although I’m not sure after all the hullabaloo that took place here last night that we got any left. Look in the icebox over there, will ya’, Jimmy?”
They had a few beers left. Shafer. I can’t remember what the magazine on the endtable, but I could remember the beer. “Shafer.” That’s the beer you buy when you have absolutely no money to spare.
“I know your dad,” Ray said. “And your mom. We went to school together at Hammond High.”
And Ray told a couple stories of going with them to a game at the Civic Center and how once they went to a Cubs game together and my dad kept score the whole time.
“And I drank,” Ray said. By then, he had a beer. He would take a swig and then hand it to Patty, who would take a bigger swig. She was young, a lot younger than Ray. I wondered about her past. How could she be that young and decent looking and wind up sleeping in a bed that springs out of the wall with an older man who doesn’t work. There are nooks and crannies to life and sometimes you can’t locate them without really getting down on your hands and knees.
I was a little embarrassed when Patty got up to go into the bathroom and I followed her with my eyes. It was the nightie. Although she was nothing like my mom or any of my aunt’s, she wore the same kind of nightie. And she had nice legs and a way of throwing her hair back. Once she was in the bathroom, Ray said something to me that I remember clear as day.
“So whatcha think?” he said to me, nodding his head toward the bathroom. “You wanna f--- her, doncha?”
I looked down at my Shafer beer. It wasn’t the kind of question you want to answer at 10 in the morning in West Hollywood. That’s because at 10 in the morning in West Hollywood, drinking beer and the sun’s out and there’s a zillion cars roaring by on the street outside, it all doesn’t seem quite real.
The concrete of your doorstep back home in Indiana and the breezeway where you’re supposed to take your shoes off. And the kitchen counter where all of the keys are and the toaster you use to make Eggo waffles and the stairs down to your bedroom where there’s a closet that you would go into to make out with any of the cheerleaders leftover from last year’s class.
At 10 in the morning drinking in West Hollywood, the clouds clear and you realize that you’re a long way from home. You also realize that if you don’t play your cards correctly, you could be laying in bed at 10 am without a job talking to the kid of a guy you used to know back in Hammond, Indiana. It’s the circle of life that can catch you by the big toe and make you face plant into the side of a palm tree, if you’re not careful.
“Hey, thanks for the beer,” I said as Jeff and I were walking out.
“Where you going? We’re just getting started. Patty has couple of friends who were gonna come over. You’d like that.”
Jeff and I both ushered out the door and through the courtyard to the car.
“What the hell just happened?” I said.
“Nothing. Why? That’s just Ray.”
…. That’s enough for the this morning. It’s 4:22am on a Monday. I’m gonna make some eggs and watch a little morning news and then go do a radio show. At 9:30, I’ll work out. At 11am, I’ll teach a class on Sports Broadcasting. I don’t know what I’ll do later in the afternoon, but I’m guessing that at some point it will involve taking a nap. Didn’t sleep much this weekend. Alexis and I went to Indianapolis for some work things and wound up at a Butler basketball game. Hinkle Fieldhouse is great if you can get over the airplane hangar feel of it all. See you on the radio.