You know what I’m talking about.
This is changing, though. For some reason, I have been allowing thoughts of trading on the floor and thoughts of the man I was at the time to reveal themselves. It’s a game of peek-a-boo. For the past 13 years, when thoughts of trading crept on me and said “peek a boo,” I ran. Scared.
Now when the thoughts come up, I just sigh and let them have their way. If you’re gonna have to sit through a three-hour Accounting class, you might as well get something out of it.
- Michael Loftus, whose daughter Stephanie was getting married
- Dickie Dunlap, whom I stood next to in the five-year pit for a few years
- Tom Mazza, whom I traded with at the MidAmerica Exchange and the Board of Trade. Mazza runs his own hedge fund now.
- Billy Noyes, whom I traded with in the 10-year pit for a while and then on my way out of trading I actually traded for Billy. He has three daughters and a son spread all over the West.
- James Maude. He’s another veteran of the MidAm who graduated to the Board of Trade. James has quite possibly the best sense of humor of any trader I ever met, with the possible exception of Ed Sarvey, who is now dead.
- Teddy Gradel. He’s another MidAm guy who did well at the Board. Some of you might remember Teddy as the kicker for Notre Dame in the 1980s.
- John Barat. I don’t really know him other than he was a pretty big “NOB” trader. It’s not what you think.
The thing about the wedding last night of Stephanie and Luke, a police officer, was that I didn’t want to go at first. Loftee, as he is known, has always been a really good friend of mine at the Board, probably my best friend from those days. Recently, when I wanted to go see my nephew Craig Dedelow play in the NCAA baseball regionals for IU, I called Loftee. I knew that he would go with me because
- he loves baseball
- he didn’t have anything else to do
The regionals were held in Lexington. It was my nephew’s last stand as the centerfield for Indiana, so I knew that I must attend. Loftee came with on the condition that we visit Keeneland.
Do the three or four of you know what that is?
It’s this well-known and very old racetrack with a zillion stables around it. If you’re a horse person, you know Keeneland. And you revere it.
When Loftee drove over there between IU games (they lost, by the way, to NC State and Kentucky and were knocked out of the tournament. Craig hit a couple of home runs)… there was a charity 5K race going on. This was fortuitous for us in that typically you can’t wander the grounds of Keeneland… except when there’s a charity 5K.
So Loftee and I did what the three or four of you would do, we lied that we were part of the charity run and wound up going onto the track at Keeneland and into the stables. We talked to one woman there whom Loftee said later was worth a billion dollars. She didn’t look like it. She just looked like any other cowgirl who loves her horse.
Anyways, it was good to see some of the old trading gang and to talk about the old days and to catch up on what everyone’s kids are doing. I am, of course, still hung over. I drank enough red wine to make a horse drunk, and then I stumbled up to our hotel room at the Hotel Indigo (Loftee got a group rate for $140 a night) and then went to sleep without eating any White Castles.
Here’s the thing about hangovers. You can avoid them by eating three White Castle cheeseburgers, a sack of fries, and by drinking a small Diet Coke. The pop is key in that White Castles has some of the most carbonated pop on the planet. Drink it and you will never be the same.
I’m rambling a bit, partly because I’ve been thinking about a couple of things.
- I’ve been thinking about the Board of Trade. A lot. Part of it was that I knew I was gonna run into my trading buddies and I was anticipating it for a couple of weeks. I allowed the thoughts to have their day. Alexis says that for the past 13 years I have lived under some sort of extended PTSD about the Board of Trade. Maybe she’s right. Amongst other challenges, I had to come home twice to tell her that I had lost all of our money.
I am not the only one who had to do this, by the way. The rather legendary trader Billy Noyes told Alexis and me a similar story about when he had to come home and tell his wife the same thing. It makes a man out of you, that’s for sure. It’s about the only positive thing anyone who ever had to do it could say about it.
- I’ve been thinking about order. That’s right – organization to the universe, to our thoughts, to our writing, to our accounting. I am, as the three or four of you know, taking graduate level Accounting as part of my late-in-life search for an MBA. Now I have few regrets in life, but one of them is that I didn’t take Accounting until now. I should have taken Accounting and pursued my MBA 30 years ago. That’s my regret.
The Accounting course, you see, is not only teaching me “the language of business,” it’s teaching me to do something that I didn’t even know was possible, which is to think of my business as something that can have some order.
I know that this might sound odd to you, especially if you are a businessperson or you just generally apply order to your life. But I don’t. My whole life is one moment toppling over onto the next. That’s my order.
It works, most of the time. The random points on an X,Y graph approach allows you to go to any point on the continuum whenever you want. There’s a certain freedom in the randomness of it all.
But it’s equally restricting in that you never really know where you’re at. And sometimes you revisit the same point on the X,Y graph that was earlier a mistake. But since you never have a plan or a reasonable recording of your business endeavors, you keep coming back to the same mistakes over and over again.
That’s me. Coming back to the same mistakes over and over. Accounting is teaching me that. Or, more precisely, professor Ken Pogach is teaching me that. He’s been teaching Accounting for like 40 years, and every time I go to visit him for office hours, he wants to talk about basketball. He went to Hammond High and is quite possibly the biggest Region basketball fan you never heard of. Sometimes, he’s the only person sitting in the endzone bleachers of the Purdue Northwest games. And he knows every starter from the 1970 East Chicago Roosevelt state champion team and the 1971 EC Washington state champs.
The point of all of this rambling is that I am welcoming the discipline and the order that Professor Pogach and the authors of “Accounting: What the Numbers Mean” bring to my life.
I don’t know if the three or four of you have been to college in a while, but here’s how they do it now. You don’t do your homework and then bring it to class and hand it in for the professor to grade.
Now, you do your homework online by a certain time. If you hit “Send” after the deadline, then your homework is late and will most likely not be counted. It has taken me a while to get used to this system.
This system also lends itself to procrastination. I had two quizzes and a long homework assignment due on Saturday at 8:30 am. So what did I do?
You guessed it. I waited until Saturday morning to do the two quizzes and the homework. I budgeted five hours for the job, so I set my alarm for 3:30am on Saturday and got up and studied for four hours and 43 minurtes and then hit “Send.” There’s a little added pressure when as you’re working McGraw Hill puts a clock in the upper right-hand corner of your laptop screen.
“You have 0 hours and 42 minutes to complete your assignment.”
I completed my assignments with 17 minutes to spare. So Roger that.
In one sense, I am beginning to accept and even crave order in my business life. But on my artistic side, which this is right here whether you realize it or not, I’m willing to let order break down altogether. It’s a willful world without order every time I pick up my laptop from under the bed and start pounding to the three or four of you.
I’m willfully training myself not to exact any order into what I’m saying to you. There is no outline, and every time I find myself planning out in my head where we’re gonna go next, I reject that line of writing and highlight it, delete it, and start over. I’m trying to get it to the point where I just pour straight from my head to the keyboard to the screen to you. It’s not working entirely. I was walking up the stairs from watching TV thinking:
- I’ll write about the Coach Friend video or
- the future of radio now that the FCC is loosening all of the rules
- or how the Bears suck
- or how hungover I am.
But that was planning. I crave planning and order for business. And I reject it almost entirely for creativity. There is a limit to order in business and there is a limit to randomness in art. I hope to find out where the limits are. Order, you rule. Order, get out of here.
That’s all that I have for the three or four of you on a Sunday night. Alexis and I just watched a movie called “The Circle.” It’s a warning to what happens to people when privacy goes away and all is known. For now, I really don’t care that you know all of these private things about me like I have a really hairy back and my breath smells like a combination of a stale basement and sausage. I am fairly resigned that there is an internet out there that it is slowly coming to watch us all, all of the time. I’m not happy about that but it’s like what do you do if it’s raining out – you just shrug your shoulders and pull your hood over your head and walk to your car. When you start the car, you’re all wet. You accept that and move on.
I have a radio show to do in a few hours. I hope that you can join me. I plan to talk about….
There’s the conundrum. I can sit down and write to you in a totally unstructured way, but I can’t do the same for the radio show. I don’t know why these two activities differ, but they do. If I just ramble on the radio without prep, you can tell and you don’t like it. I sound like I’m just going through the motions of talking on the air. There is sometimes magic in random radio, but it’s harder to allow to happen without at least a little prep.
So I must plan, at least a little. For tomorrow, I want to talk about what is happening at US Steel. The Times did a long form article about the recent leaks of chromium into the water around here. It’s happened like three times this year. And on the last, according to the Times now, US Steel requested “confidential” treatment of the spill from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.
That worries me even more than the spills themselves, which the Times seems to suggest might be happening because US Steel spent 400-million dollars upgrading a plant in northwestern Ohio and not the one here in Gary. The thinking seems to be that if US Steel were making upgrades to their pollution control equipment then we wouldn’t be having these problems.
Which brings us to the question – why is there so much f---ing cancer around here? My mom? My cousin Luke? Several aunts and uncles and grandparents and friends? What the f--- is going on around here? Does anybody care?
I do. Or at least I will for two and a half hours tomorrow morning. Then I’ll go later in the day to the Pirates banquet at the Arts Center in Munster and then late to Accounting class. I’ll collapse exhausted in this bed that I’m sitting on right now in about 27 hours. For now though, I’m gonna go downstairs to watch TV with Alexis and eat a Dilly Bar. Those things are addicting.