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The Ojai Chronicles: Part Deux


T-minus 51 weeks and counting!


Editor's Note: This is part two of a column on the back of Minyans in the Mountains II.

Click here for part 1.

As the sunset morphed into a full moon, most Minyans once again found their way to Jimmy's. Minyan Sal Morreale held an impromptu wine tasting, Professor Succo made his first cameo of the conference and held court with Mr. Saut (yes, Jeff, what happens in Ojai stays in Ojai!) and the overall vibe was simply spectacular. It was, in many ways, the embodiment of the Minyanville spirit as we smiled in style and made certain that nobody felt alone.

The meat of the line-up arrived Friday morning as Editor-in-Chief Greg Collins set the stage for the incomparable Steve Shobin. I often opine that Steve encapsulates everything that's "right" in the financial industry and his speech was an extension of his energy. One of his great attributes (and something I've only seen once before by a gentleman named Bill Meehan) is the ability to talk with-rather than at-people while truly getting his point across.

Minyan Michael Santoli took the dais to introduce the technical panel (Shobin, Roney, Gula, Erlanger and Goepfert) as they chewed through a slew of indicators and approaches. Shortly thereafter, Herb Greenberg, Vitaliy Katsenelson, Jeff Macke and Fil Zucchi sang a similar song with regard to the fundamentals (Snoop Tony Dwyer was scheduled to join but an inner-ear infection (or a late night with Daisy) limited his participation).

After a short respite, we held five spectacular breakouts---energy with Neal Dingmann, biotech with David "downtown" Miller, advanced technical analysis with Pepe Depew and Scott Reamer, metals with Laurie McGuirk and Greg Weldon and sentiment with Jason Goepfert and Bernie Schaeffer. While I popped into each session at a point, I relied on the buzz to provide feedback on the quality. And, from what I gathered, each one was very special in its own unique way.

I concluded the first day program by thanking our professors and reminding our Minyans that we should be mindful of the good fortune that we together share. In a blink of an eye, we'd be back in our offices and slaving away with the flickering ticks. This was our respite, I offered, and if the purpose of the journey is truly the journey itself, we shouldn't waste our precious time worrying about when it would all end.

Friday's afternoon was a bifurcated agenda-in honor of Scott Reamer-as some Minyans filed in for an afternoon with Tom DeMark while others saddled up for Minyan golf. I've never been one for the links-that's a long story for another time-but I hopped into a golf cart (Corona in hand) and made my way around the grounds. I'll say this, as I watched from afar and saw the smiles and laughter, my heart swelled with a satisfaction that remains difficult to adequately describe.

Several strokes later-and after a stunning performance by Minyan Sean Mueller-we piled into our two yellow school buses and found our way to the Deer Lodge. A biker bar by day-and a Minyanfest by night-the food was fantastic, the mood was elevated and the band set a saucy tone. I offered before we left that MiM2 was a combination of a Bar Mitzvah, a wedding and a graduation party and all three came together as any remaining social barriers were quickly eradicated.

Of course, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. For many, that arrived Saturday morning when we promptly kicked off day two with Pepe Depew's interpretation of controlling risk and staying in the game. His focus wasn't the tape, mind you, it was the interpersonal relationships that we forge as we edge through this thing called life. I found his vibe to be particularly apt if not completely unexpected. It set a tone of humanity that has become the hallmark of our humble little community.

From there, Professor Succo, Doctor Jon Najarian, Bernie Schaeffer, Fari Hamzei and Phil Erlanger stepped to the podium for panel number three: Derivatives Gone Wild. For me, an option trader of 15 years, I found this particularly insightful as they discussed the changing face of the option race and role of derivatives in the new world order. As I sat back and scanned their faces, I couldn't help but feel a sense of awe at what was, perhaps, the greatest collection of derivative mavens ever assembled on one stage.

Michael Thompson, the Director of Research for Thomson Financial, took the stage next and shared his interesting perspective on earnings, IPO's and his take on the tape. He and Snoop Tony were the professors most likely to be seen hanging with Hoofy and their participation was a welcome "balance" that we often strive for in the 'Ville. From there, we broke for an hour long break-out, snuck a 20 minute respite and then entered the room for my key note.

After a few digs from Minyan Michael Santoli-good natured ribbing that everyone found enjoyable-I stepped to the podium to share some thoughts. As I've posted most of my keynote in the 'Ville yesterday-minus, of course, the several tangents that were inevitable-I won't reprise them again. Suffice to say that I was thankful for the opportunity to have a platform and was truly humbled by the response I received from the standing room only crowd.

From there, we broke into the macro panel-Scott Reamer, John Succo, Michael Thompson, Greg Weldon, Tony Dwyer and myself-and we let loose on the whole caboose. One of the greatest aspects of Minyanville is the ability to disagree without the element of acrimony. That came through on this panel where, despite having polar opposite views, the ebb and flow was seamless. There was alotta meat to this heat and I'm sure that it'll be chewed through in the days-and months-to come.

President Fish wrapped up the content portion of the retreat by sharing his vision of what's to come and unveiling the world premiere of Hoofy and Boo's next iteration. While you've seen the two-dimensional (flat) versions of the critters, take me at my word that the 3-D renders-brought to life in body and voice-planted a seed that will sow for many years to come. It particularly resonated for me as my metaphorical friends were figments of my imagination a few years back. Now, we're actually having conversations with them!

With the nuts and guts done, it was time to focus on the important stuff: Softball. Succo spanked me last year in Crested Butte and despite his bunk back, he insisted on managing his squad for a round ball redeux. We drafted teams-and I promptly traded Fokker for Mrs. Terri Succo-and began the rather intense game. And it didn't take long. After the first few innings, it was Hoofy's Heroes 16 and Boo's Bandit's 5.

I should have known that I was in trouble when, with only five outs left and a rather meaty 10 run lead, I turned to Succ and said "52 weeks of hell, brother, 52 weeks of hell." He smiled wryly and reminded me that I should never count my chickens before they hatch. Sure 'nuff, and in the bottom of the last inning, his squad tied the game with two outs with the winning run on third and the best player on the field coming to the plate.

Fish and I studied the scene intently and decided to walk the sculpted all-city athlete that is JB. But-much to everyone's shock, he tried to pull the vaunted Kelly Leak impersonation and dribbled a grounder (which was fired home and ultimately ended the threat). Extra innings were in the works and life was breathed into our suddenly sparked squad.

We snuck in a run in the top of the inning and that proved to be the game winner. It wasn't without drama, however, as they once again had the bases juiced and looked primed to steal the spotlight. It came down to a nail-biting rundown between third and home-which ended it-just as I ran from shortstop, slid across the infield with my arms extended and screamed "Do you believe in miracles? YES!"

We limped home-raspberries in tact-and began to prepare for the final affair-the big red barn party. Of course, after a rather painful shower (see "raspberries"), we found that one of our trolleys was busted and our kick-ass band was MIA. What would MiM2 be without a little added stress? A bit more fun, we learned, as it was evident that nothing would stop what was, by all accounts, a massive upside surprise.

As the Kinsella Brothers broke into U2, the mechanical bull tossed Minyans to and fro and 170 of our closest friends munched on fine BBQ fare, I found myself feeling an unfamiliar moment of gratitude. This was it, I thought, the truest embodiment of the Minyanville vision to date. Families, friends, children, puppies, professors, pundits and, well, just about every walk of life sharing a common vibe. It was certainly a lot of work, I knew, but somewhere out there in the foothills of the Ojai Mountains, it made perfect sense.

Heartfelt appreciation to everyone at MVHQ-Fish, Collins, Vanessa, Depew, Bill, Chachi, Farley-many thanks to our special keynotes-Jeff Saut, Steve Shobin-mucho snaps to our impressive collection of professors-you know who you are-and, of course, much love to each Minyan who found their way to the mountains. It was an event beyond description and we look forward to exceeding your expectations anew in 2006!



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