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Memoirs of a Minyan: Battle Lines Are Drawn

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The purpose of the journey is the journey itself.

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"I've got it covered. Toddo will write on Monday while you find someone for the rest of the week."

I was trading 200 positions and managing $400 million worth of risk as the biggest bubble in history imploded. I didn't want another job.

"Dude, the last time I wrote something was to my mother while at summer camp. It's not happening."

In typical Jim fashion, his mind was already made up. His problem was solved and it quickly became mine.

I didn't put much thought into my first column as I had bigger fish to fry. I scribed Grateful Dead lyrics that pertained to the tape, threaded in some levity through pop culture references and espoused my bearish bent in real-time, delving into the details of my particular approach.

I didn't embrace the double duty but it didn't bother me either. In fact, it helped crystallize my thoughts as I tried to navigate the wicked crosscurrents of the marketplace.

As the closing bell approached at the end of the day, I got a call from the editor asking me to finish the week.

"Sure," I said as I looked at Jeff and winked, "anything I can do to help."

The Switch is Flipped

There was no middle ground with Jim. Every day was either the best ever or the worst imaginable. That applied to his personal relationships as well; you were either his best friend or a sworn enemy.

I toggled between the two, often in the same day, but there was little doubt which side of his emotional chasm I was on when I pulled up to his East End rental that Friday night.

"Toddo!" he screamed as he ran down the driveway and wrapped me in a bear hug, "We gotta talk!"

I was with a friend who was stunned by the outburst of emotion. I couldn't blame her-Hurricane Jim was frenzied energy that swallowed everything in his path. She didn't know the other side of that ride but it's just as well; she wouldn't believe it anyway.

He told me that my columns performed fantastically well. That surprised me but I had little time to digest it. He had a plan and his wheels were spinning quickly.

"We're going to give you a trading diary on TheStreet.com right next to mine. It'll be great-Whataya say?!?"

What would you say?

I never shied from a challenge and I'm not sure I could have if I wanted to. To be honest, I wasn't sure that I wanted to. I actually enjoyed writing, if only for the opportunity to synthesize my thoughts. Little did I know that Jim opened a door that forever changed my life; little does he know that I remain grateful for that to this day.

I swore that I wouldn't let the column splinter the focus that was quietly lining my pockets. Writing came naturally, from the heart and from the gut, and it soon became a seamless duopoly that introduced a world I never knew existed.

At first I feared the additional responsibility would add tension to an already tense environment. While Jim and I often disagreed on how to approach the market, that dialogue was behind closed doors.

Now, through the power of the Internet, we were at odds for the world to see.

When trading, one must adapt to the market. Different times require different styles and the choppy cusp of the Internet bubble was a lesson in agility. By the time the crowd got on one side of the market, it viciously shifted, leaving blood in its wake.

It wasn't an easy tape to trade; in fact, it was brutal even if you were best in breed.

I began to view Jim's momentum-style approach as a contrary indicator, subconsciously at first and then with increased regularity. As our fund continued to outperform and I embraced the column he enabled me to attain, I swallowed my tongue and kept the peace.

I didn't dislike the man; in fact, I had tremendous respect for his intelligence and cared for him as a friend. We all wanted the same thing and tried to push through our problems despite increasingly frequent clashes.

As we edged through the back half of 2000, it was clear something was going to give.

And that something wasn't going to be me.

R.P.

Click here for the next chapter of memoirs, "Reality Bites"

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