Memoirs of a Minyan: Behind Closed Doors
The purpose of the journey is the journey itself.
My grieving process threaded into my column on TheStreet.com; my editors were empathetic and allowed for some latitude during a difficult stretch. Still, it was clear they wanted nuts and guts financial stuff and would put up with only so much human interest. An underlying tension began to emerge as the editorial staff carved up my columns before they posted.
I never claimed to be a good writer but I spoke from the heart and told the truth. Sometimes, a word here or shift there can change the entire complexion of the content. I held my ground as they explained proper grammatical execution to me.
My style was simple -- communicate complex information nestled within pop-culture references like Young Frankenstein or Animal House and introduce topics with musical lyrics, be it the Grateful Dead, Led Zeppelin or Tom Petty.
My inbox filled daily with hundreds of emails. Many of them were about the markets but a surprising number of them had nothing to do with the tape. It amazed me how diverse my audience was but upon reflection, it made complete sense.
They weren’t traders that happened to be humans. They were humans that happened to be traders.
The Critters Cometh
I began using metaphorical representations of the stock market—Hoofy the Bull and Boo the Bear -- to represent both sides of the trading story. There’s always a bull case and a bear case and the residual grist is what you read about the following morning. It made sense to write through that lens as the friction between opinions is where true education lies.
In time, my readers asked what Hoofy was doing or what Boo was thinking and they assumed personalities and unique perspectives. They resonated; people liked them. It occurred to me that nobody ever branded the Wall Street bull and bear.
TheStreet.com paid me a salary but it paled in comparison to the money I made trading. Writing wasn’t about the compensation as much as it was a catharsis; we never signed a contract because I didn’t believe they should own the words “Hoofy” or “Boo.” As it turned out, it was one of the best business decisions I ever made.
They didn’t press the issue. To them, I was a cash cow, the man in the trenches who was a source of content that generated page views. I wrote incessantly as I navigated the other side of the technology bubble, chronicling my trades for the world to see. If the market was a casino, it felt like we had the dice in our hands for an incredibly long roll.
TheStreet.com was happy, our investors were happy as we edged towards fresh double-digit gains and I was happy, albeit a bit hollow. Profitability was a wonderful distraction from the pain of losing my grandfather but it didn’t fill the void.
The dynamic continued as the overcapacity of greed gone awry dripped from wayward technology stocks.
Life was good, or so I thought, as I had the toys society bestows on those with money. Forget all the time that elapsed while I sat in front of my screens. There would be more dinners with friends, plenty of time to find a bride and countless hours to relax.
They say to be careful for what you wish. I never quite understood how profound that was until I got to where I wanted to be.
As I’ve grown older, I realized the difference between having fun and being happy. Entering the summer of 2001, I knew of no such distinction.
Ruby aside, life had never been better. While others struggled with the fire sale on Wall Street, we were making serious money and I lived the lifestyle to prove it. I never thought I was that guy, the player who bankrolled limos, tables at nightclubs and big, expensive dinner checks.
I suppose, in hindsight, I was.
I was still grieving my grandfather when my buddy Lionel and I ventured to the Hamptons to look for a summer rental. I bought a BMW without so much as looking at the sticker price; U2 played loudly as we sped to the East End.
After seeing several houses, we were about to head back to the city empty-handed when a broker called to tell us of a place in Sag Harbor that had to be seen. We turned around and took one, final shot. The moment I drove into the compound I knew it was home. “We’ll call it Ruby Ridge,” I said to Lionel before we got out of the car to explore the grounds.
It was sensational. The Philip Stark designed house was flush with Lichtenstein’s, a meditation tower, media room and a wraparound terrace over looking Sag Harbor. There were immaculate rolling grounds with an eight-car garage, an adjacent two-bedroom casita and an outdoor dining pavilion with a fireplace and kitchen surrounding a black gummite pool. A croquet court sat between the compound and a two hundred square foot beach, all within walking distance from town.
We had to have it. “Seven bedrooms,” one of us said, “there’s a lot of space here.” The broker told us the house was listed for the summer at $150,000. Before we got back in the car, it was ours. We pulled in five or six friends, turned our garage into a nightclub called “Shagababy” and smiled when we overheard others talking about the new, private club somewhere in Sag Harbor.
There were a hundred people at Ruby Ridge at any given time. When we had parties, on my birthday and at the end of summer, 400 people attended soirees that are still being talked about. It was a summer of debauchery straight out of a movie, a twisted tale of revelry that could have been called “The Top of the Market.”
As a trader with my pulse on trends and turns, I should have seen it coming. I left for Hawaii on Labor Day weekend to fulfill my promise to my father.
It would be the last time New York ever looked the same.
Click here for the next chapter of Memoirs, "Brokedown Palace."
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Todd Harrison is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Minyanville. Prior to his current role, Mr. Harrison was President and head trader at a $400 million dollar New York-based hedge fund. Todd welcomes your comments and/or feedback at email@example.com.
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