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Memoirs of a Minyan: The Genesis of a Dream


The purpose of the journey is the journey itself.

Editor's Note: "Memoirs of a Minyan" is a first-person account that follows Minyanville founder Todd Harrison as he weaves his way through Wall Street and beyond. This e-Book will publish each Wednesday over 18 weeks. Click here to read previous Memoirs chapters.

Chapter 14: The Genesis of a Dream

In the months leading into September, I developed a friendship with a woman named Casey Cannon. She reached out through email and I responded, as I always did to those who took the time to write. Our connection was unique from the beginning; she asked the right questions and said the right things.

She was an accomplished player in the entertainment arena, having worked for Industrial Light and Magic with George Lucas before venturing out on her own. Her profile on IMDB featured over 30 films working with the best and the brightest in that industry.

Casey knew Jim and his family well -- in fact, she produced his retirement video, which caught my attention for the high production quality of the work.

During my Labor Day trip to Maui to see my father, Casey suggested I stop in Los Angeles so we could meet. She was directing the opening sequence on Cameron Crowe's Vanilla Sky and asked me if I wanted a cameo role. Having never been in a feature film, I jumped at the chance.

The split second shot took ten hours to produce, which pushed my flight to the next day and gave us time to vibe. I mused that nobody ever bridged finance and entertainment; and as most people on Wall Street want to be famous and many in Hollywood want Wall Street's money, it seemed liked an intuitive fit.

I introduced the notion of Hoofy and Boo as vehicles of information. While the Wall Street bull and bear played globally, nobody ever put faces or names to them. Animation is a generationally neutral genre that has an audience throughout the societal spectrum.

"If Walt Disney can brand two rodents as cultural icons," I offered, "We can take the Wall Street bull and bear and affect positive change through financial understanding."

When I wasn't trading, my focus shifted from to the concept of this new platform -- one where metaphorical representations of financial dynamics could live in harmony, away from the pitfalls and pain in the real world. I wanted to build this world and Casey possessed the skills to facilitate my dream.

"How much do you think we can do it for?" I asked her before finally boarding my flight.

"Thirty grand, tops." She replied, which sounded reasonable enough. With experience in tow, Wall Street as a stable foundation and Hollywood in my sights, I headed to Maui to see my father.

"It'll be a place where Hoofy and Boo will gather to debate the merits of the financial markets," I said as I readied to board the plane, "A platform for discussion, a collection of intelligent opinions and a community of respected thought leaders..."

I paused to think and drew a veiled analogy to a quorum necessary for prayer.

"We'll call it Minyanville."

Familiar Faces

In 2000, I discovered my father was bipolar and later learned my business partner was as well. I lost my grandfather Ruby the following April. As my grieving subsided, I watched two planes slam into the towers down the street.

It was a dark and introspective time; you find what you're made of in those situations.

Minyanville rose like a phoenix from the scorched earth and rescued me from realities I didn't want to face. A breath of life was injected into my lungs; it was an escape, a corridor from a very painful place to a bright, animated world without terror or acrimony or politics or agenda.

I continued to focus on our hedge fund, trying anything and everything to recapture the momentum I once took for granted. Gains were elusive and profits were scarce, the mirror image of the profitable scrimmage we played the previous year.

One day in late November, an hour before the close, my phone rang. It was Jim and it was the first time since I resigned from that he reached out to me. My emotions were a mixture of excitement, trepidation and caution -- I clearly didn't know what to expect but I was happy to hear from my former friend.

"Hey man!" he began with enthusiasm, "I want you to come on my show tonight."

Jim was beginning his renaissance as a television personality, co-hosting America Now with Larry Kudlow. "I would love to," I explained, "but I'm not feeling all that well." It was the truth -- I was extremely rundown -- but it wouldn't matter.

After several circular repetitions of the same conversation, it was obvious I wasn't going to wiggle out of the spot. "Alright," I said, "I'll be at the CNBC midtown studio at 7:00 PM and we'll get it done."

Following the September 11th purge, equity markets rallied sharply from the abyss, morphing patriotism into bullishness with the steady strength of an unseen hand. At the time, anything but a table-pounding bullish bent was blasphemously unpatriotic.

It would be years before the Plunge Protection Team would be publicly discussed without being called conspiratorial.
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