Los Angeles, CA
Long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away... I interviewed at a couple of different firms while seeking a job on Wall Street. I ended up wanting to trade bonds mainly because I really liked one particular firm that was located within steps on the NYSE. The energy was overflowing at that spot. So much history in that small one block radius. Heck, on the steps right next door to the old Federal Hall, George Washington was sworn in as President. Sadly, during one of the darkest moments of our nation, slaves were brought off ships near present day South Street Seaport, dragged a few blocks in chains to the steps of Federal Hall, where they were auctioned off on the same steps where our first President took his Oath of Office.
Events, both good and bad, occurred in that tiny area which is why that street is an epicenter of tremendous energy. I can never do justice explaining the explosive feeling that I used to get when I waltzed down Nassau Street and hooked a left onto Wall Street... like your first hit of cocaine, while doing a shot of tequila and letting chocolate covered bacon melt in your mouth while you're getting a blowjob.
It was a rush. Just walking down the street gave me a fucking stiff woodie.
I felt the energy. It aroused and intoxicated me. The ghosts. The demons. The angels. The titans of capitalism. The commies wanted to shut it down. The terrorists wanted to blow it up. Wall Street was the crossroads of the world and I wanted to be a part of it. And I was, for a brief time. There's not a day that goes by where I don't have a flashback of sitting in the trenches deep in the shit with a stomach full of bile because I failed to close a sales call.
During the initial interview process, I went to a six or seven different firms ranging from the big boys to the boutique brokerage house. I already had seven months experience as a runner on the floor of the commodities exchange during an internship for the last half of my senior year in college, and when that was over, I got hired on that summer. I was doing such a good job that the owner of the firm offered to give me a full time job instead of going to college. He felt that I could be a great floor broker one day and wanted to show me the ropes. I graduated from high school when I was 17, so I was floored because how many snot-faced 17-year-olds get offered a full time job? I declined it, of course. I wanted to leave NYC and go to college. I wanted to party and get laid, and not put in 60+ hours a week when I was still a teenager.
Although I had my foot inside the door, back in the 1990s, anyone could get a job as a broker trainee. Anyone. The job was so tough and brutal that only a few people could stomach it. 50% quit after the first week. 75% don't last a month. Who wants to start off making $100 a week and that's it for 80+ hours of hell? That's the starting pay, so the firms opened their doors to anyone who wants to take a shot. In the end, 99.5% of the applicants quickly bail after the first ninety days. The few survivors end up having a shot at becoming on the Masters of the Universe.
But what about going to college? Or Harvard Business School?
That's important for making upwards moves and using your connections to get into rooms and conversations you would never normally otherwise have the opportunity to sit in on. Here's the thing... Wall Street is just like the military. The grunts are the guys who apply for jobs through the NY Times or Wall Street Journal, like kids walking into US Army recruiting offices in Times Square. Now, only a small number of officers come from the pool of enlisted men and the majority of officers them came from the military academies. That's what those Wharton and Harvard MBAs are like -- officer training. Those "suits" are going to be the ones with actual offices and vacations in Provence, and not schlepping it out in the trenches with the grunts for six days a week, 18 hours a day.
I was a visionary in my early 20s. I had a plan. I was going to learn the business, pay off my school loans, then get my firm to pay for B-school. If they balked, I was going to find a new firm that would do that in exchange for trade secrets and my roster of clients. Once I secured my MBA, then I could move up in the financial sector and no longer come in every morning and pitch stocks and bonds to dentists and widows. I was going to let them use me, so long as I used them back to pay for my education.
Of course, I got sidetracked on the original plan about one year in. As much as I enjoyed many aspects of the job, it wasn't my true calling. I left to pursue writing and embarked on a troublesome, yet exciting road. Yes, I would quit again every single time.
Flash forward to today where I'm sitting in the slums of Beverly Hills 15 years later thinking back at those initial interviews. The recruiters at these firms were slick motherfuckers. They knew how to press the right buttons. They too were working class kids from Queens and Brooklyn. Some of them were grandchildren of Ellis Island immigrants and a few were first-generation Americans. They tried to make me feel comfortable too... that they understood what it was like to come from humble beginnings but with a desire to get a shot at the big time.
They often vacillate between their former poor self and the current baller. I'll never forget this one guy at a brokerage house in Midtown. He looked like the actor/director Peter Berg. He told me that when he started, he had only one white collared shirt that he used to wash in his sink every night. He went to Chinatown and bought five ties for $10 so he could at least have a different tie on everyday. All of his co-workers made fun of him and nicknamed each tie a different day of the week.
"This one I'm wearing?" he said, stroking a magnificent Italian silk tie like it was his erect cock, "This cost $200-something."
He shared commuting bad beat stories about living on the outskirts of the Queens/Long Island border because he couldn't afford a cheaper place. He had to get up so early in order to get to the office that he was mugged a couple of times because it was still dark out when he went to work.
"Now, I have a penthouse around the corner. It takes me longer to wait for the elevator up to the 32nd floor than it does to walk home."
And then he told me about his Porsche. His dream car. He bought that with his first six-figure bonus check that he got withing two years of working at the firm. He used his first seven-figure bonus check to buy his apartment. His next one? He showed me a brochure for a retirement community on a gold course in Florida. He said he was buying three houses... one each for his divorced parents and their spouses, and a third so he had a place to stay when he went down to Florida to golf with clients.
He was planting the seed. Greed is good. We all want a better life. Cool things. Respectability. Validation. His firm was the path to that salvation. All I had to do was rape, murder, and pillage for his crew and they will share the spoils, so I took could wear $200 ties, drive a Nazi-sled for a car, and obtain low-interest mortgage on a kick-ass apartment in Manhattan. After all, once you had all those things, they'd be a line of women out the door waiting to fuck me. Right? The city is crawling with gold diggers looking to sink their claws into a sugar daddy.
All I had to do was swallow the pill and jump down the rabbit hole. Millions were within my grasp. Sounds so fucking easy. Then again, at 22, I was young, dumb, and full of cum. If I saw the potential to make money in the military, I would have joined the Marines, just like my old man. But one of the few words of advice were to avoid the armed services. He told me that he wasn't smart enough to be anything other than a grunt, but that I was different. I would only make a shit ton of money if I owned my own business. I always kept that in the back of my head.
I knew that I needed help to get to that point (working for yourself) due to limited resources. Sure I had a piece of paper that said I graduated from a Top 25 university, but that meant nothing. I lacked the necessary skills to survive in the real world, because college doesn't teach you those things. I'm glad that I put my time in at the trenches and learned the ins and outs of high finance, international banking, money laundering, Ponzi schemes, manipulating people with fear, and most importantly -- how to have fucking balls. You have to stand up every once in a while for something you believe in and have the testicular fortitude to take what's yours.
Shit, in many ways, training on Wall Street was just like boot camp, where they break you down and strip you of everything you learned in society up until that point. And once the tabula rasa is wiped clean, those evil suits brainwash you and transform you into a trained assassin in a Brooks Brothers suit. Killing machines. Perfect soldiers.
For a while I was one of those, but just like in The Bourne Identity, I snapped one day and didn't see the entire point to it all -- well, I should say, I didn't see the point of me being involved. The notion of Wall Street had become romanticized by movies and the mass media. The reality of it all was actually quite depressing and utterly frightening when you learn how some things really work. I currently work in a the gambling industry, but poker players are small potatoes compared to the degenerate gamblers on Wall Street. Some of my former peers pressed the action at the slightest hint of an edge while gambling with millions of dollars of other people's money. And if they didn't have an edge, they'd create one.
I guess I got scared learning how the financial sector operated, kind of like going to a slaughter house for the first time and finding out what's really in your sausage. It's easier to just bite into your breakfast and not think about how that food was processed from a living being to a savory piece of fuel.
Similar things happened to me in poker. I used to view poker as this sector of coolness in the world that I only saw on TV. It still trips me out sometimes that I went from watching poker at home on TV while ripping bong hits... to actually roaming the sidelines and covering the action for the poker media. When I was a kid, I never said that, "When I grow up, I want to be a poekr writer."
That was never my intention, which sums up life because you never always arrive at your intended destination.
But once I saw how much money was involved, my old Wall Street training kicked in. Billions of dollars. People were giving it away in 2005-06. All I had to do was stick out my hand and grab it. The money tree has since stopped shedding its leaves and these days, I spend exhausting and countless hours shaking the money trees like a fiend as hard as I can hoping that a couple of $100 leaves will flutter to the ground.
I wonder if that Wall Street recruiter ever made it down to Florida himself and finally decided to bail out of the business, take his money and retire. There's so much sun to be enjoyed in Florida, not to mention the year round golf. Who knows. Maybe he's still doing what he's been doing, and that is, trying to persuade poor twenty-something kids to work their asses off for $100 a week in the chance that one in a hundred turns out to be a perfect weapon.
I have a Wall Street novel in me. Someday I'll sit down and write that. Not now. Not in five, or even ten years. Maybe when I'm 50, if I make that long. Too bad I never got a crack at the screenplay to the Wall Street sequel. Everyone has a story to tell and I have hundreds of tales about annoying clients, insane co-workers, eclectic partners, and of course... my mentor who is a dead ringer for the Ben Affleck character in Boiler Room.
Now you know where I get that cut throat instinct.