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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Writer's Life 12/14 - Appointments

President-elect Trump has named Gary Cohn Director of the National Economic Council. He was previously the number two man at Wall Street powerhouse Goldman Sachs. I worked at the Commodity Exchange for 25 years. In my early days there I was what was called a "reporter" in the silver futures pit. A group of us in gaudy green jackets relayed transactions by hand signal to our supervisors at the podium, who relayed them by phone to people who logged them into a computer. Cohn was a trader back then, a "local," as it was called, working only for himself, not handling any customer orders. I don't recall him ever getting into a dispute with any of the other brokers, which was unusual, as conflicts occurred frequently. Unlike some of his colleagues, who badgered us constantly, he never said a negative word, at least to my knowledge, about any of the Exchange staff. I sensed he was resented by most of his peers, many of whom were blue collar guys who'd earned their way through the ranks of that crazy profession. Unlike many of those men, Cohn was stingy at Christmas time. I recall receiving a gift from him only once, and it wasn't much. There is one thing I'll always remember about him, though. At the close of trading one day, he said: "A guy my age shouldn't be making this kind of money." He was probably in his mid to late 20's then. I know he's intelligent, but I have no idea how he will do in his new job. In an op-ed piece in today's NY Post, Charles Gasparino dubs Cohn's appointment a mistake, given his support of Obama's policies. GS received a government bail out during the financial crisis.

I'm at the age, 66, where friends and elders are leaving this earthly stage. I received the sad news last night on Facebook that Dougie B., about a year younger than me, has met that appointment almost everyone dreads. He too worked at the Exchange - for more than 30 years before electronic trading came along and forced him out. He took a lot of abuse in that time in that bizarro world, a lot of it from men much younger than he. He'd had health issues, was on blood thinners, and his face was usually red. He joked that he wouldn't live as long as his father. He resided in Sheepshead Bay until he bought a condo in Jersey circa 2000. We often rode the subway home together. I enjoyed our frequent discussions of old films and early rock n roll. I laughed when he said one of his twins asked: "How come you're always watching those dark movies, dad?" RIP, my friend. Condolences to his wife Fran and their daughters. It is joy and privilege to wake in the morning and have another chance to accomplish something. I hope I never lose sight of that. It can change in a heartbeat.

I just sent a FB friend request to Crazy Joe, the scourge of radio talk show hosts, some of whom have banned him from their programs. I was shocked to see he has 965 friends, more than twice as many as I. I was relieved that many of his posts are about music. I can always block political stuff that goes too far.

I had no luck selling books on the street today. I did get a visit from Occupy Jack, who rolled up on his bike. I asked if he still had the van he'd recently purchased. Turns out he has learned the hard way what a pain in the butt owning a vehicle in NYC can be. He has amassed 13 tickets and owes more than a thousand bucks. He'd bought the van so that he would have more flexibility in his poster and T-shirt business, unaware that the leeches who stalk drivers would view him as a cash cow. He is going to sell the van and again rent a space to store his wares near Union Square, where he frequently does business. That will cost him "only" $124 a month.
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