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I Lost a Friend Yesterday — An Important Post About Loss and Addiction

Yesterday afternoon I was informed that a childhood friend of mine, one of my very best friends growing up, had taken his own life. The juxtaposition of this news against the backdrop of the beautifully catered party I was attending couldn’t be more drastic. There I was engorging myself with an array of delicacies and my good friend was gone — because of years of addiction, which led to the disintegration of both his body, mind, and his soul.

The first time I met him was in 2nd grade. It was the first day of school and he had just urinated all over himself and was crying because of his shame. The teacher consoled him and asked how she could make him feel better. He turned around from his first row seat and pointed to me in the back and said “I want to sit next to him.” From that day on, we became best friends. His parents always sheltered him and never let him outside. He once reminded me of a story I had forgotten about how I freed him from his parental captivity.

One day I visited his apartment, which I did at least 5 times per week and grabbed him and looked at his Mother and said ‘we’re going out.’ His Mother turned to us and said, ‘wait just a second. He can’t go out.’ And I said, ‘I am taking him out to play with us and there’s nothing more to be said’ and we walked out. He always liked to tell that story and it made me feel good that he remembered me so fondly.

When we were 11 years old, we became obsessed with ninjas, to the point where we dressed up like them and even made Chinese stars out of wood and ran around the neighborhood hitting other kids with our swords, which were stickball bats. To make a dashing escape, we’d light a smoke bomb and kindly ask our enemies to wait the allotted time for the smoke to disseminate before we disappeared into the thin air. We even went to school dressed like ninjas one day, much to the chagrin of our principal.

In our early teens, we used to chase down girls and he always thought every one was in love with him. It could be 10 of us in a group and one girl glancing over at us and he’d say ‘look, she’s checking me out. She wants me.’ And we’d say, ‘how the fuck do you know that — there’s 10 of us here?’ Then he’d reply with a smirk, ‘trust me, she wants me.’

When the neighborhood got bad, his parents moved him to upstate NY. One of the funnier moments I can remember when we visited him up there was when one of our friends was sleeping, he said ‘watch this’ and proceeded to place a hot sauce bottle in his mouth with his zipper down. He nudged my friend awake, and immediately zipped up his pants and said ‘thanks bro, good looking out.’ Bear in mind, this sleeping teenager was a giant, maybe 6’3, 220lbs. He shot up and chased him down the hall, kicking couches out of the way like they were small toys. We quickly diffused it and told him it was a joke and only hot sauce and laughed until our stomachs hurt for a solid 20 minutes.

He was the type of person that everyone liked, easy going, funny, incredibly generous, and kind hearted. He was the life of every party.

Years later when I was starting out in the business and enjoying some success, I hired him to work under me as a stockbroker. We had great times — because he was always adventurous and brave enough to go for the kill. At one point he became slightly obsessed with the movie American Psycho, which spilled into his demeanor at work. After seeing the movie, we both went to the local print shop to upgrade our business cards, in order to attain supremacy over the other plebs at the office. One time during lunch, someone made the egregious error of complimenting him for his dashing navy suit, and actually touched his right shoulder to get a better feel for the high thread fabric. Channeling Patrick Bateman, he looked at this gent dead panned and said ‘the suit, look, but don’t touch’. We then laughed to tears, from the harrowing expression on the face of the poor man who merely wanted to pay a nice compliment.

We had big dreams of making it big on Wall Street, our kids playing together, and growing old with an empire underneath us. He looked up to me like an older brother, always eager to learn and follow in my footsteps; but after the market had crashed in 2001-2002, and the bills started to pile up, he couldn’t stay in a commission only business much longer and he quit the business in favor of a salaried job.

My wife and I used to take the kids and visit him during his summer BBQ’s, which were attended by all of the people who loved him. He’d meet people on the bus and take them home to dinner on the same night. I thought he was crazy for doing that; but he loved to meet new people and really get to know them, not just superficially.

When I moved into my Staten Island home in 2003, he helped me lug my furniture out from Brooklyn, and even drove the truck for me. All he wanted was a few beers and some laughs. When I needed a new bannister sanded and stained, he came over and showed me how to do it. He was a good man and could be trusted with things, but he also had this burning desire to fit in, which I believe was the nascency of his downfall.

I used to compare him to a chameleon — because he’d mimic whoever he was around. When with me, he was Mr. Professional stockbroker. When with losers at a strip club, he acted like them, and so on and so forth. He started smoking weed at any early age, which was encouraged by his parents. We always felt that was a super cool thing, being able to smoke pot with Dad — but with the benefit of hindsight and some years of maturity, I know now it was dysfunctional.

He’d ‘party’ on occasion, dabbling with cocaine, and it got to the point that by 2006 I didn’t want to bring my kids around him anymore. We kept in touch by phone and I was pleased to find out he entered a new career and enjoyed varying degrees of success. With his new found money, he bought a modest home in NJ, a few cars, and a boat. He was very proud of his possessions and his family, and was always entertaining, cooking steaks and lobsters for his guests, denying his 3 children nothing. Then out of the blue, sometime around 2009, he got fired from his high paying job and had to find a new one. Resilient and always up for a fight, my friend hit the pavement and found a new gig within a month. It didn’t pay as much, but it was a job and he was glad to have it.

Money was always a struggle for him, partly due to lack of income, but mostly because he enjoyed to spend whatever he made. He was a pleaser and he really liked to throw big parties.

In 2014, like a complete maniac, he was speeding out of his companies parking lot, and crashed into a car backing out. The subsequent result of this accident led to a serious back injury, which required surgery, and a prescription for oxycontin. The details of what transpired from 2014 until now are somewhat murky to me, mainly because I had not been in contact with him much. But from what I’ve gathered, the injury led to an opioid addiction, which led to him losing his job, his house, his wife and kids, and eventually his life.

When money ran out, he was asking all of his friends for loans, myself included, which were denied because everyone thought the money would be used for drugs. I’m very good friends with his wife’s brother and knew the issues he was battling, but I never reached out because I felt he needed tough love. Everyone struggles and who the hell was he to deserve special treatment? He needed to wake up from his slumber, get back to work, and provide for his family.

His Facebook timeline is the saddest thing a person could ever see — the slow, but subtle, degradation of a once proud and handsome man — reduced to an avatar of his former self.

The last time he asked me for money was in a text and it read something along the lines of ‘hey Fly, I hope all is well with you and your family. I hate to ask this from you — but I really need to borrow some money. I am getting a job in a few weeks and I’ll pay it back. I want to show my children that I can provide for them, pay some bills, and put some food on the table. I love you man.’

At the time my Mother was undergoing open heart surgery and I was in a panicked state for her health. I asked his wife’s brother if any of this was true and he told me it wasn’t — he was merely using this lie to get money for drugs. I can’t say for sure if he was lying or not, but I denied him the loan and said sorry.

On a side note, for those of you who read my books, he was my cold caller named Eric.

About a year ago, he reached out to my former partner and said he was going to kill himself. He said that he had a gun and was in the woods and didn’t want to live anymore. My former partner contacted me and I immediately tried calling him, but my calls were rejected. He instead texted me and we had a sincere back and forth and he told me he wasn’t going to do it. He explained how losing his family was the hardest thing to deal with and that life wasn’t worth living anymore. I replied with the typical platitudes, telling him how much his kids needed him to be strong — not only for clothes and food, but also to be a role model for them.

His Facebook posts have been scarce the past year and the only photos he posted depicted a person I didn’t recognize. My friends told me he had been trying to borrow money for years and that suicide was regularly discussed and one of his very best friends felt he was a lost cause.

Yesterday, on a beautiful spring day in New Jersey, he took his life in a quiet park by strangulation. I can’t help but to feel like I failed him when he needed help most. It’s hard to say, especially since I’ve been a hermit for nearly a decade now. But the signs were everywhere and he was never entered into a drug rehab program, or provided with the level of care a person in his condition required. Instead, he was treated like a malcontent and whisked away.

His favorite foods were filet mignon, lobsters, and carrots with ranch dressing. He sucked at sports and threw like a girl. He loved motorcycles, skateboards, and being outdoors with his boys and dogs. He considered his daughter a princess and wanted only the best for her. He was misguided and too eager to please. In the end, his addiction to opioids led to a nightmarish life and a bad heroin addiction, and his pride didn’t allow the two to coexist.

If by chance you’re reading this my friend, I am sorry for the way things ended and I hope you find the peace in death that you couldn’t find in life.

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A Gentleman’s Guide to Hosting an Evil 4th of July Party

First off, it’s important to remember that the 4th of July is a holiday designed for bomb throwing trash. With that in mind, you’d be wise to deter any and all people from wanting to visit you on this indecorous day. Henceforth, I will teach you how this is to be accomplished.

Shop at your local discount store for hotted dogs. If you can grab them in the 99 cents store, fantastic. Be sure to BBQ them to a nice smokey char and serve them with gobs of generic mustard. Really layer it on thick. It’s rude to assume everyone would like generic mustard on their hotted dogs. Therefore, that’s exactly what you’ll do.

Announce to your guests, ‘my refrigerator is on the fritz’, to explain why your beer is so damned warm. You’ll try to succor your guests by providing a singular styrofoam coolers, but it’ll have an inadequate amount of ice in it. Plus, there will be a small hole on the bottom of it that will cause the ice to melt at twice the rate (trust me, I know).

Don’t bother visiting Whole Foods for the beer stock. Play the dietician and place yourself on the moral high ground, towering above your slobbish guests, by serving lite gluten free IPA, which actually tastes like someone mashed up a pined cone, mixed it up with some rubbing alcohol, then tossed into a really cool bottle and sold it for $20 per 8oz.

While your guests attempt to enjoy the swill, you will, repeatedly, tell them the virtues of a gluten free diet and how wheat gives kids cancer. This will make them feel like baby killers, bad parents, and like morons, generally speaking.

The hotted dogs will be served a little too hot, dripping with hot mustard, on a gluten free bun — hard as a hand grenade. You might as well substitute it with two pieces of cardboard, in the event you run out. They will taste dreadful, which is the point.

Side dishes include coled slaw, served hot with cold mayo, potato salad mixed with salsa and corn (mexican style), and potato chips, gluten free of course — and stale. Let the bad ‘air out’ for a few days prior to the event. Be sure the chips are salt free too — because salt causes heart attacks and you’ll have none of that at your fucking party.

Also, entertain your guests, especially the out of shape ones. Offer an enormous amount of helpful health tips — and workout routines. They’ll love that, as the generic mustard drips from their chin and into their lukewarm cup filled with pined cone tasting swill.

With regards to music, declare punk rock and ‘hair rock’ to be the predominant form of “Americana” — blasting the very worst of the hits from the 1980’s. You must play lots of KISS. The ladies go nuts for those guys.

Inside of 1hr, your guests will begin to become irritated, so you’ll need to increase that discomfort with a little outside assistance.

Before inviting your guests, be sure to sprinkle your lawn with sugar and have a kiddie pool filled with water, just to the side of your soiree. By dusk, your lawn will be festooned with swarms of mosquitos, literally eating your guests alive. Suddenly, your central cooling system will be on the ‘fritz’ too — transforming the the inside of your house into a boiling hell-pit. The walls will be dripping with agony.

Since outside will be morbidly uncomfortable, a cartoonish display of nature having its way with your 4th of Joolie bash, coupled with the sweltering heat inside your wonderful and inviting home — causing some to feel nauseous, you will have no choice but to call it a night — pleading with your guests for their forgiveness, as a set of ‘black swan’ events beset you on such a joyous day of fired crackers, pomp and lots of circumstance.

As they get into their expensive cars, bidding you farewell, some cantankerous teenagers will begin firing bottle rockets at your direction, expediting the departure by a factor of 10.

You will tip your hat to the fine young lads from across the street and declare the party over.

Good day.

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The Important Matter of Solar Panel Peddling Scam Artists

I’m sure plenty of you homeowners out there deal with the incessant parade of two bit salesmen coming to your door in search of a sale. Recently, I was entreated to a very special Bernard Maddof character, who was from the solar company VSLR in search of personal fortune.

He was most likely employed straight out of a prison facility, white male , mid 40s, wearing an orange and black construction vest.

Upon opening the door, I saw that he had a Pg&e (my local electric utility) clipboard with him, with an official document facing me, from Pg&e, attached to it.

He asked me ‘ hello Sir, have you seen the construction trucks passing by the neighborhood recently?’

Because I have an aversion to door-step salesmen, immediately, I denied seeing anything. Had God himself been down the block creating humans with a magic staff, I’d deny seeing it too, if asked by a fucking porch planted salesman.

Then I spotted his ID tag and it said Vivint Solar. I shot back with force “not interested.”

He responded, wearing a fucking construction company hard hat, “excuse me? What do you mean? I’m from the local utility and we’re seeing if you qualify for renewable energy.”

I interrupted him and said “you’re from a solar company, selling those hideous panels and sticking them onto innocent people’s roofs. Again, I’m not interested.”

He shot back in a smug, condescending manner  “you’re not interested in green energy, even though it’s paid for by the government?”

I said “yep, not interested.”

In a valiant last ditch effort, with a chuckle that he probably learned in prison, he said “I don’t even know if you’re qualified. That’s why I’m here, to assess your home. We have a contract with your utility, Pg&e.”

I interrupted him again and said that I didn’t like ‘green energy’ (extra Cat in the Hat) and that ‘I  loathed solar panels with every fiber of my existence.’ Moreover, and indelibly so, ‘had you offered to pay for those panels and then continue to pay me a monthly fee to store those blights that you call solar panels on my roof, I’d still tell you that I wasn’t at all interested.’

‘Okay, I guess you don’t like green energy.’


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Enter Blue Radio: Let’s Go Mets

Many years ago, I kept a small blue radio on my kitchen counter, so that I could listen to NY Met games. Why?

Because, I’m old school like video music box, classroom beatings, and dangerous Halloween nights.

I grew up immersed in baseball. I played it every day of my life, up until the day I quit varsity baseball–because I’d rather spend my time chasing girls than balls. I was always a Mets fan, because my grandfather had been a NY Giants/Brooklyn Dodgers fan, until “those fucking bastards” stabbed him in the heart, as he liked to say. It’s worth noting, Grandpa Fly would argue until he was blue in the face that he never cursed, while cursing during his heated defense.

“I don’t fucking curse; you god damned liar.”

At any rate, I was very content with the Mets of the 80’s, cocaine addicts playing ball hard, punching the opposing team in the face, just because they could.

Then 2007 happened, a collapse of biblical proportions. The NY Mets ceded a 7 game lead with just 17 games to go, to the bastard Phillies. I will never forget the anguish I felt when they were eliminated from contention. It was like a death in the family occurred and some Yankee traitor, Willie Randolph, was presiding over the funeral arrangements. It was a dark time for Le Fly and his blue radio.

The following year the Mets collapsed in almost the same end of year fashion. After that, I was no longer a baseball fan. I stopped listening to games and I haven’t visited the field since. As a matter of fact, I’ve never been to Citi-field. People have offered me free tickets, field level, and I told them to fuck off. You couldn’t pay me to go.

Now the Mets are trying to rope me back into their snare. They are playing an elimination NLDS game tonight, versus those ‘fucking bastard” Dodgers and I am secretly rooting for the Mets to succeed. I want to believe. Hell, it’s the Mets’ stupid slogan, aside from the juvenile “Let’s Go Mets” chant.

If the Mets win tonight, I will take out the blue radio, dust it off, and place it back onto my kitchen counter top. I will wear old jerseys and talk shit to my fellow Yankee fans, who, by the way, were unceremoniously escorted out from playoff contention without a fight.

Two thousand and fifteen has been a year of false starts, faded momentum, and trickery. Let’s see if the Mets can provide me with a much needed respite from the drudgery of this God forsaken stocked market.

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An Un-Gentleman’s Guide to Fourth of July

July 4th is a day for white trash to bask in their undignified glory. For those of you living that sort of lifestyle, oblivious to how one might throw a proper white trash 4th of July party, “The Fly” is here to help. With the assistance of my readership, as well as many other people who I’ve met growing up in Brooklyn, this is your “how-to” guide on having an ‘un-gentlemanly” Independence Day.

When you wake up in the afternoon, after a solid night of drunken debauchery, you should feed the children something sugary, like Captain Crunch cereal and/or frozen panned cakes (extra syrup).

Now that your parenting for the day is done, you can prepare for the 4th of July BBQ and drinking extravaganza!

Head on over to the local liquor store and buy a few kegs of beer, several bottles of Jack Daniels and a whole lot of cases of budweiser (CANS ONLY!!!).

After hauling in your treasure, prepare the old charcoal BBQ by spraying massive doses of lighter fluids on it. Have the kids throw things at the flames and play with the fire. Prepare to welcome some of your guests.

After your guest walks through the open screen door, welcome them by saying “what’s up bro” or “yo, man, have a bud”, then carelessly throw a frozen aluminum can of budwesier at him. Every once in awhile you will errantly strike his girlfriend in the head/face with it, so have an extra frozen can aside for the purposes of suppressing swollen bumps about the face and head.

As the party progresses, it’s time to serve your guests of dishonor food. Grab some styrofoam plates and slap a few hotted dogs on them, preferably with bun. If, by chance, you do not have buns, as they weren’t within your budget, feel free to use Wonder Bread as a substitute. Some people actually prefer good olde fashioned white bread anyways. Be sure to douse all hotted dogs with copious amounts of generic ketchup.

As the day drifts on, and the beer cans begin to pile up around the house and yard, ask the children to pick up the cans and place them into the giant black garbage bag that you have hanging off the side of your metal fence. The kid who picks up the most cans of bud gets to drink a can of their own!


You and your friends should now head on over to the front of the house to light some fireworks. It’s important that 90% of your fireworks be of the deafening loud, explosive, variety and not that “color crap.” You will light all fireworks with a lit cigarette butt and be sure to let the children light and toss M-80’s too, as it is their right of passage to do so.

After the fireworks, the real party begins. Parenting is over and has been over since breakfast, so feel free to let the kids roam off into the woods or nearby junkyard for a little childhood curiosity. You and your friends will begin, in earnest, drinking excessive quantities of Jack Daniels, while decrying how “fucked up” this country has become, especially honing in on the immigration issue and how people who don’t speak english should be deported and/or killed.

After 1am is the witching hour. By now, you and your guests should be comfortably buzzed. But it’s time to take it to the next level. Marijuana filled “joints” should be passed around at this time and a side table filled with lines of cocaine should be displayed, for all those interested. Shots of tequila with slices of lemon are appropriate chasers after “partying”, so be sure to have that in stock.

By 3am, 70% of your guests will be asleep (including the children), strewn out across the yard and furniture. Now would be an excellent time to partake in a little innocent adultery. Anything that transpires now is subject to denial and is easily excused, as everyone was “so wasted” that he or she could barely remember what happened.

By 11am on July 5th, most of your guests have woken up and should be asking for coffee. DO NOT PROVIDE THEM WITH COFFEE. By failing to provide them with coffee, they will be forced to leave your residence and find it elsewhere.

The party is now over. It’s now time for you and the kids to clean up the vomit and bottles of Jack Daniels and prepare for the hangover to come.

FUN TIP: Storing beer in aluminum trash cans is good, but getting rid of the water can be a hassle. ENTER BATH TUB.
Bathtub o'beer

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The Important Matter of Taking Losses

The hardest part of investing, in my opinion, is knowing when to let go of a loser. It’s easy to sell a winner. After all, there are gains to realize and victories to lock in. But locking in a loser is admitting loss, a pox of shame upon your household. Such shame may live forever, in infamy, as a tale passed on through the generations of how you lost the family fortune.

Or it might be some piker trade where you lost 3 grand. Either way, losses are hard to close out.

Often times, trades become investments when the trade goes bad. After the trade goes bad, we look for reasons to hold onto the stock. Sometimes we convince ourselves that merely trading the name in the first place would’ve been a ridiculous proposition. After doing all of that hard work and research, we unveil true value in places that no one ever thought of looking.

This is called desperation. More often than not, when we grab for straws, based upon a losing trade, we start over-fitting. In other words, we look for excuses to hold the stock, even buy more, in order to preserve our delicate egos.

After all, we are all genius, a gift to the earth and the stars. How could we be wrong when we are so smart?

If you think about it, this sort of rationale transcends every aspect of living, from marriage, friendships to dead end jobs. People always tell me “the best thing I ever did was divorce so and so.” Or “thank God I quit that job.” But we all fear making that commitment because it means we’ve failed.

Isn’t it better to realize a small loss than a gigantic one? This is common wisdom, not exactly trade secrets. But we keep reading about famous fund managers committing fraud, blowing up billion dollar funds, risking their freedom by trading on insider knowledge. Why? The answer is quite obvious. No one wants to fail, ever.

This mentality has climbed to the top of the capstone. The controlling elite now accept failing as part of the business cycle and allow poor stewards to continue to run good companies into the ground.

I own one stock that is underwater: FRO. Had it went up to $3 after my initial purchases, I would’ve sold it. But since it’s down 17%, I am a long term investor, very prim and proper–interested in the ongoings of the shipping business. I care for shipping in the same way I care for a banana less gorilla jungle. Sometimes I feel like smacking myself in the head with my tea mug for being so stubborn. All of my money losing ventures are the result of pride.

I’ve been blogging on the internets since 2002, one way or another. In the world of finance, I’ve been blogging since 2006. I’ve written more blogs than you could imagine. The pinnacle of iBC was back in the frantic days of 2008-2009. This isn’t exactly a growth industry, as there isn’t anything very innovative about reading the missives from a group of traders. Twitter is to blogs what the internet is to newspapers.

All of my time and energy have gone into making iBankCoin successful. But my opinion of success might differ greatly from yours. Some are happy with a little recognition and influence. Others only want to make money. My opinion of success is fairly straight forward: is the endeavor creating value? If so, is the time spent to create this value worthwhile?

Mrs.Fly often queries “how long will you blog?”

Ideally, I’d like to pass on the torch at some point, crowning the next “Fly” in the same manner as the catholic church selects a new pope, black smoke and all. Perhaps in 500 years, your great, great, great, great grandchildren will be reading the insane missives of King Fly the XIII. Or, maybe I’m just over-fitting again.


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The Important Matter of Easter Sunday

Two thousand years ago today, the son of God became a zombie.


Zombie Jesus was pissed off because some greasy Italians had tortured and killed him. Being the son of God and all, he came back as “Zombie Jesus” to exact revenge on his enemies. Rumor has it, Zombie Jesus liked to catch his prey when they least expected it, on fishing boats, hot air balloons and even in outerspace.

One time he parted the sea and ate a Roman solider, who was scuba diving, looking at the pretty fish.

About 1,000 years after Zombie Jesus exacted revenge on the people who tortured and killed him, while in heaven, he created a man-sized rabbit to descend upon his enemies and dubbed it “The Easter Bunny.” Back in the old days, before the Easter Bunny was gentrified, doling out chocolates to well behaved Christian boys and girls, he’d bite off the heads (like a carrot) of the descendants of the original Roman soldiers who killed him.

A long time ago, every Easter, the city of Rome was wrapped in fear, as no one really knew who was related to those original Roman soldiers. They’d hide themselves inside cupboards, amphoras and sewers, to escape the Easter wrath.  For Italian citizens, it was like playing the Wheel of Fortune, with the grande prize being a hideous bunny rabbit gnawing away at your head, like a carrot, until you dropped dead. This went on for many centuries until chocolate was invented.

Jesus loved chocolate so much, he became addicted to it. God would always tell him “to lay off that stuff. It will rot your teeth.” Jesus ignored his Father’s wishes and kept eating chocolate, until one day God snatched away his chocolate cows and sent him to his room to do penance for disobeying him. When it was time for the annual Easter killings to commence, Jesus was nowhere to be found. The Easter Bunny searched for him high and low; but God hid him well.

The Easter Bunny became panicked and started to spaz out in heaven, punching angels in the face and what not. Then he spotted Jesus’ chocolate cow, which was hidden behind the tablets of the 10 commandments. It was at that point that he knew Jesus had been punished by God and this pissed him off. He took the chocolate cow and made millions of pieces of chocolate, in his likeness, with it. After all, it was Jesus’ favorite food.

He then delivered the chocolate to millions of human children, God’s favorite form of human.

When God found out about this, he was pissed off- but could do nothing to stop The Easter Bunny, for he was hidden in Jesus’ old hiding spot, unknown by God. The Easter Bunny sent a letter to God, saying “release Jesus, or else every Easter I will deliver the chocolate cow pieces to millions of human boys and girls, much to your chagrin.”

God replied by making rabbit the preferred protein for the country of France.

To this day, Jesus is tucked away in his room, doing penance and The Easter Bunny is running amok, dropping off chocolate cow pieces to children all across the globe.

Now you know the true definition of Easter.


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The Important Matter of the Series 7 Examination

After I left the firm of the wooden leads, my goal was to find a firm who’d sponsor me for the series 7 exam. The name of the firm was unimportant, just as long as I could buy and sell stocks. By that time, I’d been trading stocks–successfully– for many years, as I came into some money from an annuity that was set aside for me when I was only 4 years old. It’s not what you think. The money was won in a civil suit against a bar owner–  because my father was killed in cold blood by the establishment’s  bar tender.

My Mother set up the annuity so that it would be released to me when I was 18. My share was very little, but I used it to invest in the market. I’d been interested in stocks since I was 10 years old and had made small investments, with zero success, throughout the years. When I was a teenager, my best friend and I would play stock market, paper trading off of the events of the trading session with paper and pencil. By the time I was 18, I knew almost every stock symbol by heart and had a fair understanding of what made stocks move. I was ready to play. The first thing I did with my share was buy AMER, the ticker symbol of the original America Online. I did so, against the advice of all of NYC’s pension fund managers working for the NYC Comptrollers office, during my summer internship.

The top boss at the time warned me that MSFT would take over the space and that AMER was “nothing more than a fad.” As an aside, Jay Z’s mother worked in that office too, as a NYC municipal bond trader. I was the only one in the office who knew her son, since I was an avid fan in the arts of “underground rap music”– at that moment in time.

Needless to say, I was right about AMER; but it took a very long time to materialize. By 2000, my $6,000 investment ballooned to $250k. That’s how early I was to AMER.

Back to the subject at hand. I took at job at a firm, located at 17 State street in NYC, overlooking the water. It was a beautiful building, with a magnificent view. I really loved the office space. My new boss was not a big broker, but big enough to hire myself and two of my friends from “the wooden lead firm.”

We were the only one’s working at that place. All of the big brokers were holed up in offices and the pikers in the boardroom had little desire to do anything but get by.

As promised, I was sponsored to take my series 7 and given two weeks of “paid vacation” to study and hopefully pass it. I remember the evening before my exam like it was yesterday. My broker called me up and said “stop studying. This is it. Go drink a glass of wine, relax and do your best.” The next day I passed the exam and was given the privilege to recommend and sell securities to the public.

Aside from pitching new accounts for my broker, I had transferred my brokerage account to his rep, since I was not able to manage accounts yet. After I passed the series 7, I was obligated to this fine chap to open up 25 new accounts for him before I was given the right to manage my own business. It’s a right of passage thing and I believed it was a worthwhile experience.

I made 12 successful trades in a row and it shocked my broker. The bastard was making me pay $100 commissions per trade, so I was pretty much working for free. My gains became so prolific, the bigger brokers at the firm started to copy my trades. I was flattered and excited to contribute; but I was also bitter as hell because I wanted to get out from under his tutelage. As much as I liked him, I felt he was my inferior, in both money management skills and salesmanship. He had little to offer me, with exception to a $350 per week salary. It was a stretch for him. He liked the idea of having myself and two others work for him, as he too dreamed of getting big and starting his own firm. But his gross commissions couldn’t support the staff, no matter how many new accounts I opened for him, which was 8 in month 1.

He shared an office with two brokers, one legendary amongst the people who knew him. They were very big producers and my broker was obsessed with learning from them. Instead of working, he’d sit in the office with a pen and pad, listening to every word the other two brokers uttered when talking to accounts–jotting everything he heard down so that he could share it with me later. One day I walked in and he had a nervous breakdown. With tears streaming down his face, he was saying to himself “I can’t do this anymore. I am running out of money.” Everyone just looked at him with pity; but I knew it was time to make arrangements to leave.

While in my second month pitching new accounts there, I met a truly amazing talent. But it was wasted and I lost faith in him rather quickly.

I had made up my mind. It was time to leave the firm and find a place that would permit me to manage my own accounts. I wanted to fulfill my end of the bargain, however, and open up 25 accounts promised to my broker. I looked at it as a learning experience. If I could open up 10 accounts, I could open up 100. I worked frantically, from 8am until midnight, almost every single night. I didn’t have any cold callers to feed me qualified leads, so I did it myself in the daytime and pitched accounts at night. My wife hated me, since I was never home to see her and our newborn. We nearly split up a dozen times, but held it together because we’re both traditional minded people.

One day my broker asked me to hang up the phone and to see him in his office. I was pissed off by this because I was in the middle of pitching a new account. When I got to his office, he was asking his office mates what they wanted from Starbucks, then proceeded to relay this dreadful message to me. Without a seconds delay, my response was “go f*ck yourself.” I told him “I don’t waste time fetching coffee for anyone. If you want coffee, you’re gonna have to get it yourself.”

Words cannot express how mad and slighted I felt at the time. I felt under-appreciated and humiliated. These traits were likely picked up from my pistol packing grandfather, who was  known to pistol whip the other old men in the sitting area for looking at him funny.

After that day, I resigned and continued my journey at another firm and was fired from that fine establishment, which turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me (part 2, part 3)

The story continues, as I am not dead just yet.

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The Important Matter of Wood Leads

In a brokerage firm there is a hierarchy.  There is the boss, partners, senior brokers, junior brokers, account openers and the lowly cold callers. The cold callers work for the account openers, who work for the senior brokers. The junior brokers, generally speaking, are new and without coin. Therefore, they are pikers and cannot afford to staff up.

When I was a cold caller, I got paid $190 per week, working for the biggest broker at the firm, who employed an army of 6 account openers, a dedicated secretary, and about 10 cold callers. Typically, account openers were paid the princely sum of $400-500 per week. It was a machine. The cold callers got around 5-10 leads per day, which was then passed onto the account openers, who’d open 1 out of every 10 leads. After the account was opened, the senior broker would “second trade” the new account and try to raise big money. In the event the new account was a dead end, he’d send the account to junior broker to work, splitting the commissions 50/50.

In the brokerage business, time is money and senior brokers don’t have time to waste on clients who are small or unwillingly to gamble recklessly with his life savings.

This firm that I worked for was the Godfather of high sales tactic mentoring for young aspiring brokers out of college. It was a place that can never be duplicated, because it was the thing of legend.

The firm was situated so that every broker, big and small, was in the boardroom. There were no corners or cubicles. It was like a giant airplane hanger with men smiling and dialing, pitching people so that they could meet their monthly lease payments. There was about 100 brokers, 50-75 account openers and another 100 cold callers, all in one giant room. Only management had offices–but they were rarely in them– since they’d prefer to police the floor for brokers violating rules, such as looking at charts or not dialing for a period longer than 1 minute. EVERYONE was pitching, non-stop, from morning to night.

You had one job to do at this firm and that was to sell. We were told, ad nauseum “we’re not fund managers here. We are here to sell stock. That’s it.”

Morning meetings started at 8 am sharp. If you were a broker and walked in late, while one of the partners was giving a speech (always by way of microphone, at a podium), you were fined $1,000. If you were a lowly cold caller or account opener, more often than not, you were fired for such an offense. I recall getting off the train at 7:58, knowing that I wouldn’t make it in on time and resolving such a crisis by hopping back on the train and calling in sick. It’s also worth noting that this firm practiced Darwinism with regards to the amount of chairs/desks available in the cold caller pits. There was always 5-10 less chairs/desks available than actual employees. Those who didn’t have a chair were tardier than the others– and was sent home without pay.

If you were still on the phone as the meeting began, your phone call was put on the speaker system for everyone to hear. Everything you said was critiqued by just about everyone, especially the bosses. The top partner, who gave the morning and evening meetings, would often walk over to the person who was pitching and feed him lines. If that didn’t work, sometimes he’d take the phone from him and convince the guy on the other end of the phone to buy stock. Like I said, it was surreal.

After the meetings, it was time to get to work. Being a lowly, unlicensed cold caller, I was not permitted to solicit stocks. My job was to call as many people as I could, from leads provided to me by my senior broker, and qualify them. Some brokers are more lenient than others in this regard. But my broker insisted that a qualified lead meant the gent had to have 500k+ in the market, did business with more than one firm, and was receptive to doing business over the phone. You had to find out at least one stock that he owned and what firms he did business with. It was imperative that this information be credible, else the account opener would look stupid and lose the initiative when making a sales call.

Generally speaking, an account opener would call a “new lead” after literature was mailed out and introduce himself by saying “you spoke to an associate of mine and you said you owned 5,000 shares of GE with Piper Jaffrey, is that still the case?” Now if the information wasn’t accurate and the “lead” said “no I don’t know what you’re talking about”– the account opener would have to re-qualify that lead, which pretty much meant the sale was dead.

Cold callers were under intense pressure to get leads. During lunch, senior brokers would visit our confines to “skill mill.” Essentially, he’d teach us how to talk to people with money and test us by randomly picking on one of us to pitch him. You had to get up in front of 100+ cold callers and qualify the senior broker, who, more often than not, was completely irrational–just to make life hard for whoever was pitching him. We did this three times per day, morning, lunch and after the close.

If you didn’t get 5-10 leads per day, you were not going to earn the right to study for your series 7 and start making the real money. And, you’d probably get fired. Most cold callers were miscreants of the first order, totally devoid of honor and integrity. They’d simply make up stuff, write it on an index card, and hand it in. They hoped to guess right, putting popular stocks like Lucent and Microsoft on the lead, but it backfired very, very often.

If your lead was bad, it was called “wood.” If you gave your account opener a wood lead, he’d walk over to you, rip it up and throw it in your face. If you did it again, you were fired.

I made it a point to never lie about the leads that I got. I took pride in my leads and worked until midnight, if need be, to get 10 leads per day. No one worked longer hours than me because no one was as hungry as me, living in a basement apartment in Brooklyn with my wife and new born son. My family didn’t have money, since my Grandfather decided it was a good idea to burn his furniture stores down, as some sort of idiotic insurance racket. Shortly thereafter, he lost his vision and was unable to work. Karma can bite hard sometimes.

So I had no choice but to bank coin, else I’d end up being a loser and that was not part of my gameplan.

After nine months of working at this stock broker pressure cooker, I was granted the right to study for my series 7. It was a major accomplishment. I had to pitch the CEO of the firm for such a privilege.  Things were going well and I knew it was only a matter of time before I too would be making 200k per month. I knew how to sell and that was all that mattered, at least that’s what I thought at the time.

Then one day a junior rep, who looked like a leprechaun, walked over to my cold caller desk, ripped up a lead and threw it in my face. He said “stop writing wood” and walked away. Back then I had a very bad temper, being that I felt the world was always working against me. So I got up, walked over to my senior broker, who I respected immensely, and quit. He called me that evening in an attempt to get me back, but I was gone. I couldn’t go back to that place after being insulted–a small pet peeve of mine picked up by my Italian Grandfather who fancied arson to get ahead in life.

By the end of that week, I had a new gig at a much smaller firm, working for a much smaller broker, who once tried to order me to get him coffee. That didn’t work out well for him.

To be continued.

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The Important Matter of The Blind Handyman

As you know, I just bought a new house and have been renovating it over the past 3 months. I’ve spent inordinate sums of money bring the house up to my standards, never sparing a nickel to improve my rightful claim to luxury.


I hired a handyman to build an exclusion barrier around my front porch. It was my idea to put mesh behind the lattice of the front porch, in order to keep out critters. His work, although rudimentary, was sufficient. He then reminded me that he did “work on the side.” It just so happened that I wanted to redo 3 bathrooms. So I gave him the small one downstairs, as a project of sorts, a tester to see if he was up to the task.


As he was tiling the bathroom, I had a staff of carpenters installing wainscoting, coffered ceiling, crown and base moldings, the works. Their level of professionalism could not be matched because their work was flawless. From time to time, they’d peer in on the Blind Handyman to see how he was doing. I ordered travertine for the job, at $9 per sq ft–a quality tile.


Dust and smoke billowed throughout my house, covering everything upstairs, even my clothes inside the closets. This bozo was cutting tiles inside of my house, while I was away. My carpenters told him to “do it outside”–because it would cause too much of a mess. One of the carpenters commented “it looked like a fire was ripping through the house, with all the smoke coming from the bathroom.”

I took a peek at the bathroom, to review his work. CATASTROPHE!

All the tiles were uneven and poorly spaced. One of the tiles was cracked and he fucked up so many cuts, there were zero tiles left, even though I provided him with 50% more than he needed. I am not surprised, frankly. He’s an older man, with glasses, and an avid cigarette smoker. With all the dust on his glasses from fucking up my tiles, his vision, apparently, had been impaired.

I hired someone who came without a recommendation or body of work. His price was 50% cheaper than proven tile masters. It’s a parable of sorts, a lesson that has reminded me “you get what you pay for.”

Much to my chagrin, the carpenters are having a good laugh at the bathroom, as I write this blog– saying in thick Russian accents “he do a professional job, custom work, very nice.”

Fucking Borats.

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