Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Post# 3 - The Cork Room

The Cork Room. Just the sound of those words brings me back to so many of my wettest memories as a trader on old floor. Just down the street from the TSE it was the most conveniently located drinking establishment ever. What better clientele than the 'work hard, party harder' crew from the floor. It didn't take me very long to realize what an intrical part of this job involved hanging out with the boys and comming in with the men.
At the end of my first day on the job at the TSE I met with my boss Steve and my teacher Chris. As I walked into the Cork Room it seemed like almost everyone I had seen on the floor all day was now here. The noise level was almost as bad as it was on the floor for the opening and closing bells, when everyone is screaming loudest. It was like a party. No, it WAS a party. The place was absolutely thick with cigarette smoke and reminded me of a 1940's black and white movie. The only thing missing was the piano player in the corner. This place didn't really need the piano player was wall to wall characters. The decor was not exactly what you would expect when you think about where stock broker types might hang out for a few after work. The bar was classic, the lighting was dim at best, and the best part of its design was the large number of darkened areas where one could duck away for a quick whatever you wanted. Basically fill in the blank and that's what was available. There were lots of girls from the floor there and there were also alot of other single girls, office workers and secretary types that knew this was where the 'brokers' played. So, if you were interrested and after a few drinks who wasn't, you could meet and greet and hook-up without too much effort. This was equally true for all consenting adults. I don't think it was any kind of great pick-up bar, it was just where people in our business congregated and people do what people do. On a friday night you could get just about anything you wanted. Lots of the younger guys were into everything that you have ever heard people in the business might be into. Sex, drugs and rock & roll baby!
I could barely hear him but Steve was explaining to me that we were arbitrage traders and that everybody hated us. Everybody. He went on to explain that we were basically the pirates of the industry. We were the guys that tried to take advantage of every gap that might exist in the markets and information, real information was everything. That was why it was so important to develop relationships with as many other traders as possible and what better place to do it than here, at the Cork Room.
Chris was just up the bar in the middle of a small crowd, holding a Carlsberg and talking to a cute blond and an equally cute brunette. He didn't seem overly concerned with much of anything I might want to say to him, so I just kind of sat back and watched. After a little while he asked me if I wanted to come down to the can for a minute. I wasn't sure what for, but I was excited at the mere thought of what it might be. There was a small group of us crowding into a tiny area in the pisser and a couple of joints flared to life and I was well on my way to earning my first 'come in with the men' hangover. The 12 or so drinks I consumed that night didn't allow me the luxury of remembering too much after that and perhaps that is for the best.
Many generations of traders consumed way to many cocktails at the Cork Room. The place reeked of history, beer and piss. It was an unbelievable, unpredictable ride. Every night brought something new. Lots of black eyes that walked onto the floor in the morning after had received their lumps courtesy of an evening at the Cork Room the night before. More importantly, many many deals were put together over too many beers at the Cork Room. Steve was right, this is where the after hours action started but rarely ended for most of the crazies on the old floor. Most of the people on the old floor qualified for that designation...crazy!
Freddy was the favoured bartender because he was simply the best. This guy had heard and seen more bullshit in his job than any beef farmer ever shovelled. It would be hard to even imagine the Cork Room without Freddy. Then there was Nat. I bought more wierd crap from that guy than you could ever imagine. Upstairs in his barely lit office, you could buy almost anything. Almost nothing that you would ever use. He as kind of like a one man dollar store. If the TSE had trade relations when Nat was dealing, he would have owned the Exchange! He regularily sold snow to eskimos (pre political correctness remember) and everything else to the traders. He was a very cool guy and you just couldn't say no. When the Toronto Stock Exchange closed the old floor, 234 Bay St. wasn't the only piece of historic real estate to die. It took a little while, but the Cork Room died of progress as well.
The last thing I remember that first night at the Cork Room was Steve asking me if I wanted to come with him and some of his friends for Kentucky Fried Chicken. I don't know if I went or not, but I smelled pretty greasy when I woke up in my clothes the next morning.

Stay Tuned For "ARBITRAGE" that french?


Chris Martin said...

Well said Jimmy,I think you caught the mood.Except you didn't mention the other fine dining other than KFC,the Mercury restaurant down the street.You could get a full dinner for about $2.50,which was perfect after having a million at the Cork Room.

Chris Martin said...

The Cork Room was two bars,the street level where the traders drank and the "Alley Cat Lounge" upstairs for Posties and phone clerks.You had to earn the right to drink downstairs by becoming a trader.I have great memories from both.

jimmymac said...

Thanks Chris. I used to absolutely love that place. There was nothing quite like the Cork Room
Wow, and I forgot completely about the Merc.

The Alley Cat lounge. Holy shit. It kind of reminded me of a drinking version of a POW camp. I am pretty sure they had barbed wire too!

Deb Ferris said...

my father (Jim Ferris) was a regular at the Cork Room...I would join him on occasion for a drink after work, and I think you hit the scene right on!! Freddie was the best!!

Deborah Knight said...

Freddy was the bartender at my wedding, and Nat and Maxie Gwartz were there, too. Thanks for creating this blog. I've enjoyed reminiscing about the old TSE..and I was surprised to see a photo of my brother, Mad Dog Bickerton!