Saturday, April 5, 2008

Post# 11 DID SOMEONE SAY...PARTY?

Any discussion of time spent as a Floor Trader would be less than complete without an 'in depth' look at the socializing habits of this strangely elite group, of which I was a proud member. The single most defining description of these socializing moments can be found in one word.....PARTY.
Because of the fact that too many people might be subjected to too many non-specific slings and arrows for me offering a totally factual play by play, I have to seriously limit my recolections to a 'G' rated version of events. Those of you that experienced and lived through the events I speak of, well, you already know what I mean. As for those of you that don't...use your 1980's imagination. Sex, Drugs and Rock&Roll baby!

I don't know if it was the times we were in, cause the 1980's were unbelievable, or maybe the chemistry that seemed to manifest itself among the floor people whenever there was an opportunity to enjoy any given social momnent. Maybe it was the cliches' that started to make sense like "going out with the boys and comming in with the men" and "work hard, party harder". Maybe it was just the amazing, almost magic feeling...like shared valence electrons forming a bond between adjacent nuclei. HaHa...Ok, grade 12 chemistry alert!! Or maybe it's just because a group of talented, intense, extremely pressure driven individuals who shared one of the most individualized working environments on the planet, just GOT IT! We really knew how to enjoy the moment and live it to the fullest, no matter what the outcome. Ah, unbridled passion and crazy people...sounds like a party to me.
There were several categories of party in the floor trader world. Almost every time a group, be it large or small, of Floor Traders would get together for any of a number of reasons and sometimes no reason at all, a party was always a distinct possibility and a danger of breaking out. These parties could start from a gathering at the Cork Room or some other popular apres work thurst quencher. They could start to develop from a group playing soft ball or day tripping downtown. They could start from an impromptu road trip to who knows where. Honestly, they could start anytime, any place...anywhere.
The next category would be the sometimes planned, sometimes unplanned 'house parties' that were as common as they were legend. These were the parties where everyone was a little more equal than they would ever be on the somewhat 'elitist' trading floor. You know, the kind of equal where we were ALL as capable of facing the indignities of hurling in the host's bathroom as the next guy...or girl!
The final category of 'party' that we will endeavour to study in this thesis will be the 'organized' or 'annual' parties that had existed for ever as far as I knew. These parties included the 'Stags', the annual company 'Christmas Parties', the 'Bun Toss' and the most intriguing and the mother of all great Floor Trader inspired parties, the annual Montreal based 'Oyster Party'.

HOUSE PARTIES

In my time on the 'floor' some of the best house parties were held at the Bayview and Eglinton house rented by Chris Martin, Bill Walsh and Rick Walker, Chris's Yonge & Sheppard abode and Jimmy Barkwell's place on Wellington St. downtown. I was only at about 10 of these events, combined, but that was enough to grasp the concept. The 'three amigos' house, Chris, Bill & Rick's, was a small, kinda 'cute' little 'North Toronto' bungalow and a half, or for party purposes, cozy. It was in a nice quiet area just off the busy intersection. Most of the action was centered on the main floor area where as many people as you can imagine would be sardined into a very 'cozy' space. But I have some rather 'odd' blury memorries from a sub-terrain area of the house where only strangeness can be recalled. These parties were usually friday night affairs as I remember, so people usually pre-tanked downtown in the Cork Room or wherever and by the time most of us got to the party, we were pretty much hammered. By midnight the air quality was roughly that of Bejing in rush hour. It seemed that everyone and his mother smoked cigarettes in those days and in parties like these, you barely had to light up. Even the non-smokers woke up in the morning feeling like they 'smoked a pack'! As if the cigarette smoke didn't create a thick enough ambient curtain, the pot smoke was absolutely dense and seemingly never ending. You would be able to share in wave after relentless wave of countless joints. I know it's hard to believe, but 'some' people actually did 'drugs' back in the day. Well...take off your hat and say...Imagine that!
These parties were so great, not so much because they offered anything out of the ordinary, it was something more like a spiritual hammering of the minds!
They were just so very much fun because you knew everyone and everyone knew you and we all knew how to have a really good time.

Jimmy Barkwell's parties were another fantastic way to willingly submit yourself to mild, or not so mild, brain damage. The smoke never deemed as big an issue at Jimmy's because there was at least an opportunity for ventilation and not just circulation. He had a great frightening elevated patio kind of thing at the back of the place. OK, so I can't exactly remember the details because I was never at Barky's house when I wasn't pissed. Not angry...drunk! All I know for sure is that there was an open area overlooking a parking lot. I think!! I remember there were always more ladies at Jimmy's parties. Sorry Chris...haha Or maybe I just kept seeing the same ones over and over. Whatever the case, these parties were excellent. There were some great eating places close by, so the enevitable attack of the incredible drunken/stoned munchies could be satiated with prejudice. That means you could get drunk and blitzed and eat. Hah!
I think I can safely state that EVERYONE that has memories of the parties at Barkwell's place thinks they were really, really cool. Jimmy always brought that inexplicable 'je ne sait quois' to his events much as he did to the rest of his life. He was such a smooth rider that his energy alone could bring a so so, to a cool high! That, believe it or not, was not a veiled drug reference. We all owe Jimmy a little thank you for the good times he provided so many of us so often.

THE ANNUALS'...'BUN TOSS', 'COMPANY CHRISTMAS PARTIES' and 'THE OYSTER PARTY'

Ah the 'bun toss'. What more needs to be said. You get a group of business men (and women) together, in this case floor traders, and you add a formal dress code, a luxurious hotel banquet area with dancing to follow and about a million pops and about 2 million buns. No, the dinner roll kind! I remember at my very first bun toss I actually thought the 'boys' were pulling a fast one on me, the rookie, and that I would be somehow sorry if I took it too seriously.
When we were at the event Jimmy Ackers was on the podium and after the glad tidings were spoken, he gave everyone a stern warning NOT to indulge in the bun tossing ritual. Something about insurance concerns from the hotel. I guess not too many people were listening. Within 30 seconds of the end of the meal, the boys were scrambling, grabbing and stockpiling every 'bun' in the place. They seemed to be popping up everywhere and then it began. From every direction and from even the most unlikely sources (Eddie Lewer), the air absolutely filled with buns. Man oh man did they get tossed. I was hit by about three before I even knew what was going on. Mark Grimes was at our table and he was like a 'bun tossing' machine gun. Across the room at Ackers table, there was Jimmy, rocketing off a barage at harold Maines. It was insane. It was the most immature display of grown men being boys that you can imagine. And it was THE most fun you could ever hope to have at ANY formal event you can imagine.

After the buns died off, the mess was something else. 'I love the smell of dead yeast in the morning'. This was a small part of the wild environment that was the world of the floor trader.

THE 'OYSTER PARTY'

It is difficult for me to hear ANY 80's song these days without evoking memories of those wild and crazy party soundtracks from back in the day.
So many of those songs were related to my memories of the 'oyster parties' throughout the 80's. Don't think I missed one.
Within six mmonths of starting my job on the floor I attended the first of my 'oyster parties'. A weekend in Montreal was required to fully participate and comprehend the 'oyster party'. This was definately NOT like other parties, there were none that could compare.

The party started with a trip to Montreal. Limo to the airport, drinks. Flight to Montreal, drinks. Taxi straight to the party and lots of drinks. The party itself was held at the Boursse de Montreal, or for everyone else, the 'Montreal Stock Exchange'. The party was a really cool affair that started with a trip to the trading floor to chat with guys we worked with. That meant Frankie Breaker and Paul (something english) and Paul (something french). He had the hottest girlfriend whose name I cannot remember. She worked some time at the 'boursse' but I think she might have been a stripper. Whatever! Anyway, by the next oyster party rolled around, she was dead. They found her and some other girl in the trunk of a cadillac at the Dorval airport parking lot. Wrong place/wrong time...that's another story!
What a waste.
Back to the action. When the floor got boring, an average of six minutes after arrival, we made our way upstairs to the actual party floor. It was a great space and had a fantastically catered food service. But that isn't why they called it the oyster party. This was why they called it the 'oyster party'...thousands of oysters! Oysters Rockefeller, Deep fried oysters, oysters neuberg, breaded oysters, baked oysters and most importantly, oysters on the half shell. I absolutely LOVE oysters. Here I was in oyster heaven. Mark Grimes absolutely LOVES oysters. He too was in oyster heaven. This being my first oyster party, I was a little laid back, a taking notes kind of thing. Rookie you know! That lasted till I power chugged four bloody caesars with Mark and he challenged me to an oyster war. Oh yeah, eating oysters till ya die. I didn't say we were smart. Our little contest was a see who can devour the most oysters in the shortest time deal. I told you. I didn't say we were smart! To make this interresting, all oysters had to be dressed with red sauce, hot sauce and lemon. Yummy!
The first couple of dozen had pushed our profile to the 'alert' level for the eight servers on duty. It was taking us very little time to go through their pre shucked supplies. Keep in mind that there were about 700 other patrons throwing back oysters as well. We didn't care. We also had to drink at least one caesar per dozen oysters. By the time I got to my fifth dozen, Mark was over 100! He wasn't just eating shucked oysters, he was throwing down ALL varieties available. And to start with, he was about twenty drinks ahead of me. We kept at it for quite awhile but Mark blew my doors off. He might have eaten 12 dozen. Shit, it might have been 20 dozen...haha. I was so hammered by this time that it was a woozy world of oysters and caesars and little else. I had to struggle to keep it all down, especially with Mark giving me the 'noogies'. But then something magical happened and we were fairly sober again. What a world!
This night was just getting started. After the oyster portion of the party it was back to the hotel for a little post party, partying. Oh yeah...that's right!
The next part of the oyster party weekend was definately the best looking part. It was off to 'Club Super Sex'. Today there are tons of 'whaterer goes' strip clubs all over Toronto, but back in the day, there was nothing like the Montreal strip clubs in T.O....at all!
I mentioned in one of my earlier blurbs the kind of money some of the boys dropped at the clubs on these weekends. Let's just say you could buy a decent used car, on each of the nights there in the club, with the money that got G-stringed into oblivion. Oh man, what a way top go broke, haha.


On my second trip to Montreal for my 2nd oyster party I shared a room with Radar (Ralph Ditchburn). Actually it was his room and I was just going to split the costs with him. After following the prescribed protocols for the oyster party event, I made my way back to the hotel, no idea how, and crawled into bed with the spins from hell. I got into the room at about 3:30am and passed out violently. Hard as it might seem to believe, I actually woke up to an unbelievablw banging on the door. It was Radar and he was hammered and he didn't have his key. I did! Could I get up off that bed and let Radar into the room? NO! Could I do anything, move anywhere, NO! Did I care? NO! I passed out again! The next thing I knew, I was being shaken awake by some dude in a scary uniform. Of course in those days, all uniforms were scary...except those private school things. But I digress. Anyway, this barely understandable goof was shaking me and asking me..."Do you know this guy, Do you know this guy?"
He sounded like Peter Sellers doing Inspector Clouseau. Maybe he was Clouseau.
I looked over at another security guard holding Radar by the arm. Radar certainly would have been on the floor if not for this brute's strength in holding him up. I quickly assessed the situation and made the only logical choice I had available...I said NO, NO, NO, I don't know this guy. Get him out of here. They, of course, dragged Radar out of the room, kicking and screaming while giving me the f-offs to beat the band. Drunk as I was, this was a fine example of humor to me. To Radar...not so much!
I made a herculean effort to save my friend from the indignities of a french jail and called the front desk and explained that if those guys didn't bring Radar back, he would sue their asses off. The room, I reasoned to her, was in Radar's name. He was brought back to the room and the security guards sat him on the other bed and he just sort of slumped there, limp. When the guards finally finished admonishing me, for my "not funny joke", I flipped them the bird I did not understand a single word they uttered, and thusly passed out. This pass out was short lived. Radar, in a feat of super-human strength well beyond his drunk and stupid 110 pounds, jumped on me and started screaming, it could have french too, but he didn't speak it, and was punching me under the covers. I was laughing at him and my really funny joke so hard, I puked in the bed. Then I passed out again and slept in it. I guess Radar stopped pummelling me at some point through the night, cause' when I woke up at around 7:00am, covered in my own vomit, possibly Radar's too, Radar was flopped over his bed. He looked dead. I was wishing 'I' was dead!

Then we started the next day much as we ended the last...with many drinks and way too much fun and living too many cool future stories.

These were the best of times boys and girls.
In retrospect it all seemed so normal and we all just kind of took it for granted.


'THE LAST WALTZ' - FLOOR TRADERS 25TH REUNION OF THE CLOSURE OF 234 BAY ST

This brings me to what might possibly be the LAST party. Bay St ghosts present and future. So many friends have left us since those glory days. I have to wonder, at the risk of getting morose, how many will be left for the next party. At the risk of sounding morbid to go with it, we are all getting 'old'. There, I said it! We better enjoy whatever time we have to share with our many friends from the days of the floor trader. We better start to be better friends. We can do this by NOT waiting for 5-10-15 years to see each other, our friends. We can better appreciate what it was that we had by better appreciating what we have today. We aren't what we used to be. But alot of that is because we have done precious little to maintain what we were and who we were. For the sake of posterity, we better do something to keep the memory of our past lives alive forever. The Floor Trader's Archive is a great start. Compiling a directonary of e-mail addresses and phone numbers that members can access will also improve the chances of keeping in touch.

We don't have to become a lost civilization. We don't have to be the next 'lost tribe'. Lets do something to insure that there is a legacy, a "real' legacy, of the men and women who were the life and breath ofthe 'floor'. Let our children and children's children be able to look back be able to see what we were.
Once, we were great. Really, we were. Although 'we' are all going to die, (sorry, but it's true) what we were should never die with us!

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