Friday, April 25, 2008

YOU CAN'T SPELL REUNION....WITHOUT 'U' PART ONE

I have to start this by telling you, April 23, 2008 was one of the best days I can remember in a very long time. Says a lot about my life, doesn't it!

I parked for $18.00 at Bay St. and Lakeshore Blvd. at about 4:15 and walked up Bay toward the Toronto Stock Exchange, which it will always be to me. I walked along the east side of the street, just as I had done on my first day as a floor trader on April 1, 1980. The throngs of people were moving south, so I was definately swimming upstream. My mind filled with the memories of that first day so very long ago. I was so young and excited. This day I was excited but I have no idea what happened to the young. When I reached the area across from the Exchange I stopped and sat down and stared at this beautiful art deco masterpiece, which, even as a shell of its former self, was still magnificant.

The sound of the pipes brought me back to my Scottish roots and Cape Breton home, and as they do for every Scotsman's blood, they made me feel just a little homesick. This time I wasn't feeling homesick for my Nova Scotia shores...I was feeling homesick for my Toronto Stock Exchange. This time I was feeling homesick for my many, many good friends from the floor. This time I was feeling homesick for the wonderful respected life I led as a Floor Trader. This time I was homesick for the laughs, the fights, the excitement, the boredom, the young guys, the old guys, the girls, the posts, the arb, the clock, the screaming, the bob loblaws', the day-o's, the 3:33:33's, the can, the california sandwich lunches, the gallery, the paper ball fights, the paper cuts, my trading book, the 10 coffees a day, the 15 coffees a day, the TD danishes, the greasy eggs at Marta's, the mango shakes, the capuccinos, the great lunches, the liquid lunches, the shitty lunches, the missed lunches, the beers at the Cork Room, the drinks at Sammy's and Ho Shim's, the hockey nights, the Bulls, the Rockets, the softball games, the soccer games, the easy money, the easy girls, the easy guys, the easiness in general, the constant buzz, the energy that didn't run out, the parties, the lines, the all nighters, the tough mornings, Weston health club pool, the limos to Buffalo with Gardner for wings, the almost getting killed with Gardner in Buffalo, people who liked me, the people who hated me, the pictures in the Star, the TV cameos, the first bonus, the last bonus, all the bonuses in between, downtown girl watching summer days, my first BMW, the trips to Vegas, the trips to New York, the trips to Montreal, my band playing at Ildiko's, my bad 80's hair, skinny ties and most of all, every single day I spent on the floor of the Toronto Stock Exchange.
As I j-walked across the street to the TSE, and it will ALWAYS be the TSE to me, I saw a few barely recognizable faces from the past. Faces I hadn't seen for a very long time. The one of these bodies I was closest to, as a friend, was Marty Wittenbols and Paul Napolitano. Walking over to the boys I was immediately flushed with the memories of our arb days with Burns Fry. Marty and his wonderful histrionics as the ultimate 'arb' trader every time there was a TV camera within screaming distance. Paul with his intimidating presence and big booming heart which now contained 4 new bypasses. As we shook hands I wondered what it was like for Marty when the floor died. He was such a fixture and was so at home on the floor, it must have been really tough. And for Paul who could never see himself in an office. Arb boys and offices were oil and water. Seeing Marty and Paul I was feeling the first brick being laid in the foundation of emotion that would become a building as the event unfolded. I stood outside for about 10 minutes and shook some hands and exchanged smiles filled with joy and sorrow. It was beginning to dawn on me that times had really changed, never to return. People no longer looked the same and I was only then feeling sure that this was also true of me as well. Then I saw this woman crossing the street comming toward the building. She looked vaguely familiar and when she was beside me our eyes met and I realized it was Carm, my old friend from so long ago. When I knew Carm, she was a girl, who I shared a lot of time with and somebody who meant a great deal to me at in my time on the floor. We were, at one time, great friends. We always had a wonderful sexual tension, mostly because Carm was just a bundle of young exhuberant sexuality and she carried herself in a very confident way...kind of slutty without being a slut. She was wonderful. When Our eyes met, I not only knew it was Carm, I knew I meant very little to her these days. She almost blew me off and did not look, not even for a moment, as if she even had the time of day for me. We exchanged a few very uncomfortable words and drifted off to other greetings and salutations with other people. It was so very wierd. This was the second brick in the foundation, which was a perfect metaphor for my feelings before and after theis event...bitter/sweet! I shook off the wierd encounter with Carm qiute easily, not because I was didn't care, but just because I was so hyper psyched and excited. But I have to tell you, under normal circumstances, Carm's reaction and obvious indifference to me, would have devistated me.
I walked into the building and took a moment to breath it all in. It was of course different now in its new life as 'the design exchange'. (note the lack of capitals and mild distain) I pain my $75.00 and was wrist wrapped by the smiling Susan Tonkin. I slowly assended the stairs, as I had done so many hundreds of times before. This time with a flood of memories with every step. It was warmly overwhelming. When I got to the top of the stairs I stopped and took several deep breaths. They were bittersweet. Surrounded by the familiar marble, granite and deco art and detail, I knew I was home. I entered the room and was immediately overwhelmed by a kind of out of focus feeling as I looked over the crowd for familiar faces. My vision wasn't out of focus, but my memory of what everyone looked like in my mind and the reality of the people 18 years later was enough to cause a momentary blur of emotion. The first person I encountered inside was Mark Grimes. Not in person, just in his overwhelming booming voice over and above the din of the assembled crowd. I meandered through the people feeling amazingly good. Shaking hands, hugging and kissing friends. Feeling like some wierd time warp had taken place and everyone I knew now looked like people I didn't know. Within a very short period of time I met up with Ed Szolopiak. We talked and shared a few memories and lamented the lost life we lived. Ed looked basically the same. Little thinner on top and a very grey moustache. Little more cynical after too many years locked away being a battery in an office cell. I then talked with Kenny Rathgerber and thanked him for his efforts in this reunion and the web pages we now live our past lives through. Kenny looked basically the same. Just a little heavier but maybe a little happier than most. We posed for a few pics and chatted with Harold Maines, who looked great! I drifted toward the bar but was intercepted by Owen Ritchie whom I spent a great deal of the evening talking to. Owen looked good, a little heavier, like the rest of us, but filled with the same contageous energy that I always loved him for. We shared some great laughs and some sad memories of comrades lost.
Standing with Owen, something odd caught my eye to my right. This leather clad, helmet toting cowboy made his way toward us. I barely recognized him. It was my old friend and co-abuser Mike Gardner. Mike Harleyed his way there and looked every bit the poster boy for middle aged penis replacement. haha. Just kidding Mike. But I think it used to be a Porsche or a 20 year old blond to cure that crisis of mid life. Think I would've gone for the blond Mike hahaha!
We very briefly chatted as I marvelled at the difference in appearance. Holy shit man, we were definately NOT in Kansas anymore Toto.
I walked around, scoping out the crown. I spotted a lot of my pals and one by one, I was making my way through as many as possible. With so little time and so much to say, it was a difficult task. I met up with Anna Dixon and shared some great moments from the past. The great parties at Colin's place. Her unbelievable french maid uniform costume at a halloween party at Chris Martin's place. I informed her that her costume had made her a bit of a celebrity with the horny boys who only drooled, because of her Colin status. To this she responded, half in jest, that if she had known that, she would've dumped Colin and gone for the boys...all of them. Anna is great and as a 19 year old, she was very very hot!
I chatted briefly with Anna Carlouchi. She looked great and was her usual smiling self, but didn't really have too much to say. I was a little dissapointed. Her and Carm were good friends back in the day, so I wondered if there was residual from the Carm thing. Who knows. Maybe these girls didn't like me as much as I thought. I walked over to Jimmy Dimson to say hi. Jimmy looked great and it was cool to talk to him. Across the room I spotted Joe Turner. Joe sent me a pic of him and his dad a couple of weeks before the reunion, so I wasn't shocked to see the shock of white hair on his head. It seems so out of place with his youthful face and 20 year old posture. It was great to see Joe. He is a great guy. He told me I looked the same as I did back in the day...with an 80's tie, slicked back 'same' hair and 'ahem' casual look jacket, which he obviously didn't care for too much. Oh well. Truth hurts...haha! We chatted for awhile and Joe told me about his business these days and it was all good.
I saw and chatted briefly with Brent Schwalm, Gord Gladney, Jimmy Barkwell, Russle Barnes, Bob Point, John Manna, Bruce Cocker, Brad, Jerry the Bell man, Peter Ergli, Dave Knight, Gord MacNeil, John Moir, Dave James, Peter Polson, Johnnie Johnson, Lori Sexton, Sandy Eamond, Ken McIntosh, Glen Grossmith.
Then I had a great chat with Ronnie Williams. Love the guy. We had some great times back in the day. Ronnie looks and sounds great and he deserves it.
Then I met up with Steve Welch. He looks a little older but has lost none of his amazing wit and sense of humor. We had a few belly laughs before we continued on our journeys from chat to chat with as many friends as 41/2 hours would allow, and we met up throughout the evening for similar moments of laughter. Then Rick Walker and I shared some memories and laughs. Rick and I have been talking some in the past weeks and we both needed this reunion, for our own reasons. It was really good to see Rick. He is a great guy and we have a great past and share a macabre sense of humor. Steve Curry saw me in a crowd and came over and gave me the big hug and smile. I was so happy to see him. He will always mean alot to me. One of the great people I was so lucky to share some life with. After sharing some memories with Curry I was getting just a little overwhelmed with the moment and the huge emotional surge that came with it.

STAY TUNED FOLKS, FOR PART TWO COMMING SOON

1 comment:

Terri Ackers said...

Hi Jim! Legally (per CIBC legals), Im not supposed to post anything on the blog with my name attached....so I'll post it to your blog...please don't post it to the archive.
I know we didn't get to know each other much in the time that I joined the madness and you left....but it would have been nice if I'd gotten the chance to say hello. It was hard to get around to everyone I wanted to see without keeping greetings and conversations short. I can't tell you how many times I was in the process of saying hi to one person, then notice someone over their shoulder I wanted to get to next...only to find that they'd moved on by the time I was done.
I'll say this, don't be the least bit offended by Carm, none of us has seen her for 10 or 15 years (who’s couting)...she fell off the face of the earth, even to those of us who had gotten quite close to her...Anna Carlucci included. She was a little side-kick to my dad and so I got to be pretty close with her too. I had been working the Christmas parties with her when I was too old to sit on Santa's knee but hadn't yet started on the floor. Wednesday night was the 1st time any of us had seen her years and years and we all got the same reaction...dead fish-like. It wasn't just you, I promise!

What a night huh? Looking forward to the next one already. It's sad to think of some of the guys that may not make it to the next one. I had as much fun chatting with my dad's generation of buddies as much as my own generation. I grew up with those guys. It was the coolest thing to have known so many people from the floor before I even started down there. I felt like a known star when I started because everyone already knew me. Working side by side with guys who had picked me up as a child was the best way to grow up. It didn’t hurt that my dad was who he was….people tended not to mess with me much out of fear.  Although, many of them did soon come to realize that I can be my father’s daughter when I need to be and could hold my own quite well.

Next time we’re in the same room and I haven’t made my way by to say, throw something at me or something to get my attention. I was really pretty overwhelmed for the better part of the night to be honest. It’s a double buzz for me because I can’t help but wonder how much my dad would love to be at these parties….and the guys telling me that they still miss him….things like that tend to top off my own tide of emotions. I’m seeing pictured on the archive already of people I didn’t even know were there. And, my mom is quite ill so I wasn’t able to stay at Casey’s for longer than a coffee before I had to leave so I’m sure I missed a lot of folks there too…..so I’m counting on a next time!!

Take it easy Jim!
TA :)