"I've put more than a million dollars worth of cocaine up my nose."
March 5, 2005 3:37 PM   Subscribe

"I've put more than a million dollars worth of cocaine up my nose." - The Philadelphia-based writer of "Stuck Like Chuck" returns with three vignettes ( I | II | III ) of trader-room life and its characters. Brief, but captivating writing.
posted by AlexReynolds (25 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
corrected III link
posted by quonsar at 3:48 PM on March 5, 2005

Argh. (Thanks, quonsar!)
posted by AlexReynolds at 3:50 PM on March 5, 2005

Wow. Fascinating. If I possessed an ounce of ambition, I'd probably dig the atmosphere in those rooms. It's nice when you run into the occasional Wall Streeter in bars, since they do like to party and they like footing the bill, too. The implied comparison between traders and "cugines" or wannabe gangsters is accurate since they have the same pirate/beneficent godfather/goodtime Charlie mentality.
posted by jonmc at 3:56 PM on March 5, 2005

The first and only use of the "alpha_male" tag.
posted by NickDouglas at 4:53 PM on March 5, 2005

Time stands still on the trading floor. I left investment banking hell in 1993, and the guys on the floor he describes were exactly the same back then, as I'm sure they were 10 and 20 years before that. It always looked like fun to me, and I considered it for a while myself even though I knew damn well I didn't have the aptitude for you.

What he doesn't mention is that almost equally represented among the towel snapping locker room crowd on the floor are the quant-geeks, the guys with Ph.D's in mathematics from MIT and CalTech who work at marketing derivative upon derivate. It really is a strange mix of people.

What they don't tell you is, that if you are going to be a trader for 10 or 15 years, you had better be a millionaire at that point, because you're almost completely unqualified to do anything else, but maybe wash dishes.
posted by psmealey at 4:59 PM on March 5, 2005

Ooh, I like these. Thanks for the links.
posted by thebabelfish at 5:06 PM on March 5, 2005

Huh. Well, these vignettes make me glad I'm not a stock trader. These people sound like the least likable or admirable people on earth to me; if stock traders really are like this (the i-bankers I've worked around have mostly been boring and overworked) then it sucks for them that their lives are so squalorous, and given over entirely to teenage alpha-male posturing and soulless greed.

It doesn't seem glamorous at all--it seems pathetic, embarassing, and sad.
posted by josh at 6:07 PM on March 5, 2005

Let's see...given the skill, I can work eight hours a day for about ten years and then retire and do whatever the hell I want? Okay.
posted by amandaudoff at 6:09 PM on March 5, 2005

"If another trader ever disrespects the firm like this again I, God as my mother fucking WITNESS, will tear your head off and shit in your throat. Since it's obvious you do not want to work here, you should pack your shit and get the fuck out. Go home. You are DONE."

posted by Quartermass at 6:23 PM on March 5, 2005

I guess it is the American dream in some respects - the awesomely capable gunslinger with little or no regard for anyone else. Here they work the system to reap profit. Ayn Rand. I don't know why, but people like this turn my stomach. I guess it is their completely selfish outlook on life, the opposite of altruism. At least Michael Lewis got the hell out of that life and turned his enormous talent to good. The traders in the article have truly sold their souls to the Devil, and for what - pride, avarice and greed.
posted by caddis at 6:23 PM on March 5, 2005

This was an awesome read. I want more.
Thanks Alex!
posted by Quartermass at 6:30 PM on March 5, 2005

The traders in the article have truly sold their souls to the Devil, and for what - pride, avarice and greed.

But the money! Think of the money!
posted by bdk3clash at 6:46 PM on March 5, 2005

At market open the room falls totally silent except for the clickclickclick of quick keystrokes that from a distance sounds like swarming locust.

posted by roboto at 7:19 PM on March 5, 2005

It doesn't seem glamorous at all--it seems pathetic, embarassing, and sad.

That's exactly the feeling I got when I read Liar's Poker.
posted by mediareport at 7:46 PM on March 5, 2005

He has a part four up now if you care.

Anyone here have contact info (email) for that guy? I don't particularly want to sign up for MySpace.com and the firm he is describing sounds very much like one I know and would like to talk to him about it.
posted by MrFancypants at 11:25 PM on March 5, 2005

Hum. I liked those.

More for the amusing machinegun-like completely subjective semimetaphoric prose than the content.
posted by blacklite at 1:52 AM on March 6, 2005

I spent about 10 years of my career on trading floors in New York and London.

There seem to be two types of traders - those with and those without personalities. The type with personalities toss crap around, yell, curse, abuse people and generally act like assholes most of the time (even when not at work). They also piss through almost every penny they get their hands on. Its not uncommon for these guys to be divorced multiple times and living paycheck to paycheck.

Those without - typically with strong quantitative backgrounds - are quiet and more focused on the job. There still is a lot of tension, but they seem to deal with it better. Or at least internalize it.

The burnout rate is really, really high for the type of trader he's describing. During my time working for a German Investment Bank I think probably %95 (or more) of the loudmouths came and went.

The more focused and quantitative types can make a long term career out of it. I did, managed to save a boatload of money along the way, and now I've moved on to something with far less stress. These articles brought back lots of memories.
posted by Mutant at 3:10 AM on March 6, 2005

It's a good read, but a lot of it reads like fanb0y fiction:

Everyone went to a university currently ranked in the USNews and World Reports Top 20, which is one of the criteria for a first round interview.

Small point to be sure, but I have never heard USN&WR being used for such a purpose. Generally, people in such firms know the elite schools without referring to such a list. As has been pointed out about, anyone with a little bit of knowledge of trading floor culture and procedures, as well as reading Liar's Poker or Bonfire of the Vanities, can craft something like this, it reads like caricature.

Again, good writing, but a little too heavy on the hyperbole to be authentic. When I was at Merrill, the guys on the debt and f/x desks were quiet and bookish, and as mutant points out the loudmouths usually came an went. I don't know of a single firm whose trading area that could survive by just having one type of trader (other than maybe Solomon Bros in the 80s).
posted by psmealey at 6:43 AM on March 6, 2005

There's a number IV now...
posted by armoured-ant at 7:53 AM on March 6, 2005

Yeah, I pointed out the Part Four before, and now there is a Part Five
posted by MrFancypants at 10:10 AM on March 6, 2005

...amusing machinegun-like completely subjective semimetaphoric prose...

posted by Baby_Balrog at 4:59 PM on March 6, 2005

Great links-- it's rare that I find blog writing this compelling. I now have "Boiler Room" on my Netflix queue.
posted by jcruelty at 11:34 PM on March 6, 2005

If you find this genre compelling, you'll enjoy Po Bronson's Bombardiers.
posted by breezeway at 8:07 AM on March 7, 2005

And now a number VI

He'll have himself a fine book one of these days.
posted by peacay at 8:13 AM on March 7, 2005

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