Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Current read

I picked up this book on my way to Australia, carried it all around the country with me, and am just now getting around to reading it.  I'm so glad I didn't forget about it, because it's so good.  It's a true story and written by the same author who wrote Bringing Down the House.  It's an easy read with short chapters, which I love.
Here's what the back cover says:
After conquering the hallowed halls of Harvard Business School, an Italian American kid from the streets of Brooklyn decides to take on the testosterone-fueled Merc Exchange in lower Manhattan-where billions of dollars in oil money trade hands every week and where fistfights are known to break out on the trading floor.
Soon our hero is living the good life in the gold-lined hotel palaces of Dubai and on private yachts in Monte Carlo, teeming with half-naked girls flown in by Saudi sheikhs, and making deals in the dangerous back alleys of Beijing.  But that's only the beginning.  Taken under the wing of another young gun and partnering with a mysterious young Muslim, the kid embarks on a dangerous adventure to revolutionize the oil trading industry-and, along with it, the world.
This is a true story.
Today I read this passage which struck a little too familiar:
He made a pistol with his hand, fired off two faux shots at David's face, then cut left toward an office on the other side of the room.  David watched him go-and realized, for the first time, that Mendelson wasn't wearing any shoes.  His suit was tailored and obviously expensive, he had on a Rolex watch and a tie that could have been Prada or Gucci, but his feet were bare and he was padding along the carpet like a kid on Christmas morning.
David was still staring after him as he reached the elevators.  Reston was already there, a grin on his face.
"Yeah, Mendelson's a character," he said, holding the elevator door open for David. "He made a fortune trading crude.  He was so good that some of the other traders got together, made a million-dollar bet with him that he couldn't make three times that in a single afternoon.  Mendelson was so sure he'd win that he even raised the bet by throwing in a pair of his favorite shoes."
David raised his eyebrows as he stepped into the elevator, Reston right behind him.
"Mendelson lost?"
"By one hundred thousand.  He made 2.9 million, had to pay a million of it to the other traders-and he never wore shoes to work again.  Still, he came out with 1.9 million for himself, so don't feel too bad for the guy."
I don't work at the Merc, but I do work on a trading floor, and this sounds very similar.  A middle-aged guy on my team wears shoes in and out of work, and any time he needs to step on the floor, otherwise he walks around in his socks all day.  No clue why.  And I've seen many interesting, very lucrative bets take place.  Nothing like millions, but I've seen guys win $400 in pushup contests, and have heard stories of bets that pay out in the four digits.  I've heard of entire groups of men shaving their heads in honor of the son of one of the traders who had cancer.  One of our most successful guys in the group is from Yugoslavia.  He wears cowboy boots with his designer suits every day.  He once told me he has at least fifty pair.  He always compliments my shoes, and eats a bowl of garlic cloves for dinner every night.  He literally smells like garlic, sometimes to the point that I have to put my hand over my nose.  It's like a cloud of garlic smell, like Pigpen.  I work with such brilliant, such eccentric men.
I started working on Wall Street when it was already headed for a nose dive, so I haven't seen the happier days, but from the little I have seen, I can only imagine what kinds of things have gone down.  It's a fascinating environment, and these guys are the extreme when it comes to the "work hard, play hard" mentality.  (For instance as I was typing this I just received a call from the boss man who's in London.  It's 3am there.  I can't be sure if he was just getting to bed for the night, or just getting up for the morning.)
Some of the stories I hear are just unreal.  
I feel so blessed to work in such a unique environment.

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