Papa's takes his last walk away from the floor of the American Stock Exchange
My dad spent 45 years of his life commuting to the depths of NYC to the floor of the American Stock Exchange. This lesser-known sibling of the NYSE vanished just a few years ago as the computer age of trading began. His commute was long and days on the exchange were stressful. A visit to his “office” was a hooky playing kid’s dream of a day off from school. I spent the day time-stamping orders and feeling very important. I would stamp a date on buy and sell slips, not really getting it, but realizing you needed to know how to do fractions to do a trade. My favorite part of his job was when you would shoot the finalized stock order through a little tube(much like some of today’s bank drive through’s) and it would miraculously end up in some far off place. It was kind of like a Fed Ex version of a message in a bottle. He would grab my hand and introduce me to all the characters, all with strong accents hailing from the Bronx, Brooklyn, Jersey and such. These guys weren’t rich. Many were neighborhood kids that were doing the best to get out of their neighborhood. They all wore color-coded jackets representing their position, so they could easily be spotted in the crowd of barking specialist and clerks when a stock rally was in process. It was the only place in the world where you could drop a paper on the floor and it was OK. Scraps and orders lay everywhere on the floor making it look like it was just past midnight on New Years Eve. When the opening bell would ring, a rush of excitement seemed to ensue marking another opportunity for capitalism to do its thing. Somehow, my dad made a living out of this; one that I never could really grasp, but I knew it somehow put food on the table. I wish could have photographed the magical place before it was gone. These are the only photos I have, despite the photos in my mind that are still vibrant and full of color. I watch those of the Occupy Wall Street movement over the past weeks and wonder if they realize that those traders are just trying to make a living. In essence, these men and woman that truly do occupy Wall Street are no different than a bread maker or an artisan buying and selling their goods at market price. Like the protestor, he too has love in his heart and a desire to do the right thing. While I believe that corporations have their shortcomings, it is because every human does. For this reason, the Constitution was written and by golly, we should abide by it. May we not forget that only 10 years ago, my father watched the hearts and souls of lower Manhattan perish in dust around him. He stood helpless as twisting metal made deafening sounds all around. He would look down during the middle of it all and pick up a boarding pass that had fallen from the sky. From that day one, he would never forget. Our great country needs to stay united, despite our disagreements. Lincoln said it best, “A house divided against itself cannot stand”. Let’s hope we all see the truth in this.
I loved to visit the candy man on the lower level of the AMEX