Thursday, September 12, 2002

Please indulge me. I wrote this yesterday about a guy I used to work with.

Remember Vinny.

In 1983, I moved from Santa Barbara to New York City to be a bond trader. If there is a more shocking cultural transition in the U.S., I sure don't know about it.

On my first day on the job I was wet behind the ears - and I mean that literally, I had windsurfed the day before I left. To mix metaphors, I was a scared California-homesick fish out of water and flopping in the big apple. All I wanted to do was make it through my first day on Wall Street without drawing any attention.

Barely through my first hour, I went to get coffee. There in the break room, standing by the sink, was this big, cocky Italian-American guy about my age. (Trust me, if he was in "The Sopranos" you'd think; "Oh come on, nobody could be that Italian.") I will never, ever forget what that guy did: He poured soda water into a glass, then chocolate syrup, then some milk and stirred the whole mess into a brown froth. I asked;

"Uh, err, um, excuse me, Bud, but, like, what is that stuff?"

This guy dropped the spoon in the sink with a clank and stared at me like I had sprouted horns. In utter amazement and disbelief he demanded;

"Where the f--- are you from? Where the f --- are you from? You mean to tell me ‘dat youse ain’t never seen a frickin' egg cream before? Hey, Tony, Doc, Johnny, Frankie, Aldo, everybody get in here. Dis frickin' guy over here has never seen an egg cream before."

That was Vinny. Vinny was the prototypical Jersey guy. Vinny lived life to the top- sometimes a bit over – and he had a heart that was just as full. Vinny felt sorry for me – he could tell I was out of my league – and sort of took me under his large, and hairy, wing. That big lug, like many others, took pity and helped make my move to New York bearable. But nearly every day of the three years I worked there, Vinny never let me forget the damn egg cream incident:

"Hey, Yo, Al,” (Vinny never did buy Alex as a real name), “come over here, Al. Al, I want to introduce youse to a new taste treat. It's called peatzer. (pizza) And this here is what we like to call a sangwich.” (sandwich)

Vinny loved to, as he put it, bust my chops.

Years later, when I had moved back to California and struggled to start all over as a stockbroker and open new accounts, I picked up the phone and, once again, heard that unmistakable voice;

“Yo, Al, how’s it goin’ over there? Hey, listen, you frickin’ hump, can you do me a favor here?”

Evidentially, Vinny had heard about my situation, so he called to throw me a big trade.

Vinny and his younger brother Andrew, whom Vinny hired a few years before, were working side by side trading bonds at Cantor Fitzgerald in the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11th. Neither Vinny nor Andrew made it out.

Here are Vinny and Andrew: