"What do you want me to do,
To watch for you while you're sleeping?
Well, please don't be surprised when you find me dreaming too;
It's just a box of rain,
I don't know who put it there.
Believe it if you need it,
Or leave it if you dare;
But it's just a box of rain
Or a ribbon for your hair;
Such a long, long time to be gone,
And a short time to be there."
-- Grateful Dead, "Box of Rain"
On this day my eyes remain full of tears in memory of all of those I knew (and those I didn't know) who were lost 10 years ago.
It is said that death leaves a heartache that no one can heal but that love leaves a memory no one can steal.
And so it is today, Friday, Sept. 9, 2011 -- two days before we observe the 10th anniversary of the World Trade Center tragedy.
Other than this piece, which runs every year, I will not be writing today, but I want to pass along my thoughts by writing this missive as a dedication to some of those who were lost -- especially to my best pal, Chuck Zion (a.k.a., Brown Bear).
Chuck worked at Cantor Fitzgerald, the brokerage firm that lost nearly 700 employees 10 years ago. It was the hardest-hit company in the World Trade Center tragedy, accounting for nearly one-quarter of the building's deaths that day. I lost many friends at Cantor on Sept. 11: Eric, Pat, Timmy -- too many to count. So did many others. And of course, we all lost one of TheStreet's own, Bill "Budman" Meehan.
In Cantor Fitzgerald's equity division, none had more of a presence (literally and figuratively) than Chuck Zion. He was known to his friends and clients as the Brown Bear, a sensitive, giving and caring friend; father to Zach; son to Martin and Jane; and husband to the amazing Carole ("Cheezy"). His love was pure, and there was never any pretense -- not wordy, he was on point.
The largest producer over the past decade at Cantor Fitzgerald, Chuck was master of his universe. He was straightforward and clear-cut, a no-nonsense and respected partner who was remarkably generous but never, ever wanted others to know it. He gave often and substantially but always anonymously, without strings attached. Chuck, who also worked at Salomon Brothers and Sanford C. Bernstein, put on some of the largest trades in the history of the equities market. He was the player the "big boys" went to when they wanted anonymity. And I am talking multimillion-share trades, the really big prints. And it was Chuck who introduced me to Bill Meehan -- he even had me fill in for Budman on a few occasions in the Cantor Daily News.
I cherished and loved Chuck Zion -- he was my confidant and a brother that I never had. When I moved to Florida in the late 1990s Chuck introduced me to his father and mother, asking me to take them out once or twice a year, to look after them a bit. In time, Rabbi Zion and Jane became more than casual dinner mates; they became my mother and father, so Chuck and I really were like brothers (though absent the same blood).
I spoke to Chuck every morning at around 6:15 a.m. If I didn't call him on my direct line to Cantor's trading desk by 6:20, he'd get angry and yell at me in no uncertain terms! Invariably, legendary money managers Neil Weissman, Stanley Shopkorn, Dan Tisch or Phil Marber (Cantor's former CEO) would interrupt our daily calls. He would take their calls, and then shortly, Chuck would call me back. We rarely talked about the stock market, preferring to talk sports and food (his favorite activity!). Sometimes Chuck would tell me to check out Maureen Dowd's editorial piece in The New York Times ("Dougie, she is mandatory reading"), or who was on Imus that morning. I got him to buy a couple of harness horses with me for fun and he got a kick out of them as we followed their losing races. "We'll get him next time," he would say (his credo) -- though we never did!
We played golf together (Chuck wrote the word "Lost" on each of his golf balls because he lost so many of them that he wanted the other players to know they were his), usually with Phil Marber or Andy Smoller. We talked NCAA football and basketball, especially about Syracuse University's teams (his alma mater). But mostly we talked about our children.
The Friday before Sept. 11 was my last day in the office, as I was leaving for Europe for 10 days. That day we spent a lot of time talking about his son Zack, reminiscing about the trip Zack and I had recently taken to New Haven to Yale University, where he watched me lecture at Dr. Robert Shiller's class on short-selling. Chuck was so proud of the way Zack had become a man. And he was nervously awaiting Greenwich High's football season with such anticipation. (They had won the state title the previous year, with Zack playing the offensive line.) Every time he talked about the upcoming season, his voice would rise several decibels. He was the proudest father on the face of the earth.
That Friday morning, the last day I spoke to Chuck, I was playing a Grateful Dead song in the background and I had Chuck on the speaker. Chuck was never what I would call "into" music. He was certainly not a fan of the Grateful Dead -- maybe Motown, but not the Grateful Dead. Surprisingly, in our early-morning talk, Chuck remarked how beautiful the song was. The song was "Box of Rain" -- and the lyrics captured the concept of how short life can be only days before the disaster.
On Sunday I will again share Chuck's memories with his parents (Rabbi and Jane), his many friends (like Phil Marber) and with a number of longtime subscribers to TheStreet (like Don Gher), who were business associates or friends with Brown Bear and who, as they have every year, will pass on their day's thoughts to me in emails or phone calls, which I eagerly anticipate and will always cherish.
"At our synagogue last night on the eve of the Jewish New Year, our rabbi asked us to shout out the names of friends and family that we'd lost that day. There were so many names, it was frightening and I was glad we had left the kids at home. I felt honored to yell out Bill's name. And I feel honored to have gotten to meet and work with him in his short time on earth. Oops, wanted to cry as I wrote that. Could feel it coming on. Nope, no can do. Not with that picture of him in my mind wearing that funny floral shirt. He wouldn't want us to remember him in any other way than with laughter. God bless your soul, Bill. God bless the Meehan family."
-- Jim Cramer, "Remembering Bill Meehan"
On that day, I will also share my fond memories of TheStreet's and Cantor Fitzgerald's Bill "Budman" Meehan with his good pals Jim Cramer (to this day, Jim's shout out, above, of Bill Meehan's name at Temple during Rosh Hashanah brings me to tears), Tony Dwyer, Herb Greenberg and others, and we will all toast him as so many subscribers did in the fall of 2001.
Thanks for reading and enjoy your weekend -- and, on Sunday, think about how lucky we all are.
I will be back bright and early on Monday morning ... at my perch.