Of Municipal Bondage
This story is about the zany, profane and politically incorrect people who gravitated toward the municipal bond business in Texas in the 70s and 80s. It is fictional but many of the colorful events throughout the book actually happened. None of the characters represent actual people however, but the author infused all of the quirks, habits, character flaws, physical attributes and senses of humor he could recall from actual municipal bond people into his characters.
The two main characters are Leon Walla, a very bright muni trader who is a bit short, drank a little too much, used the f-word along with an array of others, and never did all that well with the ladies. His friend Jack Armstrong is in many ways the anthesis of his pal Leon. Jack has a nice family, he is big and handsome, he is a muni institutional salesman and former Marine helicopter pilot. The two have a symbiotic relationship where they need each other. They sit at the trading desk of a fictional firm in Houston, relaying stories, selling, trading, taking calls from customers, laughing and generally living their lives irreverently. All this is told through, profane and realistic dialogue.
Their Irish friend and fellow trader at a competing firm is Johnny Cannon. He mostly drinks and provides the other characters with someone to take care of. If you caught him between the third and ninth drink, he was lots of fun. Anytime after that he was too much baggage.
Danny McKay, also a trader, is afflicted with a huge ass and, like Leon Walla did only moderately well with the ladies. His nickname is Wide Load.
Marc Rapoport is a Jewish broker’s broker who is very bright and a close friend of Leon’s. He is nosy and is disappointed if he doesn’t know every little rumor and piece of news “on the street”.
Sammy David Stein, who is not Jewish, was raised on the Grand Concourse in the Bronx and can do a perfect Yiddish dialect, which he uses throughout the book to entertain Rapoport and the others with hilarious Jewish jokes. He is older than the others and a leader in the Houston bond community.
There are many other minor characters such as Lung, the Chinese bartender at their favorite bar where they all meet after work; Antonio the back office Cuban expatriate whose dialogue sounds like an excited Desi Arnez, who Jack describes as “one enchilada short of a Mexican plate lunch”; Archie the shoeshine man who comes through the tall building doing his think at the desks of his clientele at $4 a pop, like a bumblebee; Hey Zeus, is the lucky Mexican bartender in the final chapter; Charlie Stonebreaker a muni syndicate guy with a firm he calls Preparation Bache in New York; Mortabella, the zaniest of the lot, is a hugely successful trader in New York. Because of his record of making his firm tons of money, he is permitted to come to work as head trader, in a Jones Beach t-shirt and jeans and attend the board meetings in an old, wide lapelled, black tuxedo jacket.
The main characters go to bond outings in Brownsville, Texas and New York City, hunting in Pearsall, Texas, eat lunch out everyday, commute to work, faithfully ‘attend’ Happy Hour at their favorite bar, The Sewer and generally get into mischief.