Andy lives somewhere in the middle of north-east central New Jersey, which he says is way too far from home. He was born and raised in the mean streets of the Bronx borough of New York City. He went to an “extremely strict,” but diverse Catholic school run by mean nuns who kept him out of trouble by teaching him the value of “self-discipline.” On the weekends, he used to take the subway to Brooklyn to attend Hebrew school, just so he could give Rabbi Rosenstein a hard time.
When Andy was 14 years old, Rabbi Rosenstein challenged Andy to join the chess club at the local JCC community center. At the club, Andy met a kid named Mike. At first they didn’t get along. They got into a fight over whose time expired first on their chess clocks. Despite their common Jewish roots, they were from very different worlds. Mike was from an upper-middle class family, and he lived in an affluent neighborhood in Long Island. Andy was a latch-key kid from a dysfunctional, yet diverse family who lived in a housing project in the Bronx. Andy always considered himself to be “Jewtalrican,” since his family is a mix of Jewish, Italian, and Puerto Rican. Mike’s older sister went to an elite college on the east coast. Andy’s older sister turned out to be a high school drop-out. Mike was already thinking about what kind of car he was going to drive when he turns 16 years old. Andy was always thinking if he had enough money for the subway to make it to the JCC. Mike’s family vacationed in luxurious resorts in Europe and Latin America. For Andy, vacation was a trip to the Jersey Shore or Coney Island. Mike’s parents went to college and had jobs on Wall Street. Andy’s mom was always looking for a job that she could never find.
Nevertheless, somehow, they became best friends. At first, they both enjoyed playing quick chess. It’s not that they wanted to win, they just wanted to see who could move the chess pieces faster. Andy knew it was always Mike, but he never told him because all their games came down to the wire. While they liked to play quick chess, they discovered that they had other things in common. They both loved baseball and Christina Aguilera.
Soon, they both started going to the JCC on other days just so they could hang out with each other. The only times they ever got into a fight again was over who was going to be the next shortstop after Derek Jeter retires, and who was going to marry Christina Aguilera. More importantly, they were friends since they could both trust each other and tell each other everything that was going on in their lives. One time, Andy told Mike that he was interested in investing in the stock-market. Mike recommended he should read the Gorilla Game, which was the first book that Andy read about investing. Mike wasn’t fake like everybody else. That’s why Mike wasn’t just Andy’s best friend or a “bro.” For Andy, Mike was more real than any brother he could ever have. In a way, he wanted to “be like Mike.” While they both played baseball and chess, they quickly found out who was good at what. Andy wasn’t good at either, but Mike was good at baseball. When it came time for college, Mike got a baseball scholarship to attend Vanderbilt University. For a while they stayed in touch through e-mail. At some point, they both realized that their friendship was pointless, and they had both moved on to the next chapter of their lives. As the years went by, Andy thought about getting back in touch with Mike, but he never did. He was scared that Mike had changed, and he would no longer accept Andy as a friend. He was afraid that he was going to laugh at him, ignore him, taunt him, or just make him feel miserable.
From time to time, Andy wonders if he really achieved anything in his life like Mike did. He also feels a sense of betrayal that Mike never talked to him ever again. Now, Andy watches his friend play Major League Baseball on TV. He is really happy for him, and hopes Mike is happy with his life. Even though Mike doesn’t play for the Yankees, Andy knows that New York is where his heart lies and knows that Mike will take a pay-cut just to play for the home team. Andy has often wondered if true friendship and trust really exists. In a way, Andy just never wanted to “grow up” and accept the brutal reality that anyone he has ever talked to, including his “so-called friends” either needed or wanted something from him. For Andy, Mike was always different for some reason he could never understand. As Andy moved on with his life, he met other friends, acquaintances, and associates. However, he had never met anyone like Mike. Andy’s childhood ended a few years after college when he realized that he and Mike, were both, just like everybody else.
Unlike Mike, Andy took a different course in life. He was not offered a single scholarship to any college. He did get accepted to St. John’s University in Brooklyn, where he went on to major in business administration. Despite graduating with a 3.7 GPA, Andy had a very difficult time finding a job or even landing an interview. Since he couldn’t get a job, Andy went ahead and got a Master’s degree in Accounting. At first, even the Master’s degree didn’t help since he still couldn’t find a job. For a while, Andy felt like the whole city knew him and hated him since he applied for so many jobs without getting a single offer. Sometimes, he even felt like people discriminated against him and didn’t hire him because of his background. He thought that was the real reason why he couldn’t find a good job. According to Andy, the Jews and Italians didn’t want him because they thought of him as Puerto Rican, and the Puerto Ricans didn’t want to hire him because they thought he was Jewish or Italian. Everyone else didn’t want to hire him because they couldn’t figure out who he was, but he wasn’t like them. According to Andy, people would put whatever label they wanted on him without even wondering what lies underneath. After all, he lived in New York. They could never accept him for being a diverse mix of different backgrounds.
Eventually, an Italian guy named Lou took Andy in and gave him a break. For the first time in his life, Andy wore a suit for something besides an interview. He joined the firm as a part-time temporary associate on a contract basis, which was up for renewal annually. Still, it was a window of opportunity that Andy was very grateful for. At first, Andy really liked the job and the people he was working with. He even liked preparing a line of never ending inter-company elimination entries for transactions that never stopped. However, soon, he realized that he wanted more out of life. On some days, he even felt like he was Tom Hanks in “Joe Versus the Volcano,” except there was no Meg Ryan. Only after a few months on the job, Andy decided to quit in order to get his career on the “fast track.” He took on “a lot of debt” to go back to St. John’s University to earn a law degree. After several unsuccessful attempts, he eventually passed the bar exam. Now, he works for a bankruptcy law firm in Jersey, so he can help people “get back on their feet’ and “get out of debt.” Andy believes that it’s always a good time to invest in the stock market, real estate, and become “deft free.” According to him if you are one those poor schmucks who lost money in the stock market, you should first get a cup of coffee, talk about it, and then forget about it.
Every weekend, Andy likes to go back to his old stomping grounds in the Bronx. He gets together with his cousins Tony and Jimmy, and they go to an Italian restaurant called “My Cousin Vinny’s.” Due to his roots, Andy loves Italian, Jewish, and Puerto Rican music. He also loves to sing. When he is not singing, Andy talks about his two favorite topics at the dinner table: money and women. He attributes his misfortunes with women to his lack of money and poor investment decisions. By poor investment decisions, Andy refers to his lost time he spent watching movies, playing chess, and trying to talk to women without having any money. All his life, Andy was very proud, but at the same time he never did anything to deserve that pride. Now, that he is talking about stocks, Andy feels finally things are going to change in the right direction. Moreover, he finally feels like he has something to be proud of.