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As Time Goes By

Man, oh man, we’ve got a lot to talk about. Where did the summer go and why didn’t it take the heat with it? Let’s jump right in…

I think I’ve told you that I have somehow let myself become the trip coordinator for two group outings for some of the guys from Allen & Company.

This past August was our 42nd (plus or minus a year or two) annual trip to Boca Grande.

We had about a dozen of us that went down there this year, and we had a great time.

Being the obsessive planner that I am, I bought tents and fans to fight the heat, plus cookstoves and grills, too, for fine dining. We started with filet mignon on Thursday nights, my buddy Carlos roasted a whole pig on Friday, and we finished up with a Saturday night fish fry. My baked beans (ok, they were cooked in a cast iron skillet on the gas stove, so they weren’t exactly “baked”) and cheese grits were to die for. That’s an odd expression, isn’t it? We hear it relatively often, but I can’t remember many people volunteering to die for their preferred dining choice or whatever ecstasy of the moment they were referring to. Perhaps this requires further pondering and a rant to follow, but probably not.

Anyway, as you can glean (pun intended), we ate well. My goal on these trips is to have the outdoor kitchen become the gathering place where we cook, eat, and clean up together; that much has been working. The primary objective has been to build renaissance men – thinkers who appreciate art, science, and theology and are prepared to discuss matters in depth.

My raw materials have proven to be an eighth-grade gym class with all the humor and sophistication thereof. It’s a long way to the top if ya want to rock and roll (or train cats, gnats, and financial advisors, apparently).

But it truly was a great time. Next trip up is to Florida’s own Gotham City, otherwise known as Yeehaw Junction. We go in February, and I’m already planning the menu and the inspirational topics.

Maybe I should do a photo essay for Garden & Gun. I’m sure they’d love it.

After the Boca Grande trip, I went to Hendersonville, NC, for two (yes, count ’em, 2!) days.

I have two good friends there I didn’t even make the effort to see. Lorin = bad friend. Next time.

I drove up to see my brother, who has become homebound. No, he doesn’t have any physical ailments that render him immobile; he just prefers the internet and keyboard interaction to being. It used to drive me nuts. Now I’ve figured out that another person’s lifestyle is their business and none of my own (yes, within boundaries … I understand that murder and mayhem are still taboos). It is high on my list of stupid things I do with my life for me to make other peoples’ issues – good, bad, or indifferent – of any concern to me. I’ve only done it for 66 years. Perhaps it is time to let that go fully. I’m doing better – I don’t even argue these days with people who want to buy CDs! (Yes, this is a joke. CDs have their place in the investment world and may be right for you in your situation.

Don’t go all regulatory nuts on me. I’m just messing with the world that befuddles me from time to time.)

Ok, an aside on CDs – depending upon many factors in the economy, at any given time, CDs (and other fixed-income instruments) may be yielding less than or more than the prevailing inflation rate. Many buyers fail to consider this and only pay attention to the stated “coupon” rate.

This drives me nuts.

In keeping with the preceding paragraph, I always explain this to people, but I have given up arguing the point. The further I go down the stream (that’s a Jimmy Buffett reference, but we’ll get to him later), I become more confident that it is just this side of impossible to convince anybody of anything in this life. The internet hasn’t made this any easier either, except for people of varying degrees of celebrity status who have forms and faces fitting the current definition of beauty and some completely idiotic proposition for health and wellness at a one-time price of …

Unfortunately, many of us either choose to or are pressured to become separated in life by denominational differences. I am particularly aware of this by having grown up in a Southern Baptist Church (to this day, I’m not sure if we were more Southern, more Baptist, or more Church, but man, were they ever serious about all three). I’m part of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. You thought the Presbyterians were a denomination.

Oh, no, no. We have split into about 962 different smaller denominations since the Reformation. Critical matters such as the color of carpets have arisen, you see.

But on to more serious splits: I am a college football fan.

As a one-year attendee of Clemson and a graduate of the University of Florida (Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering, lest I ever fail to point that out should there be even the slightest opportunity), I have seen the vigor of the fandom up close. Sports fans are NUTS, I tell ya! They bring the validity to the word “fanatic.”

Like the late great Georgia Bulldog Lewis Grizzard said, “It’s not ‘just a game’! It’s our way of life against theirs!”

But none of that is of importance to today’s issue. The denomination difference I am referring to is the one that separates those who believe that summer ends on Labor Day weekend, and those who count the ending with the coming of the Autumnal Equinox. Count me in with the Labor Day crowd; I double down on that because it USED to be the start of the school year, and it kinda is the beginning of football season.

Being a U of F Gator fan, college football is usually interesting to me until about sometime in September – things changed when Urban left town. If you don’t get this reference, do bother to look it up – it won’t be that interesting to you. Your take from this should be that people live and die (emotionally) on different hills in their lifetimes; some are very important, and some are unbelievably stupid. Our job(s) is to stop (on a regular basis), think about where we’ve planted a flag, and identify the ground we’ve claimed. Then I vote we separate ourselves when we should (let the devil take the hindmost as a pastor once counseled an overreaching me) and stand pat where the mountain has turned into the molehill once again.

So, for me, when it’s convenient, Labor Day Monday evening is the end of summer, but this year, it was the end of the endless summer when Jimmy Buffett up and died on Labor Day weekend.

And no, you are not allowed to write in and tell me that “Endless Summer” was a 1966 surfing movie or a 1974 Beach Boys compilation album. Just go along on the ride for now, OK?

I really loved Jimmy’s music – particularly the stuff from 1973 to 1978.

After I got out of college and bought a new AMC Eagle (Aside: My buddy Fuzzy, who was a Training device man (a now-defunct Navy MOS) who was working on the BUDS training base with me back in 1981, used to ask and answer: “Do you know why AMCs have big windows? So everyone can see the dumb a$$ that bought one!” Yeah, Fuzzy wasn’t far wrong about a lot of things.) I promptly bought the six Buffet albums in question and played those things until I knew every word. Apparently, I didn’t learn the notes, however, as was pointed out by a girlfriend during a 1985 sing-along.

I sold that Eagle in that same year after the last tape broke, and I had to replace my rear end for the third time.

To be clear, it was more precisely the rear end in the AMC that needed replacing, lest you have concerns about the gentle and genteel nature of the lass from long ago.

Yessir, Jimmy Buffett dying made me feel old.

You may protest that 66 isn’t old, but if we start thinking about our high school yearbook, the old Johnny Horton chorus comes to mind, “There wasn’t nigh as many as there was a while ago.”

And now, as I move to the end, let’s chase Alice down one more rabbit hole…I turned on the NFL on the first Sunday they played this season and watched some of the Bucs and some of the Jaguar games. I don’t think I have watched a non-Monday night NFL game in at least a decade, and two things registered immediately:

  1. Man, those guys are fast. Even the traditionally slower positions (i.e., the center) can run faster than most of the people I have ever known in my life if I timed them on the best day of their lives They are also big … and I mean big. Like they almost seem like another species of humanoid. They are so strong and athletic. I used to think modern football was probably akin to the gladiator entertainment in ancient Rome. Now, yep, but more so.
  2. I am no longer in the target market for NFL advertisers. Nope, I am a modern dinosaur soon to go the way of the dodo bird.

And this, of course, reminds me that the VMA (that’s the Video Music Awards for you people more outdated than dinosaurs) was held sometime in September.

I scrolled through the fashion photos on the internet to see how outrageous the outfits were and to feel smugly superior. I am pleased to announce the recent trend of wearing an updated version of the Emperor’s new clothes seems to have, well … disappeared. Most of the ladies were actually wearing things that resembled dresses that covered that which should be covered unless one is in the shower stall at home.

The key takeaway, however, was that I could not have named more than half a dozen of the 50 or more celebrities pictured. To reach the end of this rabbit hole, I couldn’t name a single song recorded by any of them either.

So we have now reached the spot where the sometimes more rhetorical than not question is asked, “What in the hootenanny special does any of this have to do with investing?”

The VMAs, along with the NFL advertising, confirm that I am no longer “culturally relevant.” Is that important? Hmm. Well, it certainly isn’t from a personal values and interests standpoint, but it is from an investing standpoint. Double, hmmm. Case in point: I think Disney recently mishandled their marketing in the face of the culture wars. I am not willing to debate the positions or issues they stirred up, but instead, I am looking at sales and market cap results (disclaimer: let’s never forget the time factor – these are but short-term results we’ve seen). Nope, we will leave the social issues discussions to the internet warriors. I am asking myself, however, where retail marketing and sales trends are heading in the future. Will changing cultural trends create market opportunities? It always has, but can I see it with foresight instead of hindsight?

Will Disney’s misstep turn out to be temporary, lasting, or not a misstep at all? I’m spending more time these days thinking about those issues as I work to grow your wealth and mine.

As for the rest of the folderol found herein, the relevance, I suggest the relevance to matters is every bit as meaningful as the ‘news’ you hear from the daily financial press and a whole lot more entertaining.”

It does, I hope, and perhaps, just maybe, give you some thinking points about how to build a life.

Me? I am still working it out.  Enjoy the journey. I’m glad we are in it together.

October 2023

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