I have lots of stories this month, none of which easily segue into a discussion about investing, so I’ll just jump in and tell you one from this past weekend and hope you’ll not worry that it is relevant to nothing in particular by the time we get to the end. So since you asked, it goes like this:
Well, first, you have to understand that my arrival at church on Sunday morning requires a well-planned strategy.
I don’t want to get there too early because no matter how “spiritual” I try to appear or how grumpy I naturally look, SOME-body (Heaven forbid) will feel the need to talk to me. That’s a non-starter, as you will certainly understand. I also don’t want to be late because that would be disrespectful, so I have to time things carefully to walk in on about the third note of the organ’s opening prelude. Then I have to carefully select my seat so I am not too close to people in the middle of the pew, but I don’t leave enough room for the always-12-minute-late lady with the hat who might actually try to sit by me if there is enough empty space to tempt her. Fortunately, I attend a stodgy Presbyterian that caters to people with predictable seating patterns, so I have about three semi-reliable go-to spots where I can sit.
My wife has had it with the rules, so she stays home more often than not. I always tell her that God asked about her but couldn’t remember her name.
Look for me in a shallow grave coming to your town soon…
Anyway, this weekend, I was seated, and the woman that doesn’t wear a hat came in after me, but before, the lady with the hat sat down in the pew in front of me. She is one we don’t have to worry about because she looks at me and treats me like the shop dog you see once a month when you go to Old Joe’s hardware store. He won’t bother you…probably…but keep an eye on him and try not to pet him. I like her a lot, at a distance.
Her adult son came with her yesterday.
I have known him for about 40 years. He’s a few years younger than me, or maybe a few years older, I can’t remember, but I am fairly confident that he is younger or older. Even worse, I couldn’t remember his name either. Mind you; he isn’t someone I know well; I’d only see him say hello once or twice a year with odd years off. So for the first fifteen to 20 minutes of the service, I’m trying to remember his name because I’ll have to give a hail and halloo when we stand up after the service.
None of my tricks work.
I try to sneak up on it sideways – I try to put it out of my mind and jump back to it, then I run through various names of people starting with a and going to z; nope, nothing works. Finally, we stand up to sing “The Old Rugged Cross” (that’s not actually what we sang, we have a music director that finds the most obscure hymns that sound like funeral dirges, but I am not a complainer), and I glance down to see that his name is embossed in gold on his Bible. I can’t read it. The print is too small. So I slowly lean forward further, but still can’t see it. Creeping, slowing, and bending from the waist, I soldier on with eyes asquint. Just as his name is about to come into focus, my nameless friend glances to his right and reacts with a noticeable flinch; he clearly fears I am about to faint (presumably from my spiritual euphoria in a most non-Presbyterian way).
Disaster is averted; however, as I catch my balance, his name comes into focus, and I return to an upright posture as if these spasmodic contortions are the new normal for the Frozen Chosen.
And the best news of all is that following the service, I am able to happily greet my friend, “Hello, Genuine Leather!”
If you’ve read this far, you clearly don’t care about the rules of article length any more than I do, so picture this:
On Saturday before the “Genuine Leather” Sunday, I was taking apart an old Ambassadeur 5000 casting reel that I purchased from a pawn shop a year or two ago. It cost about $15, as I recall, and was in sad shape. I love taking these things apart and rebuilding them to a new lease on life. Sometimes I repaint them and make them appear all new and shiny; sometimes, I leave them looking beaten and battered. A wolf and sheep’s clothing, if you will. It’s great fun, for me, at least.
So I am taking apart this reel and concentrating with all my might on a comfortable Saturday afternoon…I have my folding table set up in the shade of the breezeway between the house and garage, and my iPhone is playing all my favorite oldies. I was singing along with Bruce Springsteen, “I got this guitar, and I learned how to make it talk…,” at this point, my wife opened the front door, jumped out, and screamed out her voice, “WHOA-OH-OH-HO, THUNDER ROAD!” I durn near died, I tell ya. She, of course, dissolves into tears of laughter. I’m clutching my chest and trying to remember the numbers for 911. My chest hurts for 15 minutes. It’s now even money on who you’ll find in that shallow grave from paragraph two.
Eons later, when she could compose herself (albeit briefly), she said, “I am sorry. I thought you heard me. I forget how you are when you concentrate on something.” Yeah, I heard you, alright.
As we digest these tales from My Life and Hard Times (apologies to James T.), you need to know that I once had to take a barrage of psychological tests as an entry requirement for a job with some rigorous security classification requirements.
And yes, shame on you for your doubt and sarcasm; I passed and got the job, so your jokes don’t apply! The psychiatrist administering the test told me afterward, “Congratulations, you’re very normal! You do have some obsessive-compulsive tendencies, but well within the normal range and certainly not in the realm of a “disorder.” It’s exactly what we expect in someone with a science or engineering degree.” Man, I shoulda got that in writing. I would like to have it on my business card, but perhaps that might seem a bit oxymoronic…
And this deposits me on your virtual doorstep with these thoughts:
Yes, my tendency to block out everything is something I’ve always had. Yes, my need to understand the how, what, and why is insatiable. Like Monk says, “It’s a blessing…and a curse.” It’s these same disciplines; no, that’s not the right word. It’s an innate need. It’s something I was born with. And it is one of the things I bring to you to service your accounts. I ask questions about your life and financial plans, plan your portfolio and recommend your individual investments with the same level of obsession and concentration as I do my “Mr. Fix-It” hobbies and my pleasure reading.
When I tell you to “stay the course” during difficult market times, rest assured I am never giving you a glib, mindless answer. I analyzed and agonized over your investments for many hours, so let’s keep this work arrangement: “I’ll obsess so you don’t have to!” On we go!