A pleasant routine has developed here as I have settled into the new apartment. Nearly every day in the late afternoon after the New York Stock Exchange closes, my neighbor Fred comes up for a chat, an hour more or less. I have not been getting out much during this latest period of financial austerity, which will last for six more days. The company is welcome. Fred and I are roughly the same age.
At other times Fred might as well not exist from my point of view. He spends the day working the market down below me, intense in front of his computer. His evenings are quiet, too. When he is not reading, he might have CNN on his television with no sound. He prefers CNN with no sound. Fred’s life is quiet. I sense that our little visits are a nice change of pace for him, too.
I would never refer to Fred as a “day trader.” I have been acquainted with a couple of day traders, one in particular who lost everything he had, most of it inherited, as well as a chunk of his wife’s money in the market over the course of a couple years. Day traders are no different than habitual Blackjack players or Craps players or track addicts who operate under the illusion that they understand the horses.
Fred’s approach to the market is that of the technical analyst. He is working with charts, formulas, and other arcane analytic tools. Very methodical. Very cautious. Stops in place. Take a little profit here. Take a little profit there. Hard work all of that.
He is putting in place a two-year investment program with a view toward healing himself financially. Fred is convinced that Social Security will soon be dismantled or the benefits severely cut. His modest objective is simply to replace his Social Security benefits then with a return on private investment.
He is not fully invested right now and made a little mistake recently by sitting on some cash instead of popping it into Treasury Bills. So he was berating himself. I told him that if that is the biggest mistake he ever makes, sitting on cash, then he is going to be in fat city soon.
Routinely, the first thing Fred fills me in on when he comes up is how the market closed. The first hour of trading is amateur hour. The last hour of trading is when the pros make their moves. Here in the last couple of days, for example, option holders have had to close out their positions. The last hour of trading in effect sets up the next day of trading. It is very much like following a soap opera. He also fills me in on the economic indicators such as that recent horrendous 500,000 new unemployment applications.
So this has become a very welcome routine for me. Vicariously, through Fred, I feel very nearly as if I myself were still in the market.
That takes about 20 minutes at most, and then Fred is off on another interesting topic. He is a New Yorker, but he has lived in various other places. Vancouver, L.A., Florida, Cuba, Mexico City. Quite a brilliant man, actually. A former active Trotskyist in New York. Now both of us consider politics and ideology largely irrelevant in this new world and are delighted to be out of it. That is not a topic that we spend any time on to speak of.
For a couple of years, Fred lived in Havana exporting Cuban art and attempting to build a market for it in the United States. He fell in love with a young Cuban man. Head over heels. I have seen a picture of Uzvel. Straight though I am, even I can appreciate Uzvel’s beauty. A very pretty boy. The upshot was that Fred hemorrhaged a substantial amount of money in connection with this affair. The various plot lines of the torrid affairs of men and women and the torrid affairs of people of the same sex are exactly the same. The whole dynamic is exactly the same.
Having lived with myself this long, I think that I have a pretty good handle on what I am good at and what I am not good at. One thing I am good at is listening. . . .although there might be two or three women out there who would dispute that. . . .okay, maybe five. . . .six at the most.
So here we are, two older guys out of the maelstrom now and living the quiet life in Mexico, getting together daily late in the afternoon to talk. There was a day not all that long ago when I would have considered that a living nightmare, a walking death. The truth is that it is pleasant.