Quiet Desperation

Views from an expert in the laughingstock market

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I could give a two-day seminar on the No. 2 pencil, but I couldn’t have an intelligent two-minute conversation about the stock market.

Those words — “stock market” — have intimidated me since the first time I heard them. I don’t remember when that was, but it might have been in an American history class.

Perhaps when I first heard about the Stock Market Crash of 1929. I still don’t understand why that happened. I have the facts right in front of me: it lasted four days, it was the worst ever, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 25%, and it lost $30 billion in market value.

Now: What is the Dow Jones Industrial Average?

See what I mean? And it’s hopeless. I have no plans to educate myself.

I am, primarily, right-brained, and there are some things that my mind resists. The stock market is one of them.

I was reminded of this when I read “Dow closes higher after China blinks.” Should I sigh with relief? Gather with friends and celebrate? Order Chinese take-out?

I have skipped past the business section in the newspaper for decades. There are no pictures, just numbers, and a language foreign to me.

“Arbitrage,” “averaging down,” and “day trading” mean nothing to me.

The consolation is — or might be — that I know how to talk about abstract art with the best of them. Left-brained people often are just as inept when it comes to a conversation about abstract art as I am when it comes to talking about Dow Jones.

I guess insiders call it “The Dow.” I can’t do that, because I’m on the outside.

I wondered if there was a man named Dow Jones who was responsible for all of this, and I discovered it was two men: one named Dow and one named Jones.

Then why isn’t it the “Dow & Jones Industrial Average”?

Charles Dow was a 19th-century Wall Street journal editor.

(I know how Wall Street got its name, by the way.)

Whenever they show the stock market in action in real life or films, it looks like total chaos, with men and women shouting and running around with little pieces of paper in their hands.

I cannot comprehend how and why stock market fluctuations impact my life.

You may be wondering if I own any stocks. I wouldn’t know where to begin. I am sure I would have invested in New Coke.

I have seen copies of The Wall Street Journal, cold and gray and humorless. It disappoints me that I haven’t given it a chance. I feel the same way about chess.

Chess will be another gap in my resume. I know about Chess Records, and that’s about it.

Chess Records specialized in rhythm and blues. It was founded (in Chicago) by two Jewish immigrants: Leonard and Phil Chess. The record label features images of chess pieces.

Don’t ask me to play chess. But I will play Chess. Howlin’ Wolf recorded for Chess.

A No. 2 pencil is capable of making a line 35 miles long. Or writing approximately 45,000 words. Or creating drawings — portraits — of Charles Dow and his business partner, Edward Jones.

This is for all of you left-brained readers. I don’t get it, but maybe you will: How do find a small-cap fund manager? Find a large-cap fund manager and wait.

Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at craigmarshallsmith@comcast.net.

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