Fries and Prejudice

I’ll be the first to tell you that literary references are pretty much wasted on me.

I’m very shallow, poorly read and have little motivation to change my ways, much to the  dismay of Sugar Momma, who these days is happy just to see me change my socks.

She’s pretty much given up on all of the rest, although occcasionally I will agree to see a movie based on a piece of literature, as long as it stars Seth Rogen or Rob Schneider. I may no longer be fully malleable, but I am open to suggestion before I roll my eyeballs.

So no one is more surprised than me that what is considered a literary masterpiece would help to coalsesce some of the thoughts that I had during this very nice Thanksgiving holiday.

Pride and Prejudice.

First of all, it was exceedingly nice Thanksgiving because there was no trading on Thursday, Saturday nor Sunday. Normally, I love any day that the market is open for business, but we all needed a break. What few hours of trading that we did have on Friday, despite coming off 100+ points from the intra-day high, resulted in a mere 25 point loss.

If that’s not a profitable trading session, then I don’t know what is.

Having had a wonderful Thanksgiving Day dinner with family and friends, my two sons and I headed for the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers football game that evening.

I’m not much of a football fan, but I was even decked out in a Ray Lewis jersey, as were approximately 20,000 others, although none approached my inherent talent of frightening opponents with a mere sneer.

Since my kids are the social animal that I am not, it was very easy for them to get into the surrounding tailgate culture once we arrived at the off stadium parking lot.

Do I have to remind you that Pride and Prejudice examines the role of environment on behavior?

I was more of an observer.

Among the many things that I noticed at my first tailgate venture was that blue jeans come in a very wide range of waist sizes.

Boardwalk FriesRealizing that there was really no substantive way to turn that observation into a tangible asset, I followed the lead and downed some whipped cream vodka and Baltimore’s best, National Bohemian, also known as Natty Boh beer.

By then, we were ready to enter yet another environment, this one much more highly structured and with highly codified terms of conduct..

The stadium.

But before we went to find our seats, both sons had to go to the Boardwalk Fries concession stand. But not to order anything, although we’d done that plenty of times before, but instead to look and see if Joe D, the co-owner was in house.

Sure enough. He was. Despite the fact that he presided over more than 100 Boardwalk Fries locations, he was right there in the middle of it all, together with his son Joey D and lots of others.

It’s been nearly 5 years, but both kids worked the Boardwalk Fries location in Raven’s Stadium to help raise money for their Fraternity. It was a good relationship. The fraternity brothers hustled a good product and Boardwalk Fries helped to support their fundraising efforts.

The work was also difficult.

But 5 years later both kids sought Joe D out because of good memories of a man that even a wizened set of eyes would recognize as someone who was commited to his product and its quality.

Why else would he leave a comfortable home on Thanksgiving evening to spend it behind a spattering fryolator and frequently unruly stadium customers?

Why? To oversee every aspect of the operation and to make certain that everything was up to the Boardwalk Fries standard, although truth be told, a bunch of happily inebriated football fans aren’t that likely to notice very much.

Boardwalk Fries isn’t exactly a household name. It’s not Amazon, nor is it Apple. But Joe D is Steve Jobs and he is Jeff Bezos. It’s actually repugnant to me to cite a book in my blog, much less two books. But Im certain by now Joe D has put in the requisite 10,000 hours that Malcolm Gladwell defined in “Outliers” as distinguishing the really greats from the schlubs of the world.

They spotted and then called out to Joe D.

He saw the kids and came out from behind the cook area to speak to them. Hugs, sharing memories and stories. The guys eyes actually twinkled.

They really did. And then there were several rounds of hand shakes. You really felt that this guy sincerely cared.

We didn’t buy any fries, after all we were still stuffed, but my family loves a good french fry and still has fond memories of the fries Szelhamos made late in his life, when we were all stunned to learn that he could actually cook.

Joe D seemed to have something that you just don’t seem to see that often. Maybe its just the wizened me talking now, but his pride in his product and business was so blatant. He didn’t have Jobs’ aura or Bezos’ laugh, but he did.

Pride and Prejudice tells a story of development of character and morality.

After watching a great game and a home team win, we came home to enjoy a few days together.

On Friday I had the opportunity to make about 5 or 6 call sales for that day’s expiration, using Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Amazon, Caterpillar, Freeport McMoRan and Mosaic to pick up a few pennies for my troubles and stresses of the past week’s trading.

Once the market closed I stumbled upon Josh Brown’s posting “How do you have so much Time to Blog” on his site “The Reformed Broker“. It was yet another insightful post, but this one really struck a chord with me.

I would actually tell you to follow him on Twitter, but for some inexplicable reason he has me blocked.

Why, Josh, Why. Could Buddy Holly not bring us together?:

Anyway, among the things that he wrote about were his bygone days as a retail stockbroker.

I’ve written on many occasions that I was very fortunate to have worked with a wonderful broker. I really believed that he sought to protect and nurture my interests. We were at the same stage of life as we began a 25 year investing relationship.

Over the years I’d also had some highly contrasting experiences when infidelity resulted in trying some hot young broker or two, just for the thrill of it all. But when my trusted broker so unexpectedly passed away, there wasn’t much to think about. I didn’t think that it would be likely to find another “Bob”. Instead, I thought that it was far more likely that I would find, what Josh Brown so eloquently self-referred to as “a jerkoff retail stockbroker.”

Character and morality.

But it really went beyond that. The brokerage itself had no pride. It’s hard not to be a jerkoff retail broker when you work for a jerkoff retail brokearge house.


Bob had pride, but despite the great example that he had set, I was left with a very deep prejudice against ever using a retail broker again.

Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos obviously had more than pride. They had a great products, business models and vision.

Most of all, they weren’t products of their environments. Instead, they helped to create all new environments. Look, they even refer to Apple as its own “eco-system.” Jobs idea of design was to make it part of its environment while still standing out from its environment.

Amazon is creating a fusion between physical goods and the eponymous cloud. Someday, if Bezos has anything to say about it, that 65 inch 3D LED you just bought won’t even take up space in your media room. It’ll just be somewhere in the cloud, along with your music, milk, burial plots and books.

As I think a bit about Joe D, Jobs, Bezos, Bob and Josh Brown, in addition to the un-named brokers that I referred to, I’m increasingly convinced that every investor needs to take pride in his portfolio and trading acumen. Regardless of what environment helped to form you, what is the chance that environment will put forward someone to take the same level of pride in your portfolio that you can?

Joe D hasn’t turned it over. Maybe someday it will be Joey D who has the same level of pride and commitment. For all I know, he may already have it, but why put Joe D’s talents aside?

Even when not slinging fries he’s slinging life lessons.

Monday is the start of yet another week. This one is being framed by speculation that Germany may leave the EU, the Euro may crumble and that french fries may contain more saturated fats than is recommended.

I choose to be aware of all of those possibilities but to act accordingly.

In this case, “accordingly” means in prejudice to conventional wisdom.