Once in a Lifetime

Once in a LifetimeThe only kind of “Talking Head” that I like is the kind that I saw in concert on a twin bill with the Ramones in Boston.

I don’t like the kind of “Talking Head” that convincingly and arrogantly explains to the droolers in the viewing audience why American Tower stock would plummet in value upon the announcement of an AT&T takeover of T-Mobile, and then just as arrogantly explain how American Tower shares would soar once the merger fell through.

You would think that when the initial hypothesis was proven wrong and shares of AMT outperformed the market, they might curb in a bit of the “smug factor” and maybe even do a public mea culpa upon it’s subsequent “unexpected” underperformance.

And you would also think that when Deutsche Telecom annouinces that it will devote $4 billion, coincidentally the same amount as the break-up penalty, to expand its T-Mobile network, they would grown tired of the thesis.

But what else can Talking Heads do besides talk?

I know that I’ll never be invited into the “Talking Head” club, although I continue to savor my brief taste.

I’m not even quite sure why they let me into that haze filled Boston club. I asked myself “well, how did I get here?” but I don’t think there was any real answer.

It would turn out to be my first experience with a rhetorical question and with lots of other generationally happening things.

I certainly didn’t belong, but I was given free tickets at a record signing earlier that day, having no idea who Joey Ramone was and actually never even buying the album.

Why would I want the album? I was totally devoted to the mellifluous sounds of a newly re-energized Art Garfunkel that wa constantly playing throgh my 8 Track player.

At the time, I just wanted to get close enough to get good value out of my altered state of consciousness. So I had an album signed that I then later returned to the bin. I do remember laughing a lot while going through the line.

That was at a time when only really bad boys and sailors had tattoos.

Funny how the safety pins through the cheeks never really caught on, at least among my generation. That once in a lifetime fad skipped a couple of generations, but has now found new life and new body parts.

Just like the Bob Seger concert that I mentioned the other day, this too was taking place at a time when we were witness to once in a lifetime events.

In this case there was more going on than a revolution in music. OPEC was flexing its muscles. Gold and silver were finally becoming the precious metals that they were Biblically portended to be and the Hunt Brothers were in control of the Universe.

Then Sid Vicious died a few weeks later and along with him went a genre.

And then before you knew it oil reversed course and OPEC started dumping metals. I know and remember, as I owned gold, silver and copper back then, during the Ron Paul phase of my evolution. Not only the futures contracts, but physical metal, as well, as a rusted bar of silver somewhere in my house would attest.

We saw a once in a lifetime plummet in prices on Silver Thursday, just a bit more than a year after the music died. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

That signed Ramones album is undoubtedly worth more than the bar of silver that’s lost in the basement even after the past couple of days.

Today was another of those once in a lifetime events and it took everyone’s attention and discretionary investment dollars.

For the first time in 10 years, Sears Holdings actually held something.

They held an earnings call on its holding.


As it turns out, Sears is somehow tangentially involved in retail. Who knew?

Apparently, everyone liked what they heard as Sears opened high and closed higher, up almost 19% for the day, making it more than a double since its early January low.

Sure, it’s easy to draw a line and connect the death of Sid Vicious to the collapse of the silver market, but what antecedent event caused Eddie Lampert, the renowned retailer to break a 10 year drought?

Scouring over the past years’ events, Osama bin Laden, Raj Rajaratnam and Dominique Strauss-Kahn quickly came to mind, but there’s no doubt that the recent death of Whitney Houston was the antecedent precipitating factor.

Those dots are easy to connect.

Listen, if you could connect the dots from Joey Ramone to Maria Bartiromo, you can connect anything.

With word that the Houston estate was going up for sale, the shrewd real estate mind of Lampert is certain to snatch it up and make it the showcase for his K-Mart and Sears empire, as he adds yet another real estate gem to what we’ve spent the past 5 years  believing is an empire whose value was really based on real estate holdings.

Those can only go up you know, especially as Circuit City, Borders and Linens N’ Things are driving up retail space prices as they expand their operations

I shudder when I think back to the decision I made about 5 years ago when faced with the decision whether to purchase Sears Holdings or Goldman Sachs, both at about $180 at the time.

Goldman Sachs has taken its lumps in that time, but at least we always knew what it did, even if it may have sometimes bordered on the unethical or illegal.

When I was a kid growing up in the Bronx, there was a very large Sears store situated right at the very beginning of the borough’s principal shopping area, Fordham Road.

As large as the store was it actually didn’t carry clothes or fashion items. It was all about tools, automotive, appliances and State Farm insurance. I think they may have also done tax returns while you waited for a tire rotation.

It wasn’t until shortly before the Talking Heads and the Ramones that I went into a Boston suburban Sears and realized they actually sold clothes.

I was stunned. Nice clothes, too, I thought, but I was probably in the same altered state of mind.

Luckily, I’d given up on altered states of mind, especially when trying to decide on investment vehicles. Whatever people have been smoking for the past five years, or whatever Kool-Aid they’ve been drinking, today’s Sears Holdings performance provided hope to the faithful and was a welcome addition to the smoke obsured mirrors and Esperanto press releases they’ve been using.

I’m glad I was around to see that once in a lifetime earnings call. I think the last time Lampert held one, Nehru jackets were his leading sales item.

But it seems that “once in a lifetime” events may be related to your life span, because this gold and silver thing is feeling both awfully familiar and awful, as I now suffer from the same thing that delighted me barely 5 weeks ago.

Back in the good old days, The ProShares UltraShort Silver was a license to print options premiums. It would go up and down in spasms, as silver moved in the other direction.

A rational person would have thought that in the absence of nuclear holocaust or some other reason for the Saudis to rush to cash. we wouldn’t see such a strong and sustained rise in metals prices twice in the same lifetime.

But we have and the ETF has headed in a sustained way, but in the wrong direction.

Worst of all, with only a small portion of my shares being hedged.

As I look back, though, it dawns on me just how different the two times are. They may as well have occured in different lifetimes.

Back when the Hunts Brothers had to liquidate their holdings due to margin calls, so did I.

I’m smarter now, but back then, I didn’t think “Trading Places” was very funny.

Now, I think it’s a great movie.

Yes, I’m smarter now/ Granted, not MF Global smart, but smart enough to know that margin is the way to go only if you can meet a margin call and can take the heat. It’s hot enough being two times leveraged in the ETF, I can’t imagine what 35 times leverage feels like other than to imagine a descent into the fires of Hell.

I’m smart enough to not want to go there and I’m also smarter in not having it all in one basket.

As opposed to then, I can afford to wait it out or just take some losses and plow the money into something else to hopefully soften the hurt.

At the very least, based on the amount of time that’s passed since the last episode, I can probably safely say that this is a once in a lifetime remaining event.

Somehow that doesn’t sound comforting



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