Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times | Terms of Service | Privacy Policy

Sifting through the ruins of a once bountiful kingdom

Steve Marble

They were the days of magic; wistful, reckless times; a season of

wondrous bounty.

The stock market. Last year.


Like many Americans, lured by the steroid-like pace of the high-tech

industry and the ease of buying stock online, I jumped head first into

the stock market craze several years ago.

There was Amazon. There was Yahoo! There was Intel. There was Cisco.


The stocks went up. And I smiled, knowing that I had invested wisely.

Someday, I told myself, I would be very, very rich.

And when I slept, I dreamed that I was making money. Even then.

The stocks split and they went up even further. I bought more. Dot

this. Dot that. I kept a portfolio so -- like some baron looking out

across his kingdom -- I could survey my holdings, my little friends.

While I played, they worked. While I worked, they worked even harder.

Together, we made a wonderful couple.


This compulsion was a passport of sorts, a license to engage in market

talk with my fellow investors. On the soccer field. At my kids’

back-to-school nights. At the gym. We were all part of the same team,

comparing our holdings, babbling on about IPOs and second-quarter

earnings and acquisitions.

“See how much Amazon went up this morning?”

I’d nod, knowingly, waiting for my turn on the bench press.

“And that new IPO, that German company that makes software or


something for Microsoft? Opened at 60.”

Yeah, I’d say. Got some.

And then, one day, the market sobered up. Only I was too far gone to

notice. I’d hit Level 2 in my addiction: Day trading.

On the advice of my 17-year-old son, no less, I bought an armful of

some stock. Didn’t know what they did. Didn’t know where they did it.

Didn’t know why they did it. But I bought it just the same, acting on a

recommendation from some obscure stock tip page.

The next day it doubled. And the day after it doubled again. I sold.

This was, like, so easy. Why, I asked myself, didn’t I think of doing

this before.

The following week, my son and I revisited the stock tip page. The

recommendation was some Texas-based Internet company. Again, what they

did was irrelevant. That they’d never made a dime was of little concern.

I bought it.

It had opened at $2 and some change. My mysterious tipster from the

Internet predicted it would double, if not triple.

And it did. Right before I bought it. Four dollars and then some.

Within 30 minutes, it had slumped back to $2 and by day’s end was limping

along in the $1 zone. By the next morning, it had burrowed downward,

trading at a pathetic 90 cents.

While the arithmetic is blazed into my brain, I’ll cast aside the

details and leave it at this: I had lost a good chunk of money.

My son and I stared into the computer, bathed in the pale glow of the

monitor, knowing that it would take a good solid four shares of this

loser stock to buy -- what? -- a pack of baseball cards, maybe?

“Man, so much for that pick,” my son said finally.

I rubbed my forehead. It was too late to sell. It was too late to do

much of anything.

“Long-term investment?”

I laughed. Sort of. That would be a healthy way to look at it, I said


Now there are three things I know something about in life. I know

journalism. Am told. I know baseball. Pretty much. And some days I think

I might know something about being a parent.

But money -- where it comes from, where it goes and what it does when

it gets there -- is a mystery.

As an investor, I suppose I really am a member of the Stupid Money

Club, the folks who have helped make the market as zany and wobbly as it

is, investors with as much sense as a drunken diner at a Las Vegas

buffet, laughing and slapping and grabbing everything in sight.

At last glance, most of my investments are down, some little more than

smoldering ruins now.

Some people say the market will come back. Some people say this is the

correction Wall Street has been fearing. Some people don’t say anything

at all.

And I stare at my little Texas Internet investment -- clinging to 80

cents a share at the moment -- waiting for the magic to return.

Well, I tell myself, being rich is overrated anyway. Right?

* STEVE MARBLE is the managing editor of Times Community News. He can

be reached at o7 steve.marble@latimes.comf7