Welcome to Wall Street, Main Street and Me

Monday, December 26, 2011

End of the Year Nostalgia (Me)

Another year coming to a finis. Man, they go faster and faster. And this is the time of the year I get very wistful, remembering, counting my blessings, and going over the 'jewels' of my life -- things personal and public that affected me, made me who I am.

Decades ago, I was dining at Gino's, a famous Italian restaurant in New York City. The waiters, at that time, had worked there for decades before, authentic Italians with the greatest service in the world. Sinatra waltzed in with new wife, Barbara and a huge entourage. They sat at a long table, and Frank was obviously drunk. He ordered pasta and when it was served, he turned on the waiter and snarled, "what is this? Fucking Campbell's tomato soup?" The world stopped. Gino's went as silent as church, but Mrs. Sinatra, like a long time pro, quickly handled things, got her table talking, got the agonized waiter in her grasp and whispered to him, his head bobbing and nodding, a small smile finally returning. And it was over. The red-faced, awful Mr. Sinatra sat glumly like a spoiled child, head down for most of the meal, and never said another word. Barbara paid the bill, and swept the party back out to the sidewalk without dropping a beat. My respect for her knew no bounds. Him? I was not a fan for a long, long time.

But at the end of a year, we start also thinking about forgiveness. I have a few left on my Bucket List to forgive -- but this year, I decided to let Frankie off the hook. So what if he played with the Mafia. So what if he treated women like shit. The things going on in the world today from Madoff to corrupt Congressmen to illegal wars to John Edwards (a man I was going to vote for President!!) Ah, it makes me weary to think about the condition of the world...Frankie's sins look relatively tame to me. His music still brings me to my knees, and Frank, I'm over it.

Here's one of my favorites, dedicated to someone else no longer on my list:

So, my friends, who are you going to forgive this week?


Sunday, December 25, 2011

Loose Fish Chronicles - Six Chapters published by Wordrunner eChapbooks.com

I was thrilled last summer when Prime Number accepted the first chapter of my memoir in stories, The Loose Fish Chronicles, to be published.

Now I'm very excited again as Wordrunner eChapbooks.com has accepted SIX chapters of the memoir, PLUS hot links and actual photos from my life in the 60's in New York City where these stories are based.

Here's the announcement, if you didn't get an email:

Wordrunner eChapbooks takes great pleasure in announcing publication of our winter 2011, memoir/personal narrative echapbook: Beverly A. Jackson's The Loose Fish Chronicles: Excerpt From a Memoir in Stories.

Jackson's memoir gives us early 1960's Greenwich Village from a young woman's perspective. The stories are starkly honest and the language glows (she is also an accomplished poet and painter) in their examination of a young woman starting adult life in the New York neighborhood famed for worshipping the arts and rejecting conformity. Greenwich Village became the epicenter for the enormous cultural shift we now refer to as the "Sixties," yet, even there, attractive young women were still expected to hide their own intelligence and talent.

These stories are a wonderful read on their own. But we are also, for the first time, honoring the "E" in echapbook. Hyperlinks to photos, videos, background articles, and Beverly's poetry and artwork add a kind of immediacy that only web-based publication can provide. Please immerse yourself in The Loose Fish Chronicles at www.echapbook.com/memoir/jackson. You may also download a pdf version to print and read at your leisure.

Thanks to Marko Fong, who edited this echapbook with great care and enthusiasm.

Let us know what you think about it. Visit the Wordrunner eChapbook Facebook page to comment on any of these stories.

The mid-March, 2012 echapbook will be a fiction collection, featuring one author. Submissions are open January 1 through February 21. Guidelines will be posted after December 26 at www.echapbook.com/submissions.htm. We look forward to reading your work.

Thanks to all our readers for your ongoing interest.

Jo-Anne Rosen, Publisher/Editor
Wordrunner eChapbooks

Christmas in the Park (Me)

Even the grocery store was mobbed yesterday. I had to pick up some sour cream for the Chicken Paprikash I'm cooking today. Neighbors are coming for dinner tomorrow. And then this holiday weekend will be over~. Thankfully.

Last night I drove around my neighborhood, a rather upscale mobile home park that sits on three man-made lakes. And beautifully landscaped with palms, Hong Kong orchid trees, hibiscus and bougainvillea. There is, apparently, some Xmas Eve tradition in the park of putting out luminaries in front of the homes and up the driveways. They make them out of plastic gallon jugs or small white bags, with candles in them. I must say it was quite pretty. A little village of Xmas lights and luminaries.

The dogs and I drove around and admired the light show,(nothing so grandiose as those shown on TV where millionaires are using 200,000 lights to create a public traffic nuisance with their excesses) and as we returned home, a golf cart came down the street. It was all decorated with tinsel, red bows and holly wreaths. Santa Claus and (? Mrs. Santa Claus) both dressed in big red suits, white beard on the Mister, and a bluster of "Ho Ho Ho's" as they stopped at a house and their friends came out to greet them. Possibly another tradition for that particular resident? It was amusing. Ho Ho Ho.

When you think about it, Santa and his elderly wife are likely retired in Florida and living in a mobile home. They surely couldn't afford much more, the way they give. Also, that North Pole cold doesn't work for old bones and arthritis, I can assure you.

So, today I cook and sip the Malbec, and watch old movies and wait for it all to go away. Not a bad Sunday. And the weather is glorious!

But for those of you who celebrate, I hope you do it up well! Ho Ho Ho.


Friday, December 23, 2011

Biscuits and Bah Humbugs (Me)

Well, it's that time of year again--the hours of my annual angst. Some people just don't do holidays well, and I'm not sure there's an explanation for it, or at least none that wouldn't be obvious. The childless, family-less, financially insecure, or even idealists-against-rampant-Capitalism all likely suffer at Yule Time. I qualify for all of the above. But.

I do try. Less and less, perhaps, but I try. This is the first year I have not put up a (at least) fake tree with lights and a wreath. I gave away all that paraphernalia when I left Asheville, and don't intend to buy more. But I wistfully appreciate the other houses all decked out around me.

This morning, in a fit of celebratory optimism, (I DO try) I decided to make biscuits for breakfast. Something that I recall very fondly that my grandmother used to do for me when I lived with her as a child. She served these southern style light-as-air 4-inch beauties with butter and honey, and I would eat until I burst. It is one of my fondest food memories, and my Granny could cook. Originally from Arkansas, she whipped out the best fried chicken, gravies, biscuits and pies that I ever tasted.

So, I had this packet of Bisquick biscuit mix. Don't laugh, it's not bad. It's NOT Granny's biscuits but it passes and it's quick and simple. You preheat the oven,
mix and dollop onto a baking sheet, and voila, biscuits.

What I didn't realize, however, is that last night's baked yam had run juices onto the floor of my oven, and actually caught fire and about halfway thru the cooking time of the biscuits, smoke started to waft from the oven, which then set off my fire alarm (those little round suckers stuck to the wall are LOUD) which in turn set both of my little dogs off into a running, barking frenzy -- the alarm probably hurting their ears -- and me, like a maniac, running around opening windows, throwing a towel over the alarm, and trying to hush the dogs...well, it was a picture.

All's well that ends well. The fire went out, the smoke cleared, the alarm finally shut up, ditto the dogs, and the biscuits weren't ruined. The oven awaits a good scrubbing. But none of this aided in de-bah-ing my humbug.


And if you are wondering (as I was) what the hell a humbug is, here's Wiki to aid us:

Humbug is an old term meaning hoax or jest. While the term was first described in 1751 as student slang, its etymology is unknown. Its present meaning as an exclamation is closer to 'nonsense' or 'gibberish', while as a noun, a humbug refers to a fraud or impostor, implying an element of unjustified publicity and spectacle. The term is also used for certain types of candy. In modern usage, the word is most associated with Ebenezer Scrooge, a character created by Charles Dickens. His famous reference to Christmas, "Bah! Humbug!", declaring Christmas to be a fraud, is commonly used in stage and television versions of A Christmas Carol and also appeared frequently in the original book.

P. T. Barnum was a master of humbug, creating public sensations and fascination with his masterful sense of publicity. Many of his promoted exhibitions were obvious fakes, but the paying public enjoyed viewing them, either to scoff or for the wonder of them. A famous humbug took place on the arrival of the actress and theatre manager Jenny Lind to America, just outside the showplace of P. T. Barnum, the New American Museum, in 1850.

Another use of the word was by John Collins Warren, a Harvard Medical School professor who worked at Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr. Warren performed the first public operation with the use of ether anesthesia, administered by William Thomas Green Morton, a dentist. To the stunned audience at the Massachusetts General Hospital, Dr. Warren declared, "Gentlemen, this is no humbug!"[1]


And finally, here is a true Season's Greeting -- my video card of Scrooge and the
Boys rocking around (apparently) somebody else's house!


Season's Greetings, friends!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

B-17 Down - Revisiting Brittany (Me)

Dear friends who have a loved one lost in 1942 (in the same air fight with my father), invited me to return to Brittany. I cannot go (sob!) with them but it brings that solo 2008 trip back to me in warm waves of memory and gratitude.

The first chapter of my memoir (published by Prime Number last summer) addresses the trip I made in 2008 to Brittany, and the current editors of Wordrunner echapbooks.com who are publishing six chapters this month found the footage below, to use as a hot link, and they also linked to Prime Number.

I admit that this bit of footage brought me to my knees. I wonder who took it, and when. I'm off to do some research. (the music is..well, unfortunate, but understandable.)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Season's Greetings!

For all the folks away from home, and all the folks who have no home, and all the folks I love so dearly, Happy Holidays.

Here's my favorite clip of the season.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Bear Call Woes (Wall Street)

I had just decided, in this crazy stock market of ours, that Bear Call Credit Spreads were my strategy of choice. I loved them for a few reasons.

1. You get your money up front, rather than when the trade is over. (Of course it
isn't really your money until the trade is over and you've won. But the cash in your hand...a bird in the hand, so to speak, is psychologically pleasing.

2. Because you're trading a bearish (downward) trend, it is EASY to find good candidates in this market of ours which has been more often falling.

3. Time is your ally in this trade. In stock options, time decay is usually the enemy, each day subtracting pennies from the value of your option. But with credit
spreads, because you are shorting (selling) an option, the time decay is on your side,
since the short call is your primary leg of the two-leg trade.

I found First Solar (FSLR) which has been in a death fall since last July, and began making bear call credit spreads on a weekly basis. (it has weekly options; not all stocks do). It looked like a cash cow, week after week. And I was feeling ever so confident.

THEN, last week, the market rallied and the FSLR stock price soared up, right through my short call strike price of $48. This is exactly what you do NOT want to happen in a bear call credit spread.

So, this was an expensive learning lesson, all around. First of all, if you don't buy back your short call when it goes in the money, you will/could get assigned, and if that happens, you will lose your maximum loss. So, it is important to buy back the option, but that still incurs losses.

Credit Spreads are the most difficult of the spreads to make adjustments on, and since these are weekly options with little or no time left, it's impossible--one thing I learned.

In addition, there is a timing issue with your brokerage. If your short call goes in the money, your broker will start warning you about it, and IF you do not buy it back, putting it out of jeopardy, the brokerage will do it for you! Without your permission! So, it doesn't get assigned. (Assignment means buying the actual shares of stock, usually thousands and thousands of dollars. If your fund is not flush, you can't pay for this stock, so the brokerage prevents you from getting assigned in the first place.)

But here's the real quandry: Let's say my short call is $48 and the stock goes up to
$47.50 on the day of expiration. One would think you might squeak through, and WIN the trade if the stock doesn't go up to $48. BUT, there is one hour of after-hours trading after the market closes, and if that stock moves between 4 pm and 5 pm, you have NO control over your option. You can no longer buy it back, and your broker will do for the maximum loss.

I called around to different brokers to find out the RULES for this assignment business, and surprisingly got different (and some incorrect) answers, depending on who I asked. But my mentor assured me that if I go to CBOE, I will find their rules and the 4pm to 5 pm trading window is the one that is enforced. So, what I learned is to make sure I get out of that trade before expiration, and asap if the trade turns against me.

I lost a lot on this last trade. The bear call woes. But I have this strategy etched on my heart now. I'll never forget how it works. (I can't say that for all the other spread strategies I'm studying).