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A GIANT BEAR STEPPED ON THE ROCK OF GIBRALTAR, SHATTERING IT LIKE PORCELAIN; SMALL-TIME INVESTORS DOWN, CAN'T GET UP.

Byline: Dennis McCarthy

Take a number and get in line, pal. I haven't seen this much sweating since the early '90s when the price of those two-bedroom stuccos we were counting on to finance our old age fell faster than a bad face lift.

Check your gun and razor blades at the door, grab a crying towel, and step on in. There's plenty of room. Misery loves company. We've got some serious damage control to talk about today.

The bull stumbled and fell on his face on Wall Street on Monday, leaving a lot of us mutual fund hotshots crawling through the mud looking for our wallets.

We found the pictures, but the cash was gone.

One minute we were patting each other on the back for being so smart, and playing the market with our 401(k) money. The next we're looking for a rope to lynch our broker for not getting us out in time.

I don't want to know why the bull fell or when he's going to get back up and start running again because even if you tried to explain it to me, I wouldn't understand it. It's all Greek.

That's the clarity of a mass execution, like the murder Monday on Wall Street. It grabs you by the neck and shakes you until the truth spills out.

And the truth is that like a lot of people, I've been faking it all these years - pretending I knew what Alan Greenspan was talking about when his testimony before Congress sounded like Chinese to me.

``Market forces at work? Sure, Alan, it has something to do with kung fu, and the possible merger of Ford and GM, doesn't it?''

I'd sit there like Mortimer Snerd on Friday nights nodding dumbly at the TV as the experts on ``Wall Street in Review'' with Louis Bucks Up dropped the names of a few hot stocks they liked.

``Yep, yuk, sounds pretty good to me. If those guys like them, I guess I'll buy me some, too. Yuk.''

I lied to my wife when she asked me the $64,000 question - ``Are you sure you know what you're doing this time? This isn't going to lose us money like the last thing you invested in, is it?''

``No dear, this is not cornering the Cabbage Patch doll market - this is the stock market. It's a lock.

``Ever hear of the Rock of Gibraltar? Yeah? Well, this is more solid. We're hooking up with some new friends who know all the ropes - Warren Buffett, Charley Schwab, the guys over at the Dow.

``These guys are heavyweights, darling. They roll in money. They know what they're doing. Trust me.''

I read all the literature Schwab and the other discount brokers sent me about how people who invested in the stock market 30 years ago are sailing off the coast of Bora Bora right now sipping pina coladas.

And how all the poor rubes who kept their money in interest bearing accounts are standing out by the mailbox waiting for the mailman to deliver their Social Security checks.

Sure, past performance was no guarantee of future returns, but that was just an inside joke, wasn't it? Sort of like a warning label the government required. Nothing to worry about.

If the big boys were in on the deal there was only one place future returns were going. Up. Get on board, or miss the boat.

I poured over the annual reports and reams of stock market literature like it was the line on next weekend's football games.

I read till my eyes blurred, and I still didn't understand a damn thing. Still don't.

But I played. I got on the bull with the ``smart'' money, and rode him for all he was worth - laughing like a drunken sailor on a shore leave that would never end.

On Monday, the MPs arrived to sober us up.

Some of the pundits are saying not to worry, that this is just a market correction. The bull will be back on its feet running harder than ever in a few weeks.

Other are saying we should look at Black Monday as ``a buying opportunity.'' I like that. A buying opportunity. Don't we need the money we just lost for that?

Either way, I'd like some of these pundits to stop by my house and explain a few things to my wife.

She particularly wants to know how something I promised her was more solid than the Rock of Gibraltar shattered like glass Monday.
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Copyright 1997, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

 
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Oct 28, 1997
Words:757
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