Each year my wife and I take a fun weekend trip with three great couples to someplace here in the U.S. So far the group has visited San Fran, Boston, Jackson Hole, Florida, and La La Land. This past weekend was Lake Tahoe, a natural crater lake right on the Cali-Nevada line that is over 1,800 feet deep, and shockingly cold when you jump in.
We decided to rent a large house on Airbnb, located in a remote neighborhood just outside South Lake Tahoe. It was an interesting house to say the least. Built on the side of a mountain, and around the natural rock structures, we had a couple of large boulders and a stream in the living room. One of the walls of the house was a boulder, I’m not kidding. It was a nice house but didn’t have air conditioning or ceiling fans, and you may have heard the west is unreasonably hot right now. Part of the roof was topped with native grass, and creatures entertained us day and night with their pitter-patter of tiny varmint feet.
There was a nice poster in the dining room instructing us to keep doors closed at all times. Chipmunks and squirrels were everywhere, and when I saw a curious coyote just outside the front door the first day, I understood.
But the house was oppressively warm, so we opened every window we could to try to catch a breeze. The first night we had trouble sleeping between the track meet on the roof and the sweat puddles on the sheets. My wife kept hearing noises, and pleaded with me to be a man and go investigate. But I’m no hero. I was more scared than she was. We couldn’t decide which side of the bed we wanted. The side closest to the wall, which definitely had something crawling in it? Or the side closest to the door, where Big Foot was breathing heavily?
The second night our group was completely exhausted from a full day of sight-seeing, eating and laughing, and we all turned in early. Doors were locked, lights turned out.
I was the first up the next morning. The stock market opens at 6:30 on the West Coast, so I walked downstairs around 5:00 to get the trading day ready. I turned the corner into the dining area, flipped on the light, and saw we had been broken into. There was a shredded backpack on the floor. Around it were candy wrappers and an avocado pit. The kitchen cabinet doors were wide open, and there were several half eaten food items on the counter and floor. I looked at the window just above the counter, wide open but window screen missing, dirt all over the counter just underneath the window sill. I leaned out of the window to see the mauled screen on the ground below.
This was the job of a raccoon.
So I opened the fridge to get my morning juice box, and sat down at my laptop at the dining room table. As I booted up, it dawned on me that the coon could still be in the house. It could be boulder hopping the living room, or drinking from the babbling brook running through the middle of it. What should I do? Run back upstairs and wait until everyone gets up? Tempting. Should I suck it up and scout the downstairs? But what if I find it? Should I close the window or leave it open? . I’ve seen raccoons fight. Definitely leave it open
Armed with my iPhone flashlight and my juice box, I quietly made my way through the entire downstairs, searching under every couch, chair, cabinet, and rock. The raccoon was gone.
So I went over to close the window. It was dawn now and I could barely make out an object outside by the picnic table. I hit it with my flashlight, and suddenly the hair on the back of my neck stood up. It was a torn up pizza box. I turned and opened the scratched up door handle to the fridge. The pizza box that had been on the top shelf was gone.
It wasn’t a raccoon that had broken in. Yes, a raccoon can open cabinets, but not ones that high. It can open a refrigerator, but it can’t carry a pizza box from the top shelf outside. It can’t completely destroy a $100 backpack. It won’t maul a window screen.
The game warden in charge of bear control met us on our back porch a couple of hours later. In a nonchalant manner he told us it was a black bear. We studied the siding torn off the house, and the paw prints just under the window. He told us the bear, which we named Precious, had been in the garage about ten days earlier, that it must have been hanging around the house and smelled food.
I took measurements of the paw prints and googled the approximate size of Precious. According to two web sites the paw size translated to a bear that was approximately six feet tall and weighed around 400 pounds.
A couple of weeks ago I sent a note to clients informing them we are in a period of extreme complacency in the stock market that we haven’t seen in a long, long time.
This bull run is now the second longest in history. The number of days without a meaningful pullback is getting ridiculous. The VIX, which is the market’s expectation of volatility, is at all-time lows and flat lining. I didn’t write the note to say the stock market was ready to crash any day now. I don’t believe it is. I wrote it as a wake-up call during a time of calm when so many people have forgotten 2000 and 2008, when they are beginning to believe the stock market will never, ever go down again.
The stock market will go down again. The bear will come out of hibernation and break in to your house. There will be little you can do to stop it. The question is whether you are preparing now for the break in. You see folks, the trick of the trade to making money in the stock market is to first and foremost not lose money during bear markets. Will you have an escape plan when the bear tears down the screen and comes through the kitchen window? Will your food be properly sealed and stored away? Will you be holding a loaded gun? Bear spray? Or will Precious find you half asleep, standing in your underwear, armed with only an iPhone flashlight and an orange juice box?