You know the triangle is a special instrument. It’s small, yet important. Like the cherry on a sundae. It has a place.
But when you’re a drummer in a high school band and you see the sheet music for the Nutcracker and you’re playing the triangle you know it might be a light day.
That’s why anyone in a high school band around Christmas in the early 1980s might be familiar with the sound of the all-important triangle not from Tchaikovsky but from the band Rush and their song “YYZ.”
If you know the song, then you can hear the beginning right now: Drummer Neil Peart hitting the triangle sounding crotales to the Morse code Y-Y-Z—the International Air Transport Association’s location identifier of Pearson International Airport in Toronto, which was also the home city of the members of Rush.
For Y-Y-Z signified the Canadian trio’s departure from home—that anxious and apprehensive feeling we all have leaving for work. Like a Monday morning alarm clock, Peart’s pattern signals it’s time to go.
Now if you’re a drummer in the high school band in the 80s and you liked Rush and were holding a triangle you just couldn’t help playing the beginning to “YYZ.”
Until the band director walked in dismissively waving his hands for that sound, whatever that noise was, to stop because it was time to begin what would be a boring afternoon of band rehearsal for the triangle in the percussion section.
To this day whenever a Rush fan hears the beginning to “YYZ,” the pattern doubles as a dog whistle triggering an off into the distance stare as if receiving a message only you can hear, much to the dismay of a spouse or non-Rush fan.
There’s some history to that.
Because as a fan in the 80s, in the rare occasion you heard Rush on the radio you never changed the station. You were so excited they were on that if any non-Rush fan reached for the dial you would verbally berate him. How could they? And rather than enjoy the genius of the power trio they’d ask, “is that a girl singing?”
“No, you idiot it’s Geddy Lee!”
The first time I heard Rush was when we were rafted with a sailboat in Edgartown Harbor, Massachusetts cruising with another family—my sister and I were younger than the kids in the other family. With the adults on one boat and the kids playing Uno down below on the other, Geddy Lee announced through the speakers: “This is the Spirit of the Radio.” Dealing the cards, I asked:
“What band is…”
“Rush,” the other kids said.
Then, after the drum solo in “YYZ” I looked up from my cards and without asking a thing they just said:
“Oh,” I thought to myself, “the earth is round.”
And when we got home to Mattapoisett that Sunday, I asked my mom if she could stop at the North Dartmouth Mall and pick up an album called Exit…Stage Left by Rush.
When she brought home the only Rush album she could find I was introduced to Moving Pictures and “Tom Sawyer,” a “Red Barchetta,” “YYZ,” and “Limelight.” They were my new friends and kept me listening for hours on Saturday mornings just holding the album cover.
And eventually I listened to the “B” side and realized how much I had been missing with “The Camera Eye,” “Witch Hunt” and “Vital Signs.” A perfect Rush: Essentials and Rush: Next Steps in our playlist world.
And just as “YYZ” was introduced to Rush fans on Moving Pictures—it came alive in Exit…Stage Left the live recording—where Peart’s drum solo put a mid-twenty-year old son of a Canadian farm equipment dealer on the map, and into the hearts and souls of Rush fans forever.
The exchange between bassist Lee and drummer Peart in “YYZ” feels like F-14s trading lead in formation. Their back and forth signals they’ve found their work-groove as Peart veers off, spinning into single-strokes acrobats and out of sight to test the limits of his craft. And when his double bass crescendos into a snare drum flam and tom-tom fill we know that after the iconic around the world tom-tom run Peart is back in formation. It’s time to give the engines a breather as guitarist Alex Lifeson takes his turn at lead. And lead he does.
Because as a drummer there’s nothing more rewarding than finishing a drum solo and experiencing the pure joy of listening to the guitarist take his. In “YYZ” Lifeson’s solo is so profound and emotional especially when Lee’s synthesizer work brings all three artists together. You just want it to last forever.
And now Neil Peart has announced his retirement not only from Rush, but from drumming. Thankfully their recorded and live work will last forever.
And yes, I feel lucky to have been able to see Rush live in concert and pay my respects to three guys who inspired me to dream. To imagine. And to learn from Peart’s lyrics about Ayn Rand and Mark Twain and to make our own adventures and dream: What if?
Listen to “YYZ” from Exit..Stage Left and appreciate Peart’s solo. Then watch it live in Rio to see what it means to be a Rush fan.
And then, imagine what it feels like to come home after a long work trip. To see your luggage rounding the “Arrival” carousel with your hometown code of BOS, PVD or EYW on the tags. And now you know what it felt like to Rush to see YYZ on theirs.
It’s always good to be home.
Rush- YYZ Exit Stage…Left (live)
Rush- YYZ Live (Rio)
RAGE Gauge February: Is the Market Keeping You up at Night?
When the S&P 500 lost 9 percent in December it marked the worst December since the Great Depression year of 1931 when the index was down 14.5%.
For all of 2018, the S&P 500 lost 6.2% compared to a loss of 47% in 1931. Now let’s not forget what the carnage looked like from the beginning of the Great Depression, signaled by the crash of Oct. 29, 1929, to its end in June 1932. The S&P 500 dropped 86 percent in less than three years, and did not regain its previous peak until 1954.
America has already had two nasty peak to troughs this century, with the tech and banking busts of 2000 and 2008. If you felt uncomfortable in December, that’s normal. But if you were kept up at night and did not enjoy Christmas and New Year’s, then it might be time to reconsider your current investment mix.
Remember, counterbalancing can be your friend during times of trouble as I’ve shown with Vanguard GNMA’s post mid-term rally. As the late, great Jack Bogle commented about his balanced portfolio: Half the time he liked bonds and half the time he didn’t. My RAGE Gauge continues to flash caution signs.
Your Survival Guy: Out of Gas in Newport
You may have read that Newport, RI lost natural gas service Monday, impacting 7,000 customers and approximately 10,000 people.
It’s reported that a single faulty valve froze at National Grid’s distribution center dozens of miles north in Weymouth, Massachusetts, causing the system’s pressure to drop significantly.
Newport is located at the end of this gas line system, making it most vulnerable to a loss in pressure.
Imagine your head being Weymouth and your foot being Newport and you get the idea.
Monday morning was bitter cold at zero degrees, with a windchill that had a real feel of about negative twenty. It looked like smoke was rising from the ocean as the warmer water evaporated into the brutally cold air.
Note to self: Now it makes sense that an army of National Grid trucks were on their way into Newport.
The high demand for gas to heat residents, combined with a loss of pressure in Weymouth, and perhaps the explosion in Ohio (see below) hours later created a perfect storm.
A precipitous drop in gas line pressure can cause furnace pilot lights to go out. If gas pressure is restored and the pilot is out, houses fill with gas, not heat. That’s why National Grid shut down gas to Newport while other areas upstream maintained enough pressure to continue running. With no gas in Newport, and no heat Monday as temps dipped into single digits, it made for a long night as Governor Raimondo declared a state of emergency.
And now for the fix:
The gas valve for every home needs to be individually turned off by about 1,000 National Grid workers and sub-contractors. Then pressure can be brought back into the lines. Pressure can’t be added safely while the gas line is still open into your home with pilots out. Even auto-lighting pilots are at risk since they’ve probably been stopped out and need to be reset (according to my new technician friend at the Grid).
Now from various sources we’ve been told it will take two days to shut off the valves, and then another few days for a technician to go back to each house to help you get your furnace up and running. I don’t doubt the time estimate here, but I also sense some of the higher ups are managing expectations.
Some of my quick takeaways.
Note to self: Make sure you have enough firewood for the fireplace so you don’t have to drive to pick up more—even though the mist from the ocean was very pretty at sunrise.
Also: Call National Grid. I spoke with two extremely helpful reps. One at the call center who was more than happy to give a field worker my cell phone number to call when he was on my property. There is never any downside to being nice in a disaster when emotions are raw. He called to let me know he shut off the gas and will let the technician know to call me when they’re ready to turn it back on so I can meet him.
Do this: Have a network of contacts. They’re called friends and family for a reason.
Power outages are a lot easier than natural gas outages.
Houses that use oil for heat: For everyone in Newport who has oil has heat, it might not be a bad idea to keep it if you’ve been considering changing to natural gas.
I’ll continue letting you know what I’ve learned. One more tidbit: Rhode Island’s gas lines are the second oldest in the nation. I’m not comfortable with this.
Survive and Thrive this Month.
“Your Survival Guy”
P.S. There was a 30-inch natural gas line explosion Monday morning at 11:30 in Summerfield, OH on the Texas Eastern Gas Line owned by Enbridge which feeds to the Algonquin Gas Transmission which feeds to the northeast. This could have been the straw that broke the camel’s back, but results from an investigation won’t come out for at least six months or mid to late July when this will be a distant memory for many.
P.P.S. To say we have a pipeline problem is a vast understatement. Shortages of pipeline capacity in the U.S. oil patch could put upward pressure on global oil prices as the main source of growth in world oil supply is curtailed. John Kemp reports for Reuters:
U.S. oil production is running into capacity constraints, which are starting to have a material impact on the global availability of crude, causing the market to tighten and putting upward pressure on prices.
The biggest problem is the lack of sufficient pipeline capacity to move oil from shale wells in western Texas and eastern New Mexico to refineries in the Midwest and export terminals on the Gulf Coast.
But production in the Permian Basin has also been constrained by shortages of labour, equipment and materials, which have pushed drilling, pressure pumping and completion costs sharply higher.
Read more here.
P.P.P.S. How can a frozen valve even be remotely involved with a disruption of natural gas service needed to heat homes across New England? Aren’t they sort of in the heating business? Duh.
P.P.P.P.S. You know the Vanguard 500 Index thanks to him. And someday, if a Mount Rushmore for investor legends is carved into a mountain side, Jack Bogle will be there front and center.
Mr. Bogle passed away yesterday at the age of 89. He will be remembered for the low cost index fund—an idea he made into reality.
Though he cautioned in recent months about his grave concerns regarding the explosive growth of indexing—perhaps a product also in its twilight—it turned out that offering a sound investment product at a low cost was, and is, a great idea for investors.
P.P.P.P.P.S. In Springsteen on Broadway now showing on Netflix, Bruce Springsteen talks fondly of a big copper beech tree in front of his childhood home that was a symbol of times when he was able to escape life for a little while and be with his army men and play.
Years later when writing his book, he jumps in his car and goes back to where he grew up and that big ‘ole tree was gone. It’s a powerful segment in his wonderful performance. One that’s still with me and one I think you will love too.
Trees don’t grow to the sky. And sometimes they’re cut down. But in the case of Springsteen, the soul remains.
Recently Vanguard founder Jack Bogle warned that “trees don’t grow to the sky, and I see clouds on the horizon. I don’t know if and when they’ll arrive. A little extra caution should be the watchword.”
When it comes to investing don’t fall in love with trees. They’re too precious to lose.
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E.J. Smith - Your Survival Guy
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