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Showing posts from March, 2014

Spending Redux

I keep reading about how our slow economy in the first quarter was attributable to the harsh winter weather (it was damn harsh), which somehow kept consumer spending down.  This I don’t understand.  Aren’t there many malls indoors?  In fact, most stores are indoors too.  And, with so much commerce being done on internet sites, it would seem that people desiring to remain indoors and avoid the cold would naturally find themselves more, not less inclined to spend money in order to amuse themselves.  Maybe ice cream sales would slow (I used to scoop ice cream in a Baskin Robbins, so I do know that is true.  What a job that was, by the way!), but that’s about all that should slow in inclement weather.

Borrowing and Spending

That small, smooth powder blue box has real power. Who doesn't immediately identify it with the jewelry retailer Tiffany’s?  What a brand!

I write these observations because last week as I walked past Tiffany's Fifth Ave store, on a cold and rainy New York winter afternoon, I saw a group of Asian tourists taking pictures of a sign on the wall that simply said "Tiffany's."  Seeing this made me wonder about many things. What is so magical about that word? What is going through the minds of these tourists?

Farm Life

Last week on the way back from my daughter’s gymnastic meet in Pennsylvania we stopped off at Wyebrook Farm, which is a farm run by a Dean Carlson, a former bond trader who in 2009 decided to change his life.  As I told Dean, he is living my wife’s dream.  His farm is 45 minutes from Philly, and if you ever find yourself anywhere nearby, especially on a Sunday when he serves the most amazing brunch, I’d highly recommend a visit.  Farm life is very special and grounding, and I’ve learned that our connection to the earth is something that is truly important in our finding a fulfilling and meaningful existence.

Unsolicited Advice, Judgments and Opinions.

“There is no good reason for a retail company and an office company to be housed within the same company.” I read this proclamation in last Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal.  It was made by one Alexander Goldfarb, an analyst with the firm Sandler O'Neil and was prompted by the $18 billion market cap real estate company Vornado's decision to possibly spin off its strip center retail real estate portfolio, which would leave it with primarily office assets. I thought to myself:  Who is Alexander Goldfarb?  What are his credentials?  How does he know what’s best for Vornado?  More important, his comment struck a deep chord inside of me as I’ve noted how our society is so quick to pass judgment on others, or to give unsolicited advice, me included I’m embarrassed to say.

Politics versus Governing

What is politics?  One of my kids recently asked me this question. For the past couple of weeks I've been watching the amazing Netflix show House of Cards, which depicts politicians as devious and manipulative and driven pretty much exclusively by their own self-interest. Based upon the polls of how Americans view their political leadership it seems that Americans see this theatrical depiction as being quite close to reality.

Recently I was speaking with a close friend who recounted a meeting he had sat in on with our President, who when confronted with a creative idea to help our economy responded to what seemed like a smart idea by suggesting that it wouldn't play well politically for him to get behind it. Needless to say, my friend left understanding just how futile this administration's efforts would be.

Youth

Watch Venezuela, or Egypt, or most any country in strife today and on the edge of revolution. There is something they all share. Young people, who didn’t vote for the leadership that drove the proverbial car into the wall, but who stand to pay the biggest price for the car crash are now waking up to that fact and are taking to the streets demanding a better future. Older people, whose generation made the mistakes that led to the current catastrophes, are clinging to their old and tired and bad ideologies, driven by ego and pride and unable to see the truth: that their ideas were dumb and wrong and that they fucked it up big time. Or, they are unwilling to accept the burden of responsibility and make the necessary amends.

Naivety

“We’re gonna press the reset button on relations with Russia and Iran.”  Or how about “We’re going to lead from behind?”  Remember those words from 2008?  They sounded appealing to all of those who were tired of war and threats, and who wanted a peaceful world.  Those words helped steer many votes to our current President and were repeated by our former Secretary of State, who is now our leading candidate for the Presidency in 2016, share the words.  And now, five years hence, the world is on fire.

Bread is the New Cigarette

This past week I had the pleasure of listening to a presentation by my friend Monty Bennett, who is the very successful CEO of Ashford Hospitality, a NYSE-listed REIT, during which he and his partners described their newest product offering – a real estate securities hedge fund.  I’d say they made a very compelling case, but that is not why I write today.