Friday, August 7, 2009

On the Road-West Coast

Something is going on when you read an article in The New Yorker magazine that in one breath mentions legendary concert promoter Bill Graham and the fact that the secondary market for Bruce Springsteen (and others) is similar to the CMBS market. Do we have to pollute everything with over analysis? I think that while this piece is not considered to be the type of journalism that catapulted Woodstein (Woodward and Bernstein) to fame and fortune, it reeks of the kind of journalism that, for my money, just stretches to far to make a point, get noticed and perhaps convert an article into a book where tickets to your book signing party will not, never, ever be sold on the secondary market. Anyway, it just seemed a little far-fetched to me.

Thanks to everyone who wrote me this week about my piece last week on the reunion. Perhaps there is a group of people in your life whom you’d like to connect with. Actually, one of our group would make a great reunion planner! Again, it was a very poignant experience for me and for all of us.

I also received a number of notes about where the real estate market is today. More than not, our colleagues’ feel that another shoe is yet to drop in the commercial real estate industry. With the stock market having had a very good week (although the conversion rate of Canadian to U.S. dollars dropping which is pissing me off) perhaps things are picking up. However, as a taxi driver reminded me this week, “There are still more and more jobs being lost, more and more people losing their homes and more and more people struggling to get by.” So I guess there are two stories in this naked country; those promulgated by the media and our elected officials and those that are the grassroots truth. No one I know is adding to their wardrobe these days, even with ‘sale’ signs as plentiful as weeds in flowerbeds where the gardener has been cut back from every week to every month. This business with the car industry I just don’t know how I feel about it. What makes them so special that they deserve this kind of incentivization just so they can make sales? How about all the other businesses, those owned by individuals (not individuals owning stock but individuals owning and operating the actual business). How about all those businesses closing? Don’t those folks deserve the same help that these characters in Detroit and elsewhere are getting? I just don’t get it. I must be missing something.

In 1990-95 when I was intimately involved both as an RTC contractor and a workout officer for a large commercial bank there came a time when a developer having gone bankrupt was a badge of honor. Well maybe honor is too strong, but a badge that brought with it survivorship and some humility. I saw this first in Texas, perhaps because as real estate egos go, Texans liked theirs big. But it happened elsewhere and from individual to individual there was a difference in how they handled those humbling days. After making it through the gauntlet, these folks were judged by how they behaved during those difficult times when some moved to Florida or other states just so their homes could not be taken in a bankruptcy and some simply did the right thing. Once trust has been damaged, in business and personal things, it’s hard to win it back. But many of those real estate junkies did live to return to the mountaintop even if the mountain was more of a mound than a mount. In some ways, the same thing is going on today. Investors are watching closely to see how their managers behave during these tough times and it surprises me to hear that not everyone is on their best behavior. Haven’t they all read the Real Estate Boy Scout Manual? And then again, that is what differentiates people and companies from one another. It’s easy to behave properly when things are going well and everything is free and easy. It’s when things get tough that character shows and going forward investors will not get fooled again.

The oldest survivor of WWI, Harry Patch, died on July 25 at age 111. As reported in the NYTimes today, his funeral was a national event in England. But a couple of quotes of Harry's about his war experience, only stated after 80 years of silence, struck a note with me: "War is the calculated and condoned slaughter of human beings too often sent into combat as cannon fodder by politicians who should have settled their conflicts by dueling among themselves. War isn't worth one life!" Peace to you Harry.

On the road to…..
North Carolina

Album of the week: Blood Red by The Groove Kings. Irene Marc & Howard Forman’s newest combination of memorable songs, pure and rich vocals and hook-laden, guitar-god tunes.

Photo: Me & Scott Jacobs performing at The Woods, Hedgesville, WV

These are my personal thoughts and not that of my employer.

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