Friday, October 30, 2009

The Road Home

I wasn't able to attend this week's PREA meeting in Los Angeles but have heard from a few folks about it. Given the number of investors who told me they would not be attending for various reasons, my guess was that the ratio of non-institutional investors to others would be about 6:1. I didn't anticipate that the total attendance would be 900. Had I known that I would have revised my ratio to 9:1 (which one attendee felt might have been pretty accurate). The Fall PREA meeting has always been the most important one in our industry. When things were booming, attendance at this meeting soared. Perhaps the large turnout indicates that many feel the worst is over. However, it may not be that at all but rather the more desperate search for 'legal tender' to bail0ut deals and funds. I would rather feel more cautiously optimistic about it and believe that we are moving into a period where institutional investors will again start, well, investing. There does seem to be a reawakening of interest and perhaps that'll convert into actual dollar commitments in 1Q10.

Sometimes amazing things just happen. Here’s the story. Early in my father’s real estate property management career he was with a firm called Punia & Marx. Those of you around the New York area may know them as they’re still in business and one of the most successful, multi-generational real estate families in New York. My dad was one of their property managers who oversaw a number of their projects. With some time on my hands late the other night I randomly Googled them and found their website which had some old newspaper clippings about projects they had developed, including the project that we lived in in Forest Hills, NY. So I wrote this to the one contact person on the site:

“hello margie. my father, manney felix, worked for punia & marx many years ago. he's 92 and in failing health and my brother and i are with him in florida. even though i've walked by your offices and seen the sign outside today was the first time i looked on your website. one of the articles posted is about the buildings in forest hills that we moved into when my father was with your firm. our complex name was apparently changed to aero gardens, which is different from what was announced in the article. i know that herb punia was one of the principals when my dad worked there. i remember going to the office at 16 court street with him. he was in property management and went from building to building. i can remember the 'magic' door when the bromley first opened. anyway, i don't know if anyone at punia & marx is still around that would remember my father and i'm not even sure why i'm writing to you...perhaps that as my father fades we've been bringing up the past and working for you guys was a huge building block in his career in property management that lasted until he was almost 80. if herb punia is still alive, please mention my dad to him.
i appreciate it.

That was Wednesday night. Thursday morning I got this from Margie:

Believe it or not, Freddy Enrico who your father trained, is still working for the company. He is still working for Punia and Marx in the Manhattan office which is now located in the Bromley. Herb Punia and Len Punia are still working. Mr. Enrico is sitting right here and couldn’t believe this email. From time to time he thinks of Manney and wondered what happened to him and where he was. Does he remember Bill Sommerville? Our phone here is 212-686-9400 and he would love to hear from you. I am forwarding this email to Herb Punia as well.

I called and spoke with Freddy, who has been with the firm in, you guessed it, property management, for 55 years. He told me how my father mentored him and introduced him to property management. Freddy said such nice things about my Dad-how he came to work dressed well with ‘not a hair out of place.’ He never heard him raise his voice but his style conveyed what he expected to be done. Freddy stayed in touch with my Dad for a number of years and in Freddy’s own words, “your Dad made a difference in my life.” How unbelievable the Internet is. How amazing that Freddy still worked there and remembered my Dad. Next week I’m going into their office to meet Freddy and take a photo of him to send to my father. Forget about what Mastercard says is priceless….this kind of stuff….is simply in it’s own league!

During this week I got so many emails from you guys. I am grateful for you taking the time to write me and for those of you who shared stories, both current and past, of your experiences with parents at the end of their lives.

What’s still strange is that every day we have a thought that he could get better, like he’s got a cold or the flu. But then we are reminded that this is not the same; he is not getting better but rather simply his body is starting to shut down. I’m going home tomorrow and my brother on Sunday. I have reservations to come back to Florida again next Friday. One of my friends said, “He’s waiting for you and your brother to leave before he lets go.” At first I thought (a) Can he really control that? (b) Why wouldn’t he want us to be around? (c) Do I just stay? So in thinking about (a) I’m beginning to believe “Why not?” The mind is very powerful and there’s always been the ‘mind over matter’ argument. With regards to (b) I’ve been thinking about what I would prefer if it were me and while I can’t put myself inside my Dad’s head, part of me can see why he wouldn’t want his sons around when he takes his final breath. Anyway, it’s an awful lot to think about; I can’t imagine what is going through my father’s mind although the other morning Eleanor told me that he had talked with her about dying, etc. long before this but now he hasn’t said one word about it. He knows. He must. He knows we know. There’s no discussion about it. Just making him as comfortable as he can be and have him enjoy whatever he can (like lobster for dinner the other night).

This is very heady stuff. I can’t think of anything I’ve ever been through that is more. But as I’ve mentioned to you, the fact that Jay and I have been here, together, with Eleanor and our father has been really important. Last week, my Dad asked Jay and I, “When are you going home?” But he hasn’t said that once in the past few days.

Music: Tonight. Chicago. Ernie Hendrickson CD Release Show for “Walking with Angels.” Ernie is a talented singer/songwriter/guitar player and a really nice guy. I won’t be able to be there but if you’re in Chicagoland you will be in for a treat if you make the scene tonight: Oct 30th, 9:00PM at MARTYR'S 3855 N. Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL 773.404.9494

Photo (C. 1958). My brother Jay, My Dad, My Cousin Marcia, Me.

These are my views and not that of my employer.

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