Friday, March 25, 2011

Not on the road

I’ve been on a vacation of sorts this past week.  While just staying home I served on a jury for he second time in my life.  This was a criminal case and while I’m not allowed to discuss it I can tell you that the dynamics of the jury deliberation, just like the one in Newark, NJ many years ago was not at all unlike that in “Twelve Angry Men.”  Also, the performance by the court appointed defense attorney and the junior district attorney were both so poor that it was troubling.  If this is the calibre of legal professionals that our system is being entrusted to we are in bad shape.  

Followed my own advice I completely unplugged from work.  I did read and have started implementing some organizational tools from a book called “Getting Things Done.”  What attracted me to it were some of the Zen concepts suggested here:
  • “If your mind is empty, it is always open for anything; it is open to everything.”  Shunryu Suzuki
  • Clearing the mind and being flexible are key.
  • Anything that causes you to overreact or under-react can control you and often does.
  • Responding inappropriately to your e-mail, our staff, your projects, your unread magazines, your thoughts about what you need to do, your children or your boss will lead to less effective results than you’d like.
  • You’ll need to get in the habit of keeping nothing on your mind.
  • The real issue is how to make appropriate choices about what to do at any point in time.  

I have already started my re-organization program and now need to re-program myself to have it work for me.  But, given that my mind never seems to rest, I’m open to this approach as a way to find some peace and use my time efficiently.  One of the best quotes in the book is from Will Rogers:  “When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.”

Yesterday would have been my mother’s 87th birthday.  Her name was Lorna Rene Silverman Felix.  She was a woman who was ahead of her time.  Very ambitious and entrepreneurial.  I guess my brother and I get our entrepreneurial spirit from her although Jay has had his own law practice for many years while I’ve only dabbled in being an entrepreneur but that doesn’t dim the spirit part of it.  My mother was the artistic one in the family; she loved Broadway shows and was responsible for there being a piano in our apartment from early on.  She owned her own travel agency for many years and traveled the world.  I’m sure that my wanderlust comes directly from her.  She died at 68 from brain cancer.  She and I had a strained relationship for many years but near and at the end not only did I do the right thing but she knew I was there for her.  Sometimes, perhaps many times, we have only one opportunity to make the right choice and if we don’t we may not ever be able to forgive ourselves. At least that’s how I feel about it.  It was too bad we didn’t get more time, just to be friends.

Pinetop Perkins died this week at 97.  He was among the last surviving members of the first generation of Delta bluesmen and lived in Austin, Texas.  A pianist, I had known Pinetop’s name for years but until about three years ago I had not seen him perform.  It was that night in Austin, on a business trip with two colleagues that we wandered in the back door of a club off an alley.  There was a band on stage which had a pretty old pianist/vocalist front and center.  He played and sang no more than a handful of songs.  I must admit, I had to ask who he was but you knew he was someone special.  After he finished, he set himself up sitting behind a little table near the restrooms and while smoking cigarette after cigarette, and sold his own CD’s.  A sideman for most of his career, Mr. Perkins did not release an album under his own name until his 75th year. From then until his death he made more than a dozen records on which he was the leader. “I grew up hard,” he said in a 2008 interview. “I picked cotton and plowed with the mule and fixed the cars and played with the guitar and the piano.”  Originally a guitarist, Mr. Perkins concentrated exclusively on the piano after an incident, in 1943, in which a dancer at a juke joint attacked him with a knife, severing the tendons in his left arm. The injury left him unable to hold a guitar or manage its fretboard.  Like he said, he grew up hard.  He was an original. (Portions of this are taken from the New York Times obituary).

A friend of mine sent me an email about a property for sale in the town I live in.  Last Friday, I contacted the broker saying I would sign the non-disclosure and would like to see the package.  He wrote back saying his ‘assistant’ would get it to me on this past Monday.  I haven’t heard a thing.  I wonder if the seller of that property (btw, it’s a pretty substantial retail property) knows that this is how their broker is responding to an interested party.  Probably not.

Promotional mention of the week:  On March 30 in New York, the conference producers, IMN are holding it’s (and to my knowledge the industry’s) first Consultant Congress.  It’s a one day affair and they’ve assembled a strong cast of characters from both tier one and tier two consulting firms.  I’ve been asked to moderate a panel which will discuss real estate allocations.  I mention event because it may be an opportunity for you to meet some consultants who you haven’t yet met and also hear about how they’re viewing the real estate world and the kind of advice they’re giving their clients.  Some of the consulting firms who will be represented there include Hewitt EnnisKnupp, Segal Advisors, NEPC, Russell, Mercer, Rogers & Casey, PCA, Courtland, Evaluation Associates, Hamilton Lane.  Kudos to  IMN for thinking ‘outside the box’ and trying new conference ideas.

Special Opportunity:  Many of you who have followed me on the road for a number of years may remember my trip to Liberia in the winter of 2006/2007.  I went with The MacDella Cooper Foundation which helps orphans.  Based on a plan which she developed that year, The MacDella Cooper Academy opened in December 2010.  It has 55 boarding students between the ages of 5 and 10 years old.  Many of these children are sponsored as they do not have funds of their own.  The Academy is looking to fill an important position at the Academy.  MacDella sent me the following job description:
You are a hard working person with a heart to serve others,
especially children. You have several years of solid teaching
experience (primary) and are a careful administrator with strong
interpersonal and management skills. You are passionate and
pioneering and you are interested in giving back to a region in
tremendous need. You are inspired by the responsibility of managing
a campus of 55 students and 10 adult staff members as your team.
If this sounds like you... we have your perfect mission!  This position is responsible for supervising kindergarten and primary
school operations, delivering professional development programs,
and improving student achievement. This role includes collaborating
with staff and management teams. Candidates must have strong
problem-solving skills and be flexible, adaptable to the West African
This will be a one-year assignment and includes:
A monthly stipend
On campus housing
A vehicle
Three meals per day
I believe there is some flexibility about the teaching credentials.  If my life was not so complicated these days I would do this.  My experience with the children of Liberia was life-changing.  This is a chance to really make a difference.  If you are interested, please send your resume with full contact information and three references to:

Winery of the week:  Kitchak Cellars (, Napa, CA.  One of the cool things about hanging around Napa is that once in a while you randomly meet someone in the wine industry.   Just the other night, eating dinner at the bar in one of my favorite Napa bistros, the couple next to me offered me a glass of the wine they had brought.  I accepted a small taste.  It was really good.  I got into a conversation with Patricia and Peter Kitchak of Minneapolis and Napa. In addition to winemaking, Peter, get this, has been in the commercial real estate industry for about the same number of years as me. We knew some people in common.  Because the most I know about wine is whether I like it or not, Peter and I talked real estate.  Anyway, they make about 1,000 cases per year and it’s good stuff.  

On the road....

Mar. 27-29:  Austin, Texas to attend the TEXPERS (Texas Association of Public Employee Retirement Systems) conference.

Mar. 30: New York to attend and moderate a panel at IMN's inaugural Real Estate Investment & Search Consultants Congress.

Apr. 7-8:  Villanova, PA to serve as a judge for the DiLella Center for Real Estate, Villanova Real Estate Challenge.

Apr. 13-15: Venice, Italy to attend the INREV Annual General Meeting.

May 12-14: North Palm Beach, FL for the annual meeting of the Homer Hoyt Fellows.

May 16-20:  New York

June 6-10: London to moderate a panel at the PERE Forum-Europe and have some other meetings.

These are my views and not that of my employer. 

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