Friday, June 17, 2011

Lower East Side, Fathers' Day, Other Stuff

There seems to be a bunch of real estate hiring announcements coming out these days.  Not surprisingly, a number of them relate to senior investment types in Asia.  It's not hard to see by this where institutional money sees the future.  It's also interesting to see the amount of movement.  But, in an industry where pension funds, endowments, foundations and their consultants put a premium on stability of investment teams, I wonder what some of the ramifications of all these changes will be?  

Last Sunday’s NY Times had excerpts from some of the commencement speeches given at U.S. colleges and universities this month.  Please allow me to share some of them with you:

“I won’t detain you long today.  We have research from the department of psychology at Harvard that if a college commencement speaker drones on for more than15 minutes, only about a quarter of students continue to pay attention; another quarter drift off to sleep and the other half-those being undergraduates-engage in sexual fantasies.”

“We’re now supposed to apologize to you because it doesn’t work the same as it used to anymore.  You won’t inherit the S.U.V., which was way too big, or the McMansion that was way too big or the corner office that was way too big.  But I suggest that this is a moment to consider what “doing better” really means.  If you are part of the first generation of Americans who genuinely see race and ethnicity as attributes, not stereotypes, will you not have done better than we did?  If you are part of the first generation of Americans with a clear understanding that gay men and lesbians are entitled to be full citizens of this country with all it’s rights, will you not have done better than we did?  If you are part of the first generation of Americans who assume women merit full equality instead of grudging acceptance, will you not have done better than we did?”

“People think passion is something you either have or you don’t.  People think passion is something that has to manifest itself in some kind of explosive and emotional format.   It’s not.  It’s the thing that you find in your life that you can care about, that you can cling to, that you can invest yourself in, heart, body and soul.  Finding passion is kind of your job now.”

“I do have a few bits of advice:  Acknowledge your mistakes, learn from them and move on; don’t be afraid of new ideas; be afraid of old ones.  Be faithful to your family and friends.  You’ll get the same in return.  Tell the truth and always play by the rules.  If you think nobody cares, try missing a couple of payments.”

I was saddened to see that Kevin Kavanaugh died last week.  He was part of the original Jersey Shore music scene along with Bruce Springsteen, Southside Johnny, Steven Van Zandt and others.  I didn’t meet Kevin until the 1990’s when he was playing with Bobby Bandiera at McLoone’s in Sea Bright and Bobby invited me up to sit in for a song or two.  Kevin was a great musician and a gracious guy. 

“I’m way more worried about the downside than ever before. It’s tempting today to get into deals, but I worry about how to exit them down the line.”  Barry Sternlicht of Starwood Capital speaking at a hospitality industry conference in New York this week.  

The name’s the same:  Congratulations to my friends at Clarion Partners who have taken their name back after completing their management buyout, with partners Lightyear Capital, from ING. 

Doug Ayers died this week of cancer at age 50.  Doug headed a residential real estate brokerage company in Chicago.  I didn’t know Doug but in reading a short piece about him in a real estate publication, one of his colleagues said, “Doug had a talent for bringing out the best in others.  Though real estate was his passion, his gift was the ability to encourage and develop people. He helped us to be better, kinder and more global in our thinking, lessons that reached far beyond real estate.”  To me, this is a really special tribute.  How many people put their energy, their belief in other people?  How many walk the walk and don’t simply talk the talk?    I’ve long felt that the most valuable thing that I can invest in anyone or anything is my time.  Money?  Its just currency.  But time, is fleeting; each of us only has so much of it and we don’t even know how much that is.  But, it sounds like this fellow Doug recognized that he could make a difference in the lives of those around him and maybe, just maybe, those he helped to be better and kinder will ‘pay that forward’ as well.  

Fathers’ Day is Sunday and while I believe that it’s a commercialization creature it’s still celebrated worldwide.  I’ve always loved being a father to my two sons.  And, I’ve always tried my best.  But, when both my sons and I were younger I wasn’t always an easy father to be around.  Some of those feelings were memorialized in an essay written by one of my sons when he was in college.  When I read it, I both shook my head in agreement and tears came to my eyes.  After living an oblivious life for 38 years, and aided by a health scare which led me to the book, “Type A Behavior and Heart Disease,” I started making changes in my behavior which, I believe, my sons will say were both positive and visible.  Fortunately, my boys have taken the best characteristics from both their mother and me.  After blaming my parents for lots of things for a long time, I finally came to the realization that they were only doing the best they could as my parents.  And in looking back at how they each grew up you could see where things had started.  And so, I forgave them and moved on, more aware than ever before.  I am pretty sure that my sons have forgiven me for being the way I was (which happened to be more self-destructive than anything else) and we have really good father/sons relationship.  I believe the best we can do is learn from the past and decide whether we want to emulate something or discard it.  We all make those choices whether it be in parenthood or anything else.  And, while Sunday may be the ‘official’ Fathers’ Day, I have enjoyed celebrating fathers day many times over and the pride with which I see my sons, from the very beginning, is a feeling I would not trade for anything in the world.  

Restaurant of the week:  Gentleman Farmer, 40 Rivington Street (Lower East Side), New York.  A teeny, tiny place with a wonderful and eclectic menu.  Also had a small world experience.  The tables are close together and the couple sitting next to us was quite chatty.  After a short time of talking about various stuff, the talk turned to children.  One of her four sons and one of my two sons both work in the TV business.  Both have been working on reality shows.  And, get this, both are currently working on the new season of “Real Housewives of Atlanta.”  They know of each other but because one works in New York and the other in Atlanta they haven’t yet met.  I love this serendipitous stuff!  

(Note:  My father grew up for a time right nearby this restaurant on Orchard Street.  They moved frequently, like when the rent came due and they had no money so they just left and moved somewhere else.  Actually, not a unique situation in the 1900's.  While the neighborhood has changed, many of the old tenement buildings (i.e. cold water flats) still remain.  Altman Luggage, which had been on Rivington Street has now moved to a much bigger store on Orchard Street.  Just before they closed, I walked in and asked one of the people there if they remembered where "Doc" Rosens' shoe store was.  He walked out side with me and pointed across the street.  He said, "It was right there."  This was the son of Mr. Altman.  We used to go down on many Sundays to visit my father's old friend, "Doc", and I can remember helping the stock boys go into the basement to find a pair of shoes for a customer.  It certainly brought back a lot of good memories.  

Photo:  Orchard Street, Lower East Side, New York (Dolce & Dolce was Doc Rosens Shoe Store)

On the road...
June 22 and 23:  New York
June 24-29:  London
July 1-9:  Northern California
July 10-12:  Beverly Hills to attend the NMS Real Estate Roundtable
July 14:  Bistro Jeanty,Yountville, CA to celebrate Bastille Day.  A friend of mine plays the accordion to add to the festivities.  Sounds like it'll be a fun time.
July 18-21:  New York

These are my views and not that of my employer. 

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