Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Look at the view / Joe Cocker / The Heart and Soul of NYC / The Whiteman Report / 2014

Look at the view

In 2000, Pulitzer Prize winning author Anna Quindlen gave a university commencement address.  I may have shared it with some of you before but I woke up this morning and reread her speech - it reminded me of some things that I’d forgotten to remember…about life, about work, about, well, lots of things.  I offer it to you, in it’s entirety, with my best wishes for a new year filled with happiness, good health, and ‘peace, love and understanding’ (compliments of Elvis Costello). 

So here is what I wanted to tell you today: Get a life. A real life, not a manic pursuit of the next promotion, the bigger paycheck, the larger house. Do you think you'd care so very much about those things if you blew an aneurysm one afternoon, or found a lump in your breast? Get a life in which you notice the smell of salt water pushing itself on a breeze over Seaside Heights, a life in which you stop and watch how a red-tailed hawk circles over the water gap or the way a baby scowls with concentration when she tries to pick up a cheerio with her thumb and first finger.

Get a life in which you are not alone. Find people you love, and who love you. And remember that love is not leisure, it is work. Each time you look at your diploma, remember that you are still a student, still learning how to best treasure your connection to others. Pick up the phone. Send an e-mail. Write a letter. Kiss your Mom. Hug your Dad. Get a life in which you are generous.

Look around at the azaleas in the suburban neighborhood where you grew up; look at a full moon hanging silver in a black, black sky on a cold night. And realize that life is the best thing ever, and that you have no business taking it for granted. Care so deeply about its goodness that you want to spread it around. Once in a while take money you would have spent on beers and give it to charity. Work in a soup kitchen. Be a big brother or sister.

All of you want to do well. But if you do not do good too, then doing well will never be enough. It is so easy to waste our lives: our days, our hours, our minutes. It is so easy to take for granted the color of the azaleas, the sheen of the limestone on Fifth Avenue, the color of our kid's eyes, the way the melody in a symphony rises and falls and disappears and rises again. It is so easy to exist instead of live. I learned to live many years ago.

Something really, really bad happened to me, something that changed my life in ways that, if I had my druthers, it would never have been changed at all. And what I learned from it is what, today, seems to be the hardest lesson of all. I learned to love the journey, not the destination. I learned that it is not a dress rehearsal, and that today is the only guarantee you get. I learned to look at all the good in the world and to try to give some of it back because I believed in it completely and utterly. And I tried to do that, in part, by telling others what I had learned. By telling them this: Consider the lilies of the field. Look at the fuzz on a baby's ear. Read in the backyard with the sun on your face. Learn to be happy. And think of life as a terminal illness because if you do you will live it with joy and passion, as it ought to be lived.

Well, you can learn all those things, out there, if you get a life, a full life, a professional life, yes, but another life, too, a life of love and laughs and a connection to other human beings. Just keep your eyes and ears open. Here you could learn in the classroom. There the classroom is everywhere. The exam comes at the very end. No man ever said on his deathbed I wish I had spent more time at the office. I found one of my best teachers on the boardwalk at Coney Island maybe 15 years ago. It was December, and I was doing a story about how the homeless survive in the winter months. He and I sat on the edge of the wooden supports, dangling our feet over the side, and he told me about his schedule; panhandling the boulevard when the summer crowds were gone, sleeping in a church when the temperature went below freezing, hiding from the police amidst the Tilt a Whirl and the Cyclone and some of the other seasonal rides. But he told me that most of the time he stayed on the boardwalk, facing the water, just the way we were sitting now even when it got cold and he had to wear his newspapers after he read them. And I asked him why. Why didn't he go to one of the shelters? Why didn't he check himself into the hospital for detox? And he just stared out at the ocean and said, "Look at the view, young lady. Look at the view."

And every day, in some little way, I try to do what he said. I try to look at the view. And that's the last thing I have to tell you today, words of wisdom from a man with not a dime in his pocket, no place to go, nowhere to be. Look at the view. You'll never be disappointed.

Joe Cocker

Reading about the death of Joe Cocker last week from lung cancer at age 70 got me thinking about the one time I saw him perform.  

It was the fall of 1970 and some friends and I decided last minute to catch the show at The Fillmore East in NYC.  We bought balcony tickets - yes, that very night! – for $3.50.   But the theater was relatively small, our seats were fine and the sound was excellent!

Joe Cocker and The Grease Band headlined the bill.  Opening for Joe were – The Voices of East Harlem, the original Fleetwood Mac (pre-Nicks/Buckingham) and King Crimson!  Concert promoter extraordinaire Bill Graham was famous for mixing musical styles – he wanted to expose his audience to a broader experience.  It was an incredible evening, especially as Joe’s long-time keyboardist and collaborator, Chris Stainton, was one of my keyboard role models. 

In 1976 millions of Americans met Joe Cocker when he performed on Saturday Night Live with the legendary John Belushi. Rather than trying to describe it, if you’re interested, I recommend you just watch it here – it’s a true classic!

Joe Cocker was truly one-of-a-kind.

Cocker's cover of The Beatles' "With a Little Help from My Friends" reached number one in the UK in 1968. He performed the song live at Woodstock in 1969, and at the Party at the Palace concert for the Golden Jubilee of Elizabeth II in 2002. His version also became the theme song for the TV series The Wonder Years. His 1974 cover of "You Are So Beautiful", reached number five in the US. Cocker was the recipient of several awards, including a 1983 Grammy Award for his US number one "Up Where We Belong", a duet with Jennifer Warnes.” (Source:  Wikipedia)

Band’s I’ve played in have performed a number of Joe’s cover versions over the years, “The Letter” and “Delta Lady” to name just two.  It’s always sad when the world loses someone who people have connected with through music.  There’s a button that I still have in a box somewhere packed away.  I don’t remember who gave it to me – perhaps someone who used to follow our band.  It says “Cocker Power.”  

We may have lost the power of that man, but we haven’t lost the power of his music and his joy of performing…hopefully we never will.

The Heart and Soul of New York City

Last week I was walking to the garage to get my car and realized I had forgotten my wallet at home.  Just as I got to the building I couldn’t find my keys.  I don’t believe I’d ever lost my keys before.  I retraced my steps.  No luck.  It was Saturday but the building superintendent met me…she did not have keys to my apartment but could give me access to the roof. She suggested I climb down the fire escape, climb through my window and at least get my wallet.  Funny, I’ve flown almost 3 million miles and have no problem looking out the window at 38,000 feet but I’ve always had this fear that, when standing at a window of an office building, I was going to fall.  The fire escape was built in the 1950’s…it was terrifying even though it was ONLY six stories.  Not very gracefully, I climbed through the window, got my wallet, went to the garage and was on my way. 

I finally heard back from the owner of the apartment I rent and he was willing to meet me that evening and lend me his keys.  Two minutes after making those arrangements I got a phone call from a number I didn’t recognize – I don’t usually pick those calls up.  They called back from the same number and, for some strange reason, this time I answered. ‘Did you lose your keys?’ the person on the other end said.  ‘Can you describe them?’ I described my keys to the caller. ‘I found them on 55th street, saw that you had a CVS tag, so I came to CVS, they looked you up and called you from their phone.’ Later that evening I met Stephen on the street - he lives right around the corner from me! - and he gave me back my keys.  I offered to give him some type of reward but he would have nothing of it. He told me, ‘I lost my wallet last year and someone returned it; I know what it feels like.’  He told me that as a result of the experience with finding my keys, he posted on Facebook for all his friends – ‘put something on your key ring so people can find you!’

Wow!  Next day I went to CVS and told the manager the story and asked him to pass along my thanks to the staff.  I said I appreciated that they did not give out my phone number but placed the call to me directly and then gave the phone to Stephen. Add this experience to the one last year when I too lost my wallet and a truck driver returned it to me…intact…later that very same day.  I’d say I’m a pretty lucky fellow! 

There is a big heart in New York City sometimes hidden in the frenetic energy of whatever it is people are pursuing…but it’s there and it’s a beautiful thing to behold…when you least expect it!

The Whiteman Report:  
11 Hottest Food and Beverage Trends / Buzzwords for 2015

Every year around this time Michael Whiteman and his colleagues at Baum+Whiteman, International Food and Restaurant Consultants, gaze into their crystal ball, err decanter, and tell us about what’s going to be hot in food, beverage and hotel trends for the next year. 

To whet your appetite for the report, here are some of the topics:
  • Pre-paying for your non-cancelable dinner
  • Oysters r everywhere
  • Soft drinks lose some fizz and other non-alcoholic trends
  • More big outsiders crowding the restaurant space
  • Chefs abandoning four-star dining?
  • Say hello to neurogastronomy
  • The death bell tolls for tipping
  • Waiter! What’s that fly doing in my soup?

And here are just a few of the Buzzwords/phrases for 2015:
  • Pistachios are the nut of the year.
  • Shaved ice desserts.
  • Flavored salts.
  • Don't-waste-food campaigns gaining traction.
  • More protein being sold at breakfast.
  • Savory waffles and waffle sandwiches.

Here’s the link to the full report.

When you visit NYC and are thinking of trying some cool new food establishment, let me know…maybe we can share the experience together.


  • Watching my grandchildren with joy Sean (5), his brother Gavin (3) and ‘the twins’, Ben and Edie (3) growing up and (please don't tell them) confidentially, starting a list of ‘To Do’s and ’To Don’ts’ to share with them
  • Respecting my sons, Brian and Kevin and their wives Bridget and Marissa and how they are successfully navigating the challenges and distractions involved in raising children today
  • Reconnected with some long time (and I thought long-lost) industry friends
  • My partner Liz Weiner and I launching Commercial Real Estate Women’s Leadership Workshops and hearing the powerfully positive feedback
  • Recognizing and appreciating our clients for their support and encouragement
  • Realizing, finally or again, that people don’t change much; they are what / who they are
  • Discovering generosity in unexpected places
  • Becoming an advisor to founded by Rajeev Ranade (a cloud library of real estate investment information for institutional investors)
  • Meeting CRE Tech Intersect founder Pierce Neinken and some really bright, enterprising, mostly younger people at their NYC event
  • Marveling at launched by my friend (and fashion industry icon) Kate Moodie
  • Continuing my own self-exploration
  • Planning a benefit concert to help Liberian children orphaned by Ebola (
  • Realizing just how small the world has become (especially in the commercial / institutional real estate community)
  • Feeling sorry for those whose eyes almost never look up from their Smartphones and potentially missing what may be right in front of you that could change your life
  • Selling and buying (planning to publish Volume 2 this year)

 Happy New Year! May 2015 bring you closer to finding what you’re looking for!!

On the Road...

Jan. 8:  Felix / Weiner Consulting Group - Commercial Real Estate Women's Leadership Workshop, New York City

Jan. 14: Felix / Weiner Consulting Group - Commercial Real Estate Women's Leadership Workshop, San Francisco

Jan. 15 -16:  NAREIM Asset Management and Acquisitions Meeting, San Francisco, CA. Learn more and register here.

Jan. 21-22:  Introduction to Capital Raising Course offered by Steve Felix and Liz Weiner in partnership with IMN running alongside their Opportunity and Private Fund Investing conference, Laguna Beach, CA. Learn more and register here.

Jan. 21 - 23:  IMN's Winter Forum on Real Estate Opportunity and Private Fund Investing, Laguna Beach, CA. Learn more and register here

Feb. 17 – 18:  NAREIM Research & Investment Management Meeting, Chicago, IL. Learn more and register here.

Feb. 19 - 20:  University of North Carolina, Kenan-Flagler Real Estate Challenge (I've been invited to be a judge!), Chapel Hill, NC. Invitation only.  Learn more here.

Mar.3 - 5: NCREIF (National Council of Real Estate Investment Fiduciaries) Winter Conference, Phoenix, AZ.  Learn more and register here

Mar. 10 - 11:  National Association of Real Estate Research Professionals (ARERP) meeting, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA

Mar. 17 - 18:  NAREIM Executive Officers Spring Meeting, Miami, FL. Learn more and register here.

Mar. 26 - 27:  PREA (Pension Real Estate Association) Spring Conference, Washington, DC. Learn more and register here.


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