Sunday, December 31, 2006

Ginzburg and the Times

The New York Times Magazine ran a list of famous people who died in 2006--but didn't include Ralph Ginzburg, the publisher, for whom I once worked. I should write a note of complaint--and write a reminiscence of Ralph. He would have appreciated it.

From Barton Biggs's book, "Hedgehogging"

Barton Biggs was an executive at Morgan Stanley before leaving to start a hedge fund. A.P. Jones is credited with starting the first hedge fund many years ago.

As a young man, Biggs was invited to lunch with Alfred Jones, considered the inventor of hedge funds.
The first question from Jones: “When you go to pee in a restaurant urinal, do you wash your hands before or after you pee?”
Biggs was stunned. “Afterwards, sir.”
“That’s the wrong answer,” said Jones sourly. “You’re a conventional thinker and not rational. I always wash before rather than after.”
Biggs doesn’t like Jones; I myself think he must be nuts.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Famous People: Vic Raschi

For some strange, unfathomable reason, I am a Yankee fan. Deep-seated. I even become slightly depressed when they lose.

Some years ago, I was researching an article on vacation-home exchanges for True magazine.

I telephoned someone who was listing his home -- Victor J. Raschi in New York State.

He gave me a good, solid interview.

By the way, I said, at the end of the interview, did you once pitch for the Yankees?



He laughed.


Ford's not speaking out in a timely way against the invasion of Iraq--despite his feelings--was I suspect a combination of courtesy and cowardice.


Famous (or slightly famous) people to write about: G. Legman, Ralph Ginzburg, Malcolm Borg, Vic Raschi.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Famous People: Carson McCullers

I was in my 20s, had read a few novels of hers, knew she was living in Nyack--I was working for a N.J. newspaper--and I was entranced by the dim, romantic photo of her on the book'sback cover--(I was single then)--

I entered the room, saw an old lady, and continued looking around--but it was her--

Interview wasbrief--sheanswered questions yes or no--later I read that she had been told to answer all questions yes or no--the article I wrote contained a lot of material that had already been published--

Shetold me that a review of a novel of hers by Chas Poore in the Times had made her cry--the name suited him, she added--

I praised the performance of Julie Harris in the filmof Member of the Wedding--CM uttered not a word--looked cold--

I asked her (discourteously) what she thought of the comment that she belonged to the decayed magnolia school of Southern writing--got her mad--"what do YOU think it means?"

When I began to leave, she warmly grabbed my right hand--I was disconcerted--and the memory of that has lingered--

Walking in Nyack recently, I was startled to discover her house--I had not even remembered where I had interviewed her--

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Sally Belfrage

For some reason, I have been thinking about her-- and about our meeting.
She was young, blonde, and beautiful. Very left-wing.
Daughter of Cedric Belfrage, English pro-Communist journalist who had been jailed. He may have written for our magazine, too--Fact. A muck-raking magazine.
I asked Sally B. to write for us, and gave her a great story idea: The last of the Scottsboro boys. He was living down South. The Scottsboro boys were a group of young black men unfairly accused of rape sometime in the 1930s, I believe.
I invited her to lunch. Oh, that's right, Ralph Ginzburg was supposed to join us, but at the last minute he demurred. I was nervous--having to go out with her myself. I was in awe of her. My dream--a beautiful left-winger.
I suffered from a deep sense of inferiority. Still do, to a certain extent.
Anyway, a wretched lunch. She was pugnacious. Argumentative. I mentioned liking a recent John Updike piece in the New Yorker, with the headline, Sox Fans Bid Kid Adieu, about Ted Willams. And a word he used to describe the ballplayers running to the outfield--"fluttered." No, she didn't like it. Very hostile.
I had promised her, what, $400? Her article was fine, and I sent her maybe $350. I didn't remember promising more than our usual payment.
She sent back my check, after an angry phone call.

Later, I read that she had married a Palestinian refugee. (Like another woman I admired, Diana Rigg.) And that she had died very young.

The memory of that miserable lunch occasionally pops into my mind.

Saturday, December 23, 2006


Grand jury over--It made me miss some important financial meetings--but it was provocative--

The jury voted to convict a woman of something (I'm not supposed to write about specific cases), but I felt we should have been compassionate and returned a "np bill"--but I saw that no one else felt that way, so I didn't argue--it is HARD to go against the crowd--yet I could have argued powerfully--and I'm mad at myself for not having done so--but in a few other, later cases, I did argue against the majority--oddly, in those cases I voted for a "true bill" to convict certain women!

I think we needed more time for deliberations in certain cases--the prosecutors were clearly in a rush--

I wish I could write about the case that upset me--

My book on reverse mortgages was placed on a ten-best-real-estate books-of-2006 list by a real estate writer, and its getting tons of publicity now--so, why aren't publishers knocking down my door for me to write something else? I should write an ebook on "Everything you should know about 55 pages."


Today, later on, I will plunge into that Israeli article--trying to decipher my notes--I'll just force myself--


Every year, I promise to work less hard--but I can see that I'm going to be working even harder now--a colleague, an angry, unpleasant fellow, was just fired, and I will have to do some of his work--my spa wants me to renew, even though I never went there enough--but I will renew and MAKE time--


I should make some New Year's resolutions--lose weight--exercise more--be more concerned about members of my family--were I to depart, my familiy would be in a lot of trouble--


This weekend, having an extra day off, I should check my portfolios--I'm not sure what my asset allocation is--maybe I should bring it down to 30-35% in stocks--I certainly know how miserably the stock market can behave, over long periods of time--and this couintry is in a lot of trouble--sometimes the wall of worry that the stock market supposedly can climb is too high--GW Bush is largely to blame for everything that is wrong with this country--well, for much of what is wrong--how could his puppeteers have allowed this schmuck to become president?--


Monday I drive a friend to the airport--he's going to Fla for the winter--I'll miss him--but it's hard to make new friends now--one reason is: I'm prejudiced against older people!--and younger people aren't generally interested in befriending me--
and I am very needy for the approval of other people--a real estate agent, on his blog, referred to me as a renowned real estate expert--wow!--I may be a fairly well known real esatte WRITER--TS Eliot referred to the modest cough of a minor poet--

These notes are therapy--without a therapist--like Orpheus, the orchestra without a conductor--


More resolutions--go to Arizona to visit my brother--go to the Galapagos (spend money even though my family has problems)--nurse friendships--send out an ebook proposal--clean up my apartment and my house--hire a handyman to help--

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Lady With the Lamp

My latest book from Audiobooks was a biography of Florence Nightingale.

What surprises!

1. It was a children's book.

2. Written in 1909.

3. It was pleasant to listen to, even though it was hagiography. The worship of saints can give you a nice feeling of awe. I also enjoyed hearing the poetry that was read--including "The Charge of the Light Brigade." And the asides intended for children. And the old language -- I hadn't heard "fuss and feathers" in quite a while!

4. The author mentions that her father once gave F. Nightingale some career advice.

5. Miss N. was alive when the book was written! In her 90s!

I checked up on Miss N. in Wikipedia, and learned that she had apparently had an affair with Ben Jowett, the classics scholar...that she was into statistics...and that, yes, she had some nervous breakdowns...and that she might have been bipolar. Nothing about a report that she didn't believe in the germ theory of disease.

The Wikipedia article contained an offensive word, which I moved heaven and earth to have removed.

Sunday, December 10, 2006


I'm still deciphering my notes on my trip to Israel--I got a headache doing it yesterday--a NYTimes drama critic of the 1920s said that the only true pleasure in life is...not writing--

For pleasure, reading a book by a young Englishman on his visiting the US to break silly laws in the different states, like: playing cards with an Indian in Utah--I'm curious to see what he writes about NJ--

December means lots of conferences where financial types predict what's going to happen next year--so I'm busy--along with grand jury duty and that damn Israel article--oh, and playing tennis twice a week instead of just once--

Big question everyone is asking: who will be the Presidential candidates in 09? Apparently Hillary and McCain--I'd vote for Hillary, of course--McCain is a strange piece of work--

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Good News!

Robert Bruss, a syndicated real-estate columnist, has put my book on reverse mortgages among the top ten real-estate books of 2006. I am one happy camper!

I'd love to write a book on "Everything you need to know about 55 pages." Maybe I'll try to do it as an e-book, paying for it myself.

Other books I'd like to write: on immediate annuities...on rumors...

The Missing Blacks

In 1945 or so, a real-estate agent in Ridgewood, N.J., a very upscale community, was hauled before the real-estate board on a charge of...selling a house to a Jew.


There's a men's social group I belong to, called the Hobbyists. I run the Investors Club and a lunch club, called ROMEO (Retired Older Men Eating Out). Mostly older men, mostly Republicans. Retired businessmen.

Maybe 400 members.

We're sponsored by a Presbyterian Church.

No blacks. But Jews, Catholics, and Protestants.

Occasionally I have mentioned the missing blacks to other members. I was told that we had a black member at ine time, but someone jokingly called him our token black, to his face, and he left.

What seems to concern the presidents of our club is..."dirty" jokes told at monthly meetings. The dirty jokes are pretty mild, in my opinion.

But they sseem to have been a big concern of our departing president and -- alas -- our president being inaugurated on Thursday.

We have in our club retired doctors, lawyers, teachers, journalists, scientists. And a few prigs.

I would guess that 90% of the good jokes I hear deal with sex.

Anyway, the incoming president sends out a message to all chairmen, tell only clean jokes.

I write back: How about we try to get a black member?

He writes back: Propose one and we'll consider him.

I write back: How about you announce at the next meeting that we are looking for black members?

No response.

Anyway, two things. When I followed baseball as a kid, I never noticed that there were no black players. And I'm a little mortified that I didn't.

Asked about blacks in golf, Tiger Woods said that golf should be more like America.

The Hobbyists should be more like America, too.

The Best Idea Anyone Ever Had

Einstein's theory of relativity?

Newton's laws of planetary motion & graviation?

Copernicus/Galileo's heliocentralic solar system?

Jesus's idea of an afterlife?

The author of a book on Darwin believes it was Darwin's theory about the origin of species--

Certainly a good candidate.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

On Becoming Frugal

Getting old means…being amazed by how expensive things are now. A pair of shoes for $169! At Marty’s, a cheap shoe store! I recall, in high school, a classmate, Pat Coviello, boasting that he had saved $25 for a gift for his mother. A mere $25! Movies cost what then? 12 cents for a matinee? A candy bar was a nickel. Maybe that’s one reason (among many) why older people are so frugal. Today’s prices seem so exorbitant.

Radio Days

Radio Days

I asked my well-educated son, does he know where the expression, Come on like Gang Busters, comes from? He didn’t.
It comes from an old radio program, “Gang Busters.” You hear the stamp of regularly marching feet as the program begins – that’s all I remember of the beginning. But it was exciting.
Remember: “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows! Ha ha ha ha!”
“Look, up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s … Superman!”
The creaking door of “Inner Sanctum.”
(After the William Tell Overture) “Return with us to those thrilling days of yesteryear ... from out of the plains…come the thundering hoofbeats of the great horse, Silver…. The Long Ranger rides again!”
(There was something so ... nice...about the Long Ranger radio progream and the Long Ranger movies.)
Fibber McGee and Molly. The Great Gildersleeve. What you listened to when you came home from school—and on weekends.