Thursday, August 30, 2007

Sweet Words

Sweet Words

President Hilary Clinton
President Barack Obama
President John Edwards
President Bill Richardson

A Cup of Coffee

Claudia, an ad rep at the Bergen Record, was minding a booth during a real-estate conference. I chatted with her; then she said, I see that you have a cup of coffee. From up the block, I said.

We parted. A little later I returned. Claudia, I said, should I get you a cup of coffee? I'd love one, she said.

Listen, Claudia, I said, forget the subtlety and the indirection. When you're dealing with a man, you say: Listen, jerk, get me a goddamn cup of coffee RIGHT NOW!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Did You Miss This?

Did You Miss This?

Today's Times magazine has a letter about a house designed by Thomas Mayne, a house now owned by Beth Harris, a house that the Times wrote about recently.

Mayne likes to incorporate “conflict” into his structures.

“He truly achieved his goal. As a former co-owner of this structure, I found that its reflective surfaces and lack of demarcation of full rooms and the Escher-like tight stairways truly made this a house of torture -- and one that certainly helped contribute to my separation from my wife.”

The letter is signed: Brent R. Harris, Irvine, Calif.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

More About Sopranos

Every episode of The Sopranos has something memorable in it—(I’m watching the sixth season now)—Tony is real in being contradictory: Ruthless and violent and a bully but sometimes sensitive—I wish I were more assertive, the way he is!--Carmela is so real, as are other people on the show…like Adriana, Chris’s dumb girlfriend—

When I’ve seen all the episodes, what will I substitute? Going back to watch old movies, I guess—on TCM and from Netflix—

From Ozzie and Harriet to Tony and Carmela…

Leaving my job, if I do, will be like giving up smoking—painful in unexpected ways—I remember giving up smoking one morning, 20 years ago…and the pain was unbelievable! I had to quickly start again to assuage the pain--(but now I haven’t smoked in 17 years)… S. said I have to reinvent myself—get another source of self-esteem and identity if I “retire”—

Literacy Volunteers?


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Dear Diary...

Nice note from Sky-thank you!

Cape Cod: I devoted myself to not getting badly sunburned-something one learns from painful experience…we went to Dennis and Chatham-lots of good meals-saw Corpse!, a clever play that got out of hand in the second act-in front of a house, I saw a topiary of a whale, with its mouth open-wow!-
I had forgotten how friendly other people at a B&B are…

Work is getting unpleasant-the business editor treats me with the same hostility she treated the former inhabitant of my position-unconsciously-

About Alice, by Calvin Trillin, was very moving-perhaps better than the Year of Magical Tninking--an admirable lady-she heard Gov Pataki give a fine speech, then said to him, Why are you a Republican?
I had asked Muriel Siebert the same question-she didn't seem surprised by it-replied that she came from a conservative political background-

Moving is so troublesome! So much to do! So much to pack, to throw out, so many places to contact about our change of address… so goddam many books!

The prospect of not working has gotten to be tempting-going on hikes with the Hobbyists, going to the gym, meetings with friends, biking, writing stuff I want to write-of course I'd have to do the laundry now…! But I wouldn't mind-

Perhaps I should teach English as a second language-my friend Roy did it & loved it-I'd have to get certified-but I know a lot about language and I've been a teacher-

I have had this dread of retiring and not having much to do-(and then there's all the work I should do around the Woodstock house…and all the movies I want to see, all the books I want to read!)

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Decline and Fall

The Times has not only shrunk. But now it's listing fewer stocks and fewer mutual funds. And no ratings for mutual funds!

The American Century funds are adding sales charges to many of their funds. (Formerly 20th Century funds.) I remember when the founder would boast that people could invest just 25 cents in the funds--because that was democratic.

Good funds are also closing right and left. And some skillful managers have been leaving to start hedge funds.

I've just invested in Excelsior Value & Restructuring. A fund with a fine record. US Trust -- which runs the funds -- has a new owner, and the new owner may slap on a new sales charge.

Off to Cape Cod tomorrow. For 3 days -- 3 days trying not to get sunburned.

Saturday, August 11, 2007


Book I’m reading refers to “inperts” – ordinary people and their observations, as opposed to experts.
Remember those emails saying…the first son was blind, the second was deaf, the third was deformed, the fourth was… Would you allow the 13th son to be born? The 13th son was… Beethoven!
I just started reading a biography of Beethoven. Totally untrue. He had good genes. He was the fourth or fifth child. [Actually, the eldest of three sons.]
Many anti-abortion people are going straight to hell when they die.
Should I retire? A work-addict like me? Someone who needs three compliments before breakfast? What would I do? Write my blog. Write my autobiography. Write a book without a publisher. Send out story ideas. Read. Play tennis. Go on walks. Go out for breakfasts and lunches. Work around my Woodstock house. Watch lots of movies. I have enough money to retire—although my children have financial troubles.
Free time! Not working on columns for next week! Reading fun books. Basking in the sun. Cleaning up. Fixing things…. No, it’s not enough. I wrote two articles today. I remember reading that the former editor of the New Yorker, after being dismissed, sat in a restaurant across the street editing articles.
Good article in current SmartMoney about which investments are overvalued and which are not, by Pulitzer Prize-winner James B. Stewart…. One problem: He recommends American Home Mortgage, which just declared bankruptcy. A writer’s nightmare. (I myself have been recommending Fidelity Leveraged, which recently took a bath.)

Thursday, August 09, 2007


Richard Feynman, the great physicist, went to a lecture on physics.

The teacher drew a diagram on the board.

Feynman raised his hand.

"What is that you have up there?"

A diagram, replied the teacher, puzzled.

"Yes, but what is it called?" he asked.

Replied the teacher, "A Feynman diagram."

"Thank you," said Feynman.

Sunday, August 05, 2007


My journalist friends who have retired, and are miserable, want me to retire and be miserable like them.
But my women friends who have retired don't seem miserable. For my generation, perhaps, a woman's identity isn't so bound up with her career.

Busy weekend! I placed a stone on Hannah Arendt's grave at Bard College...saw a program of Purcell at Bard, including Dido and Aeneas...saw Bourne Ultimatum, which as the critics have said, was fast-paced and shrewd...the new villain isn't SMERSH or terrorists but bad apples within the CIA...and started packing in earnest for our move to another apartment in Hackensack...

I'm writing a regular column, unpaid, for a website called Gurufocus...but my reviews have been negative! Perhaps because I write for general readers, for devotees of mutual funds, not for monomanical stock investors...
My life will change without writing regular columns for Gannett...I can allow myself to read more general books instead of all the financial books I had to read, in order to grind out 3 columns a week...And I won't be going to NYC so often to interview people & attend press conferences...Also, my self-esteem has been (temporarily, I hope) eroded in that I will soon no longer be a syndicated financial columnist...
Freelancing? I'll bet the field is very crowded now, what with so many journalists not having steady employment...At a recent press conference in NYC, I was surrounded by "freelance" financial writers...


Friday, August 03, 2007

Sea Change

I won't be writing non-local columns anymore--instructions from on high. I guess the newspaper has decided to let readers get their financial stuff from the Times and Wall St Journal--and focus on very local stories. I'll be writing local business stories. Something of a mistake, I believe, in my case. But a compromise was rejected. The paper is bleeding badly.

I'll give up my Gannett column. Or should I? I could write it during the week--on my own time. I wouldn't be going to conferences; just writing stuff off the top of my head and from my reading. I asked Gannett if they would pay me to write columns, and the prompt and rude answer was no. Rude because I've written columns for them for 10 years--500 columns. But maybe not enough papers picked up my columns regularly. Still, they could have been a bit gracious.

The Bergen Record killed its locally-written financial news; people there were told to write about real estate. I guess I'll be writing much more about local real estate.

Fortunately, I have an intriguing book project in the works. And maybe I'll be working less hard.

Thursday, August 02, 2007


Two of my friends lost their jobs recently.
The stock market is very worried.
Maybe I should lighten up on my stocks. I did just sell some 3rd Ave Real Estate--
When you're not sure what to do in such situations, selling some shares (not all) is a good idea.
My own job may be in jeopardy. Newspapers seem to be getting desperate. See the Wall St Journal.
If I left my job, I'd freelance--but would miss benefits, routine, company, sources of self-esteem. And of course income.
I'll bet the freelance field is now very crowded.