Trying To Find A Few Reasons To Be Cheerful

Trying To Find A Few Reasons To Be Cheerful

Can’t believe it’s been two weeks since NYC’s been on lockdown. Weathering this storm turned out to be harder than I had anticipated. But I am back to my normal crusty self – in no small part due to my friends. I knew I had great people in my life but now I really know it!

One thing I have noticed about being at home (as pictured above) is how comforting it is for me to write while I’m propped up on my couch, especially when it’s a gorgeous day out and sunlight is streaming in from my South-facing windows.

Apparently my home is so comforting because it is Vastu Compliant.

I came across this India Tribune article on Vastu tips for COVID-19.

Vastu Shastra is the science of how we can balance energy at home to bring harmony. It’s like the Indian feng shui and is being promoted as a way to improve our shut-in experience.

  • They suggest facing East while studying, working on a computer, watching television or using other electronics. Why? Because the East is the direction from which you get lots of positive energy as rays continuously pass from the East to the West.
  • Secondly, once you face East, you are more focused on whatever activity you are doing.
  • And guess what? When I’m sitting on my couch (as I am right now), I am facing East.
  • But before you start re-arranging your furniture, there’s more!
Scroll down for the 10 things that have (mainly) cheered me up this week.
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Anybody Else Reduced To Weeping Uncontrollably?

Anybody Else Reduced To Weeping Uncontrollably?

On Saturday Brad called me from AZ to ask me how things were going and suddenly, out of nowhere, I was bawling my eyes out — to the point where I couldn’t even utter a coherent sentence.

Was it just 2 weeks of isolation or something more?

Brad kept asking me to repeat what I was saying because I was babbling through the tears and he couldn’t understand me. I was shocked at the depths of my grief. I am not a weepy person (as all of my friends will attest) so this was really unnerving for me.

What set me off over the weekend was hearing about so many people losing their jobs and livelihoods. In many cases, these are people who have given their all to build small businesses and poof! just like that, it’s all gone.

It brings back vivid, scary memories of how it went down for me in 2010 when I closed my business in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis (and before that having weathered the dotcom crash and the horror of 9/11). However, none of those situations were remotely like this. I was able to survive with some serious belt-tightening. But you can’t tighten your belt when they’ve taken away your pants. What’s happening now will take years to recover from, both for large and small businesses. Millions of jobs lost.

So why am I going out on a limb to write this post?
  1. I’m just gutted about what this shutdown has done to employment and small businesses in this country. I’m retired so I’m not bitching for myself but so many friends who lost their jobs at the blink of an eye now find themselves with zero funds for basics like food and rent. They worked their tails off and to me, it looks like no consideration was given to them and how they were going to survive. It was almost like grandstanding by our local politicians to show us how important it was to them to be able to say they’ve “saved even one life.” And now, double whammy. After it looked like Washington was going to push through a much needed stimulus package for workers and small businesses, we get a big fat NOTHING!
  2. I definitely feel manipulated by people like our mayor (and to a lesser extent our governor) who are going all out to have me buy into their hysteria. And I’m cynical about their solutions. The goal is clearly to terrify people to the point where none of us raise any questions about whether shutting the whole city down is the best solution – especially when they know exactly who will be hit hardest by the virus.
I know I think differently than many of you about these issues.

For example, to me coronavirus is less scary than having a 20-30% unemployment rate. However, that doesn’t mean I’m being foolish. I am self-isolating, social distancing and I am scrubbing my hands dozens of times a day.

And I am 70 so fully aware that I have a target on my back for coronavirus based on the average age of Italy’s victims (78.5) as well as Germany’s (82). Knowing this information actually makes me less anxious because I know I have to be extra vigilant about taking care of myself. I’m playing the odds but with 80% of cases mild, I believe the odds are still in my favor. But it seriously makes me wonder why we aren’t being more strategic about who should be isolated and protected.

Which is why I want facts to balance out the panic.

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NYC Coronavirus Update #3: Now In The Hunkering Down Phase

NYC Coronavirus Update #3: Now In The Hunkering Down Phase

Flatten the curve” made more sense to me than almost anything else I’ve read or heard about this virus. It finally got me to stop whining about how bored I was and inspired me to get busy filling this time of solitude with things that are productive and fun.

What’s life been like recently?

I’ve been quasi-hunkered down ever since I returned from my travels but I was still able to go to the gym every day and go out to eat. I even got beautified with one last pedicure and one last round of hair color before my salons closed (temporarily I hope).

But then last Thursday, the city and the state clamped down. That’s when the mood changed from “OK, really?” to “Holy shit, WTF!” Announcements were released by the hour of EVERYTHING closing, from Broadway shows to restaurants/bars to sporting events. Even retailers like Apple and Nike shut down.

So after being grumpy for the last week, I’m now taking the bull by the horns and creating a new, albeit monastic, life for myself in the age of coronavirus.

I also came across these notes from a recent Goldman Sachs investors’ call that not only provide the best analysis of the coronavirus situation, they also provide perspective and give me hope that this too will pass. Worth reading in its entirety but key takeaways below:

  • 50% of Americans will contract the virus (150m people) as it’s very communicable. This is on a par with the common cold (Rhinovirus) of which there are about 200 strains and of which the majority of Americans will get 2-4 per year.
  • Peak-virus is expected over the next eight weeks, declining thereafter.
  • Of those impacted 80% will be early-stage, 15% mid-stage and 5% critical-stage. Early-stage symptoms are like the common cold and mid-stage symptoms are like the flu; these are stay at home for two weeks and rest. 5% will be critical and highly weighted towards the elderly.
  • Mortality rate on average of up to 2%, again, heavily weighted towards the elderly and immunocompromised; meaning up to 3m people (150m*.02). In the US about 3m/yr die mostly due to old age and disease, those two being highly correlated. There will be significant overlap, so this does not mean 3m new deaths from the virus, it means elderly people dying sooner due to respiratory issues. This may however stress the healthcare system. [Not the best news for those of us over 70 but a strong warning that we need to be particularly vigilant about self-isolation.]
  • There will be economic damage from the virus itself, but the real damage is driven mostly by market psychology. Stock markets should fully recover in the 2nd half of the year.
Scroll down for 10 ways to turn self-isolation into a healthy, entertaining, and educational experience.
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Two New Stores That Really “Get” Millennials and GenZ

Two New Stores That Really “Get” Millennials and GenZ

Mejuri and Studs both set up shop in my neighborhood last year. I’ve been keeping close tabs on them because they’re transforming the jewelry experience into something much more fun and cool than we typically associate with the category. It appears they’re taking their cues from brands like Glossier and DryBar more than from Tiffany’s at the high end or Claire’s (RIP) at the low end.

Secrets of their success

Both stores were designed with Instagram and social media events in mind. Mejuri is the more elegant of the two (photos below). Studs, on the other hand, was highly praised by Vogue for being the “Glossier of piercing studios.” Which may have attracted Kaia Gerber to drop in for her recent ear piercings and garnering lots of coverage on social media for Studs.

Studs is the newest kid on the block

The two cofounders of Studs, Anna Harman and Lisa Bubbers, have a long history with startups, and a story not too dissimilar to the founder of DryBar (which it resembles in all its gorgeous yellowness!). Prices are reasonable and they’ve gotten some great coverage including from sites like Man Repeller.

At first I thought Studs was a pre-Christmas pop up but it’s a test store for future brick and mortar expansion. Judging by the crowds lined up daily on Prince Street, it has the potential to be a long term addition to the neighborhood.

Kudos to Studs for creating such a fun, cheeky store (their puns are hilarious).

Scroll down for more on Mejuri.
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How Can Uniqlo Stay In Business? They Need To Charge More! (+Quiz)

How Can Uniqlo Stay In Business? They Need To Charge More! (+Quiz)

Take the Fashion Footprint Calculator Test below!!

I’m getting ready for my South American trip and wanted a few items to replenish my travel wardrobe. I found a stylish all-cotton black tunic top at Uniqlo. The tag said $19.90. I went back a day later to buy two more and realized they were actually marked down to $5.90 each.

They’re all cotton, made in Vietnam and look terrific. But I must say I was horrified that Uniqlo feels they need to give them away at less than $6 a piece. I didn’t feel elated, I felt sad that this entire store was in all likelihood filled with similar markdowns. How can they possibly stay in business at this rate?

I’m Thrifty But Fast Fashion Doesn’t Compel Me To buy

As most of you know, fashion is not really my thing. And although I am frugal, I am not tempted to buy a sale item just because it’s a “deal.”

But what prompted this post today is my need to vent about how appallingly cheap clothes have become. And secondarily, to bemoan the fact that Uniqlo may not be long for this world if this is what it takes to make a sale.

I’ve been reading a lot about fashion trying to save the planet

A bit like tobacco companies claiming it’s their mission to stop us from smoking (which is why they’ve invested in vaping companies)! Actions speak louder than words and what I’m hearing is straight up greenwashing.

Per this CNN article, according to the United Nations, the fashion industry is responsible for 8-10% of all global carbon emissions.

That amounts to more emissions than all international flights and maritime shipping combined. The fashion industry also generates 20% of the world’s wastewater.

But before we place all blame on business and the fashion industry, let’s look in the mirror. The average consumer today buys 60% more pieces of clothing than they did 15 years ago, and keeps each item for half as long.

ThredUP, which describes itself as the world’s largest fashion resale platform, wants fashion consumers to understand their role in fashion waste. They’ve created a tool called the Fashion Footprint Calculator to help shoppers understand the impact their fashion choices have on the environment (scroll down for the link). It’s obviously self-serving, but I took the test anyway and not to boast (but yes, I am boasting), my footprint was 68% lower than the average consumer!

Scroll down and take ThredUP’s test Now!!
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Wind Trends? Yes, Super Cool, Love It But ….

Wind Trends? Yes, Super Cool, Love It But ….

Wind will account for the largest share of new electric capacity in 2020 – YAY! But wind will still only account for 4% of total US energy use. And here’s an appalling fact: 66% of the energy generated by the electric power industry ends up being wasted!

Renewable Energy

According to Clean Technica, over the last decade (between 2008 and 2018), total renewable energy production has doubled, including a five-fold increase in wind power. Wind and solar combined now produce more electricity than hydroelectric power, which dominated renewable energy for decades.

Renewable vs. Fossil Fuels

But 80% of the nation’s energy still comes from coal, oil and natural gas. In 2018, fossil fuels were down slightly from 84% a decade earlier. Coal use has declined in recent years while natural gas use has soared, and oil’s share of the nation’s energy tab fluctuates between 35% and 40%.” (Source: Pew Research)

Before we pat ourselves on the back for giving up plastic straws, let’s consider this:

Only 34% of the energy generated by the electric power industry reaches end users. 66% is wasted in the process of generating, transmitting and distributing power mostly as heat from vehicle exhausts and industrial furnaces.

Not surprisingly, Donald Trump weighed in on wind!

Scroll down for more from the US Energy Information Agency as well as top trends from the American Wind Energy Association (worth a read!!)
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“Take Care of Yo’ Chicken” – Best Financial Advice Ever!

“Take Care of Yo’ Chicken” – Best Financial Advice Ever!

First: Major shout out to Downtown Josh Brown for putting Marshawn Lynch on my radar. Second: If you haven’t seen Marshawn’s post-game interview, watch it now (below). Third: Order the t-shirt and spread the word. I just ordered mine!

Marshawn Lynch’s financial advice.
Marshawn Lynch is one smart cookie

Hoodies and t-shirts sporting the “take care of yo’ chicken” slogan (with the C designed as a dollar sign), showed up on Lynch’s website this past Tuesday. I ordered mine yesterday (Jan 15). Not cheap (hoodies are $70 and t-shirts $39.95). Plus, Lynch makes you pay for shipping – but hey, lots of respect for being smart about his business.

For those of you not up on your slang (and this phrase was new to me also), chicken = money.

Scroll down for the script of his interview (especially if you’d rather read, than watch).
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What A Mess! Nothing But Empty Storefronts And Unsold Condos.

What A Mess! Nothing But Empty Storefronts And Unsold Condos.

This weekend as I walked from 8th Street to Prince Street in Soho, I was appalled by what I saw. At least 50% of the storefronts were vacant. It is DISMAL to walk around NYC at the moment – nothing but scaffolding and homeless encampments in front of empty storefronts.

How did all the smart folk in Commercial Real Estate end up so unprepared and misinformed about what the future holds for them? Years after retail hit the skids, people like Abe Rosen (who I adore and respect) were still buying buildings and crowing about how the groundfloor space would make a perfect flagship for Hermes or whatever. I don’t get it. The writing was on the wall back in 2014 when I started this blog. Whether it’s Hudson Yards or Fifth Avenue or any other prime retail corridor around the country, the gig for retail and overpriced condos is up!

Commercial real estate in a meltdown AND out of touch

With empty storefronts as far as the eye can see, how long before the first commercial real estate giant goes belly up? Googling the subject brings up precious little but it’s going to happen I have no doubt.

Why? Because this is just the tip of the iceberg. for every 1% increase in online shopping, 8,000 stores close.

While there are thousands of articles blaming “greedy” landlords (and there are certainly some), I believe this reflects a much more systemic shift in how we shop and the changing value we place on “stuff.”

Ultimately, this will lead to commercial bankruptcies that will make the 2010 housing crisis look like a walk in the park.

I know real estate people take the long view and many of these projects were started decades ago but doing more of the same (when it’s not working) strikes me as ridiculous. Retail is not coming back even with rents dropping, e.g., rents along Upper Madison Avenue (57th to 77th Streets) dropped 11.7% from a year ago. No takers. Empty storefront upon empty storefront.

The building frenzy of high priced condos over the last decade, likewise, is not sustainable. It shows developers are out of touch with reality and out of step with the times. While the price for almost everything we buy these days has gone down, condo prices are skyrocketing. It’s totally out of wack.

Scroll down for more on retail as well as residential real estate
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