Category Archives: Uncategorized

Anecdotal Evidence of an Economic Recovery (or do men always dance on tables?)

As I finally arise after 10 blissful hours of sleep to a balmy 12 degree day in Boston, I am happy to be home. This is for at least two reasons. For those of you who read my previous post you know that I no longer like being away from my family, I missed them from the moment I left. Not to mention that we have our first big snow of the year coming and it will be nice to do a bit of sledding.

The second reason is that the 10 hours of sleep I got last night was approximately equal to the sum of sleep of the three previous nights. When I signed up for the red eye flight, I completely forgot that during the holiday season in London, festive drinking begins at noon and ends when no one will fill your glass any longer.

It really was a fun trip. I got to catch up with almost everyone that I had hoped to see. As is always the case for me in London we spent lots of time in debate about just about anything. It’s always great to be able to drop in to a conversation as if you had just been there yesterday. Had lots of great food capped by my favorite Lobster Roll at Burger and Lobster in Mayfair. The only difficulty was that by the time I got there I was either near or into double digits in terms of glasses filled (and emptied). To be honest, I’m not really sure as I am totally out of practice with competitive drinking.

This was the penultimate stop of the evening which led us to a bar that shall remain nameless in Mayfair. Upon our arrival at Midnight (legal closing time for bars in London) we were greeted by the sight of Fire Marshall’s entering the bar. Did that stop us? Nah! As we descended the stairs the sound and temperature climbed at a rapid rate. When we got to the basement we saw 200 or so people crowded into a barely lit room. It took me a minute to realize that the lack of lighting was a blessing. At the front of the room there were ten or so aged 40+ white men (bankers) dancing on tables. Not necessarily a sight for the feint of heart. This went on fueled by magnums of whatever the bar had left until one guy missed a step……

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This was my cue to begin the search for a cab. London isn’t NYC so you could imagine the pickings were slim…. Anyway, I survived and no I don’t dance!

The interesting take away was that the mood in London was nothing short of ebullient. Everyone I met was happy, relaxed, and hopeful. Now I get what you all are thinking, “of course they’re happy, they’re the 1%”. Thats fair but the past 5 years haven’t been fun for most of these guys and usually theres cynicism and a bit of resignation in their conversation. I saw none of that. Not to mention that the shops, restaurants, and of course the bars were filled with lots of people carrying lots of bags of stuff. BTW, if you haven’t been to London for the holidays, you must go even if its only for a few days. Similar to NYC but very different.

I keep hearing about GDP being up, unemployment being down, inflation staying low. I am always skeptical of any of these government issued statistics. now seeing people eating, drinking, and shopping in copious quantities……….that gives me hope.

Time Flies and so do I

photoI’m sitting here in the departure lounge at Logan Airport. Of course my flight is delayed as someone saw a few snowflakes this afternoon.

The delay gives me time to think and that occasionally leads to something that could pass as reflective!

I’m off to London, my favorite city in the world (as I have told all of you a million times) to see some friends for a quick boondoggle. As an aside, I am convinced that this bout of eating and drinking will give me the inspiration to finish my remaining papers for the semester at HKS. Ironically, it is precisely two years and one day since I retired from my job as regional head of a large hedge fund based in London.

It was an exciting life in London, great food, great travel, loads of history and culture, great friends. Leaving was one of the hardest things we have ever done. Of course the job was hard work and hard play. In reality London was the closing act of a role that lasted for 20 years. That role involved lots of time, lots of thought, lots of talking, and not a small amount of ego.

For those of you who haven’t been there, finance is as Malcolm Gladwell says, a game of confidence. Being good and being effective means that you always need to “be the guy”. Of course that’s not always free. My family really didn’t care if I was the guy. They just wanted me to be the dad, the husband. Many times after 14 hours of work it was difficult to change gears. It’s not that my family life wasn’t good. Its just that I always knew that it could be better.

Retirement meant relocation and we chose to come to Boston. To be honest, I was reticent at best. I knew no one here and I wasn’t going to work, at least right away. How would I connect with people. Having the 53 year old dad running the PTO meetings could seem a bit odd.

To make a long story short, it’s worked out just fine. We have in a reasonably short period of time started to grow roots as a family in a neighborhood. Expats don’t grow roots, I think they grow lots of branches.

My daughters are happy. They have a great school, great friends, and lots of activities that they enjoy. Kim has good friends, is involved with the school, and is swimming again. As for me well I’m one of the oldest students in the world although I’m trying really hard to “act” like a grad student. School is fun and the people are great. I have found some good restaurants, some good friends, and a couple of causes to keep my interest.  I have translated my hatred of the Yankees to a like/love of the Sox.

Most importantly, I have found that the thing I love most is being a husband and father. before starting school, I had 18 months at home. I was worried about what I would do. The time went so fast. Now that I’m in school theres a bit of balancing but nothing like before.

My kids are amazing, smart, funny, caring. Now we have two cats. The girls care for them as if they were their children. Amazing to watch. And the best part is that I’m not missing it.

Kim and I had a transition period. Having me at home was at times (most) a pain in her ass!!! I tend to meddle in stuff that I’m clueless about. But being with her every day is great. It really doesn’t matter what were doing as long as its together. I look forward to whats next for US.

I guess that the point of all of this is that where my family is, is my home and now that home is in Boston. I have no idea what our future holds other than that we will live it together. And so I know that it will all work out.

In the past I have always thought that London would at some point be my home again. Tonight as I sit here, I know that I’m just going for a short visit and then I’ll be coming HOME. Why do I know that? Because I haven’t left and I miss my girls already!!

So thanks for listening. For those of you that I won’t see soon have a great holiday, whatever you do…..

Just a Quick Thought on Immigration

This from a Boston University Study on Boston based startups. 

In the past 13 years there were 43 Boston Area Start ups that achieved a market value of more than $500 mm. 

Over half of these had an immigrant founder!!! Guess this isn’t shocking given that 40% of the Fortune 500 had an immigrant founder.

We definitely need to keep immigrants out of the USA!!!

 

Is it time to boycott the Mets???


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Last night before I went to sleep I got a message from the Boston Globe. “Jacoby Ellsbury and the New York Yankees have agreed on a seven year deal worth $153 million. My first reaction was, Typical Yankees. I wasn’t mad, just resigned and envious of the New York team that I haven’t invested most of my life in.

As a contrast, two weeks ago, the other New York team announced a big move. “Free-agent outfielder Chris Young has reached agreement on a one-year contract with the New York Mets, a baseball source confirmed to ESPN.com on Friday. The deal is for $7.25 million, a source said.”

While both players are 30 years old, the similarities end there. Last year Ellsbury hit .298 and stole 52 bases for the World Champion Boston Red Sox. He is a gold glove center fielder and lead off hitter. On the other hand Chris Young hit .200 with 12 home runs and lost his starting job with the A’s a year after suffering the same fate with the Diamondbacks.

Now those of us who are Mets fans are used to this. Over the past 38 years (the free agent era) we have watched other teams, particularly the Yankees pursue and land the best free agent players for their teams. The Mets on the other hand have for the most part avoided the best (read most expensive) free agent and typically gone after second tier players. Do any of you remember VInce Coleman?

Many of us have tried to convince ourselves that the Mets couldn’t compete with the Yankees, because they have so much more money. Why have we believed that? Both teams have luxurious new (somewhat publicly financed) stadiums, both own their own TV networks, and both play in the largest, richest city in the world. Maybe its that the Bronx is so much more luxurious than Queens!!!!!!

Once upon a time, New York was a National League city and the Mets consistently drew more fans than the Yankees. Now, its as if the Mets are the minor league team in town.

I can’t escape the fact that the problem with the Mets is the ownership. The real question is are the Wilpons stupid, cheap or both? 

To get a different look at this I have done a bit more than just look at payroll. What I have done is weighted each major league city by population and income. To be fair, for each city with two teams I divided the population in half. Then I looked at each team’s payroll in the context of the value of the team. While you may think that the Mets are being run like a mid market team, the results are clear. The Mets are the equivalent of the Houston Astros!!

Team Metro Area Population  Med Inc Regional Income (Millions)  2013 Payroll (Millions)  Ratio
Reds Cincinnati 1,979,202 22,947  $45,417  $106 0.23339%
Brewers Milwaukee 1,689,572 23,003  $38,865  $83 0.21356%
Royals Kansas City 1,776,062 23,326  $41,428  $82 0.19793%
Cardinals St. Louis 2,603,607 22,698  $59,097  $116 0.19629%
Pirates Pittsburgh 2,358,695 20,935  $49,379  $79 0.15999%
Giants San Fran 3,600,000 30,769  $110,768  $140 0.12639%
D’Backs Phoenix 3,251,876 21,907  $71,239  $89 0.12493%
Dodgers Los Angeles 8,200,000 21,170  $173,594  $216 0.12443%
Indians Cleveland 2,945,831 22,319  $65,748  $78 0.11863%
Phillies Philadelphia 6,188,463 23,699  $146,660  $165 0.11250%
Tigers Detroit 5,456,428 24,275  $132,455  $148 0.11174%
Rays Tampa 2,395,997 21,784  $52,194  $58 0.11112%
Rockies Denver 2,581,506 26,011  $67,148  $72 0.10723%
Nationals Wash-Balt 3,800,000 28,175  $107,065  $114 0.10648%
White Sox Chicago 4,600,000 24,581  $113,073  $119 0.10524%
Padres San Diego 2,813,833 22,926  $64,510  $67 0.10386%
Twins Minneapolis 2,968,806 26,219  $77,839  $76 0.09764%
Red Sox Boston 5,819,100 26,856  $156,278  $151 0.09662%
Rangers Dallas 5,221,801 23,616  $123,318  $114 0.09244%
Cubs Chicago 4,600,000 24,581  $113,073  $104 0.09198%
Braves Atlanta 4,112,198 25,033  $102,941  $90 0.08743%
Orioles Wash–Balt 3,800,000 28,175  $107,065  $92 0.08593%
Yankees New York 10,600,000 26,604  $282,002  $228 0.08085%
Mariners Seattle 3,554,760 25,744  $91,514  $72 0.07868%
Angels Los Angeles 8,200,000 21,170  $173,594  $127 0.07316%
Athletics San Fran 3,600,000 30,769  $110,768  $61 0.05507%
Marlins Miami 3,876,380 20,454  $79,287  $36 0.04540%
Mets New York 10,600,000 26,604  $282,002  $73 0.02589%
Astros Houston 4,669,571 21,701  $101,334  $22 0.02171%

This metric clearly is biased to the small market teams but it does make you think. If the economic opportunity is larger, and you believe that success creates higher attendance, merchandise sales and TV ratings, shouldn’t you want to spend more to field a successful team?

So either the Mets management think that they are stupid and that they will spend money poorly or they think the fan base is stupid and that fans will still spend a lot of money without getting a quality product. The latter is a low risk proposition if you are confident that you have a captive audience.

Lets look at a different metric. Here I will look at salary as a proportion of estimated franchise value. These values are from 2013 and are taken from Forbes

Team  2013 Payroll (Millions) Franchise Value Ratio
Tigers  $148 $643 23.02%
Reds  $106 $546 19.41%
Phillies  $165 $893 18.48%
Nationals  $114 $631 18.07%
Royals  $82 $457 17.94%
Giants  $140 $786 17.81%
Angels  $127 $718 17.69%
White Sox  $119 $692 17.20%
Pirates  $79 $479 16.49%
Cardinals  $116 $716 16.20%
D’Backs  $89 $584 15.24%
Rangers  $114 $764 14.92%
Orioles  $92 $618 14.89%
Brewers  $83 $562 14.77%
Braves  $90 $629 14.31%
Indians  $78 $559 13.95%
Rockies  $72 $537 13.41%
Dodgers  $216 $1,615 13.37%
Twins  $76 $578 13.15%
Athletics  $61 $468 13.03%
Rays  $58 $451 12.86%
Red Sox  $151 $1,312 11.51%
Mariners  $72 $644 11.18%
Padres  $67 $629 10.65%
Cubs  $104 $1,000 10.40%
Yankees  $228 $2,300 9.91%
Mets  $73 $811 9.00%
Marlins  $36 $520 6.92%

So once again, our beloved Mets have the 2nd lowest ratio of spending to the factor. This time its spending to value. So what the owners are being told is don’t bother to invest you will still be rewarded with a very high value. Of course, if THEY were smart, they would very quickly see what happens when you do invest. You become the Yankees who manage to have 3X the value for a very similar product just four miles away. Incredible.

My fellow fans. We have lived with this for most of the past 35 years. The problem is ownership. Unfortunately, we the fans enable ownership to continue to damage OUR franchise and essentially steal our money.

The bottom line is the Wilpon’s are STUPID AND CHEAP!!!!!!

The only way to let the Wilpon’s know that we are sick of this is to completely boycott our beloved Mets. Than means no going to games (even with free tickets), no watching on television, canceling our MLB packages if applicable, and certainly no purchases of Mets merchandise.

It will be painful but I want my team back. I want to care about games in September. I want to be able to not have to whisper that Im a Met fan!!! 

Lets do this!!!

Remember, Economics are Just Opinions and Opinions are Like……

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Some of you may be aware that this Thursday will bring strikes and rallies in 100 American Cities. These strikes and rallies will be held in and near fast food restaurants across the country. The strikers will be rallying in support of a living wage for fast food employees. Presently, the average fast food worker earns between $8-9 dollars per hour. This is significantly below the official poverty level in the United States. The strikers seek a minimum wage of $15 per hour ($30,000 per year assuming a 40 hour work week) and the right to organize.

This is an issue that is seemingly gaining steam. While there is no traction for a minimum wage increase at the federal level (Congress likely wouldn’t vote on observing Christmas if it was put to a vote), there are a number of states that have either passed laws for higher minimum wage or are debating them at this time.

Additionally, there seems to be increasing support from a diverse group of interests in finding a way to mitigate inequality. A number of economists including Joseph Stiglitz, Robert Reich, and Jeffrey Sachs have come out in support of raising the minimum wage as a way to create greater equality. They noted that the minimum wage has declined in real dollar terms from $12 to $7.25 in the past 45 years. Most interesting is the recent statement from Pope Francis Evangelii Gaudium, a manifesto for the renewal of the church. In the document the Pope decries trickle down economics and inequality.

[S]ome people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting. To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalization of indifference has developed. Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own. The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase; and in the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us.”

Of course, the other side is in an uproar. In addition to some of the usual suspects (Fox News, Rush Limbaugh) branding the Pope a Marxist or a Socialist, there is real concern among the business community around the possibility that their labor costs may increase. They realize correctly, that if the movement gets traction in the fast food sector and in some of the higher population stats that there will be a defacto national increase in the minimum wage regardless of the federal governments inaction. Walmart and other retailers are more than a bit interested in what happens this week.

The central argument against a minimum wage increase is and always has been the same. It is an oversimplified supply and demand argument. Basically for a given demand curve for labor, if price goes up, demand will go down. So it would follow that if the minimum wage goes up, then the people that the increase was intended to benefit would be hurt as businesses would cut employment. This argument is laden with a number of assumptions:

1) Businesses have no pricing power and would have to fully absorb the increased cost of labor. If we assume that this isn’t true (if you have been to the supermarket lately you know this isn’t true) then we understand that business will likely pass some of the increased cost along to everyone. This is especially true if ALL businesses are impacted by the increase in labor cost.

2) That there is a one for one relationship between labor costs and total costs. Again a fallacy. McDonalds labor costs are approximately 20% of revenue. Walmart’s are much lower, say 2-3%. So again, the cost of a Big Mac wouldn’t double. It would increase somewhat but by less than one initially assumes.

3) Large retailers and fast food restaurants can make significant cuts in labor and still serve their customers. Have you been to a McD’s or a Walmart recently??? Yes, I am sure that over time there will be continued technological innovation that will reduce the units of human capital needed to produce a unit of product. I don’t think that an increase in minimum wage will materially change the pace of innovation and I am certain that if Walmart uses any less labor we will all be able to “shop” there for free.

4) None of the increased money paid in labor will be spent in the stores/restaurants that pay the labor. Even Henry Ford understood that paying workers a living wage was good because they then bought stuff that you produced. Not to mention that turnover would decrease and worker satisfaction would be better. It shouldn’t shock any one that minimum wage workers are significant customers of fast food restaurants and big box retailers. Its likely that these entities would capture a significant amount of the increased money available to minimum wage workers in the form of increased sales.

Now there is a another point. At present, there are significant social service transfers (EITC, food stamps, housing credits) to the working poor. These people aren’t the welfare mothers of Ronald Reagan. They are people who work hard in jobs that don’t pay well. We may not like the fact that some of our taxes go to support the working poor but I suspect that most of us would like the results of not supporting them even less. It’s important to note that these government subsidies are not just a transfer of wealth to poor people. They are a direct subsidy to large for profit entities in the form of wage subsidies that allow them to pay less. Also, these wage subsidies get spent in their businesses.

Now, I’m not sure which is more economically efficient higher minimum wages or government assistance, but subsidizing both poor people and corporates is essentially two government transfers and we all know how inefficient the government is. Wouldn’t it just be better to force business to pay a living wage and have them allocate their costs accordingly?

All I ask is that on Thursday you consider the state of minimum wage workers and avoid fast food restaurants and large retailers. It won’t be all that difficult and if enough of us act it will send a message to businesses to do the right thing.

Is America Becoming Pottersville?

As I sit here on a glorious Saturday after turkey in New York City, I am inundated with images of bad behavior in pursuit of what we Americans think of as the “Holiday Spirit of Giving”.

Story after story on the morning news is of people fighting, rampaging, stealing, and ultimately getting arrested, hospitalized, or both. The one thing these stories have in common is that they all take place during “Black Friday” sales. As I watch with a mix of disgust and fascination (think Jerry Springer), I cant help but wonder if is this something isolated or something more symptomatic of a decline in the social fabric of America.

Some of you, especially those of you who are younger or not Americans may be wondering about my comparison to Pottersville. This is a reference to the iconic 1946 film, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” directed by the legendary director Frank Capra, starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed. Stewart plays an honest, hard working, generous, but unlucky local banker who always puts his community, Bedford Falls, above his own needs and interests. After a string of mishaps he is driven to attempt suicide believing that the world would have been better off if he had never existed. Just as he is about to commit the act, an angel intervenes (yes a bit hokey but this was 1946!) and shows Stewart what the world would have been with out one precious person, him!

In this world, Bedford Falls is now Pottersville, the town named for its owner, the miserly Mr. Potter. Potter controls all of the economic activity in Pottersville. Instead of owning nice homes, people rent tenements from Potter. Instead of bookstores, restaurants, clothing stores, and houses of worship Pottersville is dominated by bars, second run movie theaters, liquor stores, and the dreaded dance for a dime dance halls. Public safety is maintained, not, by the community but by a strong police presence. It is in essence every man, woman, and child for themselves. The people are perpetually divided by the power, in this world, Mr. Potter.

Think of the state of our lives in America today. While many of you may disagree, it seems to me that our sense of community is at an all time low. To many, life seems to be harder than ever and as a result we are less charitable and tolerant of our neighbors. I have taken to reading the comments sections of articles in online newspapers. I am shocked at the lack of caring and tolerance that I see. Recently, when reading articles about anti-Walmart protests the comments were at least 20-1 against the protesters and many people stated that people should be thankful that they could get jobs and that it was their fault that people wouldn’t pay them a living wage. I read similar comments (with similar distribution) about working conditions at McDonalds. Again, the people who worked there were essentially blamed for being losers and were told not to complain as they were lucky to have any job. Now these aren’t people who are sitting home collecting welfare. These are the working poor. It seems that their fellow citizens just don’t care. In many ways it betrays a spirit of meanness that i thought wasn’t part of America.

Mr. Potter seems to me to be a euphemism for today’s corporate America. Short sighted, seeking every advantage in pursuit of current profits. Potter is always seeking ways to limit competition and thereby choice for the people of Pottersville. He wants them to be beholden to him for their lives. Does that sound familiar?

As far as the towns that we live in, those of us who live in affluent sections of New York, Boston, or San Francisco spend our days amidst Starbucks, Banana Republic, and three different Private Wealth offices. Yet, just a few miles or blocks away, residents are met with a steady diet of liquor stores, bars, pawn shops, pay day loan providers, and grocery stores without healthy options. Do any of us believe that this doesn’t send a statement to the people who live in these areas?

Let’s not forget about our personal freedoms. Maybe we don’t have the physical police presence that existed in Pottersville. Have any of you heard of stop and frisk? Also, how many of you are aware of the widespread use of government controlled security cameras in your area. We have them in Brookline, a town in which not curbing your dog is considered a big crime. Does anyone other than me think that this is an infringement on our privacy or are we all so afraid that we want to be spied on to find the criminal in our midst? Lets not even mention how all of our online activity is watched and tracked by governments and corporations.

Then there are the social indicators. High rates of prescription drug abuse. High incarceration rates. Did you know that life expectancy for females whom are below the top income quintile is declining? This is the first time in American history that this has happened. There are many reasons for this including increased, smoking, alcohol abuse, and obesity. Maybe it’s also the fact that if you are born poor, your children and their children are likely to be poor too.

Maybe I am so deep in the bubble of my own life that I am misinterpreting the things I see around me. After all, most of the people I know ARE hard working, caring, and generous people. It’s just that I can’t escape the fact that I feel that America has become a much harsher place than I remember.

Heck, even the movie, It’s a Wonderful Life has been impacted. Once upon a time it was shown 100’s of times a year. Then the rights to the movie were bought by NBC (read Comcast, a large monopolistic corporation) and now it gets shown only once per year.

When I was in high school, we used to worry about living in a world like the one in 1984. Maybe we should have been afraid of Pottersville.

I really want to be an optimist about my country. What I am saying is that this holiday season, we all need to take stock and think about what kind of community we want to spend our lives in. I know that I will.

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year…

Thanksgiving week is upon us. This is, IMHO the best American holiday. Who doesn’t like eating so much that you fall asleep at 4:30PM while watching one of America’s legendary NFL franchises, the Detroit Lions lose yet again? Of course, most of us do this with our families, just the beginning of a 5 week period of reliving our childhoods, good or bad. The best news for those of us in the Boston area is that hopefully well see fewer mean turkeys roaming the streets on Friday.

To those of you away from home or new to America, I hope that you find a way to partake in the joys of the holiday and of the season in general.

The most exciting part of Thanksgiving to most Americans (and a lot of Europeans judging by the empty suitcases I always saw on the BA flight to NYC during this week) is that it is the unofficial kickoff of the holiday shopping season. Back in simpler times, like five years ago, people would stuff their faces on Thanksgiving and go to bed early just so they could wake up early to get to Walmart for their $59 television or their $10 George Foreman Indoor Grill (“Limited Quantities Apply”). Oh, did I mention that every year someone dies running through the aisles trying to rip the last $25 DVD player from grandma’s hands!

Now America’s greatest retailers have solved the problem. How you ask? By opening their stores on Thanksgiving day. This will bring to ONE the number of days where underpaid employees are actually allowed to take the day off to spend with their families. I’ll let you all guess which day that is.

Now of course retailers have given all of those minimum wage employees the option of not working on the holiday. I imagine the memo read something like this:

“Crappy retailer XYZ has decided to respond to overwhelming demand from its fabulous customer base to spend their money ASAP. As a result we will be opening on Thanksgiving Day. It is optional for associates to join our family on Thanksgiving. For those of you who wish to spend the day with your families, we wish you a happy holiday season and best of luck in 2014″

The reality is that most of these people do not have the option of saying no to their employer and will need to go to work to keep their jobs.

What should we do about this? I am vowing right now that I will not spend a penny at any of the retailers that are open on Thanksgiving Day. I hope that each of you will be encouraged to do the same. After all, its likely that manufacturers made enough stuff for all of you to get everything you want. Also, the best sales usually take place closer to the holiday when retailers panic that they will be hung with excess inventory.

Heres a list of America’s “finest” retailers who have chosen to be open on Thanksgiving. Please boycott these stores:

Walmart
Best Buy
Michaels
Toys R’Us
Sports Authority
Old Navy
Bon-Ton
Dicks Sporting Goods
JC Penney
Kohls
Macy’s
Modells
Office Depot
Office Max
Sears
Shopko
Target
Staples

Heres a list of the retailers who are allowing their staff a day with family. Please support these stores:

AAFES Exchange
Aeropostale
Ace Hardware
Bass Pro Shops
Bed, Bath, & Beyond
BJ’s Wholesale Club
Costco
Fred’s
GameStop
Gordmans
Half Price Books
Harbor Freight Tools
Havertys
Home Depot
JoAnn Fabrics
Lowe’s
Meandrous
Nordstrom
PETCO
PetSmart
Radio Shack
Rite Aid
Sam’s Club
Sportsmans Warehouse
Stein Mart
Tommy Hilfiger

Wishing you all a happy and healthy Thanksgiving!!!

O’Ya is Awesome!!!

Last night got off to a somewhat inauspicious start. As usual, I was dependent on my GPS to get us to our destination for the evening. Also as usual, I also didn’t listen to Kim who told me that the GPS seemed to be sending us in an odd way. Who knew that there was more than one East Street in Boston and that one of them was in an industrial part of Dorchester. The good news is that as I am so neurotic about being late, we still had time to drive to the right East Street in time for our 8:30 reservation at O’Ya.

What we didn’t know is that we could have gone to East Street in Southboro and back and still have been in time to be seated. O’ya is located in an old brick building in the Boston’s financial district. The decor is modern without eliminating some of the character of the original space. The dining area is small with seating for about 20 at tables with a similar amount of space at the sushi bar.

Upon our arrival we were told that there would be a brief wait. At 9:00 we were asked if we wanted a drink. At 9:15 we were brought some appetizers to keep us from passing out (amazing oysters with watermelon pearls and a cucumber mignonette). By 9:30 we were told that our dinner would be 50% off (not a small amount at O’Ya). The issue was a 2 tables of 5 each with 3 relatively young women and 2 old, drunk farts that had been seated at 6PM. Clearly they were attempting to improve their odds.

Finally, blissfully at 10PM we were seated. We were hungry and frustrated but that lasted about 30 seconds. Eric, our caring and knowledgable server promptly asked us if we had any dislikes or allergy issues. Rather than order off the menu, we just allowed Eric to bring us the best that O’Ya has to offer. That out of the way, the cavalcade of culinary pleasure began.

There were so many amazing tastes. Ill go over a few. Salmon Tataki with torched tomato and Onion Aioli. Very sweet and clean tasting. Hamachi with a spicy pepper mousse which complimented the fish perfectly. Homemade Fingerling Potato Chip with Black Truffle was amazing and something I never had imagined as Sushi. We had a few of those! My favorite of the night was Kyoto Style Black Trumpet Mushrooms with Garlic and Soy. These tasted just like Kobe Beef. Oh yeah, we had some of that too. Our dinner closed with Foie Gras Sushi with Balsamic Chocolate Kabayaki, Raisins, and Sake. I really struggled to tell Eric to stop bringing food even though we were all stuffed to the gills.

Of course there was still desert. This was led by a Sake that reminded me of a nice Tawny Port. Chocolate Molten Cake, Cheese Cake, Raspberry Sorbet, and Creme led the way of yet another amazing course. I usually skip dessert in Japanese restaurants as its the weakest course. Not at O’Ya.

I have been fortunate to eat at some of the worlds best Sushi restaurants: Masa and Sushi Yasuda in New York, Nobu, Yashin, and SushiSay In London, and numerous places I don’t remember in Tokyo. O’ya is the best of them all, hands down. It is a great room, with great, attentive service, and delicious, inventive food.

Now its not cheap. Im not sure what it actually costs as they ultimately comped our whole meal as an apology for keeping us waiting so long. I’m told that one should expect to spend between $150-200 per person. IMHO, its well worth it!