Tag Archives: New York City

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.

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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!!!

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.

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!