Monday, September 22, 2008
A Yankee Afternoon
New York is the kind of town that retains a number of very particular personality traits. In spite of all the ups and downs (1975- “Ford to NY: Drop Dead” 1977- “the Blackout” 1987- “the Black Monday Crash”... ) the list goes on. In fact I suppose last Monday could be considered the new Black Monday (why isn't it Mauve?) given it was the culmination of the uneasieness in the markets we 've all felt for months, and were waiting to play out. Be honest – you really didn't think the neo voodoo economics would go on forever did you? We all hoped we'd have some magical insight and dump all our investments at the top of the market. Here is a little fact: NO ONE DID THAT. All the geniuses are wrong at least half the time. I paid some money to receive the vaunted advice of Tobin (Toby) Smith.. the Changewave theory newsletter. He had some very interesting ideas in terms of how you had to look at the changes in societal habits to see what was coming (green energy, hi tech saturation.. .etc.) However, like all the others I invested time and money in along the way... Mark Skousen.. Doug Casey.. they just didn't get it nearly as right as they'd hoped, and as I'd hoped. So, you end up making something here, losing it there, and realizing that you should only invest in what you know.
A good friend who had come into some money – a photographer actually – decided that the uncertainty of the stock market was much riskier than the one thing he knew: photographs. So, he emptied his account, took the cash, and bought dozens, perhaps hundreds (I haven't seen the collection of prints yet...) of vintage photos from the photographers he loves – the ones who inspired him, the ones who he knows and has a vin blanc with, and the ones whose work just plain make him understand the power of the visual just a little better. That work has probably doubled in value. Maybe more. Now of course the photo market will have its cycles like everything else, but I think there probably is something very smart about investing in what you know. Alas, that includes me not, for the most part. Each time I have tried to invest in something I knew, I timed it badly, or didn't know it as well as I thought I did. Who else do you know who sold Berkshire Hathaway for a loss? There was a time when I thought if I'd just make a Burnett Session Mutual Fund, I might be better off: it was based on the idea that every interesting person or company who I photographed ... I would take the money earned on that job, and buy that stock. Over the years it would have included Microsoft, Intel, Apple, all at much lower levels than today. But you just never know unless you put your money where your mouth is.
Last Monday, I photographed down on Wall Street, and was consistently surprized by the way tourists were ambling through, taking pictures of both the Stock Exchange (with the road closed to vehicles, it's almost like a walking street now) and the Federal Hall statue of George Washington just across the small plaza. George can't be that happy with what's doing these days, and one hopes that eventually the grown ups inside the NYSE start to act with a little more sanity.
At the other end of Manhattan, today, another ritual was unwinding. After 85 years of existence, much of it of a very historic nature, Yankee Stadium saw it's last baseball game. Ruth, Mantle, Larsen, Mize, Berra, Maris, Stengel, the list is endless of the colorful and larger than life souls who ruled that grass. Even the modern day stars, Jeter, Giambi, A-Rod, and Rivera, have seen the place from the inside. Painted over the walk way to the dugouts from the locker room is a quote from Joltin' Joe Dimaggio: “I thank the Good Lord for making me a New York Yankee.” Better than any press agent could make up, isn't it. A wonderful self-written obituary, with help from Tom Verducci the writer, is in this weeks' Sports Illustrated. It's full of history, and wonderful secrets of the place; and well worth a read. Today, with friend Rick Bennion to carry the tripod (he hoped to emerge as Key Grip by day's end) we trouped on the 4 train to 161st street, just to share one of those moments which New Yorkers revel in: to display in full street threads outward love for a sports team. It was good fun, and probably would have made me cry if I'd gone inside, but I made no arrangements with the Press office, and was happy just to wander under the tracks (right field) and see the nutty citifolk who wandered in, many dressed in full Yankee regalia. None of them actually looked anything like their namesakes, but it was kind of cool to see Mantle, Ruth and Maris's names again. And just as we left the train, we arrived at the far right field (outside the stadium) area.. and there was a crowd gathered in a big circle. Rather like the old days of the Soviet Union, when you would join a line long before ever finding out what it was for.. we headed there, to find out that – surprize of all surprizes – Harlan Chamberlain, father of pitching ace Joba, was signing jerseys, programs and baseballs. Now, I may not know a whole lot about the world of paid autographs, but I have to think that Joba's dad's John Hancock probably wont' be worth a whole lot. But the idea was wonderful. To the folks IN that line, it meant a great deal, and I'm sure it falls into the category of “feels like a million bucks” even if it actually isn't. Great, as it should be. Just enjoy it. With the financial scares ongoing, we take refuge where we can, and if a signed jersey from Harlan is what you have, well, so much the better. It may not make the DoW pop back up to twelve thousand anytime soon, but if it gives seventy thousand city folks a day of breath, I'm right there. Now, if I could only find my sharpie, I'd have him sign my Speed Graphic.... we're just sayin.... David