Sometimes, during the course of the here and now, we transcend forward in thought. We take what is and ponder what could be. We’re taught this is how to fashion our future.
Sometimes, the stress of the present or the fear of the future forces some to go in a different direction — to their place of comfort, where it’s safe — where they’re reminded of who they are in the face of losing themselves in the swirl of the moment.
I found myself back in time last week at Inman’s Real Estate Connect in New York. I found it to be a worthwhile endeavor, if only for a brief moment.
It gave me the running room I needed to blast forward.
Nothing lasts forever
Early Friday morning, just past 1 a.m. The second long day of Real Estate Connect NYC 2008 under my belt. Earlier, dinner at the Noho Star was as it always is. It’s a place that never lets me down.
Down the street, east from the restaurant, sitting boarded up under a dimly lit streetlamp was CBGB’s. While our group contemplated our next destination, I stood facing my past in silent memorial. I’d seen more shows there than I can count during the ’70s and performed on stage there more than I probably remember during the early ’80s.
Like so many things that once define us then fade into the past, this one was particularly hard to reconcile. A club among a sea of clubs, CBGB rose to great importance and became a symbol for an entire generation. My six-year-old now wears his CBGB t-shirt as a fashion statement. Back then I wore one because it represented change.
CBGB’s is now a memory. Gone. Like childhood. Like all good things from our past, we paste them inside our life’s scrapbook. Every so often, we take them out and stare at them wistfully.
Nothing lasts forever.
Everything was once a nickel
Wasn’t it just yesterday that I was that little curly-haired troublemaker walking these very same streets? Grandpa would take me on strolls holding one hand as I ate B&W cookies with the other. He’d tell stories about when he was young growing up in the Lower East Side. Each street held a tale that yearned to be told, he would say. He was a spokesman of the past, about how things were — back when movies were a nickel.
Seems like everything was once a nickel.
That night, I conjured up Grandpa. As we all walked, I became the spokesman for the past. Of what it was like when I was young. About how things were for me — back when movies were 50 cents.
It seems like everything was once 50 cents.
The evening’s gentle rain served me well. It cloaked the few tears of joy I shed reliving a time when everything seemed so perfect. When life was fun. Exciting. When it all made sense. And when it didn’t, there was someone there to put it back into perspective. If only I could live in that forever.
Even ghosts enjoy a late-night stroll
New Yorkers love to walk. We escape by getting sucked into the sea of anonymity. We recharge by stepping inside those invisible footprints we left years ago as children.
For a time, during tonight’s walk from Bond and Lafayette up past Washington Square Park, I stepped in my own footprints of the past. As we headed up 5th Ave, Grandpa rounded the corner and joined me. I guess even ghosts enjoy a late-night stroll. He gently cupped my hand in his, whispered stories I had long forgotten. I chose to leave the B&W cookie out of the fantasy. When you hit a certain age, calories tend to seep in just thinking about them.
Up by Union Square our little group stopped at Starbucks for coffee. These days it’s referred to as a tall, no drip. Add in some steamed milk and a flavor and you’re down $4.
I don’t remember coffee tasting this good. I don’t remember when Union Square looked this good. The present sure has its advantages.
Winter Connect 2008
The Real Estate Connect conference this year will be remembered as a sobering event. I overheard many conversations about real estate’s recent past. About the good times. About the way things were before a decade of carelessness exploded, splattering its rancid heart over the strong and the vulnerable.
Attendees weren’t there to party like it was 1999 or lose themselves in the sorts of comfortable fictions in which the National Association of Realtors persists. It wasn’t about stoking controversy for the sake of entertainment. We’re all in this together now: Realtor, broker, technologist, social network architect, Vendor, MLS and consumer.
The parties were also low key. The discussions were grounded. Listening to Coldwell Banker’s Charlie Young and Better Homes & Gardens CEO Sherry Chris speak on behalf of the consumer on stage was truly uplifting. It was real. It was honest. It marked a departure from past that once was, but is, thankfully, fading.
As they spoke, I reflected on what was: buyer frenzy, lender frenzy, recruitment frenzy, launch-any-idea frenzy. Real estate’s past is boarded up now. Like CBGB’s, it’s sitting under a dimly lit streetlamp waiting for a new tenant.
The present sure has its advantages.
Everything changes: the economy, the market, our ways, our practices, our beliefs. Everything. It’s important to cherish that. To hold the past dear. To conjure it up fondly or with regret and reflect. If only for a brief moment. To fire up our forward thrusters.
As you can probably tell by now, I’m sentimental about a great many things. But I’m going to draw the line with real estate. There is little worth holding onto. There is much more to strive towards.
As I stepped out into the rainy NYC night with my $4 cup of coffee, I chose to let go of Grandpa’s invisible hand. And of real estate’s past that is no longer. It was OK to hold onto both for a while, but now it’s time to move on. There’s a future waiting that I think is worth working towards. Granted, it includes $10 cups of coffee, but what can you do about that?
I left for home early Friday morning. California. It’s where my wife and kids are. It’s where 1000Watt is. It’s where my present waits and my future beckons. Up until now, its streets never spoke to me. I think I’m going to do something to change that now.
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