A Winter Wonderland in New York - Feb 2015
I am at Nath and Yvonne's warm, welcoming home which is filled with treasures from all over the world and their many travels, photographs of family and loved ones, plants, huge mirrors and fat cushions, rugs and objets d art - a home which has been created with heart and a sense of style and determined to welcome you in. I feel blessed. Such generous and thoughtful hosts, who have not overlooked a detail to ensure that I am taken care of - gluten free products, a huge long warm jacket for the outdoors, plus the loan of a small handbag, the bathroom is glorious and full of thick towels and beauty products, the fridge is full of fruit and healthy eating. How lucky am I?
There was no need to be concerned as I left the airport, it was a very small terminal of JFK, and I waved my Aussie flag unnecessarily, as Yvonne was right there at the exit doors from the baggage collection. Nath was parked right outside the door, so the $6 I spent on a luggage trolley was somewhat wasted. $6!!! I could not believe that! The drive home was filled with exclamations from me, as the snow was waist high in places, the roads were cleared and the snow pushed to one side. The lights twinkled and the car was warm, and the conversation flowed.
Yvonne had prepared a dish in her Crock Pot, chicken with root vegetables, which smelled delicious and filled the hole in my tummy, a couple of glasses of wine, and a hot shower. I put the light out at 11.15 pm and after two short trips for a wee during the night, woke up at 12.11 pm the next day, Thursday! I have a big comfortable water bed, and enough blankets for a team, the heating has been cranked up on my behalf. I look out the window at a Winter Wonderland, everything is beautiful, even the most practicaln and ugly object, like a dustbin, transformed to a thing of beauty by the heavy layer of snow. Some of the neighbours cars are still snowed in, they have not got the snow plough out, nor the shovels. You have to learn to live this way. It takes me about 15 minutes to put on all my layers of clothing to go outside, and a little less to disrobe when I come back in. It is hard to move with dexterity, as the layers limit movement, and I feel like the Michelen Man. The cold attacks, a sharp bite to any exposed skin, and my nose drips solidly, if I was out here long enough, it would freeze.
I spent a couple of hours lazily, having breakfast, calling Gerald on facetime, doing my facebook, and showering, and we left the house for Manhattan - MANHATTAN! - at 3.30 pm, with Nath driving to Hicksville Station, a few minutes away, whilst Yvonne got the tickets, about $38 for us three, return. Expensive, I think. Its a 40 minute trip to Penn Station, which was both interesting and informative, I even got to visit Bermuda! Hanging on tight to Yvonne, we follow the crowds out on to the streets and to a different world. Snow piled everywhere, yellow cabs and buses, chestnuts roasting and their smell wafting sweetly, hog dog vendors, homeless people sitting in the snow, "Homeless - Need a Miracle" - everybody busy, everybody talking on their phones, the visitors stand out like dogs balls - taking selfies, stopping the traffic flow with their uncertainty, and we walk down Fifth Avenue. FIFTH AVENUE! Every designer label I have heard of and many I haven't, although everybody is dressed from top to toe in dark colours and heavy coats and boots, so I suspect their designer gear is camouflaged. It's cold, very cold. Oh my, the homeless ...... We walk past Macy's and Yvonne asks if I want to go in, no, says I, I want to walk outside and people watch, and we do. We visit the New York Public Library, the moment you walk indoors its like a sauna, and I immediately want to strip, it interests me that people keep all their heavy gear on indoors, and then go outside, with no ill effects. What a glorious building, but the famous Rose Main Reading Room is closed for renovations - I have seen this marvellous place many times in the movies, however, so am not disappointed. We continue our Fifth Avenue Walk, and photograph the Empire State Building in the growing gloom, and walk to the Rockefeller Centre, where I watch the ice skaters swirl gracefully in the rink, another movie scene for me. The Christmas lights and tree have gone, but the trees are twinkling with white lights, the look alike Trevi Fountain Sculpture is lit up, and I am transported to fairyland, this is so so so beautiful!
Their meeting with their financial advisors High Tower, is at 6 pm, and we walk back to The Langham Hotel, to the warmth and the fragrance of Dior. A grumpy man takes our several layers of clothing, and I have to go to the ladies to remove a couple more, and repair the damage of the cold. An elegant affair awaits, with perhaps a hundred or more people, waiters bearing all kinds of drinks and martinis, and a few food stations, one serving rare rib eye fillet, the other pasta with two sauces, and tables laden with cheese and fruit and raw veggies, for those stick thin glamour types. I ask the beef chef if he has 'well done beef’. He is offended, and draws himself up a couple of inches and says, emphatically "No. ONLY rare." Betlittled, I creep away, what a crass country girl I am. I ask for just sauce from the pasta chef, who is totally speechless at my request. Whaaaat, he says. I repeat. What'll ya eat it it with, he counters. I find the veggies, and I return to the beef chef, who sniffs disdainfully remembering my country bumpkin request. I smile winningly, and ask to try the beef, despite my abhorrence of bloody meat. It is unbelievably good, melt in the mouth, more tender than any beef I have ever tried. I eat the veggies and some cheese, I drink the wine, I meet the people.
It seems that many of them were given a package by the same company Yvonne used to work with, and 11 years ago she retired with a generous amount, which has been invested wisely with the same man - who has changed organisations twice - but they follow him wherever he goes. Yvonne says they have withdrawn $500,000 over that time, and still have their principal $1,000,000 intact. Pretty great. There is a very flattering introduction about the CEO someone who beats global trends and stands out in the world, etc. who makes a presentation, he is called XXXXXX, who is charming and people savvy, welcoming his clients and a new member to the team of now 25 advisors. We hear about his Dad who was a paediatrician, who wrote a book about the value of letting babies cry. What? I wasn't sure why we heard that, and we watch an animated short film, which describes a Fiduciary, something I have never heard before. The film demonstrates the difference between a butcher and a dietician - the butcher selling and probably overselling, you meat for a bbq, whilst the dietician, who may be a vego, or a meat eater or not, will sell you only what YOU need. A Fiduciary is someone who has YOUR interests at heart, not their own agenda - ie a doctor - and the client must always come first. We hear about Wall Street, and how they are NOT Wall Street, and which advisor just got married, a few women fluttered in the audience that this single apparently handsome young man is now taken, but he looked like he had had a hair transplant to me. There are questions and answers, and he asks us to ask the hard questions. I have one, and put my hand up. If they don't invest their clients money for their own gain, how DO they make their money? But someone else is on to it, and we are told they charge each client a fee, and that fee after all is paid for (like the food and drinks here tonight, ha ha) is their profit, split amongst the 25 advisors. I wait my turn, and then when the mike is presented to me, I ask how many clients don they have to have then? And do they operate globally? And in Australia? There is a flurry. Neither the CEO nor his advisors can answer my first question, and they look to each other for the answer. Finally one says, give me a minute, and I will work it out. Yes, they operate globally, but no offices in Australia, and the profits stay here in the USA. The mike goes to someone else. A while later, an advisor calls out, "25,000 clients!" Wow. For 25 financial advisors? After the thanks and the acknowledgements are over, and we are invited to drink the bar dry, I ask an advisor, how does one of them look after 1,000 clients? He backtracks and says, some have 700 and others have a lot less. Like all the big rich people with one guy, and a lot of the not so rich with another, I ask? I am getting him all perturbed, and he gives me his card, and rushes off to get another advisors card.
J. Michael Cantore III CRPC, Managing Director, Parter, TC Wealth Management HIghtower
J. Emmet Towey, Managing Director, Partner, TC Wealth Management Hightower
address: 505 Fifth Avenue, 14th Floor, New York, NY 10017
I feel like I am with the Wolves of Wall Street, mixin' with the big dudes, and managed to set off a little ripple of discomfort.
The train home is interesting. Everybody stands looking at the screens which list the trains leaving. Everybody is on their phone. Then suddenly, everybody moves. What just happened is a platform number has been posted alongside your desired train, and like lemmings they are off, running to get a seat. We do too, but with Yvonne's knee, Nath's tendency to slow, and my neck swivelling, we barely make it to the train before it leaves from platform 21, most seats taken, but we split up and sit in three different spots. I people watch. The nerd with the beige pants and walking shoes, thick glasses. I swear I see George Costanzia. A messy young woman chewing gum with her mouth open. And a big fat girl and her friend, opening white bags of pizza, and eating, I see the cheese stretch out, and the pink of her mouth as she inhales it. The smaller girl finishes and neatly folds her paper bag, but the fat girl stops, all of a sudden, exhausted, her hand falls and the pizza hits the bag on her lap, and she is asleep. Her head falling on her friends shoulder, hair across her face. Her mate discreetly wraps the leftover pizza and places it in her bag. I continue my sweeping observation, focussing on one, artfully disguising my microscopic inspection of native New Yorkers. One man speaking loudly, unstopping, like a drum beat in the background. Many sleeping. We stop at several stations, I see Nath is dozing. Suddenly, the fat girl is awake, and places two fingers over her mouth. Oh dear, I think. She blinks, and removes her hand. Another sweep around the carriage, and a seat has become available next to Nath. I move to join him. And the poor Fat Girl has vomited, is exiting the train with as much dignity as she can muster, mopping down her coat front, whilst her girlfriend is mopping up undigested pizza from the seat. The Nerd in front of me waits until she has gone, and exhales "Man, that was baaaaaaaaad." That's too much alcohol for you, I'd say.
We eat some of the leftover chicken and drink tea, and talk like old friends do. I hit the bed at midnight, grateful for a wonderful day.