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Thursday, March 19, 2020

Life in Time of Coronavirus, from Catskill Farms' experience

A couple of observations.

1, because Coronavirus is spelled like the beer, it really facilitates the spelling of it without that dreaded redlined 'check your spelling' indicator.  Much easier than 'h1n1' or other number groupings that challenge us dyslexic people.
2. God, the 'we are in this together', singing from the balconies, feel good nightly news stories, #united, etc... gives me the squirmies.  I've never been much of joiner, and if you aren't practicing these actions as part of your routine, I doubt the sincerity of it now.
3. The amount of car commercials is insane - offer 120 days of payment free purchases with a car you can have delivered straight to your home - ARE YOU INSANE?  I know a lot of people aren't great at math, but delaying payments (with probably a bunch of small print like negative equity accrual) for 120 days does not decrease the eventual cost of the car.

On the front lines, we continue construction at full speed, well-funded with healthy cash flow.  We just sold a new house yesterday and we sell a 2015 Farmhouse resale today (my brokerage firm Lazy Meadows negotiated the sale).  We have 3 other homes more than 80% done under contract that we are focused on.  We of course aren't seeing a ton of new interest, since no one is going anywhere, and the 25% decline in stocks is a real kick in the pants, but less so than you would think for most people.  A metric I'll have to watch is the value of NYC real estate because if it declines 1, the net worth of some of potential clients will decline in proportion, 2, if prices decline some families who rent with buying always out of reach will be able to redirect their upstate budget to a NYC apartment.

On a small business front, I don't see how many of them survive.  I just don't think the President cares enough or is surrounded by enough smart people to engineer a plan that deals with the micro-issues of rent payments, tax holidays, interest payments, employee dislocation, etc...   A broad understanding and compassion for people  and their problems is needed.  Sending people a few thousand dollars is just nothing, since it does nothing for the job creators whose cash flow is strapped in the best of times, and actually does little for the people receiving the money.

We saw some worrying developments - the electric company that serves the hudson valley is not turning on any new electric services (don't want employees together) and the Board of Health is not doing any septic inspections, with all their energies focused on the virus.  Who knows when building departments will shut down.  Fortunately, we are proactively thinking these thru, and have the relationships to find paths that are still open.

Home Depot yesterday -
Signed for an online drawing course through Great Courses.   I tried to have my son take it with me but my god if you ever heard or seen a more reluctant student I just gave up.  He knows how to wear me down, dragging his feet like they are caked in concrete - damn kid. 

All the milk I could find yesterday, which leaves me drinking black coffee this morning - not like the British rationing of WWII, but pain is relative and this is a tough shot across the bow.

For some reason i was telling someone a story yesterday of when I was like 9 and aimed my bb gun at a robin on a tree about 40' away ('never shoot a robin' echoed in my head).  Now mind you, I never hit a thing in my life but I lifted the gun, shot, and to my horror, the bird spiraled to the ground, a clean shot to the head.  Freaking out, I took the dead bird, and put in it the folger's coffee can bird house my younger brother had put in the tree as part of a boy scout project.  Luckily for me, he never refilled the bird house, but it did slowly rot all summer, radiating an odor we all commented on, serving as my Poe's beating heart under the floor boards.

I thought if I would tell the story an analogy to our current situation would come to me, even if it was a stretch, would come to me, but it hasn't.

But now I remember why I was retelling the story - after work I stopped by my ex's house and was throwing football and lacrosse with my son and she was using one of these ball throwing boomerrang sticks to throw ball to our dogs, and she thought it was funny to try and hit me - assured in the knowledge she had never thrown the ball anywhere close to where she has ever aimed - and she ended up hitting me in the thigh, just 6" away from the jewels, at a very high velocity.  It was like getting hit with a paint ball - it hurt. 

So, I guess the takeaway may be  - be prepared for inadvertent success and it's consequences.

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