Parallel Universes

Sweetie and I shlepped to Santa Barbara on Tuesday for an investment seminar.  I always think that Santa Barbara is just up the road…until I get close to Carpenteria and find that we’ve still got miles to go.

We hadn’t been to a Bernstein seminar since just before the bust of…when was it…the late nineties.  I vividly remember that meeting.   Sanford Bernstein Investment Management was founded by a New York Orthodox Jew with a conservative mindset.  The firm hadn’t invested client money in Internet companies while others gorged on them.   Bernstein clients watched and stock prices skyrocket while Mr. Bernstein dragged his fanny and their money through Ford,  J.P. Morgan and General Foods.   Folks at that 90’s Bernstein seminar were  pissed that they weren’t sharing the wealth.  But old Sanford had the last laugh when people finally said “sell my Internet stocks” and their less astute brokers said “to who?”

This seminar was a bit different.  Yes, it was at an expensive hotel, the Biltmore.  I feel awkward and out of place in expensive hotels.  Must be my Ukranian roots.  Sitting down for lunch, I knew right away that things were tough…no lamb chops.  Overcooked chicken was the featured entree.  The only thing that looked familiar were the people in the audience.  I thought, as I did at that 90’s gathering, if a terrorist were to spray the room with bullets, lots of well-to-do Jews would pass their wealth to their heirs sooner than expected.

The two hour message offered by some young (everyone is young to me) investment mavens was, in brief, “Hang in there…the market will rise again.”  I thought…I should live so long…then again.  We ate the chicken, arm wrestled the bread tray, skipped dessert, got back in the car and went home.

The next morning we drove down Highway 33, exited at the oil wells, and arrived at  Foster elementary school in Ventura.  It’s in a heavily Latino low to middle income neighborhood.  The Ojai Music Festival was sponsoring a Chumash Indian music participation program for fourth graders.  Julie Tumamait entertained the bright-eyed kids with stories, dances, flutes, drums, and rattles.

The classroom was crowded with the decor bordering on organized chaos.  The kids’ regular teacher, a lovely young woman, seemed at times the very picture of a drill sergeant.  I was amazed at how she kept her composure, all the while monitoring her charges and simultaneously grading their homework.

I think Julie must be almost as old as I am.  She’s the Valley’s resident Chumash expert and shows up at anything faintly related to her ancestors.  Sweetie and I have photographed lots of kids participating in all kinds of Music Festival programs.  It’s a daunting challenge for the instructor.  The kids usually start out with sort of a “what am I doing here” look on their faces.  They move on to studied indifference.  Keeping them from engaging their nearest neighbor in some sort of mayhem is common.  Getting their attention and keeping them interested is the goal.  Julie was a master.

She began by providing background information.  I don’t think anyone heard it.  Next, a video of Indian dancing accompanied by Julie’s jousting with the remote control.  The kids were indifferent.  Having set them up in this manner, she then went for the jugular.  Forming forty kids in a circle, the center of which was crammed with chairs and desks, she handed out all manner of rattles, drums, flutes and whatnot.  She showed the kids how to hop up and down while moving clockwise and blowing on or beating their Chumash instruments.  It was a sight to behold.  The kids were ecstatic.  They couldn’t get enough of it.  It went on in various forms for nearly thirty minutes.  I was exhausted…and all I was doing was taking pictures.

Before we left the classroom, we both hugged Julie and told her how happy we were that she survived.  So was she.  And she had to do it again half an hour later.

So what’s this got to do with old Mr. Bernstein you say.  I’m not sure.  Maybe it was the contrasts.  A bunch of adults listening to investment strategy versus kids who barely have enough lunch money.  Old folks wondering if their legacy would last til they keeled over versus kids who have no idea of mortality.  Skeptics who’ve heard it before versus kids who haven’t.

Bet the kids would love lamb chops.


2 Responses to “Parallel Universes”

  1. 1 sidney cohn December 4, 2008 at 6:44 pm

    Old Mr. Cohn advises fixed annuities that pay almost 6% per annum guarnteed! Tell that to Mr. Bernstein.

    Love to you also.


  2. 2 Mark Schneider December 4, 2008 at 9:30 pm

    Not a synic here, but my financial advisors have guided me to invest in methamphetamine. This is a commodity that is hardly affected by the current crunch. Those who demand this product place it as a basic necessity, more important than nutrition for younger family members, or perhaps even gasoline. Win Win… Lets all invest!


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