This and more from rainy, beleagured L.A.
A visit to my shrink, whom I will call Dr. P. We talked for about forty minutes out of my allotted 50 minutes on the subject of a young male relative. The young man, whom I have often written about in this space, has a number of “issues.” He won’t work. He won’t do any household chores except for watching his very adorable daughter when his wife is at work for a few hours each week. He uses a copious amount of medicines, legal and illegal, and vast quantities of alcohol.
He also smokes heavily and usually is unshaven and unkempt, despite which he is very handsome.
This young man, whom I will call “T,” is moving to a small city in the Deep South. We don’t know what he’s going to do there. His wife doesn’t know what he’s going to do there. We all just hope he’s going to do something constructive there and maybe he will. We all love him like mad. He is extremely witty when he wants to be, and has astonishingly good manners among strangers. Just incredibly good. At social functions he is friendly, outgoing, helpful, genuinely caring. He could easily be a politician or a maître d’. Or maybe a cruise director.
Anyway, he could do those things if he cared to work, but he doesn’t.
So, off he goes to the Deep South, and I asked Dr. P. the following question. “Have you ever known anyone who has a history of certain kinds of behavior, usually self-defeating, who goes to a new location and whose behavior changes dramatically and who stops doing the self-destructive behavior?
“Yes,” said Dr. P. with a broad smile.
“Really?” I asked him. “May I ask where this person went that changed his behavior so much?”
“Prison,” said Dr. P.
We both laughed but it was a rueful laugh past the graveyard.
It is a weighty burden to have a troubled relative that I am responsible for, especially at my age.
The other main subject I often talk about with Dr. P. is my own profligacy with money. (Maybe profligacy is always with money.) You simply cannot imagine how wasteful I am with money.
Well, maybe you can since I talk about it so much. Much of it has to do with owning too much real estate which, alas, has corrected to the downside in a huge way in the recent crash. To be sure, it has recovered a bit in the Los Angeles area, but not in the desert (not in the slightest) and not in Sandpoint. So, if I sold there, I would take a series of losses.
I don’t want to do that. I have no reason at all to believe that real estate won’t recover everywhere, eventually. Frank Hathaway, the smartest man about real estate I have ever met, former CEO of LAACO (ticker LAACZ), the best managed real estate firm I have ever owned stock in, once told me the essence of real estate trading. “You sell when it’s high, not when it’s low.”
Nevertheless, Dr. P. endlessly advises me to sell real estate and tells me I am headed for trouble if I don’t. Dr. P. is, like all psychiatrists in L.A., Jewish. (Why is that? Is it because it’s a sort of wizardry?) This reminds me of an old Yiddish saying: “Every Jew has two businesses. His own and real estate.”
Anyway, as I told my Doctor, whom I love like crazy, “You always want me to sell real estate. You talked me into selling my house in Aspen in 1982 for pennies. That was the single worst financial mistake of my life. It would have made me a well-to-do man to have kept that house. It was a catastrophe. You wanted me to sell my condos in West Hollywood. They’ve doubled since then and that was just a few years ago. So, as long as I can afford to hold on to the real estate, I’ll keep it.”