Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Harry the Greek

Back in 1995, I rented part of a private house in Douglaston, New York, from a lovely Greek couple. Harry, the husband, was a banker, and had been for years. They were among the finest people I have ever known.

In what has become a trend, over the past few years, the couple created a private entry apartment out of a wing of their home as a way to finance their children's college education. Harry was a prescient kind of guy, quiet, soft-spoken, and highly intelligent.

When I gave my 30 days notice in the summer of 1996, and said I was moving back to California, he took me aside, in a fatherly way, and told me that what he was about to say had nothing to do with trying to keep me as a tenant, although he would certainly like that, but was to warn me of what he, in the banking industry, saw as a coming development.

Harry said, in unequivocal terms, that California was already showing signs of being in "deep trouble," and that the situation was expected to dramatically worsen over the coming years. He urged me not to move back.

This morning, news broke that California is now among four states in the country where unemployment is over 10%; the others are South Carolina, Michigan, and Rhode Island. The number of unemployed, in the golden state, jumped 2% in one month alone---from 8% in December to 10% in January.

If you happen to be reading this, Harry, I want to send heartfelt thanks for the warning. You were right.

Having said that, I think the President's recent signing of legislation to overturn the Bush administration's ban on embryonic stem cell research, as well as California's longterm interest, and investment, in green jobs, and alternative sources of energy, will eventually revive the sixth largest economy in the world. I sure hope so for as goes California so goes the planet.