Most of you have probably gathered I’m not big on vacations. If I had committed some ghastly crime and was sentenced to spend the rest of eternity working from home, forbidden to leave the town limits of Palo Alto, I actually would have no problem with that. Indeed, I’d like to know the crime in question, just so I can enjoy committing it and then bask in the glow of a supposedly Draconian sentence.
Alas, I am a free man, so from time to time I have to venture out and try my best to show my family a good time. In this instance, the trip was a two-part one: first to Manhattan, and second to Orlando. (I always wait until after these trips are done to describe my whereabouts, since I don’t want some crazed lunatic attacking me or, far worse, the infamous hoard of financial blog groupies surprising me in some strange city).
The Manhattan journey has kind of a cool story behind it. Many, many years ago (although not as many as my boyish good looks would suggest), I married my wife, and at the ceremony we had a ring bearer and a flower girl (as well as two – count ’em – two ministers, just to make it extra-holy).
A couple of years ago, the grown-up flower girl got married herself, and her choice for flower girl was……….my daughter. And, when wedding plans were being made for the ceremony last week, my former ring bearer needed a flower girl and chose……..my daughter. So the circle is truly complete. Both the little kids at my wedding have been married off with the aid of my little girl. Here’s a photo I took of Turtle Lake in Central Park, which was a favorite hangout of mine and the kids, since I always prefer nature to asphalt.
My conclusion about the Manhattan is the same one I make every time I visit: it would be a really great place to live for someone with lots and lots and lots of money. I looked at real estate prices there, just out of curiosity, and the places I’d want to be were typically about $20 million. So I think the aforementioned life sentence in Palo Alto is going to have to do.
Having spent five days in NYC, we ventured by way of Westchester County Airport to Orlando, home of the morbidly obese. My hand to God, I am shocked at the shape (literally) of our nation.
Now let me pause here a moment and be very clear about my own physical fitness: I am, and always have been, a complete bum about my body. I hated physical education. I’ve never done sports. I have literally never run a mile in my entire life. The most exercise I get (and I’m being serious here) is the fact I use a standing desk, and I am sure I’d be twenty pounds heavier (and have back problems) were it not for that. Plus, it’s not like I’m genetically predisposed to being trim: my father is quite portly, and I have his body type.
Having said all that, and being a person who never makes any effort to exercise or carefully watch what he eats, I am still 6 feet tall and about 178 pounds. Yes, I could stand to lose 7 pounds or so, no doubt about it. But Jesus H. Christ on a pita biscuit, the sheer amount of blubber I have seen men, women, and children toting around here boggles the imagination. Quite a few people I’ve seen are so overweight that they’ve elected to simply ride around on an electric scooter to tote their fat asses from place to place, thus eliminating the modest caloric expenditure otherwise garnered from walking.
Now, believe me, I’ve asked myself: why on earth do I care? Honestly! Why should I give a rat’s ass about any of these people or the life they have chosen for themselves? They’re not hurting me. They’re not sitting on me, or even threatening to do so. They aren’t eating my food. They aren’t taking my money. They aren’t a threat to me physically, intellectually, or morally. They’re not saying anything to me or acting in any fashion which is overtly cruel or offensive. What’s my problem?
I don’t know. I seriously don’t. But I do know that their physical appearance repels me. I have learned something about myself that I pretty much knew in the first place: I prefer people who are aesthetically pleasing. Here again, I’m not sure why, because it really shouldn’t matter to me, and I’m sure this superficial and powerless demand I am making of the universe doesn’t reflect well on me, but so be it, I need to continue to be honest here, and God knows the laughable sum of dollars generated on this blog aren’t something I need to protect for financial self-protection.
But I guess the people strolling about mean about the same thing to me as buildings and bushes. Just as I like walking in the midst of beautiful architecture, stately trees, and in the midst of a soothing oasis of flora and fauna, I’d much rather wade through a sea of beautiful people than the proletarian riff-raff in which I find myself, in spite of having selected the most expensive lodging in this area.
Now that I’ve successfully alienated my readers, I’ll take it a step further: these people on vacation are dumber than a second coat of paint. I stayed at the Loews Portofino, which is the nicest resort here. Part of the appeal of the place is that it does a fairly plausible job of making you think you’re on the Italian Riviera. What takes away from it, though, is that even though there is a smattering of simple Italian words and phrases (both written and spoken), the staff is trained to immediately state everything – and I mean everything – in English as well, just to make sure it doesn’t go over anyone’s tiny little head.
So there’s a sign promoting a restaurant that says “Mangi! Mangi! Mangi!”, and directly beneath that are the words “Eat! Eat! Eat!” (knowing that Mangi=Eat is about as sophisticated as knowing Gracias=Thanks). A staff member might say to me, “Buonasera” and immediately also say “Good evening”, although I didn’t look confused or demand an explanation. Hell, even the bathrooms dumb it down for you, just in case the giant graphic isn’t enough:
It is a nice place, though, and as long as I’m cloistered just with my beloved family, I’m a happy guy:
Since I love my work far more than I love amusement parks, I stayed holed up in my hotel room while my wife and children went to Universal Studios (principally to see the Harry Potter stuff). Last night, I did go in just for an hour with my little girl, just to see what it was like. Although it was crowded (which I hate) and hot (which I really hate), I did a couple of rides which gave me a taste of the place, and really modern rides are a technological kick. Before the Escape from Gringotts ride, here were a couple of the characters (which made me feel I was hanging out in the lobby of the Federal Reserve):
These days, a combination of very sophisticated roller coasters, well-designed audio, and high-end 3-D visual systems give one a completely immersive experience. It’s pretty incredible. Here’s a video I found of one of the rides I took, and although it doesn’t capture the excitement of being there, it gives you a decent idea what it’s like:
Anyway, I’m glad to be heading home. I’ve missed my dogs, I’ve missed my house, and I’ve missed my trading room. At least I was with just about the only people I really care about. I can’t imagine traveling on business, away from my family. Dads who do that make a hell of a lot more money than me, but I’m just going to stay here with you good people, sharing my charts and, when necessary, venting my spleen.
See you back in Palo Alto on Thursday morning.