Tuesday, February 3, 2009

I first met Michael in the fall of 1997 at Columbia University’s Master’s in Real Estate Development Program “the program”. Pretty much all of the classes were required and thus Mike and I ended up going from class to class and hanging out in between. I remember Mike and I going to lunch on one of the first days of class and we went to Ollie’s, which was right across from the school on Broadway and 116th (the first of many lunches together). We talked for a while because I was considering applying to the architecture school and Mike had already received his masters. He told me it was extremely theoretical and left many of his buddies unprepared for the real world of practicing architecture. He also told me that many of his friends ended up taking jobs at big name architecture firms in NY with the healthy salary of zero. Mike was fortunate to graduate from architecture school and get a job that actually paid some money but I’m fairly certain that it was below what most school teachers make in NYC. Needless to say, I haven’t thought much about attending Columbia’s architecture program since.

Despite all this, Mike was passionate about architecture and even several years after establishing himself as a lender, he still toyed with the idea of taking the architecture license exam.

As we went through the Real Estate program together, Mike and I ended up working on several group projects together. Somehow we had a project on a hotel in Northern Virginia. Mike always loved a road trip so instead of writing about a piece of real estate that we never had seen before, Mike and I drove down took some pictures and made our presentation that much more effective. He never could back away from a chance to get in the car and was first and foremost an all or nothing kinda guy.

After classes were over in the summer of 1998, I went to work for Nomura and Mike went to work for Lehman in their respective commercial real estate finance departments. I believe Mike got the intro through his friend James. Shortly after in the fall of 1998, the bond markets blew up when Russia devalued its currency. This caused major disruption for our respective companies and we were both laid off. This was definitely a rough introduction to the world of commercial real estate.

Instead of crying about it, Mike and I decided to go play golf. We had been playing at some of the public courses in Westchester and while we were not very good at the game, we weren’t terrible and were both scoring in the 105 –115 range. I have been told that if you can break 100 you are in the top 20% of players so we thought we were doing okay. Since we were both roughly at the same level, we tended to compete a lot and play for a little bit of money – not a lot ($1 per hole) and then we would usually grab a bite to eat afterwards before heading back to the city.

Since we had both lost our jobs and there weren’t many other jobs available at the time, we decided to take a golf trip to Myrtle Beach. The drive was about 10-12 hours and we made pretty good time in Mike’s white 1989 bmw convertible (the ultimate tanning machine). We got a good deal with the hotel, which included the golf since it was late Feb. The weather was pretty cold at night but warm enough during the day. We mistakenly upgraded one of the courses and it was ridiculously hard. I think I shot a 130 and probably hadn’t done that since I was a kid. Mike didn’t do much better but he never told me his score.

The trip was a lot of fun except for two incidents. The first was when we were in a restaurant having dinner and some yokel mockingly said some “chinese words” at us. Hard to believe that there were still people like that but this was over 10 years ago and before the age of Obama. Mike was really pissed because we were having a good time and hearing this ignorant person just soured much of the trip for him.

The other incident Mike very much blamed me. I was always making fun of Mike for being so attached to a car built in the 80’s when there were so many great cars being built in the 1990’s. Just before heading back to New York, I made a comment about how the car was holding up nicely. Right away he said with an exasperated look on his face “that’s it, now you’ve done it.” An hour later, the car stalled and we were at a repair shop wondering how we were going to get back to NY.

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