Every year about this time I send out an unofficial end of year investor's letter -- "unofficial" because 1) it does not get sent to my investors and 2) it usually has little to do with investing. (This is not an official business correspondence)
I’ll get to business in a bit.
But first a story.
It's just after 7:00 on a December morning at the 50th Street subway stop in Times Square. The line outside the Stardust Diner stretches to Broadway, rounds the corner and stops just short of the stage door of the theater where The Music Man is playing. The Stardust is where the waiters and waitresses stand on the counter and sing show tunes.
Rachel from Friends worked there.
As I walk by the Stardust on my way to work, the Spotify algorithm serves up an old Cat Stevens song.
I left my happy home, to see what I could find out
I left my folk and friends, with the aim to clear my mind out
One hundred and eighty miles to the northeast, there's an iron gate at Brown University. New students go through the gate onto campus the first day of school freshman year and go back the other way at graduation. In between the gate stays locked.
The name of the song is On The Road To Find Out.
Depending on traffic, state trooper presence and the beat of the music playing on the car sound system, it takes between two and a half and three hours to drive up I-95 to get to Providence. The most memorable drive was the Covid evacuation pickup in March of sophomore year, the cars double-parked, clothes stuffed into Hefty bags -- students now refugees fleeing the oncoming viral army.
Well, I hit the rowdy road, and many kinds I met there
Many stories told me of the way to get there
The Stardust opens at 7 and it's already full, so the people I see on line will be the second sitting. There are no reservations. Lots of strollers on line and lots of sweatshirts and varsity jackets. Ohio State, Arizona. Lots of accents and dialects.
Tarana mentored two sisters from a Providence grade school, recent immigrants from Senegal. She'd pick them up and take them to campus and one day they decided to do field research, studying (if I remember right) something like the relationship between mood and sleep. They surveyed students and staff and professors, then tabulated the data and came up with a conclusion.
The sisters were 11 and 13 years old.
My office is about a ten minute walk from the Stardust diner, and that particular morning, with Cat Stevens singing in the background, I envision drives to airports in Texas and Colorado and Dublin and Madrid, taxis from JFK to the Marriott Marquis, QR coded tickets to Phantom of the Opera and Wicked and bookmarked pages from Trip Advisor that summarize which days the museums close and which hop-on hop-off bus tour stops where.
Cat Stevens released Tea for the Tillerman in 1970, when I was in middle school. I first heard it when we visited by father's old friend Carl Tasch, who had a son, Ira, who was my age. He played the album start to finish, which relieved us of having to find something to talk about.
On the Road to Find Out is the fourth song on side two.
I reach the office. A card in my wallet unlocks the elevator button to our floor, an action that creates one more data point in the building's security log.
What was the relationship between mood and sleep in a sample of the twenty or so people surveyed one Spring afternoon in Providence? How was the data analyzed? What was the conclusion?
The elevator opens, the work day starts.
Well, in the end I’ll know, but on the way I wonder
Through descending snow, and through the frost and thunder
I listen to the wind come howl, telling me I have to hurry
I listen to the robin’s song, saying not to worry
Of course the sleep data was never the point, and neither is the total amount of time spent on lines on a trip to New York. What matters is that two young girls will remember how easy it was to approach a bunch of older and very foreign acting people, to talk to them and to ask them questions a couple of miles and a world away.
So on and on I go, the seconds tick the time out
There’s so much left to know and I’m on the road to find out
Regarding business?: Not a great year, but it will be fine.
Wishing you all a happy and fulfilling holiday season, a successful and engaged 2023, and forever safe passage on the road to find out.
(Previous letters in the series: www.dbsable.com)
David Sable MD
writer, teacher, fund manager and retired reproductive endocrinologist