Luck and Superstition Play a Major Role in Our Lives


The Hurricane Approaches, I am Off..

Have you ever been on an airplane with a Hurricane roaring and the airplane being tossed left and right and going up and down?

How scared were you and how did you manage?

This is what I am to write about tomorrow in my Blog!!

Do not be scared to read. Do not worry too much as I am still here thus No accidents and no major disasters!

Superstition scuppers plans! “Open the door! I’m getting off!”

November 1986

Although disappointed the Hofmann had sold for only $30,000, I was still extremely relieved. The anxiety prior to the sale, the torment during the sale turned to happiness with the final result. It was thinking and planning time once again. The past was history, but could that shape the future with immediate effect? It was now possible for me to invest in those paintings I had marked as possible purchases a few weeks earlier. It was impossible for an impatient person like me to hold on to money for long. What a curse!

The first and best painting, with a relatively conservative estimate, was the Bernard Buffet painting in San Francisco. That was the one I wanted the most and that was the one that I would fly to San Francisco for, a couple of days later. I had made the decision, had the plans ready and was firmly going, especially after the Hofmann sale. I had money to invest and it had to be re-invested. No wasting any time here!

Yes, the Hofmann did not sell for fifty thousand but thirty thousand was great for a new investor like myself. That was a 170% return on my investment or nearly £11,000 profit within five months. And yet, I was still an erratic investor, who made serious mistakes. What I did not know was that a couple of years later, had I been patient and a better investor, I would have seen the Hofmann selling in excess of $100,000 and had I waited until today, the painting is worth a good half a million dollars if not more. My impatience was a serious problem, which would recur many times in the following years.

However, could I do anything else under my financial circumstances? I still wonder, whether waiting to sell a painting is always the best policy or not! At times it is like the throw of a dice!

Plans are easier than their execution aren’t they?

Never regret what you did, regret what you did not do!

The following day after the Hofmann sale, I booked a flight to San Francisco with one of the cheapest airlines around. It cost about $500 but then again, I did not want comforts, I wanted safety and fast connections. This airline was the only one to offer what I needed from Newark, New Jersey. It was my first time to the west coast and I was looking forward to it. Furthermore, I was looking forward to buying the Bernard Buffet Still Life at Butterfields in San Francisco. Ten thousand dollars for a Buffet was a bargain; anticipation, worry and excitement were growing by the hour!

Everything was perfectly normal until about six o’clock that afternoon, when all of a sudden the wind rose unexpectedly and the rains arrived in abundance. All the way to the airport I was praying for better weather conditions, not the hurricane that was raging on. I was scared of the conditions but prepared to go on. Then one after the other a sequence of events started to happen. The omens! The omens were bad! I am rightly or wrongly a very superstitious person!

The flight was scheduled for 10.00pm and I arrived at the airport in the midst of a storm at about 8.00pm. An hour passed, two and three and it was 11.30 and nobody was at the airline’s desk. No attendants, no announcements, nothing to calm my mounting worries and fears! It was just about midnight when the gates opened and we were allowed on the 747 Jumbo Jet with no check-in or boarding formalities. I had never flown like that before and found the whole event a little upsetting in view of the fact that nobody was at the airline desk to update us on the flight’s progress. I had just one small piece of hand luggage that needed no checking in, which proved to be fortunate later once on the plane. There were only fifty travelers, but the fact that there was no check-in, no allocated seats and we were two hours late already was not sitting comfortably with me. I was on edge, but I had to travel. It was business.

Fifteen uncomfortable minutes on the plane, half an hour and then the crew and laughing pilots walked leisurely onto the plane. Engines on I thought, but no, it was not to be! The captain welcomed us on board, and no sooner had he done that, he came back and announced once again, “I am sorry ladies and gentlemen, but we will be delayed for another forty minutes because we have a flat front tyre.” The plane was jacked up, the sounds were not comforting and I was in a panic! I was terrified! I was petrified!

The plane was shaking from the hurricane winds and the jacking up of the front part of the palne was no comfort to the terrified person, myself. I am not afraid of airplanes, just apprehensive like most of us are, but the whole saga of waiting, company’s treatment of passengers and weather conditions took the better of me and shook me.

That was the final stroke of that adventure. I was already scared of the plane and the company flying it. Several bad signs about the trip were sitting heavily on my mind and my emotions. The announcement triggered me to action. I am not flying! I am getting off this plane! I got up, went to the stewardess and said in a very firm voice, “I am not flying with you, I am getting off this plane!”

“You can’t do that sir,” she stated categorically, but I was already at the door with my bag. “Yes, I can do it,” I answered angrily. “You have ruined my trip, you aren’t even sure you’ll fly to San Francisco. Please let me out,” which she did reluctantly. The door was opened, the ladder placed and I got off the plane! That was it! My plans for San Francisco went up in smoke just because of the omens! They were all wrong! I felt so insecure that it was not worth the ordeal. I chickened out of the whole trip and the whole idea of flying to San Francisco. I consoled myself saying, I can buy the painting on the phone, which I never did. I never even made a bid and perhaps that was the beginning of a cycle of unfortunate investments in 1987.

Was superstition a bad thing then? Did I let a belief, perhaps a bad idea, ruin my chance of buying a really good painting or was that meant to be? I will never know.

The year 1986 was in many ways more than a dream year for me. It was the best period of my art-trading career. It was the year I consolidated my knowledge. It was the year I made my way across the ocean and the year I made serious, big strides in accumulating wealth. The Hofmann sale boosted my finances, 19th century sales in New York rewarded me handsomely and the investments in Greek art delivered unbelievable returns. The business was flourishing and steaming ahead.

However it was also a year I made mistakes, like the Seago. I also missed the opportunity to buy Bernard Buffet’s early work in San Francisco, which was a mistake in a series of unfortunate errors that followed in 1987. Nevertheless, the investments in Greek and contemporary art more than made up for the small hiccups of the year. Thus, 1987 arrived finding me in a much better financial position and with accumulated knowledge to enable me to invest successfully. What could go wrong to stop my progress up the ladder of art investment?

The omens were good, the flight back to London another story of stories. Crossing the Atlantic is a routine trip for most nowadays but not when there is a hurricane travelling to Europe and you are caught in the middle of it on the way back home. The plane did not shake once or twice. It kept being thrown about for about two hours or was it three hours and my heart went to my stomach several times. The only consolation, indeed great consolation, was the German passenger sitting next to me to whom I am grateful till today. Do not be afraid, he reassured me several times. I was scared like very few times in my life. It was torture of immense proportions. Do not worry, he repeated. If this bird falls, then all the birds will fall. This is the safest airplane you will ever sit in. Do not worry! I was pacified, I was calmed down until a couple of hours before we reached London. The 747 was indeed safe but I came back to London a wreck.

Joining the family was a relief. Wife happy I was safe back, boys happy having daddy back. I was happy and lucky! Life of Luck and Superstition carried on.

Am I lucky? Sure, in the most important aspects of life!

Am I superstitious ? Always but never more than today!

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