Gramercy Tavern Turns 30

Gramercy Tavern turned 30. To celebrate, they are bringing back the chef alums to cook or bake for one evening. They are also collecting memories from the patrons, which is very cool.

We went with our friends the other evening, and stepping into GT brings back many memories. Here are some of my memories.

From 1997-1999, I ran revenue for Silicon Alley Reporter (that is a whole other story). Gordon Gould and I would hold court at the bar benches in GT. We would come for lunch, move into the afternoon cookie plate, switch it up with cheese, and then have dinner. We didn’t have an office, and I was coming in one day a week from the burbs (gasp!). Scott, was the maitre’d and was there the other night and we watched him eventually manage the place. We all go way back. I sent Gordon a picture asking him “where am I”? His answer “our dining room!”

My Mom and her best friend loved GT, and they would go a few times a year. Every year, on the day of her death, I return with her friend and my sister and drink a glass of crisp chablis to celebrate Judy.

When the kids were young, Fred and I took our first vacation without the troops. We flew to St. Martens and realized quickly this was not for us. I woke up to Fred sitting in a chair, waiting to tell me that he had taken matters into his own hands. We were flying back to NYC for a staycation at the Mercer Hotel, and the night we landed, we would be celebrating our anniversary at GT. They took such great care of us that evening, with a beautiful cake. Our love for the city and need to return from the burbs was sealed that weekend.

Fred met Danny Meyer there, and our relationship has continued through the years. My kids have been there countless times. The front room is my favorite, and the food is always good. Those stunning floral presentations and the painted mural frieze around the room make me smile.

So many people there that evening had ties to GT, Scott included. In a city of over 8 million people, when you are at GT, you are part of the GT community. It is what makes NYC, NYC. It was indeed an epic New York night.

Enemy of the People

Last week, Trump was convicted by a jury of his peers. That is how democracy works. It is slow, painful, and frustrating, but that is the system we have for the privilege of living here. We move forward as a nation yet are constantly being battered around by legislation that gets in the way, but time is part of the whole gestalt.

There are countless decisions that I will never understand, such as the Supreme Court allowing PACS, which have become the largest tool for putting money in political pockets from the wealthy and powerful. I won’t understand rolling back Roe V. Wade. I do not understand why we continue to use lies to prop up our horrific history instead of coming to terms with it so we can heal and move forward. I do not understand legislation that doesn’t move us forward as a country but keeps us back. These are just a few.

What I do understand is our system works better than any other system in the globe. We have one of the largest GNP’s in the world, although not run perfectly, it does work. I do believe in our legal system, although we have done countless things wrong in our past that have destroyed Black communities in our country by putting people in jails for crimes they have not committed. Thankfully DNA has changed much but not completely.

We have not found enough white collar people accountable for their crimes so when a jury of someones peers, who supposedly happens to be a wealthy powerful white man, comes to the conclusion of guilty on 34 felony counts, that says something about the facts. I applaud these extremely brave jurors knowing what kind of crazy people are out there who would go after them for their decision, yet they all came to the same conclusion based on the facts. Also, Trump has never said he didn’t do it, he just believes he should be able to.

History is always interesting as it leads us to where we are today, every day. I do wonder about the people in our countries past that were on the wrong side of the future. How do the grandchildren or relatives of those people feel about seeing that their grandparents were the ones yelling violently in the faces of the black students entering white schools? The people behind George Wallace? Slave owners? Klu Klux clansmen? Families who did not embrace gay family members? How do those relatives feel about that?

They were all on the wrong side of history, because if you look at our country now, many of these issues although still hanging over our heads, will hopefully at one point be moot. These are historical shifts in our countries social context.

Back to this Trump thing. There are countless wealthy people in our country who have publicly said, prior to the verdict this past week, that they will get behind him and give millions to his campaign. Will that change? Do they truly believe that they are going to be on the right side of history? How do their children feel about that? Regardless of him and his policies, they are now supporting a Presidential candidate who has been convicted, by a jury of his peers for 34 felony counts. It isn’t a big lift to ask yourself, am I missing some red flags here?

This past weekend, we went to see Enemy of the People, a play written by Ibsen in 1882. It could have been written today. Ibsen certainly questioned democracy. The play centers around truth over public opinion. Sound familiar? (BTW, the play is fantastic)

As the play ended, I thought we all know where this goes. Spoiler alert. An entire community turned against the scientist who wanted to tell the truth, because the powerful money manipulated the truth for their own needs. How did those peoples grandchildren think about what the naysayers did to their town by ignoring the truth?

Will the powerful money continue to toss money and power behind a convicted felon? Does history teach us anything? Who is really the Enemy of the People? It might just be ourselves.

Older Women Rule

When my Mom built her last company, she was in her mid-50s. Like many women who are told they look haggard in the mirror (thank you, media), they turn to Botox, eye-lifts, and facelifts. My Mom had a facelift because, as she put it, I am building a sales company, and I need to look young and energetic, and nobody needs to know how old I am. I get it as someone who has worked in industries where I am the oldest in the room.

I have had the joy of working with countless strong, impressive women. I have watched them come into themselves as they became more successful, older, and wise, and how that has changed their mojo. Those who pitched a seed round differed significantly from when they pitched the C and D rounds.

Each decade layers on one’s experience, which changes the game, the confidence, knowledge, and ownership of oneself. I have friends who have gone back to school and completely changed their careers in their 50s. Instead of being slackers, they now get straight A’s. And getting started in this new career is no biggie. They are friends who own their lives more substantially than they have in the past.

I read last week that women’s confidence and self-esteem rise in their 50s, compared to men, who plateau. This creates different dynamics, and many women’s priorities change after 50, reflected in taking care of their needs.

Perhaps this is one of the joys of humans living much older. More women are coming into themselves at such a later date, and younger generations are witnessing that. Although many Americans seem hellbent on keeping women at home or giving them rungless ladders so we can’t step up to be top of our game and want to control our bodies, women make up over 50% of the workforce. We are building companies, we are sitting on boards, we are running publicly traded companies, we are running universities, we are making films and art. It is rare to see a company without female representation these days.

All of these points rolled up into one are positive ones that I hope continue to change the game for all women regardless of age.

NYCHA Resident Hired to Manage New Arts Program for the Community Fund

This article was posted on the NYCHA website, and I am reposting this to celebrate Kemi joining the Public Housing Community Fund. This is a positive step in the right direction.

Kemi Karim is a dynamic artist and community organizer deeply rooted in the fabric of arts and culture in New York City. As a longtime resident of Bushwick Houses, she brings a fresh perspective on public housing and a passion for storytelling to the newly created role of NYCHA Art Liaison at the Public Housing Community Fund, where she’ll manage a new Connected Communities program, From Roots to Arts: Celebrating NYCHA’s Cultural Heritage

From Roots to Arts is the first artist-in-residence program at NYCHA. Throughout the 20-month program, five artists will collaborate with NYCHA residents to conceive public art programming and installations that celebrate the cultural value at Astoria Houses, Bushwick Houses, Bronx River Houses, King Towers, and Richmond Terrace. Each artist will receive a dedicated program space and budget to create art programming that cultivates a deeper sense of community, redefining how art is created and featured in public housing. Funded by a $3 million grant from the Mellon Foundation, the program is made possible through partnerships between the Public Housing Community Fund, NYCHA, and other City agencies. The NYCHA Art Liaison position was created as part of the new program. 

“My position is completely new, and I love how I’ve made it my own,” Ms. Karim said. “It’s been rewarding to work with the Fund, the NYC Public Design Commission, and community-based organization partners on new ways to connect with residents at each development. I look forward to working closely with the artists and our stakeholder advisory groups to ensure forward and impactful progress throughout the program.” 

Kemi Karim
Photo by Marlon Turner

For Ms. Karim, the position feels like the perfect fit because it creates space for honing her skills in arts organization while contributing to her practice as an artist. As an interdisciplinary artist specializing in film and photography, Ms. Karim’s work explores identity, womanhood, and experiences that form and define community. Her work has been featured in several publications, including The New York Times. In 2023, she participated in her first group show, IN MY BAG with the Cierra Britton Gallery, co-curated by Jewel Ham.   

Ms. Karim’s dedication to community development is exemplified through her creative collective, TRUTHIS Studios, which caters to the wellness and advancement of creatives of color. Through initiatives like the annual summer festival, A GREAT DAY IN BROOKLYN, she has built a platform for NYC artists that contributes to entrepreneurship, the arts, and community. The day is curated to celebrate connection, healing, and planning toward sustainable futures in creative industries. Ms. Karim holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Howard University, where she majored in public relations and minored in photography. 

As the NYCHA Art Liaison, Ms. Karim has worked diligently to help establish the new program, transitioning From Roots to Arts from concept to reality. Once the artists are selected, she will guide them in planning and executing programming. She is eager to foster collaborative relationships with NYCHA partners, residents, community-based organizations, and City agencies throughout the program’s duration, ensuring alignment of artistic goals, community needs, and City standards.  

Ms. Karim with a NYCHA resident at a community day hosted by the Fund.

“We are thrilled to welcome Kemi Karim as the new NYCHA Art Liaison,” said Public Housing Community Fund Executive Director Alex Zablocki. “Kemi’s deep roots in Bushwick Houses and her passion for the arts and community organizing make her an invaluable addition to our team. Her innovative vision and dedication to storytelling will undoubtedly enrich our program, From Roots to Arts, and help us celebrate NYCHA’s cultural heritage in profound ways. We are honored and lucky to have her join our team.”   

Ms. Karim’s family has lived at Bushwick Houses — one of the participating developments of From Roots to Arts — for more than 60 years. And since starting her new position in February, she has learned a great deal about NYCHA’s history.  

“In my first week of work, I spent quite a bit of time going through the archives at LaGuardia,” Ms. Karim said. “I had no clue how much programming was embedded into daily life at NYCHA before all the funding was redirected. Like, who knew we had symphonies? I saw visual representations of stories my grandmother would tell me about the early days at Bushwick. It shows how communities thrived when similar programming existed, and while it hasn’t happened in a while, we’re turning a new leaf with From Roots to Arts, hoping to bring more joy and self-sufficiency to our communities. We have a unique opportunity to make NYCHA more than just a place to live.” 

Ms. Karim’s excitement about documenting the impact of From Roots to Arts is fueled by her mission to inspire an expansion of the program that reaches all NYCHA residents. She said that people are often surprised to learn she grew up in a NYCHA development, and through this endeavor she intends to “reshape communities and public perception about people from public housing communities.” 

“In a way, I have an agenda to prove to people that we are so much more than what is portrayed in the media,” she said. “What you may see on the news is not a reflection of the vast majority of people living in public housing. This program is coming to our backyards, and it gives me hope for future artists and all residents regardless of age or cultural background.” 

That Didn’t Take Long

This past week’s survey shows that daily cannabis use has outpaced daily alcohol consumption. More people still drink, but these numbers reflect the vice changes taking place. Marijuana use grew almost 300% from 2008-2022, while daily alcohol use fell by 7%.

There is so much to say here. First of all, Americans have been smoking weed all along, but now that one can legally buy the plant in 26 states, add another 12 where medical cannabis is sold, and you get 38 states, which equals $24B in sales. We are watching the Federal Government figure this out, which is incredibly painful and ridiculous considering they were the ones that made cannabis illegal, created the 280E law, and did this all based on a false narrative created by the ones in power. Is it any wonder that most Americans do not trust the Government anymore?

Americans do not want to see cannabis become part of the pharma machine, tobacco, or alcohol companies. They believe, as I do that this industry should be given a fair shake and stay out of the hands of the big companies that rule our world. I also want to see people who partake in cannabis making decisions.

How can someone who has never puffed and experienced why people get stoned daily understand cannabis? They can’t, which is why the elder cockers in government are clueless about the legal decisions around the plant. It might spell out a new industry with ample opportunity, aka taxes, jobs, and medical research, but look past the numbers and understand the impact on a society that has been smoking illegally for decades—the havoc it has created in communities for zero reason.

Most importantly, cannabis takes the edge off; it creates a positive attitude adjustment if you know what works for you. Each state’s rollout has been a mess. Is there anyone in the Federal Government who is a closet stoner who can speak to their peers on why they should be paying attention to this data?

Fewer people are drinking, and that is not changing; the numbers will continue to plummet as weed smoking rises. Giving the keys over to the large companies who have brought havoc to our system, from oxi to fructose to nicotine, should not be allowed to take hold of this new industry as they have with others; it is time for some new leadership in new big business.

Mixed-Seed Upside Down Cake

This cake came through my feed from Savuer, and I tagged it immediately. It’s so good and not that difficult. I plan on making it again and again;

  • 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, plus more for greasing
  • ½ cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh orange juice
  • 1 tsp. finely grated orange zest
  • ¼ tsp. kosher salt
  • 3 Tbsp. pumpkin seeds, hulled
  • 3 Tbsp. sunflower seeds, hulled
  • 1 Tbsp. poppy seeds
  • 2 tsp. fennel seeds

Preheat the oven to 350. Thoroughly grease a 9″ cake pan before putting parchment paper over the bottom. This ensures the seeds stick to the cake when it flips onto the plate.

In a small pot, melt the butter and then pour in the rest of the ingredients above. When this is fully dissolved and lightly bubbling, pour this into the cake pan. Use a spatula to evenly spread the mixture

  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • 1⅓ cups sugar
  • 1 tsp. finely grated orange zest
  • 1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh orange juice
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3 extra-large eggs
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp. poppy seeds

Mix the flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside. Add the sugar and orange zest in a separate bowl, then incorporate the zest into the sugar with your hands. Then, whisk in the yogurt, orange juice, vanilla, and eggs. Slowly whisk in the olive oil and poppy seeds. Pour this into the cake pan and bake for 35 minutes. Make sure the cake is thoroughly baked. Take it out of the oven and let it cool before flipping it onto a plate.

Voila!

China Tariffs

Back in the early 90s, I built a schmata business. I was the sidekick to this hustler whose father-in-law, aka Jewish mobster, backed him. It was quite the experience. I grew the business from the two of us and a part-time designer to a full-time designer with a staff of one and three more salespeople, including a receptionist, and a new office. The revenue grew by 85% in a few years.

The experience was defining and short-lived. We made all of our products in Long Island City. It was around this time that making products in China began to soar. I had been a buyer at Macy’s before this job, and we were beginning to make huge bets on merchandise from China because the margins were so good. It changed forever how department stores operate and where clothing is made.

Then came the roar: Make it in America. The politicians have all jumped on this bandwagon. 75% of Americans opt to buy a product that is made in America vs. China. It sounds good. Let’s start making all our clothes in America and return to the factory jobs. There will be more robots than humans, but it will benefit the USA. Now, your t-shirts that cost, on average, between $20-30 will cost $70 because the labor cost is much higher, including medical insurance, and the materials cost more to make. Remember that buying clothing, regardless of where it is made, fuels our economy.

Perhaps technology will make products made in America less expensive so that we can make more products here; that would be amazing, and maybe that is happening. My guess is we might be creating a huge tariff with China to protect our workers, but the cost for the consumers is going to be gut-wrenching unless, of course, we move everything to Vietnam.

Unions

Supposedly, only 25% of adults say their workplace promotes a supportive environment. Some other supposed stats are that almost 50% of adults say their job is fulfilling, 20% are overwhelmed, and 30% are stressful.

I can understand the 50/20/30 information. Yet, I wonder how each generation feels about their workplace compared to all adults. Millennials and Gen Z have different expectations or perhaps desires from the workplace.

Unions were formed to stop exploitation and protect employees’ rights. They have been ensconced in the car industry since 1935. Last week, the UAW lost unionization in a Mercedes factory in Alabama. Company unionization has gone from 20% in 1983 to 10% in 2023. That speaks volumes.

I can think of multiple reasons why unionization has ebbed, although the power it holds in certain states is mind-blowing based on these statistics.

We have read and witnessed that unions are always knocking on opportunity doors. They are currently infiltrating the cannabis industry when the size of each store is not that big. Someone needs to keep the Union brass making the big bucks. I think employers should be held accountable for how they treat their employees, and if the fear of unionization is the catalyst, so be it.

Treating your employees right will make them happier, and happier companies make for better business. It isn’t that hard.

Finally, Celebrating Female Athletes

Say what you will about the Kardashians, and I could say a lot, but Skim’s new ad campaign highlighting badass female athletes feels good. The first thing that popped into my head when the campaign popped up in my Instagram feed was, “damn, it’s about time.”

It has taken 50 years since Title IX was enacted into law to see women’s basketball have the crowds it deserves. These women are playing at an exciting level. The NCAA championships this year took on another level of excitement with star athletes who have been drafted to play in the WNBA.

These women are not being paid the same amount as their male counterparts. Let’s not forget that the NBA is a serious business. The athletes get paid based on salary caps, which affect the amount of capital being made in the entire NBA business machine.

Everything else these athletes do, such as sponsors, is their own personal added bonus, and finally, women are getting their due here, too. Athletes seem to be the latest actors in all the advertising during the games.

Now that the WNBA has packed stadiums and owners who are focused on building a female powerhouse sports arm of the NBA, we will start to see higher salary caps. Stephen Curry has a salary cap of $135M for 2023/2024, whereas Jackie Young, who signed with the Las Vegas Acers a few days ago, makes $252,450 a year. These two make the most money playing ball.

I hope it doesn’t take another 50 years for WNBA players to make the type of cash Curry is raking in.

The Flower Is Female

 Buy Weekly: The Flower is Female

I rarely post another post, but I love this one so much. I proudly wore my Future is Female t-shirt, and I still do. Read the piece. You can follow Gotham’s blog here.

Buy Weekly: The Flower is Female, from the one and only Rachel Berks, Founder of Otherwild and VP of Creative and Merchandising @ Gotham.

Back in 2015, our VP of Creative + Merchandising, Rachel Berks, remade “The Future is Female” t-shirt, based on a design from the 70s for Labyris Books, the first women’s bookstore in New York City. When she learned that the cannabis plant is most prized in its female form, she had a new idea…

In 2015, I was scrolling Instagram and found myself captivated by a 1970s-era photograph of a woman wearing a t-shirt with the slogan “The Future is Female”. It was posted on Herstory’s instagram account, which was run by a friend, and celebrated herstorical imagery of lesbian, queer + GNC folks. I reposted this photo, and that the shirt had been created for the first women’s bookstore in NYC called Labyris Books. People loved this photo immediately – the slogan clearly resonated widely, and many commenters begged me to remake the tee.

Photo by Liza Cowan

Due to the overwhelming response to my post, I redesigned the shirt and offered them for sale through my store Otherwild. I made an initial run of 24 tees which sold out overnight, and thanks to a perfect storm of concurrent event — defunding Planned Parenthood, the relentless attack on a woman’s right to choose, and a woman running for president — a viral cultural phenomenon was born.

Since I had borrowed the slogan myself, I never considered trademarking it. Before I launched the tee, my internet research yielded literally nothing with or referencing “The Future is Female” on it. The original photo didn’t even surface because of its near total obscurity. Once I launched and found tremendous success with my own version of the t-shirt, the slogan became ubiquitous. During a pop-up during the fall of 2016, I sold two sweatshirts to Annie Clark aka St. Vincent for herself and her then girlfriend, Cara Delevigne. Shortly afterwards, both celebs were photographed wearing the sweatshirt, and The New York Times published an article titled, “A Feminist T-Shirt Resurfaces From the ‘70s” in which I was quoted saying:

“It’s thrilling to see people embrace something that came out of the ’70s lesbian separatist moment,” Ms. Berks said. “The shirt is about a reaction to a misogynist and patriarchal culture that affects a lot of people. People are recontextualizing it: trans women, men, moms who have sons.”

The Future is Female Shirt

In the weeks after the article was published, a couple very non-feminist things occurred. First, a woman named Suzanne Sizer filed a trademark application for “The Future is Female” one week after the NY Times article came out. Second, Cara Delevigne posted an identical knockoff of my sweatshirt on her Instagram to her many millions of followers. Luckily, Otherwild had an army of feminist supporters who would not stand for a celebrity capitalizing off of a queer woman-owned small business, and my following and business skyrocketed after the scandal.

Cara Delevigne The Future is Female

Since I released the tee, I’ve seen countless renditions worldwide in the forms of apparel, jewelry, baby items, book titles, magazine covers, political slogans, print and broadcast headlines, beer, phone cases, fundraisers, nail polish, protest signs, other endless merch, and so on and so forth. The words were uttered by Hillary Clinton post-election, there was an SNL skit about the shirt, and musician Kiran Gandhi wrote a song, called “The Future is Female” in which she calls out her ‘black, Otherwild Future is Female t-shirt’.

The Future is Female

It’s a very strange and somewhat unsettling experience to have a hand in resurrecting what became such an important slogan in feminist herstory, and then to simultaneously lose control of the narrative of that slogan. Regardless, the shirt gave me the opportunity to grow my business and support artists and designers within my community, which had always been the most meaningful and significant purpose of Otherwild.

Almost ten years have passed since I first saw and remade the t-shirt, and when I learned that the cannabis plant is most prized in its female form, because that is when the psychotropic compounds are most potent, I had a new idea…

The Flower is Female

“The Flower is Female” T-shirt by Gotham, $38

The Future is Female

“The Flower is Female” T-shirt by Gotham, $38

“Female cannabis is what consumers know as ‘cannabis’ in that we consume the female flower and the respective cannabinoids that the female flower produces..”

  • Ian Dyshe, Head Of Operations at MFNY

“In a literal sense, the cannabis flowers we know and love are female, as they tend to produce more trichomes rich in the active cannabinoids and terpenes.”

  • Miri Gregor, VP Cannabis at Gotham

As a celebration of this plant we love, on the first birthday of our female-founded company, we are thrilled to offer a limited edition drop of “The Flower is Female”.

Shop “The Flower is Female” limited edition t-shirt now at Gotham!