back in LA

We are back in LA earlier than usual as we move into a house project that is one for the records. This one definitely put us under the “gluttons for punishment” category. When the waiting is over, you soon forget the angst getting there.

In our first apartment, we had no furniture except a cotton woven rug, a mattress, a three-tier bamboo bookshelf that we walked home for ten blocks in the middle of the day. What we had was a walk-in closet with one camp trunk and a folding chair to sit on with an upside-down brown box as the table. The closet lightbulb was the only real light in the apartment once the sun went down. We sat in there endless nights after work playing rummy. The couch we ordered took forever but it eventually showed up after finding the Macy’s buyer of that area and asking (begging) her to push things along. When it showed up, it was if we always had a couch.

This is our 6th winter in LA. I will miss NYC which is quite suited to me yet every year I connect better to LA. Having our own place to hang our hat could be a game-changing experience. Very excited about moving west for a bit of sun warmth and of course skiing.

Healthcare

I have spent some time in the past year as a patient in the world of healthcare. It is not a fun place to be. Every time I step my toe into that world of appointments, insurance, new doctors, old doctors, and costs, I come away thinking about how the hell do we fix this mess?

I am not espousing anything that we all know. We depend on the system because we have to. I spent the last year trying to figure out something. Four doctors in I finally found one that actually peeked under the hood. She set me on the right path. I was so grateful which she appreciated but she stressed that she was just doing her job. Nobody else did their job. Why? Time is money, they didn’t know or didn’t care, they weren’t honest enough to say this is not an area I am expert in but this person is? Who knows the answer but between Dr. Google and a good doctor, I figured it out. Why should it be like that?

Why aren’t insurance companies proactive instead of defensive? What is everyone had to have an annual physical, and a battery of different tests as they got older, different pokes and prods based on your age and gender.

Data is pointing to more people dying of diabetes, heart disease and opiates. Wouldn’t it make sense that insurance companies would look at an individual and make a recommendation such as twice a year physical, needs to see a social worker or therapist for mental health issues, needs to see a dietician or nutritionist and in this case one that can help with the entire family, needs to exercise and should connect with the local gym and the right trainer to start on the correct path. Each person needs different guidance and health administration. This might seem expensive but not as expensive as getting a massive heart attack at 56 or 63 and staying in the hospital for weeks on end, paying for constant care and meds, and that doesn’t even count the cost to the long tail of not being able to work or care that is left for the family.

Is any insurance company looking into this? The good news is we are seeing more start-ups addressing each of these situations from the ground up with telecare through states that are trying to address these overwhelming issues in communities of need. The cost hits all of us and everyone deserves pro-active healthcare.

We should all be able to choose our own healthcare but we all must have healthcare that is thinking in new directions.

Creme Brulee Pie

Thanksgiving is about traditions. You don’t want to change much because there are expectations. The same cranberry chutney, the same stuffing, and the turkey are a constant. A little change-up on the sides every year but nothing crazy. The desserts are always an apple, pumpkin (both made by our friend) and pecan pie (now I make them into small squares) but I tossed in a creme brulee pie this year from a recipe on Bon Appetit. A huge hit. This will definitely be making the list again next year….if not before.

Make a pie crust (or if you want you could do store-bought) and pre-bake the shell.

  • ½ cup plus 3 tablespoons/145 grams granulated sugar
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • ¾ teaspoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 ½ cups/360 milliliters heavy cream, chilled

Heat the oven to 300. In a mixmaster, with a whisk attachment, add 1/2 cup sugar, egg yolks, vanilla (I used extract), salt and nutmeg. Beat at high speed until the mixture is very pale and has a bouncy feel. 3-4 minutes. While beating, slowly add the cream until thoroughly combined.

Pour into the cooled pie crust. Bake 40-50 minutes or until the edges are set and it is jiggly in the center. Let cool.

The key here is the finale. Take the remaining sugar and sprinkle over the top. We used a torch to get the top super crispy. If you don’t have a torch which I strongly suggest having in your pantry, put tin foil over the pastry crust and then put the pie under the broil for a few minutes until bubbling.

Serve with whipped cream or not.

USPS

Who pays for USPS when they don’t deliver the package, hold it in the back and then send it back to the shipper? Since I have never been billed for that experience and quite sure the shipping company does not either then I would guess it comes right off of USPS’s bottom line.

I have had my own personal frustrations with USPS over the years but I had a doozie this past summer. Ends up, I was not the only one after talking to a few others that had the exact same experience. We were out at the beach for Thanksgiving and as we are reading more and more about Amazon shipments I wonder how e-commerce will change the post office, FedEx and USPS.

E-commerce purchases from Farfetch or Ssense sometimes come from other countries. It might start with DHL but the hand-off is to USPS. That is when it gets complicated. It ends up that these companies have some kind of priority deal which makes sense. Where we are located in Amagansett, there is no postal delivery. You must have a PO Box to get mail. I had one for years when the kids were in camp to get their letters but it made zero sense to keep after that. It only became a vehicle for spam. It was shocking to me how much spam mail just accumulated over a year. The priority deal means that the post office must hold your package for a possible pick-up for 5 days without notice even if you do not have a post office box. Never heard of it? Me either but now I know.

Ssense emailed me that the box was at the post office. The person at the post office refused to believe me. She was downright nasty. If you don’t have a PO Box it goes back, period. I came back again the next day to try again. The postmaster was there and iterated the same thing.

I asked them if they would be so kind do just go look in the back because if my box was there, then the problem would be solved, it wouldn’t cost USPS any money and was it that big of a deal to go look? After some evil eye contact, they decided with a shrug that they would do it.

Low and behold, out she comes with the packages explaining the priority stuff. The anger and the unwilling to help behavior is beyond me. It also makes me wonder about the future of mail, period.

Sometimes we all need a little Mr. Rogers

As a kid, I definitely favored Sesame Street over Mr. Rogers. Don’t forget that Captain Kangaroo was part of that time too. I found Mr. Rogers’s old school like something out of another era. As you can see I was always looking to the future. As an adult, I have always applauded how he connected in the world particularly after seeing the documentary on him last year. His understanding of big hard emotional issues at a granule level especially for someone under 8.

We saw “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” this weekend and I highly recommend going. The movie is based on an article written by Tom Junod for Esquire magazine in 1998. Junod was an angry man and deservedly so still recovering from a painful childhood. Mr. Rogers let him into his life to write an article for the “hero” edition of the magazine. The article is aptly titled “Can You Say….Hero”?

I could relate to Junod’s anger and what Mr. Rogers was subtly saying to him throughout the film. I cried a few times. I am a sucker for a good cry at the movies. Yet the timing of this film is perfect. The film makes you want to be more emotionally in touch with the world around you. It is about decency and zero panderings. It is about connecting with other people and relationships. It is about getting back to something many have lost with social media and the constant onslaught of media. It is about remembering that we can return to a place of calm with the hope that we can be respectful, empathetic and embrace our fellow neighbors. Something to think about as we approach 2020.

Changing of 14th Street

The congestion in cities is crazy. Friends who live outside of NYC have stopped bringing their cars in and have begun taking the train. That is a good thing. It means that something is working.

Due to the work on the subway lines, the city made a decision to close 14th Street to cars. Buses only. I hope the future is above ground rail on 14th, 23rd, 34th, 42th, 57th and the most crowded streets in Brooklyn and Queens. Unfortunately, the future revolves around multiple components, the largest one is Government funding.

Watching the transformation of 14th Street will be one for the records. What will happen to the real estate, the apartments, the stores, the way people navigate the area?

The transformation has begun. I hope there are some entrepreneurial people who create something new and different for the downtown community. 14th Street sits on top of the East, mid and West Village including the Meat Packing Area and below Chelsea, Flatiron and Gramercy. This shouts opportunity!!

The Shed

Alex Poots is the founding chief executive and artistic director of the Shed. He is a delightful human being and intensely passionate about the arts. He lives, breathes, sleeps and thinks about how to bring every practice of art to the public in cutting edge ways to engage audiences and excite the artist. A rare person who the Shed and NYC is lucky to have.

The Shed was built to be a flexible building where music, plays, art installations, and any kind of performance could be shown. Currently, there are two installations and a concert performance. The performance is a new interpretation of Verdi’s Requiem by conductor Teodor Currentzis with a 100-member orchestra and 80-member chorus and 4 opera singers. In the background, above the stage, there is video artwork from the late Jonas Mekas. It is about the life of biological natural resources and how climate change could kill it. It is quite brilliant.

One of the installations Agnes Denes, Absolutes and Intermediates. A Hungarian concept artist whose work is broad including brilliant breathtaking environmental installations. This is the architecture rendering to tree mountain. She created a time capsule that must outlive us by replanting for the future. Twelves years later, there were 11,000 trees planted by 11,000 people in Finland. Since its completion in 1966, the Government has legally protected this mountain for the next 400 years. It is epic.

The Wheatfield installation took place in 1982 where she planted two acres of wheat two blocks from Wall Street on landfill that harvested 1000 pounds of healthy wheat. That area is now Battery Park City. She discusses it in a video about how quickly animals came such as preying mantis. Here is Agnes in the wheatfield.

There is a room of pyramids. This large pyramid was commissioned for the Shed. It made of 6000 composable 3-D printed bricks.

These four pyramids are all filled with different materials. The first is made of mirror, the second is filled with crude oil, the third is filled with water from the Hudson River that has a living microcosm growing in there and the fourth is NYC tap water (thankfully nothing growth in there).

Manual Override is the other installation. Lynn Hershman’s electronic diaries that sent her on a technological journey. The exploration of identity, surveillance and the use of media as a tool for censorship and political repression is bound to make anyone freak.

Sign up for the emails from the Shed. Poots is pushing the boundaries of cultural installations and all of us get the honor to participate and see.

The Holidays are Here

Thanksgiving is upon us. We begin to eat, entertain, see friends and get into the holiday spirit. This is a great thing for some yet depressing and overwhelming for others. There is a fine dusting of fear that is blowing over our country these days. It is strange and scary times of division and anger.

The Mighty where multiple communities gather online around multiple health situations including one of the most important topics; mental health. They have created a 52 Small Things weekly health care guide that is a great guiding light challenge for everyone. It is a good place to start this holiday season.

Here are the topics so far with much more in-depth information from articles, and ideas on the Mighty’s site. It began last January but you can begin anytime. They are 5 short of 52 on the site.

Identify your goals, practice gratitude, 3 minutes a day journaling, staying hydrated, performing acts of kindness, boosting your self-confidence, expressing love, honoring your needs, connecting with your community, improving your sleep, being creative, tracking your mood, finding humor, prioritizing, mindful eating, mental health time outs, going green, being present, dental hygiene, advocating, celebrating your victories no matter the size, going outside, finding comfort, morning routine, creating positive space, positive affirmation, try something new, empathy, patience, setting boundaries, face your fears, allow yourself to get distracted, build emotional strength, preventing burnout, writing letters, connect with your finances, listen to music, make changes by stepping out of your comfort zone, accept differences, tell stories, rest, physical movement, meditate, trick or treat yourself, listen to your true self, set goals, clean.

Anyone can benefit from self-help particularly during the holidays and the crazy times we live in.

Housing

As cities become wealthier, housing becomes a huge problem. What is the future of housing going to look like? And more importantly, what should it look like?

The high-end housing market is over-saturated in NYC. It is only time until that market starts to shift because banks will want their capital back on the loans and many places will just sit there because they are just priced too high.

It is truly no different than when department stores decided to trade up and go after a higher-end customer instead of sticking to the bread and butter of their business that is moderately priced. Even investors who invest in new businesses that don’t really have the size of the market they believe. The majority of the market is not high-end and in cities, we need a mixture of everything to create working communities.

Where do our teachers, police, grocers, child-care providers, and other important people of our everyday lives live?

I recently spoke with someone about this topic. Even now all the waterfront is being bought up in the Bronx by developers. Are they going to do the right thing and think about the future of communities? Are they going to build carbon-free buildings with spaces for middle income and lower-income families including teen spaces, a grocery that speaks to the community, restaurants, retail, art space (theaters for plays and movies) and social support systems? If not, they should. Think about a new Stuyvesant town.

I have been vocal about my thoughts on Hudson Yards, an ugly playground for the wealthy which I hope is the peak of this market. The government needs to be giving reasons for uncreative greedy developers to think out of the box and build something for the next generation of NYers that include people from every walk of life. That is what makes NY such a unique place but without housing, it is hard to keep our artists, child-care providers, police, teachers, and others close to their work and home.

Data is Illuminating, Clementine Jacoby, Podcast #121

Clementine Jacoby, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Recidiviz works with states to build data awareness to drive reform of the criminal justice system. Her journey takes her from circus performer to Google, maps product manager, to using data to illuminate problems in incarceration and criminal justice systems.

You can listen to this on iTunes here.