The Beauty of Instagram

I realize that the Surgeon General noted this past week that social media cited a “profound risk of harm” to adolescent mental health. I get it from anti-social skills to bullying. Who hasn’t found themselves scrolling through posts and realized an hour has passed?

What I do love about Instagram is the ability to discover. I discovered last week that France implemented short-haul travel bans that can be replaced with train trips of less than two and a half hours to promote sustainable travel. Genius. I wish we had the transportation available in France (and Europe) in the US. Train travel is actually a pleasant experience there.

The other discoveries are artists. I have connected with and purchased pieces that I have seen on Instagram. Design inspiration is always a bonus.

The other thing is recipes. Last weekend I made an Instagram dinner. I went into the saved recipes that I had put in a folder and whipped them up. I learned a lot. I also will make some of these again. This one is from Da Toscano in NYC. Bruschetta with ricotta, peas, mushrooms, agrodolce, mint, and pistachio. A total win that needs to be done again.

Torte de chou from Alain Passard. I shot from the hip a little here, but I did learn how to make a celery root mousseline that was so easy and delicious. Roasted cabbage in white wine and herbs and topped with the mousseline.

Last, I have been being pushed “healthy desserts” these days. This was a bit of a debacle because of the size and melting chocolate but a winner on taste. They all have an ice cream sandwich vibe to them. e. Vanilla Greek yogurt mixed with blueberries, frozen, and then dipped in chocolate.

So, as much as I also find a lot of insanity on Instagram, I do love great content.

Running A Cultural Institution, Gina Duncan, Podcast #182

Gina Duncan started her career in film programming with a lifelong focus on diverse programming that led her to become the president of BAM, the Brooklyn Academy of Music. This episode will highlight Gina’s career working within and running cultural institutions such as Sundance and BAM, focusing on rethinking the role of cultural institutions to be more diverse in their programming.

You can also listen on iTunes and Soundcloud.

Our next guest on PGG will be Catherine Dockery, the founder and general partner at Vice Ventures, a new women-led early-stage VC fund focusing on investing in vice industries.

Loewe Craft Prize

Every organization should have a foundation committed to giving back. I love that Loewe, a Spanish fashion house founded in 1846, is committed to artisans. The foundation has been around since 1988 with the mission to promote creativity in the arts. The Craft Prize, from the Loewe Foundation, began in 2016 to celebrate excellence, artistic merit, and innovation in modern craftsmanship. Above is the winner, an intricate sculpture by Eriko Inazaki.

Over the years, I was obsessed with the winners, keeping a tab open on my computer where I would go back and look at the works daily. With over 2700 submissions this year, the finalists are being shown at the Noguchi Museum in Queens until June 18th. I am so happy I went.

The pieces are shown in a building across the street from the Noguchi Museum, in a refurbished building that has been given a Japanese aesthetic. Only so many people are let in at a time, so you can get close to these gems.

Each piece is inspiring, making me think about an artist’s brain. How they think and create.

The arts are an integral part of the culture, be it writing, painting, singing, or designing, and we do not celebrate that enough. Instead, we are watching crazy people take away books or other cultural icons for fear that it is allowing their children’s brains to think differently and open to looking at the world through a new lens.

I am so glad I went. Mind-blowing. Also the Noguchi Museum is remarkable too.

Under Capitalized

There is nothing worse than trying to build a company that is under-capitalized. The entire cannabis industry is undercapitalized.

Raising money to build a cannabis brand is nearly impossible. Sure, there are family and friends and, if you are lucky, a family office, but do not look to venture or private equity. There are always exceptions to the rule but few and far between in this $30B industry.

I have seen more than a few balance sheets of cannabis brands. The ones that are succeeding run solid operations, but because cannabis is Federally illegal, few want to participate. The Federal Government benefits tremendously, but staying afloat as a company is almost impossible.

The opportunities in the cannabis space are endless for investors but, most importantly, jobs for the economy. In the next few years, we will witness countless companies go under that were insanely well-capitalized but poorly managed. Those jobs are in need of new industries for these employees to hang their hats. It is not going to be pretty.

What is holding the Federal Government back? Pharms and cigarette lobbyists? Back-end deals? We do not know the answer, but we do know the cat is out of the bag, and it is time to legal cannabis so investors capitalize these businesses.

A Perfect Saturday in NYC

Our Saturdays in NYC generally start the same. Fred takes Ollie out for coffee and picks up bagels at Kossars. A bit of breakfast, doing the crosswords (Saturday and Sunday), and then an activity.

This past weekend NYC was filled with art shows. A great NYC activity, from wandering around the Shed to bumping into people, to people watching, to seeing art.

The Frieze is much smaller than it was on Governors Island and appeared to have more galleries from around the globe. Here are some of my faves from the show. Laurens Halsleys collages at David Kordansky Gallery. The roof of the MET has an installation of Halselys work which is a must-see.

Pamela Rosenkranz at Miguel Abreu. This much smaller version of this gorgeous tree looms over 10th Avenue on the High Line.

The constant loop of old films from Matti Braun at Esther Schipper.

Speech bubble from Jeppe Hein at 303 Gallery.

Movin’ Right Along from Keith Mayerson at Karma

Rotating Negroni.

Next stop, lunch. I had lunch at Milos in Hudson Yards this past week, and the soft shell crabs were insanely good. I had Hudson Yards, but Milos never fails to please.

The Greek salad is a classic, and those well-sourced tomatoes were perfect.

We strolled down the Highline for the next stop NADA.

NADA is a bit edgier. I am a big fan of Matthew Chambers’s work.

The Bestower from Felix Treadwell caught my eye on the way out.

Home for a solid nap before evening activities which was dinner at Rafs. I love this spot. Good food, a great vibe, on a good street, and if you close your eyes, you could be in Paris. Their chicken hits the spot.

The rain subsided, and we walked home through the crowds and the endless supply of illegal cannabis shops. I will throw this last piece in for good measure. GRRRR.

Politicians Should Be More Like Jim Brown, Bill Russell, and Mia Hamm

Americans remember the present. We are not big on history….yet.

So what do these professional athletes have in common? They all walked away from their professions at the height of their careers. That had to be one of the most difficult but most satisfying decisions in the long run. They will eternally be remembered for their passion and achievements at a level few can participate.

This is a short list of politicians who either held on to the bitter end or are holding on to the bitter end. Ruth Bader Ginsberg was not a good look. Look how abortion ended. Strom Thurmond at 99, and I am pretty convinced his understanding of the American people was an extremely narrow view. Diane Feinstein is still hanging in there, and so damn sad to see her not choosing the high road but showing up in a wheelchair to work. Unclear if she is even fully aware. Joe Biden is 80, which means if he gets re-elected, he will be 86 at the end of his term if he lasts that long. Trump is 76, and from his latest rambling and court appearance, he doesn’t seem all there either.

For anyone born in 1960 or later, the retirement age is 67. This was changed in 1983 when social security was overhauled, and the age was 65. France just changed their retirement age to 64 from 62. It has become a more significant financial drain on our economy as more people live well into their 90s.

When it comes to Government, there is no retirement age because the Constitution was written when the life expectancy was 35. Politicians hold on to these jobs because that is all they have ever known, and it seems like they like power. It is time for some profound changes.

Politics, like the military, follow a hierarchy. It isn’t easy to throw your hat in the ring and run for office without the party’s support. That is why many politicians put in their time and are called up from the party to put their hat in the ring.

This next election will not be pretty, and the two big questions are, who will live that long or be mentally acute? Where are the parties telling the top dogs to call it quits? Or even turning against a dirty dog found guilty or under investigation (aka Trump and Santos). The answer is not Kamala for the Democrats.

I want to say be more like Mike; although Michael Jordan did retire at the high, he returned a few times afterward, and it was not a good look. So, I will start by saying, “Be More Like Bill.”

Competing Against an Illegal Landscape

Empire Cannabis, Illegal Shop

In 2016, after having medical cannabis dispensaries throughout the state, California took the final step in making cannabis recreational. Now there are twenty-two states with legalized recreational cannabis sales. At the end of 2023, this will have created almost $32B in revenue and over 500,000 jobs. The Federal Government is killing these companies.

The Federal Government is having a picnic owning cannabinoid patents and profiting from the sales of these patents and taxes. Retailers aren’t paying their bills to their suppliers because they are laden with tax bills. Also, the refusal to repeal 280E that taxes the industry at 70% with zero ability to deduct regular expenses that all other businesses do.

California is a mess. Debt has plagued this industry since the beginning, and it only worsens. It is only a matter of time before thousands of dispensaries close and farmers declare bankruptcy. Finger-pointing should be in one direction, the Federal Government.

Let’s get to NY. There are easily 2000 illegal dispensaries throughout the city. Ask twenty NYers; maybe one will know that Empire, a chain of illicit dispensaries, is illegal. Hochul has signed legislation to go after these stores, fining them $20K a day vs. $250 a day. $20k a day is nothing for some of these largest dispensaries. What are they doing about the heart of the issue, landlords? Words and legislation mean nothing unless they are executed.

Gotham, located at 3E3rd Street, is surrounded by these illegal stores alone. Sweet and Sour Smoke Shop, Puff ‘n Pass, 2nd Avenue Smoke Shop, 2nd Avenue Smoke and Beer, Village Gourmet Smoke Shop, The Goodies Shop, Empire Smoke Shop (one of the worst), Cannabis Dispensary, Potion Dispensary, Royal Leaf Collective Dispensary, Higher Empire, Empire Cannabis Clubs Dispnsary, Hempted NYC, Granny Za’s Weed Marijuana Dispensary, EndoMen, Orchard Street Social Club, Smileys Wellness Shop, Green Apple Cannabis Club, Empire Cannabis Club (note all the Empires), Green Leaf Recreational Cannabis Dispensary, and another Empire Cannabis Club.

Let’s call it what it is, utter bullshit. Getting a dispensary license is not easy. Following all the rules and regulations is not a walk in the park. We are following all the tax laws, much to our disdain, but we are competing with dispensaries that do not pay those taxes, so their products are less expensive, and who knows where those products come from? And few NYers even know these stores are illegal. This is killing the industry just as it is beginning.

Where are the PSAs? Where is the swat team taking down each illegal shop daily? The landlords and all the stores should be fined heavily immediately, not once but every single day. NY State is trying to do the right thing by awarding licenses to previously incarcerated people and non-profits who work in this space. Still, they are not helping them with real estate or finances as promised. What they are doing is continuing something that the Government has participated in for years regarding cannabis, aka systemic racism. Instead of jailing people for cannabis, they will slowly kill license holders with debt and taxes.

Perhaps all the legal stores should put their taxes in escrow until something is done about this. That might wake up the state. All I know is that I watched a cannabis store open directly across the street from a police station, and that says it all.

Raising Costs

In the past week, we have received this year’s insurance bills, which have all increased dramatically. Nothing has changed on our end, but it appears a lot has changed in the insurance market. This is not your annual few points increase; this is 20-30%. We all know it is happening in the commercial and residential real estate market.

Big profitable companies and landlords have decided to make up for their losses. In some cases, 25% hikes across the board. There is a severe disconnect between the reality of the street and the greed of these companies, who want what they had during the heyday of the past decade. We don’t have enough shelters or homes for people who can’t afford to live in their city, yet large companies that we are unfortunately beholden to are raising prices at insane numbers. It is unclear to me how we have any power over this. What will the government do? 

As our broker put it, the short and not-so-sweet answer is, “Insurance companies are increasing rates to make up for billions of dollars in losses due to worsening climate disasters, and surging inflation means homes require more dwelling coverage to pay for rebuild costs. The combination of these factors has resulted in some fairly drastic rate increases. We are seeing this with every carrier, unfortunately. We are hoping the market starts to level out soon”. It isn’t like they are not paying any dividends to their shareholders.

What does leveling out mean? Have we ever seen an insurance company or a landlord decide to lower their price? There is a severe housing shortage, commercial offices are not filled, and commercial real estate charges ridiculous prices for their spaces at the street level. More than before Covid and things were already over-priced. Urban cities are having an exodus as people can not afford to live in their own towns.

Right now, there are roughly a few prominent companies in different genres, from banks to insurance companies, leaving little room for competition. Competition is what keeps this idiocy in check. Someone told me there were peaks and valleys the other day, and we are in a valley right now. I wonder how long it is until we hit the bottom of this valley, what does that look like, and when will we get there?

Insight Into The Cannabis Space

Christina Buccola is among the many incredible human beings I have met in the cannabis space. In the weed world, there are many people who want to help navigate you through the space, and it is not easy to navigate. At Gotham, we are lucky to have stumbled upon one of those people, and we also asked the question, “Why do you want to help us”?

This video has so many nuggets, particularly if you are in the space or entering it. A worthy watch.

Aankit Patel, Director of CUNY STEM Education Programs

Aankit Patel directs STEM Education Programs, a creative bureaucrat, leading the Computing-Integrated Teacher Education (CITE) at CUNY initiative and other programs to boost math and science instruction in NYC schools.

Gotham Gives provides funding for this program with Google and Robin Hood to help educators across all platforms incorporate technology into their disciplines.