Spoiler Alert….NYC is alive and hopping

I got an email on my birthday from an old friend who has taken a hard right turn. He wrote, “Be careful what you wish for, NYC has got its “edge” back. I fear it’s going to be tough sledding there for a while”. Fake news. NYC might be a bit funky, but “edge” is relative. It has a new edge. As always, we participated in the city too much! There are too many people on the streets without homes, and most who are indeed out of their minds, and that is painful. But layered over that is a rocking pulse on the streets that feels really good.

We kicked off the week going to the theater. Although we had to be in masks, it felt excellent to be back in a theater. We saw the opening of Is This A Room. Performances through actual transcripts of the FBI who interrogated a 25-year-old woman who had released Government information to the media. Trump cracked down on these leaks, and this woman did five years in federal prison for this. Yep, five years.

On my favorite intersection of Tribeca sits One White Street. Lots of history in the 3-story townhouse it occupies. Once owned by John and Yoko to build their utopian society, as Yoko said, “no land, no boundaries, no passports, only people.” The house had to be renovated from the inside out to look as it has been standing there for centuries as a sparkling gem in the neighborhood. Landmark is good for some things. It feels so good in this space, and the food from chef and owner Austin Johnson is excellent from start to finish.

Back to Gage and Tollner for a family dinner.

The best part is Emily gave us two treats from Apt. 2. Great story behind Apt. 2. Cinnamon rolls for breakfast, and a green olive, pumpkin seed focaccia that I used to make gooey melted swiss cheese sandwiches for lunch.

We made our way uptown, after seeing James Bond, the evening before. Another joy, being in the big theater! I went all in to celebrate with a box of Milk Duds. The Cooper Hewitt, now part of the Smithsonian, is an epic building with 64 rooms that once housed Andrew Carnegie. The museum is dedicated to design. We went to see the Willi Wear exhibit. A brand that I wore in 1983. Fred still remembers the black and white checked comfy double-breasted suit I had. Willi Smith died too young, one of the first major black designers who died suddenly of AIDS-related illnesses in 1987. He was prolific and was hitting his stride.

Lunch uptown is always at Via Quadrono. They have built a substantial outside dining area packed with people inside and waiting on the sidewalk chatting. Great people watching. Always the same lunch for me, but my favorite. Arugula, tomatoes, thinly sliced Parmesan, and Italian tuna. It can’t be beaten.

The evening activity was an NFT party celebrating the opening of the Bright Moments gallery in Soho. Before getting there, I hung outside at Fanneli’s with Emily and Saarim. Soho is genuinely the best mall in America. The people, the hum of the streets. It was pretty awesome just being there. Running into friends and finishing the night at Raoul’s and rolling home for the evening.

Finishing off the weekend with live theater! Dana H. is a one-act show that is powerful and unique. Dana, the playwright’s Mom, a hospice chaplain, tells a harrowing tale of being held hostage by a psychotic client. It is brilliant.

NYC might have too many vacant storefronts, a need for more workers in hospitality, and a slew of other issues that impact all urban areas in this post-Covid world, but this city is booming.

Are Women Finally Just Taking Over?

Maybe it is Covid, and perhaps it is the next generation, maybe it is just the shifting of time, who knows, but it appears that women are finally just taking over. There are a few things about women, we network differently than men, we tend to do something that nobody knows about, as in most of us fly under the radar, and we get shit done.

I did a podcast with Varsha Rao, CEO of Nurx, a women’s telehealth company, last week, soon to be posted, and I keep thinking about our conversation. The morning-after pill is an emergency birth control pill to prevent pregnancy. As men, yes men, have been pushing the anti-abortion laws, the reality is this pill is giving women control of their lives. Guaranteed that even the women holding up their signs at clinics have used this without telling anyone. It is a pill you can keep in the drawer just in case there is a mishap, and every woman should.

Let’s get down to the infuriating change in Texas and possibly others to come of not being able to have a legal abortion. This pill means that the only women who will need an abortion are the ones that don’t have enough money for this pill or aren’t smart enough to have it sitting in her drawer or organized enough to stay on top of their bodies. What will happen is the people who will end up having children who didn’t want them are women who don’t have the means, and so the cycle repeats itself, keeping underserved communities down. Disheartening but reality. This pill should be covered by insurance. Proactive vs. defensive, but our healthcare insurance system has yet to work like that.

Women can now talk to a doctor online. They can talk about issues freely. Even in advertisements, women are talking about their period, menopause, their vaginas. So many stigmas are being lifted. Young girls are excited to share their periods with their friends. These realities of life have long been hidden behind closed doors. That doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. Even women who are having their eyes done or their facelifted are happy to discuss. That has not been the case in the past.

Maybe it is something in the air, but the tides seem to be turning. I see more women in power, more women running for office, more women taking control of their destiny. We are so good at changing our history to fit the narrative of the moment. Still, we are finally seeing those women in our history who have made a more significant impact than we ever knew about being written about. We are finally seeing women speaking up.

It is high time that women begin to take over and sit at the table as equals. Or perhaps just take over the world.

Non-Profits Must Show ROI

Gotham Gives is Fred and my latest venture. I have written a few times about the organizations we have partnered with. Our tagline is, “we support programs that benefit NYC and the neediest of New Yorkers”. We have been doing this for years and have now made it a public organization. We hope to raise money for organizations that we support with the hope that our involvement will significantly impact the work that these non-profit organizations are doing.

I have been involved in non-profit organizations for decades, being the first Chairperson to three. I am proud of those efforts and incredibly grateful that each of these organizations has grown and become more prominent each year, changing the lives of many.

The one point I have hammered home on at our weekly board meeting is impact. There are countless organizations with big hearts that want to do good in the world. I know for a fact that many of them are trying to do the same thing, and some do an excellent job at impact while others barely keep their head above water.

Non-profits need to be accountable. I want to see data, I want to know the impact, I want to see a return on our investment. As we put more capital into the non-profit world, and it could be a substantial amount as the years’ pass, I want to see more organizations that not only have hearts but have a clear-cut mission showing results. We expect that from the profit companies we invest in, and if we all expected that from the non-profit companies we put capital into, the world would be a lot better off.

Whitney Museum, Jasper Johns and Crafts

The Whitney and the Philadelphia Museum of Art both featuring a retrospective of Jasper Johns with over 500 pieces between the two locations. No doubt the impact that Johns has made on the contemporary art world.

We have seen his work countless times in museums, from the permanent collections to curated shows. There are the classic flags, and the numbers, and the broad range of prints and paintings. He is still making art today.

Johns has had several shows with the Whitney over the years. I particularly loved the room with that historical data. Think about what a significant purchase the Whitney made in 1980 for $1m. That was mind-blowing. Forty years later, the work is worth countless times over.

One of my favorite parts of the Whitney is looking through the large back window to see the ever-changing landscape of the west side. This construction project will eventually be a beach. Massive changes have taken place on the west side over the last twenty years. It gets better every single day.

This is something that warmed my heart. We used to shlep our kids to art openings and galleries, and btw it has paid off. Kids were taking objects to create their own works after seeing the shows. I just love this.

I did enjoy the Jasper Johns show but what truly inspired me was the show right above it, Making Knowing: Craft in Art, 1950-2019. The exhibition was curated by Jennie Goldstein, Elisabeth Sherman, and Ambika Trasi. What a job they have done! This piece was made by Ann Wilson in 1955, called Moby Dick. Her quilts were reminders of the handiwork of her female relatives growing up in Western Pennsylvania. She used discarded quilts from a seaside dump to create this piece.

Yayoi Kusama’s chair worked out her frustrations of the patriarchal system in the art world in both Japan and NY.

I could spend all day staring into Liza Lou’s kitchen. It took her five years to create this piece between 1991-1996. As fun and brilliant as it appears, this is a critique of the marketing of household goods to homemaking, dismissing the gender inequality of labor. When this was made and now seeing it in 2021, resonates on how we are finally discussing the reality of women’s unpaid roles and the need to change systemic gendered roles in the home.

Alan Shields, made in 1972.

Miriam Shapiro, the Beauty of Summer, was made in 1973-1974.

Mike Kelley, More Love Hours that Can Never Be Repaid and the Wages of Sin, 1987.

Ebony Patterson, 2019.

It made me want to return to some crocheting and sewing. Maybe that is why I baked scones Sunday morning.

post 9/11

Painting by Todd Stone

The twentieth year of 9/11 still hangs in the air. Each year we acknowledge the date, but every time I read something or see something about 9/11, it brings me right back.

I had the pleasure of sitting on the LREI board, our kid’s K-12 school, with Todd Stone. Todd was in his Tribeca studio when the planes hit the towers. The impact it has made on his life and his work has been tremendous. We own a piece of his work made the days after 9/11. It is a photo of a car’s windshield, covered in white soot, and someone had drawn in the ashes, We Will Survive. It still gives me chills each time I look at the piece.

The other night Emily sent Fred and me a piece written by her childhood friend, an LREI kid, who is now the Deputy Managing Editor of the Atlantic. It was the night I was on my way to Todd Stone’s installation of the last twenty years of work.

Emily and Amy were in third grade when the towers were hit. Amy interviewed the third graders, now 20 years older, who went to PS234, an elementary school blocks from the World Trade Center. What those kids saw is unprecedented. Reading about the impact it made on each of them and their reflections brought me back.

I made my way up to the 63rd floor to see Todd. His wife and daughter were there too. Twenty years of work documenting the changing of downtown NYC post 9/11 is powerful. His studio sits in the new tower with epic views of downtown and the waterfront. I imagine each piece he paints is cathartic. Washing that day away yet making sure it stays intact.

Each year we move farther and farther away from the moment that changed the world’s path. I have talked about the day here and there with our kids; after all, they were 10, 8, and 5 when 9/11 happened. I really should talk about it more. Reading Amy’s piece and seeing Todd’s work was undoubtedly reflective, yet it is also uplifting. Life goes on, and as horrible as that day was, we have all grown, gotten older, and that day lives inside us all and always will.

A Week of Food, New and Old

My birthday kicked off the week, and we celebrated by going to Sushi Yoshino. Yoshida comes from a sushi family, taking over his father’s spot in Seki after returning from his apprenticeship in Tokyo. He relocated the restaurant to Naoyga, where it was critically acclaimed. In 2019, after turning 50, he decided to make a move to NYC. Lucky us!

The restaurant is located on the Bowery, but you are in Japan the second you walk in. There is a small intimate sushi bar, omakase only, two seatings 530 and 830, and only ten seats. The experience is epic, and the food is delicious, from the first bite in your mouth to the last.

There is, of course, some show. This mackerel roll was cooked over a hand-held charcoal flame and then rolled up in seaweed. It is a place we will return to a few times a year. Truly epic.

The following day I met two good friends to celebrate their birthdays too. Taco Guey recently opened in the Flatiron area. The menu consists of Marciscos (the sea bass is excellent), Tacos, Antojitos (Mexican street food), sides, salsas, and of course, desserts. The food is quite good. Fred has gone several times. From the lighting to the music, the atmosphere could use a little help, but the food carries the day.

We hit up a favorite ramen spot Jun-Men for lunch after doing a complete walkthrough of the Whitney and the High Line. I opted for the vegetarian ramen; fried maitake mushroom, pickled mustard green, wood ear mushroom, cabbage, sesame purée, scallion, and noodles in a mushroom miso broth. Delicious!

Last and definitely not least is the reopening of Barbuto. Saturday was a quiet opening, although not so subtle. The place had a line at 530. Waxman found a spot about three blocks away from where his restaurant sat for years. I give him huge kudos. He found a place, opened for two weeks, Covid happened, and put it on ice for 18 months. That is a big move.

Seeing him in the kitchen Saturday night was so good. He is 71 years old, and at the end of the day, he loves to cook. The kitchen staff is back with him. The menu is very similar, but he just tweaked a few things. For instance, the brussel sprout salad is now the brussel sprout, carrot, and radish salad, and it might be even better than it ever was.

The vibe is spot on, the bar is twice as long as the last one, and everything was excellent. He needs more staff, but the man is a professional. He will do what needs to be done. Rarely do restaurants move into new locations and make it. Trust me on this one; Waxman is going to crush it.

Finished off the weekend making scones for breakfast. I have had a serious craving. I went into my archives to make these lemon scones. I only tweaked the milk part and used half buttermilk and half milk. Worked well!

Cabaret

Besides overhearing people discuss a 60th bday event and thinking 60? Filling out paperwork at the doctor’s office and writing down my age as 60, and then realizing yes, you are 60. It was a great week. The highlight was going to see a cabaret.

The room was packed to see Stacy Polley put on a show. And what a show it was. She might have been a partner at Goldman Sachs, but perhaps she missed another calling. The songs were about covid, motherhood, and figuring out what to do next in your career. They all sang, no pun intended, to almost everyone in the room.

I highly suggest she takes this one on the road. She is proof that there is life after 50 and life after an incredible career. As she said when people ask what do you do or what is your title? I used to say I am a superhero. I loved her answer, a work in progress. Seriously inspiring.

Dior and the Obamas at the Brooklyn Museum

Seeing a top-notch artist’s work takes my breath away. I remember going to the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy of Art in London. It is an annual event that artists across Britain apply to be part of. It is a three-month event, and every piece is for sale. It is one of the most incredible shows, and the sales support the museum and the artists.

As I walked through the rooms seeing different art, I remember looking into a fantastic painting across the way into a separate room. It was genuinely superior to everything else in the room. It beamed. I walked over to see who the artist was, and of course, it was a phenomenal British artist, David Hockney.

I went to see the Obama paintings that are making their way around the country with my friend. The portraits are up until August 24 and well worth seeing. Whether you are a fan or not of Kehinde Wiley’s work, the man is an exceptional painter. The work beams. I loved Amy Sherald’s portrait of Michelle too, but Barack’s is at another level. Whether you liked them in the White House or not, choosing a contemporary artist of today was a massive move in the right direction. Just like the people they have coming through the White House, from poets to musicians, to writers, athletes, and alike, they celebrated the future and present-day of our country.

Then we walked over to see the Dior exhibit. Both my friend and I had seen the exhibition in Paris in 2017. It was magnificent. The Paris show gave the viewer history, highlighting each designer who took over the helm and their creations over the years. The designers were YSL, Marc Bohan, Gianfranco, John Galliano, Heidi Slimane, Kris Van Assche, Raf Simons, and Maria Grazia Chiuri. Each of their impact on the brand is worth noting. The Brooklyn Museum has put the majority of the emphasis on Chiuri, and not enough on the history of Dior himself and what came next.

The clothes, as always, are so gorgeous. Many of them feel as modern today as they did decades ago. We (Emily and me) spent almost three hours at the Paris show held at the Musee des Decoratifs reading Dior quotes, understanding his legacy, where he came from, and why it still exists with the best designers overseeing the house.

Undoubtedly worthy of seeing both shows, but I walked away disappointed and wanting so much more. In Paris, we kept talking about the show for days. In NY, the show ended when we left the room.

State of the Union?

As much as I try not to dig too deep into the happenings around the world, I can’t help myself. The world right now is in a weird place. Currently, the average age of the Senate is 62.9; the Congress is 57.6, making it the oldest in the history of the United States. And more and more, it feels like a new type of Great Gatsby era, and that scares me.

Reading about the Pandora Papers is not shocking but undoubtedly disturbing. LIving through a few treacherous storms in NYC and realizing that FEMA is set up to give the “FEMA backed insurance companies” (that is most of them) 25 cents on the dollar makes me so angry. It was set up that way before there was even a storm. Watching stories where we (our Government) screw our armed forces over their college debt is beyond. Seeing politics play out in the public eye over and over is painful. My cynicism radar is so high right now, and it makes me sad.

At one point, I believed in Government. It isn’t that I don’t believe that we shouldn’t pay taxes or that we shouldn’t have one larger organization overseeing our country. I want to see more innovation, including a desire to let go of the past and move into the future. That is not easy when there are a bunch of older people running the country.

The truth is, that is one of the reasons I am a huge fan of cryptocurrencies. I fully believe that the world is going down a new path. We are globally connected. Cryptocurrencies will force financial marketplaces allowing people to get rid of banks, oligarchs and put more in the hands of the world’s citizens.

My brother told me an old Jewish adage I had never heard before this past weekend. I can’t get it out of my head and keep telling it to others. Here goes.

At Rosh Hashanah, the mother cuts of both ends of the brisket before putting it in the oven to roast. Her daughter asks, “why do you cut off both ends”? Her mother says, “that is how we always do it.” Ask your Grandmother over there. The girl asks her Grandmother, “why do you cut off the brisket at both ends before roasting it in the oven”? The Grandmother says, “because that is how we have always done it.” I learned this from your Great-Grandmother. Ask her. She asks the Great-Grandmother the same question, “why do you cut off the brisket at both ends before roasting it?” She says, “When we came here during the war, we didn’t have an oven big enough to fit the brisket, so we cut it off at both ends to fit in.”

This story makes me think about the old Senate and Congress. We are living in different times, and it is time to move into the future. That means passing the spending bill that will put money back into our economy and jobs. That means getting rid of coal and oil and putting money into solar, wind, and nuclear energy. That means having EV cars. That means building homes that are carbon neutral. That means rethinking the food system and what we eat, which also impacts the world we live in. That means taking a deep dive to look at how things are done, including the voting system. Pretty sure our forefathers didn’t see the Internet coming. Representation should be equal to the population it represents.

Nothing is standard, and we can’t continue doing what we have always done. Our ovens are more significant and the times have changed.

Rebooting Cultures Through VR, Myra Laldin, Podcast #158

Myra Laldin is the founder of VR Perspectives and a pioneer in harnessing the potential of VR storytelling in diversity and inclusion training. We got together to discuss how she combines her background in business and behavioral science to improve strategic business performance through XR.

You can also listen to the podcast on iTunes and Soundcloud.

To learn more about VR Perspectives, you can visit the website.


Our next guest on PGG will be Charmine Davis, the director of behavioral health services at the Jenesse Center for victims of domestic abuse and the founder of the Just US app, a social impact app that aims to prevent police brutality.