Post Covids Reality

It will take years for us to truly understand the trauma that COVID-19 leashed on all of us. The list is long. People lost friends and family members, and education fell into an abyss with the onus on parents’ shoulders; we woke up to racism instead of the reality of classism, and most of us thought about how we wanted to live our lives when we got out of this mess. The US Government dealt with the entire national crisis so poorly.

Now, we are out on the streets again, but something has changed. It appears that most Americans are unhappy with their country even though the stock market is doing fine and the cities are humming along. Could it be that our infrastructure has been under-capitalized for so long? Our bridges require massive repair, our public transportation system needs a serious upgrade and more added to it, there are thousands of trains to travel all over Europe, and we have shit.

Every time a Democrat President comes after a Republican President, they fix the mess that the Republican President got us into. Republicans don’t care about anything but their pocketbooks; their empathy towards their fellow person appears to be zero. Britain, which has been reigned over by the Conservatives for fifteen years, is an utter disaster.

The anger is apparent everywhere. Random people are getting punched in the face by others just walking around the city. Where is that coming from? We have such anger being espoused from Trump’s mouth every day, while he should be in jail like most people would be, just for not obeying his gag order alone.

We need more housing, better transportation, and new education platforms, and we need to embrace different energy methods. We also need massive changes in the way our government works. I get the House vs the Senate, but California has a population of 40 million people with two senators. Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and the Dakotas have a little over 5 million people with ten senators. It doesn’t work anymore. We are the most robust nation in the world and have let our country deteriorate. It began with Reagan spending money thirty percent of the budget on the military and cutting taxes at the same time, which screwed all the other programs that gave our country a conscious.

Is the answer intelligently raising our taxes and actually making America great again? In NY, they are putting congestion pricing into play by charging people $15 to cross the Brooklyn Bridge, which is no different than when Robert Moses divided black communities in two. How can they do this without first building the proper transportation? Oh, they need the money from the toll first. What does that say about how our system works? Nothing good.

Even the lords of technology have created a mess instead of using this relatively new world to spend more time doing good than bad.

It is time for someone to lead and do the right thing, which will impact the next twenty years, instead of just holding on to power. Is this just pointing to the fear of white supremacy and white men losing their rule? Americans are unhappy, and the answer is definitely not Trump. We need a serious reboot.

Gotham Goods

When Gotham was just an idea, several pieces were in my head besides a store. There is the store, the cannabis products, the merchandise, the events, the music, the technology behind all of it, the importance of hospitality, and Gotham Goods, aka private label products.

I am the first to admit I bit off more than I could chew. I had a vision, and Gotham Goods was part of that. I knew we would eventually want to bring in our own products, so why not do it all at once? I am sure that being over 60 vs 40 had something to do with it, too, but here we are.

My first mistake was the first person I hired to execute the brand. She spent too much money, didn’t understand what taking it up a notch meant, and did not understand how to build a business from scratch. There was one shining light: the fragrances we chose are fantastic, and the sidekick she hired is also amazing who now runs Gotham Goods. So, lessons learned and a bit of regrouping, and here we are.

Tonight, we are launching functional fragrances. The packaging is beautiful, and the smells are so good! The oils contain CBD, so rubbing them on your neck, wrists, or any pain is an added bonus in relief. I love these products.

There is a void in the market for luxury body products with CBD. That was the vision. We now have candles, body/hand wash, lotions (soon to be in tubes to toss in your bag), bath soaks, a muscle salve (a huge win), and a lip moisturizer (soon to be in a tube too).

It has taken some time as always, but we are finally getting into a rhythm and moving in the right direction. If you are in town tonight, come by the store from 6 to 9 to get an aura reading, see and hopefully buy the new products, and enjoy the fun. We know how to throw a good party at Gotham.

Holding On to Power

What is happening with religion and conservative men right now is such an apparent fear of losing power. There has been a decline in religion since the mid-twentieth century. It is not shocking based on the sexual crimes, including their religious beliefs being imposed on all of us while chipping away at women’s rights.

Watching the religious rights support of Trump, who is a wife beater, rapist, divorced several times, tax evader, grifter, and appears to be an all-around horrific human being, is mind-boggling. Do we think all these people are buying his Bibles? Then, of course, we have the conservative party, which has worked hard to chip away at the progress (not enough) on civil rights, women’s rights, and, most importantly, education, which is where it all starts.

It is hard to watch and makes me angry, furious, dumbfounded, and nauseous. I want to believe, and data does point to it, that it is not the majority who applaud this behavior but the minority. In the South, where white men still rule, I wonder how the majority of people continue to vote these people into office.

How much longer will this go on? The egos, the power struggle, ugh. If only women ruled the world, we would not be where we are today. We started watching Sho-Gun, which takes place in 1600. The men were power-crazed barbarians; the church was right up there with them. I can’t help but wonder, if women were the leaders, would drawing a sword be the first thing that comes to mind when meeting others from afar? Eventually, we will get there; watching the religious right and conservative party espouse something from a different era is killing me.

I read a quote the other day by Eric Micha’el Leventhal: “Our children are only as brilliant as we allow them to be.” If we let that happen, the religious and conservative movement would probably cease to exist but we would all be in a such a better place.


Anyone in the cannabis industry knows how horrible the software is that we all must use. I sat at the concierge desk the other evening and checked people in. The software we use that feeds into our marketing is crap. I met someone who built the back-end tech systems for Chase in the early 90s and said they were still using the same software. Think about when you check into an airport and how long it takes the people behind the counter to check you in. The software is antiquated.

Many of these old software systems aren’t open, so it is not like anyone can build on top of them. The market size for singular industry software is probably not as big as an investor would want, aka the cannabis space, but why can’t someone build a system that is easy for anyone to build their own?

I can’t write code and probably never will, but I understand how the systems work. After the other night, I can’t wonder if someone has ever thought of building a Lego-type software that is open, could be used for a small org or a big one, adds pieces over time, and is tweaked for your own needs with the ability to plug and play? Maybe it is out there or being built, but the technology for the cannabis space is in need of a serious upgrade.

The Future of Cannabis

Whenever someone asks me about how the cannabis world is going, it is hard to give a one-liner. The complexity, including the constant change, can be overwhelming, depending on the day. In NY State, the license roll-out has been slow. Many CAURD licensees are selling their licenses to others backed up with legal paperwork, those who have been given proximity protection do not have the proper paperwork needed, and no diligence is being done on the reality of each of these properties; zero money has flowed into CAURD licenses and never will.

The OCM’s (Office of Cannabis Management) desire to do good has been short-sighted and unrealistic. Most licensees are not paying their farmer bills, so the Government announced $125m to help the farmers stay afloat. In California, the licensees are not paying the farmers either.

I know that we have tried to do the right thing at Gotham. We pay our employees more than the hourly wage and give them full health care without paying into the system. We give them four weeks of vacation as a budtender. We promote from within and are going to give personal finance training. That is how we create a burgeoning industry.

Where will all this go? My gut is a decade from now, this is how it will all play out. The other major thing, unfortunately, is that most of the licenses given out today will either never open or will find themselves having to close owing money to farms and the taxman.

Small Homes

When I was growing up in Potomac, Maryland, it was just being developed from rural farmland into a burgeoning suburb. Camotop, yes Potomac spelled backward, was a new development with large “McMansions.” I taught guitar lessons to a kid who lived there, and I was blown away by the size of the house and what it must cost. Although I have not been back in decades, from what I understand, Potomac has nothing rural left.

Fifteen years ago, we went to an exhibit at the Cooper Hewitt Museum, and in the garden, there was an installation called Design For the Other 90%. It was an intelligent, inexpensive design for third-world countries, giving each home water, storage, and a roof over its head. These homes are needed now more than ever for refugees, and that includes homeless people in our own country.

Many entrepreneurs were getting into the prefab space at one time. I looked at investing in one of those companies, but in the end, they self-funded. What I loved about the concept was that these homes had the basic needs, were small, were built off-site, and could scale up, adding additional components when needed or not.

The cost of homes has gone through the roof, and the name “Design For the Other 90%” says it all. It is imperative that people can buy less house for less money. I have read that the trend towards small homes is beginning as mortgage rates increase. When entry-level homes cost over $250m, there must be opportunities for everyone to have the “American Dream” of owning a home.

I also read that in Paris, 75% of the shops are independent due to strict rent caps and controls, and a semi-planning company buys large abandoned units and rents them at cut prices to revitalize neighborhoods. In France, people have homes in their families for generations because they are not allowed to be bought and sold as an asset class like we do in the US. Also, in France, 25% of people live in public housing that happens to be beautiful and well-maintained, keeping their communities robust.

There is something here between the small homes, the high cost of rent and purchases, the importance of community at the street levels, and ensuring everyone can afford to have a roof over their head. Where the small home market goes will be interesting to watch.


Media’s Slant

My Mother and Grandmother connected being thin to beauty. So, it is not shocking that I have been on a conscious diet since I was born. There are too many stories to tell, but I would never be tall with long legs and effortlessly thin unless I came from different parents. Regardless, who paid attention to the gene pool while I dieted away? As my Grandma used to say, “A minute on your lips, forever on your hips.” She would have loved Ozempic.

The only people we used to see in the media, be it TV or magazines, were thin white people. The good news is that it has changed. Fashion spreads now have a myriad of faces and bodies; TV shows probably cast the most significant net.

I spent the morning at the Olympic Spa in Los Angeles this past week. I got to soak in a hot jacuzzi, hit the cold plunge, took an herbal steam, sat in an oxygen room, did an ice-cold sauna, and the highlight was the scrub. A woman dressed in a black bra and black boy shorts underwear scrubs your body down, tosses warm water over you, oils you up, and stretches you out. It is quite the experience; your skin feels like a baby when you are done.

The spa is for women only, and everyone walks around naked. Seeing everyone waltz around, appearing to be comfortable, is not something I necessarily feel comfortable in. I grew up in a family of body shaming. Sitting there and being tossed around like meat in my scrub gave me a new appreciation for the human body and embracing ourselves, even if we are not thin and leggy. Even thin and leggy people have bumps and lumps. Nothing like a bit of reality, seeing naked women strolling about enjoying their spa day. I can hardly wait to go back.

Role Models

When people rise to fame, such as sports figures, politicians, business people, community leaders, parents to their children, and anybody people look up to, they become role models. There have been role models forever.

I have heard many, particularly sports icons, say that people shouldn’t look to them as role models; they didn’t ask for that. That is bullshit. If you ever find yourself at that level in your career, where crowds of people come out to watch you play, you have become a role model even if you didn’t want to be. It comes with the territory, particularly in America.

With success comes responsibility. Many people who have made a lot of money set up foundations because they are tax shelters and allow people to impact areas close to their hearts. It could be anything from education to medicine to any meaningful targeting given to the donor.

People used to wait until they retired to start giving money away. The technology boom changed all of that. Many people who have made incredible amounts of money have created foundations to give some of their capital to things they care about.

Some of the numbers we see from tech giants appear to be significant sums of cash they are giving back to the community, but when you look under the cover, the amount they are giving away is not very big compared to their wealth. Sad but true.

Then we get to Elon Musk, who appears to not give a fuck about anything but himself. He created a $7b fund, but not much has gone anywhere. Just enough to keep the foundation active in the eye of the law. It is shocking but not shocking.

I can’t help but ask myself, what’s wrong with this picture? Why does this country create so many financially successful individuals who give away the least amount of money they can or none at all? We are one of the wealthiest countries on the planet, yet too many with financial success choose to build a rocket to the moon instead of creating social programs that can help the communities around which they live.

I wonder why anyone cares who Elon votes for and who he gets behind for President. He has proven himself to be an incredible entrepreneur who has impacted our world; SpaceX is the next one. Still, when it comes to doing the right thing with billions of dollars in his foundation for tax purposes, he can’t find it in his soul to give back as impactfully as his businesses have made to us.

The importance of public-private partnerships will increase in the decades since Reagan destroyed the concept of paying taxes for the greater good of running an efficient Government that would bleed down to the streets (literally), education, healthcare, breaking the cycle of poverty, etc.

I wonder how we got here in America and why we applaud people like this.

Los Angeles Time

NYC is my home, but Los Angeles owns a part of my home, too. I was born there, and I did an internship there in college. My brother and his family live there, and one of our kids lives there. We have such important people in our lives who live there, and I could not live there full-time, but I love our LA trips.

Years ago, we went on a trip to Stockholm, a gem of a city, and we kept running into someone with whom Fred had scheduled to have coffee at one point. He is American but, at the time, was living in Stockholm. What stuck with me is that he was leaving right before Christmas to go on the annual family ski vacation, and it was evident that he had a close relationship with his family, although they lived pretty far away.

Unless you were ridiculously wealthy, keeping those connections would have been challenging twenty years ago. Today, you can keep connecting with family and friends no matter what you are in the world. Our kids are in three different cities right now, one in NYC, one in Amsterdam, and one in LA, and although they are not in our hometown, we talk, we FT, and we see each other more than a few times over the year, and we are all living our own lives. It doesn’t have the feeling of being so far away as it did decades ago.

Here are the highlights from two weeks in LA; obviously, I am a NYer at heart because I did not go on a hike and kept very busy when I wasn’t on Zoom with Gotham. The first night is always Echigo; we can’t help ourselves, Echigo first, and then the Bigg Chill for a soft ice cream cone. We ended up going twice!

One night, we had dinner at Vito, an old school spot in very old LA, with the family, and then we had a fantastic paella that my brother whipped up one night.

We went with Emily and her boyfriend to the Frederick R. Weisman house; this was my second time. It is worth going to. He amassed quite an art collection, and it still hangs in the house today as it did decades ago.

That night, Fred and I went back east to Si! Mon is a new spot in Venice that has delicious food. That is not the norm in Venice. These fried chicken drumsticks, using flavors from Central America, are delicious! I will be happy to return.

We made a pilgrimage to Dover Street Market, a fan fave, and went to a Clippers Game.

After the game and some Oscar-watching, we drove to Bistro Nas‘ in the San Gabriel Valley, where Emily had pre-ordered the Peking duck. San Gabriel Valley has countless Asian restaurants, and many are going upscale. The duck and fried shrimp are a must. The place feels a bit like an old Manchurian palace.

The other highlight is meeting Emily for a spa morning at the Olympic Spa and then having lunch at Cookbook. There is nothing that a good scrub can’t wash away. Cookbook is the best combination of LA meets Europe. I love the small local shop filled with everything you need for your home and kitchen, but you can also have a meal. It’s just perfect.

Our last two outings were to Anajak in Sherman Oaks—an exceptional Thai spot on multiple levels. The hip-hop music creates the setting the second you walk in. It is not a down-and-dirty Thai spot but a place between high-end and low-end. The wine list is exceptional, and there are boxes of wine placed around the restaurant to create separation. The tablecloths are identical prints as you would find on plastic in a Thai spot, but here, they are made of cloth with a glass top over them. The owner, who returned to the family biz after his father passed, like the Bear, created what we all need: good food, music, and wine with casual elegance.

Last night was at La Dolce Vita to celebrate the birthday girl. A perfect end to a few weeks in LA!

the phone…

The phone has become an extension of our arm. How many of us have asked out loud where is my phone? Did you feel the need to check Instagram? Or the next to answer a text immediately? Or the endless scroll to send us into a numb zone?

After COVID began to recede and we could actually see other human beings, I remember hanging out with another couple, whom we obviously kept at a distance. What was eye-opening was how long we hung out and talked. Even this past week, we were hanging out at my brother and sister-in-law’s house outside with no distractions, and before we knew it, hours had gone by. The need for human connection is real.

Call me crazy, but a few bright spots speak to people’s desire to put the phone down. There are more dinner parties, more intimate conferences, and more events where people show up repeatedly to meet new people. There is an underlying desire for human contact outside of the phone.

Being able to call someone when you are late, or a parent knowing their child is in touch, or perhaps shopping for something on the fly is a bonus, but when the phone and social media start to impede our lives, it is time to take those benefits and shelve the rest.

My gut is human nature will get us there.