Is Anyone Else Cranky?

Yesterday I woke up cranky.

I got a few emails from friends who said the same thing I have been thinking. I am so over this pandemic. One of them is incensed that they woke up not being able to smell or taste. How the fuck did that happen? We all know the reason because this vaccination has become a ridiculous political platform that is weighing heavily on our country and the medical community. This is how bad shit happens. How about we don’t vaccinate our kids for polio and diphtheria and see how that plays out. It won’t be pretty.

Then, of course, there is Afghanistan, Morroco and Algeria, kids returning to school, anxiety around Delta, wondering what is real and not true in the media, summer ending yet knowing we are still in lockdown, wearing a mask, the sad state of Haiti, homeless and too much more. I always pay attention to what is happening around the globe. We also try to make a difference by giving back and supporting organizations, but yesterday it just felt overwhelming and sad.

Perhaps it is the reality that we will be living in a virus environment for longer than I thought. I always look forward to the Autumn season in NYC with new plays, new menus and restaurants, new fashion, new museum shows, and just the exciting beat of the street. It won’t be the same, but it is what it is. I realize I am just lucky enough to be able to experience it period.

I am generally an optimist, and that isn’t to say there aren’t a lot of exciting things happening, but the ongoing pandemic feels like a cloud hanging over our heads that never seems to go away….and it is making me cranky.

Stick to the Thesis

I am still ruminating over the Cult of We—an incredibly well-written and researched book by Eliot Brown and Maureen Farrell. Now being made into a movie. Neumann said he got “smart people to do dumb things. That quote just sticks with me. How smart were they?

I just want to note that none of the investors around the table were women. There were C-players inside We Work, but there were no women on the investing side. The entire board was men. It makes me wonder about the SPAC frenzy too.

And there were some brilliant money people around the table, such as Jamie Dimon. I get that Chase wanted the ability to shine in the tech world to rein in more tech IPO’s. This was a great first step in, but the red flags were bright red. Was it that the amount of money it cost Chase wasn’t that big of a deal?

I understand why Bruce Dunlevie gave Neumann money. Dunlevie had so many scores that he was in semi-retirement, but he saw something of interest in Neumann’s salesman hustler behavior. Classic VC stuff. He figured here is a few million and let’s see what you can do. But what I don’t understand is how he let Neumann continue to blow through all that cash of Benchmark’s LP’s and that including signing off on letting Neumann buy a jet, take millions, almost billions off the table early on, and take out massive loans for his stock. How was that ok?

I know my fair share of VCs and the way they think. The ones I know would have stopped this earlier on but maybe not. There were no numbers; money was pouring down a huge drain as the founder spent more and more like he had an endless bank account, and the investors let it happen. They signed documents that put their guards down.

There is one thing that I have learned all these years. When it looks like a real estate business, it is a real estate business. The concept of all these companies spending billions on marketing something to be something it isn’t and then valuing it like a software company makes zero sense to me.

Stick to the thesis. It helps with the red flags. I understand it, but I just don’t get it.

Kathy Hochul, our new Governor

As of yesterday, Kathy Hochul is NY’s 57th Governor. She is the first female Governor of NY after 250 years of men. It is about time. It is unfortunate how she had to get there, but she is here.

She has made it very clear that she also plans on running for Governor in the next election. She wants to bring back trust in Government. Don’t we all? Based on what I am reading, hearing, and seeing, her approach will be collaborative, transparent, and will get things done. I hope that she does not use politics as a tool to fund the multitude of things that must get done in NY, from dealing with the Delta variant, the unvaccinated, jobs, education, and the new cannabis referendum.

The first thing she did was appoint two women to be part of her top staff. I love that she and her daughter and daughter-in-law wore white to the swearing-in ceremony to acknowledge the women of the suffrage movement. She had three female reporters ask the first questions in her first minutes as a Governor. She acknowledged history, saying, “thought about all the women that came before me, including my mother who was not there, but a lot of women through history, and I felt they passed the torch to me.” That is a strong move.

It is time for women to be in more seats that lead the troops. I hope that we just took a few steps forward, and we will not be taking any more backward. As she said, “It is our time to unleash the power of New York’s women. And make sure that any barriers to success and opportunity are eradicated, once and for all.” From her lips…

Chez Panisse Turns 50

These days my reference to time is about twenty years, even though it might have happened thirty years ago. Once I realize the reality of how long ago something happened, it hits me right between the eyes of reality. When I read that Chez Panisse turns 50 this month, it thought back to our first meal there.

Fred and I took an eight-week cross-country trip after graduating from college. We splurged going to Chez Panisse for dinner. It was in 1983. The prix fixe main course was pigeon—something we had just seen flying around Boston’s streets but how delicious it was. Alice Waters had already made her impact on how we eat.

Waters intertwined hospitality with local seasonal food. Many of the vegetables came right out of the restaurant’s yard. She opened our eyes to the food gaps around our table.

What is carried in our local grocery stores now from arugula, all-year-round tomatoes, fresh fish, mangos, and the list goes on. The movement prodded groceries to become larger with an eye on feeding everyone more interesting food all the time.

There is so much to be written about Alice Water’s impact on our food chain and what we eat, but the most interesting thing is how it has taken 50 years to really return to what she espoused from day one. We have come full circle returning to local products that are only served in the season with a true nod towards organic and less havoc on our environment. Eat what is grown locally while elevating our palates.

Diversity Is Always Better

There are abundant articles of changes taking place in our country, particularly around diversity. We have crossed the divide where the White population is receding and the Black, Latino, and Asian population is growing. There are still multiple challenges for many, such as buying a home, taking out a loan, not being treated fairly, and the list goes on, but we will be much better off with more diversity.

The benefits of diversity are endless. The most important thing is seeing the world through someone else’s eyes. Sitting around a table, walking through a neighborhood, or entering a store with a myriad of faces is so much better than living in a one-dimensional universe. If we can embrace different people, agree to disagree, and not judge someone differently from how we look, how we think, or how we approach things, the world would be a better place.

The data around diverse companies show more creativity and drive that turns into a better and profitable workplace. The numbers were always pointing there, but with Covid, the issues of racial disparity opened pandora’s box, and thankfully we are never going back.

Nasdaq won’t let companies go public without diverse boards. Some cities are making amends for past wrongs. Banks are making sure they finally give out fair loans to Black people who have had an entirely different set of covenants than White people. It is about time.

We are rapidly moving towards these changes, and it is about time. Diversity is always better.

New York State of Mind

New York City actors, singers, musicians, and late-night hosts have come together to produce a video rendition of Billy Joel’s “New York State of Mind” to encourage the city’s recovery from the pandemic and drive civic engagement.

Worth the watch

To help amplify and extend the movement, we are hoping you can share the video via your social accounts (Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, TikTok + Twitter) on or after August 15th at 9 am EST –@NYCNext and Hashtag: #NYCNextStateofMind

Freelance Economy

Remember when the Gig economy was going to change the world? The gig economy gave people the freedom to make some money on the side so they could do their own thing from being an actor, an artist, making extra cash for school, or just taking time to figure out life.

During Covid, whether you worked for yourself or a company, you got to own your life in a different way. When the computer closed, you were home. You could get things done in your life while still working. It was eye-opening and for most people, it worked quite well. People liked the flexibility and the control of their own lives.

The more we get a peek into corporate America and start-up work environments, many are opting out and freelance. Companies will be forced to change how they bring in talent. Truth is, women who have left the workplace with a desire to hop back in now have a better chance of doing that. It will be about skills not showing up. The freelance talent pool is quite large and getting bigger.

Companies like Bolster are creating those 3-month or 6-month gigs for professionals who have retired or opted out to come in and be a CFO or even a CEO for a short period. Using their talents to help drive a company in a new direction without having to be fully employed for life. The thought of getting a gold watch at the end of your decades of employment ended a long time ago, now we are evolving into a freelance economy.

Everyone in our family works for themselves. Josh bartends but he runs his own gig too and could do that full time. The reality is he likes the socialization of the job. I get that, he is 25. The beautiful thing about working for yourself is being able to chart your own path. More people are waking up to that after having to do that over the past year and a half.

The reality is, owning your own life feels good.

It Was Bound To Happen

There is always a disconnect somewhere. The government takes time to catch up to the realities of the private world. Start-ups look to disrupt industries sometimes without having any true knowledge of the industry. I can point to several of those.

Starting in the mid-90’s one of the most frustrating things about growing a business was office space. Taking a 10-year lease for a company that ends up growing multiply times over is ridiculous. The landlords didn’t get it and had a very hard time wrapping their arms around how to deal with it. Then along comes WeWork. Shared office spaces that are flexible. You could even rent a full floor if you wanted. They took over the leases to break them down for smaller companies that could grow with ease until they went on a spending rampage outside of the model.

WeWork was always a real estate company but had somehow convinced their investors that they were a tech company. As we all know, the company eventually imploded and now is back on track with real estate people running it. The current CEO is Sandeep Mathrani who came out of the real estate world. Cushman & Wakefield, one of the largest real estate agencies, just announced a $150m investment into the rebuilding of WeWork. Coldwell Banker Richard Ellis invested $200 million in Industrious, and the NewMark Group is going to acquire Knotel.

It was bound to happen. Real estate companies have deep pockets. They have come to understand the opportunities available. Just like others who are watching start-ups disrupt the models, many have stood in the wings waiting to swoop in and use that know-how to fix their models.

Unfortunately, WeWork is a classic tale where everyone’s eyes were bigger than their stomachs. The amount of money pissed away is criminal. My guess is over time we will see more companies who have attempted to disrupt industries with massive amounts of cash will fall into the same reality. If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it is probably a duck.

Covid Politics?

Why do people cheer at a rally for being unvaccinated? They are so happy with themselves for not having Government in their lives? It just seems crazy to me that staying safe has become political.

I am vaccinated. Once I got vaccinated, I stopped wearing a mask. I realize that I can still get Covid, and many are getting Covid who have been vaccinated. They are getting a bad cold, or sometimes they lose their sense of smell, and sometimes they don’t even realize they have it. The virus can pass through our system to others even if we are vaccinated, so masks make sense. If everyone were vaccinated, I wouldn’t have to worry about the unvaccinated and wear a mask.

I totally get why each state is imposing mask-wearing again because of the fear that hospitals will start to be overwhelmed again and many will die. That would be a serious drain on everyone. But, at the end of the day, I did my duty and took my vaccination (which is now going to be approved by the FDA), and I am not going to wear a mask. I could get sick, but I am not going to die. Hopefully, I won’t even get sick.

The politicization of this is leaving many dead people in their wake. History will not be kind to these freedom fanatics who have riled up a large group of people. Most of these people have already been vaccinated for smallpox, polio, and other terrible diseases so their anger makes zero sense. Are we still just a nation of cowboys and cowgirls? Let us not forget that Trump is the one who ordered all these vaccines and got them made. He might not have distributed them; I couldn’t even imagine what a shit show that would have been, but he did order them, and he took one too.

Remember after 9/11 when the world changed? Think of what airports were like before 9/11. You could just walk on, take someone to the gate. Now, as we all know, there is the TSA, security, and definitely not walking anyone to the gate to say goodbye. Have we entered a new world again where COVID never ends, and everyone is always wearing a mask, getting tested, and waiting for a new variant to rear its ugly head? As my daughter said, “it is never-ending; it is just the new normal”.

Back End Supply

Growing up, our back-end supply was limited. We were always buying the products needed when they ran out, such as Herbal Essence Shampoo. A throwback, right?

There have always been “notes to self” growing up when going to other people’s homes. I was talking to someone about this the other night. It sent me back.

When Fred and I were in college, we became friendly with a couple. She was an NYC kid, born, bred, and raised. They had a summer house upstate, and her boyfriend was a local from the area. They had an apartment on Marlborough Street. Unclear if they all split the rent, but she lived there with the boyfriend and his sister. It was a spacious two-bedroom apartment.

Fred and I were intrigued by them and their living situation. Something ran out in the bathroom one day, and she (no names here) opened up the closet to get another item. It was mind-blowing to me. Vitabath was a product they used in their showers. There were at least 4 bottles of Vitabath, and then again, there were 4 items of everything in back-end supply.

Fast forward, we are deep in back-end supply. When one of the kids comes over for dinner and needs something, they just go into my well-stocked closet. It is that way from the pantry to the linen closet. Unclear why that is comforting to me, but it is.

The bonus was during Covid when the supply chain showed its ugly head; our supply chain was just fine. Plenty of toilet paper, shampoo, soap, olive oil, spices, zip locks, tin foil, savory condiments, brown sugar, and others items that could last through a few months of multiple bodies and mouths.

Just funny how one “note to self” makes an impact on how I lived my life after seeing that closet.