Pounding the City Streets

NYC is a living, breathing, ever-growing place. As I walk through the streets, you can feel that joy of being outside, going into restaurants, and coming out of our homes. The only constant is change.

There is a vibrant, lively food culture that I want to participate in every day. We had dinner at Antons, our local haunt that I could eat at once a week. I go so often I failed to take a pic.

Ate outside at Via Carota, another local spot. The best way to get into this place is to leave your name on the list around 4 to secure a table around 7.

Some streets feel a bit vacant during the day, but at night they begin to hum. Another constant in our lives is King. It always feels like a short trip to Europe.

We finally sat inside, at the bar, in our local sushi spot, Sushi Teru.

The owners of Adda, one of the best new spots in 2018, opened another Dhamaka in the Essex Street Market. The tag line is “Dhamaka is explosive,” and it is. The food is insanely good and crazy spicy. I love this place.

One day I sat outside at the latest Upside pizza, on the corner of Spring and Mulberry. That area is popping during the day, which is supposedly mellow compared to the nights and weekends. You can’t go wrong with any slice here.

As we sat outside doing a tasting, a homeless man walked by, ogling the pies. I asked him if he wanted a piece and then handed him two slices. One thin and one deep pan. He was thankful. About 5 minutes later, he returns to tell me the pizza was cold. Gotta love it. I told him I didn’t know what to say, but it is still good.

Next week, we plan on another round of dinners outside and inside. Each week is bringing an awakening to the city that feels insanely good.

The Big Sweep

There is definitely something about living in NYC and walking the streets to get a feel for where things are going.

We were downtown at Orchard and Canal. One of my favorite neighborhoods in town. There is a grit and edge down there that reminds me of the city when we first moved here. It feels good. Many places have closed, but many have survived as well. That is true for the entire city.

When I grew up, we lived in the DC area. The heat and humidity during the summer were debilitating. It just sucked the life out of you. Every so often, the dark clouds would arrive, and there would be a downpour—a rainstorm where you could barely see in front of you. When the storm ended, the sun would come out and cut down the humidity to a different level. It cleans the streets.

The global pandemic has been like a dark cloud. As the sun comes out, we see a big sweep of the survivors and the ones that couldn’t hold on. My guess is we will begin to see that not only on the streets of cities but in every industry.

The damage is apparent in a city, but it is not as obvious in different industries. The shift of companies that won’t make it, investment firms who won’t be able to raise their next fund, founders who can’t raise their next round, consumer products who can’t get there, and businesses that were barely holding on that never evolved for a new set of customers. It feels very different than two years ago when many of these companies weren’t doing that great but somehow they could hold on. That time is over.

The sweep is coming. It might be a slow crescendo, similar to the pandemic’s past year that nobody expected to last as long as it did, but I predict a massive change to everything.

Are Bodegas the Future of Neighborhoods?

I am obsessed with bodegas. Small localized stores that carry the products the neighborhood wants.

Each neighborhood in NYC has one, and they are growing in LA. If you take a stroll through Flushing, the neighborhood store will carry many Greek items and usually amazing Feta cheese. If you wander through Park Slope, you will find sophisticated bodegas catering to young, affluent families. In the East Village, most will make a delicious egg and cheese bagel sandwich.

As we begin to order more of our basic items for delivery like paper towels and laundry soap, there will be less reason for that to be carried on the shelves of stores. Having huge grocery stores in urban areas where the real estate footprint is costly makes more sense to have small shops unique to each area.

In Paris, the local bodegas are really the local delis. They carry farm-fresh produce, hand-picked bottles of wine or beer, fantastic cheeses, and most importantly, you get to see the local community and get to know the shop owner. Each shop represents the owner’s tastes for the neighborhood.

I love traveling to neighborhoods around NYC and discovering new products on the shelves that wouldn’t necessarily be in my neighborhood. It is a reaction to eCommerce and the reality of diversity from area to area. It is also all of our desires to stay close to our homes in a post-pandemic world. Our needs have changed and how we shop is changing.

I am on the hunt for all the new shops, particularly the bodegas, neighborhood to neighborhood.

History Begins to Shine New Lights

Judith Thurman wrote an article called The Eye of the Needle for the New Yorker.  It is one of the countless articles coming out that highlights people, mostly women, emphasizing black, brown, and Asian people.

Many people have lived hard lives but managed to succeed and put their mark on history, although we are just beginning to learn about many of them.  We are finally reading about their achievements.

This piece is about the Black designer Ann Lowe.  She was a seamstress for the elite.  Her workmanship is stunningly beautiful and intricate.  
She was a tough woman who followed her own path.  Thurman points out her mantra might have been attributed to Churchill, who said “Success is not final.  Failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.”

Ann was an entrepreneur and probably never realized it.  She didn’t mourn for a life that many expect today.  A life of wellness, balance, achievements, and high expectations.  She just did.

There are so many of us out there today just doing it without fanfare. To me, those are the people who truly shape our nation. I want to read more about people like Ann Lowe. They are the inspirations for the next generation.

Drum Roll Please….

And NY legalizes cannabis. We are the 15th state to do so.

The best part of the bill is that all marijuana convictions are wiped from offenders’ records. It is an attempt to repair the absurd war on drugs. Another bonus is that 40% of all cannabis-generated tax revenue will be earmarked and distributed to Black and Latino communities.

“Unlike any other state in America, this legislation is intentional about equity,” Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes, the Democratic majority leader in the Assembly who sponsored the bill, said on the floor of the lower chamber. “Equity is not a second thought, it’s the first one, and it needs to be, because the people who paid the price for this war on drugs have lost so much.”

Considering that NY will become the second-largest revenue generator of cannabis taxes, let’s hope they get the equity piece right. That is what makes this bill unique compared to other states.

This points directly to change always wins. The conservatives are trying to hold on to a world that has never really existed except for them. This is way past due. Time to move forward.

NFT’s

A non-fungible token (NFT) is a unit of data on a digital ledger called a blockchain, where each NFT can represent a unique digital item, and thus they are not interchangeable. NFTs can represent digital files such as art, audio, videos, items in video games and other forms of creative work.

There is a lot of hype and a lot of confusion around NFT’s. My gut is that the hype will peak and then dip and return in a way that appears more applicable with many more opportunities.

Every creative piece should be on the blockchain. As we become a more global world, with global consumer transactions, the blockchain authenticates the artist. If you want to purchase an authentic, original piece, it is certain if it is on the blockchain.

Here is another way to look at it. During WW2, over 600,000 pieces of art were stolen from the Jews by the Nazis. One hundred thousand pieces have still not been recovered. That is not including the 50,000 books and manuscripts. All taken from individuals and museums. Billions of dollars.

There have been countless lawsuits attempted to get art pieces back to the actual owners. If each of these pieces had been on the blockchain, there would be no question who owned the original piece. There might have been countless replications used in multiple ways, but if they were NFT’s, there would be zero question who owned them, and the providence on each of these pieces would be tracked and known.

When you think of NFT’s that way, it actually simplifies how NFT’s work.

The System

My cynicism is raging.

Watching the NCAA’s this weekend was exhilarating. The advertisements are depressing. If you were an alien from another planet trying to understand America, all you would have to do is watch TV. Consumerism, stupidity, simplicity, and skewed reality.

Then take a dip into the news role. The Republicans seem to be just supporting their base with zero moral compasses. The Democrats have their own set of issues, but at least you do get a feeling that they actually do care for their fellow man. How do we move on from this anger, division, and false narrative? Since Reagan declared that Government is not the solution, we have essentially ignored our infrastructure, and now parts of the US look like a third world country.

Government is just depressing. The petty arguments and the political maneuvering that is only about power and nothing else. Particularly the overwhelming lies from all sides of the fence.

Maybe it is the greed. Yes, we have been insanely successful and more than our wildest dreams, but we don’t just give financially; we work on changing the narrative for equality.  As Darren Walker so brilliantly talked about the need for change in this country last night on Sixty Minutes, it is the only way we will succeed as a country.  We must move in a new direction.  We must have less of a divide in multiple genres from work, access, and opportunity.

I could stop reading the paper, my Twitter feed, any TV show with advertisements, and all daily content, but I can’t. I dig into How Beautiful We Were and read about corporate greed running rampant worldwide. I want to believe that it is a minority of people who create anger, lies, and destruction. The destruction they have left is unconscionable.

The tech world has done their fair share if not more. Few give back. Enough said on that one.

Even though we are getting to the other side of this pandemic, there are days when I am not sure I even fit in. The system needs to be dismantled.

Wrapping Up LA

It is time to return to NYC. Seeing people randomly bust our dancing in the aisles of Balthazaar at dinner makes my heart sing. I want to bust out dancing too.

The past week has been a win. I spent Saturday night up in Ojai with two of my dearest friends. We took a three hour walk and laughed harder than I have in months.

Passover tapas with my brother, sister-in-law and her parents was a treat. Delicious matzah ball soup from my brother, who happens to be an excellent cook. Spent a lot of time with them which was very much needed.

I tried new products.

Had friends over for dinner a few times. This golden beet, dill, yogurt and grilled scallion dish was part of the meal.

Visited some classic Venice antique stores. Great dogs!

Wasn’t sure I could rock this shirt.

Watched at least 1 or 3 movies the nights I was solo.

Ollie certainly enjoyed his time.

Picked some of the fruit from our tiny grove.

Dined at Felix. Always a bonus. Honestly the best food on the westside of LA.

Did some shopping in my fave store.

But more than anything I just took in the sunshine, the smell of honeysuckle and listened to the birds chirping. It had been almost a full year since I was in LA. Nothing has changed but everything has changed.

Big Box Stores

I went to staples to find lightbulbs.  No lightbulbs. Fascinating. Every time I walk into a Staples or Home Depot, I am just amazed at this amount of space. I wonder what the turn is on every item, how much does each aisle make, and does that amount of space even make sense?

The Big-Box stores are ready for change.  There needs to a massive roll-up. They are huge companies spitting out massive revenue, but I find it hard to believe that they are rocking the profits. Salespeople are just sitting around doing nothing even before the pandemic.

Inspire Brands is owned by Roark Capital. They purchased Dunkin’ Donuts moved it next door to most Baskin and Robbins that they also own.  These stores aren’t going away, but I would imagine they are being rethought.

Like all businesses in the post-covid world, they need to rethink their business model to keep the value high or bounce around the private equity world of buying and selling like the demise of Toys R Us.

The future of retail is still very much up in the air.

The Father

I love movies. I have been on a serious roll watching a film almost nightly through the pandemic. I can hardly wait to go to the theater again!

I watched The Father last week. Anthony Hopkins is brilliant and so is Olivia Coleman. He plays a British gentleman living in his elegant yet comfortable mid-century flat. She plays the daughter. Over the course of the film, he dives deeper and deeper into dementia. He refuses to leave his home; his perspective of reality is fading daily.

As boomers get older and we live longer, what’s the data on how many people will find themselves in the same place over the next decade?  The family burden is tremendous. It is emotionally draining and stressful on the entire family and the person who is ill.

It’s not humane to allow people who are a shell of themselves to live through this.  It’s Shakespeare’s seven stages of man.  You return to the first on the seventh—a child. I fear living through this agony because deep inside the mind, I believe people who have dementia know that they have lost their minds.  I believe that because it is not immediate but a slow, debilitating process.  Extremely painful.

People who paid their whole lives for healthcare policies and are now finding themselves in need of care find themselves surprised by what is covered and what is not. Let’s say your 80-year-old parent falls and fractures their hip and breaks a wrist. After leaving the hospital, needing 24-hour care, the insurance company only covers 12 hours a day. What are they supposed to do if they can’t afford to cover the extra 12 hours when they can’t even get out of bed to go to the bathroom themselves?

 Unfortunately, we saw too many senior facilities fall into total disarray during the pandemic. I don’t know the answer, but it is time for a National Health Care System that lets people end their life with dignity, not fearful of finding themselves destitute and broken.