Category Archives: Observations

Turn the page

As of 4:55 on a Wednesday in June, I no longer belong to the ranks of business owner – and it feels great. The transaction was as low-key and undramatic as are all of the involved parties. The deal was put together without realtor representation and the terms were easily agreed upon with minimal negotiation. I walked out of the attorney’s office downtown positively elated.

Don’t get me wrong, there have been moments in the past few months when I had twinges of regret and times when I had to fight against a feeling of having failed. Maybe if I had done X or Y differently, perhaps I needed to stick it out longer or make dramatic changes to achieve the level of success necessary to make remaining in business an appealing prospect. Ultimately though, I know this was the right move. I can return to what I do best and enjoy most – providing hospitality. Later, for you Quickbooks and Paychex. We’re officially over.

The experience of owning a business has been life changing. I tried something I never imagined doing. I stretched myself thinner than ever before and did not allow myself to get broken. It was more than, as I overheard one of my former employees say, “that old cliche, a waitress who thinks she can be an owner.” See, unlike the person who uttered that statement, I could be an owner. It just didn’t bring me joy and joy, not money, not ego, is the currency of my life.

I’m so excited to witness the success of Mio Posto and to play even a small part in that goal. I’ve worked a couple of nights already and Danny’s food is exactly at the level that I knew it would be – creative, high quality and composed with passion and professionalism. It’s wonderful. I wasn’t certain how it would feel to be “just” an employee, but I’m really happy to fill that role and to realize that my pride comes from providing guests with a memorable dining experience, not from signing paychecks.

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Filed under Albany, Lark Street, Observations, Restaurants

Humor is kind of funny

humor-1We’ve probably all, at one time or another, told a joke or attempted a prank that simply fell flat. The timing was off, perhaps, or maybe our audience just didn’t have an appreciation for whatever it was that we personally found to be amusing. It happens.

In the past week there have been two instances when, I think, people were trying to be funny, yet their actions were perceived as anything but humorous. One of these situations was a stunt performed on social media, the other in a much smaller, yet still public manner. Neither felt particularly funny to me.

The image that Kathy Griffin tweeted out was nothing short of repulsive. It’s no secret that I find Donald Trump to be despicable, but the tasteless depiction of his decapitated and bloody head was just beyond the limits of acceptability. It was gruesome in a way that didn’t tickle my funny bone, but instead turned my stomach. I won’t link to it and prefer to not see it again because it doesn’t make me imagine a world without Trump, but instead reminds me of human beings who have actually suffered that exact fate at the hands of violent regimes. Remember James Foley? Daniel Pearl? Steven Sotloff? It’s not funny.

Last Friday was the final night my restaurant was open for business. It was busy and I was really happy to see so many guests who felt compelled to share this last night with us on Lark Street. It felt like a big hug, to be honest and I really appreciated the presence of each of those positive people. There was, however, a dark cloud hanging over what was such an affirmative night.

For some reason, maybe irony or humor, my staff elected to all wear t-shirts or tank tops that were purchased by the owner of the previous business to have been in the 200 Lark space, The Wine Bar and Bistro on Lark. When I noticed the first one, I thought it was kind of funny, but when I realized that each of them was wearing clothing that advertised a business that hadn’t been open for close to two years on my business’ last night, it didn’t feel humorous at all. It felt mean.

I’m all about irony and if I had been included in the joke (hey, I have two of those shirts myself!), I truly believe it would have been a great gag. I would have loved a group photo of all of us wearing those shirts to have been our final image on our social media pages. Instead, though, I was left feeling utterly disappointed, which I suppose is better than disgusted on the spectrum of negative emotions. What I wasn’t doing was laughing.

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Filed under News, Observations, Restaurants, Uncategorized

PS L+L v2

61884248-707A-4D7A-9EAB-26775B959505-261-000000982DC18EBFI’ve written before about some of what I’ve learned from owning a business, specifically a restaurant. I recently reread that piece and, while every single thing I said at that time remains true, I was struck more by what I didn’t say. It was pretty friggin vague in a lot of ways.

I went into the project with an ultimate goal of creating a warm, comfortable environment for a diverse group of guests, feeding them and taking care of them with sincere professionalism. God, that sounds pretty damn Pollyanna-esque, yes? Note: making money was never primary. I’ve concluded I’m not a good businesswoman, but I am a good hostess and that’s truly more important to me.

I’m sure it’s challenging to work for someone like me. I was not incredibly consistent,  other than about the ambiance I wanted to create. I gave a lot of leash because it wasn’t possible for me to be on site enough hours to micromanage all the details. Maybe that was perceived as a lack of interest, but that wasn’t really the case.

If I couldn’t be there, I couldn’t be certain that the business was reflecting me and my hospitality sensibilities. If the business wasn’t projecting the way I wanted it to, it frustrated me, a feeling which was multiplied by all the pressure to keep things going. My business life was negatively impacting the quality of my life, something I just won’t tolerate.

Physically, I could do it. I let the accountant go and began managing all the banking and invoicing and daily sales journal activities. I figured it the f*ck out. I canceled the linen service and took on the laundry, front and back of the house. Despite all of this additional responsibility, and the physical exhaustion from running 20+ miles a week, I couldn’t sleep more than 3 hours before being interrupted by thoughts of the restaurant. Mentally doing math, feeling heavier and missing free time and, now, missing rest.

Something had to change.

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Filed under aging, Albany, Lark Street, Local, musings, Observations, relationships, Restaurants, stress

Postscript L+L

There are so many thoughts and ideas bouncing around in my head about my experience as a business owner. It’s like too many, almost, and the words are choking me instead of flying out of my mouth. I can’t settle on where to start.

Other than with Day 1.

Waking up Saturday morning was different. The entire day ahead was completely my own and immediately it felt new. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve had other days off when I had no professional responsibilities to address, but after knocking off the banking and the daily journal, there was nothing left for me to do, nothing further to take care of.

It was Day 1 of not owning a restaurant, the perfect day to begin processing the experience of owning a restaurant.

Well…

  • Owning a restaurant is like adopting a family.
  • Owning a restaurant is more stressful than you can ever imagine.
  • Owning a restaurant is unequal parts challenging and inspiring.
  • Owning a restaurant taught me so much.

Each of those above bullets deserves its own spotlight. Stay tuned.

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Filed under Local, musings, Observations, Restaurants, stress, Uncategorized

Guardians of the Galaxy, v2

It had been a pretty terrific Monday. I got to the bank, took care of payroll for the second to last time and had a reasonably productive day at work. Dinner was takeout, restaurant kitchen linens were in the washer (for the last time) and Quinn and I made it to the Spectrum in time for all the previews. We had flow.

Sitting in the dark theater next to him and watching Guardians of the Galaxy 2 was more fun than I expected. I had fallen asleep, more than once, to the first Guardians movie and I had imagined something similar happening tonight. Surprisingly, though, that didn’t happen and I remained awake for the entire 2+ hours. The movie was entertaining with a likable cast, great soundtrack and gratuitous shots of Chris Pratt’s chiseled abs. It was a great escape.

As the credits ran, I told Quinn I’d meet him in the lobby because I wanted to use the bathroom. I reached for my phone to check the time as I waited for him, post-potty break. The alert from the NYT was the first thing I saw: 19 Dead in Terrorist Attack in England My brain’s immediate response: For f*ck’s sake. When will this stop? Can’t we just go to a Monday movie or concert or sporting event or shopping or church without being touched by terrorism?

The closing credits song was still running in my head and I imagined those concert goers in Manchester. I pictured teenaged girls, some perhaps at their first live concert ever, their joyful exhilaration changing to fear and horror as violence and chaos became the evening’s show. Echoes of music are what one is supposed to hear when leaving a concert, not screams, not explosions. Jesus.

I’m left to wonder –  who’s guarding our galaxy?

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Filed under Delaware Avenue, DelSo, Movies, News, Observations

Words can hurt, words can help

Recently the news has been filled reports about the YA book turned Netflix miniseries, 13 Reasons Why. I’ve read quite a few articles about the series and understand the potential for the program to “trigger” a reaction in those overwhelmed by depression and other issues that leave them vulnerable to the suggestion that suicide is a resolution to their struggles. I’ve already expressed my thoughts about suicide and the impact on those who are left behind to carry the weight of loss. That’s not my topic today.

I want to share something that happened yesterday that I can’t stop thinking about.

Each year at “my” library we are fortunate enough to schedule an author visit for our students. In the past we’ve targeted a particular grade, carefully rotating things around so that no class graduates without having had the opportunity to listen to a published author share their work and life story. This year we “split” an author, Ben Mikaelsen, with another suburban school district. Mr. Mikaelsen lives in Montana and being able to divide his expenses with another district made it possible for us to meet his honorarium and travel costs. It was kind of a big deal for us to have such an established author visit and we maximized our time with him by scheduling three individual presentations. All of our students would be able to listen to our special guest, and some would even be able to have lunch with him.

Lunch seems like such a simple thing, but I’m now convinced it can be so much more.

The presentations were engaging and the students were a great audience. Mikaelsen shared stories from his own childhood about being bullied and being a bully himself. He talked about the inherent weakness of bullies and the importance of writing our own stories, life stories that we create and reside within. He implored students to begin writing their own life stories the very minute they walked out of the auditorium and I could see the kids mulling the weightiness of his words.

Midday we had a couple of dozen students join the author for sandwiches and conversation in the Library Media Center, including one last minute addition that our principal sent down because he felt it would be a positive and meaningful experience for the child. After we ate, students filtered through getting their books signed until only one student remained, the one selected by the principal. The student approached Ben Mikaelsen and quietly said “I have a question for you.” After receiving an encouraging nod from the author, the child continued. “When does the bullying stop?”

I stepped away, tears in my eyes, to give them time to talk. Their conversation lasted a few minutes, enough time for me to grab an extra copy of one of Ben’s books, Touching Spirit Bear, and my camera. Ben signed the book for the child and they posed together for a photo. I’d like to think that young person left the library with far more than they had when they had arrived. And a book, too.

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Filed under Boys, Observations, Schools, television

Things to love about Germany


We’ve been back for about 10 days and there are some really positive impressions from our trip that I thought to share. How about one for each day we were there?

1. Roads. I don’t think I’d mind paying a 19% VAT if the money went into highways and other infrastructure. We traveled a few hundred miles on the autobahn and those roads are beautifully maintained.
2. Groceries. In Berlin we shopped at Lidl which is similar to Aldi. For less than $9 I bought the following: a fresh pineapple (fair trade), a quart of apple juice, 2 croissant, a package of sliced gouda, a large plain yogurt, a small fruit yogurt and a pint of chocolate milk. 
3. Beer. I almost exclusively drank hefeweizen, although I had the occasional shandy and in Berlin I drank a specialty beer called Berliner Weiße mit Schuss. It’s wheat beer with a shot of woodruff. Kind of sweet but a nice way to end the night, I thought. 
4. Public transit. It’s available, easy to understand and cheap. A day ticket cost approximately $7.50 and my son rode with me for free. 
5. Cleanliness. The streets, the bathrooms, the trains, with only one exception (a bathroom at a big tourist spot) all were immaculate.
6. Markets. The Munsterplatz is the place to be if you’re looking for produce, flowers, cheese, meats and prepared foods. We also checked out some markets that were more like American flea markets, also. Good deals were all over the place.
7. Flowers. Germans like their gardens and even in early spring, most homes have tended plots of land. The lilacs bursting open everywhere were lovely, too.
8. Ice cream and cake. There’s an acceptance level of these sort of items perceived by Americans as “treats,” and both were included in our afternoons.
9. Coffee. Dark, strong and delicious.
10. Punctuality. The only clock I’ve ever seen not tell accurate time in Germany was the battery operated one in our rented apartment. I love counting on the church bells and public clocks to keep track of time for me.

A bonus thing: DOGS! They were everywhere – restaurants, cafes, trains, stores, yet, not once did I see any piles of poop.

The only that I didn’t appreciate was the prevalence of cigarette smoking that still goes on. It seems like smoking is much more pervasive in Germany than in the States. I suppose I could complain that the weather wasn’t great either, but, really…spring is a crap shoot in Albany, too. At least the hail that fell on me was German hail.

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Filed under beer, Europe, favorites, Germany, Observations, Spring, travel, vacation