Fire.

Do you know that scene from My Cousin Vinny where Lisa is going on about her biological clock and Vinny is all, “… my career, your life, our marriage, and let me see, what else can we pile on? Is there any more SHIT we can pile on to the top of the outcome of this case? Is it possible?”

I’m trying not to get like Vinny. And I won’t let myself.

As you may have heard by now, Las Velas caught fire early Wednesday morning, they tell me at 1:30 in the morning or so. This is hours after closing so fortunately, no employees were in the building at the time.

I was laying in bed that morning, getting ready to get up to go rent a car as mine is still in the pound from my accident as we wait for the other driver’s insurance company to accept liability, which can’t happen until the other driver STOPS IGNORING HER INSURANCE COMPANY’S PHONE CALLS, when I saw a text from Mike/Woy/Woycheck mentioning he’d heard a fire broke out above Mancini’s, which would be Las Velas no? I froze. Then I saw that he had sent another text that it must have been a different building and wasn’t Las Velas after all.

I told my husband, laying next to me and he had a mini-stroke and was all, “WHAT? Don’t scare me like that, woman.”

We had a chuckle and went about our morning. Hours later, I was nearly downtown as I had a meeting near the Consol when my phone rang and it was my husband calling me from home informing me that he’d just been told it was our restaurant that had caught fire. His manager was there now. Windows were blown out.

That? Is a weird thing to hear. Can’t really describe it. Numbness. I think I said about seven times, “Our restaurant? Las Velas? OUR RESTAURANT LAS VELAS CAUGHT FIRE?! YOU ARE TELLING ME THAT LAS VELAS CAUGHT FIRE?”

I of course blew past my meeting location and shot down Fifith Avenue, headed straight for Market Square.

Inside the restaurant, contractors were sweeping up the glass after having already boarded up the windows, and I could see up near the air vents black soot lining the walls.

I was told it started in the office, so I wanted to see it.

The manager said, “Ginny. It’s bad, okay? Be careful.”

Perhaps he meant be careful as you step on any glass, or watch out for falling objects, but I think he meant, “It’s bad. Brace yourself.”

It’s bad.

The office is a burnt out box of blackness. There were black blobs of things in the middle of the floor, I couldn’t even tell you what they were before the fire.

The kitchen is partially destroyed and open to the heavens now.

I fell into the arms of the manager and wept.

The thing is, this restaurant was remodeled and rebuilt and opened by the sweat, tears and blood of my husband. He didn’t hire a contractor or a crew. He and his brother and friend went in every morning for three months and worked from dawn until midnight on every single thing. Every tile, they laid. Every wall, they painted, except for the amazing wall murals my cousin did. Every faucet, they installed. Every light fixture, they hung.

To see so much of it damaged, it just felt like his dream literally went up in flames. I kept saying over and over again, “All his hard work. All his hard work. ALL. HIS. HARD. WORK.” That’s all I could think of as I stared at the black chaos before me and above me and crunching under me. Nine years he worked to be able to open his own restaurant. I mourned that in that moment. I continue to mourn it. I imagine Bryan Adams wondered why the curly haired girl in Row B burst into tears halfway through his concert last night.

But.

I’m okay. My husband is okay. My children are okay. That’s what matters and that’s what I’ll cling to while we go through this time of uncertainty and we’ll stay positive no matter what and remind ourselves that things could be worse, which is true. Remember my car accident? LOL. What a tiny little nothing that was.

As it stands, the fire was ruled to likely have started at an outlet in the office and spread angrily from there.

We are insured and we’ll know more in the next week how that insurance will help us get the restaurant back up and running in the near future, hopefully better than ever.  There’s a lot to be done. I can’t even describe to you how stubbornly pervasive smoke is. It seeps into every surface. We took a cell phone charger wire from the restaurant today. Brought it home. Wiped it down. An hour later, it smelled like smoke again. Magic.

I appreciate the offers of support and help that have been pouring in to both me and David and my parents.

I’m going to take it easy through the weekend, but I wanted to let you know that I will still be attending Sewickley Herald photographer Kristina Serafina’s show at Gallery -30- in Sewickley tomorrow, because she is donating proceeds from the show to Make Room for Kids, and I refuse to let a jerk-faced ball of fire keep me from supporting her desire to help SICK KIDS.

See you then perhaps.

And again, thanks for the love. It is an enormous comfort to me to know that should I need it, there’s a waiting net to fall on to.





111 Comments


  1. PA Girl in VA
    December 2, 2010 10:03 pm

    Ginny, I had the wonderful opportunity to eat at Las Velas last Friday night while we were in town for Thanksgiving and I got to see first-hand the beautiful handiwork created by your husband and his family/friends. It was such an inviting atmosphere and the food and margaritas were absolutely delish! I look forward to visiting the “better than ever” Las Velas next time we are home.

    I’m so sorry that this has happened – not only does this affect you and your family, but also the employees and their families as well. I’m relieved that no one was hurt at all – at least, not physically.

    I wish you, your husband and the employees all the best in your efforts to restore and rebuild and I’m hoping that everyone can find joy this holiday season, despite this setback.

    Hugs & kisses,
    Margaret Lacher/Virginia Beach, Virginia



  2. Beth
    December 2, 2010 10:05 pm

    Oh, Ginny. This was heart-breaking. I hope you won’t hesitate to ask us if you need anything at all.

    Thoughts and prayers to you and yours.



  3. Stefanie
    December 2, 2010 10:35 pm

    Ginny, my thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. Good luck and ask for what you may need.



  4. Michelle
    December 2, 2010 10:35 pm

    Ginny,

    I saw the news from your Twitter feed, and I couldn’t believe it. I was shocked – but I am so thankful that it happened at night so that nobody was hurt. I know that you guys will bounce back better than ever, and I will make it my goal to get there myself sometime once it is reopened!

    Lots of thoughts and prayers you and your family’s way, and to all your employees as well. Much love <3



  5. HeyThereScout
    December 2, 2010 10:42 pm

    “I don’t believe in miracles, I believe in Pittsburgh.”

    Ok, so I personally believe in both…

    We’re going to open your restaurant again, Ginny. I love you.

    –Scout



  6. richrovs
    December 2, 2010 10:45 pm

    When I saw that on the news I was afraid that it was your husbands restaurant. I am sorry to hear that it is. Glad nobody was hurt, I hope you can be strong and I can’t wait for the grand re-opening!!!



  7. Rachel
    December 2, 2010 10:47 pm

    Please, please, please (as mentioned above) if there is anything the Pittsburgh community can do to help, just ask



  8. jj
    December 2, 2010 10:47 pm

    How very sad for you and David, I absolutey love Las Velas! The hard work and time he put in there was evident in the atmosphere as well as the food. I just know it will come back better than ever. Your family & staff will be in my thoughts & prayers at this very difficult time. It’s time for you to let us know how we can help YOU for once.



  9. Deanna
    December 2, 2010 10:59 pm

    Oh no. Oh no oh no oh no. You have the total support of a perfect stranger who’s only been to Pittsburgh once (for 3 days in 2007) but absolutely fell in love with it. Take care and definitely let us know how we can help!!



  10. Nay Nay
    December 2, 2010 11:08 pm

    Be the Phoenix.



  11. betoon
    December 2, 2010 11:13 pm

    Ginny – you and your family have had a wild ride these past 10 days or so. It must feel like every time you get up – something pushes you down. I know the strength and vision you and your husband had to create Las Velas will help you through this time. You have helped so many people (big and small) that now it’s our turn to help you. Hugs to you and your family – we won’t let you fail.



  12. Carly
    December 2, 2010 11:17 pm

    Hi Ginny,
    I work for PMI in the Buhl Building behind Las Velas. We often come to your restaurant for lunch (both our staff and our clients!) and David and your staff have been wonderful when we come in after staff meetings and hold company “happy hours”. As your neighbors, please let us know how we can help – even if it’s a place to take a breather and warm up as it gets colder outside.

    While this is truly devastating, I do believe that once things get up and running again, they will be better than ever.

    Like jj said above, “It’s time for you to let us know how we can help YOU for once.”

    – Carly and PMI



  13. Jill
    December 2, 2010 11:19 pm

    Oh gosh, I’m so sorry. That’s devastating news. Stay strong and know that lots of Pittsburghers are praying for you and your family.



  14. Noelle
    December 2, 2010 11:30 pm

    I know how devastating this must be. I am thinking of you and if you need ANYTHING….



  15. G-Man
    December 2, 2010 11:40 pm

    Ginny – I’m so glad no one was hurt and equally glad you are insured.
    I haven’t lived in Pittsburgh since the 1970s but get back a couple times each year. In August I never got down to Las Velas due to being busy but I promise I’ll stop there on a future trip once you reopen.
    You’ve had a rough week with the car and now this. Remember: what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. So I hope Lukey remembers to stay out of your path in the future.
    Good luck.



  16. Bobby
    December 3, 2010 12:03 am

    There are no answers. Try the best you can to stay strong and remember that time heals all wounds. Picture yourselves at the “Grand Re-opening” and it will be here before you know it. Pretty soon “It’s a wonderful life” will be on the tube and I bet the day you open again it will be like when Jimmy Stewart comes back home to ZuZu….



  17. Karen S.
    December 3, 2010 12:20 am

    I’m so glad that no one was hurt but terribly sorry for what the fire has taken away. I hope it’s an easy path for you from here on in!



  18. Steeler in PR
    December 3, 2010 12:22 am

    I am so so so so sorry. It’s great that you have such a positive attitude (which, of course, comes after many tears have fallen). Keep your chin up. Time flies and soon you’ll be at the Grand Re-Opening. Remember that “the harder the struggle, the sweeter the victory”. Our thoughts and prayers are with you, your hubby, and your family.



  19. Jonathan
    December 3, 2010 12:27 am

    All love to you, David, your family and wonderful staff. So relieved that no one was hurt, and look forward to your dream soon being reborn.

    Viva Las Velas!



  20. Bobby
    December 3, 2010 12:38 am

    Ginny,

    Thinking of you and your family and the staff at Las Velas.

    You’re a hero to so many people, and those folks are here for you now.



  21. Peg
    December 3, 2010 12:44 am

    When I heard it on the news, I immediately thought of your restaurant. I am so sorry. I hope there will be some way that we will be able to help you.
    My best wishes for you and your family.



  22. Bram R
    December 3, 2010 12:45 am

    Appalled to hear all of this. Glad you’ve got the fortitude to stay positive. Just say the word, I know there are other causes but we can turn this into the last scene of “It’s A Wonderful Life” in ten minutes flat. We’d consider it an investment in further superior karma.



  23. Amber
    December 3, 2010 12:57 am

    Unreal! Let us know what we can do. Let’s all make an effort to frequent Las Velas (frequently!) once it’s re-opened to show our support.



  24. Heather
    December 3, 2010 12:58 am

    I am so very sorry, and I will be praying for you and your family.



  25. Christina
    December 3, 2010 5:02 am

    Nobody called you at night, when the firefighters were there? You had to learn in the morning when all was already lost? WOW :(

    I could not and did not want to believe it. I know this numb feeling when you ration gets the news but your soul says “NO, that cannot be!”

    I mean … you were just there. After such a long time of investing in the place, going through Market Square constructions, the normal ups and downs of having a brand new restaurant …

    It’s just not fair.

    Now I am praying,
    – that your insurance is covering the financial loss
    – that you and you husband and your team will have the energy to rebuilt the place even better than it was
    – that you can reopen as soon as possible
    – that your customers are all loyal and come back as soon as it is possible

    We talked about the karma boomerang so often and here it is in the best way possible:

    We are all here with you – virtually or for real (depending on where we are located) – all of our good vibes are with you, David, your family and staff.

    And if there is anything more we can do, do not hesitate to let us know.

    I’ll be in Pittsburgh from Feb 23 to Feb 27 and I am so visualizing myself warm up at Las Velas with great spicy food and cheering with some delicious cocktails.

    HUGS

    Christina



  26. Craig
    December 3, 2010 7:14 am

    What a shame, I guess no good deed or hard work every goes unpunished. Here’s to a speedy, insurance driven return to a wonderful business by some of the finest people on the planet. The PittGirl Nation is behind you.



  27. Lisa J
    December 3, 2010 7:19 am

    Ginny, I can’t say enough how sorry I am to hear this. I watched my stepkids go through losing everything they had in a fire at their home two years ago. I still remember the devastated look in their eyes. But know this, they’re fine and recovered quickly, and you all will, too. You love this city and we love you. If you need anything at all, please let us all know. Just like others have said above, it’s Pittsburghs turn to be here for you. You’ve done so much to help people, please let us help you now.
    Much love to you, David, your children, staff, and their families.
    Lisa J. and family



  28. Cassie
    December 3, 2010 7:32 am

    That’s horrible. I was on the 28th floor of PPG place that day and saw firetrucks on the roof. I said to my husband, “Isn’t that Las Velas?”
    This shouldn’t happen to you, especially around the holidays. What makes me most sad is that you’re right, it was HIS work.

    You guys’ll come out on top.



  29. Cassie
    December 3, 2010 7:33 am

    Not ON the roof, ladders on the roof.



  30. Duncan
    December 3, 2010 7:52 am

    I’m so sorry to hear about the restaurant. Hope you can get it back up and running without too much additional drama. Good luck and keep your spirits up!



  31. Mia
    December 3, 2010 8:38 am

    Oh, I’m so sorry. We had a fire once in our home. That smoke is such a bitch. You will have the restaurant back better than ever and that will be a great celebration! Chin up.



  32. Annette Dashofy
    December 3, 2010 8:45 am

    Oh, gosh, Ginny. I’m so sorry. I’d heard there was a fire and thought about your husband’s restaurant. Didn’t realize until I read this that it indeed was Las Velas. Having had a couple of close encounters with the devastation of fire myself, I have some inkling of how you feel. BUT you have insurance and Las Velas will rise again from the ashes. Hugs.



  33. Neesie
    December 3, 2010 8:56 am

    Ginny – My husband told me about the fire the other night while reading the news, and my heart just sank. Even though we have never met, after reading your blog for so long, you feel like a friend. :)

    Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. You do so much good for so many people, please let us know if there is any way that we can help you this time.

    reading the news the other night while I was cooking dinner and told me about the fir



  34. Jennifer
    December 3, 2010 9:34 am

    There are no words — other than those others have shared with you already. I wish you ALL nothing but the best – and know you have the support of the Pittsburgh community behind you. And you, of all people, know what a force that is!!!

    Be well. We are here for you.



  35. Me
    December 3, 2010 9:35 am

    Ginny,

    So sorry to hear about that. I must have been living under a rock this week, because I hadn’t heard before reading your post. As others have said, please let us know if you need any help. I’m not too handy, but I can use a paint brush. I’m sure that if David needs any extra hands to help refurbish, you’ll find a lot of neighbors willing to pitch in.



  36. Melissa
    December 3, 2010 9:38 am

    Your family will get through this and the restaurant will be even better — because there is no better place in Pittsburgh for authentic Mexican food than Las Velas. Monica and I were just there two weeks ago and we enjoyed a wonderful late afternoon lunch. We look forward to going back again very, very soon!

    Keep going and stay strong. Our thoughts are with you!

    Melissa
    CASA



  37. Butcher's Dog
    December 3, 2010 9:42 am

    Strength has to be tested occasionally just to let us all know it’s still there. You are one of the strongest people I’ve ever encountered (albeit in this virtual world of the Internet) and I’m guessing this is going to show us (and maybe most importantly, you) how strong you are.

    As ESPN is celebrating Jimmy V week, his words work here as well as any. “Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.”



  38. YinzerInExile
    December 3, 2010 9:51 am

    Oh man, I know you don’t want to channel too much Vinny, but have you at least had a good 15 minutes or so of foot-stomping epithets to the gods re: Happy Holidays!?? It might be cathartic.

    You have the collective good thoughts of my mother and I (and hers are particularly strong, on account she’s a momma).



  39. boadicea23
    December 3, 2010 9:55 am

    Oh my. :( I am so sorry to hear of this. My husband and I had a wonderful date night there in October (after not having a night out together in months) Truly it was an incredible night.

    When you rally and everything is back, we will be there!



  40. Maggie K
    December 3, 2010 9:59 am

    Horrible news, you all are in my thoughts & prayers!!!



  41. bluzdude
    December 3, 2010 10:04 am

    Geez, that’s what I get for ignoring the Twitter for a couple days.

    I’m so sorry. Count me in (even from here in Baltimore) if you need help.

    I didn’t have the chance to eat at Las Velas during PodCamp, I sure hope I didn’t miss it forever.

    PS. Are you sure there weren’t any Minions skulking around that night?



  42. Jill
    December 3, 2010 10:08 am

    Coming out of Rock of Ages on Sunday, I told my husband “You know the hilarious blog I read to you all the time? Well, her husband has a restaurant around here – we should have planned to go for dinner”

    Now I’m really wishing we had. I’m so sorry to hear about Las Velas. Can’t wait to visit when it rises from the ashes again. Take care.



  43. lisa
    December 3, 2010 10:40 am

    I am so sorry this happened to you and your family, and I will commit to eating there once a week when you open back up., The Burgh will support and pray for you, we love ya!



  44. Lauren
    December 3, 2010 10:42 am

    You and your family are in my prayers. Please let all of us know if there is anything we can do to help. You have been such an inspiration to me, both as a writer and in your quest to help people. I’m sure you’ll continue to have the same grace, wit, and kindness as you rebuild, and I can’t wait to visit Las Velas the next time my husband and I are in town.



  45. Dad
    December 3, 2010 10:46 am

    Ginny and David

    Everything may seem lost and hopeless at this time, but God will bring you through this trial. He has a way of turning lemons into lemonade. God does not cause these disasters and trials, but He does allow them to happen from time to time. We may not know His purpose at first, but He will eventually make it clear. Be encouraged by the outpouring of love and concern from your loyal readers, family and friends.

    Love
    Dad



  46. Elle C.
    December 3, 2010 10:48 am

    I am so sorry to hear about all of this. It’s one of those things you wouldn’t wish upon your worst enemy, let alone someone like you who does so many wonderful and positive things for this great city of ours.

    I work a few blocks from Market Square and Las Velas is one of our favorite happy hour spots. Who woudn’t love a waiter who delivers margaritas to your table on his head, then tells your group the story of Pajarito? I know you guys will be back, and as you said, better than ever.



  47. Legallypgh(Kathy)
    December 3, 2010 10:49 am

    My eyes welled up while reading your post — I can only begin to imagine how this has affected you and David. Hopefully it helps just a little to know that you both are supported by the Pittsburgh community, and if you need to have a painting party or need any help getting things back up and running, just say the word. It’s time the community pay you back for all you’ve done for them.

    Much love and hugs,
    Kathy



  48. Amy
    December 3, 2010 11:09 am

    Ginny,
    I am so sorry. I was in town just before Thanksgiving (my once every 5 years trip home) and brought my family to eat lunch at Las Velas on 11/22. We were the first customers that day and the food was wonderful! I look forward to coming back next time I’m in town. Please let us know what we can do – as someone mentioned above, it’s time to help you, so just tell us what you need.



  49. Beatrice
    December 3, 2010 11:10 am

    Stay positive. You will all get through this. I’m so sorry this happened, but good things will come from it. We’re all behind you.



  50. Nicole in Tallahassee
    December 3, 2010 11:12 am

    Ginny – I know everyone has been saying this, but if the insurance does not go through for you, or if you need a lawyer, please let us know! We will hold fundraisers for you, I’m sure of it! :)

    In the meantime, we will keep you and your family (as well as the employees’) in our thoughts and prayers!