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. Di
    December 3, 2010 11:27 am

    We are ready to support you! Please make sure that you ask for help when the time comes. Blessings for peace, patience, and clarity in this stressful time for you and your family.



  2. bucdaddy
    December 3, 2010 11:33 am

    Pulling for you, honey. (And David.)



  3. pghfaninphx
    December 3, 2010 11:44 am

    Hoping the insurance covers the staff’s lost pay too? If not, that would be an excellent fundraiser!



  4. SpudMom
    December 3, 2010 11:51 am

    I can’t say anything that hasn’t already been said but I, too, am wishing for things to turn out well and am ready to help if you need it.



  5. Elmer Fudd
    December 3, 2010 11:57 am

    Ginny, Does Las Velas have gift certificates? I was thinking that when you get a clearer picture on when you will be reopening, To give us a way to purchase them online. I would definetly like to buy one. That way I can visit when I have some time, and others from far away can help out, and give them a reason to come back and visit the burgh..



  6. Mike
    December 3, 2010 12:12 pm

    Sad news. We’ll be in line when it opens. Nothing but the best of luck over the next few weeks.



  7. John Franco
    December 3, 2010 12:18 pm

    Excellent idea by Mr. Fudd. Hook us up with some gift certificates! I’m sure everyone is eager to buy and help out.



  8. SWFTerra
    December 3, 2010 12:19 pm

    Everything everyone said above.

    I have images of the Terminator (The T-1000, not that stupid old Arnold model). You and your family will not stop. EVER. Whatever it takes, you will get to the place you want to be. I trust that. I’m sure you do too.

    Also, forget about the end of T-2 cause that doesn’t support my vision so well. Just focus on the rest of the movie. But not the part where the T-1000 shows up in the past naked. You probably don’t want to be naked outside in December.



  9. TwinmamaTeb
    December 3, 2010 12:28 pm

    When I read your tweet that morning my heart sunk- I know those blood, sweat & tears. I hope the insurance check is enough to have David hire contractors to rebuild AND to cover lost revenue. To make Las Velas better than ever!

    I feel awful for your employees, but this city has a great restaurant “family”, and will take care of them. When Harris’s was damaged from their fire the “family” came out en mass to hire everyone. I immediately called Paul and asked if he needed anyone (he doesn’t, sorry!). But if there is ANYTHING else we can do, please call. Really.



  10. Suzanne
    December 3, 2010 12:28 pm

    Very sorry this has happened. It had to be so devastating. I know it’s hard to imagine your husband doing all that work again, but I know you guys will find the strength. What other choice do you have? You can’t give up, a lot of people are counting on you. And your fans will be there to help, whatever we can do.



  11. John in the Rocks
    December 3, 2010 1:02 pm

    Ginny,

    As so many of us have said, Las Velas will emerge from the ashes.

    In the immortal “words” of Oscar Goldman…

    “Ginny, we can rebuild it. We have the technology. We have the capabilities to make the first bionic restaurant. Las Velas will be that restaurant. Better than it was before. Better. Stronger. Tastier.”

    – cue Six Million Dollar Man Theme



  12. LaReina
    December 3, 2010 1:08 pm

    Heard this on the news and my heart sank. I hope you can get things up and running soon.



  13. JenEngland
    December 3, 2010 1:23 pm

    What Bram (and everyone said). Seriously, we could have that place cleaned up in no time if we all pitch in. I know there’s a lot of rebuilding to do by “professionals” but you’ve got literally thousands of people who’d be happy to pitch in on the grunt work. Say the word…



  14. HeidiH
    December 3, 2010 1:29 pm

    Awww Ginny…I was so, so sad to hear about this. I live downtown, 5 minute walk to Market Square. If there’s ANYthing I can do, please let me know and I will be over to do it!!! xxoo



  15. Deborah
    December 3, 2010 1:49 pm

    My boyfriend saw your tweet & told me about this. Let me annoy you with the tritest thing, ever ever ever, that was said to me OVER AND OVER when my life seemed be bad-getting-worse-when-is-this-gonna-STOP: You get what you can handle. And, again…I know it’s trite, and it means so much NOTHING when you’re confronted with this insult on top of the injury on top of the insult which had previously landed on an injury and…

    I do believe that whomever runs this universe knows who is capable of WHAT. And let me tell you: THAT IS COLD, COLD COMFORT sometimes, but if it’s the only thing that you can use to keep you moving, even SHUFFLING, forward? Well…sometimes it helped me.

    I have often reflected on what an amazing woman you are – I mean…lost your job over blogging and the City of Pittsburgh benefited from that in untold ways! You are a woman of ACTION who has made HUGE differences in people’s lives. Please know that, and know that it’s okay to be on the receiving end sometimes – God knows, you’ve been on the giving end pretty much CONSTANTLY since you “went public.”



  16. Jules
    December 3, 2010 2:12 pm

    So I think the question in everyone’s mind is “what can we do to help?” We’re Pittsburgh. Let us know what you need and we’ll be there!



  17. unsatisfied
    December 3, 2010 2:14 pm

    the good thing is that everything that was damaged in the fire is replaceable.

    hopefully, with insurance money.

    your husband, your employees and, well, you, are not.

    hope that the recovery is a very short one so I can finally get in there and taste one of those margaritas that I keep hearing about.



  18. Julie
    December 3, 2010 2:23 pm

    I think I can speak for my colleagues and friends who work in PPG Place, and have enjoyed many delicious meals and happy hours at Las Velas – give us paint brushes, brooms, hammers, whatever. You give so much to this city, sick kids, and those who otherwise wouldn’t have a voice. We’re all here to support you!



  19. rickh
    December 3, 2010 2:29 pm

    Best of luck to you and David and as many have already stated, just say the word and you’ll have a ton of help.

    Hope to see you in Sewickley tomorrow!



  20. Joe K.
    December 3, 2010 2:32 pm

    Very sorry to hear about this, I can’t even imagine what it’s like. Keep on truckin’.



  21. L-A
    December 3, 2010 2:35 pm

    oh, ginny, i’m so sorry. you’re a badass though, so you’ll get through it. sending hugs and happy thoughts.



  22. BeauJacques
    December 3, 2010 2:41 pm

    Ginny-

    Prayers and ((((((((( hugs )))))))))))))
    from me and my family both in the Burgh & North Carolina,

    as always, ANYTHING!! whatsover, no matter how big or small- let me know, PLEASE!

    g



  23. JustCele
    December 3, 2010 2:54 pm

    I second @Dad (#45) completely! My prayers are with you and the entire extended Las Velas family. Keep your faith and keep moving forward.



  24. Jcubed03
    December 3, 2010 2:59 pm

    Ginny –

    I never made it to the restaurant because I was busy having a baby and didn’t want to go when I couldn’t have a margarita. Because I love me a good margarita. I will be there (whatever my state) when you reopen because I also love me some mexican food and all of the wonderful things that you do for our city. Best wishes for a speedy recovery from the “jerk-faced ball of fire.”



  25. FireMom
    December 3, 2010 3:27 pm

    Oh I am so sorry to hear this. Big time. Will be sending love and strength and quick insurance answers from Ohio-land.



  26. PA Girl in VA
    December 3, 2010 3:48 pm

    PLEASE READ:

    As I read over the comments, it’s clear that everyone wishes Ginny, David, their employees and their families well after this devastating setback. It’s also obvious that many readers would help if only they knew how.

    I live in Virginia Beach, so my ability to assist is quite limited. I’m sure that Ginny’s regular readers know that she will not ask us for help and that it will be up to us to get the ball rolling.

    That said, I am in the process of trying to set something up to help all the families affected by this fire, esp. now that the holidays are upon us. Once I hear back from my friend who works for a major PA-based bank, I will provide more information.

    Thanks, folks! We Burghers, former Burghers and non-Burgher Burgher-lovers will rise to the occasion!



  27. MattDC
    December 3, 2010 4:23 pm

    We’ve all heard the stories about strangers breaking down in Pittsburgh, who are suddenly greeted by a fellow traveller in a pickup truck with food, tools, and skills to get them back on the road. Sounds like you’ve just been surrounded by a hundred virtual pickup trucks. For a second straight week, thank God there are no injuries.



  28. Hutch Jr.
    December 3, 2010 4:52 pm

    Ginny, hang in there it will get better. I lost my house, and Pops in one in 1982. It does get better. God Bless



  29. Scott
    December 3, 2010 4:53 pm

    Love the idea of the gift certificates online. I would definitely purchase them for gifts! And would BIG TIME spread the word about groups looking to host events at your space once it is back up and running. I have ZERO doubt that as a result of this your restaurant will be 100x better than it was before!!! So awesome to see the outpouring of support from people from Pittsburgh. I ask myself from time to time why I live in this city as opposed to somewhere warmer. And THIS IS WHY!! Makes me all warm and fuzzy inside! hahaha PITTSBURGH = AWESOMENESS!!



  30. Schuyler
    December 3, 2010 5:38 pm

    Ginny and David,

    My heart goes out to both of you. This truly made me cry – I can not even imagine what you’re going through. I am so, so sorry.

    I echo everyone else’s sentiments … we’ll be there to help any way we can. Hang in there!!



  31. Wendielu
    December 3, 2010 6:00 pm

    I, too, am just now learning it was Las Velas. I saw the news story but am not familiar enough with the area to realize…….I’m just so sorry, Ginny. I will keep you and yours in my prayers!



  32. Carpetbagger
    December 3, 2010 6:43 pm

    This hit me in the gut on Wednesday. Feel so bad for you both, and for me because I loved to get my grub on there.

    Let us know if there can be a community muck out day, or painting day, or Amish barn raising, or whatever. Will work for tamales!

    (I did see a couple of suspicious pigeons smoking and loitering near your building Tuesday night. Just saying…)



  33. Pa-pop
    December 3, 2010 7:00 pm

    I think your dad has offered the best words of hope and consolation here, and those heartfelt sentiments have been echoed in all of the other comments in a truly magnificent outpouring of love, affection and support.

    Butcher’s Dog’s reference to Jim Valvano (“Never give up”) also made me think of this from Monty Python’s Holy Grail:

    “When I first came here, this was all swamp. Everyone said I was daft to build a castle on a swamp, but I built it all the same, just to show them.

    “It sank into the swamp.

    “So I built a second one. That sank into the swamp.

    “So I built a third. That burned down, fell over, then sank into the swamp.

    “But the fourth one stayed up. And that’s what you’re going to get, Lad, the strongest castle in all of England.”

    I’m hopeful the next one is the “last” one and gives us the best Mexican restaurant in all of western Pennsylvania.

    My best hopes and all my prayers are with you and your extended family of employees.



  34. katbynp
    December 3, 2010 7:57 pm

    Can’t say anything more than has already been said but know I am sending positive thoughts and prayers for you, your family and all the employees of Las Velas.



  35. Toadsly
    December 3, 2010 8:36 pm

    So sorry my favorite blogger and her husband were dealt this losing hand. And during the holiday season! Godspeed!



  36. Guins29
    December 3, 2010 8:36 pm

    Whatever help hubby and I can provide from Baltimore, we are in on it! Much love and hugs and prayers!



  37. pghsciencenerd
    December 3, 2010 10:26 pm

    I’m very sorry for your loss, and I can share that an entire floor of PittGirl minions in the Pitt bio department feels the same. Sending our thoughts and prayers in this awful time, and I can promise that a small army of scientists would be happy to help in any way that we can.



  38. tim
    December 3, 2010 10:29 pm

    Fire is such an ugly disaster. I’m very sorry that bad things happen to good people :-(



  39. MrsGJG
    December 3, 2010 10:48 pm

    I’ve said it before, but please let us know how to help when you can.



  40. Bitter
    December 4, 2010 12:29 am

    Oh no… I heard about the fire on the radio and I thought of you, but I didn’t know until now that it was indeed your restaurant. I’m so sorry. Count me in for a helping hand. You and your family are in our thoughts. Good vibes coming your way :)



  41. Schneid
    December 4, 2010 2:16 am

    I would love to organize a drive to help out your employees at Christmas. Especially if they have kids. Maybe get a drive going for food and toys for you and your employee’s families? I would love to do something to help all of you out. Best of luck, and I can’t wait to go to the grand re-opening happy hour!



  42. Spanky
    December 4, 2010 3:07 am

    sad i pray for you to



  43. cmd_45
    December 4, 2010 10:12 am

    Hope the insurance is good to yuo and you can be up and running asap.



  44. Lori
    December 4, 2010 11:28 am

    My husband and I were extrememly saddened when we heard about the fire at Las Velas. We have eaten there many, many times and were planning to visit again soon. We were looking forward to some great food and margaritas and looking out at Market Square while it was decorated for the holidays. We hope that everything works out with your insurance company and that you can reopen the restaurant quickly. We will be back!



  45. Cari
    December 4, 2010 2:06 pm

    Ginny, when Las Velas reopens, I’ll fly from LA to be there! Best Mexican food I’ve had in a long time. And to spend more time seeing Pittsburgh and friends :)



  46. Robert E Hunt Jr
    December 4, 2010 3:05 pm

    G*ddammit. Is this effing crazy ass world we live in ever going to get any better? Is there no end to the bad news? The one person something like this should never ever happen to … it happens to. Eff.

    Hang in there, Ginny. You have more people rooting for you and your husband than you’ll ever know. And not just in Pittsburgh too.

    Keep the faith.



  47. PittinDC
    December 4, 2010 7:04 pm

    I’m so sorry to hear about this! I had been hoping to come in sometime when I was back in Pittsburgh. Good luck, and my thoughts are with you all as you pick up the pieces.



  48. Nikki
    December 4, 2010 7:28 pm

    Sorry to hear the news.. We like your blog and let us know if you are collecting any donation or looking for help.. We will be happy to donate. You are in our thoughts..



  49. PA Girl in VA
    December 4, 2010 9:06 pm

    OK, I HAD a plan but there is no way I can implement it from Virginia Beach. If anyone else wants to take this idea and run with it, I’d be happy to donate.

    I was hoping to open a bank account that people could donate to. I already had all of the information necessary and was ready to apply to the IRS for the proper ID # necessary to set up such a charitable account. However, my idea failed for 2 reasons:

    1. I could not open an account at a bank in Pittsburgh because I would have to be there in person to provide my ID and open the account. I live 8 hours away. Also, PGH and the Virginia Beach area do not have any banks in common where I could go to a local branch to do this.

    2. I then thought I’d do this through my credit union, but I was told that the recipient of the charitable account would have to qualify for membership in our credit union. I have no idea whether or not Ginny or her husband would qualify, although I’m fairly sure they wouldn’t.

    My intention was good but I just could not pull it off. I would like to challenge Ginny’s other readers to step up and put a plan into action rather than waiting to be asked for help. If I can think of another plan, I’ll do my best once again to put it into motion.



  50. Elmer Fudd
    December 4, 2010 10:47 pm

    Pa. Girl..There is a much easier way..As I mentioned before it is Gift Certificates..If you plan on cashing them in by using them, then the owner has a guarenteed sale..But the best part is if you buy them and DO NOT use them, Then it is pure profit for the business (minus paper and printing costs)..It is almost like printing your own money..It would be a great way of helping a business at this time of year, Because of Christmas shopping and people being out and about, Restaurants and other businesses make thier profit this time of year..And not only are you helping some great people this way, But you are also investing in a great restaurant..It is a win-win all around..