Sunday, April 19, 2015

filling time

I'm bored, something I rarely am.

I'm meeting Jill at 4 to see a screening of Far From The Madding Crowd, and an interview with Carey Mulligan, Michael Sheen and Matthias Schoenaerts after. But what can I do before the screening that involves spending little money, not eating, and not doing mindless stuff on the computer?

I went to the park yesterday to take some spring pictures, but most of the flowers hadn't bloomed yet, so that's out.

I could read but that involves staying in, and I feel like going out. Besides, the two books I'm reading (Hush Hush by Laura Lippman and A Circle of Wives by Alice LaPlante) don't deserve full attention. They are perfect for riding the subway or bus, but little else.

The screening is in the East Village, so I leave early to get in a long walk.

I start in SOHO. My only purchase there is at the MOMA store, a knife I saw featured this week in the Times. This sold-out item promises to take "a hard brick of butter and turn it into sumptuous, spreadable ribbons." I order one.

Alexander will love this, and I won't be cleaning up broken chunks of butter off my counter.

the buttercup knife
I walk over to Little Italy and then the East Village. I have an unsatisfying salad sandwich at Whole Foods, and refuse to pay a $1 more for some extra balsamic vinegar. "Okay, this time we won't charge you more," concedes the very relevant sandwich maker.

Jill and I both arrive early for the screening.  Uncharacteristic of most of our meet-ups, we actually talk awhile before the movie starts.  Starting around the 20-minute mark of this two-hour film, I get restless. I guess I'm not a big fan of these gloriously filmed romantic sagas, featuring lush English countryside as a main character.  

Friday, April 17, 2015

short trip to a foreign land

A few years ago I buy a long, black linen dress with thick rope ties for straps. I can never get the ties right. They are too big and bulky to layer over, and they never stay in place. As a result, I hardly ever wear the dress.

This year, the dress is produced in a much better version: thin rope straps have now replaced the older, thicker ones.  I had planned to bring the dress to a tailor to see if he can change the ropes/straps, but then I get a better idea. The company, Pip-Squeak Chapeau, is located in Brooklyn. 

I've never been to Greenpoint— the section of Brooklyn where this small boutique is located.

I take three different subways to get there (including the G line which I'd never even heard of before today). But it only takes 35 minutes. It's an easy trip. I arrive feeling like I'm in a totally different place from the one I've just left.

Greenpoint doesn't have the hip vibe of some other Brooklyn neighborhoods. That's why when I find the very chic Pip-Squeak Chapeau it looks like it's in the wrong zip code.

Lilly, whom I spoke to yesterday, could not possibly be more helpful.  She takes my dress, finds a thinner rope, and while I try on some things (but thankfully buy nothing— the one dress I love is out-of-stock in the color I want), Lily remakes the straps on my dress.

While I'm waiting, the owner comes in. I ask her how much for the re-done straps and she smiles and says, "Nothing."

New neighborhood. New-ish dress. No money spent. It's the perfect small adventure for this cloudy pre-spring day.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

the other woman

A couple of weeks ago I connect with Marla, the ex-girlfriend of my ex-boyfriend Lee.

Today we meet for coffee.

I arrive a few minutes before Marla. She's chosen a  little place on the westside called Maison Kayser. Marla lived in Paris for many years. I'm glad our waiter is American; I would have been jealous had the waiter been French and the two of them talked in a language I wish I understood.

Marla sits down and we begin catching up, though since we've never met, there is technically nothing to catch up on. But that's how easy the conversation flows. I feel like she's an old friend with whom I've lost touch. Marla and I have far more in common than either of us ever had with Lee. We were both in the entertainment business (Marla used to produce TV shows). We are both single moms. We've both lived in more than one major city. And we are both now doing something in fashion.

After coffee I go up to Marla's nearby apartment. It's not until I'm leaving that Lee's name even comes up, and even then, only briefly.  I hope this is the start of a new friendship. She's a dynamic, interesting woman. I can see how Lee fell in love.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

sign of maturity?

I am not at home when my cell rings.  

It's Alexander; he never calls me in the middle of the day. I pick up and immediately hear in his voice that something is very wrong.

" Hi. I can't talk." That's how he begins the conversation, even though he's calling me.

"What's up?" I ask.

"I thought I'd paid my rent for the whole year, but apparently I just paid for six months, and I just got an email that I'm late and my rent is past due and I had no idea and...." I can hear fear in his voice.

"Okay, but you have the money to pay, right?"

"Ya, it's not that.  I'll send them a check today."

"Okay, that's fine. So what's wrong?"

I'm waiting for, "I've been thrown out of my apartment and now have no where to live."

Or something really bad like, "I was so troubled by the email that I spaced out and failed two important tests."

But I'm wrong.

"What's this going to do to my credit score?"

Ah, my son must be growing up. The real world is just a few weeks away.

Good that the renting office is used to dealing with students. There will be no consequences. 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

some risks are bigger than others

Life is full of risk. Some are calculated; others are not. Some we take after carefully weighing the pros and cons; others we take because our hearts tell us to. And some we take just because, well, why not?

In 1974 Don surprises me with Jesse, an Irish Setter puppy.  I fall in love, but don't have the maturity or lifestyle to adequately care for a dog. Even one as perfect as Jesse. She eats my sofa, my friend Scott's plants, and remains totally undisciplined, despite my meek efforts to the contrary. Eventually I give Jesse to a more responsible family, but for a few months continue to visit her, as one would a shared-custody child.

In 1976 I move to Chicago without a job. Soon I find one, along with a great apartment and new friends. It's an impulsive move, but a life-changing one. Okay, so I don't end up with the guy I followed there, but all these years later and Don and I are still good friends. And my roommate Hazel is someone I am still close to.

In 1979 I marry Tim, a man who is kind and thoughtful and unlike anyone I've ever dated. It doesn't work out. Tim eventually moves to San Francisco; I stay.  Over time we lose touch. This relationship doesn't have the happy ending I'd hoped for.

In 1981 I reluctantly move back to Boston. I take a job at Gillette that I initially had rejected, after accepting one at a big advertising agency in Chicago. I so don't want to move.  But I love working at Gillette, and there I meet new friends and a new guy; the new friends (M, V and Gail) enrich my life; the new guy brings me equal parts passion and heartache. 

In 1985 I move to New York without knowing a single person and barely making enough money to live. Had I calculated my expenses against my income,  I would not have moved. And that would have been a colossal mistake.

In 1992 I get pregnant and never once consider not having the baby. It is the best decision I ever made.

Today I finally go from this:

To this:

As I said, some risks are bigger than others.  And watch, tomorrow it'll be back to 40.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

how to lose a customer

My Louis Vuitton Neverfull Tote — the one that half of Manhattan owns — is falling apart. 

One strap broke and the other is about to.  The stitching around the top of the bag is coming apart. The tote is only five years old so my hope is that LV via Bloomingdales (where I bought the bag in December of 2009) will fix it for free.  

But that is not what happens. Not even close.

I go to the LV boutique at Bloomingdales, and when the sales woman there can't help me, I ask for the manager. A well dressed, good-looking man approaches me with a smile and asks, "How are you today?"

I show the manager where the bag needs to be repaired. He looks at it and tells me that each strap will cost $110 to fix. That's $220.  And two years ago I spent $120 to fix a side strap that had broken. This bag is like maintaining a car.

After I digest the ridiculous repair cost, I tell the manager to go ahead and process the paper work. It's still a lot cheaper than a new bag.  

But then I notice the manager continuing to inspect my tote.  He looks up at me sadly,  and says, with sincere sadness, "I'm so sorry.  But here, look. Underneath this (the clover-shaped piece of leather that the strap attaches to) you can see a slight crack in the vinyl." He tries to show me but honestly, I can't see what he's talking about.

"Oh—kay," I say, still not sure where the conversation is heading.

"So we can send the tote back to our artisans, but it'll take four to six weeks weeks for you to get your bag back, and  I'm certain they will conclude the same thing." 

"Conclude what?" I ask.

"That they won't be able to fix it.  You see, if the vinyl is starting to crack, it could get worse if ....." but I am barely listening.  I am just hating Louis Vuitton.

Can Customer Service get any worse than this? 

I take my bag and leave. 

I jump on the subway up to Pavlos, the best shoe repair place on the Upper East Side, maybe Manhattan.

Michael, the magician there, looks at the bag.  "Sure, we can fix it. I can deliver it to you early next week.  Is that okay?" 

"Of course,"  I respond. "How much?"


Michael even poses for a picture when I ask. 

Perhaps Louis and his artisans should meet Michael and his. They would undoubtedly learn a lot.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

how to keep a customer

Last October the yellow light on my laser printer starts blinking indicating  I'll soon be out of ink. I order a new HP 49X cartridge on Amazon, an expensive one. $130, but it prints up to 6,000 pages and will last me two years or more.

The new cartridge arrives and sits in my closet until last week. I guess the yellow blinking light gives you 6-months notice. I install the new cartridge and it prints worse than the cartridge it just replaced. The type is so light I can barely read it.

I call Amazon and they tell me I have to go through the seller before they can help. The seller is a company called Sell Toner -- not the most creative name but certainly a descriptive one. Judging from the seller's area code, I see the company is based in Utah.  I am not optimistic, especially since the cartridge is only guaranteed for 30 days, and it's been about 180.

I call the number and a woman answers, "Hello."  

Hello?  No automated voice instructing me to push different numbers for different departments. Not even a, "Hi. This is Karen. How can I help?"  

I hear a baby crying in the background. I can picture the scene, and the scene I picture is not a woman in a cube with headsets on in front of a computer.   Nonetheless,  I explain my problem, with no confidence at all that this experience is going to end well. 

After telling the woman about the defective product she says, "Let me get my Amazon liaison on the phone."   Really? Your Amazon liaison?  Who is that?  Your oldest son?  I am put on hold and then "Mike" picks up. He sounds like he may be on a chairlift.  I start to explain my problem and when I get to the part about why I didn't open the cartridge until 6 months after receiving it, Mike says, "Ya, I understand."  I get no "I'm sorry, you can only make a return within 30 days." Mike then adds, "No problem; I'm really sorry; I'll Fed Ex a new one out to you tonight."  (As soon as I'm done skiing for the day, I assume.  But I don't care. 

This whole experience has been nothing like what I'd expected. I'm not asked for proof of the defected cartridge. I am not asked to return it. I am not given a hard time about the 180 days. Nope, just a sincere apology, and a quick solution.  

My new cartridge arrives. It works fine. Sell Toner; I love you!