Service of the Comfort of Vintage

January 23rd, 2017

Categories: Candles, Fashion, Films, Gifts, Movies, Old Fashioned Things, Vintage

La la Land movie poster

Whatever “vintage” means to you—if you’re 20, 1980s films, fashion and décor might describe it while if you’re 50, it could be all things 1950. For some there’s comfort and perhaps a soothing visual to live with a grandparent’s furnishings; for others, reminiscences shared with an uncle while watching Audrey Hepburn on Turner Classic Movies brings smiles.

I thought of this after seeing “La La Land,” a movie I enjoyed. The writer/director Damien Chazelle is 31 yet he picked the 1940s/1950s romantic musical genre for the setting of his story. He added zero pyrotechnics, violence or gore and none were missed. The film set a record at the Golden Globe Awards winning seven including recognition for best motion picture—musical or comedy—performance by an actor and actress, director, screenplay, original score and original song.

Elle.com ran a article about what’s in or out in fashion. Nikkitight jeans Ogunnaike reported we should “anticipate a shift toward contrast denim styles in vintage silhouettes.” [This look is in contrast to skin- tight jeans popular today.]

I’d saved a December, 2016 section of The Wall Street Journal‘s “Off Duty,” because of its cover story, “Presents with a Past,” that featured 50 nostalgic gifts “whose origins date back decades and beyond.” The subhead continued that the gifts will “conjure a simpler time when the holidays were lower-voltage, but just as bright.”

Sidney Garber bracelet

Sidney Garber bracelet

Speaking of voltage, most of the suggestions would burn a hole in most wallets. There was a gold bracelet by Sidney Garber reminiscent of flexible metal coils first popular in the 1930s for $12,200; a 3-day slumber party at a historic English country estate @ $15,600/night for 16; Prada’s jewel encrusted mules for $1,150; a $685 pair of retro headphones; a mink stole for $5,500 and a chauffer to drive you from Paris to Versailles in a period Citroen starting at $370.

I don’t spend that kind of money for the loved ones on my list. The Wall Street Journal editors chose a few things under $100 too. There was a box of Turkish delight [$35]; a rubber band-propelled toy car [$25]; an apron [$47]; a ‘70s popular fondue pot [$95]; traditional Belgian speculoos cookies [$20]; a Mickey Mouse wall clock featuring a 1930s style rodent [$65], and an Italian knit necktie [[$90].

The J. Peterman Company catalog seems to be going strong with its focus on vintage-inspired men and women’s fashion.

Have you noticed vintage influences creeping back more now than in recent years? Do you welcome them or consider them old fashioned and therefore not worthy of your attention? Do you think that in turbulent times people look back to what they recall or think may have been a calmer period?

 Belgian Speculoos cookies

Service of Marketing that Hits a Sour Note: Details and the Devil

January 19th, 2017

Categories: E-tailing, Magazines, Marketing, Newspapers, Promotions, Publishing, Restaurant, Retail, Subscriptions

New Yorker circ photo

I bought some items online during an after Christmas sale and almost three weeks later got a notice from the store that one of the items wasn’t available. OK. That happens. “LET US MAKE IT UP TO YOU,” came a proposal for a “gift”–$10 off a $100 purchase. This hit a sour note: It sounded like “heads they win; tails I lose.” Otherwise I like the store.

The next two examples are courtesy of the circulation departments of a magazine and newspaper considered top of the line in their categories. I subscribe to and admire both. However, they appear to be trying to save money by selecting under par fulfillment and promotion partners at just the time they need to excel.

  • The magazine has been nagging me to renew my subscription months early and if I do, I’ll get a free subscription as a gift. [Always suspicious, I envision losing the months I’ve already paid for, between now and the end of the original subscription, and I don’t want to waste time untangling this potential glitch.] Fine writing and elegance are just two of the magazine’s selling points and the subscription is costly. That’s why I didn’t expect to see a typo in the first word of the third line ["your"] printed on a piece of cheap scrap paper enclosed in their correspondence seeking my business. [See photo above.]
  • The newspaper didn’t deliver its weekend and Monday issues last week. I called customer service on Tuesday making clear that we didn’t want the credit, we wanted the newspapers. The operator [from a far-off land] said he understood. On Wednesday we received a second copy of the Tuesday issue. I called back and was told they would have to mail us the weekend and Monday copies and that this would take from seven to 10 days. I had already spent far too much time on this mistake and snapped “fine, do that,” and hung up. Still waiting.
  • All this reminds me of a restaurant we went to in the Berkshires years ago that served remarkable food in an enchanting setting with a terrible hostess who ran the room like a general during a military operation readiness inspection {ORI}. The tension her approach achieved added a false note to an otherwise pleasant experience. We learned later that her husband was the chef. Nevertheless, she ruined the evening.

Do you have other examples of an irritating detail that conflicted with the otherwise high quality of a product or service?

$10 off $100 turned

Service of a US Inauguration: Traditional Passing of the Baton or is it Different This Year?

January 16th, 2017

Categories: Politicians, Politics, Protest

Marching band 1

I’ve been weighing for a while what I heard about Marist College in Poughkeepsie, NY. I drive by often so my ears perked up when the college was in the news a few weeks ago—and not about the results of one of its well-regarded polls.

After applying previously with no success, the college’s 30 year old band was chosen this year to march down Pennsylvania Avenue to celebrate the inauguration. The application was submitted in the spring of 2016, long before the election. Even so, some in the Marist College community squawked loudly.

David Yellen, the college’s president, wrote them a memo. An excerpt: “Some critics of the President-Elect, pointing to his controversial or inflammatory statements and policy proposals, view Marist’s participation in his inauguration as either a political statement in support of Mr. Trump, or an ethical lapse for not speaking out against him.”

Noting the college hosted a campaign event for Bernie Sanders, which also didn’t constitute an endorsement, he wrote: “I believe [these concerns] are based on a misunderstanding of the role of a college in a free society….A college community….holding a wide range of political views cannot itself be a political actor by staking a claim to any one position.” He wrote that the college will support students whether or not they participate.

Yellen’s point that–“…participating in the ritual of the United States’ peaceful transition of power [does not] constitute a political statement”–was also made by two other Marching band 2university presidents whose communities objected to their participation in the parade. On insidehighered.com, Scott Jaschik observed that this year is different from others, where before “students and their institutions have boasted about being selected to march in the parade.”

The colleges, some of whose constituents also objected, are Olivet Nazarene University, Bourbonnais Ill. and Talladega College, Talladega, Ala. No Washington DC-based high school band nor Howard University will participate this year. “Several other colleges and universities will also be participating, but are not drawing criticism.” reported Jaschik.

According to him, Billy Hawkins, president of Talladega College, a traditionally black institution, wrote: “We respect and appreciate how our students and alumni feel about our participation in this parade. As many of those who chose to participate in the parade have said, we feel the inauguration of a new president is not a political event but a civil ceremony celebrating the transfer of power.”

Those who were in favor of marching made hay.  According to Paul Resnikoff, in “All-Black Talladega Marching Band Raises $320,000 to Play Trump Inauguration,” they made more than enough to pay all expenses to attend via a Gofundme page.

Marching band 3More than 900 people signed a petition urging Olivet Nazarene to withdraw. “Sadly, President-elect Trump has consistently articulated and advocated policies that undermine the Christian commitments of communities like Olivet,” the petition began, noting sexism, alliances with white supremacists, hostility towards immigrants and refugees as “just a few positions incompatible with Christian teachings in general and the Nazarene message of holiness in particular.” The college president, John Bowling, made the same point as the other two presidents. The parade is “a civic ceremony that provides the students with the opportunity to visit Washington and observe the process of transition firsthand.”

If you were in one of the college bands, would you attend this inauguration? Do you think that the protestors have good reason or don’t they understand the point of the inauguration according to the college presidents? Are you planning to watch the ceremony on TV?

Marching band 4

Service of Interpretation: Cartier, the One Percent vs. Everyone Else

January 12th, 2017

Categories: Jewelry, Marketing, Retail

Cartier window January 2017 turned

Funny how one image can cause two people to come to such different conclusions.

I was walking by Cartier’s windows on a recent Sunday and after I’d passed by I backed up to take the photo [above] because something was so clearly missing: Jewelry.

I showed the shot to my husband Homer Byington and said “How sad. Look where we’ve come. The jeweler can’t display a thing in its windows on a Sunday when it’s closed for fear that someone will steal rings, necklaces and pins. Imagine the rent paid yet the store can’t take advantage of this marketing tool to showcase its wares.”

Homer replied “I think Cartier didn’t display its jewelry to signify to the one percent how valuable and expensive their pieces are—far too precious and priceless for a window display. The store isn’t interested in whether the 99 percent can see what it can’t afford to buy anyway.”

What do you think? In addition, should a brand with this stature think of a clever way to decorate its windows for the times it doesn’t show product for whatever reason?

Service of a Wet Blanket–Much Ado About Little: the New Second Avenue Subway

January 9th, 2017

Categories: New, Subway, Transportation, Wet Blanket

Second Avenue subway tracks

I finally had a reason to try the new 2nd Avenue subway in NYC. It’s not new, just an extension of the Q train. I got on at 2nd Avenue and 86th Street.

My destination, 51st and Lexington Avenue.

That was my mistake–thinking I could conveniently go anywhere on the East side below 63rd Street using this east side train. Forget it also if you’re hoping to get to Grand Central Station or Union Square in a reasonable amount of time.

I exited at 63rd Street–where I took three long escalators to reach the street–and followed instructions to transfer to the Lexington Avenue subway at 59th street. I could have walked to 51st Street but I wanted to test the system.

It failed.

For one thing, I had to pay another fare. For another, had the weather been stormy, freezing or sweltering or had I been lugging anything, the clumsy four block walk would irk. And the clock was ticking—what a waste of time.

Speaking of time, I waited over 20 ++ minutes for the Lexington Avenue local. OK–it was a Sunday. But really. This is Manhattan for goodness sakes. And last—and this is a frivolous complaint. With all the talk about the new subway I’d expected to travel in a new train. It wasn’t.

The subway extension is super for some:  People coming from Coney Island, Brooklyn to the upper east-east side [as far as 96th Street for now], or for those who live way east and are going to theatre. After 63rd, the train heads west and stops at Times Square on its way south.

There are engineering reasons, no doubt, that the train doesn’t connect to the Lexington Avenue subway, but this is 2017–we can do anything, no? Oops! I forgot: It took almost 100 years to get this far. We don’t want to rush things.

wet blanketI’m more the cheerleader type and dislike being a wet blanket. I love this city. But we haven’t been getting much right of late. Returning home in the snowstorm on Saturday afternoon I heard the welcome scraping noise of a snow plough. Where was it? Not where the cars are on First Avenue but on the bicycle lane. With two inches of frozen slush and more snow coming down, who made that decision? Granted the subway extension is a state project and the city cleanup belongs to the local sanitation department but the impact of poorly thought through decisions hit citizens equally.

Do you love the “new” Second Avenue subway? Can you point to an infrastructure or other major project about which much is made with disappointing impact? Do I have unrealistic expectations?

Much ado about nothing

Service of Pitch Perfect Marketing

January 5th, 2017

Categories: Marketing, Retail, Sales

Hudson, NY

Hudson, NY

We visited Hudson, N.Y. over the holidays, a charming town in Columbia County that gets better every trip. I also had an exemplary retail experience in NYC.

India on the Hudson

We especially like the shops and restaurants on Warren Street and discovered a new one [for us]—Les Indiennes—with alluring merchandising that tempted as it exhibited textiles and ready-made tablecloths, pillow and bed covers, as well as clothing and furniture expertly upholstered in the fabrics also sold by the yard.

Les IndiennesI wish I could sew. Patterns were refreshing, crisp and appealing in a range of colors and the lighting showcased it all to advantage [Photo right]. A testament: My husband despises shopping and usually, regardless of weather, hangs out on the street while I reconnoiter. But he lingered in this shop, even drawn to the back to see what was there.

We also appreciated the smart move the town of Hudson made to encourage visitors and holiday shoppers to feast at the restaurants and patisserie—as well as their eyes: It wrapped parking meters like gifts up and down Warren Street, [Photo at the top.]

In the Pink in NYC

In a different but also heartening instance, I returned a blouse that I had ordered online from Thomas Pink, to the store on Madison Avenue and 53rd Street. I wanted the same blouse in a different size. Gerald, the first sales associate I saw, immediately stopped what he was doing to help me. I didn’t see the women’s section from where I stood and he insisted on dashing up the stairs to make the exchange for me. I’m inured to do-it-yourself-shopping in most stores these days, discount or not, so I was quite taken aback by his efficiency and helpful approach. We chatted while he placed the shirt in a protective sleeve [I passed on a shopping bag as I had a large tote]; he confirmed the amount remaining on my gift card and asked if I wanted water or to visit the ladies’ room. Gold star service from a luxury brand–the exception to the rule I fear and have experienced.

What a joy when a store, retail staff and a chamber of commerce get it so right. Can you share similar examples?

Thomas Pink box

Service of Selfish Redux

January 3rd, 2017

Categories: Accident, Hit and Run, Selfish

Selfish 1

Service of Selfish Redux

Here are some new instances to add to the rest previously covered in this blog.

Reflect on This

When I got to the house a few Fridays ago, all four reflective markers astride the two entrances to our driveway were missing. There are so many more expensive things to steal from a property I couldn’t imagine why anyone would take our markers. [They cost less than $3 each.] I mentioned this puzzle to the man at Home Depot in Poughkeepsie who directed me to the markers aisle and he suggested, “You saved someone from making the trip here to get them like you had to.” Markers are essential on our country road as no streetlights alert a driver to the driveway that has a 6-foot high wood fence on either side.

Reflective markersWho knows if he guessed right but gosh, it rang so possible these days and so quickly popped out of his mouth he must have known of other instances of petty theft like this. I hadn’t thought of it. [As the ground is frozen, I had to hammer a screwdriver in it to make a hole to hold each marker.]

Hit and Run

The Home Depot cashier told me what just happened to her daughter’s fiancé. He was driving her daughter’s car, an old one that had taken her years of savings to overhaul when a car slammed into him making him, in turn, crash into the car ahead. The car was totaled. Meanwhile the car that caused the mess dashed away, a hit and run.

Hit and Run–but Stopped

Another cashier, a young woman at Trader Joe’s in Manhattan, told me that she’d been run into by a car in the city and that she was nevertheless lucky on several counts. On impact she flew in the air and first landed on the hood of the car which was softer than the street where she eventually toppled. This driver started to run but witnesses jumped into action. An imposing Puerto Rican man, she said, stood in front of the car with his hands in the air indicating “STOP” which prevented the driver from moving forward while others called the police. [Better news: She said that these days her injured back only twinges once in a while.]

“What’s yours is mine,” is nothing new to those who turn to theft for a living or because they don’t have time to buy what you own and they need. As for the drivers in the hit and run instances, I can imagine how frightened they must have been, especially the man who ran into the young girl. How might we dust off and refresh the Golden Rule to help people override natural tendencies?

Selfish 2

Service of Speaking Up

December 27th, 2016

Categories: Participation, Safety, Speak Up, Terrorism

Speak up

I pass a row of Citibikes on my daily walk to work and last week noticed a cloth tote bag left beside one of the parked bicycles. My first thought was, “Oh, gosh, someone juggling packages left behind one of their bags.”

As I continued up the street lugging my own trove of gifts it suddenly occurred to me that this stand—and the tote–are next to one of the Trump-named buildings on First Avenue and across the street from the UN.

citibikeI soon passed a building on Second Avenue that I’d noticed was well-guarded since the Berlin terrorist attack at the Christmas market, so I mentioned the tote to one of the policemen. He said that someone had already reported it to the 17th Precinct. (He was with a terrorist troup.)

I was delighted that word had gotten around!

I most recently wrote about the “If you see something, say something,” concept well over three years ago in the post “Service of Passivity.” Nobody had mentioned to authorities the two large suitcases parked outside Grand Central Station with no human owner in evidence, until I did–and they had been there for a while.

We’ve improved!

Have you heard of other examples of the public’s pitching in to help safeguard your town or city?

safety first

 

Service of Nameless Friends

December 22nd, 2016

Categories: Christmas, Craft Show, Friends, Name, Thanksgiving

Craft Santa 2016 turned

I love traditions and one I’ve kept for 15+ years is to visit the Dutchess Community College Foundation annual craft fair in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., Thanksgiving weekend. I arrive by 9:45, after a stop for coffee and munchkins at Dunkin’ Donuts, to get a good parking spot—it starts at 10—and to stand at the door when it opens to be among the first at an exhibitor’s booth. Stephanie Stillwell has a fan club and sells out of her best pieces early. [See an example in the photo above.]

A mother with grown daughters—also Stillwell fans—usually wait with me. We recognized each other the second year and enjoyed chatting ever since.

Last year they weren’t there.

Stephanie told me that one of the daughters, [in her 50s], had suddenly died and that the family was having Thanksgiving out of town. She promised to send me contact information so I could offer my condolences—I don’t know their names or where in Dutchess County they live.

Again this year they weren’t at the entrance so I rushed to Stephanie’s booth with others. The first thing Stephanie said, even before saying “hello,” was that she couldn’t find the mother’s address and apologized for not getting back. I started to pick some wonderful quirky gifts when the mother appeared. We hugged for a long time and spoke for a short time. She said she was OK.I still don’t know their names.

When I was a kid, my mother said “hello” to countless people on the street and in the grocery store in our Manhattan neighborhood. She was better than I at names but often she’d respond, when I’d ask, that the person she’d greeted was Miss O’Reilly’s friend or someone she saw repeatedly at Mr. DiMaggio’s deli and that she didn’t know their name.

Are there people whose paths you cross of whom you’ve grown fond and/or are happy to see whose names you don’t know?

Nameless

 

Service of Difficult Jobs

December 19th, 2016

Categories: Jobs, Work

Hard jobs old people turned

Two years ago about this time of year I wrote “Service of Challenging jobs.” Walking around town I see plenty of people who perform uncomplicated jobs that don’t require a lot of training but boy: Are they hard to do!

I thought I was finished drafting the post when I saw this ancient couple inching along First Avenue after Saturday’s snowstorm [photo above]. They were under scaffolding on a clean sidewalk but it was early and most—crosswalks too–were still slushy, icy nightmares. For them simple everyday activities and chores are difficult.

What this photo doesn’t show is what happened next. A kid on his bicycle came up to the old man and holding his bike with one hand he steadied the elderly fellow’s arm with the other to help him over slush and across the street. Such unexpected kindness by someone so young brought tears to my eyes.

Hard jobs up high with poster turnedLook at the top of the building facing 45th Street just off Third Avenue [photo right]. You’ll see a crane with two men putting the finishing touches on a poster. Pedestrians pay no attention: Employers expect these men to be sure-of-hand so as not to drop any tools on the folks below.

Hard jobs heavy lifting of grocery carts turnedThose palettes get plenty heavy when full of cartons holding cans, bottles and boxes of detergent. The man in the forefront isn’t wearing a jacket and the temperature was in the 30s the day I shot this in front of a D’Agostino grocery store.

Hard jobs up high at Javits turnedThe brightest of the lights–third from the left–is on the cart of some men working high up in the Javits Center late at night in a largely empty building. I wasn’t able to tell precisely what they were up to but it looked like they were replacing light bulbs. Acrophobia is not in their DNA.

Look at the tree branch reaching out over Third Avenue and you’ll see a pair of arms tying lights on it to dress the avenue for the holidays [photo below]. What you don’t see is the wall-to-wall traffic behind the van. If the branch decorator falls on to the avenue from the cherry picker he’s in trouble.

Have you noticed any people with precarious jobs in and around where you live and work?

 hard jobs placing lights on trees turned

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