Archive for June, 2022

Service of Waiting

Thursday, June 30th, 2022

New Yorkers are used to waiting in lines

My dad had no patience and wouldn’t tolerate lines. If he had a restaurant reservation he demanded to be seated immediately. Cooling his heels at the bar was out of the question. He’d be so unhappy in today’s world not only on arrival at some watering holes but killing time on hold to speak with a human to sort out glitches with his phone, credit card or electric bill or to argue over coverage with a health or drug prescription insurance provider—even hanging around for an hour + for medical appointments.

Waiting for bagels for lunch in Manhattan

A couple from Indianapolis in their 20s, on line in front of me at Katz’s Deli last Sunday took it for granted that they’d wait at the airport on their trip home and were buying reinforcements. Their travel to NYC was delayed a few hours at the airport and three more on the plane before takeoff.

A flight attendant who’d written a post that is circulating on Facebook gave advice to today’s traveler. Drive if it would take seven or fewer hours to reach your destination she counseled. Book the earliest flight and never get the cheapest seat she warned. You have the best chance of taking off in the former instance and if nobody volunteers to deplane in the event of an overbooked flight, passengers with the cheapest tickets will be the ones excised.

In her Wall Street Journal article Dawn Gilbertson shared similar suggestions: “Download your airline’s mobile app, bookmark the website, follow them on Twitter or Facebook and put those telephone customer service numbers in your cellphone.” She reported :”American spokeswoman Rachel Warner said the airline gives priority to customers based on a variety of factors including proximity to day of travel, frequent flier membership and type of support needed.”


Image by Bilal EL-Daou from Pixabay 

In addition: “Mr. Hauenstein’s best piece of summer travel advice for travelers trying to reach an airline? “’Seek a digital answer first.’” Glen Hauenstein is president of Delta.

Gilbertson quoted the dreaded voice message for airline passengers: “Due to an earlier technical issue we’re receiving more calls than we typically do and are unable to take your call at this time.” Wait times for call backs at a major US airline ranged from an hour 14 minutes to an hour 42 minutes on a “relatively calm day.”

She wrote about a business traveler who couldn’t get the app at this airline to respond and the phone wait time was 8 hours. He needed to change his return flight when his meeting was cut short two days. Online chat wait was 1.5 hours. Next he couldn’t chose his seats and waited on the phone almost four hours on a Sunday morning and ended up driving 45 minutes to the airport to do literal face-time with someone at a ticket counter.

A California travel agent waited over three hours on a “key accounts” line to speak with someone at a prominent foreign airline wrote Gilbertson. The agent “blames the spike in travel volume combined with a flurry of flight issues stemming from staffing shortages, a scarcity of seats to rebook travelers on and other challenges across the industry. The number of people passing through TSA checkpoints on Sunday [June 26] was the highest since early 2020. Those numbers are only expected to increase as the July 4th holiday weekend kicks off this week.”

If you need to wait more than a few minutes for service or a seat, do you have effective ways of distracting and/or calming yourself?  Any tips to share with airline travelers to smooth their journeys?


Image by Lars Nissen from Pixabay

How to Evaluate Fine Handmade Objects

Monday, June 27th, 2022


By decorative fabric needle felting artist Juliana Boyd, South Hamilton, Mass.

Great Barrington-based potter Dan Bellow

Most people sell their time in addition to their service and/or skill. That goes for a chauffeur, bus driver, plumber, PR person, dentist, lawyer, babysitter, computer techie, physician, financial advisor, artisan or artist for starters.

So how do fine craft artists calculate the prices of objects they have designed and created?

I asked my client, Richard Rothbard, who with his wife Joanna Rothbard, has promoted the work of artists and artisans for over three decades in his galleries and at shows and festivals. He owns An American Craftsman Galleries in Lenox, Mass. and is days away from swinging open the gate on the 21st annual Berkshires Arts Festival, July 1, 2 and 3, in Great Barrington at scenic Ski Butternut.


Iva Kalikow, Fine Art in Glass, Beckett, MA

Artists shoulder the same skyrocketing costs as any business, he reminded. To exhibit their work there’s gas for hours-long trips via van and propane or oil to run a  kiln or furnace 24/7 for potters or glass blowers. Just as the price of commercial construction supplies have increased, so have fine woods–some quadrupling–for the vessels, sculptures and implements artisans fashion.


Designer Dahlia Popovits, Boston,
Mass.

The time to create one fine work precludes making a normal living said Rothbard. “It can take six hours for a glass artist to fabricate a piece for which he charges $400. If there were no expenses–such as the purchase and maintenance of a furnace, shears, paddles, tweezers, blowpipe and raw material, not to mention marketing and insurance costs–the artisan would make less than $60/hour. And consider the years it took to perfect the skill.”

Some of the exhibitors at the Berkshires Arts Festival who use furnaces or kilns are Michael Radigan, Pittsford, N.Y., creator of fused glass plates, bowls, pendants and sculptures and stained glass artist Iva Kalikow, Fine Art in Glass, Beckett, Mass.; potters Lynne Puhalla, North Attleboro, Mass.; Dan Bellows, master potter, Great Barrington and Jenna Cranna Cahalan, New Milford, Conn. as well as ceramicist Gail Markiewicz, Woodbridge, Conn.

Rothbard observed that if artisans paid themselves what their customers make an hour, few could afford their work. According to comparably.com, the average salary of a crafter in the U.S. in 2018 was $33,572, the median $30,720 with ranges from $18,680  to $59,750. In the “Quality of Life” section of the website: “With a take-home pay of roughly $2,478/month, and the median 2BR apartment rental price of $2,506/mo, a Crafter would pay 101.14% of their monthly take-home salary towards rent.”

Do you own and enjoy jewelry, ceramics, wood pieces, fashions, photographs, art glass, prints or paintings you bought in a craft boutique or art festival?


Sculpture by fine wood turning artist Paul Petrie, Gloversville, N.Y.

Service of Burying the Lead in a Story About Art Recovery

Thursday, June 23rd, 2022

Congrats to the New Paltz, N.Y. curator and librarian who located two Ammi Phillips [1788-1865] oil paintings of Dirck D. Wynkoop and his wife, Annatje Eltinge stolen from the local historical society– Historic Huguenot Street–50 years ago. New York Times reporter Vimal Patel wrote a good piece covering how they unearthed the primitive portraits of descendants of first Dutch settlers in the area so the FBI could close the recapture. The buyer didn’t know that the pictures were stolen and they are back at the historical society.

The amateur detectives found the pictures in a Sotheby’s catalog. They had been sold in 2005 for $13,000. Phillips portraits have sold as much as in the early seven figures.

Phillips worked for 50 years and of 2,000 pictures he was thought to have painted, some 400 have been attributed to him. Many 19th century American itinerant primitive portrait artists didn’t sign their work or for other reasons remain anonymous.

But what got me in this story was the auction house’s passive role 17 years ago. I think if not a headline, it should warrant a subhead.

Sotheby’s didn’t appear to perform due diligence when it accepted the portraits. Patel reported: “The couple’s names were on the backs of the paintings. Ms. Johnson said that should have been enough information for the auction house to know the paintings were stolen.” Carol Johnson, one of the successful sleuths, is a librarian at Elting Memorial Library in town.

Patel wrote: “A lack of transparency among auction houses and a desire to protect the privacy of art buyers and sellers create a culture in which art theft can flourish, said Erin Thompson, an associate professor of art crime at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Dr. Thompson says auction houses like Sotheby’s and Christie’s argue that art is often sold under sensitive circumstances — the ‘three D’s’ of death, divorce and debt. According to Dr. Thompson, these are the circumstances that the auction houses contend beg for privacy.”

Thompson added that this approach sets the stage for laundering stolen work.

Have you heard of other citizens being instrumental in finding long lost art or objects? Do you think that auction houses should be proactive in vetting the work they sell so as to identify stolen works?

Service of Lunch Breaks Here and in France

Monday, June 20th, 2022

Front of a long line of people waiting for takeout at lunchtime on Third Avenue in the 40’s last week.

In the last office in which I rented space, before the pandemic raged, a bevy of IT workers in there also never left their chairs except for brief trips to the WC or unless they were called out on a job. I admit to too many similar days even though I never had a nine to five job. But if I lunched out daily for 60 to 90 minutes I think I’d tack on work at the beginning and end and would have to budget for the added expense as well.

The pandemic has changed white collar workplace culture in NYC in countless ways, slowing the frenetic pace for some, I suspect, especially for employees who continue to work remotely some of the time. On the days they’re in an office many bring their lunches from home while others order takeout and eat quickly, if they work at companies that don’t have cafeterias.

But not in France where there is a labor code, launched in 1894, forbidding workers to eat at their desks. “La pause déjeuner” can last up to an hour and a half according to Gregory Warner in his NPR podcast, “Rough Translation.”  

The lunch break started in France, said Martin Bruegel on the podcast, some 130 years ago during the Industrial Revolution when, to avert disease, workplace airborne poison was thought to be cleaned out by opening factory windows. It survived a few almost reversals, said the historian.  Women workers went on strike in the beginning because they felt harassed on the streets and wanted the protection of eating in the factory, but they lost. It was suspended during the recent pandemic, but it’s back.

Bruegel concluded that after research he is convinced that the break has all sorts of benefits–well-being and happiness for starters. He reported less burnout and depression and increased productivity despite the 35 hour workweek. As employees get to know their colleagues their work becomes more collaborative. Although addressing work-related subjects at lunch is discouraged, coworkers learn more about each other such as the background to why one insists on an approach to a challenge or why another is super stressed which is impacting attitude and output.

A labor law here, like this one, would thrill restaurants and takeout businesses but, I imagine, not employers. Do you think it would work or would we, in certain industries, perceive a long daily lunch break away from our desks as slothful? Do or did you eat lunch at your desk?

Service of Theater and Concert Etiquette

Thursday, June 16th, 2022

National Youth Festival Chorus at Carnegie Hall June 13, 2022

I first wrote about theater etiquette in 2014 where I shared a friend’s experiences seated near audience scofflaws at a few Broadway shows. In one she suffered through the noise created by a woman behind her. First, her raincoat that she sat on crinkled every time she fidgeted, which was often. Next, there was the sound of her opening candy wrappers and finally her loud whisper to her companion asking what time it was that drove my friend to say “shush.” At another show, a woman next to her mother texted throughout the performance, tap, tap, tapping away with the light on her phone an added distraction.

The set of “And Then There Were None” at The Robert Moss Theater at Playwrights Downtown, NYC

A year later I mentioned that Patti LuPone ripped the phone out of a woman’s hand without missing a beat as she played a diva, Irene, in “Shows for Days” at Lincoln Center because, said LuPone afterwards, the lit screen disrupts audience members and actors alike. She is known for such reactions to audience members who irritate her. This May, during a Q and A after a performance of “Company,” she called out a member of the audience whose mask had slipped below her nose.

This week I attended “Songs of Renewal” at Carnegie Hall to hear choruses and choirs–voice and clarinet–and chamber singers. In seats in front of me was a child about 9 who could not sit still and her parents. On and off went her sweater. She was on her mother’s lap and then in her seat and then back again on mom, squirming, facing backwards, then forwards. Her parents were oblivious to how her performance impacted those nearby. I was thrilled when they left before the end [which many did. It was late for a school night]. A few rows ahead of us young people in their late teens took some freed up seats. Although masks were required, they were oblivious. Two of four began to make out as though they were at home alone. One never pulled up her mask after that.

In contrast, the next night I saw a spot-on performance by the St. Bart’s Players in Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None,” at The Robert Moss Theater at Playwrights Downtown. In a diminutive space holding 50, the audience was perfectly behaved. My host mentioned that although many had friends in the topnotch cast, they didn’t break the rhythm of the performance by applauding at each entrance.

I recall a New York Times restaurant review many years ago by Mimi Sheraton. The food and service were perfect but the fight by customers at the next table reduced the grade she gave the place. Theaters don’t give etiquette or personality tests to audience members–though both Carnegie Hall and The Robert Moss Theater checked for vaccinations and required masks. At the latter, in addition to turning off our phones, we were asked not to open noisy candy wrappers. I just checked out the Ricola lozenges that Carnegie Hall has made available for decades to avert coughing jags. The wrapper is silent when you open it.

Do you have pet peeves about audience behavior when attending a concert, musical or play?

Service of Busybodies

Monday, June 13th, 2022


Image by Prawny from Pixabay

An incident at the Metropolitan Museum of Art made me think of busybodies I have seen on TV such as Agatha Christie’s Miss Jane Marple, Norton and for that matter Ralph Kramden on the “Honeymooners,” Kramer on “Seinfeld” and Marie the mother/mother-in-law/neighbor on “Everybody Loves Raymond.” For those watching the Australian soap “A Place to Call Home,” there’s the well-meaning Doris Collins.

Some are endearing, others annoying. The one at the Met was the latter. As we entered an exhibition one of my friends remarked on how dark it was and I suggested that it might be to protect the pictures. A woman piped up loudly, “You’re wrong! It’s to create a certain ambiance. It has nothing to do with the paintings.” I’d not have remembered the incident had her words not been accompanied by an irritating tone, part edge/part know-it-all arrogance that I dislike. Even if she was correct, I didn’t appreciate her interference.

I asked a guard about this. He said he thought darkened spaces were to preserve the work. Some, he said, happy to chat, are exhibited for only short periods. He referenced the iconic “Great Wave” by Hokusai Katsushika. I looked into it at home and found in the museum’s online archive a 2014 reference to the summer exhibition of Katsushika’s work, the last paragraph of which was: “To prevent fading, we will rotate different impressions of ‘the Great Wave’ from the Met’s collection throughout the summer.” The works are on paper.

And then there are the nosy parkers who beat their breasts over something they see and do nothing. An acquaintance overheard a conversation in a store in which two women were carrying on with the shopkeeper about youngsters about 3 and 4 left alone in a car down the road–windows open, temperature 75. They assumed that the adult[s] were inside a store buying food. But all they did was blabber and point fingers. So what good?

I’ve previously reported on the nosy passenger who told a Metro North conductor that I was cheating the RR out of a fare. In fact the conductor on the first of two trains to get to my destination had mistakenly clicked two squares, including the one for the second part of the ride. He’d circled, dated and initialed his error on my 10 trip ticket. The conductor said to the busybody, “I believe her,” and moved on. The busybody glared at me. His companion shrank in his seat.

Have you come across busybodies? Are any your favorites in literature or film?

Service of Do You or Don’t You?

Thursday, June 9th, 2022

Winslow Homer’s “Undertow,” in “Crosscurrents,” an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

I was 11 when I passed a rigorous Red Cross lifesaving swimming test at camp. I was too young to receive a certificate. I also remember another thing. We were told countless times: If you don’t think you can rescue a person don’t try for fear that two will die instead of one. Years later a favorite college professor died trying, unsuccessfully, to save his son off the coast of Maine.

Omar Abdel-Baqui wrote “Three Police Officers Placed on Leave After Watching Man Drown in Arizona–Officers allegedly witnessed a man drowning without diving in the water to save him, according to officials and video footage of the incident.” Prepared to be angered by the Wall Street Journal article, I read on and midway came across this quote:

“Attempting such a high-risk rescue could easily result in the death of the person in the water and the officer, who could be pulled down by a struggling adult,” the union statement said. The union said officers are trained to call the fire department or a police patrol boat. The officers did both, a spokesman said.”

The officers had responded to a call about a fight between a couple. The drowned swimmer climbed over a fence around the Tempe Town Lake after being admonished by the police not to.

Wrote Abdel-Baqui, “The Tempe Officers Association, the department union, said in a statement that Tempe police officers don’t receive water-rescue training, nor do they have equipment to help people at risk of drowning.”

This put a different spin on the tragedy for me. It didn’t look good for them but it felt like the police had already been indicted. Perhaps if all three officers tried to save the man–if all were strong swimmers–it might not have been dangerous. It would be hard to stand there and do nothing. The question remains: Do you or don’t you?

Swimmer in a lake.
Image by Manfred Antranias Zimmer from Pixabay

Service of Anger III

Monday, June 6th, 2022

Outside the Metropolitan Museum, NYC, May, 2022

I’ve covered the anger category in 15 posts since 2008, head-on in 2011 and 2016. The repercussions of anger have been in the news far too often between mass shootings–seven over the weekend killing 11–war in Ukraine, political primaries and the way some citizens attack others over anything they disagree about from masks to slogans on clothing and bumper stickers. One statistic claims 111 are killed by gunshot daily, some no doubt are as a result of anger.

Nor is the art world immune. Increasingly people take out their anger in public ways. You may have seen a video of the man in a wig in a wheelchair at the Louvre in Paris. He smeared cake on the glass that covers the Mona Lisa. He first tried to break the bulletproof protection, according to eyewitnesses, wrote Eileen Kinsella on artnet.com.

Her article focused on a destructive fit that happened closer to home. In “A Man Broke Into the Dallas Museum of Art and Smashed Ancient Greek Artifacts Because He Was ‘Mad at His Girl,’” she reported that the damage could exceed $5 million according to some estimates. The suspect, 21, was taken into custody. He got in by smashing a glass door with a steel chair, Kinsella reported. The damaged pieces were from the 5th and 6th centuries B.C.E. You’d think the destruction of the museum door might have been enough to cool off the perpetrator.

Museum director Agustin Arteaga told Kinsella “There was no intention, from what we can see, of stealing anything, of damaging any work of art in a deliberate way. It was just someone who was going through a moment of anger and found this as a way to express it.”

Do you think that media spotlight of each of these occurrences inspires other bad actors? Should there be an embargo on coverage of attacks on the public and of property? Do some people act out so violently because they are inarticulate due to poor education therefore they can’t express their anger in more appropriate ways?

Not Paris: Fifth Avenue NYC outside the Met Museum

Service of Lending Money

Thursday, June 2nd, 2022

Most people have lent money, if only to help someone complete a purchase who is a few cents short. I last touched on the topic in 2010 in “Service of Guilt II” where I wrote about how hard I found it to ask for money due me whether from a client or a personal acquaintance.

Philip Galanes’s answer to “Lender” in a recent “Social Qs” New York Times column made sense. “Lender” had loaned money to a friend for a three month period until a work bonus came through. It was to help pay medical expenses for the friend’s son. Long after three months she was still chasing the woman to get it back and ended up $2,000 short after years trying. She learned that the son was never sick and that the borrower had never worked at the company she’d claimed to. Lender wrote: “I’m not the kind of person who reports people to the police, but what else can I do?”

Galanes responded: “I think you should count yourself lucky to have recouped most of your loan and close the book on this ugly chapter. Your friend is no friend, but she didn’t steal the money. You lent it to her — without an agreement in writing, it seems, or verifying her false claims — and she hasn’t repaid you fully.”

We don’t know the amount of the original loan. It must have been substantial given how much was still due. I admire Lender for being so persistent. Asking is uncomfortable. Yet a lawyer’s fee to go after the culprit could be more than the $2,000 owed so for that reason I agree with Galanes: Drop it.

Shakespeare was no dope when he wrote in Hamlet: “Neither a borrower, nor a lender be; For loan oft loses both itself and friend.” Give the money if you can or step away is probably the best advice.

Have you lent money you never again saw? Is it easy for you to ask for your money back? When lending to a friend, have you asked him/her to sign an agreement spelling out the amount and a repayment schedule?

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