Thursday, March 29, 2012

We win, you lose

Ah, now I know how the new BP VISA rewards program works. I wrote earlier about how confusing it is, but here's the scoop. You earn "cents per gallon" based on a formula (so much for BP gas, 2% for dining and travel, 1% for all else). Rewards can be taken in a discount per gallon for BP gas for a fill up of 20 gallons or can be taken as a credit on your VISA bill.

So, let's say you've spent enough in a month or so to have the rewards program show you have earned "$3.24 per gallon." Let's just look at $3.00 of this. What this means is the following (gotta read the fine print here):

1. I can go to a participating BP dealer and get a discount at the pump of $3.00 a gallon for up to 20 gallons. If my gas-guzzling SUV takes 20 gallons, I'd get a credit of $60 right there at the pump. If I only fill up with, say, 12 gallons since that's all my gas tank will hold, I'd get $36 credit on the purchase, but would forfeit the rest.

2. If I choose to take a credit on my VISA statement instead of getting a discount at the pump, I can get $15 credit for each $1 "per gallon." So, for the same $3.00 as above, I could get $45. That's it.

So the real catches are:

1. Can't fill up with 20 gallons and give them back some of the rebate.
2. Get a credit on my VISA statement instead and give them back $5 for each "$1 per gallon."

They win, they win. And you? Hahahaha.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Feeling Pumped

We have a VISA card through a major bank and tied to a major oil company. For the many years we’ve had the card, there have been terrific rebates: 5% on gas from that oil company, 2% on meals or travel, and 1% on all else (unless you buy gas from a competitor). Easy to understand and redeemable each month with a check made out to us. So, it was no surprise when we received a mailing saying that the rebates (cash rewards) would be changed. Such is the current market. What was interesting was how obtuse the brochure is regarding the new rewards program. Some examples (with the name of the oil company omitted and referred to as “XX”):
“At XX, 15¢ in cents per gallon rebates for every $100 you spend on XX purchases.”
“On eligible travel and dining, 10¢ in cents per gallon rebates for every $100 you spend on eligible travel and restaurant purchases.”
“Everywhere else, 5¢ in cents per gallon rebates for every $100 you spend on all other purchases.”
So, you get some particular cents “in cents per gallon.” Say, what? And how are there cents per gallon anyway when you charged your Big Mac or hotel bill on their credit card? If this weren’t enough, it goes on:
“Enjoy two ways to redeem cents per gallon rebates:
  1. Right at the pump – Just swipe your car at a participating station then select YES to redeem and watch your per-gallon price drop instantly. Rebates are good for a one time fill up on 20 gallons of fuel.
  2. Right on your statement – Get $15 statement credit for every $1 in cents per gallon rebates.”
Don’t know about you, but all of this is a tad confusing. Now, let’s look at the fine print on the back of the brochure:
“You will earn Rebates at a rate of $0.0015 for each $1 (which equates to 15¢ in rebates for each $100) of Net Purchases made at participating XX locations, $0.0010 for each $1 (which equates to 10¢ in rebates for each $100) of Net Purchases in … travel, restaurants, and $$0.0005 for each $1 (which equates to 5¢ in rebates for each $100) of all other Net Purchases.”
Got it? So, seems that if I spend $200 a month at this oil company’s stations, I earn $0.30. And if I spend, say, $2000 on various other stuff  over the month, this would be $2.00 according to the fine print the way I read it.
But, go on the oil company’s website and put in the same information, and you can get “$1.30/gal” for a purchase of 20 gallons – sounds like $26 back. (Oh, if you only buy 15 gallons, you’ve used your full credit anyway. And you pay full price per gallon on any over 20. And, I found out with their customer service people, the “one time fill up” refers to any one time you’re at the pump and have a credit to spend.)
Going back to the oil company’s website, let’s use the same $200 and $2000 figures but ask what the credit would be on my VISA statement instead of using it for gas purchases at the pump. The answer is $15. This gets curiouser and curiouser, as Alice would say.
Frankly, I’m exhausted and looking for a replacement credit card with some simple explanation of their rewards program.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

No Intuition

Another rant about companies where databases are separate so the customer has to do extra work. I am business manager of a non-profit arts agency. We keep our book on QuickBooks. Every year they charge us an annual fee for their updated version coupled with their payroll function updates. Every year they ask us for proof of our tax-exempt status. Since we have already sent them a state tax exempt certificate that covers several years, I always call and ask why they need another one. Well, they do. On some occasions, they can find what we’ve already sent them. On most others, I have to send it again. So, I did this a couple of months ago with them.
This month, I ordered W-2 and 1099 forms online from Intuit. I checked on their order form that we were a tax-exempt organization. Of course, I got an email from them telling me we had to provide proof. I called the 800 number and discussed this with an agent. Seems as if THIS division had a copy of our exemption letter from the state that expired in 2010. The fact that another division had the current letter meant nothing. You see, they keep their data separately.
They keep their data separately. Got that? Here’s a company that sells database accounting software to lots and lots of folks, does payroll, sells supplies for its products, etc. and they don’t have an integrated database. Causes one to wonder.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Do You Have a Modem of Decency?

For several weeks, our Uverse modem for our Internet connection has been acting funny causing me to have to unplug it about every day and reboot it. The problem is on its wireless side where all of a sudden we cannot connect any wireless device to the Internet.

On 11/25, I went online to look for how to contact customer support. The wait time on their 800 number was way too long, so I did an online chat with an agent named “Peter” whose English made me believe it was not his first language. We had a good online chat wherein I explained the problem, he listened well (which is an exception to the rule, in my opinion). I told him I thought I had a defective modem. Upon testing the system from his end, he agreed. Pretty quickly he gave me a order number and told me I’d have the replacement modem in my hand in 2-3 business days. I wrote down Peter’s AT&T ID number from chat session.

I got a call from another Uverse agent/salesperson a couple of days later welcoming me to Uverse. I told him that I had been a customer for well over a year and had only contacted them to fix the problem with my modem. He thanked me and gave me an 866 number to call if there were any problems.
Time passed. Nothing arrived at our house from AT&T. On 12/1, I went online to my Uverse account, saw the order number I had been given, but it looked like it was either in limbo or had somehow been finished. So, I called the 866 number I had been given. I spent about 10 minutes talking to a customer service representative who looked up my account and said he could see the order number, but could not see any action being taken on it. He contacted Peter (since I had his ID number) and said he would check into all this and call me back the next day. I gave him my number to call. He didn’t call back.

On 12/5, I called the 866 number again. I went through the story with Andre (got his ID number). Again, he couldn’t find anything in their system that showed I was going to be sent a modem, even though there was an order number there. He said he would look into it and call me back. He did. He cancelled the old order since it seemed hung in their system and put me in touch with an agent named Nicole (I got her ATT ID number).

Nicole and I had a conversation that lasted almost 30 minutes including long times I was on hold listening to odd music. I asked her why it was taking so long. I mean all they needed to do was to mail me a replacement modem. Is that so tough? Guess so. Nicole told me it was all a matter of dealing with several different AT&T departments and it takes a long time. In fact, she said her next part of the process was going to take so long that she’d call me back. And about 30 minutes later, she did call me back with a new order number … and that the modem would be shipped on DECEMBER 19 to arrive 3-5 business days later.

So, to summarize, they placed an order for a replacement modem on 11/25. It was supposed to be here a few days later. I called the on 12/1 and they couldn’t find the order or what was happening. I called again on 12/5 and, after a lengthy set of telephone conversations, was told I would have a new modem by Christmas. Well, that’s only 30 days after my first call to them. For what we pay them a month for TV, land line, mobile phones, and Internet service, you’d think they’d be just a tad bit more prompt, wouldn’t you?

ADDENDUM 12/23/11: As reported earlier, I was to get a modem sent to me so that it would arrive about now. I looked online this morning and saw that nothing had been shipped. So, again, I called customer service. The nice woman I spoke with told me that hundreds of people were having the same problem since the warehouse was two months behind in back orders for modems. I asked, innocently, why switching out a modem was such a problem since their local technicians carry them on their trucks. Why had I had to have mine shipped UPS? She said it was the norm to ship them out since it was the norm that it only took 2-5 days to get the modem. That’s cheaper for them than sending a technician to the house on a free service call. However, she checked with her supervisor and, supposedly, a technician will be here between 12 and 4 with a replacement modem. We shall see. Oh, I asked why there was nothing in the system that would send me an email to inform me that there was a problem (i.e., two-month backlog). She really didn’t know. Again, I think it’s a matter of too many departments, some of which are AT&T and some contractors, not really being linked on databases or procedures. 

ADDENDUM II 12/23/11: The technician came around 1:00. It seems that swapping out the modem is tougher than just unplugging one and plugging in the replacement. The whole Uverse system needs to be powered down. The power source to the system needs to be turned off. The whole thing needs to be rebooted in a particular order. Even the technician didn’t know how hard it would be and how many times he’d have to try different things to get the Internet up and running again and the Wi-Fi working. And they were going to UPS me one to do myself? Right Hand, let me introduce you to Left Hand. It took the trained technician over an hour to get things working right again. And he had to call a senior technician several times for advice! Yikes.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Would You Like Pepper Spray with That?

Been lots of media about the use of pepper spray by the campus police at U. C. Davis. I’ve seen videos taken by folks right there.

One shows that the protesters were warned by the police that they’d use force if they didn’t move. A quote heard is that if they didn’t move “you are going to be subject to the use of force.”

Another shows a police officer calmly dispersing pepper spray onto the faces of those sitting quietly on the ground.

And there are others. The question to me is whether the use of pepper spray was a proper use of force against these protesters. One clue could come from the New York City’s protocol for its police:

“Patrol Guide 212-95
The NYPD’s Patrol Guide Procedure Number 212-95 governs the circumstances in which pepper spray can be used and the proper procedure for using the spray.5 The purpose of Patrol Guide 212-95 is “to inform uniformed members of the service of circumstances under which pepper spray may be intentionally discharged and to record instances where pepper spray has been discharged, intentionally or accidentally.”
Patrol Guide 212-95 lists five situations in which an officer may use pepper spray. Pepper spray may be used when a police officer “reasonably believes” that it is necessary to: 1) protect himself, or another from unlawful use of force (e.g., assault); 2) effect an arrest, or establish physical control of a subject resisting arrest; 3) establish physical control of a subject attempting to flee from arrest or custody; 4) establish physical control of an emotionally disturbed person (EDP); and 5) control a dangerous animal by deterring an attack, to prevent injury to persons or animals present. The Patrol Guide states that officers should aim and discharge pepper spray into a subject’s eyes, nose, and/or mouth in two short one-second bursts at a minimum of three feet for maximum effectiveness.
The Patrol Guide prohibits the use of pepper spray against subjects who passively resist (e.g., going limp, offering no active physical resistance). It further cautions that if possible, pepper spray should not be used against persons who appear to be in frail health, young children, women believed to be pregnant, or persons with known respiratory conditions.”

For those who think the use of pepper spray at U. C. Davis is a proper use of force, please remember that the police of another era thought the use of German Shepherds was a proper use of force against non-violent, chanting people in the civil rights era. Looking back, most Americans believe that using vicious techniques against passive, non-violent people was unwarranted, cruel, and should be punished.

Then there are the candidates in the 2012 election sweepstakes who advocate the use of water boarding on the grounds that “we got useful intelligence” (even when the intelligence professionals say we didn’t). I guess it’s not torture if we get results from its use. I guess it’s not excessive use of force if we get those sitting demonstrators to move by spraying them with noxious chemicals. Well, they were locking their arms together, right? Sounds pretty threatening to me.

If we’re going down this road, I suspect water cannons and rubber bullets and buckshot can’t be far behind.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

2011 Trip East - Part 2

October 24 – NYC to North Wales, PA: It’s only a little over 100 miles from NYC to the Joseph Ambler Inn in North Wales, PA. We left NYC around 11:00 and had an easy drive. It’s always amazing to me both driving into and out of NYC how fast one gets into the countryside and out of the suburbs.

We’re in the Allman Suite for the first four nights we’re here and then change to a room in the building where all the others coming here for the wedding will be housed. The building where the Allman Suite is contains just the suite on the first floor and what has to be a very small room upstairs. You can read in another blog about the vagaries we experienced the first couple of days here. We had nice lunch at the inn – what can be bad about a lobster club sandwich?

In the afternoon, we drove the 20+ miles south into the heart of Philadelphia to visit Yon and his daughter, Amy, at Yon’s apartment on Chestnut. We had a very nice visit with them both. We ate at a deli downstairs, Famous Fourth Street Deli, where the portions were big enough to feed four (no kidding – see the pictures). Drove home around 8:00.

October 25 – North Wales, PA: They have a breakfast buffet here that is good. In mid morning, we went to the closest laundromat to wash our NYC clothes. We then met Carol at Pumpernick’s for lunch and a visit. Back at the inn, we sat around for a while, did a walk around the grounds (which doesn’t take long over its 12 acres). Around 5:30, we went into the bar to get two free drinks and an appetizer as “rewards” for the odd stuff in our room as explained in an earlier blog. We had the lobster mac and cheese. Lordy. If we had been smart, we would have just gone somewhere for gelato and headed for bed. But no. After a stop at Walgreens, we went to the Metropolitan Diner and Bar where the food was good, but we really had little appetite. So, it was back for some TV (yes, the TV was working sort of) and a hot tub (took an hour for the water to heat up) and a climb into our very high bed.

October 26 – North Wales, PA: I went over for breakfast while Marian slept in for a little while longer. We pretty much stayed in the room until it was tie to leave for Marian to meet up with some old friends. I drove her over to the William Penn Inn where she met up with Sue Braun and Joan Stern. They had a leisurely multi-hour lunch to catch up and visit. I returned to the inn where I had lunch and ended up sitting outside for an hour on a bench by our room. Marian returned around 4:00. We made a reservation at Normandy Farm’s The Farmer’s Daughter restaurant and drove over there late. Lovely hotel/resort and excellent restaurant. We had expected to come back to watch the World Series, but saw earlier in the day that it had been postponed. So, it was TV and bed.

October 27 – North Wales, PA: I went over for breakfast while Marian slept in for a little while longer. We left around 11:00 and drove over to where Marian’s uncle Sid lives (about 40 minutes from here), saw his studio apartment, and drove him to lunch at Dawson’s, a nice place nearby. Lovely visit, good conversation. Returning to the inn, we met up with Stephanie and Chris. Had fun with the soon-to-be-married folks and did a Skype conversation with Sylvia as well. Dinner was at the inn. Lovely meal. And then … and then … Game 6 of the World Series!!! Wowie!

October 28 – North Wales, PA: I went over for breakfast while Marian slept in for a little while longer. We packed up for our move to another room/building across the property. Around 11:00, we checked out of our current room and into the new one – also very spacious. The manager was nice enough to transport all our luggage and bags and other stuff over to the new room, which is on the third floor! After settling in, we drove to have lunch at an Indian fast food/bakery, Hot Breads. Very nice. Back here, Rachelle and Ken drove in as we did and then Donna and Jeff. Since DP and Jeff hadn’t had lunch, Marian accompanied them to Pumpernick’s. Tracy called to say they had landed and I went over to the North Wales SEPTA station and picked up Tracy and Robin about 5:00. Traffic was awful. The rehearsal dinner was in the John Roberts House at the inn. Nice buffet dinner. The Hirsch clan sat with the groom’s brother, John, and Leah, a cousin (who lives in Scotland and has done so for 17 years). Great conversations. Then it was GAME SEVEN in the bar.

October 29 – North Wales, PA: Ah, the day of THE snow storm. It snowed all day. It’s October. What is this? Every time I had to get the car, I had to scrape 3 or 4 inches of new, wet snow off the windows. And driving was tough all day and night. After breakfast, I drove Tracy, Janice, Donna, and Marian to Montgomery Mall where Donna had her nails done and others of us walked and shopped. When Donna was done, we dropped Marian off nearby for her hair and nails. The rest of us returned to the inn where I ate lunch with Robin, Tracy, and Jill. Marian called to say she was ready, but there was no power at the salon. I drove over and got her. We then started preparing for the evening wedding. Marian talked to Carol who told her there was no power at the country club where the wedding was to take place. The weight of the heavy, wet snow on trees still fully covered with leaves caused many limbs and trees to fall and to sever power lines.

At the appointed hour, we drove over to the country club. Dark. Some emergency lights. What could have been a disaster turned out to be a very fun evening. The wedding started an hour late. There had been an open bar, but no food, so people were in a very happy mood. They applauded as each bridesmaid came down the aisle and as Stephanie and her parents came down. The man who “officiated,” if that is even the word since anyone can in this state, was a good friend of Chris and Steph and was terrific, lighthearted, humorous, etc.

Bob had gone out earlier and bought a generator at Lowe’s, so there was enough power for the DJ and some minimal accent lights. There was cold food (salads, cheeses) and later, pizza. The DJ kept things going until 10:30. All danced and had a wonderful time. It was probably more special overall than if it had gone on as planned. Back at the inn, the power had been off there since we left, but came back on exactly as we all arrived.

We found out later how lucky we had been to just have the power out for just a few hours. Parts of the area all the way up into Maine were still out of power days later.

October 30 – Point Pleasant Beach and Jackson, NJ: Bob and Carol hosted a nice breakfast at the inn around 9:30. Afterward, Jeff and Donna headed home. I drove Tracy and Robin to the SEPTA station, returned, packed up the car, and we headed the 70 miles east to Point Pleasant Beach and the Tower Cottage. Our hosts, Tony and Maureen Haddad, are exceptional. Tony is an engineer who works on a project at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland and stays up there Monday-Thursday before returning to this wonderful B&B for the weekend. The house is beautifully restored by the Haddads from its old life as a rooming house owned by Tony’s dad. We were in the Tower Suite, the only room on the third floor. You’ll have to look at the pictures to get a real feel for the bedroom. All five rooms here are wonderful. This is a place for return visits. One of the best B&Bs we’ve been to and the hosts are out of this world. After getting settled, we went over to the boardwalk just a couple of blocks away and walked almost its length and back. Most things were shuttered, but a few places were open for trinkets or games … lots and lots of games … the claw games included one where you could try to win an iPad 2. Yeh. Bet a lot of those are awarded.

Late afternoon, we drove back westward to Carol and Bob’s for dinner with about all the kin who were still around. Carol did a terrific job with lots of good food. Fun visiting. Good people. Easy to be with. The whole crowd is very gentle. We drove back to our B&B to find baked treats awaiting us in the second floor dining area.

October 31 - Point Pleasant Beach, NJ: Got up for a 9:30 breakfast feast, and I mean feast. Maureen loves to cook and it shows. See the pix for the yummy stuff she served. Tony had to leave us to go to work for the week. We spent over an hour talking with Maureen about family, the area, etc. Then we drove out of town and north on route 71 ending up in Belmar and then Spring Lake to walk along the sea, look at the houses, etc. After a stop back at the B&B for coffee, we went to the nearby boardwalk again and walked its length – about a mile each way. This time we also walked on the beach itself. In the summer, you have to pay to get onto the beach - $8 a day a person. No “free” beaches around here. All pay.

Came back to the B&B. Later, we went to a restaurant on the inlet from the ocean that Maureen suggested, Wharfside, and had good lobster. Maureen had left in the morning to take their daughter to JFK for a flight back to her work at the Global Fund in Geneva. She didn’t get back until after we were already in our room and preparing for our second night in the two-person Jacuzzi. Maureen had picked up some pastries for us. Totally unnecessary. Totally thoughtful. We bathed, robed, and went downstairs to eat. She told us the next day that she normally would have baked us something had she been there!

November 1 - Point Pleasant Beach, NH to Belle Vernon, PA: We knew we wouldn’t be out of the B&B before noon, and that’s what happened. Breakfast was 9:30. Another feast. Way too much to even try to finish. Long conversation with Maureen. Big hugs at the door. And she gave us a bag that contained: (a) 8 scones from breakfast, (b) all the fruit she had in a basket in the dining room (pears, apples, bananas), (c) all the granola bars in that same basket, and (d) a box with two Godiva chocolates! Lordy. Well, fed and happy we headed west. We drove about 350 miles to near the PA and WV border to a Hampton Inn for the evening. We plan to drive to Indianapolis tomorrow and then to St. Louis the next day.

This has been a gentle, wonderful trip enhanced in many ways by all the people we were with in NYC, all those during the wedding week in PA, and our hosts at all the places we stayed – especially the last place in NJ.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

2011 Trip East - Part 1

This part covers our trip up to NYC and visit in NYC. I have put in links to many sites and restaurants. And here's the link to our pictures.

October 16 – St. Louis to Columbus: We planned the trip east with specific stops along the way and to get into NYC midday. The first night was in Columbus, Ohio at the Short-North B&B. The Short-North district is north of downtown (just north of the old Union Station) and south of Ohio State campus. The B&B is an old house. We were in the “rose” room (wallpaper of roses) on second floor front with bay window overlooking the street. Large room really for three people since besides the queen bed there is a twin bed in another … so it’s a suite. Charming manager who lives on premises.

We got there in mid-afternoon. So we walked along High Street (the main drag) and in and out of shops then back to our room. Lots of people smoking (outside only) and lots of people walking dogs. Fun murals on building walls (see our pix).

We had looked online at several places for dinner and had picked one that looked like it was local foods, vegetarian, etc. However, when we walked over there, it was unappealing: only counter service, menu basically sandwiches. So we walked along the street and went into Rossi, a lively bar and restaurant and had a wonderful meal. Back in the room, we watched the Cardinals win the National League pennant.

October 17 – Ohio to Hershey, PA: Shorter drive than the day before. Stayed on 32-acre horse farm and B&B: Westwynd Farm. The house had originally been built for the owners, but they expanded it to make it into a B&B. Beautiful house and grounds. We walked around and went through the big horse barn which dates back into the 1800s. Interesting to look at how barns and stalls were built back them. Lovely place. Most of the stalls were empty, but looked used with clean bedding, stuff hanging on stall doors, etc. Horses must be in fields or away at shows.

Late afternoon we drove into Hershey, about three miles away, with the idea of walking in town, looking at shops, etc. before our dinner reservation. There really is no area of Hershey we could find that would qualify as a shopping street. It’s pretty much big Hershey buildings/factories and houses. We drove by Hershey Park, a huge (and I mean huge) amusement park that includes some old-fashioned roller coasters (two of them side by side) and other rides that would make one barf. In town, we parked on the Hershey employee lot for me to take a couple of pictures … and inhale the wonderful smell of chocolate! We then drove up a hill to the Hotel Hershey, a large, old hotel overlooking the amusement park. We had tried to get dinner reservations there, but they were full for days. Then downhill and into an outlet mall for a brief sortie into Chico’s and some lovely pix of the amusement park at sunset.

We drove to our restaurant, What if … (yes, that’s its name), which is located in the basement of a Howard Johnson’s motel. Really odd place for a basement, but the food and service was good. Then back to the farm and into our very lovely and large room, “In Our Time.”

October 18 – Hershey to NYC: Nice breakfast (way too big) in a large, sunny dining room. NYC is only 3+ hours from Hershey, which is what we planned. So, we had a leisurely breakfast, walked around a bit, and left after 10:00 for our drive into the city. Our friends, Mary Beth and John loaned us their EZ Pass appliance, so we sailed through all the toll road booths. Love it! Easy trip into NYC and to the hotel (Hilton Garden Inn Times Square at 48th and 8th, where we’ve stayed before). We filled up a cart with all our stuff. Our room wasn’t ready, but they took our mobile phone number to call us when it was. And they would (and did) put all our belongings into the room.

We walked around the area and settled on getting lunch at Carmine’s. We’ve been there before. The portions are enough for two people and we each took half of our lunches back to the hotel where they lived in the room’s refrigerator until we left six days later … still untasted. We went back to our room (they called during lunch), sorted things out, and went for a walk in the theatre district – Times Square area as far east as 5th and south to 42nd. Before we left our corner room (431), we saw people finishing off a sukkah in a pocket park on 48th beside the hotel. On our way back to the hotel, we took 48th to look at it more closely, which we did. Coming back onto the street, a nice Orthodox Jewish man invited us to say the blessings over the lulav and esrog, which each of us did. Very good experience. Robin and I had walked through the Jewish Quarter in Paris this time of year in 2008 and no one had offered us to say the blessings. Hey, Hebrew is Hebrew even in France. Ah, well.

Before we left St. Louis, I had not only gotten theatre tickets for three shows, but also had also made dinner reservations for each night in NYC. Our first evening was at Ce Va Brasserie, a Todd English restaurant. As with all the places we ate, food and service was excellent. After dinner, we walked along Broadway taking in the crowds, the lights, the billboards, and the Naked Cowboy (see pix).

October 19 – NYC: It rained all day. We walked. We got wet. In mid-morning, we walked to MoMA. The line outside was around the block for people wanting to get tickets. Seems like it’s always a mob on rainy days. I have an out-of-town membership, so we were let in at the head of the line, got a guest tix for Marian, and went into the exhibits. Besides their usual collections, they had a de Kooning retrospective of hundreds of his works. Wonderful to see the evolution of his paintings and sculptures. It’s really too much to take in with just one visit.

We walked back to the hotel so I could get a fresh battery for a camera and then took a taxi to Lincoln Center for the afternoon performance of “War Horse.” This play is one of the best theatre experiences I’ve had. Besides the imagery and huge horse puppets that really mimicked horse actions and behavior, the play is a grim history of warfare and how things changed in WWI with advent of the machine gun, barbed wire, tanks, etc. Gruesome and beautiful all at the same time.

We were to get in a subway train and go downtown to meet my cousins Annie Parker and Carol Paasche right after the show, but Annie let us know they were still at their lawyer’s dealing with their mom’s (Jean Levine, my second cousin) estate. So we sat in a café in the Lincoln Center building that houses the NY Symphony until it was time to go.

We took a cab into the West Village to Barbuto (Jonathan Waxman’s restaurant) where we met Annie and Carole. They are both so dear and we had such a lovely time with them. After dinner, we walked over to their mom’s apartment. They are taking it all apart, shipping some stuff up to Carol’s farm in upstate NY, giving some things away, etc. Family has already been in there to take furniture and other meaningful items. Annie had moved in here when she was two and is now 70. Imagine what was going through her mind (and Carol’s as well) as they disassembled a lifetime. I wanted Marian to see the view from the rooftop garden. It was lovely, even in the misty rain. After lots of hugs and kisses, we took a taxi back to the hotel.

October 20 – NYC: They took down the sukkah today, carted off the corn stalks that made up the roof (lulavs were in short supply this year given the disruptions in Egypt, we were told). After breakfast at Starbucks, we walked over to 30 Rock and went up to Top of the Rock. It was beautiful and it was also fun to watch others up there on the various levels where you can look over the city. I don’t think either of us had been up there before.

Coming down, we stopped at a chocolate shop for hot chocolate and then watched people skating at Rockefeller Plaza before heading back to 7th Ave and meeting up with Caroline (our dear granddaughter) at her place of work, The Actors Fund. Caroline showed us all around the offices, introducing us to her coworkers and showed us some of the materials they were amassing for their next silent auction. We walked over to the Edison Hotel for lunch (cash only) and found out a one-degree of separation: Caroline knits. She pulled out two socks, each of a different color, to show us. Marian commented that the son of her cousin (who we are going to see later in the week) either does or used to work at Little Miss Match, who sells purposely mismatched socks. Caroline said a friend of hers from Joyful Heart, where she used to work, dated a guy from that company. When we told her his name was Jesse, she said that was the one. Her friend is Jess (Jessica) and she always loved the idea of Jess and Jesse. We confirmed all this with Jesse. All true. Cannot escape these things.

After leaving Caroline and a brief stop at the hotel, we walked north to the Museum of Art and Design and spent time there through their galleries. Even saw the same Eames stool Marian has had since the mid 60s. They’ve done a good job here renovating this museum.

Dinner was at 6:00 nearby at Saigon 48 right around the corner on 48th and then to the Marriott Marques Theatre for “Follies.” While both of us are very familiar with the music and have seen the concert version on TV, we had not ever seen it live. It was great. The story line was more pronounced. The individual performances were all knockout. Loved seeing Bernadette Peters, Jan Maxwell, and the rest of the cast. The audience was very responsive, knew the material, and cheered after almost every number.

October 21 – NYC: After breakfast, we walked over to MoMA again to look at one of their shops and I got some stuff for our kitchen that I shipped home. Then we walked up Madison Ave. looking at people and shops. Unplanned, we went into the Whitney Museum, had lunch at Danny Meyer’s Untitled restaurant, and went through the exhibits.

Then we continued uptown and over to 5th and the Metropolitan Museum. We were a bit foot weary, but kept on going. Saw the modern collection, saw a collection of works put together by Stieglitz that were donated to the museum by O’Keefe after his death. All the photographers and painters who he had encouraged and showed in galleries.

Then it was a walk over to the Goodman house on E 80th where we met Pru and Richard, George H. W. Bush’s brother, Jonathon (who is a financial advisor to the family), and got to spend some time with Pru’s mom, Georgine. And Marian got to see this wonderful four-story brownstone.

After some tea, we headed downtown on the subway to the 9/11 Memorial. We stood in a snaking line for over a half an hour, went through a very thorough metal detector, had to show our entry passes at least four times, and then got onto the grounds of the memorial. There are two pools, each the size and place of where the two towers stood. They are black granite with the names of those who perished here, the Pentagon, and in PA cut into the stone and lit from beneath. The pools have water cascading down each side and disappearing into a black square hole in the middle of the bottom. I think being there at night was the best time to see it. It’s very well done and impressive. Certainly a “must” for a visit to NYC. We spent around an hour there before winding our way around the neighborhood for our reservation at Brasserie Les Halles (Anthony Bourdain’s restaurant). After a lovely dinner, we each went on our separate subways home.

October 22 – NYC: After breakfast, we stayed in our room until mid morning. We then walked over to the theatre where “Billy Elliot” is playing and could buy two very nice seats for that day’s afternoon performance. So we went to Hurley’s on 48th for lunch and then back to the theatre. It’s a wonderful show. Marian hadn’t seen it, but I had. I enjoyed it almost as much as I did the first time – I cried a lot!

Back to the hotel to freshen up, Pru and Richard met us in the lobby and we walked over to Sophia on 46th for a nice Italian dinner and then to “Book of Mormon.” Another great show. Another great evening with Pru and Richard. Lots of hugs and kisses and goodbyes after the show.

October 23 – NYC: Last full day in NYC this trip. Didn’t do much all morning. Took subway down to SoHo to meet Arthur Albert at Balthazar for late brunch. It’s always such a delight to be with AA and catch up with what he’s doing. His wife, Rosalie, is in Brazil with her family – AA will be heading down there soon.

After lunch, we went into the MOMA store across the street and some other stores in the area before taking subway back to our hotel area. Toward evening, we took the subway downtown again to meet Jesse Goldstine at Co. (pronounced “Company”), a unique bread/pizza place. Again, a lovely visit with a wonderful man. Then back to the hotel.

Lots of relatives/friends on this trip: Caroline, Annie, Carol, Georgine, Pru, Richard, AA, Jesse. Then to PA for family wedding!