New York, New York

My daughter-in-law Kelly is going to New York next weekend, and I’ve been scheming and dreaming of how and when I can go again. Until I have the money and the time, I’m going to do a little walking down Memory Lane.

The last time I went to the Big Apple was the first weekend in May. Some work chums and I had been talking about it for a while, and we decided that the weekend of graduation was the best time. Three of the group took Amtrak, and Nancy and I flew out of Charlotte. Our tickets were only $128 round trip, and we had no problems whatsoever. Well, that’s not entirely true because we had a delay of about an hour leaving Charlotte, but that’s a minor thing when you consider the reasonable cost and speedy, comfortable trip.

We stayed at Double Tree in Times Square, and one of the many things we liked about our accommodations is that they give fresh chocolate cookies to all of their guests. Yum! Sometimes little things make a big difference. After checking in, we walked to the New York Public Library and were overwhelmed with its awesomeness. Is that a word? The upstairs reading rooms had a hushed, reverent quality about themI loved picking up old tomes and reading bits and pieces of information. Afterward, Lisa, Linda, and I walked the streets gawking like a trio of exactly what we were, tourists from SC.  

I know no one is that interested in an hour by hour breakdown of our visit, so I’ll just hit the high spots beginning with the Evergreen, a neat little diner close to the hotel where we had breakfast a couple of mornings. We loved the “local color,” our French server, and reasonable prices on the excellent food.  We also enjoyed :

*The Strand, a bookstore with 18 miles of books. We were agog with the selection of books and atmosphere of the store.
*The two-day bus tour that took us on a loop all over Manhattan, complete with knowledgeable tour guides who gave us tons of  information about the city’s history and some of its famous residents.
*Chinatown and the Jobe restauarant where the dessert was “ice cream meeting with fried banana.”
*The sights, sounds, smells, and street vendors in Chinatown. We bought neat scarves and purses.
*La Mela on Mulberry Street in Little Italy.
*The South Street Seaport and the mix of people there.
*“Scarf night” at Juniors, a cool restaurant in the theatre district.
*Bryant Park and its outdoor reading room behind the New York Public Library.
 *Liberty Island and the climb to the top of the statue with Lisa and Linda.
*Ellis Island and the ambience in the great hall. I enjoyed this stop so much that I’ll probably write more about it later.
*The variety of people on the ferry to Liberty and Ellis Islands.
*Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge to Brooklyn and back to the southern tip of Manhattan.
*Seeing West Side Story with Nancy and Martha (loved the scene at the gym when Tony and Maria first see each other).  Lisa and Linda were equally impressed with Wicked.
*Being at the set of Today and having our picture made with Meredith….also with Lenny, a regular on the show.

What made the trip especially nice was traveling with such compatible, pleasant people. This is an extremely important element to consider if you’re considering a group trip. Not a harsh word was spoken, and all three nights I fell asleep hearing laughter and happy conversation.  We didn’t do everything together, and we were fine with that. Lisa, Linda, and I played the tourist role to the max while Nancy and Martha visited  museums.  

Nancy and I left the city first, and as the cab driver put our luggage in his car, he made polite conversation and asked us where we were from. When we said, “South Carolina,” he shook his head and said his wife was from there and was hinting that she wanted to move back. “It’s a great state” we assured him. “You’d enjoy living there.” We laughed at his reply. “I’m sure gonna miss her when she leaves.”

Anyone out there up for a trip to the Big Apple? I want to see The Lion King and need some pleasant, compatible travel buddies. Just say when.

Outer Banks Part II

Mural in Manteo

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After a tossing turning night of fitful sleeping, I was already awake when our alarm went off at 5:00 a.m. last Sunday morning. We quickly dressed and headed downstairs to grab a banana and juice on our way out of the hotel and onto to Kitty Hawk. Much to our surprise and pleasure, the hotel management had prepared bagged breakfasts for all race participants. It’s those little things that mean a lot to customers, and we both heartily recommend the Hampton Inn in Corolla, NC for anyone visiting the area.

We rode through the predawn darkness down a long, narrow, two-lane road surrounded by some sort of dense vegetation. It was spooky but nice, especially when coupled with the anticipation of what was ahead. By the time we left the two-lane road for the four lane one leading into the more populated areas of Kitty Hawk and Nag’s Head, the traffic was already becoming quite congested. DH dropped me off at the race start on Memorial Drive and headed out to meet our sister-in-law Becky. 

The pre-race moments are always awesome. It’s something I can’t explain. Listening to the banter around me, I love picking up snippets of conversation. There’s always a feeling of tense excitement—love it. I walked over to look at the beach and was delighted to see so many photo shoots going on. Fun. After that, I stretched a little and sort of ambled about amongst the crowd. To no avail, I looked for my brother and his son. Never did spot them, probably because they were in what was dubbed the first “corral,” and I was in the last. Then there’s the fact that there were 3500 people mingled there.

Time passed, and I heard the strains of the National Anthem over a loud speaker. The crowd grew hushed, and everyone turned to face a small flag flying from a beach house. It was an emotional moment, and I felt so thankful to be there with my “fellow Americans” to participate in a event that would take place at the absolute edge of our continent.

The gun fired three times before the slow pokes like me in the third corral were allowed to take off. I don’t have time or energy to write about all my thoughts, observations, or impressions of the morning. Suffice it to say that they were all good. Sure I was tired. Sure I thought I’d NEVER get over that darned bridge crossing over to Manteo. But still, it was memorable, every single mile.

Okay, some quick recollections include:

  • The way the entire community came out to support us with water, Gatorade, cheers, and enthusiasm. Even within the neighborhoods, people stood in their yards, some dressed in costumes. The most original group included some people dressed in black and white “chain gang” outfits holding signs warning that dropouts would be put in the stockade or forced to walk the gangplank. I needed a good laugh about that time.  In one driveway, I saw a little boy with a parrot next to him. Cool.
  • The awesome splendor of the beautiful day. Sunny but not hot. Cool but not cold. Breezy but not overly so. And everywhere I looked, it was blue blue blue blue blue. It was one of those mornings that makes you think, “God’s in his heaven; all’s right with the world.”
  • The variety of people I passed and who passed me.  Young, old, in-between, skinny, chubby…you name it, they were there. One man with whom I paced myself was wearing a t-shirt that said, “Growing old is inevitable; growing up is optional.” Nice motto.
  • The little signs along the way that kept you moving along to see what was next.  One of my favorites was, “What do you call a fat chimpanzee?” 100 yards later, there was the answer: “A chunky monkey.
  • The well-marked route and the numerous water stops.
  • The local hospital and its clean restroom facilities.
  • Listening to my iPod. A week later, I’m remembering Barbra Streisand’s “Woman in Love” as I finally came out of the last neighborhood before getting to the bridge.
  • Coming into the last stretch listening to “Sweet Inspiration” when my brother David came sidling up to finish part of the last leg with me.
  • FINISHING at last and getting two bottles of water and a peanut butter sandwich. There were bagels, bananas, apples, and oranges too.

After soaking up the atmosphere and taking some pictures, we made our way back to the car. Problem. We couldn’t leave. The car was parked right near the finish which was good, and yet it faced the road where the walkers and runners were still coming in. Becky, John, and I sat in the car while David turned lemons into lemonade by cheering the finishers who passed in front of us. Otis went over to talk to the policeman about helping us get out when there was a gap in the finishers. I got out of the car to take some more pictures of the finish line and of the lovely town of Manteo.

FREE AT LAST, we freshened up and dined together before heading in separate directions. They had an hour and a half drive in front of them. We, on the other hand, had around seven. It was a long, long way home, and yet I have to admit that parts of the trip were pretty memorable. Like when he asked me to sing “Amazing Grace,” and then after two verses asked if we could listen to tunes on my iPod. That’s when the fun really began because we sang to most of the songs, and man did we belt it out!

Tuckered out, we arrived in good old Camden around 10:00 p.m., and I think a good time was had by all. Will we go back? I don’t know about the “we” part, but I will. It’s too beautiful of an area and too grand of an event not too. Maybe you can join me next year. At least think about it.

Framing Andy Warhol

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Isn’t that a great picture? I posted it for two reasons.

I like it. It’s a cool picture AND the saying is something I believe to be true.  True, there are people who drive us crazy, who try our very souls, but for the most part, we need to try to find something good about the folks around us. We’re all in this together, and working interdependently as part of a unified, cooperative whole is better than bickering, backbiting, and belittling. How’s that for alliteration? Whenever I come across someone whom I absolutely cannot abide, I give them plenty of space. Why make myself miserable?

The other reason I like it is because of the super way it was framed last week. I was visiting Myrtle Beach, and before I left I went to the Frame Factory on King’s Highway to leave the Andy Warhol poster (above). I LOVE the service, advice, tastefulness, and reasonable pricing of the business, and for the past eight or nine years, I’ve taken all of my prints and posters there to be framed. I’ve even sent them several other pleased customers. 

Last Friday I took the poster in, and within minutes, the gentleman who was working that day and I had agreed upon the frame. The employees really know their stuff there, and many times I have gone it with my mind settled on a certain “look,” only to have it changed by someone at the Frame Factory with a different and better idea.  When I told the man that I wouldn’t be back in the area for a couple or three weeks but that my daughter would pick the picture up, he asked if I’d be around through Saturday. If so, he’d have it ready by then. “No, I’m leaving as soon as I leave your shop,” I said. He then asked if I could find something to do for 15 to 20 minutes. If so, he’d go ahead and frame Andy and his pithy words then and there.

It’s not as though the shop needed the business; it’s just that the employees aim to please. That’s why they’re so successful! That and the fact that they all have expertise in color, design, texture, and taste. If you’re anywhere near Myrtle Beach and need to have something framed, it’s worth the drive.  And the poster? I ordered it from AllPosters.com for $7.95. Isn’t that a great price? Oh, and in case you’re curious, it cost $16.30 (or thereabouts) to have it framed.

May I Have Some Conditioner Please?

A couple of things that have happened in the past few days have made me think more about customer service. In the text we’re using for a human relations course, the authors (Reece & Brandt) say that organizations are increasingly concerned about the quality of service to customers.  They say that in any service-type business, “there are thousands of ‘moments of truth,’ those critical incidents in which customers come into contact with the organization and form their impressions of its quality and service.” Amen to that. Here are two recent experiences.

This past weekend Elizabeth and I stayed in a Day’s Inn in Rincon, GA, probably for the last time. Here’s why.  Neither  of us brought hair condtioner, but we weren’t too concerned about it. Most motels have the little bottles available for use. Not this one. The only toiletry on the counter was a small bottle of shampoo and a tiny bar of facial soap. No problem, or so I thought. I’d just pick some up when I went to the office to get another towel. We only had two, both pretty small and threadbare, and Lib needed one for her hair. Problem. Day’s Inn in Rincon doesn’t offer conditioner for travelers. Incredulous at this news, I was then told that these things had a way of disappearing. So??? I mean, aren’t these items meant to be used?

It gets worse. When I asked her for an extra towel, the desk clerk (after rolling her eyes) walked to another room, got a towel, and told me it was the last one.  I might add that this wasn’t a “cheap” place. We’ve stayed at the Holiday Inn Express and Comfort Inn near the interstate for less $$, and the rooms, staff, and frills were much nicer. The price was less at the other two motels too. We just opted to stay at the Day’s Inn because of the proximity to Carrie’s house. Next time, we’ll go for comfort and customer service rather than convenience.

Connie says one of my favorite words is juxtapose, and maybe she’s right. But then I have a lot of favorite words like stellar and higgledy-piggledy and deterge. But I digress.

Juxtapose the Day’s Inn scenario with this. Last night we dined at the local Fatz Café with some of my husband’s family. We were celebrating Karen’s birthday of May 5th. Yes, we’re a bit behind schedule. But again, I digress. Anyway we had to wait quite a while because there were no tables or booths available for six people.  Just when we thought we were about to be seated, the party decided to stay for coffee and conversation.

Alas, we waited about 20 more minutes, but to soften things a bit, the hostess apologized profusely and offered us something to drink—twice.  Finally seated, we ordered our food from the senior menu (we love this!) and chatted some more while waiting for the entrees. We also munched on some warm rolls. When the food arrived, I was given teriyaki chicken instead of salmon, and the young server apologized and scooted off to the kitchen to rectify things. In the meantime, the manager came over, and he too apologized AND then said there would be no charge for the meal. He also said he was sorry we’d had to wait so long AND then sent for more rolls.

Moral of the story: Stay away from Day’s Inn in Rincon, GA and frequent Fatz Café any chance you get. About the former, no one should ever have to pay for shoddy service and the skimpiest of offerings.