Monday, March 31, 2008

disgruntled, u.s.a.

hello friends and neighbors. i'm here to tell you never to open a credit card with american express. specifically, never get the jet blue card with american express that supposedly lets you earn jet blue points. the whole point system is a croc (right now you're saying "duh" and i'm saying "i know, i know") but that's not the big problem; the big problem is that they'll screw you six different ways from sunday. they'll screw you worse than j.p. morgan chase, and that takes some doing.

perhaps right now you're saying to yourself, ok, this girl got herself into some trouble with her credit card, and now she wants to blame the credit card company instead of herself for her irresponsible spending. but oh no poppets, those days are long gone. once was the time where i was wallowing in debt and only paying minimum payments, going over my limit and paying crazy overlimit fees and 23% interest rates. and while it was borne out of necessity, it was entirely my own doing. but these days i'm solidly in the black. my student loans are completely paid off, even. and my FICO scores are startlingly close to 800. i've done my homework and cleaned up my act, and over the past 12 years have held probably 8 different credit cards. so i feel that i know what i'm talking about when i say that this particular credit establishment is up to something unsavory, and you would do best to stay far, far away from it.

want details? observe.

i was having a very confusing and frustrating problem, so i decided to send an email to try to figure it out. this is my original inquiry. granted, a bit grumpy, but asking a specific question:
03/10/2008 08:04 AM
I am NOT asking whether or not you received my payment, but you don't have an option that has anything to do with my question. I have an outstanding balance of over $1000 on my card, and the items were charged over two weeks ago. However, for some reason the online system would not let me pay any amount over the outstanding balance from my previous statement, just barely over seven dollars. I do NOT intend on paying finance charges just because of a poorly set up website. By the way, of all of the credit card and bank account websites that I deal with, this one is absolutely the least helpful and most
difficult to use. Could you please pass that along to someone? Anyway, why in the world is AmEx rejecting my money?

their response
:
03/10/2008 09:46 AM
Dear customer: Thank you for your e-mail. Please accept my sincere apology for the inconvenience this matter has caused to you. Per your concern I have reviewed you account and determined that we have received a payment in the amount of $7.92. It will be posted to your account within 24 to 48 hours. Also, please know that the system does not allow making any further payment till the time the pending payment is posted to your account. This is a security feature to prevent your Card from any fraudulent activity and to avoid duplication of the payment.For your convenience, I have listed the procedure for making an online payment for the unbilled balance:
- Log in to your account and click on the "Pay Bill" hyperlink on the "Account Summary" page.
- Select the Card account for which the payment is to be made.
- Select the appropriate option* from under the heading "Payment Amount"
- Enter the amount (if other amount selected) and press continue.
Further, if you still encounter any difficulty on our website, I request you to contact our American Express Online Services at 1-800-297-1234 (24 hours/7 days) and a representative will be glad to assist you. From outside the United States, please call us collect at 1-336-393-1111. If our Pay by Computer feature on your American Express online services is not available, you may make your payment using our Pay By Phone system by calling 1-800-472-9297 (24 hours/7 days). From outside the US, please call collect at 1-336-393-1111. Pay by Phone uses your same banking information that is used for the Pay by Computer feature of our online services. Your remittance will post to your American Express account within 48 hours. I hope this does not cause you any further inconvenience. We welcome you to our brand and wish to serve you for many more years to come.
Sincerely, S.Khare
Email Servicing Team American Express Interactive Services

we welcome you to our brand. i love that. um, what? and so, my response to that non-answer, angry:
03/10/2008 10:59 AM
I KNOW HOW TO MAKE AN ONLINE PAYMENT. I do it every month and I am not an imbecile. Furthermore, the only reason that I made the payment of $7.92 was that the online payment system would not allow me to make a payment for more. The email that I have already sent clearly stated as much; did you read it? I wanted to make a payment of $450. I was told that I could not make that payment, despite the fact that my current outstanding balance is over $1000. My question, for the second time, is WHY COULD I NOT MAKE THAT PAYMENT? Could you please answer the question that I'm asking you?

their second response:
03/10/2008 01:18 PM
Dear customer: Thank you again for your e-mail. Please accept my sincere apologies for the inconvenience you have experienced while making a payment online. I can imagine how frustrating it could be and truly understand your concern regarding this matter. Please know that due to technical reasons you were unable to make the payment for more then amount due. However, please know that you will be able to make the payment now once the 24 to 48 hours timeframe for the last payment made is over. Once again, we apologize for the unpleasant experience and hope to serve you efficiently in future. If there is any other way we may be of assistance, please contact us.
Sincerely,
S.Khare
Email Servicing Team
American Express Interactive Services

this, of course, a) did not answer my original question other than to say that it was due to "technical reasons" - not an answer in my book - and b) was completely incorrect information. i was NOT able to make a payment on the rest of my outstanding balance 24 to 48 hours after the last payment.

so i called. and some things were explained to me. and i thought everything was alright... until i went to pay my bill (when i was FINALLY allowed to) on saturday. and so, my farewell email (i thought):
03/29/2008 11:49 PM
Dear American Express, getting a credit card with your establishment was an ENORMOUS mistake. I can see that now. I have been trying to pay the balance on my card for three solid weeks, but have not been allowed to. I tried to find out why this was happening by sending emails, twice. And twice I got the most ridiculous and unhelpful answers possible, indicating that no one was even reading my emails and that I certainly was not going to get an answer to my question. So then I called. And it was explained to me that while I couldn't make a payment on the balance until that billing cycle had ended (which is a bizarre practice not followed by any other credit card company), I would not be charged interest or finance charges on the balance. I was PROMISED that I would not be penalized for the balance on which I was literally not allowed to pay. And yet, lo and behold, when I went to pay my bill today (just three days into the new billing cycle), I've been charged finance charges! So, in conclusion, here is what I would like you to know:
1) I do NOT appreciate being flat out LIED TO by your "customer service" department after being ignored and having my questions go unanswered by them.
2) I am canceling this card the minute my payment goes through and the balance is zero.
3) I regret ever getting this card and will advise everyone I currently know and everyone I ever meet against ever doing business with your company. If there was any way at all to sue you for usury, I surely would.

thinking i would simply wait until probably tuesday for the payment to be processed, and then call up and cancel the damn card, i was semi-surprised to find this email in my "inbox" in their crap-ass website:
03/30/2008 02:03 PM
Dear customer:
Thank you for contacting American Express.
Please accept my sincere apologies for the ongoing issue and for the unfavorable impression you received due to this instance. We appreciate you advising us of the reason for your discontentment. Considering the inconvenience and disappointment this dealing has caused you and as a more tangible expression of our concern over this issue, I have issued credit in the amount of $30.00 to your account. I do understand that this amount, in no way, compensates for the experience you have had. Please note that the credit will reflect in an upcoming statement. Additionally, I have issued in the amount of $6.53 against the finance charge that was assessed in your account in the month of March 2008 statement.

You can be assured that we are interested in your feedback on this matter. For that reason, I have forwarded your comments to our management team for their review. Feedback, no matter how critical, is an important part of our process in improving all of our services, and we appreciate the time and effort you have taken to help us enhance your customer experience. We welcome any inquiry or concern you may have regarding your account and assure you that addressing and resolving your concerns are our priority and will be attended to at the earliest possible.

I wish to assure you that you are a Valued Cardmember and we are sensitive your concerns. Additionally, we appreciate your Cardmembership since 2007.

Sincerely,
R. Prasad

see what the bastards did there? since i had paid the previous balance in full, i now have a negative balance on the card. which means i can't simply cancel it; i have to deal with the negative balance first. which is never the easiest task. and don't think for one second that they didn't do that shit on purpose, because i promise you that they did.

the moral of this little story is that, while all credit card companies suck major ass and are out to screw you and take as much money from you as possible, most will allow you to act responsibly if you want to. the fact that i wanted to pay against my balance and wasn't allowed to really, really irked me. but i was willing to let it slide, with the stipulation that i really wasn't being punished for it. but i was. and in my book, that is unforgivable. so they can take their card and shove it; if they think i'm ever using it again they're out of their minds. i only use cards when i know that i can pay them off within the week. i use them for convenience; checks take forever and you usually can't send them over the internet. it's also good to have a healthy credit life in the eyes of the great FICO scorekeepers in the sky. but AmEx does not allow me to pay off what i spend, so they are of no use to me whatever.

please learn from my mistakes. take any credit card offer you receive from american express and tear it into tiny little pieces. then set them on fire. then flush the ashes down the toilet. then call them up and tell them you don't appreciate them soiling your home with such drek. if it's an email, reply with venomous hatred as if they'd just offered to buy your firstborn child. it's not an overreaction, i promise.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

dear blogger, wtf?

ok, weird things are afoot. at first i thought it was me, but no. see, sometimes the spaces between words just disappear. and then in this morning's post, a whole phrase got moved from its sentence to the beginning of the paragraph. this is... odd. not that i expect anything to be done about it. but still, odd. and more than a little aggravating.

the spelling errors? yeah, those are all me.

a two-parter: "friday night, oh what a night" and "unemployed life - an introduction".

friday night, oh what a night.

so friday evening, no thunderstorm. barely even a drizzle, actually. (way to go weathermen! when are you going to just accept the fact that manhattan makes up its own weather as it goes along?) so we had a decent turnout at the my-last-day drinkfest. maybe 20 people in all, including one para from the rival plaintiff's firm, and TWO paras from defense firms. that's right friends, i'm bridging the gap. it was surprising and awesome that they came, and everyone was a bit taken aback by it. but they were not the big shocker of the evening, oh no.

let's begin at the beginning, shall we? because that's really when it happened. my darling kelly and i were the first to head to the bar. i'd been chomping at the bit to get out of the office all day; it was just too weird to be there. my day was done. the kids got me tofutti cuties and a soy latte, which was adorable and sweet. but eating five of the cuties and washing it back with the latte didn't lessen my anxiety level any. so at 5pm sharp, me and my darlin' were out the door. we got to the bar, settled in with a couple of stiff drinks, and started door watching. and then we saw two people from the office walk in.

the senior partner head of our department big boss man.

and the youngest partner from the firm, who i'd spent the first two years of my time there hating. and i mean HATING. there are whole blog posts just about how i needed to quit because of him.

so me and kell are like, what who how where?!?!? did you know they were coming??!!?? mr. boss man, he's personable and we like him, but we certainly didn't expect. but mr. most-hated? what's he doing here??? and all too quickly they were upon us.

sitting at our table.

buying us drinks.

buying everyone who came while we were there their first round, in fact.

now, after my first heavy-on-the-rum mojito, the shock of these drinking companions was wearing off, and i started acting like, well, me. i'm wondering now if i did or said anything that will prevent my re-hiring if ever need be? let's hope not. they didn't stay long, and when they left... mr. most-hated gave me a big, warm, affectionate hug. now granted, we turned a major corner during the trial, and i understand more about his behavior than i used to. but the hug. seriously.

oohgf. shake that one off.

anyway, the evening progressed more normally from there. the younger hipper folk from the office showed up, drank, got to know each other, brought other friends along. i got pretty drunk pretty quick. two other attorneys showed up: mr. indie soho, who made me three mix cd's as a going away present (awesome right?) and left the bar after half a drink; and ms. party girl in disguise, who gave me a sweet card and stayed at the bar later than we did.

i was home a bit after nine (that's what happens when you start drinking at five). so that was that. the end of my law firm days, sealed with a ginger mojito. that's one way to do it, i s'ppose. i'm just afraid that maybe i was supposed to cut out the heart and chop off the head, and maybe set the carcass on fire? if it comes back for my soul, i guess we'll know.


unemployed life - an introduction.

saturday morning, woke up sober. a bit hung over. a bit rough. and with a head full of knowledge of the conversation i'd had with my office manager on friday.

health insurance, oh health insurance, you are truly the bane of my existence.

see, what you may or may not know about me is that i have a chronic illness. for the most part i know how to take care of myself these days. through diet, exercise, chiropractic care, and three prescription medications i keep myself (almost) completely functional. the occasional drunken evening out is the exception, and i do mean occasional - i go out about once every three months. and even when i do go out, two drinks is usually my max. but when i do something like forsake the biggest source of stability in my life, i need a drink...

anyway.

point being that my healthcare costs are significant. enter: the job that gave me fully covered pretty good health insurance. when my psychotherapy sessions are being covered (20 a year, those generous souls), monthly costs are $125 (not including chiropractic). once i'm out of covered sessions, that jumps to $305 a month. it ain't cheap being me. trust me, i'd love to cut it down, but it's a bad bad bad idea to get off the pills as much as i hate them, and leaving therapy is not an option.

but the thing is, now i've left my job. no more fully covered health care. of course, there's the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act. you probably know it as cobra. basically, your employer is required to offer to continue your healthcare coverage for up to 18 months; you just pick up the tab instead of them picking it up for you. and that tab? well, for me, it'll be $510. monthly.

so let's do some math, shall we? let's say i don't elect to sign up for cobra, and i just pay for my health costs out of pocket. that will cost me $590 a month, again not including chiropractic. so cobra is cheaper, right? ahh, but let us not forget co-pays. those amounts listed above aren't going away. which means that as long as my therapy sessions are covered, my total healthcare bill will come to $635. when i run out of covered sessions, that figure jumps to $815. which is significantly more than i'm paying in rent right now.

mind you, this doesn't include any visits to any doctors, or getting sick, or any kind of emergency that may occur. this doesn't account for the fact that the co-pays for my prescriptions might go up. i knew it was bad, but until friday i didn't know it was this bad. this is exactly what's kept me at this job for so long. this issue is the only reason that i haven't just up and quit, several different times. i got myself convinced that it wasn't a good enough reason to stay, but now i'm not so sure.

and quite frankly, i don't know what i'm going to do.

Friday, March 28, 2008

last day... um, blues maybe? well, last day something anyway.

so this is it. i gave my notice. i worked out my last three weeks. this is the last day. i've made it.

it's weird.

i have a few things to take care of. a stack of papers and folders needs to get down to the basement. an email or two needed to be sent; they're sent. a box needs to be mailed;i'll mail it. my personal effects have been brought home, mostly. of course i forgot things. of course it's more than i can really carry. what fun would it be otherwise?

we're having a grand last day bash at a local bar after work; it should be a decent turnout if we don't get the huge thunderstorm that we're scheduled for. (which reminds me that in squabbling with my lovely boyfriend this morning, i forgot to grab my umbrella. oh splendid. i hate rain. yes, i will melt.) maybe we'll get a decent turnout even if it does rain. who knows. it seems like the people around here actually like me. i've gotten three good-bye presents so far, and supposedly at least one more is coming.

one of the secretaries that i don't actually do work with cornered me in the bathroom to tell me that i should go into TV or moves, becausei'm such a "people person". that was pretty great.

it's appropriate, i think, to go drink with my co-workers one last time. it's especially interesting to see the attorneys knock one back, acting more and more human with each sip... of course, the only ones who will show up are the ones who were human to start with, which is fine by me. it would be something to see some of the partners pop up, but i don't really anticipating it happening. they'll probably stop by my desk sometime today to tell me goodbye and good luck, all smiles and cliches, because that's what they're good at.

five more hours of employment, folks. and then... broke-ass freedom, here i come!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

a lifetime ago, maybe two.

so few vestiges of that time remain in my life now.

i've scanned through my myspace friends, to try to find the others who might understand. there aren't many. it's been eleven years since i've seen him at least, or maybe twelve. chances are high that i would have gone the rest of my life without ever seeing any of them again really. but those years - they were a lifetime ago, no doubt - but no, they were a week ago, they were yesterday, they're still happening. they replay in my head all day long every day. a piece of me lives there and always will.

Ryan Katzenberger died on easter sunday. He wasn't my best friend, not even in the days when we lived in the same neighborhood and saw each other daily, hung out in each others' houses, ate lunch together at school. but he was one of us, part of us, during the only time in my life that i've ever been part of anything. the people involved in that group have scattered far and wide; i only talk to three or four of them anymore with any regularity. but you just sort of run with the assumption that everyone is somewhere, living a life somehow, doing alright. maybe not wildly successful, maybe not blindingly happy, but alright. smiling sometimes. laughing sometimes. and maybe once in a while remembering the night when what seemed like twenty of us played flashlight tag in a corn field behind the clarks' house, and then watched bats swoop over the pool - they're attracted to the water.

My heart goes out to his brother Jay; I can't imagine losing my sister. They had always been so close. And to his wife. I didn't know her; she came into his life long, long after I'd left it. But if she loved him, which doubtless she did, she is hurting more now than she ever knew was possible. I can only hope that she has friends and family that will support her through this time.

Ryan, regardless of the time that has passed between what we were and what we have become, you will be missed.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Mario and Luigi would totally hang out there, even after becoming SUPER.

Ah, Sunday. In true New York style, this particular early spring Sunday is stunningly beautiful with sunshine and blue skies... and gusting winds that make it feel like 27 degrees. But nevermind that, right? I decide that it's a perfect morning to sit at my desk very near a window where I can view said perfect skies and sunshine and, say, write a post for my blog. But oh, drat! I brought my desk chair to my studio (in January) and haven't replaced it, making it rather hard to sit at my desk. But my darling boyfriend has a very nice chair, just on the other side of the room there. Just a few feet away. He won't mind, will he? Still being in bed and all? So... I engage in a little light chair theft, and here I am.

Anyway.

Last night we made the trek (yes I said trek) out to good ol' Williamsburg, Brooklyn to visit Vinnie's Pizzeria. At this point you're saying, what the hell are Mel and her also-vegan boyfriend doing going out to the b-k-l-y-n just to go to some typical pizza joint? Well, I'll tell you. We were going to have a couple slices of their Saturday night special, which this week happened to be chicken bacon cheddar bar-b-q. You heard me. And it was goood too.

So, have I forsaken my beliefs and forgotten all that I've learned? Um, no. See, Vinnie's, which was apparently established in 1960, is one of the few old school pizza places in New York to realize that it's not very hard to make great New York style pizza, and also provide some vegan options. So, now you're gettin' it, our bar-b-q pizza was vegan from head to toe, and what makes it really special is that they include follow your heart cheese! Granted, not very much of it, but still. We also had a couple of beef rolls, which could have used a little more zing, but overall were pretty pleasing.

Walking by the place, which I've done at least 20 times and Jon has done probably a hundred, we never realized that they had food for us. Ok, there was a board with the vegan special written on it last night, but who reads those things? We had a tipoff from our good friends at Supervegan; if it wasn't for them we never would have known about this little cubic zirconium in the rough. Apart from frequent vegan specials, their regular menu features four types of all-vegan pizzas as well as some add on items like garlic knots and rolls. At the bottom it states, "we encourage creativity with substitutions". Don't you kind of love these guys already?

The atmosphere of the place is everything you'd want while devouring a slice of top-notch thin crust. Seating is booth style, mostly four-seaters with one two-seater nestled up front. The walls are adorned with signed photos of famous people thanking Vinnie for providing them with such wonderful carbohydrates throughout the years, as well as a poster proclaiming all that Italian-Americans got accomplished in the 20th century. The counter and kitchen staff are pretty much what you'd expect to find in this type of Bedford Avenue establishment (read: bike-riding hipsters) but there's no pretention - they'll sing along with the radio to "it's raining men" and the dance re-mix of "total eclipse of the heart" with zero shame.

Like a dumbass, I forgot to take any pictures. Again. (Why do I carry around the extra pound that is my camera? Oh yeah, to take way too many pictures of trees.) They also don't have a website - that's just not how Vinnie rolls. So I guess you're gonna have to drop by and see for yourself. They're at 148 Bedford Ave, west side of the street, between N. 8th and N. 9th streets. It's a great place to take your carnie friends as they also have fully meated pizzas. And after dinner you can get yourself a 40 from the bodega, park your crew on someone's stoop, and play hipster bingo all night long. Someone's bound to win at least once every five minutes.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

and the search continues.

another day, another thousand craigslist postings. i've completely lost count of how many jobs i've applied for now. the only ones that have contacted me (outside of Greenpeace) are the ones that i didn't actually want and shouldn't have responded to: a metaphysical bookstore mainly, but also a company that does mega-scale decorating all over the city for the holidays. i'm feeling super guilty about the greenpeace thing - they're posting the position again! i felt sure that they had someone else lined up. i'm comforting myself with the belief that they needed to fill more than one slot with the same description - which very well may be true.

the bookstore people are being uber flakey; i really only applied for it because it was there and i was qualified for it. they sent me an email yesterday at 4:3opm asking if i could come in for an interview today at 11am. well, um, no. i told you in my cover letter that i'm still working; i'll need more than 18 hours' notice to take off during work hours. so i wrote back all nice and professional and enthusiastic, explained the situation, gave times wheni'd be available to come in for an interview, bla bla bla etcetera. and i haven't heard back. like, did she send the email and just assume i was coming? whatever. it's retail for chrissake.

the other job i actually kind of want. it's a real big people job with a salary and benefits and all, and i'd be doing work to make the city shiny. and anyone who knows me knows how excited i get about the decorations every year. they're also out here in the 'stori, equaling very short commute especially coming home, and easy access to my studio after work. so that might actually be a good spot for me. the trouble is this: they responded via email yesterday evening to my inquiry, telling me to call today. i called today, and promptly got hung up on. i then understood why it is that they need office help. i called back, and couldn't get through to the person i needed to speak with, so i left a message with the secretary or receptionist or whoever it was. an hour and a half later, i still hadn't heard back. so i replied to the emaili'd received, saying that i tried to call but wasn't able to reach her, i'm sure she's very busy, call me at her convenience bla bla bla. well, here it is after 7pm. no return email. no phone call. so wtf? do they want to talk to me or what? i know, patience, patience. but geez . why tell me to call if you're going to be too busy to talk? why send an email if you can't reply to one? it's feeling kind of odd, and kind of like a blow off. but we'll see.

as far as the nonprofits that i actually want to be working for, since the sustainable table debacle i've applied with Just Food, Oceana, the Rainforest Alliance, the New York Restoration Project, and The Cloud Institute. none of them are like, omg, this is totally what i want to be doing! but all of them are worthwhile nonprofits working on environmental issues that have something to do with my goal issues, and all of them are hiring for positions i'm qualified for. however, none have responded. i am the sadness.

sigh.

and now, for the evening idealist check.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

the lives of the rich and pretentious.

so we finally, after how many years of living in this city between the two of us? made it to Pure Food and Wine. granted, the prices are a bit prohibitive, but it was our 22-month-a-versary and we were making up for not going out for valentine's day last month. so we figured, what better time to go to the fancy schmancy raw vegan place? we had ulterior motives as well; i had been harboring the tiniest notion that we could maybe have our wedding there. they do, after all, say that they host events, and the pictures are beautiful. plus, having the wedding in a place that you know will serve you all vegan food clears up some major logistical problems fairly neatly. so i wanted to check out the joint, see what the vibe was like, see if i could really hang with an all-raw meal for my big event. i've had some pretty amazing raw stuff; my mind is open to it, even if i don't fully agree with the ideology.

so we showed up exactly on time for our 6pm reservation - i hate crowded restaurants and that was our way of trying to avoid the crush. it was unsuccessful. the restaurant was already half full and filled to capacity within 20 minutes of our arrival. but even if it had been empty we would have been uncomfortable - after having our coats checked by a very pleasant hostess, we were led to a tiny table against the wall that was bizarrely close to the table next to it, even for manhattan standards. people, we're talking like three inches. literally. which was completely unnecessary, as the next table past that one was at two and a half feet away and turned diagonally. i found this somewhat incomprehensible, and was relieved that the couple seated at the next table were quiet talkers.

putting the seating arrangement aside, we took in our surroundings. though it was still fully light out, it was oddly dark inside. this fact seemed born of two mothers: 1) the very dim "mood" lighting cast from inset fixtures in an intensely low ceiling, and 2) the dark wood paneling, floors, and tables combined with dark red upholstered chairs that all seemed to just suck up any light that hit them. i understand the look that they're going for, and it is elegant and well executed; it's just not one that i prefer. i want to eat in a room where i can see my food and surroundings, not where i feel as though i'm lost in a series of caves. the music wasn't too loud, which i do appreciate. i didn't recognize much of it, though i did pick up portishead and thievery corporation, if that gives you an idea. i ordered a glass of wine, a pinot noir which was bold and lovely, but i was surprised to note that though it is an all-vegan restaurant food wise, almost none of their wine is vegan.

we ordered appetizers, and decided to splurge and get two of them. it was a good thing, too, because each one consisted of about two and a half bites of food. while absolutely delicious, his cashew cheese napoleon was the size of three ritz crackers in a stack. i got a ravioli dish, and got exactly three ravioli, each about 1.4 inches square. they were also exquisite, but we'd finished our food before we even really knew that it had come. it reminded me of those commercials from the 80's making fun of california diet trends; like this was a caricature of the food and not the food itself. i know that this kind of portioning is all the rage at these restaurants, but at $18 a pop i expect a little more. some of the other "first course" options, as the menu is divided, did seem a tad more substantial, such as the mushroom sushi that was served at the next table. i had to think, though, that i can get an amazing shitakii roll at at least three places for about $4.50. we enjoyed the tiny tasteful bit that we had had, and held out hope for an actual entree- sized entree for our "second course".

it did not come. the entrees, his chili lime tortilla wraps and my zucchini and roma tomato lasagna, were about the portion size i would have expected the appetizers to be. (and naturally, each one cost what normally both of our dinners would cost together.) while full of flavor and served very promptly, we were both left wanting.

so we ordered dessert. he ordered the tiramisu, and i got the thin mint sundae. i was fully expecting two melon-ball sized "scoops" of ice cream, a half inch square of chocolate, and one mint leaf placed artfully on the side of a beautiful mostly empty bowl. imagine my surprise when my dish arrived, and it was three real scoops of ice cream with more chocolate chunks than i could finish, complete with a huge dollop of vanilla cream on top! likewise, jonathan's tiramisu was composed of two largish triangles, just the size that we'd get if we ordered it at one of the many cafes in our neighborhood in astoria. (of course, there it wouldn't be vegan, but you understand the comparison.) it was a pleasing turn of events, to be sure. with the minor exception that after such a light meal, so much sugar almost burned. it seemed so contradictory, to serve such ridiculously small portions of the real food and then stuff people full of empty calories in the "third course". especially so considering that the restaurant and its proprietor build an image entirely upon the concept of "healthy living."

and let's talk about the proprietor for just a moment. upon entering, we saw three (count them, three) images of her, just on the hostess stand. a little full of ourselves, are we? isn't it enough that she's plastered all over the website for the restaurant, that she has her own separate website, and that she put herself on the cover of the book for the restaurant? look, sarma, we get it, ok? you're cute. but it's not as if you're the head chef, busting your ass 12 hours a day to put that food out there. i don't think you actually even work in the restaurant. you just own a restaurant. that doesn't take talent, it takes money, and in case no one's ever mentioned it to you those are two different things. and about the duck? yes, ducks can be cute. that one isn't.

so, did the food taste good? yes. was it worth the cost? absolutely not. pure food and wine is not a restaurant for vegans who want to eat a real meal and be satisfied. it is a restaurant for rich people who have jumped on a bandwagon of "vegan", of "raw", of "green", of "food for life" and want to be seen. the fact that most of their wines are not vegan is a testament to the fact that veganity is a coincidence in their food, not based on an ethical standpoint but more likely due to practical reasoning. raw food is much easier to make safe if you, say, exclude dairy. much like counter, this restaurant has everything to do with elitist trends and nothing to do with the ethics of being vegetarian or vegan.

overall i am not impressed. i'm glad that we had the experience, but i sincerely doubt that we'll be going back. i'll take curly's or VP2 or angelica kitchen or madras cafe or any of the dozens of vegetarian and vegan restaurants in our fine city over that nonsense, any meal any day. hell, even Blossom or Gobo have infinitely more to offer - while a little more pricey than some of the awesome low rent options that are around, at least you get what you pay for and always leave full and satisfied. and the owners of these restaurants? apart from the guy that owns curly's, who often works in the kitchen there and serves me my dinner after seating me and bringing me coffee with a cheerful smile, i have no idea what they look like. no idea whatsoever.

Friday, March 14, 2008

my boyfriend is the best nerd ever.

he has a blog now. go read it. he's so freakin cute.

i know, i know, i got it bad. whatev.

oh, and just for clarification, my boyfriend bears no resemblance to any character from planet of the apes.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

i should roll me up a pretty little dunce cap. or maybe i need someone to do it for me...

there seems to be a lot of confusion as to why i'm embarrassed about the whole potential-employer-finding-blog thing. well, i'll outline it.

1) it was a total blindside; i tend to think of my blogs as invisible. it's been like 6 months since i've gotten a comment on any of them! what were the chances that THAT PARTICULAR GIRL out of all people... well, you get it.

2) i spent like three hours reading and re-reading and editing my cover letter and resume that i sent to them, and i had to give them a writing sample (which i find totallynervewracking). but is that carefully crafted work the first exposure that they have to me? nooooo. no, first they read my crazy rambly blog which, while entertaining, could easily be construed as me being a crazy person. so now at the nonprofit that i most want to work for in the whole city, i am forever branded as crazy blog girl, no matter how intelligently i can write or how good i look on my resume or how qualified i am for a position or anything else. not that this will keep me from getting a job with them per se; just that it's a stigma...

3) i discovered it in the middle of the night, when i couldn't sleep, because i'm so stressed out about all of the upheaval going on in my life. and THAT'S how i found out that the job i was so hoping to hear about was off the market. punch-in-stomach territory, no?

i've talked about the situation to several of my friends now, and they all say the same things:

1) that if she thought i was a crazy moron she wouldn't have bothered to leave a very nice comment; she would have shown everyone in the office and then put a post-it in their resumes folder with big red letters on it saying DO NOT HIRE THAT GIRL.

2) that now they sure as heck know who i am, and it might actually work out to be a good thing. they might actually keep my resume on file; they might actually call me if a position comes up thati'm qualified for. even if they do think of me as crazy blog girl, maybe they think of me as crazy blog girl who understands that our work is important and amazing and will get the job done... and maybe write fun blogs for us.

so hey, maybe in the end this is a good thing right? i would be happy to hear from them in three months, or six months, or a year or two years. i want to work with them, period. i'm just so terrified that i've ruined my chances forever. short of working with them, i have to start my own nonprofit to do the work that i want to do on any kind of recognizable scale. i mean sure, i write my zines and table at events from time to time, but there's so little that i can squeeze in when i'm working for the man 40 hours a week... you know. i'm trying to convince myself that this is alright. that i haven't completely obliviated my chances of ever working with them. i'm just finding it very, very hard to believe. everyone is saying that i'm being too hard on myself, which is probably true. wow, how unusual.

just keep your fingers crossed for me, would you?

just keep your fingers crossed for me, would you?

um.

"Melissa!
This is Sustainable Table- OH, we are so sorry, but we JUST hired someone.
I love your enthusiasm and would love to keep your resume on file... just in case something else comes up!
You can email it to me if you would like- now or in the future.
Thanks- Dawn
Marketing Manager
Sustainable Table"

when i saw this comment, i thought it was a cruel joke from a friend of mine. a specific friend of mine, in fact. but no. it's not a joke at all. it's the real deal.

could i feel more stupid?

no, not really.

pardon me, i absolutely must go find a very large rock to climb under.

at least she was nice about it? and didn't simply point and laugh? of all the people in the world to stumble upon my freakin' blog... of course she was probably just doing a search for her own organization, and i'm just not very bright with what i blog about. but what's new.

ah, yes, let me get back to that rock thing. see you in a hundred years.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

yesterday i was optimistic.

today i am both more so and less so. by the time i was getting into bed last night, i was thinking, there's no way i can work from 9am to 7pm every day! effectively that means leaving home at 8am and not getting back until 8pm at the earliest. and studio time during the week? you can just forget about that. but then how can i turn it down? how indeed.

i woke up this morning feeling just as ambivalent, and exhausted to boot. needless to say, i did not want to report to the job that i have forsaken, but like the good little monkey that i am i will work out my last three weeks. of course, i did spend most of the day looking for other jobs. what do they expect? and that's how i found out... THAT SUSTAINABLE TABLE IS HIRING! now, understand that if i had to pick a dream job, and i do really mean dream job, it would be working for Sustainable Table. ever seen The Meatrix? if not, i demand that you go watch it right now.

http://www.themeatrix.com/

wasn't that amazing? well, that's just one of their side projects. their work can only be described as what i want to do with my life. now, there are two major problems with me getting this job. the first is that they are hiring an administrative assistant - not exactly activist outreach a-go-go. but i don't care! i will be a cog in that machine! i will start at the bottom, regardless of pay or work duties for the chance to work with these people. seriously. the bigger one is that, well, they've already rejected me for this position. it was back in december of 2006. granted, i sent them a ridiculous email - i couldn't help myself; i was excited. so this time i composed something much more professional, while still trying to express my enthusiasm for the organization. it's a really tough balance. it looks like the person who is reviewing applications is different than it was then; this was over a year ago. maybe i have a chance this time around? i mean, obviously whoever they chose instead of me didn't work out, right?

it's just so frustrating. i would be so great for them! and they would be so great for me! the whole thing would be great, from top to bottom, side to side, back to front and beginning to end. i want there to be a way for me to pick up the phone and just explain to them, listen people, I'M YOUR GIRL. not only will i do the job, but i'll do it better than anyone else while caring about the bigger picture and being really excited to be there! but there's nothing i can do but sit here and wait to see if they a) read my email and b) decide i'm worth responding to. they specifically say no phone calls and no drop-ins. does it count as a drop-in if i just stand outside their offices and hold up a sign? "will work for minimal pay for the opportunity to do meaningful work - please inquire"?

sustainable table, if you're listening, please just give me an interview. i promise, it's a win win situation.

Monday, March 10, 2008

definitely not for profit.

so i interviewed for greenpeace. you know those annoying kids that ask you for money on the street? well, i wouldn't be one of them.

i'd be managing them.

the guy that interviewed me was cool, but i could tell he had a lot of scripted questions that he had to ask. "explain the difference between management and leadership, and give examples of when you've demonstrated both qualities." retch. i hate that kind of interview. but apparently i did alright, because this morning they called me and offered me the job.

there are a lot of pros: it's a really good foot in the door to the world of environmental nonprofits, and technically it is in the Development department (read: fundraising, the only area that most nonprofits usually ever have jobs in). i could dress how i wanted and act like myself and be around people who care about the things i care about.

but there are some serious downsides.

the more minor one is that it's a serious pay cut. well, duh. i knew that going in. i know what it pays, and i know that i can live on it because it's what i was making for the first half of last year. that's more of a non-issue. the real issue, the punch-me-in-the-guts damnit what do i do problem is this: the basic work week, the regular nothing special week, runs from 50 to 55 hours a week.

that's a long freaking week, and it's kind of what i'm trying to escape by leaving here. so i don't know. i told them i'd let them know by friday; my basic plan is to see if anything else truly promising pops up between now and then. if not, then i'm going to take it. who knows? the hours might be fine if the atmosphere is relaxed and i like the people. i feel like if i let it pass me by without giving it a shot, i'll regret it. and i don't like regretting things. so.

it's been my experience that things always seem to crop up and develop in unexpected ways. this situation will hopefully be no different; i just have to keep trying to make things happen and see where it leads me. i've jumped from the frying pan; let's see if i can avoid that fire...

Sunday, March 9, 2008

well, that's one way.

i did it. i quit. well, i didn't burst into the boss's office, give him what for, set fire to a few desks and storm out exactly. but i did tell them that i was leaving and give them notice. three weeks of it. on March 28, i'm free as a bird.

do i have another job? no. i did interview with greenpeace (no, not to place myself between a harpoon and a whale), but i don't know about that. if they offer me the position they'll want me to work 55 hours a week. that's a whole freaking lot of hours. too many, actually. so i'm thinking i'm going to hold out and live on savings for a minute until i find something that i can actually stomach. if it comes down to it i can always go to a headhunter or a temp agency and have another job like the one i have now in about a week.

so.

it's a little bit like jumping out a window. will i land in a nice soft bed of hay? an icy pool? pile of rusty nails and broken glass? some combination of the three? hard to say. for now i'll just freefall... and get some painting done.