Friday, December 14, 2018

Wonder whether I quit? Figure it out for yourself!

If my computer had worked on Day One at Wang, I would have used it to type up a resignation letter and high-tailed it out of there. Instead, I sucked it up and spent a miserable 2 years, 6 months, and 13 days there. I hated nearly everything about working at Wang: the miserable commute, the numbing bureaucracy, the shabby and dirty offices, the toilets that made me fear typhus, the Scrooge vacation days, the poorly lit parking lots, the distrust of employees, the travel policy from (and to) hell… Other than my colleagues, who were great, Wang was my absolute worst professional employment experience.

My worst non-professional employment experience was at the Valle’s Steakhouse on Route 9. My friend Joyce and I, just returned from a three month cross-country camping trip, were looking for a waitress gig to fund our next excursion: backpacking through Europe.

After a lunch shift at Valle’s, we went out to a late lunch at Friendly’s and looked at each other and began to laugh. No way we were going to hack it at Valle’s! I can’t remember exactly what set us off. It’s not as if we hadn’t had other wack waitress experiences. We were pros, with Union Oyster House and Durgin-Park on our resumes. Maybe it’s because Valle’s was tray service vs. the arm service we were used to. Maybe it was the petty rules. Maybe it was the head waitress. Maybe it was the bartender, the manager, the chefs. But we were in complete agreement that Valle’s wasn’t going to work.

We flipped a coin to see who was going to call in our resignation. I lost, and used the pay phone at Friendly’s to call the head waitress and tell her we were quitting. She was pissed, but, what the hell. It’s not as if we didn’t let them know. And we’d brought our own aprons with us.

Not bothering to quit, according to an article in the Washington Post, has become something of a trend.

“A number of contacts said that they had been ‘ghosted,’ a situation in which a worker stops coming to work without notice and then is impossible to contact,” the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago noted in December’s Beige Book, which tracks employment trends.

National data on economic “ghosting” is lacking. The term, which normally applies to dating, first surfaced on in 2016. But companies across the country say silent exits are on the rise. (Source: WaPo)

I don’t think ghosting in a dating situation is such a commendable thing to do. If you don’t want to break up F2F or on the phone, you can at least send a goodbye text (or, old school: email; or, old-schooler: Dear John letter).

Date ghosting reminds me of a scene my husband and I witnessed decades ago.

We were at the (old) Ritz Bar, and sitting near us was a fellow we recognized from our neighborhood. We didn’t know him, but had seen him around and written up in the local rag. He was in real estate, I believe, and a presence in the Beacon Hill social  scene. Sitting with him was a woman, and we were close enough to figure out that they were on a first date.

She excused herself – we thought she was going to the ladies’ room – but then we saw her getting in a cab out front. Her date was facing away from the window, and he waited for quite a while before it dawned on him that his would-be GF wasn’t coming back to the table.

The least she could have done was make up some social lie: not feeling well or just remembered I left the iron on or whatever. In those days, there were no cell phones, so you couldn’t pretend to have received an emergency text. But you could always make something up that would allow your date to save face.

Anyway, date ghosting seems pretty poor behavior, especially given that non-ghosting is just a text away.

But ghosting your way out of a job seems to me like career suicide. Cities are small and networks are large. One would think word would get around.

But apparently it’s happening.

Applicants blow off interviews. New hires turn into no-shows. Workers leave one evening and never return.

I was never ghosted as a manager, but on two occasions, I put out emails welcoming a techie to a product team I was running, only to have the person up and quit after a day or two. I never blamed the person quitting. As with my Wang situation, you pretty much know from the get-go whether it’s going to work out or not. But I was always a little ticked that I’d put out an effusive and welcoming email…

Those studying the ghosting trend chalk it up to a healthy job market and the youth of the ghosters. Whatever it is that’s causing you to quit a job, unless the situation is really dangerous or threatening, it’s pretty simple to leave your manager some sort of message. You can always use the tried and true communications avoidance trick, and leave a voice mail at a time when no one’s gong to be at work – think 1 a.m. on a Saturday. (Unless you work in a bar.)

And this should be a two-way street.

I’m sure most people have been in the situation where they’re interviewing for a job when everything just gets cold and silent.

This happened to me a couple of times, and it’s annoying. At some point, you figure out that you’re going nowhere and there won’t be an offer, but I don’t know anyone who doesn’t want to put the period at the end of a sentence, the final nail in a coffin.

One time, I had gotten pretty far down the path towards an offer when there was a dead halt.

I decided I wasn’t going to let the guy who would have been my manager off the hook, and was gong to force him to tell me he wasn’t making an offer. I tried calling a few times, but he was pretty nimble about refusing to take my calls. Eventually I gave up, but getting ghosted really ticked me off.

As for today’s young ghosters: DON’T DO IT! This is the sort of behavior that – guaranteed – can come back to haunt you at some point in your career. At least have the courtesy to call in and leave a message, even if there’s no Friendly’s pay phone to drop your dime into.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Sister Baby Needs a New Pair of Black Lace-up Shoes

‘Tis the season when we can expect a lot of heart-tugging and/or feel-good stories in the news. Occasionally there’ll be one involving a heart-tugging, feel-good nun. (No more heart-tugging, feel-good priest stories, I’m afraid.)

But the story of late that has put the biggest smile on my face is the one of the two nuns in California who embezzled as much as half-a-million bucks from their school over a 10-year period. They used the dough on trips to Las Vegas to gamble.

$500K is a lot of money by anyone’s standards, but by the standards of funding a parochial school. Yowza! Amazing that the school is still standing.

Sister Mary Margaret Kreuper and Sister Lana Chang are not nuns on the run, however.

They’re holed up in their convent:

The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, the order the nuns represent, said the nuns have been placed in a religious house under the supervision of community leadership. (Source: USA Today)

Which I guess means no more casino nights in the parish hall, no more bingo games with the old ladies, let alone trips to the The Strip.

"Sister Mary Margaret and Sister Lana have expressed to me and asked that I convey to you, the deep remorse they each feel for their actions and ask for your forgiveness and prayers," [St. James Parish’ Monsignor Michael’ Meyers said in his letter, reports AP.

I’ll bet they have. I’ll bet they do.

The order is going to pay the school back – which I don’t imagine will be easy. These orders are dying out. Over the years, even when we were in that heady Church Triumphant era of the 1950’s, nuns were paid next to nothing for staffing parochial schools. They were provided with a pittance, and that pittance also went to support the older, retired nuns. It all worked because there were plenty of new young nuns to support the golden agers. And then there were no longer that many new nuns. And a lot more grey-haired nuns out there.

I think that in some cases, the Church was shamed in to providing support for convents. But orders of nuns have also sent out plenty of pleas to former students to help keep Sister Mary Filter of the Holy Smokes in sensible shoes.

So I’m guessing that this will be an awful lot of money for the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet to part with. And much like the Catholic Church having to shell out so much money to settle molestation suits, having a scandal – even one as somewhat ludicrous as the gambling jones of a couple of old nuns – can’t help with fundraising.

The good sisters aren’t defending their rogue members.

"As a religious community, we will not defend the actions of our Sisters," said the order in their statement. "What happened is wrong. Our Sisters take full responsibility for the choices they made and are subject to the law."

There may, however, be no legal repercussions:

The archdiocese notified police, but doesn't plan to press charges, reports the AP.

Okay, I really don’t believe that justice will necessarily be served by shipping the duo of Sister Mary Margaret and Sister Lana – kind of a kippNuns on the runy nun name, no? – off to the hoosegow.  Especially since they look like they’d be buddies of my mother. That said, they might be helpful as embeds doing some sort of prison ministry. They could help inmates get their GED’s, and plenty of other things. After all, people do serious time for doing a lot less. Think of the woman in Texas who’s in the slammer for 8 years because she didn’t understand that people with green cards weren’t eligible to vote.

In any case, I suspect that the Church is relieved by having this sort of scandal on their hands, rather than the usual fare.

I have to say that I am a bit surprised by this.

I knew plenty of nuns growing up. Sure, there were many who were kind, good teachers, etc. On the other hand, plenty of them were mean. Plenty of them were cruel. And plenty of them were crazy – and I don’t mean good crazy either.

But larcenous nuns on gambling sprees? Not something I can reconcile with the nuns I grew up under.

The greatest incident of dishonesty I remember occurred in the fifth grade.

In grammar school, we were members of something called the St. Dominic Savio Club. Dominic Savio was a child saint, an exceptionally pious little Italian boy of the mid 19th century who died at the age of 14 of TB. Exceptional piety and child death being two favorite memes of nuns of my era, we heard a lot about St. Dominic. (His canonization was pushed by a priest who had taken what today we might generously characterize as a creepy interest in the boy.) Even a child as religious as I was found Dominic Savio a boring little prig.

Anyway, our class belonged to this Club which meant that once a month we had a meeting where we sang a song about St. Dominic Savio:

St. Dominic Savio
A saint of great power.
In Don Bosco’s garden

Don Bosco was the priest who favored little Dominic.

A fair youthful flower.

Ooo boy…

We also got to read the monthly Club newsletter, which was a nice break from the usual.

Now one of the things that nuns would do regularly was to change the classroom seating arrangement. Out of nowhere, Sister Whatever would order us all to “Take our books, pens, and pencils” and stand next to our desks while she announced where our next seat would be.

There were a couple of normal patterns: seated by name, seated by height, and – the most common – smart row girls, smart row boys, average row girls, average row boys, dumb row girls, dumb row boys. But occasionally they mixed things up.

On the occasion I recall, Sister Saint Wilhelmina did something of a random distribution.

After we were all settled in, she handed out the December issue of the club bulletin.

Low and behold, the monthly contest promised a prize to a classroom where a student with the initials MC (for Merry Christmas) was sitting in the second seat in the fifth row (December 25th being Christmas Day).

Low and behold, Sister Saint Wilhelmina had miraculously assigned Michael Curran that seat.

Even as gullible fifth graders, we knew the fix was in. It served us right that, although Willy wrote right in to the Dominic Savio Club, we didn’t get a prize. It’s highly likely that pretty much every other classroom that had a kid whose initials were MC landed that kid in the prime seat. We were too late to the game. The prize would probably have been a picture of St. Dominic Savio and/or St. John Bosco, so no great loss.

Anyway, that’s as close to a larcenous nun that I ever experienced. But who knows what might have happened if Sister Saint Wilhelmina had run into Sister Mary Margaret and Sister Lana. She might well have been blowing on dice and muttering under her breath, “Sister Baby needs a new pair of black lace-up shoes.”

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

The cat’s out of the bag: we’ve got to stop horsing around

I’m not overly PC. One of my favorite jokes remains:

Q. How do you know Jesus was Irish?

A. Who else would be a 33 year old unemployed carpenter with 12 drinking buddies and a mother who thinks he’s God.

I’m laughing just typing this. I’ve also heard it told with Italian substituted for Irish. And I know there’s a Greek version, too. But the boy-o version works for me every time.

That said, I’m all for removing racially and ethnically offensive terms from day-to-day vocabulary.

Every once in a while, I start to use the word “gypped”, which was quite common when I was growing up. And then I think, hmmm, this is from the word “gypsy”. So not good. Not as bad as “jewing” someone down for bargaining, but still not good.

Easy enough to substitute “screwed” for “gypped,” which I guess will only offend those who are offended by the word “screwed.” Ah, well, screw ‘em.

There are other words/terms that are best retired: Dutch courage. Indian giver. But what’s so terrible about Irish whisper? It does, of course, imply that, when they whisper, the Irish are sometimes pretty loud. But this does seem to be a brogan that at least sometimes fits, so why not wear it.

Years ago, my husband and I were in Inishmore (one of the Aran Islands). We had met a fellow-tourist on the flight over, and had spent the day hanging out with her. She needed to cash a Traveler’s Check – this’ll date the episode – so we headed off to the island’s little tourist center. The woman who waited on us said that she’d check to see whether the person who cashed Traveler’s Checks was around. She ducked behind a curtain that was no more than 3 feet from where we were standing. Thus we were easily able to hear her say, “So, I’m to tell them that you’re not here, is that it?” A classic Irish whisper, I’d say.

There’s there’s Paddy wagon, which seems to hail from the day when police vans were full of Irishmen. (I will note that there is an Irish companpaddywagony that runs vans to tourist sites called Paddywagon. I’ve seen their luridly-painted buses around, so I guess the Irish aren’t completely sensitive to the term.)

In any case, while recognizing that there’s a broad sensitivity continuum, and that what makes one person laugh may cause another to cringe, I do understand why people want to purge offensive terms from the world’s vocabulary.

But getting rid of animal-related expressions because they might be offensive to vegans and vegetarians? I’m so not there, even though some folks believe that they “could be rendered obsolete because they are out of touch with the zeitgeist.”

Researcher Shareena Hamzah has written:

“The increased awareness of vegan issues will filter through consciousness to produce new modes of expression…

“While these phrases may seem harmless, they carry meaning and can send mixed signals to students about the relationship between humans and animals and can normalize abuse.

“Teaching students to use animal-friendly language can cultivate positive relationships between all beings and help end the epidemic of youth violence toward animals.” (Source: Independent/UK)

Among the suggestions Hamzah has: replacing ‘flogging a dead horse’ with ‘feeding a fed horse’, and ‘killing two birds with one stone” with “feeding two birds with one scone.”

Well, don’t those new terms just trip off the tongue. I’m sure we’ll be hearing them in use any day now.

And I’m guessing that the sort of young folks who are part of the “epidemic of youth violence toward animals” aren’t the sort of young folks familiar with these terms to begin with.

Then there’s PETA.

They don’t want us to be guinea pigs. They want us to be test tubes? (Huh?)

They want us bringing home the bagels rather than the bacon, even though – to my mind – bringing home the bacon brings someone who’s worked to mind. While bringing home the bagels brings to mind someone running an errand.

Rather than ‘taking the bull by the horns,’ PETA suggests ‘taking the flower by the thorns.’ I dunno about that. “Taking the bull by the horns” connotes jumping into the fray, going up against a fierce and mighty foe, putting your all into something. “Taking the flower by the horns”? Sounds like something that’s just plain dumb. (Those thorns can hurt you!)

I’m all for kindness to animals. If I thought about it hard enough and long enough, I’d probably be a vegetarian. Some of our animal brethren are, of course, closer to humans than others. Certainly, great apes should be treated with plenty of respect and decency.  Bonobos and common chimps share more than 99% of our DNA, after all. And dogs, of course, have extraordinarily wonderful DNA, however it matches up against ours.

But we are way further up in the animal kingdom than, say, chickens. Not that chickens should be treated cruelly. But chickens aren’t chimps. Or dogs.

And getting rid of colorful, animal-related terms from our vocabulary? I’m not as yet convinced.

In fact, while I wouldn’t exactly say I have a bee in my bonnet over this, but, doggone it, enough’s enough, and I for one won’t be cowed by PETA.

(What, no comments? Cat got your tongue?)


Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Oh, Christmas Tree

On Saturday morning, I picked up my Zipcar a bit before 8 a.m. and headed out to my usual Christmas tree place in Allston.

It took me about 30 seconds to pick out a tree – I’m not one of those obsessive, fussy tree types; a couple of minutes for the guy to tie it onto my zip; and another 10 or so minutes to get back home.

I’m slightly allergic to the pollen in balsam, but Christmas that doesn’t smell of balsam is like an apple that’s not a McIntosh. No thanks.

But a couple of years ago, I read that if you rinsed your tree before you put it up, you’d wash away all those allergens. As it turns out, this actually works. Thus my plan was to once again hose down my tree in the little garden out front. This year it was a bit too cold. I didn’t want to have to drain the hose afterwards so it wouldn’t ice up. So I dragged my tree into my condo, propped it up in the shower, and rinsed it that way.

After letting it drip dry for 24 hours, I wrestled it into the stand, which is a lot easier since I invested in one of those foot-pedal operated one-person tree stands. You still have to lift it up – and Christmas trees are awkward and, even if they’re just six-footers, heavy enough – but things are much easier than they were with my old cast iron base and the four screws. This sucker was difficult enough to use when there were two of us wrangling the tree into the base and screwing those heavy-duty screws into the trunk. On my own? I did try (and succeed) for a few years, and was smart enough to realize I was going to have to go with a shorter tree. But the degree of difficulty with that cast iron base was too damned high. The pedal-operated tree stand? Easy-peasy.

(The above is not meant to imply that my late husband actually helped me with the tree beyond getting it situated in the stand. For whatever reason, Jim was not fond of Christmas. The names ‘Grinch’ and ‘Scrooge’ come to mind. But he always helped me stand it up, and – more happily for him – take it down and toss it in the recycle. Putting the tree up was, in fact, the occasion for our annual fight: the tree isn’t straight enough, the screws weren’t in their tight enough – all Jim’s concerns, by the way. He was the one there with the pliers making sure those screws were in so tight that it was going to be nearly impossible to get them unscrewed.)

Anyway, I’m not the biggest Christmas fan on the face of the earth. I’m not ‘meh’ on it, but I’m not one of those folks who counts down the days, can’t wait to get my decorations up, plays carols from Halloween on.  But there are aspects that I enjoy, and one of them is having a tree. A real tree.

And what I like most about it is decorating it.

Let’s face it, as you get older, one of life’s great pleasures is looking back and remembering. (That is, if you can minimize the looking back and remembering as it relates to the nasty bits and the regrets.) And when I’m decorating my tree, I’m remembering.

That’s because most of my ornaments are deeply personal. The plastic bells, boots, Santa in his sleigh from my parents’ first tree in 1946. The cross-stitch ones my mother made. The ones I bought when my nieces were born – the Molly one, a polar bear in a Santa outfit, is missing a foot.

I have shout-outs to pets who have passed away. A stuffed Emily my sister Kath made to honor her most excellent of cats – the most dog-like cat in the history of humankind. Sluggo the turtle. Jack the black lab.

I’ve got a dreidel on there in honor of my brother-in-law. And lots of things picked up on my travels over the years. When I hang the Santa at the Eiffel Tower, I think of the trips Jim and I made to Paris. The yellow taxi? New York visits; for both of us, our favorite city on the face of th20181210_144855e earth. The painted eggs from Prague and Budapest. The Pinocchio from Rome. A Belleek tree, the tea pot with the shamrock on it, the shiny little Oifig an Phoist (Gaelic for Post Office). Lots of vacations in Ireland to look back on.

How is it that, given my half-German roots, I never got an ornament in Germany, home of the Christmas tree?

I do have a pickle ornament, which is a German tradition. And a wolf – a tribute to my mother’s maiden name.

I have a lot of ornaments that were given to me by friends. The cupcake. The handbag. The skates.

And a whole bunch of Beetle-related ornaments. (One of the three cars I’ve owned in my life was a New Beetle.)

Some of my ornaments are just oddballs and/or inside jokes. Like the Jello mold. The Day of the Dead angel. The nose and mustache. An armadillo. All those pigs. And the tiny little red bucket that I got as a joke for my husband. (Yes, he thought it was funny.)

When I hang my ornaments, I sing along to Christmas CD’s: Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, Linda Ronstadt, Judy Collins, Billboard’s Top Ten.

There’s a lot of overlap, but each has a few songs that are one-and-onlies. Bing’s “Christmas in Killarney”, with the fake brogue towards the end. (Did anyone else ever cover this number?) Linda’s gorgeous “River.” Judy’s gorgeous “Christmas in Sarajevo.” The lovely traditional Billboard numbers, including “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer.” And Nat King Cole’s magnificent “Oh, Holy Night.” (I don’t know who in their right mind would try to cover this one after listening to Nat King Cole’s version.)

I always love my tree.

It’s never perfect. I could be bothered with obsessing over the perfect physical specimen. And nothing turns me off faster than a decorator tree (other than in an institution), with everything thematic and perfectly color-coordinated. BOR-ING!

And even though I’m doing it on my own, I always enjoy putting my tree up.

Now if I just remember to water it every day…

Monday, December 10, 2018


I don’t spend enough time in the wild to ever have given a thought to bear spray.

Years ago, when I was a camper, I did have an almost close encounter. When camping at some national park or another – was it Yellowstone? Sequoia? – my traveling camper companion Joyce and I went and visited the folks at the next campsite. When we got back to our site – admittedly mildly stoned – we found two bear cubs playing in the well of our tent.

I don’t recommend spending the night trying to catch some sleep in a Karmann Ghia, but it sure beats worrying about getting mauled by a momma bear protecting her kiddos.

There were bear warnings at pretty much every national park where we camped – don’t slather hand cream on before hopping into your sleeping bag; if you cook bacon, leave your cooking clothing at a remove from your campsite; hang your food from a tree limb; something about having your period – and in one park, a site was closed to tent-campers.

Other than that, our only other bear worry was the evening when Joyce and I woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of a critter snuffling around the perimeter of our tent. Fee, fie, foe, fum, was there a bar out thar smelling the blood of two camping gurls???

We both lay in our sleeping bags, holding our breath, wondering if this was how the world was going to end. Then the cloud passed by the moon, and in the light of the silvery moon we could see that the critter snuffling around our tent was, in fact, a skunk. (Was this how the world was going to end????)

I no longer camp. So I no longer have the need for bear repellent which, in fact, didn’t even exist during my camping days.

But it does exist and, apparently, has a close to 100% success rate when used against a bear. (It’s some form of extreme pepper spray based on capsaicin, the same ingredient used in a lot of muscle rubs.)

And, apparently, a lot of folks order it online. Excellent stocking stuffer, don’t leave home without it, just what I always wanted, take two they’re small…and all that.

Nothing says online ordering like Amazon, and you can find yourself plenty of bear repellent options there.

Thus, plenty of cans of bear repellent make their way through Amazon warehouses.

Which is mostly okay. Until a robot “working” in an Amazon warehouse - where robots are “learning” to replace those underpaid, over-stressed warehouse workers - punctures a can.

Then all bear repellent hell breaks loose, as happened in New Jersey last week.

In total, 54 workers at the Robbinsville, NJ, facility were exposed to fumes. Bear repellent is made with capsaicin, or chili pepper extract; many of the workers experienced trouble breathing and said their throats and eyes burned. All of the injured workers are expected to be released from hospitals soon if they haven’t been already, according to Rachael Lighty, a spokesperson for Amazon. “The safety of our employees is always our top priority,” she said in a statement. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration says it is conducting an investigation into the incident. (Source: Wired)

I suppose the good news about robots puncturing cannisters of bear repellent is that, at some point, there won’t be any humans to get injured. Maybe it will gum up the innerworkings of the robots, but there’ll be no choking, wheezing, gasping employees loaded into ambulances and rushed to the ER.

Oddly enough, this is not the first time when the words “Amazon” “robot” and “bear repellent” appeared in the same story.

In 2015, the fire department responded to an accident at an Amazon facility in Haslet, Texas, that was caused by a robot running over a can of none other than bear repellent, according to public records unearthed by Jessica Bruder for her book Nomadland, which chronicles the lives of the retail giant’s older, transient workforce.

Yet another bear repellent incident was recorded at an Amazon facility this year, but in that case, it was human error, not a robot-related issue. Someone dropped a can, but no one was injured.

As it turns out, robots aside, Amazon is something of a dangerous place to work.

Lots of accidents occur at Amazon because they have lots of workers. (At some facilities, the company even has medical contractors on site to take care of staff injuries and other health woes.) Accidents at Amazon are, thus, like shootings by postal workers. We hear about them with such frequency because both the USPS and Amazon have huge workforces.

But there’s more to it than that:

Some experts say, however, that Amazon is a particularly dangerous place to work for other reasons. The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, a labor advocacy group, announced in August that Amazon topped its annual “Dirty Dozen” list highlighting companies that it believes put workers especially at risk because of unsafe labor practices.

Labor practices, I suppose, like pushing their human employees to work at a rate that’s beyond the capacity of most humans to sustain for any period of time without breaking down and/or going postal. Unlike robots. So far.

You have to worry that, as robots get more sentient, some robot might up and grab a can of bear repellent and go after the human manager sitting in the glass-box office observing the robots at work.

At least Amazon doesn’t sell AR-15s, so a robot can’t go on a shoot-em-up spree. Unless the robot figures out how to get to a guns and ammo store, where they’ll sell anything to anybody.

Oh, what a world we live (and work) in.

Friday, December 07, 2018

You better shop around: N-M Fantasy Gifts (Part 2)

Yesterday, I window-shopped the first part of the Fantasy Gift chapter in this year’s Neiman-Marcus Christmas Book for 2018.

Disappointingly, there wasn’t a darned thing in there I was willing to spend $250K (and way far over) on.

What’s a shopper to do but forge on through the list to a) see if there was anything there that I’d actually spend any fantasizing time on; and b) see if there was anything there that I’d be willing to spend actual money on, if I happened to be in possession of fantasy-league money.

Fortunately, it doesn’t cost anything to window shop. And, oh yeah, fantasies are free, so I don’t have to rely on N-M’s to lead a rich and rewarding fantasy life.

So on to Part Two:

I’ve got a sweet tooth. Make that a full set of sweet teeth.

And yet, even if I did have $325K to spend on candy, I don’t think I would drop it all on Superfina Candy. Sure, Champagne gummy bears sound tasty. And Peach Bellini gumdrops do, too. But a million pieces of fancy, adult candy? Let’s do the math. Even if I were going to share half of it, that leaves me with 500,000 pieces of candy. Now let’s assume that I’m going to last another 20 years. (Actuarially speaking – and I just plugged my numbers in – I should last 21 years. But the math is easy at 20, so…) That’s 25,000 pieces a year, or roughly 70 pieces a day. Hmmmm. Even I couldn’t consume that much candy. At least without compromising the likelihood that I’ll make it another 20 years.

But I guess the offer is worth a second look.

It includes a trip for four to the Italian Riviera, and a tour of the Sugarfina factory in Genoa. And a candy bar built in your home so you’ll have some place to stock all that Sugarfina candy. Don’t know if would hold a million pieces. Don’t know if it’s worth figuring it out.

Are you a Fantastic Beasts fan? Me neither. I’d heard of it, but had to look up what it was. (A fantasy movie franchise. Fantasy. What could be more fitting.) Anyway, if you were an FB fan, and you were willing to pay $300K to costumer designer Colleen Atwood, you could spend a day with her.

…joining forces to create a one-of-a-kind outfit inspired by the designer’s latest project, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald…The most fantastic day will include lunch and a collaborative design session with Atwood, a fitting to take comprehensive measurements,
and a photo op to commemorate the experience.

Plus a Fantastic Beasts wands and other swag bag goodies.

But back to that one-of-a-kind outfit. Other than lovely pieces knit by my sister Kath, I don’t have much by way of one-of-a-kind pieces of clothing. LL Bean doesn’t do one-of-a-kind. Neither does my upscale go-to, Eileen Fisher. But, like most folks, I’m perfectly capable of combining multiple articles of clothing along with pieces of my ample supply of costumer jewelry to create – get this – one-of-a-kind outfits. And some of these one-of-a-kind outfits are – get this – pretty darned fantastic, if I do say so myself.

Yesterday’s post included duded up backyard sheds – Virtue or Vice, pick your $250K poison. But if you’re really looking for a getaway, there’s the Serenity Yacht. $7.1M worth of solar-powered chic.

As bells and whistles go, it boasts a fully functional kitchen, a state-of-the-art music and entertainment system, satellite TV, Wi-Fi, and ample closet space—important to note, because this gift includes a Neiman Marcus shopping spree.

I’m pretty much a landlubber, so I’m happy with the fully functional kitchen I have in my condo. State-of-my-art music chez moi is a boom box (when the Internet gets fully hacked, I’ll have my CD’s to fall back on). Entertainment systems? I’ve got a perfectly fine Sony. I subscribe to Netflix AND Prime. And I’ve got a major backlog of books. Wi-Fi? Comcast by any other name.

My closet space is ample enough – plenty ample enough to fit a custom Fantastic Beasts costume, if I change my mind there. And I really don’t want or need a Neiman-Marcus shopping spree.

There are fantastic beasts, and then there are fantastic beasts. Bjørn Okholm Skaarup is a Danish artists “best known for fanciful animal sculptures,” including the Hippo Ballerina (a 15 footer) on display at Lincoln Center. You can memorialize your furry loved one with a custom-piece created in Skaarup’s Florence foundry. Prices start at $200K and I’m guessing that would cover one of the possibilities mentioned, i.e., the life-sized cat. The more elaborate, the larger, the more fantastic the sculpted beast, the higher (and more fantastic) the price tag.

At last, there’s a gift on the list that sounds a tiny bit intriguing. For $315K, you get to play James Bond.

As the operatives, four adrenaline junkies will fly to Las Vegas via private jet for a three-day, two-night espionage adventure organized by The Invictus Experience. Upon landing, they’ll be greeted by a mysterious man in a tux, who will hand over an envelope containing their assigned mission profile—and
the fun will begin…

So far so good. But then there’s the fact that the fun begins:

…with a team of elite and decorated Special Operations Forces veterans. Free-fall parachutists, combatant divers, force reconnaissance marines, et al will accompany the group to fulfill all of their secret agent fantasies: jumping out of planes, racing supercars, and whatever else is required to complete the mission at hand.

Uh-oh. I always thought it be sort of fun to be a police detective, and this little adventure seemed like a variation on the theme. Spy vs. police detective. Sort of one and the same, only for one you were a tux and for the other you carry a badge. But Special Ops guys? Jumping out of planes? Racing supercars?

Ah. No.

Anyway, if you want to look through the Neiman-Marcus Christmas Book, you can find it here. Unlike the items on the Fantasy Gifts list, the price is right: FREE. Enjoy! 

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Shop till you drop: Neiman’s Annual Over the Top (Part 1)

Nothing says the holiday season is about to kick off like the arrival of the Neiman Marcus Christmas Book.

Not that I actually receive the N-M Christmas Book. Although one of my oldest and dearest of friends was a buyer there for years, I’m not sure that I’ve ever purchased anything at Neiman-Marcus. I may have bought an umbrella for my mother there years ago. Then again, that umbrella may have been the only item I ever purchased at Saks. It was one of those joints.

Since I don’t get the hard copy of the Christmas Book, instead of sitting around, casually leafing through glossy paper, I have to thumb through it on line, or download a pdf, so I can graze.

My grazing always takes me immediately to the ultimate grazer’s feedbag: the Fantasy Gift section.

I’m not sure whose fantasies these gifts are. Not mine. Yet they are always so wonderfully over the top, they always bring a little smile to my face. Or a shock and awe look. One of the other. Sometimes both.

So here goes my stroll through of this year’s Fantasy Gifts.

If you want to treat yourself and three of your friends to a spin around  India, Nepal, Bhutan, and the Maldives, “bespoke travel purveyor Black Tomato” can handle the deets for you for a mere $630K. The four lucky ducks:

…will travel by private jet, staying in luxurious style in award-winning five-star hotels, chic safari-style tents, and secluded lodges constructed just for them. Appealing to wellness gurus and adventure seekers alike, activities include time with yoga masters, naturopathy experts, Hindu priests, and monks, along with breathtaking helicopter tours of the Himalayas and island cruises via yacht.

I would like to see those secret bits of the Taj Mahal that only Black Tomato has the key to. And I like the fact that the Nepal trip ends at the base of Everest, not to summit. Not to mention that Bhutan always winds up Numero Uno on the list of happiest countries on earth.

As for the Maldives, I’m not sure what a naturopathy expert is, but I’m wondering whether the priests and monks will be praying that the Maldives don’t sink into the sea, taking the bespoke secluded lodge with them.

Just as glad that they’ve left North Sentinel Island off the list. That’s the place that’s home to a couple of dozen hunter-gatherers who don’t welcome visitors. In fact, they just used their stone age weapons on a missionary who came ashore to convert them.

In any case, I am going somewhere next year. Just not the Maldives with Black Tomato. (And, sorry, as someone with Irish ancestry, I’ve gotta say that Black Tomato is way too close to Black Potato, and that’s a bit too famine-y for me.)

If I were a tennis aficionado I might be interested in paying $555K to go to the four majors with Sloane Stephens. That is, if I’d even heard of Sloane Stephens, who is the 2017 US Open champion. And if I had $555K to hang out with her. If only, I would be able to sit with a friend in Sloane’s VIP box – with her close friends and family, stay in player-only hotels, and lob some balls back and forth with her. No offense to Sloane Stephens, but I’d rather sit in a VIP box with my close friends and family. But I only get to bring one special someone along. Pretty measly for $555K. I mean, I’m pretty sure I could get to Paris, London, NY and Melbourne, find a non-player-stayer hotel, and procure tickets to the matches for more than two people for a lot less than $555K. Sure, we’d miss out on the lobbing session…

A bit more reasonably priced would be one of the Ultimate Backyard Experiences. For $250K you can go for either the Virtue House or the Vice House. Hmmmmm.

Virtue House is a “10’ x 12’ backyard retreat for those in search of serenity.” Well, who isn’t, these days?

This “sanctuary of self care” is “less about indulgence and more about introspection.”

From the art to the finishes, Christina Simon of Mark Ashby Design, who once designed yoga studios, creates luxurious, tranquil spaces and doesn’t miss a single detail.

Sounds pleasant enough, but as someone who’s spent a lifetime brimmed – make that overflowing – with introspection, for $250K I would prefer just a tiny bit more indulgence. Guess I’ll have to stick to lolling around in bed looking at my Twitter feed instead.

On the other hand, the Vice House is just one fun old “hideaway of indulgence.” They tout it as a place to enjoy an expensive cigar, a finely aged whiskey, or “marathon gaming sessions with friends.” So I’m guessing this is meant to be something of a man cave.

Curated by Christina Simon, elegant furnishings, deep wood tones, and lighting that sets the mood create a refuge far removed from day-to-day responsibilities. All the “necessities” for a life of leisure are in reach; there’s even a surround deck—should one choose to venture into the great outdoors.

Wood tones? Deep wood tones? Yep. Man cave.

Virtue or vice? Sigh. Not having a backyard makes the decision to pass a ton easier.

If you haven’t found anything to your liking quite yet, there’s always tomorrow’s post, when I’ll run through the remaining Fantasy Gifts.