Friday, April 30, 2010

Bathroom Break ... The Waldorf Astoria's Ladies Room Gives New Meaning to Posh

I'm definitely not crass enough to photograph the inside of a women's restroom. But I hope the photo above gives a bit of a hint of the graciousness and elegance of the midtown Manhattan Waldorf Astoria's ladies room. Located on the first floor, each stall is complete with toilet, sink, mirror, and embossed hand towels. If you happen to be on Park Avenue and nature calls, this is your answer. Ahhhhh ... so nice. So much better than a McDonald's restroom.

As is the typical rule, you must be a customer to use the facilities. You may want to eat at one of four restaurants or shop at the gift shop.
Or you may want to sit in the lobby. Apparently the lobby was where women waited while the men paid the bills as it was inappropriate for a woman to see money change hands. Bring a man to pay your bills, if possible.

The two ton, 9 foot tall gilded century old clock at the center of the main lobby was created for the World's Fair in 1893. The clock's chimes ring every 15 minutes. Very posh indeed.

Diamonds Dealers Are A Girl's Best Friend

In the last couple of years, I have done stacks of research on gemstones to learn about their history and metaphysical properties. Now more than ever, I am fascinated by gemstones. Just by chance, while walking around NYC one day, I happened on the gemstone capital of the world, the 47th Street Jewelry District.

I'm not one to buy expensive jewelry for myself, but it has been purchased for me as a gift. I do like to look, though. Most diamonds in the United States go through the Diamond District, so if you are wearing a lovely sparkly one on your finger, just know that it has probably been to 47th Street, even if you haven't.

The stores are varied in size, from expansive, full service retail establishments, to modest booths in one of several diamond "mini malls". More than 2,600 independent businesses are located in the Diamond District, and nearly all of them are related to diamonds or fine jewelry, with a few delis tucked in, too.

Price? Prices are less than what you would pay retail. And probably less than the cruise ship tourist traps just off the ship. But you gotta haggle. Or at least be prepared to, because these gents want to make a deal with you. The first time I went to 47th Street, I happened to be wearing two rings: one was my grandmother's royal star sapphire wedding ring, and the other was a sapphire I'd received as a gift from my daughter and son-in-law. A couple of the shopkeepers standing outside to bring traffic into their stores assumed I might want to trade. No dice.

My latest visit was a little more subdued. The Hassidic Jews, dressed in hats and suits, normally seen walking down 47th Street were nowhere to be found. It was Jewish Passover and they were not working. But most of the stores were open. I chatted up one shopkeeper about some gems my mother had given me that I was hoping to get put into a setting. Aside from the bigger stores, each shopkeeper has a specialty, and what I wanted wasn't his. He had a couple of ideas, but said that he'd have to subcontract to another dealer.

If you love and know fine jewelry, and you negotiate well, 47th Street is a must when you are in New York. Even if you are not a jewelry fanatic, go. It's fascinating to watch the deal making in action.

Costco in Spanish Harlem

I can't remember exactly when Costco became a part of my life. At various times, I've owned Costco (COST) stock. My daughter worked as a contractor for a company which demonstrated Borghese cosmetics at Costco. I'd often go visit her for lunch on the weekends when she worked, so I became well acquainted with the Costco food court fare. And for the past several years, my son-in-law has worked at Costco. Last year, I used Costco's financial statements to train credit analysts. Suffice it to say, it's been a long and varied relationship, Costco and me, and shopping there is always a treat, in spite of the $300+ spent at the end of the line.

Last fall, Costco opened a store in Manhattan. This must have been quite a feat as commercial space in Manhattan is expensive and hard to find. After taking a bus through Harlem, then walking a block, we arrived at the New York City Costco, in Spanish Harlem just off FDR Drive. Unlike the suburban Costco's I've frequented previously, this Costco had a paid parking lot and a view of the East River immediately outside the store.

To the company's credit, management realizes that each Costco's members are a unique market, so even though there is the staple fare found throughout Costco's network of stores, there are some items only available on a local basis. Case-in-point: my mom has to come to our Utah Costco to buy her popcorn.

At the NYC Costco, the cheese and pasta sections of the store were unparalleled. There were discount gift cards to local restaurants. Even the deli was a touch different ... the menu included an Italian sausage and pepper sandwich, which got rave reviews from my son. And the samples ... unlike in Utah, we didn't have to wait behind a mother feeding samples to multiple little kids to get ours.

My son sternly warned that he'd never use his Costco membership (I get two cards with my membership). "Okay, just check it out ..." I said. "Perhaps they'll have some items you want to stock up on." Bulk shopping and public transportation create unusual challenges. Plus - where to store bulk purchases in a NYC studio apartment? Well perhaps a case of beer or toilet paper with a slab of wood on it becomes a table. Even so, he's probably visited Costco a half dozen times since December, and found the cheese section to be especially delightful.

Since we were heading to Central Park next, our purchases were few ... movie tickets and cheese. At the door, the drill is the same: a friendly Costco employee draws a line on your receipt.

After we were done shopping, we walked through Spanish Harlem. The park was bustling on that beautiful spring Saturday with children playing soccer, and there was a street festival happening. We ate at a Spanish steak house.

I'm fascinated by business generally, but particularly by Costco, because the company has been so successful. In all, our visit to the new NYC Costco and the surrounding neighborhood was a very intriguing experience, to say the least.

Photography courtesy of Phillip Bastian

Where I First Fell In Love ...

For once, a guy wasn't involved. I'd fallen in love with a city. It happened at the Midtown Intercontinental Hotel. As with most clandestine love affairs, I arrived late in the evening and was welcomed with a full service spa and a fluffy white robe.

The next morning, I was out on the street, grabbing a bagel and coffee from a street cart. People in dark suits were rushing by, making way to their offices. I wasn't expected in the office until 9 am so I had some time to leisurely saunter, although sauntering on a weekday on Park Avenue in midtown is hardly possible. The energy and vibrance in the air was so much more than I experienced in Salt Lake City.

I walked into the tall and somewhat plain tower Chase CEO Jamie Dimon now calls home and checked in with the security guards. On my way through the building, I spotted a huge food court, with a Starbucks and freshly made sushi, along with more choices than mall food courts in Utah. But alas, it was barely past breakfast, and I was too excited to eat.

I spent the day meeting with Investment Bankers and learning how they underwrite insurance companies, financial institutions, and foreign companies. I met many wonderful people with whom I'd only had a telephone relationship up to that point. And the next day, I met with bankers who managed operational risk, since that was one of my areas of emphasis at my division of Chase.

A few deli's and Robert DeNiro's restaurant Tribeca Grill were also amongst the stopping points. I didn't really do anything else "touristy" besides walk around and observe the big city sophistication.

As bland as all of that sounds, it was wonderful and began my love affair with New York. I've been back many times since, and each time I become a little more familiar with landmarks, tourist traps, parks, buildings, streets, neighborhoods, and shopping. And people ask me for directions and information on which subway to take, so apparently I look as if I blend into the crowd. It's sort of gratifying in a way.

My move to NYC remains under consideration. My son lives there, and I suspect even after he graduates from Columbia, he'll stay. Two weeks after he moved to the Big Apple, he called me from his 207 square foot apartment and said more or less, "I don't know how, but I'm going to make it here. I'm never leaving. This is where I want to be."

If nothing else, I'll visit my beloved NYC often. It may be one long distance love affair that really works.

Photos courtesy of Phillip Bastian

The Parable of the Earring That Went Down the Drain ... Twice

Moral: Some things are worth wading through toxicity to salvage. And some aren't. It's important to know the difference.

Back in the days when I was trying to boost my Ebay member rating, I went crazy buying cheap earrings. For only $5 including shipping and handling, I purchased a lovely pair of dangly teardrop pink pearl earrings. So flattering, I wore them frequently, but so cheap were they that they didn't come with backs to hold them on.

One day, I leaned over the bathroom sink while getting ready for work, and the earring fell down the drain. All day, I plotted how I'd tear apart the plumbing under the sink after work to get to my precious earring. It took about an hour and exposure to typical drain pipe sludge, gunk, and eeeewwww, but once I washed and sanitized my earring, it was as good as new.

But then ... yes. About a week or so later, the earring dropped into the sink yet again. As much as I love plumbing (and I do), I was without motivation for another round under the sink. The earring had fallen twice (or ... maybe it was the other one, I'm not sure). As melodramatic as this sounds, my earring was meant to be gone, or so I decided. Going back into the somewhat toxic cesspool of my drain pipe to fetch it would have been important for my prized sapphire earrings but not for the $5 pair.

By way of confession, I'm the type that hates losing things. Once I stood at the street curb for a very long time in the hot Arizona sun, scanning every inch of pavement til I found my missing contact lens. Sometimes, as I have learned the hard way, after repeatedly wading through sludge to get to the prize, it makes more sense to throw up the white flag and as the saying goes "move on." And, if you're like me, this is perhaps true for more weighty life situations than losing earrings.

On the right is my sad, lonely earring. Perfect for a pirate costume, when a solo earring is needed.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Battle for Spring Wages On ... Tulips vs Snowflakes

So alas, Mother Nature greeted me this morning with a dusting of snow. Again.

But then ... the mini blizzard happened. Fortunately, years ago, a weatherman taught me the principle of big small, small big. When the flakes are big, chances are the storm will be small. And vice versa. I knew these giant flakes pouring down by the bucketful were no real threat.

My tulips and crocuses are only slightly traumatized by another winter storm. They'll love getting a drink, as I've not turned on the sprinklers yet.
But clearly, my thongs and capris will have to wait another day. Sigh.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Should I Move to the Big Apple?

Should I move to NYC?
A girl's gotta dream. To be honest, I am considering it for career and personal reasons. To date, I've received more than a dozen supportive and helpful responses. And some others. Here are excerpts from some of the more vinegar-y online responses I got to that very question.

"As a single woman you can go to cultural events and hope you don't meet a sociopath."
Like I haven't met any in SLC ...

"NYC is the most expensive place in USA and you are suggesting that someone with limited assets and no contacts go there." (At this point, two people were fighting among themselves over whether I should go, and no I did not divulge whether I had the money to go or not.)

"It is not Sarah Jessica Parker in Sex in the City."
Fantasy shattered ... and I was so hoping ...

"Multi millionaires have fun because they have private jets to take them to ranches in Utah and Montana or the Hamptons."
Hmmmm ... like multimillionaires can only have fun if they're leaving NYC? and they come to Utah? wonder where these millionaire ranches are located.

Still gathering information ... I'll post an update if I make a decision.

Photos courtesy of Phillip Bastian, NYC resident. I always stay at Chez Phil's Place when I visit NYC.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Gemstone Potpourri: From Gem Faire to Wedding

My daughter and I have become huge fans of the Gem Faire, held three times a year at the South Towne Exposition Center in Sandy, Utah, as well as many other cities throughout the U.S. Gem Faire is a traveling jewelry and gemstone circus of sorts, with an endless array of gems and beads for hobbyists, jewelry designers. The vendors don't always know how to spell their home locale, i.e. note the spelling of San Diego on the banner.

When we go, we always spend a small sum on gemstones, findings (the clasps, hoops, spacers, and crimping beads, which hold everything together). I have been collecting inventory with the idea of a jewelry making business. At this point, I am considering a slightly different path, to be explored and explained more fully later.

In any event, last year at this time, we purchased all the jewelry wire, pearls, sparkly beads, and all the makings of some gorgeous jewelry for my daughter's closest friends and family who would stand up for her wedding. I even made earrings for my daughter to wear. I won't say how long it took to make all of it, but I did receive many compliments.

Here are two closeup shots of the necklaces. The lovely ladies from left to right are junior bridesmaid Briana (my niece) and bridesmaid Alissa, my daughter's college roommate, now a budding actress in Los Angeles.

To the left are the Cannon - Hale girls who were in the wedding party. Note that the necklace styles were a slightly younger look for the junior bridesmaid, the light bearers, and the flower girl.

Clockwise from top left: Briana (my niece), Angie (my daughter), Megan (my niece), Natalie, Allison (flower girl), and Jessica (all daughters of my cousins).

Below are the bride and bridesmaids: Megan, Ashley, Alyssa, Angie, Jessica, Alissa, and Megan. Yes, the wedding party had lots of "same name" girls, so we called them Roommate Megan, Cousin Megan, Skating Alyssa, Roommate Alissa, Roommate Jessica, and Cousin Jessica to communicate more clearly.
Photos (except the Gem Faire) were taken by Jacque Lynn Photography, the official wedding photographer.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Tango and Flamenco at the Altar (Really)

Dancing in front of the altar. Not Dirty Dancing but not a gentle waltz either. The intense passion of Latin dancing stole the show Sunday at An Evening of Spanish Guitar, Voice and Dance at the Cathedral of the Madeleine in Salt Lake City. This FREE event was part of Salt Lake City's Madeleine Festival 2010 series and featured Utah classical guitarist Michael Lucarelli and friends.

The dancing drama was accentuated in part because the tango dancers from Wasatch Tango Club whirled, pushed and pulled so close to the edge of the stage which was immediately out from the altar. One false move would have yielded a two-foot drop practically into the lap of Fr. Mayo, who sat in the third row. Okay, that was a slight exaggeration, but note that the priest was apparently okay with the dancing. Amen! One of the tango dancers wore 3" crimson strappy sandals that shoe afficionados would die for. They were spectacular. Flamenco dancer Solange Gomez swirled and captivated the audience with clacking castanets and stomping her turquoise dancing shoes in crescendoing double time.

Lucarelli is a modest, unassuming fellow with exquisite abilities and repertoire. Getting lost in his music was easy. The program began with Ave Maria and showcased Lucarelli's fellow musicians ranging from the powerful, yet angelic soprano Elizabeth Paniagua, tenor Jose Bonilla, to violinists Kelly Parkinson and Falvia Cervino-Wood.

And then there was the flute. Since I play flute, my ears perked for John Flanders' animated rendition of Canta Rosa, which he composed and debuted. The mood of his music was divided between ponderous and buoyant, but always with a Latin feel to it.

My friend Judi did a great job of tolerating me taking notes, singing Aye, Aye, Aye, Aye, and craving the dancers' outfits. We had great seats in the first row on the left side of the altar. This was okay til I saw that they were taping the whole thing for later broadcast. I hope I didn't scratch my nose or make a weird face.

All in all, a wonderful evening. As I was sitting there equally inspired and mesmerized by tune after tune, I wasn't sure whether I'd be dancing or playing my flute, or both, at once, before the night was through.


PS ... to those in Salt Lake City, there are more free concerts yet to come. I highly recommend Salt Lake City's Madeleine Festival 2010 series as a lovely way to conclude your spring weekends.

Disclosure: ticket price FREE

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Falling of the Bloggin' Wagon ... Again

Readers ... fans ... spies ... perhaps you may wonder why I stopped posting. Sheer distraction and secondarily, disorganization. Sorrrrreeeeeee ...

I have been accumulating a long list of topics and lots of great photos which will be posted in the coming week. Stay tuned.

The Llamas Were Out On This Fine Spring Morning

A few scenes from my morning walk, for your viewing pleasure.

You probably have cool things to see near your house, too. Llamas live less than a mile away from me. Today they were savoring the cool grass and sunny, warm morning. (Hint: click on this picture and all the rest to enlarge. You'll practically see the llama's smile if you do.)

The view on my walk/jog through the hood today was nigh unto unparalleled.

The spring snow melt has begun.

My parish, St. Thomas More, won an AIA Architectural Merit Award in 1995. The windows at the front let in spectacular light in shades of turquoise and lavender.

The construction project to expand parish classroom and supporting facilities continues ...

When I see this view, it reminds me of Switzerland.
Annemarie and I have joint ownership of this mountain. Well, not really, but we speak about it as if we do.

The hill ahead is better than a Thighmaster for burning fat.

And finally, a view from the back porch.

* * *

Happy Spring, everybody. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

April Fools Day ... From a More Foolish Time

A couple of lovely examples of my foolishness ...

A co-worker and I found the boss's passport when we were cleaning his office. His passport picture was the typical, unflattering mug shot ... eyes bugged out, pasty blank stare, you get the idea. We had the IT department make his photo the screensaver (in postage stamp format, repeated 100s of times on the screen) for every person in the office on April Fools Day.

A handsome co-worker had a way with women, but felt men who made more money always won over the women he wanted. He received an email solicitation to apply as a manager of an escort service for professional women who needed a date to their office functions, promising six figures and a company car. This culminated with an "interview" by the president of the escort company at TGI Fridays. In reality, the manager of TGI Fridays played the role of president (he was the only employee there not dressed in a ridiculous outfit) and interviewed my co-worker. All the women in the office were having lunch in the restaurant at the time, and the employees of TGI's were photographing and videotaping the entire scene.

I haven't considered what fun this year's April Fools Day might elicit or who might be the recipient of my fooling around. But the day is young ...

Strategic Randomness ... FeliciaEvita

Photo courtesy of Phillip Bastian

In case you have taken the time to read the posts on this blog, you have probably noted the abject randomness of the posts. Theme? what theme? focus? what focus? True there is none. I am uncertain whether I want to be a full time blogger, but I do want to have a representative sample of my writing out there just in case some company that will pay me to write is looking. I'm also trying to learn about web site analytics, search engine optimization, and internet marketing.

My goal is to be able to write about anything and everything, well almost. I'll refrain from posting risk management policies and procedures on here, but folks, please know I can do this, upon request.

The photography on FeliciaEvita may also be varied in quality. If I take the pictures, pre-amateur quality attributable to both photographer and camera is what you'll see. However, please keep in mind I have two photographer children ... one who is a professional photographer, complete with art degree and over ten years of experience, and one who has been coached in photography by the other. It's been years since I have taken my own photos on my vacations because I've had at least one if not two photographers in tow. (The exception is Alaska since the kids were not along for that ride.) When I can, I'll use their photos and give credit where due.

In the meantime, enjoy, and if a post stimulates particular inspiration or irritation, don't hesitate to let me know. Thanks for being part of my great experiment.