Hall of Shame for Bloomberg, #1 Restaurant

Take a guess as to the #1 restaurant east of Las Vegas last year; do you know it?  Joe’s Stone Crab (I had to look it up too btw).

I used to know what it was; I knew what it was in 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, an on and on-  The answer?  Tavern on the Green.

Tavern on the Green in NYC’s Central Park along Central Park West.  Revenue in 2007?  $38M!  Number of diners per year?  Half a million!  Taxes and fees paid to NYC and NY state? A buttload!  Number of employees?  400!  400 good paying jobs at a $38M/year business that had been successful for decades.

Since 2009?  Zero. Zip. Bubkes on all fronts.  Why?  Well, the restaurant sits on city land so they are in effect, the landlords.  The city’s “experts” essentially decided to end the long successful partnership with the family that ran Tavern because they thought they could get a “better deal” for the city.  Better deal???  This is perhaps the biggest waste in New York since the ill-fated Hamptons Subway system was built and never used.

The restaurant experts presiding over this mess (and responsible for making the decision to boot the group that ran it for decades)?  The Parks Department of course.  Yes, the NYC Parks Department!

Mayor Bloomberg’s restaurant experts

Flash forward to today… going on 3 years and counting of all zeros at the former #1 independent restaurant in the world.  All this was done as NYC was (and is), struggling with the impacts of a crushing recession, including high unemployment and budget troubles.  The latest update?   Parks officials, for their part, say only that “the selection process is still ongoing.”

The NYC Parks Department???   Really?   Clearly Uncle Leo’s son Jeffrey has been promoted and now runs the Department.  Hey Mayor Bloomberg: message to you and your Parks Department and Cousin Jeffrey…, “Hello!!!”

 

“Uncle Leo” – Proud father to Parks Dept.’s Jeffrey

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Where’s My Awesome Stuff???

I’m angry because I feel I’ve been cheated.  Shortchanged. Bait and Switched.  Overpromised and “Underdelivered to.”

Hoverboards, flying cars (or at least aqua cars), wristwatch TV/phone, holographic 3-D chess and much, much, more were “promised” to me as a child and now it’s 2012 they’re not here (iPhones and Droids don’t count btw – too big and Siri has a big voice recognition problem).

So to all of you involved in making me long for these things I say, “Shame on you and all the people that failed to make them happen!”

The Big Tease From Bergdorf Goodman

OK, I’ll survive.  I’ll be fine and I can live without those things for now; they’re just gadgets really.  But what about my “Monkey Butler?”  Weren’t we all really led to believe we’d each have a smartly dressed, exquisitely-trained monkey servant by now?  I certainly was and I’m ready to take delivery now.  Is he ready?  Well, the Bergdorf-Goodman department store (as well as a shop on Lexington Ave.), teased me a few years back by featuring Monkey Butlers in their 5th Avenue windows and I thought maybe the time had finally come… but alas, it hadn’t.

Michael Jackson had Bubbles, Homer Simpson had Mojo the Helper Monkey, Stacee Jaxx has one named “Hey Man” in the new Rock of Ages movie.  Even that schlub Ross had Marcel in TV’s “Friends,” so where’s mine?  Indiana Jones had an evil one, but he was still cool (right up until his “bad date”).

Famous “Monkey Butler-Man” duos in history.

Look, I know me having a Monkey Butler will eventually lead to the demise of the human race (see Monkey Shines, Outbreak, and of course Apes, Planet of), but that’s a while off and I really want one!  Making my co-workers/employees act like one just isn’t cutting it anymore (but I do appreciate the effort David).

“Planet of the Apes: The Musical” – Now playing at the Springfield Theater

I don’t want to be angry with the monkeys but I’m afraid I may start to blame them for not stepping up.  My favorite 70’s show “Lancelot Link: Secret Chimp” shows us they can easily do the job and Downton Abby (if not the original Hobson from Arthur) shows that there should be no shame in having the job of butler, so it’s not that.  I’m just worried that if I don’t get my own real Monkey Butler soon it’ll be me, not Troy McClure from “Planet of the Apes: The Musical,” scream-singing the sad refrain, “I hate every ape I see, from chimpan A to chimpan…Z!

The Elusive Monkey Butler Store?
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“The Weatherman” – Scam or Sham?

As I recently zipped through the city on yet another beautiful, sunny day in which people are carrying umbrellas and wearing rain gear I realize that I’m still angry about the sham (or is it scam?), that is “the Weatherman.”  This includes the Weatherwoman, Weathergirl, Doppler 3000 Weatherputer and all the rest.  You’re failing!
There are just as many days where throngs of umbrella-less Weather Report watching faithful are fighting in the downpour for the feeble number of taxicab drivers who showed up for work (because taxi drivers listen to the “forecast” as well).  Failure!

Extended forecasts?… 5 Day Forecast, 7 Day Forecast, 10 Day Forecast!  Come on now, you can’t get tomorrow right half the time and I’m supposed to make plans for next week based on your “expertise.”  A blindfolded monkey with a pencil in his mouth is just as likely to get it right as you guys.  I mean that.  I’d wager that the printed-once-a-year Farmer’s Almanac and the damn Groundhog (Phil to his friends), have better performance records than you air-brushed, teeth-capped, surgically-altered, always smiling “weather experts.”  Why are you smiling btw?  It certainly can’t be pride in performance.  

Sham or scam is my only question.  Do you really know that you and all your meteorological tables and tech have no clue what the weather will be, but are pretending you do (scam)? Or do you genuinely think you can predict the weather but are just wrong more than half of the time (sham)?  Either way, you’re essentially stealing money if you get paid more than a Carnival Guesser.

The only accurate human Weatherman was WKRP’s Les Nessman in Cincinnati who did up to the minute “Eyewitness Weather” reports based on looking around outside and “witnessing” the weather… and you Mr. Weatherman are no Les Nessman. 

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The incident of the mountains of unidentified poo

One of the most antisocial things a dog owner can do it not clean up after their dogs. I have a small dog, and when we go for a walk he very clearly lets me know when he’s about to have a crap. He spends a good 30 seconds walking around in circles in the same spot. Giving me time to rip a small plastic bag of the role, and assume the picking up the poop position. It’s not hard, and it ensures a pleasant environment for all.

There has been the odd occasion where I’ve left the house without a bag, and had to get creative at finding a way to extricate the brown stuff from the pavement. But having a little of the Mcguyvers on my DNA I’ve never been thwarted.

So when I see other dog owners letting their canines let go with the brown flow and then walking off without a second look, I get angry. Now I should say this anger has always just been internal, as I’ve only once brought up the situation to the owner.

Just say NO

My confrontation was actually a few years ago, when I used to live in a nice little house in Ascot in England. When I first purchased the house, the previous owner had had an issue with some dog making an absolutely massive dump on the edge of the grass along the side of the house. This particular defecation was of such extreme proportions as to have the neighborhood questioning if we have a cross between a yeti and a horse being walked. And the real mystery was that the artifact in question was so infrequent and no one had ever seen the act take place.

The woman who owned the house before me had gone to absolutely extreme lengths to fix the situation but to no avail. She had installed electronic dog disruptors, used pepper dust and even placed broken crockery on the target area, all to no avail. The local council had gone as far as staking out the road to identify the offender, but still nothing.

When I moved it and spoke to the neighbors, I heard all these stories, but just assumed they were the local version of the Nessie myth.

Then it happened I came home one evening to find a mountain of dog dung on my grass verge. And I then felt the utter frustration of not knowing who or what had caused it. And this was repeated once every couple of months.

Then I caught them in the act! One day I was arriving home and there it was the huge dog with its owner taking a dump on my property. And I recognized the owner; he was a comedian, who I’d seen on TV many times (and really liked). I wont mention his name here, as it seems a little unfair, so lets just call him a code name, hmm how about…. Borat.

It doesn’t matter who you are, if you own a dog and it craps, CLEAN IT UP!
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The horror of helpdesks and the calamity of call centers.

The other day I needed to rent a car in France, and as I needed it for greater than 31 days, none of the websites would let me do it online. I had to call the service center.

So based on the information on the aggregator websites (Priceline, kayak, Travelocity etc.) I found the best deals available and proceeded to call the first company who seemed to offer the right package.

I don’t want name the company, as I suspect this story is equally applicable to all of them. I called the free phone number for Budg$t (see I clearly hid the company name). And here’s how the call went:

Rep: Good afternoon sir, how can I help you (imagine this with a very pleasant Indian accent)?

Me: Hello, I’d like to rent a car in France please.

Rep: Certainly sir, can you please tell me what State that is in.

Me: Err no France is a country in Europe.

Rep: Yes sir, but what state is that in.

After several iterations of this, I asked to speak to one of his colleagues that maybe had a better grasp of world geography. I was put through to their resident geographical guru, and the conversation continued.

Me: hello again, I’d like to rent a car in France please.

Rep2: certainly sir, what state is that in?

Me: okay listen France is a country, its part of the European union, and while I believe France has states in it, it’s not actually in a state. France is a country in it’s own right, had an empire once, and still has a foreign legion.

Rep2: okay sir, I understand, what city in France to you wants to rent a car from.

Me: great, the city is called Nice.

Rep2: very good sir, Nice, okay, and what is the zip code of Nice.

Me: seriously, you know that Nice is a city in France. How about this, I want to rent the car from Nice Airport, does that work for you.

Rep2: oh jolly good sir, I have it now. When do you want to rent the car from and for how long?

Me: I want to from when I arrive for 35 days.

Rep2: oh I’m sorry sir we cannot rent cars for more than 31 days, you will have to return it to the rental office and re-rent it for the remainder.

Me: you cannot be serious, how about I just call you and extend it.

Rep2: oh no sir you have to bring it back to us.

Me: well that will not work, forget it goodbye.

Now I was very proud of myself during this call, I didn’t rip the reps head of and crap all over him verbally (as I felt like doing), but instead went to the next company on the list and called again.

Me: hi there, I’d like to rent a car in France please.

Newrep: okay sir, can you please tell me what state France is in….

This is the issue with service centers, helpdesks and their entire ilk, they are only as good as the scripts the reps are given. And no script can be all-inclusive. The people you speak to on the phone when you speak to call centers are generally very nice, but have absolutely no idea how to solve any issue that hasn’t been already thought through.

And lets face it, in this day and age you will try absolutely anything to avoid having to call a call center and be told “your business is very important to us” and “our options have changed so please listen carefully”.

You would have gone to their website, asked your friends on facebook and even visited product help groups and reviews online. So the chances of you calling for something that they can help you with have been greatly diminished.

So why are they still so crap?

BTW, if you haven’t seen it, I recommend the movie “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”, I really lovely film, and it talks to this rant.

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The GLORIOUS London Olympics.

A London eye view of the Olympics

Imagine if you will, you’re going to have a big party.  A huge one, like your birthday, and Christmas and the queens coronation and your nans funeral all rolled together, and it’s all so exciting that you walk around in circles not knowing how to start preparing.

So you start by doing a bit of tidying, mow the grass, paint the house, buy the nibbles and a little bit of booze, change the furniture, build an extension to accommodate all the guests, decide on the music and start recording personalized cassettes… you get the idea.

Sounds great?  Sounds ambitious? Sounds like it’s going to drive the neighbors up the wall.

Well, if you take that, throw in that half the family are unemployed and can’t afford the party, and then scale it up to a whole country, you have the London Olympics.

The GLORIOUS London Olympics.

I’m sure that when the Olympics finally arrive, it’s going to be absolutely fabulous.  Shiny new stadiums, beautiful parks, improved stations, a whole legacy for our children.  A boost to our economy, and all the other bullshit that our government peddles on a daily basis.

But at the moment, we have the house being tidies, but we’re not allowed to walk on the new carpets.

Here’s an example:
As I’m a wannabe ex fatty (okay, I AM fat) I decided to dust off my super slick folding bike, and start cycling part of my way to work.  My route takes me through some of the greatest and most famous parts of the city.  As some people reading this might not be uber familiar with London, I’ll try to treat you to some descriptions of the landmarks I pass daily.

So welcome to this micro guide to London, home of the Queen, the Kebab, and the core blimee cocknee spara.

In the morning I cycle down Abbey Road, and over the crossing made famous by the Beetles on the album cover of the same name, through the middle of hyde park, which is like central park, only with more statues, history, and slightly less rules. I then take a right, past the Royal Albert Hall , Kensington Palace (home of many of the poorer royals), down Kensington High Street, and to work.

My homeward bound journey, which takes me back across London to my station of choice, takes me back down Kensington high street, through the park, to hyde park corner, which is holds a pointless huge arch, down the Mall to Buckingham palace (home of the Queen, gawd bless her governor), past the houses of parliament, Big Ben, red telephone boxes, soldiers in big fuzzy hats,  the London Eye (a big ferris wheel that can only spin at 3 revolutions per hour – hold onto your hats now), past waterloo (NOT the site of the famous battle) and to Blackfriars station.  So called because it used to be the home of Monks who burnt the chips – absolutely true!

Good route huh?  Even if you aren’t familiar with the route, it’s still a decent itinerary for your next trip to Europe.

But here’s the rub.  For a cyclist, nearly (but not quite) all the route has either had the available cycle paths closed, or in the case of the parks, swamped by pratts on hired bike – don’t get me started on Boris Bikes.

Why?  For the Olympics of course!

And for what, a games much of which is paid for by us, the public.  But with over half the tickets going to commercial sponsors, and we.. Okay, I, haven’t even been able to get tickets.

We can’t travel to work, as the public transport system is being swamped by visitors – whoopee for tourism!

We can’t cycle, as the roads will be congested and cycle lanes closed.

Many of the major roads will be allocated VIP lanes, which we can’t drive OR CYCLE down.  I will mind you (naughty me) but I mus’n’t.

And the bus drivers are threatening to strike.

The Olympics are good for the country?  Possibly.
The Olympics are good for Londoners?  Certainly not!

I’ll tell you one thing however, I do agree that they’re good for tourism.  I have friends in the States who actually managed to get tickets.  I didn’t, I only live here., I couldn’t get squat.  But our friends in Washington DC did fine!

So I’ve given up.  I’m taking my family on holiday, and my American friends can have my house for the two weeks.

The Blobster Blogster (44)

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