Wednesday, July 29, 2009

service? what service?

Workmen, external maintenance guys, service calls – believe me, wherever you are in the world nothing's different. Even in efficient-as-clockwork First World economies such as this. When we called Time Warner Cable to check our DVR box (PVR to South Africans), which was playing up, they had to come THREE times.

Each time it involved me being chained to the front door (okay, I’m being dramatic) for half a day, waiting for them to arrive. My first ‘window period’ for Time Warner’s scheduled visit was 12:00–4:00. By 10 to 4:00 I was on the hotline (ducking and diving interminable recorded messages with sleight of hand to get a real voice). I was eventually told they were on their way. 5:30 no-one had arrived. I called the doorman. ‘Oh, they arrived at 5 to 4:00,’ he said, ‘but I couldn’t get you on the phone so they left.’ At 5 to 4:00 I was still talking to the agent at Time Warner. Obviously the incoming call from the doorman hadn’t bleeped on my phone to alert me. Neither had I heard the buzzer of our apartment intercom. Being South African, we open all our windows and the sound of the traffic had drowned out the buzzing.

Much lamenting and gnashing of teeth.

The next appointment was Saturday, 12:00–4:00. Close to 4:00 I consulted the doorman, I made calls to Time Warner. More recorded messages. The guys arrived at 5:00. A day after their visit, we found we couldn’t access a bunch of channels we’d subscribed to. More calls. There was no resetting they could do, either over the phone or via cable. We had to schedule another service call.

This time I thought I’d get it over and done with early. 8:00–12:00. (Yes, I had to get out of bed earlier than normal, but, hey, it’s a sacrifice I was prepared to make.) Time Warner pitched at 12:15. The maintenance guy was young and sulky (my fault: I greeted him with the news that I’d just sat on the phone for 15 minutes trying to locate him). He slouched sullenly into our living room, sprawled across our neon-hued carpet and yawned his way through the visit. When I closed the door behind him and Time Warner’s automated follow-up call rang through (now there they don't waste any time!), I cut off the computerised voice mid-syllable. Furious though I was, I wasn’t going to be the one to see him lose his job.

sultry new york summers

This city in summer is pure clammy Durban by the Hudson. Hot and dense as Gordon Ramsay’s kitchen during one of his tempestuous rages, it’s not the most ideal circumstance under which to train for the New York Half Marathon. I’m generally not prone to profuse sweating, but a mere 6km will leave me bedraggled as a wet labrador in a pool of water the pooch'd be proud of. I seem to have lead in my feet each time I step out. But I realise I can’t always blame it on acclimatisation.

So I’ve swapped the Hudson River for Central Park, where a dense canopy of trees alleviates a little of the clammiest heat. I also love the park's little (and sometimes big) surprises. It’s only when you learn that Manhattan is founded on a bedrock of granite that you can appreciate the gargantuan boulders and rocky outcrops that tumble out from under the leafy crowns. Atop one such balancing boulder, leaning into the tarred ring road that circumnavigates the park, a bronze cougar crouches, poised to pounce on its unwary prey. You can almost feel the frisson of its tensed muscles.

Elsewhere, you espy the silhouette of a bronze husky, standing taut and watchful (it's Balto the Siberian husky, honouring sled dogs who braved blizzards in 1925 to bring toxins to a stricken town in Alaska). Then there’s the statue of timekeeper Fred Lebow at East 90th, checking his watch as we runners pant and pull our weary legs past him. Lebow was the founder of the New York Marathon, and every year his statue is shifted to stand a short distance from the marathon finish line at West 67th.

For a change of scenery, there’s the Reservoir (the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis reservoir, to be exact) with its exhilarating, 360-degree New York skyline. Ducks and waterbirds paddle across the surface, and walkers, runners and ambling tourists share the 2.6km (1.6-mile) earth path around its perimeter.

In the meanwhile, I shall soldier on, trying to shake the lead from my shoes while hoping against hope that I hit one of those breakthrough days where my feet feel light as the winged soles of Mercury.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

being cool in ny

So … a South African girl can make a statement in this city too. I’m on Cloud Nine. On my way to meet H for lunch at a flash Indian restaurant during New York’s restaurant week (great food at digestible prices!), I had on a black tiny waistcoat and jeans, scarlet Converse All Star high tops (my newest purchase – can’t take them off!), and lots of jangly silver including a pair of Apache-style silver and turquoise feather earrings.

The lady at the front desk gushed at my silver feathers. One compliment down. Then, later, on a subway train heading for home, a bouncy little girl (seriously can’t have been more than seven) jabbed a knowing finger at me and said, ‘I love your silver earrings and necklace … oh, and I love your bangles … um, actually, I love your whole outfit!’
So, already walking on air after receiving such a compliment from one so obviously in the know, I stopped to drool over a pair of shiny silver sneakers in a store window. A male shop assistant paused to say admiringly (okay…expert sales talk, I know, I know…), ‘Great All Stars! And you wear them so well.’
Finally I stopped at our local pharmacy to pick up something and the lady at the checkout said, ‘Weren’t you in the other day wearing another really cool pair of earrings?’

Okay, point a pop gun at my bubble and bring me down to earth already!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

yay! summer is here. . .

. . . seen through the eyes of my friend Andre Neethling's constant companion - his digital camera!