ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, Performing Arts, Restaurants & Bars, TRAVEL

The Weekend Report

TRAVEL HERE: A BIG WEEKEND

A Good Excuse for Fun!

So last weekend was my husband’s birthday. It was sort of a milestone for him and he decided to live large! In fact, he started looking forward to it a day early, when usually he does his best to ignore it. So, Thursday afternoon he pulled out one of the good bottles of wine and enjoyed smoking his hookah in our sunroom.

Friday Night Date

The celebration, which started on Thursday, kept going on Friday night. You have to know that Friday nights are pretty quiet around here, usually. We don’t like to fight the big crowds, but we researched several Dallas restaurants, trying to find something new. We finally gave it up and went to Fire and Fable, something in Rockwall I’d tried out for coffee the week before. I found out they had a bar and stayed open 10 to 10, so we gave it a shot.

Warning it’s a little confusing. They bill themselves as a bookshop bistro, but when you walk in, the first thing you see is a pastry counter. In truth, the ladies at the counter were a tad bit more interested in whatever they were doing than they were about seeing if we were taken care of. We told them we were going to the bar, but then decided maybe we’d prefer to eat, but having already talked to us, they weren’t going to give us their attention again.

So, we walked through the next bit, which is actually bookshopish and found ourselves in a line, but we weren’t sure what we were waiting for. Chatting up the group ahead of us, we found out they’d just been called to their table, and we were in the right place to put our name on the list. They were seated and after a bit of a wait, the hostess asked us what we wanted.

She put us on the list for a table, but then found us a place to sit in the bar. We ordered drinks and an appetizer. Then we sat back to enjoy the show. All the cool kids were there being cool, so it was quiet entertaining. The service was slow, but I can only imagine what kind of chaos going on back in the kitchen, because the place was jamming.

Our appetizer was fried artichoke hearts and I cannot heartily endorse them, but in spite of that, I think you should go check it out – just maybe not on a Friday evening. We managed to wrench our check from the waiter and get it paid. Then we escaped out the back door. The hostess texted us our table was ready, just about the time we got home.

Saturday Night Date

You know it’s a big weekend if we go out twice!! Bill joined my bestie and I on our Saturday afternoon adventure, which happened to be a movie. We saw A Man Called Otto with Tom Hanks. It was really heartwarming, but you have to sit through a lot of sadness to get to the good part. All three of us gave it a thumbs up!

But that’s not all. On a walk around The Harbor earlier in the week, I suggested to Bill the new Sear Steakhouse might be a good place to celebrate his birthday. He allowed that it might be, but he hadn’t worn his glasses and couldn’t see the menu posted outside the restaurant. He checked out their website once he got home, which didn’t have pricing and decided it would not be a good place to go.

Well, Deb decided to take him to 360° for a drink. 360° is the circular bar outside Sear Steakhouse – perfect for a sunset drink, since it overlooks Lake Ray Hubbard, but it worked fine for a drink (or two) in the dark, too. I must say we thoroughly enjoyed our time there and after a look at the menu (he had his glasses) we decided we could even afford to eat there!

Sunday Night Date

Nah! We didn’t go out again. After church, we both went to our offices to catch up on things which needed our attention. When dinner rolled around, however, Mr. Bill did cook up some falafel sandwiches and it was very good.

It was a really good weekend and we had a lot of fun. Thanks for dropping by. I hope you’ll come to visit again next week.

ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Performing Arts, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL, Travel Planning, United States

Stardust in Our Eyes

Travel There – Ellen’s Amazing Stardust Diner

So, Deb and I are a great pair for traveling. I need her input. I am Museum Girl. I can find wonderful museums and historic homes almost anyplace you put me, but I am restaurant and bar challenged. In part, because I have a pretty solitary existence here in my home office, while Deb goes into a brick-and-mortar office everyday and has an eclectic group of coworkers who point her to the good stuff.

I’m so glad someone pointed her to the Stardust Diner. Believe me, it’s not the sort of place I would have wandered in on my own. It’s a neon-covered corner building which appears to have seen better days. At times it has a line wandering down the street from it, but that didn’t encourage me either. You wonder if they’ve got a gambling den or something nefarious going on.

Well, Ellen’s Stardust Diner is where future Broadway stars make a living until they make it big, alongside the guy and gals in the chorus, who need to pay rent. The diner is stuffed with linoleum topped tables and vinyl booths. There is no theme and the walls are covered with faded photographs. The menu is your basic diner food.

What set Ellen’s apart is the attitude and a slim catwalk running through the center of the restaurant. Other restaurants and establishments in the area employ wannabe Broadway stars, but they treat them like regular employees, who are supposed to show up for work, even if they have an audition, and if you actually end up getting a part, they’ll fill your spot and you won’t be invited back.

You also won’t sing. At Ellen’s auditions and casting are the lifeblood of her employees, so your work schedule is set around your singing career. When you finish with a booking, be it a few day or a few years, Ellen will fit you back into the schedule. And you will sing.

All day, every day, from the crack of dawn until after the bars close, someone is on that catwalk belting their heart out. And these folks are good. Not the girl-back-home-who-sings-solos-in-church good, but Broadway good. One after another, male, female and otherwise, tall, short, gorgeous and ugly, people with amazing voices grab a mic and balance on the catwalk, while belting out some of the best music you will hear in the Big Apple.

When we passed by the Diner just after sunset there was a very discouraging line running down the side of the building and it was misting rain. So, we gave it a little while and came back later. There was still a line, but it wasn’t raining and the line was somewhat shorter. We had nowhere else to be, so we just waited it out. And you are going to wait, because no one wants to move too quickly at the Stardust. Don’t go when you’re starving, because after you wait in line, you’ll need to wait on your food.

Singing is the main attraction at the Stardust, but there’s nothing wrong with the food. I had a grilled cheese sandwich and a chocolate shake. Deb had the Ruby Rueben. Both meals were great. We thought about dessert, as an excuse to stay longer, but what with the Junior’s cheesecake earlier in the day and my chocolate shake, I couldn’t face it!

Time to head back to the hotel. You come back next week and join us on our visit to Lady Liberty. It’s one of those things you have to do and it is well worth the time and effort to do so.

Accommodations, Architecture, ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Fashion, Gardens, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, Shopping, TRAVEL, United States

Walking Tour of Broadway

Travel There – Just a Couple of Texas Girls in the Big City

As soon as we got our stuff stowed away we hit the streets of NYC. In just a few steps we figured out the Sheraton New York Times Square is the perfect place to stay. Don’t let them put you in the Four Points by Sheraton Times Square, that’s a whole ‘nother place and I am so glad a fought the battle to get where we wanted to be. We were right in the middle of everything without being in the insanity of Broadway itself.

Broadway, just a few blocks away, was insane and I am glad we had a buffer zone. They smoke pot everywhere in NYC, but on Broadway they smoke it a lot and they want to sell it to you. They also want to sell you fake designer bags. I could have done away with that whole vibe, but you just have to take New York City as it comes at you.

You also get mobs of people all the time. Later in the trip we’d be there on a weekend evening and we would really understand exactly how crazy it could get, but for our first day in the city, it was crazy enough.

We hadn’t scheduled anything specific for our day of arrival, because air travel is so unreliable these days. I didn’t want to have tickets riding on me getting there on time and we’re still stuck in the air somewhere. So the plan was to stroll Broadway and see what we could see…or eat.

Junior’s Cheesecake

Our first stop on our tour of Broadway was one of the best of the trip and we repeated it several times. I had read in my research that THE place to have authentic New York Cheesecake was Junior’s. I cannot speak to the authenticity, but oh my goodness, can I ever speak to how delicious it was. We both love cheesecake, but if possible we love Junior’s Cheesecake more than any other we’ve ever had. Deb liked it best topped with various fruits. I had mine plain, but there was nothing plain about it.

Our Key to the City

Broadway, Junior’s and a MetroCard. We were knocking it out of the park in the first few hours we were there. This was not Deb’s first NYC rodeo, so we decided we’d be brave and use the subway system. She had the app and I had the maps.

On our stroll down Broadway we dipped into the subway and purchased a MetroCard, loading it up with rides for the next week. We weren’t ready to use it, but we’d be getting up early the next morning to head to the Statue of Liberty, so we wanted to be ready!

The Biggest Department Store in the World

Confession, I am not a big fan of Macy’s. Well, to tell the truth, I’m not a big fan of department stores, with perhaps the exception of Neiman’s and Nordstrom’s – but I don’t even shop there. I just eat and browse. I am a bargain hunter, so most of my purchases actually occur at one of the stores at the outlet mall.

However, this is New York, the home of Macy’s, so I wanted to be able to say I shopped there. We’d timed our trip to attend a christening, so I planned on buying my gift at the famous store. It is big, ridiculously big, but just like the closest one at Firewheel Town Center, they are short-handed and you are going to have to help yourself.

We found the baby department and I found a darling pink cotton knit sweater with matching socks in the Ralph Lauren section. They were embroidered with the familiar logo in baby blue. They do not, however, have gift wrapping, so I ended up buying a gift bag and card a few stories up in the stationary department.

Deb and I went all the way to the top and rode all the way down on the escalators. Towards the top, they still had the old original wooden escalators. That was something to write home about.

Back Up Broadway

Our goal was Greeley Square and we made it. We tucked over to the Empire State Building just to say I’d been there. We saw Herald Square, Times Square and Duffy Square. We were ticking off the sites!

The evening had set in, but we were still full of cheesecake and the line at the Stardust Cafe was intimidating. So, we went back to the Sheraton, found the bar and celebrated our first day in New York at Happy Hour.

Here’s a few photos from our day. Come back next week and we’ll visit the Stardust Cafe.

DFW Metroplex, Fashion, Photo Organization Coach, Photography, Restaurants & Bars, Shopping, TRAVEL

The Weekend Report

Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.com

TRAVEL HERE: BLUE MESA, CHUCK, ALFREDO’S & FERAH’S

Polka Dot Dinner at Blue Mesa

Rolling it back to Thursday, I have to tell you about Polka Dot Powerhouse. If you need an international women’s group in your networking mix, here you go. Yes, you can connect with women all over the US, as well as the rest of the world. I joined to get to know some Rockwall women better, but the Networking Gods intervened and now, twice month I travel over to the Stonebridge Area to connect with some of the coolest women you can imagine. Second Thursday is at Blue Mesa Granite Park and fourth Monday to Kelly’s Craft Tavern Stonebriar. Let me know and I’ll get you in.

Getting to Granite Park for dinner is quite a commitment for me. I wake up so early that I’m powering down by about 7, but for my Dots, I crawl in the car around 5 PM and drive to the other side of the world for the 6:30 meeting. I can usually make it in an hour, but since I have to go over the dreaded I-30 bridge, I must add half an hour, just in case.

Totally worth it! I’ll leave it at that, but it’s not all business. These women are fun and business is not the focus, but the result. The theme is, build the relationships and the business will come, and they’re serious about it. I do a lot of networking and they ALL say you should build relationships, but nobody does it better than the Dots. So join me for a lunch or a dinner and find out what I mean.

Chuck

So, I don’t watch a lot of TV and when I do I usually hate it, but I love Chuck! Computer nerd working at the local big box electronics store inadvertently becomes a CIA asset when his brain is downloaded with a program called the Intersect. That’s the plotline, but it doesn’t begin to describe the fun you are about to have when you start watching it. There’s violence, but it’s obviously make-believe and they use tranq guns more often than live ammo. See, Chuck doesn’t believe in killing people. It’s sexy, but nothing you’d be afraid of your four year old watching. They do cuss, but it’s the light stuff for effect, not the shock treatment you get on most modern TV. So your four year old has already heard all of it.

Anyway, I won’t wear you down with more, but that was my Friday night, my Saturday night and the cliff hanger was so good, I watched an episode after church on Sunday. I have to slow down though. There’s only one season left and I have no idea what I am going to do without it. I don’t think there’s any other good clean fun designed for adults.

Alfredo’s

I wish it were not so, but the restaurant my car most frequently goes to is Alfredo’s in Forney. That’s where FANG (Forney Area Networking Group) meets every Tuesday. It’s the one networking meeting I try to make every week, because this is my gang. It’s really more like visiting family than it is going to a networking meeting, but over the years, I have gotten some darned good business from it.

It’s also where my friend Susan Bennett-White has her WWW (Wine, Women and Wealth) meeting. It’s a monthly financial seminar for women with great networking and the opportunity for spotlighting your business. I admit, I go for the networking. I am married to Mr. Finance, but the WWW tips are always good and I’ve racked up some good leads.

So, why in the world would I go there on a Saturday morning, right? Well, a lead I got at the November WWW suggested we meet there for breakfast and she’s so excited about Forever, I would have met her on the moon if she’d suggested it.

What a morning! First, I missed a turn on the way there and was forced to wander around the backroads between Heath and Forney – but I was only a few minutes late. Then my laptop totally failed me. For reasons unknown and totally unrelated to the Alfredo’s location, because not it won’t go online anywhere, now. Then she had her granddaughter with her, which in most cases would have been totally fine, but with no visual aids to assist me, I was going head to head with whatever the granddaughter was playing on her tablet, her complaint about the restroom being in use, her ginormous breakfast order and the side of sausage which was delivered later. Still, Forever won the day and I have a new client.

Finally, Ferah’s!

So, after a week with six networking meetings, five 1:1 meetings and a failing laptop, it was time to play. When I left Alfredo’s, I headed to meet my bestie at Ferah Tex-Med Kitchen. And no, that’s not a typo, Ferah’s fuses Mediterranean dishes with Texican favorites for something that will both surprise and delight you.

The first thing I ordered was a Sauvignon Blanc. Then we shared the Chef’s Sampler Platter with Falafel, Fried Goat Cheese, Crab Cake, Bacon-Wrapped Stuffed Dates, Hummus and Pita Bread. How do you say delicious in TexMed? I’m not sure, but I am sure you’ll love it.

Instead of dessert, we chose shopping therapy. A little Ulta’s for some of life’s necessities, like a new mascara I didn’t really need, but the tube was so cute. Enough Chico’s to confirm we love their outlet store and DSW. I told myself I didn’t really need any shoes and I didn’t until I strolled through the clearance racks.

Now, if you love DSW, I don’t have to tell you about the clearance racks. I don’t even look at shoes which aren’t on clearance, but I have another filter. The shoes are tagged by colors indicating from 20-60% off. The percentage of the colors change week by week instead of having to re-tag them. Whatever colors are 50-60% off, those are the only ones I will seriously consider and they better be really good for me to even be interested.

I’m hard on shoes and my feet are getting more picky about what they will wear, so those off-brands you’ve never heard of, they don’t get much of a look either, but JLo’s and Jessica Simpson’s? I couldn’t name any of their tunes, but I love their shoes. JLo was really styling this time, as was Jessica and Adirenne Vittadini, she had a stunner, too.

I walked out with four pairs. Three of them were legit purchases based on things which fit right into my current wardrobe. This metallic orange number with the rhinestone aglets? No reason and no excuses. They just weren’t going to let me walk away without them. It won’t be long until they tell me what to wear them with, either.

So that’s the weekend. Sunday I went to church and then spent the rest of the day getting caught up with stuff, like this post. Keep coming back. Travel Talk and Memory Keeping 101 will keep coming at you, just like the Weekend Report!

Accommodations, DESTINATIONS, Road Trips, TRAVEL, Travel Planning, United States

On Our Way to the Big City

Travel There – Gee Thanks WAYZ

Gotta Love Rush Hour – NOT

Going to New York City has been on my bucket list for a long time and going with my bestie was a dream come true. I love to travel with Bill, too, but it just wasn’t going to be his kind of trip. We planned to get up early, stay up late, spend the day in museums and our evenings at shows, but we were never, ever going to take a nap. That just isn’t his idea of a vacation.

Even though Bill wasn’t thrilled about a week without me, he agreed to chauffeur us to the airport. I had put us on a mid-morning flight to keep him from having to do it at the crack of dawn, so instead we were in the middle of rush hour traffic. OOPS, being self employed, my commute is from the bed to my office upstairs. Should I need to be somewhere in the morning, I live in a little, teeny tiny community almost in the boonies and I know all the backroads.

So, I was a little surprised when we we rolled to a stop in the vicinity of I-30 at Jim Miller. Deb and I both pulled out our phones and checked the traffic. It looked OK for a few moments and suddenly both of our phones demanded we get off I-30 and strike out across Dallas. But as we maneuvered across the city, they didn’t always agree.

Google Maps or WAYZ

One of my current theories about life today is that we have too many choices. It’s hard to find commonality when you have nothing in common. I grew up in a world with only 3 or 4 TV channels and virtually everyone watched the same thing. There were more radio stations, but in Dallas, we all listened to KVIL. No matter who you met, you were going to have something in common to talk about.

There could be fewer people in this world who are as close as the three people in that car on its way to Love Field, but we couldn’t even get our phones to agree on how to get there. No wonder the world is in such a mess.

Bill and Deb are WAYZ people. They swear by the reliability of the app. They turn it on even when they know where they are going for the traffic updates.

I’m old school. If I know the way, I’m going to drive the way I know. If I need help getting there, I will pull out my GPS and use that, because I don’t want to be messing with a phone as I try to drive. If I do need to look something up on the fly, I’m going to Google Maps. However, if Bill’s driving, he hates Google Maps, so I have to keep WAYZ on my phone for his benefit.

What we discovered on the way to Love Field is that our WAYZ apps couldn’t even agree on which way to go. Traffic really was awful, no matter where we turned. The apps were taking us through neighborhoods and down backstreets we’d never been on. Bill was driving, but I had his phone on WAYZ, mine on Google Maps and Deb was clicking back and forth between both. Sometimes each app on each phone was telling a different story.

Then Deb said, “Turn left at the next street.” Bill said, “Are you sure it’s left.” Deb hands me her phone and that’s when we got in trouble.

In case you didn’t know, these apps with their AI get to know us and give us different instructions based on what they learn about us. They also have their own internal algorithms. So, we poor humans are actually at their mercy.

Come to find out, Deb sets her WAYZ app to always point north. We set ours to point in the direction the car is headed. When Deb handed me her phone, I interpreted according to my settings and we were soon making U turns.

We Did Arrive in Time

In spite of dueling map apps, we did manage to arrive on time, but we were happy to see the curbside check-in. I hate waiting in line to do battle with a kiosk, so it was nice to be able to tip a human to take care of us and I tipped him well.

The flight was uneventful, our luggage arrived intact and Lyft was waiting for us as scheduled. We checked into the hotel, which had our reservations, and moved into our room for the week.

Come back next week and we’ll head out on the streets of the Big Apple. What fun we’ll have!

ART, DFW Metroplex, Performing Arts, Photo Organization, Photography, Restaurants & Bars, Scrapbooking, WRITING

The Weekend Report

TRAVEL HERE – NCFCA AT DBU, AT MY DESK & TAKING DOWN THE TREE

National Christian Forensics and Communications Association

Once upon a time, before there was a Spot On Images and we lived in Dallas, I used to attend Dallas Christian Writers Guild. Somehow that ended up taking me to Denton for a group of writers I can’t remember the name of. While I was never able to sell my novel, I did make some great friends. One of them, Rachel, invited me to judge at a speech tournament. By then, I’d figured out the market was focused on paranormal young adult fiction and wasn’t interested in a simple romance at a retirement center. I’d also moved to Wylie.

Rachel suggested I give judging a whirl. The tournament was going to be in Wylie at a church almost around the corner from our rental. She had no idea I’d been on the speech team at Bryan Adams High School. NCFCA, to which her children belonged, just needed community judges. She thought I’d be good at it, because she’d observed me critique the works of my fellow writers. I was flattered at the time and agreed to do it.

Now, I’ve got to admit. These kids blew me away. I’d belonged to the National Forensics League back in the late 60/early 70’s. My fondest memories of the time was a trip to a Houston tournament in Jimmy Johnson’s red Impala convertible. After our sponsor threatened our lives if we went to Galveston, we, of course, snuck out and went to Galveston. It was 10 minutes on the beach and we had to head back, but the exhilaration of the outing stays with me, even today.

The home-schooled members of NCFCA are dead serious about their craft, unlike us crazy public school kids, who just wanted a reason to get away from home. Don’t get me wrong, we had some really great people on the speech squad, who would walk away with all the trophies, but most of us were just there for a good time. NCFCA members are all there to compete!

Anyway, I loved the experience and have continued to volunteer every time I can. We moved to Rockwall and I discovered many of the families in the church participated in NCFCA, but that’s really not my primary motivator. I really just love the kids and love the experience of the speech tournaments. If you are the least bit intrigued by it, I think you should follow the link above and give it a try. They have a tournament over in Ft. Worth in March. I’d love to have someone to carpool with.

Last weekend they had a tournament at Dallas Baptist University and even though I was fighting with allergies, I went ahead and judged, because I love it so. I was not disappointed. It took the whole day. I judged four events and the commute was substantial, but I loved it.

Bill was not amused. I left the house at 8am and got home after 9:30 pm. The allergy symptoms I had been fighting were winning the battle and I was miserable, but my faith in the upcoming generation was renewed. I have hope things are going to be better in the world when these guys take over. Come with me in March and let’s help the next generation blossom!

Digital Photobook Project

If you read this blog at all, you know I’m all about scrapbooking and I have a business devoted to it, but I also offer digital solutions. I booked a new digital assignment which needed a quick turnaround, so I was afraid starting it from scratch would take too long. I decided to create the photobook from one of the gorgeous templates Forever has on their site, but that was totally new to me, because I usually create photobooks from scratch in Artisan. As if that weren’t challenging enough, I also decided to use the album planner in the Historian program.

I had assumed there was some sort of integration between the Historian album planner and the photobook templates on the Forever site. What is it they say? “Don’t never assume nothing.” Yes, I found the album planner to be a great tool, but it would have been an even better tool if I could have clicked a few buttons and automatically populated the template.

My other challenge had to do with saving the template in some format which would let me stop somewhere along the way. I knew there had to be a way, because few people can sit down and do a whole album in one sitting. After exhausting all the methods which made sense to me and losing a couple of starts, I had to call customer service for some help. I am happy to report in a few minutes I had talked to someone very knowledgeable who had all the answers I needed. The solution was easy, just not intuitive.

I finished the photobook and got it ready for my client to proof. However, I do have several integration innovations to suggest to Forever. The photobook templates are lovely, the Historian album planner is a great tool and Artisan is an amazing scrapbooking program. However, these three products need to be able to shake one another’s hand. Integration of their products is one of the big jobs at Forever, but Job One is always the security of the online storage. What might seem simple or apparent as a product feature isn’t going to happen until the Forever engineers are 100% certain it won’t compromise the storage. So while I might fuss a little bit, I’m happy Forever does things the way they do.

Taking Down the Tree

Client’s rush order out of the way, the Christmas tree standing in my living room was the next challenge. I usually go to church on Sunday mornings, but this week I was just too puny to do so. Yet, I was also feeling too good to sit on the sofa and vegetate, so I started the job. I gave it a good three hours and got about two thirds of the way through before I ran out of steam.

Then my bestie came over and we indulged in one of our favorite comfort foods, chicken pot pie! Later Bill dragged me to Olive Garden for dinner. He had a plan to maximize his monetary investment while feeding both of us. Good job Bill. We may be eating Olive Garden to go orders and leftovers all week, but you proved just how much food you could get for under $50!

The Christmas tree project was Job One for me on Monday. It’s time to get over the holidays and get back to real life. Come back next week for more adventures of Jane. Wednesday is Travel Talk and we’ll be talking about some Southwest challenges which happened long before the recent meltdown and Thursday we’re talking about what it costs to build a scrapbooking page. Looking forward to chatting with you!

DESTINATIONS, TRAVEL, Travel Planning, United States

Bad Phone

Photo by freestocks.org on Pexels.com

Travel There – If You Can

So, as I faced the slings and arrows of rebooking the NYC trip, I was also trying to book a trip for Bill and I. We had Southwest Airlines credit which would expire in June. After much discussion, we decided to try out the American Club Med in Florida. We’d had an amazing time at their Punta Canta resort and wanted to repeat it, but in the Post Covid World, we didn’t want to stray too far from home.

I had done all my homework for both NYC and Club Med. Since I was going to NYC first, I got that booked, then I went to work on the Florida trip. Club Med’s site told me to get their booking confirmed before I booked the airfare. Once I had the confirmation, I started booking the air, but something was horribly wrong. Almost all of my Southwest Airlines credit was gone!

I was on the site, had the perfect flight reserved and was trying to pay when I realized the cupboard was bare. Had I had any way to anticipate the ramifications of letting those two seats go, I would have paid for the seats and then chased down my credit, but at the time I was more worried about what happened to my credit. I thought if I went ahead and paid, it would be a case of too-bad-so-sad and I’d end up with more credits I needed to use up.

Chasing an Answer

It took a six page letter to Southwest Airlines to explain everything that happened next and eventually I did get some “Gee we’re sorry” credits from both Southwest Airlines and Southwest Vacations, but none of that helped me when it mattered.

Along the way, I was treated worse than I had ever been treated by any customer service rep, anywhere, at any time. The bottom line was that Renee had lied, but I was the one who was going to have to pay money for airline tickets that according to him, I would have the credit to cover. The very worst part was, the flight I wanted had filled up and I was going to have to pay a now outrageous amount of money for a flight that left at the crack of dawn. Who wants to end their time at a luxurious resort by getting up at 4 AM?

Thanks, but No Thanks

I have a $150 credit from Southwest Airlines, but I am in no hurry to use it. I went to St. Louis in September, but we drove. I couldn’t face the headache of trying to use the credit. They will probably expire someday, but I don’t care. Travel is my joy and I’m not letting them buy it with their paltry credit, which will involve me having to book with them again. I think they should have given me a refund, not a credit. They do not deserve for me to spend more money with them. I probably will, because the drive to DFW from Heat is brutal, but for now, I am pouting.

Southwest Vacations tried to play the same game with me, but I erupted on them in a less than pleasant way. I figured venting my spleen in such an aggressive way wouldn’t actually get me anywhere, but I’d been through hell with them. When the pain continued after I got home from the trip, that was too much. I’d paid for everything in advance and came home to over $600 in charges. Southwest Vacations got me back to even, but they thought we were even when they let me know I had a $100+ credit with them. I told them just how unhappy I was about the whole thing and said the least they could do was to return the value of that $100, since it had come about from their mistake in the first place. No promises were made, but I did get a refund on my credit card.

Things have gotten out of control in the customer service world. Companies hide behind their computer screens and phone trees. Consumers are left hanging out to dry and there’s really nothing we can do about it. If we’re lucky, perhaps we get some token credit, but it is never on par with what we’ve suffered.

Companies should have to answer phones in a reasonable amount of time. If a customer waits more than 10 minutes for a representative, then a clock should start ticking and the customer should earn money (not a credit) for the time they are forced to wait. If that were the case, you can bet a whole lot more customer service jobs would be created and the companies would find a way to be sure they answered calls on a timely basis. Go ahead, record my call, but also be sure you’re timing my wait!

Also, there should be a way to seek resolution besides suing the company. Once a company sticks it to you, the only thing you can do is take them to court, but we all know what will happen then. It will be Joe Blow versus Corporate America and you know Joe Blow is going to lose.

The only thing we Joe Blows have left after a bad encounter of the commercial kind is to resort to social media and what good, I ask you, does that actually do. Corporate America keeps counting their money on the other side of their phone tree and laughing all the way to the bank. I think this explains, in part, why people are so ugly on social media. It’s the court of last appeals, but they have already lost.

OK, I’ve gotten that off my chest, but I have to mention that when I got home from NYC the hotel charged me a bogus $600+. As happened with Renee, I will never know whether it was an honest mistake, stupidity or just standard operations for milking more money out of tourists. Through more wasted time, on the phone and on websites, I got it resolved, but I almost spent as much time on the phone dealing with all these issues as I did on my vacation!!

I’m through complaining. Come back next week and we’ll board our Southwest Airlines flight to NYC!

DESTINATIONS, TRAVEL, Travel Planning, United States

Gee Thanks Covid

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

Travel There – Booking Nightmares in a Post-Covid World

When we returned from Vegas, the trip we hadn’t planned for or anticipated, I had loose travel ends I needed to decide what to do with. My bestie and I had credit with Southwest Vacations for the NYC trip Covid had obliterated and with Hubby I had credit with Southwest Airlines leftover from the resort deal we decided to abandon.

Plans for the Big Apple

The trip we’d planned to NYC for May of 2020 is not one that could easily be replaced. My bestie’s son, a young man I’d watch grow up, was graduating from Pratt and was scheduled to receive his MFA at Radio City Music Hall. That’s one of those events you can’t rewind. However, I’d never really been to NYC and I wanted very much to enjoy that orgy of entertainment.

Though Deb and I talked about using up our travel credits every time we got together there was always the lingering masks and Covid surges discouraging us from planning anything definite. Then she was invited to a christening by her family in New Jersey and that proved the impetus for us to go. We selected the week before the christening as our travel dates and I took on the responsibility for getting it booked.

Have I Reached the Party to Whom I am Speaking?

Perhaps you remember Lily Tomlin and her operator skirts or maybe you’ve just seen clips of her on You Tube. If you have then you’ve heard the question above. As I called around trying to figure out exactly how to use the credits we held from Southwest Vacations, I felt Lily’s question was appropriate.

My travel agent had been one of the early victims in the massive layoffs experienced by the travel industry. When NYC shutdown, I went through several different representatives with the company she’d worked for and eventually ended up having to contact the president of the company to get the credits we were due.

Two years later, I had no desire to reconnect with a company who had not only fired my favorite travel agent ever, but they’d done an awful job of helping me in the aftermath. So, I asked my old travel agent if she knew anyone still in the business which could help me. She gave me a name, but that name had no interest in helping me if there was no money on the table for the trip she’d be helping me with.

I anticipated what a nightmare the rebooking would be and did not want that headache. In the world before Covid, a travel agent would be happy to help you rebook travel, even if they didn’t make anything from it, because they wanted your business for the future. The travel industry is in such dire straits, courtesies like that no longer exist. That meant it was up to me.

The Nightmare Begins

I made the call to Southwest Vacations and I honestly thought the hour and a half I waited on hold would be the extent of my nightmare. When Renee finally got on the phone with me, he was so nice, I thought all of my troubles were over. I had no idea they had just begun. See, I don’t know whether he was stupid or he just lied, and after months of dealing with the aftermath of the conversation it’s still not clear.

The easy part was getting booked in the wrong hotel. I wanted the Sheraton New York Times Square. He put me in a Four Points by Sheraton in Times Square. During the call he always said Sheraton Times Square, so I thought we were good. It wasn’t until later I realized the gap between what I wanted and what I got. However, except for the LONG wait on hold, waiting for a representative, changing to the right was relatively easy or at least seemed that way at the time.

The hard part was what happened to my Southwest Airlines account. Renee said he was taking some credit from that account to cover my airfare for NYC. As we were talking he told me it would be about $25-30. I blissfully can’t remember at this moment, but at the time I had written down in my notes and it was in that range. I asked, “And that will leave me with XXX amount of credit with Southwest Air?” His answer was, “Absolutely,” but he was absolutely wrong.

The nightmare continues, so come back next week and let’s find out how badly Renee’s wrong answer messed me up!

ART, Attractions, DFW Metroplex, Music, Performing Arts

The Weekend Report

TRAVEL HERE – SIX, A TRIUMPH AT THE WINSPEAR

So this year, Winter showed up with a bang. On the first day of winter, the warnings were ominous and quite accurate. I kept close to home on Thursday and Friday, working on a sorting job for one of my clients. I saved my gift wrapping until Christmas Eve and then it was time for the really big show.

Christmas Eve Treat

While most of the ads on Facebook are a waste of my time, occasionally they deliver just what I was looking for. After Thanksgiving I’d been shopping around the internet for a potential short trip, when we were offered the opportunity to barter some real estate photography for a weekend stay in a gorgeous beachside rental property. That satisfied my traveling bug, but I had my eye out for something to spice up the holidays.

During our 2020 holidays I had planned some epically bad holiday entertainment and in 2021 we’d won a trip to Las Vegas, which was almost as epically bad. I needed to up my game. The Galveston/San Antonio trip was a winner, but I needed a little something else. Facebook delivered SIX!

I had been in New York earlier in the year and opted for an oldie but goodie, because nothing Broadway was offering up looked better than Moulin Rouge. I hadn’t exactly kept my ear to the ground about what had come out since, but apparently SIX hit the Great White Way with sizzle! When Facebook let me know it was coming to the Winspear, I could tell immediately it was right up our alley. I sent Bill the video and he agreed.

So, we booked our seats and decided going on Christmas Eve would make it extra special. We were right! With our older generation on the other side and having never provided ourselves with a younger generation, when the holiday parties are over and everyone else focuses on family, we’re a bit at loose ends. A matinee at the Winspear was a perfect way to spend the day.

Bundle Up, Park Close & Get There On Time

Though the iciest temperatures were behind us, the temperature was quite nippy on Christmas Eve. Bill hates paying for parking, but I warned him I did not want to hoof it from the parking spaces on the other side of the DMA. Thankfully, he accommodated me and we parked in the Cathedral underground parking. My boots might have been made for walking, but not for walking far.

We even made it there with time to spare, which is not always the case. Bill’s not one for hanging around much before the show, but for me he got there about half an hour early. The Winspear had actually called me the day before and warned me about the theater’s closed door policy, because apparently the cold weather was a challenge for some of their patrons. The early arrival gave me time to make a potty stop and do a little people watching. We were amazed at the number of people standing in line for SIX merchandise. Haven’t they heard of the internet?

However, Bill didn’t want to get to our seats too early and held me back until about 10 minutes before the start of the show. Then we began our walking tour of the Winspear. About two levels up, we found an usher and asked her where we were headed. It didn’t do much good though, because with the mask she was wearing her instructions sounded like (mmm mmmmmm mmmmmm mm mmm mm). Thankfully, she also pointed, so up we went.

We found another human being and found out we were almost there. Just one more set of stairs. We found the right door and headed in. We were in the middle of the first row and everyone else was already in their seat, but it was fixing to get ugly.

I knew the Grand Tier was not a place for me to sit. Not only was it nosebleed high, the chairs are not even bolted to the floor. I’d sat in Dress Circle seats before and had enjoyed it, but the seats were higher up in the section. One might think sitting in the middle of the front row of the Dress Circle would be a good thing. If you’re not acrophobic, go for it, but I thought I might just head home!

We could see our seats, but without the kindness of strangers, there was no way for us to get there. The first row of the Dress Circle at the good old Fair Park Music Hall was luxurious with extra leg room. At the Winspear there was no legroom. Here we were, several stories from the bottom floor, with nothing but a knee level bar to hold us back and we were supposed to scoot along in perhaps a foot of space. We were about to get up close and personal with a dozen or so people we didn’t know.

Bill went first, I looked toward the standing strangers we were inconveniencing (they had to stand or we couldn’t get by) and got ahold of him with a death grip. If I was going over, he was going with me! For a few moments I actually thought I was going to die!

When we got to our seats, I sat down and clutched the arm rests until my blood pressure went back to normal. I can’t say that I felt comfortable at that point, but it was better than hanging out over the great abyss. According to a Google search I just did, only about 9 people have died from falling out of a theater balcony, but I sincerely do not want to round that number out.

The show was about 5 minutes away and I browsed my program for pertinent facts about the show. The lights went down and the curtain went up.

A Rollicking Good Time

While I cannot in good conscious recommend our seats, I will say the show was marvelous. No complaints! It is an hour long thrill ride, loosely tied to good King Henry VIII and his six wives. The cast and musicians are all women and they do grind the whole women’s issue stone throughout the show, but I managed to ignore it, because most of it was in good fun. The costuming made whimsical nods to the fashion of good King Henry’s day, but was all firmly rooted in today.

The show is an hour with no intermissions and with the closed door policy firmly in place, if you show up late you are out of luck. I had no trouble hearing and understanding the lyrics of the songs, so that was great.

If there had been voting for the best wife, I would have chosen Catherine of Aragon for her song. It had the touch of a Latin beat and a distinctive Nuh-Nuh-Nuh-Nuh riff that became my earworm of the show.

Number two for me was Anne of Cleeves. I wanted to bust out laughing every time she sang, “I’m the queen of my castle,” with a definite nanny-nanny-poo-poo tone. The other wives disqualified her from winning the award for best wife, because she did not suffer enough. In fact Anne’s song was Bill’s favorite for the hilarious German accents they copped for it.

Anne Boleyn, was a little bitter in the funniest of ways. No matter what anyone else claimed to suffer, she would remind them of her beheading with a very firm nod, which left her pretty helpless in the face of Katherine Howard’s fate. Jane Seymore’s fate, death in childbirth, rendered her fairly saccharine as she spoke of how she was Henry’s only true love and the mother of his only son. She was all but disqualified from the competition and would have been if she hadn’t reminded them that she DIED. Katherine Howard was played as the whore of the castle who might have deserved what she got.

All this had to end somehow, so Catherine Parr calls and end to their competition. This was the weakest part of the show for me, but libbers everywhere probably loved it. They reprised their complaints and it was time to go home.

While we loved the show, we decided we don’t love the Winspear. We’ll try to take our entertainment doses at the Meyerson or the Majestic – or even the Eisemann Center, for that matter. The signage at the Winspear is non-existent and everything is just a little too tight or too high for our comfort.

Christmas Day

What can I say about Christmas? I started the day at my church’s worship service, then went over to my bestie’s to help get Christmas Dinner done. I love any time I spend with her. We enjoyed prosecco in the kitchen while her guys watched movies. By 5:30 or so, the other guests who had been variously entertained elsewhere arrived and dinner went on the table. The meal was glorious and opening our gifts was marvelous.

Come back next week. The last installment of Las Vegas will come on Wednesday and we’ll talk Memory Keeping on Thursday. Happy New year to you and be safe during your NYE celebration.

Accommodations, DESTINATIONS, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

Bye Bye Vegas – We’re Happy to Go!

Travel There – Trial by Footsteps

Among Bill’s photos of our trip was this screenshot from his Fitbit. In spite of the Deuce and the Big Bus, we got in a lot of steps during our Vegas vacation. I was really surprised it was so many. It’s no wonder I was exhausted at the end of each day. I’m not accustomed to so much walking.

Now it was time to go. It was a busy morning for delivering photos, as most Fridays are in our business. Even though our flight was not until four, we needed to be out of the room by 11 and it was a close call.

We checked our luggage with the Bellman Desk and headed over to the Bellagio. Bill had visions of a lovely sit down breakfast, much as he does when he sleeps late on a cruise and the results were the same. All the sit-down breakfast venues were closed. We were left with a short order café called Quick Eats which featured American fare. Not exactly our dream come true. There was a lovely view onto a courtyard, but that’s about all there is to recommend it. Even the coffee was bad.

Still, we didn’t have much time to linger, because the company providing transfers wanted to deliver us to the airport hours and hours before our flight. We went to the bellman and retrieved our luggage, because we had to drag it over to that non-descript entrance at the back of the hotel where vans drop off and pick up their patrons. Paris, please note, this arrangement for arrivals and departures is not conducive to happy memories of a stay. You initial interaction with the hotel is less than warm and fuzzy, but it’s the departure that leaves the worst taste in your mouth, because you are stuck in this awkward place waiting for your transportation.

We did all the stuff you have to do to get on a plane these day, including all the stupidity Southwest includes as you board your plane. The most exciting thing about the whole thing was the Aunt Annie’s Pretzel I had for a snack.

Of course, we weren’t able to sit together, so it was a lonely flight. We arrived back in Dallas after 8:30 pm. Our bags arrived with no trouble, but then there’s that long walk to the long term parking. It was after 10 when we got home and I went straight to bed.

At that point I had no idea what my next trip would be and if you’d offered me another free trip to Las Vegas, I would have just laughed. I may have not known what my next trip would be, but if you come back next week, you’ll find out!