Sunday, April 25, 2010

Finding my niche

For Elegant Scribbles, bid'ness is booming in 2010. That's the little handwriting/addressing service I started in December 2008. Not calligraphy, just neat, clear handwriting for event envelopes, wedding invitations, birth announcements, and thank you cards. I regularly place ads on craigslist and a few other free marketing online sites, and truth be told, it took a while for the ball to start rolling with it.

Thanks to a couple of non-profit organizations (remember last year's famous-people addressing bonanza?) and word of mouth, I'm kept consistently busy with my little cottage industry. Lately I've worked with clients from Hallmark Channel, MTV, and am now on L'Oreal's employee service concierge list. Seems folks either don't have the time or the hand-writing skills to address all those save-the-dates or fancy gala invitations. And they don't really want calligraphy; they want readable, neat handwriting. That, I can offer.

One of my biggest clients keeps me busy writing thank you notes to corporate leaders who have attended its exclusive conferences. I love having the work, but this particular client is the only one who wants me to block print everything instead of using script because the writing needs to look gender-neutral (and face it, my script is girly). I will testify that it takes a lot longer to block-print 200 thank you's than to write them in script, and I need a couple of days to rest my hand after one of these writing-marathons.

Most of my other work is for brides- and grooms-to-be: save-the-dates, wedding invitations, and thank you notes. So far, so good. Knock wood, I've had no bridezillas. They are so grateful to have this one big thing off their to-do list, that I'd really have to mess up royally to make 'em mad. All have been lovely people (and I hope I'm not jinxing myself by saying that).

Of course, I have a huge day-job, so Elegant Scribbles only gets my attention on nights and weekends. Still it pays for groceries and Con Ed, which is helpful. I'm just one person and have realized my hand-writing limits. I don't think I charge enough, but I hope to sort that out as time goes on.

Who knew that those early years struggling with penmanship booklets in elementary school would pay off?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Reelin' in the years

I'm 59 years old today. There, I said it. Actually, I readily admit to it, because I believe that those of us born in 1951 were born at the best possible time in the history of the universe. Face it, post-WWII United States was a fine little world to come into for a white, middle class kid. Everything was tickin' along. Men wore hats, women wore gloves, children wore Buster Browns or Red Goose shoes. Something big was about to happen, and we all knew it. Things were looking up.

A 1951 baby hit all the right stuff at the right age. We were the first to get our hands on Etch-a-Sketch, Vac-U-Form, and Give-a-Show Projector. And, yeah, Barbie. Crest aimed its "Look, Ma, no cavaties!" ads straight at us and our parents. Rock-and-roll and Motown had time to perfect their styles and get over their dorky periods before doing their best (and still best) stuff right about the time we hit our teens. Mini-skirts and fishnets - yep, teenage fashion just for us. Blue jeans, Woodstock, and college protests rose to fame as we landed on college campuses in 1969. By the time we got out of school and were earning a little pocket money, and looking real fine - disco! Ah, sex before AIDS. And so it goes.

I'm tired of all the Baby Boomer bashing. As I've said before, talk to the "Greatest Generation," who decided they deserved a decade of unfettered procreating. Being born wasn't our fault. We were just the beneficiaries of post-war technology, social and musical revolution, Madison Avenue, and affordable college education. Don't be jealous. Those of us 1951 babies were just lucky. (Don't want to hear any moaning from the "Silent Generation" or "GenXrs." Boo. Hoo.)

So, yeah, I'm 59, but it's been fun beyond words. Wonder what else will be invented just for me?

Friday, April 09, 2010


Straw = Spirit Airline's charge for overhead bin carry-on space. Camel's back = paying customers. Is this it? And the report that Ryanair will start charging to use its toilets, plus eliminating all but one loo on the plane? Crazy talk. (Wouldn't you hate to be the cleaning crew for those planes?)

It comes as no surprise that air travel is just not fun anymore. And I bet there are a couple of generations who don't remember when it ever was. Yes, all the security measures are definitely needed, though I seriously think we have the technology to eliminate the shoe-removal requirement, and I appreciate the problem of skyrocketing (no pun . . . ) fuel costs, and yeah, people like to fly cheap. But, speaking as a frequent flyer, we're about to hit a wall here.

So, I'm starting my own airline called MaryAir. A few of the amenities are:
  • Free checked luggage - up to two relatively normal-size bags.
  • Bags arrive in good condition with the flight on which you traveled and are ready for pick-up at baggage carousel within 15 minutes of your arrival. (OK, I may be dreaming here.)
  • One free carry-on. One. Overhead bins can be used for the following: 1) the "stuff" of parents with small children (but do you really have to travel by air with that small child?), and/or 2) luggage of people who have to make a speedy exit for a connecting flight. For all the rest of you, check your bags or pay a big overhead bin fee.
  • Standard, though roomier, aisle and window seats.
  • Middle seats that are 6-10" wider than aisle and window seats, plus they have built-in heat massagers (people will be fighting for the middle seat on MaryAir).
  • Tray tables sturdy enough to hold a laptop computer.
  • No reclining seats. The seats on MaryAir are so comfortable, you don't need to take up the space of the folks behind you by reclining.
  • Double arm-rests so that you don't have to play Elbow Gocha! with the person next to you.
  • Free earplugs and/or headphones for everyone. Shhhhhhhh. Let's keep it quiet.
  • Free bottles of water as you board the plane. That should keep you happy until some other beverage or edible offering comes your way.
  • Zippy exits. First off: you people with connecting flights, who'll be seated in an area that facilitates your exit (and we know who you are, so those of you without connecting flight, don't try to pull anything) - grab your bags, quickly and GO. Second, the rest of us with one measly carry-on. Third, people with stuff in overhead bins.
  • No nickel-and-diming you to death. One flat rate for your flight. Exceptions: over-sized, anvil-totin' checked luggage and overhead bin use (one bag) for folks not making a connecting flight.
I do not mind paying a bit more (note: BIT more) for an all-inclusive flight, which was the norm not so long ago. Airlines like Spirit and Ryanair are cheapies, so you do have that option of a low-low price if you don't plan to use the toilet or bring anything with you on your trip. Fine.

But the major carriers should stop this silly business of charging just to breathe. We get that fuel costs are up. We get that we have new security issues. But life is stressful and complicated enough without all this extra junk.

Let's make flying fun again. Welcome aboard MaryAir!

Monday, April 05, 2010

Build a Better Bookshelf

There has got to be a better way to display books in a library or bookshop than standard vertical shelving. I am never - and as I get older and less nimble, I really mean NEVER - going to stoop down to check out the offerings below, say, lower-thigh level. I used to check out all the books at or above eye-level on a row, then get down on my knees and check out the bottom rows, but I'm just not going to do that anymore. And getting back up isn't as easy or graceful as it once was.

I feel so sorry for those poor books on the two lower shelves. I don't see many people squatting down to have a look. But there they languish. Condemned to obscurity simply because they happen to fall on the bottom shelves alphabetically. There may be some ripping yarns down there, but I am not going to embarrass myself to find out.

It seems to me that some kind of shelving could be designed where you push a button and the shelf would rotate vertically, allowing the peruser to easily access books too high or too low to view. I am not an inventor, but I can't believe that Barnes & Noble or Borders wouldn't invest in the development of accessible shelving. And share that information with libraries. Wouldn't they sell more books that way? (And has anyone ever done a study on the sales of eye-level books vs. sales of bottom shelf books?)

And it would be terrific if the magical shelves were completely noiseless, though people no longer respect the silent spaces of libraries and bookstores as they chatter away on their cellphones. Well, one can only hope.

Just something that crosses my mind every time I hit the library or a bookstore. And don't tell me you've never thought the same thing.

Woe to the poor author whose last name condemns her/him to the lower shelves!

Friday, April 02, 2010

New York Dresses for Spring

After the snowiest February and the rainiest March on record, New York City has emerged in all her spring finery. Here's a peep at Herald Square, plus the incredible Flower Show at Macy's. (Yeah, those are real flowers bedecking the store's interior.)

Hope you're enjoying Spring, wherever you are!

One Good Friday

It's hard to submerge oneself in the passion of Good Friday on such a splendiferouly gorgeous day. So many temptations along the way. Blue, blue sky. Refreshingly warm breezes. Flowers and trees shamelessly a-bloom. New York City is like some lovable, giddy old tart, strutting her stuff and linking arms with you, begging for a little hilarious quality time.

And, OK, I let the old girl drag me around for part of the morning, but at noon, I gave her the slip and ducked into St. Bartholomew's for the Good Friday service.

I love "The Three Hours" Good Friday service. (Yes, it lasts three hours.) St. Bart's is dark and cool and Byzantine, so it helps shut out the sunny, crazy stuff happening outside its Park Avenue doors. I chose a pew near the front on the far left side and did my best to turn down my Type-A brain.

I cherish the readings of the seven Last Words, each given due reverence with music from the choir, a meditation by one of the clergy, prayer and silence, and a hymn. I love singing those passion hymns: "Ah, holy Jesus, how has thou offended," "Beneath the cross of Jesus," "Were you there," "My song is love unknown," "When I survey the wondrous cross," and "O sacred head, sore wounded."

The service bids me stop, leave the outside world outside, and attend to the message. Three hours is not too long to ask. Still, I wouldn't be able to stay for the whole thing if I didn't have the day off (one of the perks of working at the Church Center). Back in Atlanta, I'd only get to stay for a couple of the sets before going back to work. I like that I get the opportunity to block everything out for three whole hours now.

After the service and the tolling of the bell, I left the dark stone church and went back out into the blinding sunlight. My old friend was waiting for me. The 3-hour darkness not forgotten, I let her spirit me through Midtown and back up to Spanish Harlem, loving the sunshine, breezes, and flowers. I considered it a promise of things to come on Sunday.

A Blessed Good Friday to all.