Sunday, August 26, 2007

City Views, Country Dreams

Good evening from New York.

As it is already late, I won't write too much tonight. This is more by way of just staying in touch.

We are quickly coming up on our Labor Day weekend, which traditionally marks the end of summer, start of fall. Our summer weather has never quite gotten in gear this year, bit of brief hot and humid, but mostly cooler, much cooler than usual.

In the shop, we have made good use of the cooler days, and have already done quite well with our fall woolens. We have been selling lots of wool coats in August!

The past two weeks' financial news re sub prime loans have no doubt begun to sew seeds of fear in the minds of many of our customers. Their mortgages and credit card balances may now have much higher interest rates. This may dampen enthusiasm for the beautiful styles we now have available.

I have stolen a few hours to try on some of these new styles, trying to select the pieces that will be my "uniform" for September. Alas, I am having a difficult time finding items that properly fit me. I am too scrawny on top. Need broader shoulders. Or something.

So far, I have only managed to select one beautiful red cardigan. The color becomes me, and I am sure that when I wear it, the sweater will sell.

We just ended our "retail" August month, and once again, beat our goal. So, it will be another bonus!

Tomorrow night we are scheduled for night one of a two- or maybe even three-night process to refinish the floor in the shop. Much moving around of heavy fixtures will be needed each night and on each following morning. I had heavily lobbied to shut the shop on an August Sunday to get the job over with in one long day, but ... no the answer came. We cannot close for a day.

So...we will have much aggravation. I am sure that many staff members (possibly including me) will find the smell of the refinishing liquids repellent. Some staff may want to leave immediately. But the shop shall stay open. I do hope that I exaggerate the problems.

Speaking of problems, it seems as if much is going on in lives of dear people who contribute to the site. If I were less tired, I could add a few tales myself. But this Sunday evening, I think that I will leave it, merely recounting some retail tales.

If I ever get another day off (must happen sometime this week) I may write more, or may no longer think that any of what concerns me now is still worth worrying about. Time can be our friend.

Pleasant dreams to all.

Monday, August 20, 2007

City Views, Country Dreams

Good evening from New York.

My week long holiday, spent in my home town, ended yesterday.

I still am feeling all of the pleasures that week brought me. I woke when it suited me. I spoke to whom I wished. I walked to destinations that appealed. I took a bus, or a subway when that destination was further than I wanted to walk.

Best of all, the opportunity existed to re-connect with many of my old pals. Some of these folks also keep worker's hours, some are more free lance, or even not dependent on work for livelihood. Many of these friends have schedules that conflict with my usual timings.

So...what a delight to have so many lunches, all over New York last week in the company of people whom I have known for as many as forty years. That is a shockingly high number of years, but also quite a tribute our wishes to stay in contact. We have gone through our early adulthood, with lots of hopes and energy, through not-s0-early adulthood and the reality that it brought us, to a later stage of adulthood that we now wallow in, wondering how that many years have passed.

These friends and I know each other well. We know all our family stories, our successes, disappointments, and above all, our resilience. Friends indeed.

What else happened on my vacation. I had the nerve to begin an oil painting. When I went back to work, in my lovely employer's retail world five years ago, I stopped painting on canvas. I did not have the time, or the calm to even contemplate doing a "real" painting, and would settle for nothing less. As the years passed, doubts entered my confidence that I could still manage to paint anything worth the effort. My handwriting has declined, and I wondered if that signalled some sort of diminished hand/eye coordination. How we doubt ourselves!

So...I had some canvasses stacked about in a corner of my apartment. I had some paint that I was sure had not totally dried up. I had some brushes that seemed okay, but others seemed quite raggedy. I also was not sure of the clarity of the old bottle of turpentine.

On day two of my vacation I made a very swift round trip, via surprisingly on time subway trains, to a downtown discount art supply shop, and got new turp, and four new brushes in the shapes and sizes that I always wear down first. Back home quickly before I lost the confidence to begin. I began a new painting, on a very beautifully sunny morning.

I have the northern light outside my window in the room where I paint. Natural light is very important to me. So...all was good. I began a new still life, featuring a beautiful, if humble, blue and white transfer ware cup and saucer that I bought on my last visit to London.

The cup and saucer were bought from an antiques dealer I had visited for many years, who had a little shop within "Alfie's Antiques Market," on Church Street, off the Edgware Road. (That area has featured in some dramatic news coverage in the past few years, but I think of it in terms of pretty china, or silver or antique textile treasures brought back to the States. When I bought this blue and white, the old lady with the stand/shop said that she would soon be closing up because business was so bad, it cost more for her to come up to London than she made in a day's trading. So, I will not see her again. Painting the cup and saucer fills me with many memories of what I have seen along those blocks of Church Street.

The painting is going well. I got enough of it established during last week that I will be able to go back to it, when I have a spare few hours or more, and polish it. Hand and eye still are coordinated. What a relief.

I did lots of hours of reading as well, finally beginning an absorbing, and perhaps inspiring book by the Dalai Lama, given to me by a Tibetan man who is part of our store staff. Tonight he is in Nepal, visiting his family. I hope that his trip will be safe.

It was possible to see lots of bad art in galleries, some good art in Museums, and hear very good music for free under the stars during the annual Lincoln Center out-of-doors festival. I live less that ten minutes' walk from Lincoln Center.

My week off also gave me time to do much thinking, sleeping, eating properly prepared meals (prepared both by me, and also, as I ate all those lunches with old friends, by skilled chefs.)

Back to work. Already have faced a few challenging, if somewhat banal, emergencies. My staff were very glad to see me. Today I got to the shop before 8, to host the company's visual/creative wizzards' conversion of the shop from the August to the September collection. The sales floor looks very beautiful. The front window display is very creative and beckoning.
Our business should be fantastic as fall arrive. We are lucky that New York is now in a cool spell, perhaps as a result of weather fronts being rearranged by the hurricane in the Caribbean.

I heard many compliments from company big wigs. Their words are nice to the ear, but I know that the weather of compliments can also change quickly. Nice to hear now, but be able to take shelter!

Tomorrow I have a day off. Time for errands. Counting my blessings.
It has been fun to read lots of your blogs during the past week. I did not always leave comments, but always liked the opportunity to travel to many other parts of the world without leaving my keyboard.

Pleasant dreams to all.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

City Views, Country Dreams

Good morning from New York.

It is a beautiful morning, quite unlike yesterday when part of our city (Brooklyn) actually had a tornado pass through. The rest of the city and area settled for an intense thunderstorm and many inches rain in a very short period.

I had planned to get to the shop early to meet the new cleaners, well before our official open-up time. That plan went to smithereens, as I discovered that our public transportation system had lost its struggle to keep up with the weather. Flooded tracks, signal problems. Many subways not running at all by 8 a.m. Not enough buses pulled into service to take up some of the slack.

So, we New Yorkers either decided to stay at home (not an option for me) or to walk to our destination. In heat and humidity that were other storm souvenirs. Two and one half miles for me. I was a bit limp on arrival at the shop. The cleaners also had not been able to arrive.

I drank a lot of water. Then realized that something looked a bit different in the office part of the shop. Wet spots spread across the ceiling tiles. Plastic covers over the fluorescent light fixtures were full of water. Oh boy. There was more. One of these plastic covers had not been able to take the pressure of the water, and had fallen to the stairwell below it. Releasing lots of water.

The stockroom in the shop basement was flooded. Not deeply flooded, no damage to any of our goods, but still. Oh boy.

About this time my stock associate arrived with his own transportation story and then we got into action. Made phone calls, more phone calls, showed everything to the superintendant of the building so that he could contact the landlord. More phone calls to our corporate offices, the cleaning company, all sorts of folks.

Time to open the shop.

As the day wore on, everything began to get sorted out. Half of my staff were unable to come to work. Very few customers came in. We kept seeing lots of people walking purposefully back and forth on the Fifth Avenue sidewalk outside our front window. They were either just reaching their destination, or leaving that destination to try to return home.

Having gotten official permission to close a bit early, I prepared a little "early closing" sign for our window, and we began to prep the sales floor for the evening. Then...of course, customers began to come in. So, we did not close early, but actually had some good business during that last hour.

Then we closed the shop, locked the door and went home. I treated myself to a long, but uncrowded, bus ride back uptown.

So many people were greatly inconvenienced by the transportation problems. My day was relatively mild. But it was so good to finally have a shower!

And I did have pleasant dreams.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

City Views, Country Dreams

Good evening from a very hot and humid New York.

This is one of those days when I do wish that this apartment had air conditioning. Usually this wish passes within a few days after a big thunderstorm clears the air.

I had a day off, that began with an early morning appointment with my dentist. The appointment was uneventful. Thank goodness. I do like my dentist, but am always glad when she dismisses me after I have written out the requisite check. I do have some dental insurance via my employer, but over here it is pay first, then wait to be compensated with a check in the mail.

In any event it was good to have the rest of the day to myself, to get various errands done, and stay in the shade as much as possible.

Next week I have scheduled myself an entire week off. This will be the longest break that I have had from the shop since...well, I am not entirely sure, possibly in over a year. I do look forward to relaxing, seeing my NYC pals that have been very much neglected, doing some artwork, reading, maybe even a little traveling to nearby spots.

I love the anticipation of a vacation, almost more than the time off itself. I am sure that while I am away from the shop that all sorts of stuff will happen that will give me a wake-up call upon my return. I am so trying to strengthen my separation from responsibility techniques. Need to practice them!

Tomorrow I need to be at the shop before 9 a.m. to meet up with the new cleaners. Until they get used to their weekly/monthly requirements, I sort of want to make sure that we are on the same page. They came to the shop for a "big" monthly clean last Wednesday evening and all went well, so I hope for the same tomorrow.

Even with this hot weather, we are promoting early fall wools in the shop, and even wearing them. We keep the air conditioner going for sure. It is always the case that we are ahead of the natural season in our styles, while the "wear now" clothing is beautifully displayed in the sale area. Makes them even more attractive!

I am so sorry to have been reading about the H & M troubles in Surrey. If true that the pharmaceutical company is the source of the problems, well...hope that something is done to prevent any future escaping microbes. Good grief.

This evening I already wrote a version of this blog, but could not get it to post. So, this will be an abbreviated version, before I turn in for the night.

Pleasant dreams.