I think I’ll just pay the fees….

I have a Capital One credit card.  The only reason I applied for it is because they do not charge a foreign transaction fee, so I really only use it when I’m out of the country.  One catch: you need to alert them before you leave town and let them know what countries you’ll be visiting.  Of course, we’re going to so many countries that the web site could not handle it.  Kind of like Obamacare.com.

Anyway—I had to call them.  I explained to the young woman that I was going around the world, and that I could not get all the countries I’m going to into the system via the website.  She said she could help me (she was very nice), but explained in no uncertain terms that if I were staying in the United States I wouldn’t need to alert them (but not very smart).

“But, I’m going around the world” I boasted.  And she replied, “but I need to make clear: If you’re not leaving the country, you don’t need to call us”.  I decided not to pursue this tangent, and she began taking down my itinerary.

Apparently, for some undisclosed reason, she could not put it in my travel record, but instead she attached a note to my general record and would re-enter it in on January 1st.  I had no idea what she was talking about, and have no faith that whatever is supposed to happen on New Year’s Day will actually happen. 

She wished be bon voyage and we parted ways.

Half an hour later she called me back.  She had spoken to the fraud department and was told that I needed a contact in the USA so they could verify if any suspect charges were duplicitous or not.  I suggested that they just call me directly.  “But you’ll be out of the country and we won’t be able to reach you” she insisted.  I explained that my phone would work, but she was having none of it.  “We will need to call someone in the United States to verify a purchase or it may not go through”.

I then tried to apply logic, for their sake as well as mine.  “OK, if you can’t reach me, then how will my proxy know if a charge is fraudulent?  They wouldn’t be able to reach me either.”

Her tone became a bit stern.  “Sir, I just need a name”. 
I gave up my niece, Amelia.

Right before we parted, as if a lightbulb came on, she decided to allay any fears I had.  “Don’t worry” she chirped, “we won’t be sending her a card, she can only verify if your purchases are real.  She can’t make any purchases herself!”

I thanked her for her diligence and wished her a Happy Thanksgiving.  I’m convinced my card won’t ever work again, and that in about a week Amelia will be staring at a new credit card and wondering where it came from.

Tuxedo Drama–Continued

You would think I would learn.  I’m just not that smart, I guess.

So, when we last left off, I had to return my made-to-measure suit because it was apparently made to measure someone else.  Ardeen Reed was kind enough to take it back, but I was back at square one.

I stopped in at Jack Silver Tuxedoes in Times Square, and they had a very nice Calvin Klein tuxedo for $700.  It would need modest alterations, but they would be included.  Apparently I’m not an “off the rack” guy.  I wasn’t quite ready to pull the trigger, so I took a card and said I would come back if interested.  They couldn’t have been nicer.

The next day, I saw a Calvin Klein tuxedo on Gilt for $350.  It was not exactly the one I met at Jack Silver, but close.  When it came I returned to Beyond Bespoke to have it altered.  But, once again, it needed so many alterations (about $350 worth) that it did not make sense.  Here I was spending $700 when a brand new, bespoke tux would cost $900.  Again, and I realize I dodged a bullet, Gilt was willing to take it back (for store credit, but I shop a lot on Gilt so it’ll be fine.)

And now, for the second time, I’m back at square one.  I really like Beyond Bespoke, so I decided I’d just have it made there, so I booked an appointment for 2:30 today.  They just called, and now I know what the “Beyond” means.  They send you to his cousin across the street. 

That’s right, Beyond Bespoke does not do Bespoke!

It reminds me of the time I went into a chic little men’s shop in Greenpoint called Alter.  I found a pair of jeans I liked, but they did not come in lengths–they had to be taken up.  I said to the clerk “This is probably a stupid question given the name of the shop, but do you Alter?” and the answer was “No”.  Alter does not alter, and Beyond Bespoke is, apparently, beyond bespoke.

I’m going to make sure 1) that I’m getting what I want and 2) that the garment is not made by 9 year olds in some backwoods factory of country I am about to visit and 3) that they can do it in time.  That’s my plan. 

Tuxedo: Part Deux

The Tuxedo is a wreck.  I thought I should be concerned when I got the email about Arden Reedhaving to make adjustments and alterations, and I was right.

photo 4.JPGSaturday I kept my appointment with Beyond Bespoke to see what they could do, particularly with the pants and vest.  We started with the pants.  Turns out that the waist did have to come in, but so did the seat!  It was clearly taken in before, so if they took it in at the middle seam then the back pockets would come together, like a unibrow going across my ass.  I suggested they make it one big pocket and I could store my iPad back there, but they were not amused. They would have to take it in by opening the side seams.  After some additional discussion, they decided that the pants legs were too big in length and girth.  The pants alone needed major reconstruction.   
photo 2.JPG

This pattern continued with the vest (sides and back would have to be repaired) and the jacket (the arms would work for Popeye, colossal in the bicep, narrow at the wrist).  I was pinned up and down like a voodoo doll.  Then a look of concern came across Wilson’s face.  The shoulders were two different lengths, and the button was misplaced.  Finally we both simultaneously realized that the jacket pockets did not line up.  If you looked across with the jacket buttoned, the left was higher than the right by about an inch.
photo 3.JPG

Ready for a fight, I immediately sent Arden Reed some pictures and demanded my money back.  I also called American Express and explained the situation.  As usual, they said it was not a problem and they would file a dispute.  This is why I love American Express: They actually believe you and take your side.  Unless your dispute is with American Express themselves—but that’s another story. 

I have to give Arden Reed credit, they are refunding the entire price.  I have to go to Beyond Bespoke and pick up my suit and bring it to Arden Reed.  But now I need a new tuxedo, and I don’t have time to get it wrong this time.

 

Wish me luck!

Shaken and Stirred

I expect no sympathy–I had to buy a new tuxedo for the cruise because I lost too much weight from the time I bought my previous one.  That was in 1999, so it’s also a bit dated.

About two months ago, I saw an article about a company, Arden Reed, which operates out of a small truck.  They scan you with a laser to import your exact measurements into a computer.  They build your suit in China and mail it to you.  If you need additional alterations, they will pay for them, but you probably don’t need them because, well, you’ve been measured by a laser

So I made an appointment.  What could go wrong?

 

We are going to need tuxedoes because the ship has a formal dinner about once a week, plus there is a sendoff party in Los Angeles which is also black tie.  I wanted to buy kilts.  George agreed, but later baulked.  He thought they were too expensive, we’d stick out at the events and look like freaks, plus he didn’t want to wear brogues.  What, what?  Yeah, he had an issue with the footwear.  I, on the other hand, thought it would be fun.  I loved getting married in a kilt, and with my newly discovered ancestry (sorry lederhosen, you’ve been made redundant) I thought it would make a statement.  Or ask a question.  I’m not really sure.  But punctuation definitely would have been involved.

 

I made my way onto the truck and into the hands of the two impeccably dressed young men who were manning the mobile men’s store.  I was instructed to go into the booth, hang my clothes on a hook, and press the button.  Red laser beams surrounded me as if I was an art thief.  The machine made some impressive noises and I was done. 

Clothed again I stepped out of the booth.  A tape measure appeared and the handsome haberdashers surrounded me, measuring and marking down the results on their forms and pads.  Wait…

If the machine just measured me, using computers and lasers and science and lights and interesting noises, why would they be taking my measurements with a device that has not changed much since 1919?  It was explained to me that this was a precaution–in case the lasers could not correctly take all of my measurements.  I didn’t mind, actually, but thought it was odd that they were not confirming what the computer had recorded, but rather were plotting my peaks and valleys on actual paper

After discussing collar width, lining, material and buttons, my credit card was run and I walked squinting into the daylight with an electronic receipt on my iPhone and verbal assurances that my tux would arrive in 4 weeks.  Or perhaps 6.

At the 8 week point, I emailed my phantom friends at Arden Reed, and it was explained that “During our revision process we noticed that some alterations were necessary and we are currently working on them.”  I don’t really know what a revision process is, but how could it need alterations if you measured twice and cut once, and how can they alter without me physically trying on the suit.  To me, and this is sight unseen, it sounds like they screwed it up.  I got nervous.

 

A box arrived Wednesday, and I have to say that when I opened the box the tuxedo looked great.  I chose a red paisley liner and narrow lapels.  My anxiety abated. Until I tried it on.

The jacket seems fine, although oddly wrinkled in the upper arms.  Perhaps a pressing will fix it.  But it fits well and looks pretty great.

The vest is another story.  I don’t usually don a vest, but since I’ll be “tuxting” at least once a week, it might be a welcome change now and then.  However, this is not cut for me.  I don’t know who it is cut for.  The arm holes are enormous, and while I’m flattered that they assume I have a “V” shaped back, I would have to juice-up and do pull-downs at the gym for about 10 years to fill it.  But only on my left side.  For the right side I would have to invent a time machine and steal a shoulder pad from the set of Dynasty.  Or I could just swipe one from Larry King.

Little known fact: I have no ass.  None.  Nothing.  White boy ass.  Naked, it looks like two pancakes were glued-on above my thighs.  Trousers always sag in the back, and these were no exception.  And while my butt is minimalist, it is not wrinkled.  But the backside of these pants are.  The seat looks like brains, or a colossal mass of black cellulite.  I don’t know—maybe an iron will do the trick?

 

I take it to the tailor Tomorrow.

 

We leave in 55 days.

Ending the End Game

I ripped off another Band-Aid this morning: I told my gym that I’m leaving.

I know it doesn’t sound like a big deal, but I really don’t want to leave my gym.  I’m in terrific shape. (How in hell am I going to keep up my fitness routine on the ship?  I have no idea.) I think I’m in the best shape of my life.  I know I’ve been more muscular in the past, and probably looked better naked, but my current workouts have me doing things I could never do before.  There is more bounce in my step, I’m more flexible, stronger and more nimble than ever. 

I joined End Game Training last June, using a one-month Giltcoupon.  For several years I had belonged to Steel Gym but my trainer, Will Barry, had moved to Florida and I was just no longer motivated to go.  I didn’t like it without Will—the staff, the clients, the equipment all needed an upgrade.  The final straw was when I came in one morning and was accosted by a new manager who wanted me to sign an agreement that they would charge me an $80 a year “management fee”.  When I explained that we had a contract and, when it was time to renew, I would consider the entire cost including this mysterious tariff, but until that time we had a deal and didn’t feel obligated to pay it.  She got so angry at me, snatching the clipboard out of my hand and shouted (shouted!) “FINE, WE WILL SEE ABOUT THAT!!!”  Uh, roid-rage much?

So, I stopped going regularly.  When Super Storm Sandy hit I took up eating instead.  While last winter was delicious, I realized I could no longer look down and see my penis without a mirror. 

My stated goal at End Game Training was to get back to the gym, to make it part of my regular routine again.  That was it.  I had no fitness goal, just to walk through the door often enough.

End Game Training is different than any gym I’ve been to, and I wrote the book on gyms!  All trainers claim to tailor your routine, but End Game Training adapts your routine every time you go.  Semi-private groups are no more than 4 people, and I’ve never seen more than 7 people in the larger classes.  Every instructor is knowledgeable, and they review what you did with the other instructors before you come in.  They are able to constantly push you just a little further each time you come. 

Around August I was on top of the hose bed on the fire truck, and had to jump off to do something.  I was in full gear, and there was equipment I had to navigate over while climbing off.  Before my core training at End Game, I would have to maneuver  like this: step, hold on, turn my body while stepping out, avoiding any move that might hurt my lower back.  However, this time, I just kind of turned while stepping, lightly landing on my left foot on the step while turning mid-air and landing perfectly on both feet on the ground.  It was like a gymnasts move, and I did it without even thinking.  I amazed myself, and it was all due to my new workouts.

It’s hard for me to leave them.  They often refer to the staff and members as the End Game family, and now that I’m leaving them I can see that it’s right.  I like the people who work out there, even if I’m the old man in the crowd.  I really enjoy it and do not want to leave.  It’s very sad for me, I’ve found something that I enjoy but now I need to leave it behind.  I may be able to recreate some of the workouts on the ship or on Water Island, but I’ll still leave behind the amazing facility and the great people that work and work out there. 

Now the next Band-Aid I need to rip off announcing my departure something else I love—I need to tell my Japanese teacher. 

How I Got Here, and Other Pertinent Information

OK, I did it.  George said I should just rip the Band-Aid off, so I did it on Friday.  I gave my notice.  To quote Agnes Gooch: I gotta find out what I’m supposed to do now!

George and I are changing our lives.  Our apartment is on the market, I’ve given my notice, I told my family and arranged for the dog to be taken care of. 

The first thing we are doing is to sail around the world.  When we return, we are going to live at the beach house on Water Island.  When we close in the Fall of 2014, well, I have no idea what we’ll do.

Not working is a scary proposition.  I’ve never not worked, not since I was 12 years old and Joseph Lombardi convinced me to take over his paper route.  Since then I’ve worked everywhere.  Albert’s Deli, Woolworths, Davis Polk and Wardwell, Union Labor Life Insurance Company, King Administrators, The Monster, The Belvedere, The Plaza Hotel, Daniel Caterers, A Sterling Affair, The Monster (reprise), White & Case, Arthur Andersen, The Interep Radio Store, Battery Park City Parks Conservatory, Fusebox, Permanent Publishing, AEA Consulting and the Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center.  In between, I worked as a consultant (Children’s Television Workshop, Thomas Publishing, Lovett Productions, Leveraging Investments in Creativity, etc.), wrote a book (The Fitness Guide–Where to Workout When You’re on the Road), chaired a Community Board, wrote a serial for Island Scene magazine, adopted five dogs, learned Japanese and got married to my partner of 30 years.

So, a little time off seems earned, although it doesn’t feel that way.  I feels like I’m stepping off a cliff.

Yet, going around the world should be a great way to start.  I’m very excited.  I look at the itinerary regularly.  I keep it up on my work computer and visit it about 20 times a day.  If you’re interested, here is the route.  I like to say we’re going to Venice the long way:

So in 58 days we have to sell or rent out our apartment, pack for a 4 month trip, box up everything we own, store it, and send Milo to Texas.  Wish us luck!