Thursday, October 27, 2011

Where everybody knows your name, part II

Previously this year, I wrote about how much I love going to my local Chase branch in Hartsdale, New York. Everyone is so very helpful and friendly. From Thelma, the greeter and CSR to Laura, the part time student who is on track to be a personal banker to my favorite and the person with whom I deal the most - UCONN graduate, Yousef. We originally connected over the UCONN win in March madness and the relationship stuck.

Whenever I have a problem with my account, be that trying to figure out how to make my direct deposit work, or making a deposit with my smart phone, Yousef, the branch manager and VP is available.

More recently, I have been using a cane on a regular basis - I am disabled and really don't like to be reminded of that fact - while I have more than one disability, I choose to focus more on my abilities and less on the disabilities. A trip to my orthopedic surgeon recommended that I not only use a cane, but that I attend physical therapy two to three times a week - and on whose dime?????? I am strapped as it it, but I digress.

It seems a cable company that shall remain nameless, suffice it to say that they are one of the largest here in the NYC area - has been trying for some 4 weeks to get my high speed Internet installed at my home. For reasons unbeknownst to me, that has not happened. I called no less than ten times and was finally so frustrated I gave up and told them to cancel the service and reimburse my money (which they had already conveniently taken out of my account). After waiting for a week and growing more frustrated by the day, I called Chase and they immediately reimbursed the monies. Simple enough.

I was so happy with Chase this week, indeed, anytime I deal with them, I am amazed at their level of professionalism, no matter the amount of monies I have in my bank account......I decided to write to the direct report of my VP - I was surprised not only to receive a response in a day - I can only begin to imagine how busy this man is! But he told me that he had considered my request for a button on the door that one can push if one is disabled such as myself.

I then received a personal call from none other than Yousef to indicate that the work has already begun and though it is an extensive project, they are not delaying my request.

And THAT, dear folks is why Chase is not going to charge to use debit cards - they get it on a very real level that real people use their bank and that folks are struggling - why kick a person when they are already down?

Sometimes you just want to go where everybody knows your name.....

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Racism in America - alive and well

"I hate Indians! They are cheap" the woman stated quite unabashedly. The outburst was uncalled for, inappropriate and certainly unprofessional. The woman then proceeded to dare me to write about that in my blog. I was shocked, literally and could feel my blood boiling.

If she could be this open about one group of minorities, what on earth did she think of me and furthermore, what would she say about me behind my back?

I could not, no, would not let this racism pass by. I commented that she had just made quite the sweeping statement. She then proudly sneered - yes, I am a racist! Racism and bigotry is insidious and hurts all of us. The biggest irony of the story is that this woman is married to an African American, albeit separated. She has a beautiful African American/caucasian daughter who is already showing signs of questioning her heritage and wondering why she is different than the other children in her predominantly caucasian neighborhood. The woman of whom I speak hails from the former Soviet Union and came to this country sans papers and worked under the table for quite some time until she became "legal".

How quickly they forget. There but for the grace of God go all of us. I am reminded of those great leaders who have preceded us, Dr. King, Gandhi, Mohammed, Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Tutu, all of whom preached inclusion - not hatred and bigotry.

Yes, we might have a bi-racial President who self identifies as black - that is his choice, but the venom that has been spewed in his direction, no matter the cause, has been uncalled for and has created a chasm in this country the likes of which we have not seen since Dr. King was jailed in Birmingham, Alabama during the Civil Rights movement - they tried then to quash the rebellion, telling blacks that they were inferior and did not deserve equal treatment as whites, but the people would not be moved. They marched to Washington D.C. and ultimately their united voices were heard.

Yes, I am sad as I write this, but I am also hopeful that my four amazing sons will be amongst those who will turn this tide of racism and bigotry - they are biracial, two of them have children, one of whom was the sperm donor for a lesbian couple and of whom I could not be more proud.

We certainly have a long way to go and I implore all of you who read this to call out bigots and racists wherever they hide, covertly and overtly - they clearly do not share the American Dream and shame on them for not doing so!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Gays and lesbians and transgendered individuals - brave souls paving the way

I had occasion early in the week to sit with a couple at coffee hour at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church - my church where I worship most Sundays. I had met this remarkable couple previously, but last week there was a glow about them - it seems that this couple who has been together some 21 years is FINALLY getting married! What a blessing to them and their families. They are both retired professionals and I would estimate that they are in their mid 50's to early 60's, but don't be fooled - they want marriage and they want it now! We made the announcement during coffee hour and there was a generous and genuine round of applause to salute the newly engaged couple.

Later in the week, I had drinks with Scott and his partner Mark - they shared with me that while they have been partnered for years, they actually got married on the first day that was legal for them in the great state of New York. I could feel tears welling up in my eyes. All those hours on the phones at the SEIU building in Times Square, all those hang-up calls, all those "I support you, but I won't call my Senator" calls were worth it. Meeting Chelsea Clinton was of course, the icing on the cake, but knowing Scott, a former Senator from New York, formerly Republican, now a Democrat (at least, I think he still is) and brilliant litigating attorney and Mark, an amazing realtor and film genius are finally legally wed to one another makes me happy indeed.

And now to round out the story. Brooke and Gary were married last month in a beautiful wedding ceremony in a church in Utah - who'd have thought that a gay man would marry a transgendered woman in Utah? I have never met Brooke, but have spoken with her over the phone - she is an amazing woman, great mum wonderful cook and boy can she decorate a mean floral bouquet. Gary is a former Iraqi war vet and ours is a sweet and mutually respectful friendship.

Brown v. Board, Loving v Virginia, Prop 8, Don't ask, Don't tell.......we are making it slowly but surely.

OWS gains momentum

On Friday, I was assigned to attend yet another Health Fair on Wall Street - the second in as many weeks. I was surprised to see that the NYPD had set up cordons around a PUBLIC street and was asking for badges (employee ID's) and/or ID's. I was most surprised - shocked even, that at 9.30 on a Friday morning on an innocuous day in October, the NYPD would take such a tack.

Many of the employees of Wall Street seemed pleased at not having to deal with the annoying, pesky flies in their mega bucks ointment, with their pressed blouses and heels, and starched shirts and designer suits. They showed their ID's and waltzed through as though they had not a care in the world.

I was not quite sure how to approach my particular situation, knowing full well that I had no employee badge, but every credible right to be there.

I approached a camerawoman from New York - she is not affiliated with the rag, rather she claims to be from a reputable news show. I have googled the website she gave me, but all I can come up with is the tabloid esque paper. She was not able to get onto Wall Street at that time, per se, rather was relegated to filming from the other side of the barricades. I found that to be quite remarkable given that she had press credentials.

I summoned my courage and recalled all of those difficult times and altercations I had in the Salt Lake City Mayor's office. I walked stridently up to the police officer and indicated that while I did not work on Wall Street, nor did I have, as such, an employee ID badge, I had business there. He gruffly told me to walk along and talk with his colleagues who were keeping guard further down the street.

I explained my story further and was granted access. Were I not on the clock, I would have gone down to the park and tried to interview folks on Friday but that was not the case. As fate would have it, my colleague who speaks some English but not great English, was waving to me from the "checkpoint charlie" area, trying to get my attention - the powers that be realized I was walking with a cane and allowed him to approach me with the rolling case of glass samples.

On my way home, I purposely walked past the park and past Chase One Plaza because I wanted to see again what was taking place during this amazing time in our lives.

It has been said that Chase is paying for the over $2 million in overtime that NYC has paid out to cops thus far and I have to say I have no reason to disbelieve this. I can tell you that the P.D. is getting weary - they are constantly yelling - "move along" "don't block the sidewalk" "not everyone wants to be here" - maybe so, but there are plenty of people who do and they are sporting peace signs and thinking of John Lennon and Bob Marley.

In tribute to these two great men whom we lost much too young, I stopped off at an artist's booth and spent my last $35 on NY city mini photographs made to look like Bob Marley and John Lennon respectively.

One love.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

An afternoon at the Wall Street protests

I spent last Saturday afternoon in the Wall Street area. I had been assigned by my colleagues from to go among the masses and get some good interviews. I initially declined as the assignment appeared to be quite daunting.

As fate would have it, I already work in the Financial District and am therefore familiar with its buildings and environs. Earlier in the week, I had already experienced the massive influx of the NYPD, complete officers on horses, ready to quell rioting and/or protesting should it arise, bolstered by the extra 2 million dollars that Mayor Bloomberg had managed to squeeze from his budget. I was prepared for anything and hoped for the best.

Serendipitously, just as I alighted the subway stairs, I came across a realtor, his wife, an attorney and their daughter a high school student. We discussed the subprime mortgage crisis, greed and the general demise of the country - he is actually the first person interviewed.

What amazed me more than anything, besides the orderly fashion in which the protestors behaved, was the huge cross-section of the American public that came out to lend their support. I interviewed everyone from a ten year old, to grandparents, a school teacher and numerous college students.

There were too many amazingly well-written signs to count, though I tried to read them out on the air - one in particular reads: Take part in direct democracy. The wealthiest 1% has taken control of our economy and government. You are the 99% that is ready to take it back."

Talk about a powerful statement - even the 10 year old boy whom I interviewed near the beginning of the show was able to articulate the 99% and the 1% and how that works and why, in his opinion, it is not fair.

What an afternoon it was. Stay tuned for further live broadcasts and podcasts on this huge financial crisis. This evening (Monday), mayor Bloomberg has decided to recant his position and allow the demonstrators peace and quiet where they can protest infinitely.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Mormonism is NOT a cult!

It would appear that a man calling himself both a minister and supporter of Rick Perry has recently called upon fellow christians - read evangelists and ultra right wing conservative christians - to boycott Mitt Romney and elect one of their own, rather than someone who is Mormon and belongs to a cult.

Not so. For over 23 years, I was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints or Mormon Church. During that time I found members to be kind, loving, service minded both in and out of their church community and almost without exception......they devoted numerous hours of service to their faith and ultimately their religious beliefs.

We are living in the year 2011 and I am wondering whence this religious zeal cometh - certainly not from anything I have seen in all my years reading the bible. This election cycle has been hijacked by ultra right winged so-called Christian zealots. It is unfortunate, given that Jesus was one of the first progressives in the Bible.

Indeed, were he here on the earth today, I would venture to say that he would be preaching in much the same way he did while on his earlier mission - that is, spending time with the poor, meek and downtrodden - he certainly would not be spending time with zealots, hypocrites and the like (read zealots) and he would spread forth his compassion to encompass everyone, even publicans and gasp - prostitutes and adulterers.

My heart is heavy and quite saddened for the many LDS/Mormon faithful whom I have been privileged to encounter in these 2+ this not America - the greatest country in the world, founded on religious freedom? I guess not.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Walll Street dichotomies

As you may recall, I work as a marketing consultant in the downtown area of the Financial District. As such, on occasion, I am called upon to attend health fairs at various businesses in the Wall Street area.

This week, I happened to be in the Trump Tower around its wealth, opulence and grandeur. I was not impressed and was, in fact disturbed to see the aforementioned over the top grandeur, particularly in this day and age. I am not for one moment suggesting that The Donald, aka would be President, redocorate any of his ueber buildings, but I am writing this piece to address what I can only call dichotomies of the time in which we live.

For the past 20 days I have been riveted to the main street and alternative media's coverage of the protests on Wall Street. Last week at another health fair, an associate noted that while she is 100% behind the protestors, she cannot afford to get arrested. While I did not concur outwardly, I groaned inwardly at what is happening so very close to the freedom towers and the former Ground Zero where so many lives were lost some ten years ago.

We are in a fight for America and the middle class is losing this war. This nightmare that began with greedy Wall Street bankers and financiers has now snowballed into some 700 protestors being arrested in one weekend on one hand and according to one left-leaning publication, bankers and financiers sipping champagne while they watch the "minions" below, wondering what they are so upset about.

I tried to have a conversation with a financial/management consultant on the situation this week. His assesment is simple: he does not know what the protesting is about nor does he know what the demands of the protestors are.

I would assert that it matters not one whit what the demands are of the protestors, only that we know the source of their discontent. They have been fleeced dry and they are mad as hell and not willing to take it any more.

They want billionaires and Wall Streeters to pay their share and STOP forcing the American public to be held hostage to their whims, bonuses, stock options and golden parachutes.

I shall be reporting on Saturday from Wall Street live streaming on Political Context at Blog Talk Radio and hope to have you listening.

The times are changing and I for one welcome the change