Saturday, September 10, 2016

Fifteen Years - another look at the 10 year post

Me (with camera) at the WTC in 1977

10 15 years ...

Whenever I returned to college from a visit home I would pass by the construction site where the World Trade Center was being built. As a child I thought that the Empire State Building would always be the tallest building in the world, but here they were building two (!) which would be taller. When complete, the twin towers of the World Trade Center would replace King Kong's favorite New York City skyscraper as the tallest in the world - at least for a while.

10 15 years ...

In 1973 the World Trade Center opened. It didn't have the charm of the building it replaced as tallest, but there it was, right at the tip of Manhattan island. You could see it from the Staten Island ferry as you approached ... you could see it as you crossed over the Verrazano Bridge. It was built on land that had not existed when New Amsterdam was settled, though it towered over the space where the original Dutch settlement existed. It transformed the famous New York City skyline.

10 15 years ...

As a Scoutmaster and as a Cubmaster, I brought the boys in my unit to the 110th floor observation deck. As a New Yorker, I had not been to the top of the Empire State Building (yet), but hardly anyone went there anymore, as these new buildings were the highest you could now get in New York City. On a number of occasions, my wife and I brought our son and daughter up to the observation deck. In 1976 I took a picture of the Statue of Liberty from here which I entered into a US Bicentennial photo contest, and won a prize.

10 15 years ...

For many years I worked in Secaucus, New Jersey and lived in Brooklyn. My drive to work took me through the Battery Tunnel and past the World Trade Center. Each morning I passed by, seeing the busy area and watching folks going to work in the towers.

10 15 years ...

Ten Fifteen years ago today, I was home asleep, not feeling well enough to go to work. My phone rang. It was my daughter wanting to know if the world was coming to an end. I retell the story every year on September 11 - you can read about it for yourself as well - The Day That Changed Everything. Life in NYC changed, life in the US changed, and life all around the world changed. We had always thought that we were safe here in the US, no one would dare attempt this sort of thing here. How quickly, and tragically, we found that we were wrong. We lost so much more than buildings that day. We lost lives, we lost security and we lost our innocence. No longer could we go about our daily lives without a reminder of what had changed. Everyone here in NYC lost someone they knew, or knew someone who had. A high school classmate and friend that I had just recently sat with to plan our class's 30 year reunion, Alan Feinberg, was a fireman and first responder who entered a dying building to help others ... and never came out. You may not have known the people in the World Trade Center, The Pentagon or on the hijacked aircraft, but you grieved for them ... and for the life of the pre-9/11 days.

One of the 4 hijacked aircraft left Newark International Airport - just 15 minutes from my house. It crashed landed in Shanksville, PA after passengers stormed the flight deck in an attempt to take back the airplane from the terrorists.

10 15 years ...

The day after the attack I found myself in the emergency room at Staten Island University Hospital. In the bed next to me was the wife of a fireman who was working at ground zero. He had come home for a break, and she had a reaction to the dust and debris he came home covered with.

10 15 years ...

As with the bombing of Pearl Harbor a generation before, we were stirred out of our complacency and into war. Security was increased everywhere, not just at the airports. We had learned to constantly look back over our shoulders.

10 15 years ...

In April, 2010 a friend was visiting from Australia and I was taking her around my city. She wanted to visit ground zero. I hadn't been able to bring myself to be in the area since the day of the attack. This was my first time back through that area. We looked down onto the footprint of the World Trade Center as the area was being prepared for construction of The Freedom Tower and the 911 Memorial.

10 15 years ...

Today, the empty space on our skyline where the World Trade Center stood, is no longer empty. The Freedom Tower is at half of its final height completed and at 70% occupancy. When completed, The Empire State Building will once again relinquish has relinquished its title of tallest in NYC. We are New Yorkers ... we are Americans ... you may deal us a blow, but we come back and we come back stronger than ever.


Weeks after the attack we visited our daughter in Florida, and saw The Voices of Liberty perform at the American Adventure in EPCOT in Walt Disney World. This clip was a part of that performance that I share each 9/11. (I hope and look forward to you sharing your thoughts on 9/11 below.)

Friday, June 6, 2014

The Art of the Deal ... WHY?

As many of you already know, I have just purchased a new car - a procedure that strikes fear in the heart of mortal men and women. When you buy almost anything else, you know what the price will be before you go to buy it, and that is the price you pay. With a car ... not happening! Two identical cars sold in the same showroom on the same day can vary by as much as $10,000 depending on the negotiating skills of the buyer, and most buyers, no matter how good their negotiating skills are, can't compete against a car dealer who does this many times every day.

Most people buy a car every 5-8 years. The last car I bought was for my wife and was now 8 years ago. The car I was replacing was my Saturn which I bought 12 years ago. In fact, it was one of Saturn's selling point that they didn't negotiate prices, they priced each car with a set price, so you knew exactly what you would pay up front.

I had done all my homework before I stepped into the dealership, so I knew what car I wanted and exactly what I wanted to pay for it. I had an advantage I hadn't had in the past, I didn't need a new car (my old one was still running well and in good shape), but I wanted a new car. In the past when I shopped for a new car, it was because the one I was driving (or my wife was driving) was about ready to stop performing that basic function. Not so this time. I could be picky as to what i got and how much I paid. I could easily walk away from a deal which wasn't exactly what I wanted ... or better!

My negotiating skills are good, but I am not kidding myself, I am sure someone with better skills could have done even better, but after doing all the online research (something that was not available for most of the 8 cars I have purchased in my life) I knew exactly what I wanted and what price I was willing to pay for it - and that included how much I would be willing to pay for financing. Having done this dance a number of times in my life, I knew the tricks that dealers pull to bring the price up, and as expected, the first offer came with a list of features that I didn't want - or more correctly, didn't want to pay for. I had test driven 2 different models and selected the one I wanted. The one I test drove had all of the extras that it could have - and in fact, was a Limited Edition of only 5000 cars. It was amazing, but had much that I did not want to add on to the final price. I negotiated for a model with only the features I wanted and rejected the list of add-ons originally presented to me. In the end, In the end - after an hour of back and forth negotiating - I got exactly the price I wanted to pay, at the finance rate I wanted (0%) and the price for my trade-in that I expected ... dealer incentives and rebates included. When I asked about the car I was finally getting, I was informed that I could have the car that I test drove ... with all the bells and whistles that I refused to pay for. I had gotten a good deal and a better car than I had originally planned on. (I later found out that during that holiday weekend, the dealership had a quota that the manufacturer had placed on it. That also played a part, and I knew that when I picked that day to make my purchase.)

But the question still remains - why does this have to happen? How many people pay more than they really have to because they don't know or understand the tricks that a dealer uses, or aren't very strong negotiators? I certainly have nothing against the dealer making a profit, but he always has the upper hand. Who decided that cars wouldn't get a set price and why has the public accepted it? Saturn (a GM division started in 1985) attempted to do things a different way. The brand was discontinued in 2009 and with it went the only car that had a set price. (There is a local dealership that advertises a no-negotiating price policy but I don't know how they price their cars so I don't know if this is in the buyers best interest or not.)

How about you? Do you enjoy the game of negotiating for a car, or would you prefer a set price when you walk into a dealership? What do you think of this policy?

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Broadway ... on Television

There was a time - within my lifetime - that LIVE was synonymous with TELEVISION. Names such as Playhouse 90, Studio OneOmnibus, and others bring back images of live drama in the early days of television. Soap operas, the staple of daytime TV, were performed live well after all the others went to film or tape.

Actors found ways to adapt and although you might have found chaos on the set, what came through the tv was some of the finest material ever presented on TV. It didn't have the polish or production quality that today's shows have, but the content was remarkable. This was the incubator for some of the finest playwrights of the day ... including Rod Serling who gained fame for his Requiem for a Heavyweight, and went on to create The Twilight Zone.

Among the source material for these shows, was often dramas which had been successful on Broadway. However, the Broadway musical was a challenge that was very rarely attempted, and when it was, it needed to be a big network special.

When I was growing up, there were two musicals that everyone waited anxiously for their yearly broadcast. The first was the now classic MGM musical, The Wizard of Oz. The other was taken from the Broadway stage and featured Mary Martin as Peter Pan.

The first few years it was broadcast, it was done so live, with Mary Martin reprising the role she created on Broadway. In its later years, the show was committed to video tape, but for us watching it, that made no difference at all. The once a year NBC special broadcast was an event. I know I looked forward to it with just as much excitement and anticipation as I did for the Thanksgiving night broadcast of The Wizard of Oz. However, while the Wizard of Oz was a huge Hollywood spectacular, Peter Pan had the intimacy of the Broadway stage.

In 1960 it had been taped in a longer TV version from the earlier live ones - at the Brooklyn studio that was just around the corner from where I lived. Mary Martin, once again playing the boy who wouldn't grow up, was now appearing on Broadway, as Maria Von Trapp in The Sound of Music. Then it was gone. The Wizard of Oz continued but Peter Pan disappeared from our small screen It made its final TV appearance in 1999, but that was the first time it had been on TV since 1973! (The show was revived twice on Broadway - once with Sandy Duncan and once with Cathy Rigby whom I saw in it in 1990.)

Saturday Night Live - which also broadcast a few episodes in 1976 from the Brooklyn studio (and if you buy the DVD set of the second season, you can see my wife and myself in the audience) - became the only live show on TV.

Broadway musicals performed live on tv became just a memory ... until a few nights ago. NBC once again attempted to present a musical performed live. Ironically the choice of musical was The Sound of Music! However, rather than casting someone who had played the part on Broadway, for the leads, the producers went with names from the current celebrity pool and surrounded them with a few Broadway veterans, such as Audra McDonald whose Broadway prowess is legendary.

For the role of Maria - they cast Carrie Underwood, a country singer who gained recognition as a winner on American Idol. She had no background in acting and her style of singing was not what was needed for this show.

Carrie Underwood's acting was very poor - I won't say amateurish as I have seen some wonderful amateur actors in the more than 40 years I have worked with community theater - and there were some technical flaws with the broadcast. I would have expected better from a national network broadcast special.

However ... having said all that, I thoroughly enjoyed the show ... and have now watched it twice. 

Rather than bash Carrie Underwood - as so many did, both on social media as well as traditional reviews, I give her full credit for attempting something so far out of her comfort zone. She needed to not only act, but change her style of singing drastically. I think she accomplished the singing part very successfully. (I was not a Carrie Underwood fan going in - but I respect her now, at least for the courage she showed and the work she put in!) In fact, I would say that her best acting was done while she was singing. Perhaps if she were given more time and extensive coaching in her acting, I believe she could have pulled it off much better. I hope she gets the opportunity again after some work in that area. Bottom line for me was that I thoroughly enjoyed watching it.

Yes, I could pick it apart with the best of them, but isn't it all about enjoying a performance? Well, I did. I hope this is the first in a long line of Broadway musicals brought to TV. There is still a lot they need to learn, but I hope they learn from their problems and continue to present live musical theater to the TV viewing public.

Update: Since writing this, a lot of people have complained about the broadcast - mostly comparing it to the movie rather than the Broadway show, which came first, starring Mary Martin as mentioned above. (The show opened in 1959 - the movie premiered in 1965! The movie would never have been made if the show had not been a huge hit.) Many complained how musical numbers were not in the "proper" order. They seem unaware - or have forgotten - that this is the Broadway book and it was the movie which switched the musical numbers. I have heard more than one person say that no one could step in to the shoes of Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer. I agree, but those weren't the shoes they were trying to step in to. If anybody's shoes were being stepped in to it was those of Maria and Georg Von Trapp!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Makin' Memories

Yesterday, I created this video for a group in which I participate. Each day we share a song - occasionally with a theme. The theme was "A Memory" and I immediately thought of this song - many of you will recognize it as part of a long gone pre-show at the Kodak sponsored Imagination attraction at EPCOT in Walt Disney World. I couldn't find it on You Tube or Vimeo, so I made my own.

I thought some of you might enjoy it ...