Rant: Tourists who forget to tip

Warning: this is not going to be a rant about a major issue in this country or this world right now, but just a rant about some certain types of customers I have had in the bar over the past week. Writing about it isn’t going to change anything, but at least I am going to be able to get it off my chest and move on to bigger and better rants.

I’m sure most foreigners who come to the States peruse a guide book or two, look online for tips, good places to go, where to eat, where to drink and all of that. Even if I like an adventure when I go off to explore a new country I always look up what the customs are and if there is anything I should know (for example, taxis charge tourists triple in Egypt so you should avoid them if you are broke). Every single guide book on the US tells you that service is NOT included in restaurants and bars. Yes, NOT included. This means that you leave a tip. Customary tips are 15-20% after tax in restaurants, 15%-20% for cab rides and probably a dollar or two per drink in a bar. If you don’t tip you are either extremely rude and/or you are unhappy with the service, and if it’s the latter should explain why to a manager so that they can put it right. Most people who work in the service industry get an extremely low hourly wage or shift pay, or none at all, so they literally LIVE OFF the money they make in tips. These tips don’t go towards new shoes, dresses, expensive and frivolous items. They go towards rent, bills and food to survive. Most people I have encountered are good tippers, they know the rules and to be honest for every bad tipper there are always at least 2 good tippers, so I don’t ever really complain about it. Until you get multiple different groups of foreigners in the bar at different times in the space of a few days, ALL of whom acted in the same way.

The first group of four Polish people (I think – they were speaking some type of Slavic language) got 5 drinks (after tasting a couple of beers and deciding on a local draft beer). They paid, didn’t tip and went to the back room where they lingered over their drinks for a while. Once they had gone I went to clear their glasses… And they had STOLEN one. Yes, I know the Coney Island beer pint glass is kind of quirky and cute, but come on!! If they had asked I would have sold them one!! Just after they left a couple of Brazilians walked in and sat at the end of the bar. They had three rum and cokes, paid for them, entertained themselves with extravagant public displays of affection and then left, without tipping of course. One of my friends told me to tell people that it is customary to tip in this county, but I can’t get over my British politeness and say it outright. So I suppose it’s my own problem in the end. Then a bunch of Brits came in, ordered a round and gave me a dollar tip, with a big smile on their faces like they were doing me a huge favour. Thanks. The next one of them to order a round had obviously been in the US before and made up for it when he paid for their round, so I didn’t get too annoyed about it. The thing is, I was in one of my friend’s bars last night and a different group of Brits did the SAME THING with the dollar tip, making it out to be a huge deal that they were leaving it as a tip. It’s common knowledge in England that service is not included here in the US, so they don’t get to hide behind the whole “well we didn’t know!” lie. And if you don’t know what you should leave, then just ask! I’ve had people who have asked before and I let them know. Then it’s up to them to decide!

I think it all boils down to being a little bit more knowledgeable about the location that you are going to. When I’m abroad I don’t remove the service charge from the bill and just pay for the food and/or drinks!!

OK, rant over. Come and watch real football at the bar with me tomorrow from 11am and I promise not to start ranting about people who write really mean reviews on Yelp.

Here’s a lovely page on Wikipedia that explains tipping customs all over the world: HERE

For a larger version of the image above go HERE

Now you will never need to worry about being the object of a bartender or servers rant on their blog ;)

People begging with (their) children - Rant

Back when I lived in Grenoble in France you used to see a lot of people begging on the streets, sometimes the lone old “pochtron” with his dog, pockmarked face and vinegary-wine smell, sometime a group of punks with their dogs and their tattoos and their piercings (otherwise known as “les travelers”, kids who moved from city to city, living in squats and abandoned buildings until they got bored of the lifestyle). But often you would see women begging in the streets, holding their babies. We called then “les gitans”, gypsies, Romanis, those people who would roam the land in caravans, pitch up camp anywhere and everywhere and move on afterwards. People who have never really had the best reputation anywhere that they stop. Not that I would judge anyway. I always liked the romantic idea of living the gypsy lifestyle, picking up camp and moving along to the next location, palm reading and dancing and just being free. I know, I know, I read too many novels and watch too many old movies (Golden Earrings being one of them). I used to read a lot of Enid Blyton when I was a child, and there was often a gypsy camp portrayed in the book, often with one bad apple who was always caught, and the rest of the camp were full of wonderful people. I don’t even know if these people were really gypsies or not, we just all used to call them that. Probably because they would move on to other cities when they felt like it, they were not here for good. Fleeting begging?

Back in France, these people that we would call “gypsies” would beg on the streets, always holding a tiny baby and maybe pulling another little child along with them, usually holding a sign up asking for money. They would make it sound like they couldn’t speak French and it dawned on me pretty early on that they would change identity depending on what was going on in the world at the time. Fall of Ceausescu in Romania in 1989? They were all Romanian. War in Yugoslavia between 1991 and 1995? They were all refugees from Yugoslavia. I’m sure today that they are all holding signs that say they are from Libya. Smart move no? How can you tug at someone’s heartstrings the most? Look sad and distraught, carry a tiny baby around on a sling and say that you are from a war-torn country that has been on the news every day for the past year.

I am not going to write about how I dislike people who beg – not at all. It’s not the people I dislike, it’s the system that makes it so that there are people who have to beg to survive. Although I wish we didn’t have to live with poverty in this day and age, we all know that it’s never going to go away. The rich get richer, the poor stay poor, unless they are really lucky. The even poorer struggle to live and depend on others to help them. There are many reasons why a person may be begging on the streets of a city, and I am not going to write an essay on that. I do however, severely dislike people who beg while using their children as a prop. It makes me so angry and sad at the same time – parading your child around the streets of a town to get money is just wrong. We frown upon the wide use of children to beg in countries like India, where groups of adults actually collect and buy children from their parents and use them in begging organizations (yes, we have all seen Slumdog Millionaire); but when it actually happens in our country we just let it happen. It’s still child exploitation. Especially when the children get to an age where they should be at school, or at least interacting with other children their own age.

The reason why I bring this up is because I hadn’t really encountered this in NYC until very recently. I’ve seen Vietnam vets, pregnant ladies, crackheads, people who claim they have AIDS and no money for meds, buskers, poets, dancers, actors (that subway version of Act V, Scene 3 was pretty amazing), blind people etc… But I hadn’t noticed anyone begging with their children until recently. Then twice in one week I saw it. The first time it was a couple with a tiny baby, with a sign asking for money. The second time it was a guy playing the accordion, followed by a woman and a little girl. Just like it used to be back in France… The war-torn country victims who are trying to get money from people by parading their children around the subways. And the main reason why it really makes me angry is that it makes me want to cry. I wish I could do something about it, but I can’t, so I am just writing about how much it really annoys me to see this happen.

There are lots of organisations around that help the homeless - if you want to volunteer or donate, see this website for more information: Hearts and Minds

Rant: people and their pets

Last time I checked, having a pet meant that you were responsible enough to look after said pet. Eleven years ago I adopted an abandoned cat who had not yet been weaned and she is still with me to this day. I certainly wasn't responsible enough to even look after myself properly, but I made sure that she was always looked after and happy. She lived with my Mum during the couple of years that I lived in Israel and London, but other than that she has always been with me, and she's always been happy. Good food, clean litter, toys and lots and lots of cuddles.
As much as I want a dog, I know that it just wouldn't be fair to get one just yet, even though I have more time now. I just wouldn't be able to afford a dog right now, as they are so much more high maintenance than a cat. So, I will wait a while until I know I can afford a little jack russell, or pitbull, or bull terrier... I've always wanted a bull terrier with a patch on its eye so I can call it Bullseye, just like Bill Syke's dog in Oliver Twist. So yeah, not yet. Luna doesn't mind dogs, so I'm not worried about having them live together, it's just financially not a good idea right now.

A few months ago some girls moved into the apartment across from mine. They seemed pretty nice, although really young. They have a little dog, something between the size of a chihuahua and a jack russell, It's really cute and affectionate and they seem to look after it, I mean it looks like it is well-fed and loved. However, over the past few weeks I have noticed that whenever it is left alone it howls and barks and cries. And, even worse, it throws itself continuously against their front door, over and over and over again. So much that the whole hallway is filled with the noise of a little dog in despair, and there is nothing I can do about it! It just makes me so sad, because it is obviously lonely and hates to be left alone for long periods of time.

I finally saw one of the girls today and told her what was happening, and she looked at me as if I was insane, laughed, and said "yeah she gets lonely", and then tried to close the door in my face. I tried to tell her that it was a little more than that, but she laughed again and slammed the door.
Really rude.

Just like I said in my last FB status... Some people really don't deserve to have pets. makes me so sad. Now this little dog is going to continue to throw itself at the front door and maybe hurt itself, and there isn't anything I can do to stop it. I know this shouldn't affect me, but i am really sensitive and these type of things make me sad.

At least I know that this little one is happy:

Why I write...

A while ago I made a conscious decision to only write about things that I actually like, appreciate and love, as well as voice my own personal opinions, fears, thoughts and emotions. This spot is not a place for me to review or bash anything I don’t really care about. If I don’t like a band, a book or a movie, I probably just won’t talk about it, not on here in any case. There are a few times when I have provided a negative review on something, and felt bad about it for days. So I’m leaving that for others. I will, however, not hesitate to voice my opinions on what I feel and see around me. On politics and world events and on human beings. Basically, I am not going to bash what you create, but I may ask you to think a little deeper into things, and questions your ideals (if you happen to have any). And you may not agree with me, and that’s cool too. I enjoy a good old debate where I try to prove myself right!

Support is sometimes found in the strangest of places, and not found in those places that you automatically thought that it would be found. Strange how life moves in mysterious ways: hills where you thought the terrain would be smooth, smooth sailing over rough waters and all that. I don't expect much, but even then you get disappointed by those you thought would never disappoint you, and at the same time are pleasantly surprised by the solidarity and encouragement of others who were always there, but not as close to you. All of a sudden you touch someone in a way that you didn't know you could touch someone, but the person you thought that would understand doesn't even acknowledge your presence. So what do you do? Force those who don't seem to care less to listen to you? Or just let it lie, move on and accept the fact that some people are just too caught up in their own hazy bubble to bother to see a little further.

I just don’t think my voice is loud enough and never has been. That’s why I started writing in the first place, as I can’t compete with the loudness of another person’s voice. I am constantly talked over, so there is no point in trying to force an issue when your soft voice just falls off the edge of everyone else’s much louder voices. And, honestly, if you really want to listen to what I have to say, then you can bloody well listen to me. Writing helps me voice opinions and thoughts and feelings that would otherwise go unheard. You can sweep this under the carpet too if you like, but in the end it may touch the heart of someone else, like me, and that is the main point.

It’s funny, but often I wake up, and say to myself that I dislike people immensely, and then I kick myself for trying to lie. I don’t dislike people and I don’t hate people. I love people. I love the way people talk, communicate, react, write, live, create… I do hate the way people mistrust, hurt, steal, and destroy, but in the end I still believe in the inherent good that resides in a percentage of the world population. Call me an idealist and I will agree with you. Nothing wrong with believing in something and hoping that one day there will be changes in this world. Changes that we can help make if we make our voices heard. Never think that you are just one person amidst many, and that you will never be able to make a difference. You will. You just need to believe in yourself… And I know how hard that is, I lose confidence in myself at least once an hour (and have amazing friends who prod me back into place whenever I need it). And I DO need it. I just won’t tell you that I do, well because, I am just too self-conscious and shy to. I’ll just get upset at your lack of attention to what I am doing, or saying, and will rant about it, but won’t actually ask you why you don’t give a shit, because I already know the answer: you don’t give a shit.

But someone else most likely does, and that is the reason I write. First of all I get what I want to say out there, and second of all, there is at least one other person in the world who is going to read what I write, and hopefully be inspired too. That’s the whole point in the end, be inspired to inspire others. So, in the end, I am heard… Maybe not by those I wanted to hear me, but by someone else who maybe needed to a little more. That makes it all worthwhile.

Today my first real article got accepted for publication. Nothing really special, but it’s a start and it feels like an accomplishment.

Weekly rant - fake friends from hell

I'm a big believer in the fact that to get by in this world you need to fight for everything. But at the same time you need to be a decent person and treat everyone with the respect and kindness that they deserve. I believe that anything is possible if you really put your heart into it... Look at my friend Dana, for example. I wrote about how she fought tooth and nail to get where she is as a music photographer today, and how I respected that. That's the way I live my life too: find your dream and go for it, but make sure you don't push people out of your way on your rush to make it to your dream... People are important to have around and you need to create your own family of people who support and love you. Doing it alone is never easy, and doing it alone with, on top of that, people who resent you is even worse. In my opinion there is nothing worse in life than having all the material objects that you have ever craved, with no one to share them with you. I would always choose being poor and surrounded by amazing people than alone and rich.
Cherish your friends and your family, as they are the people who will be there through everything. If anyone upsets you, talk it out with them, as an adult, as they may not be aware that they upset you. Don't create drama or lash out at people for no reason.

Ahhhh... I am just writing all of this in response to something that happened to me last night. I'm not going to go into any detail because it was completely unexpected, irrational and very upsetting. If you have a problem with me, with who I am, then don't pretend to be my friend. I really don't need that in my life, especially when I am surrounded by people who are wonderful and supportive friends.

That's all I'm going to say about that. RANT OVER.

Companies apologising for their Nazi past & blatant hypocrisy

So now Hugo Boss are apologising for their Nazi past because a book is being published about it? See BBC News article HERE.
This is the second article I have read about fashion and Nazism this year (I am sure there were more, I just haven't read them). The first one was a few months ago, in regards to the book that was released "revealing" Coco Chanel's flirtation with Nazism (Sleeping With the Enemy: Coco Chanel's Secret War by Hal Vaughan).
If I am not mistaken, Hugo Boss was tried and fined for his involvement after the war, and died not long after... I just don't really understand this need to apologise now, just because a new book is coming out. Sounds kind of like a hollow apology and highly hypocritical in my opinion.
In any case, this opens up a much larger debate. Any person who is slightly interested in this period of time and has a brain knows full well that there were many companies who collaborated with the Nazis. Some who were pressured to, and others who gladly ran to them with their business as soon as they came into power. Anti-semitism and totalitarianism were not born with Nazism, they just became somewhat tolerated as an existing regime. No one in power in countries outside of Nazi-occupied countries really knew or really cared about the extent of the atrocities committed during WW2 by the Nazis, until the war was over. And then, of course, no one had ever been a Nazi, a Nazi supporter, or had ever collaborated with the Nazis.
So, every time a book is going to come out about how a fashion designer/nuclear scientist/railway developer/foie gras provider used to collaborate with the Nazis, anyone associated with these people will feel the need to apologise?
Instead of a hypocritical apology, that is never going to wipe out whatever you or your ancestors may have done in the past, why not set up a fund or a charity that helps the victims of genocide and war today? Instead of just sweeping it under the carpet again, do something to help people suffering today.
Maybe Hugo Boss' war time victims appreciate the apology, and then that's good for them, but I think it's just another cop out. I don't think Coco Chanel ever apologised and her name and designs are still the most famous in the world. Goes to show how hypocritical this world really is, huh?

One leaked video is not a reason to sue a fan

Just a few days ago the new, but yet to be released video, of an artist I used to admire leaked. I don’t know who leaked it, or how it got out before its official release date, but it was readily available on the webwaves, and quickly went viral. People retweeted it on Twitter, reblogged it on Tumblr, posted it on forums and blogs and emailed links to everyone they thought would want to see it. I saw the video, it was pretty good, nothing over-the-top spectacular, but worked with the song.

I just want to preface this post with the fact that I used to absolutely LOVE this artist, she was one of my teen idols, and I thought she was amazing, until she lost it. I’m actually listening to one of her band’s old albums from the 90’s right now and I still know every word off by heart.

Anyway, this artist in question has a bad habit of opening Twitter accounts, posts nearly unintelligible posts like a maniac, and then closes her account for a few months. She always pops back up again, just like she has done recently. As soon as she learnt that her new video had leaked she, and her current entourage, started to attack people who had either posted the video somewhere, or who had retweeted it. Threatened to sue these people if they didn’t not only take the video down immediately, but also if they didn’t tell where they actually got the video from.

So what’s the deal people? Why are you going after the fans who are spreading the video because they love you as an artist? Why not look in the right direction, towards your “inner circle” to see who actually had access to the HD version of the final cut, as this is the person who probably leaked the video. Threatening to sue a bunch of people who are still, after all the shit they had to put up with you, your fans is just stupid. Maybe if you spent a little time trying to fix all those good ties and connections you used to have with people instead of tweeting inane rants about nothing, then a lot of us would regain a little of the respect and love we used to have for you.

Makes me SO angry.

I buy most of the music I own, unless it is given to me. I go to a lot of shows, I buy merchandise. But I WILL watch a leaked video if I am given the chance. Doesn’t mean I won’t buy the song if it’s any good once it comes out.

Idiot Neighbours From Hell - RANT

Read on for another rant about my lovely neighbours. Have fun...

Usually you have one neighbour who ruins it for the rest of the building. One neighbour who is too loud and has people over consatntly. Or one neighbour who complains about everything, and calls the cops at any given moment. or one neighbour who never takes the trash out, and leaves it in the hallway to stink the building up (until one of the other tenants gives up and dumps it in the garbage).
But what if you have half a building full of this one neighbour? What if half the building is inhabited by obnoxious neighbours and the other half just shuts up and sucks it up until their lease is up so that they can move somewhere else?

Welcome to my life.

I am seriously far from being a goody-two-shoes, as anyone who has spent any time with me knows. I was pretty well-known for my raucous partying habits back in the day; and I still indulge in a good old party nowadays (although without the copious amounts of alcohol). I like to play my music loud. I like to stay awake half of the night writing and talking to my friends. I like having random dance parties at any given time and singing at the top of my voice. And I hate my neighbours.

I actually don't really know what any of them really look like, all of their faces blend together into one type of look: young, wealthy-but-pretending-to-be-poor, rebellious, late teen early 20's, first time living away from home. In other words, annoying poser gits.

(As a side-note, annoying poser gits severely irritate me, just because actually being poor REALLY sucks, and pretending to be poor is disrespectful to those who really are).

Beth and I were the first people to ever move into this building, and are now in our fourth year. The only neighbour I recognise is the lady right next door who must be on her third lease now. Other than that it's one continuous flow of different people, month in month out.

The first floor is comprised of two duplex apartments. I suppose they should normally house around three people comfortably. But for some reason the management company keeps renting them out to students who act like the whole building is a giant dorm, running up and down the stairs to the roof, slamming doors and constantly yelling at the tops of their voices. Hosting band practice during the day (there's loads of rehearsal space to rent in Bushwick, douchebags), inviting groups of hardcore gangster-style drug dealers to their rooftop parties (you gotta know one to recognise one right?), and, get this, the last straw this past weekend, throwing glass bottles off the rooftop into the courtyard. Because that's super smart right?!

But I think what irritates me the most is... I can't STAND the music they listen to!! If it were some real rebellious teen black/death metal/goth/punk/riot grrrl/fuck the world I hate you music I would at least be able to respect them. But yelling along to Katy Perry or some other replaceable girl singer at 2am?? No. No. No. NO.

They all need to leave as soon as possible please. I'll keep the hipsters from the building next door - at least they listen to semi-decent music, grow sunflowers in their yard and have a median age of 25.

Rant over. Until next time...

Isolation...

I didn't feel isolated last year when I wasn't drinking. No one made me feel uncomfortable, and it just seemed normal.

Not this year. I feel super isolated. No one calls to hang out anymore - it's like you become boring because you are not out dancing on the bar black-out wasted at Motorcity anymore.
Even my close friends - no one bothers to make plans - I feel like I am always the one getting in touch and trying to hang out, and it's tiresome. Because yes, if I don't bother, then I don't hear from anyone.
Mostly because, yes, everyone is either too hungover, or too depressed from partying too much to think of anything else than themselves.

It makes me really really really sad. This is the first and last time I mention it because I needed to get it off my chest, but that doesn't make me feel any less sad about it.

It's sometimes very difficult to see if people really do care about you in this city, or if they are just saying they do to shut you up.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! A new decade has begun...

I remember exactly what I was doing 10 years ago. Maud and I dressed in suits and ties, my hair was cut in a short A-line bob, walking around Grenoble with two bottles of wine a-piece in our bags. Singing songs, making a random guy kneel down in front of the Berlioz statue and recite the Lords Prayer to him, crashing parties up and down centre-ville, and finishing the night with pizza at Maud's parents' apartment.

This year was a lot less entertaining, but fun. As in fun on a normal Friday night out I suppose. It just made me a little sad that at the end of the night I ended up walking down the street alone, a little pensive and just feeling worn out. Meg has Jimmy now, Rosie had Noel, a lot of my old friends back in England and France are married with kids... Anyway - enough of that.

By the end of the night I had been called "the sober bitch/sister/person/girl/woman" by 5 different people. Please. I have a name! I don't mind if this comes out of someone I don't know's mouth, but it's really upsetting when it's close friends who say it. I don't call you "bartender dude" or "drunk dude falling asleep at the bar" or "cokefiend girl" or "Indian dude who keeps hitting on me" do I? So why define me by something that I have chosen? It's a little disrespectful and really not funny.
Whether I drink or not is not an issue to me - whether I am happy or not is and I am a LOT happier now than I was this time last year.

I KNOW I shouldn't think these things over so much - but when it happens on a regular basis it just makes me sad.

Pretty sunset tonight: