Saturday, June 28, 2008

Road Runner Runs Off The Road Again

I decided to call up Time Warner Cable again this morning (I know, I am a glutton for punishment) to see if I could find out anything more about the Road Runner Cable Internet service I had been offered. Thing just got worse.

I got hold of a customer service representative who quickly realized she could not help me with my problem so she switched me to a supervisor. The supervisor, after checking my records, at least knew about the service that I had been offered, but again said they had no provision for actually mailing out a self-install package and that I would either have to go to a service center and pick up the package or have a technician come to my house and install it. She said she would transfer me to an internet specialist to help me decide what to do. You guessed it, after being put on hold for a few minutes I was back at the main menu.

I decided to give it one more shot and got another customer service person who, again, informed me that Time Warner Cable did not, despite what I was told on the phone, send out self-install packages. Interestingly, however, she said there was a note placed on my file on Tuesday indicating that a modem had, in fact, been sent out. She said she didn't know how it got there though, that maybe "the computer just put it there."

The end result, however, seems to be that Time Warner Cable sub-contracted with a telemarketer who, apparently, didn't know that what they were offering wasn't available (even though I was told they worked from a script provided by Time Warner Cable). Again, I was told that the only way to get a self-install kit was to go to a service center and pick one up. I said that if I was Time Warner Cable and told someone they would have one delivered I would send someone out with one. She said she would check to see if that was possible. After being put on hold again for a few minutes I was told that if someone came out to my house with a self-install kit they would have to install it. Why the customer service center couldn't just send one out via DHL or something, I do not know.

I was on the phone with this last customer service person for almost half an hour and was finally told that neither she nor anyone else at Time Warner Cable could help me out. That what I wanted, and what I was told I would get over the telephone, simply wasn't available.

And so ends the sad story of The Road Runner.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Wiley Coyote Wins One

Just a rant interjected into my normal subject matter.

On Monday I got a call from someone who said his name was Vincent Lewis. He was extending an offer for a 30 day trial of Time Warner's Road Runner Cable Internet Service. If, during the 30 days, you decide you don't want to continue the service you can call and discontinue it and owe nothing. Supposedly you get to keep some firewall package anyway. If you decided to keep it you would be charged $19.95 a month for the first year and then $29.95 a month thereafter.

Well, I am not a big fan of Road Runner ever since an attempt to install it totally hosed my system many years ago. This was a big deal at the time, got written up in magazines, nasty business. I put that aside and decided to give it a try. I was told that I would receive a modem and everything else required to do an install delivered via DHL or a similar service and I would receive it by the end of the week. That would be today or tomorrow.

This morning I got a call from a Time Warner service person who wanted to know if I would be there for a service call. I said I didn't have any service call scheduled that I knew of. I did say that I was expecting to receive a modem but that I was under the impression that I could install it myself. After about a five minute conversation where I don't know if either of us knew exactly what we were talking about he said he would close the ticket.

When no modem showed up by late afternoon I figured I should call Time Warner to see if there was some kind of a mix up. The number that I was given to call if I had any questions about the modem or service turned out to be their generic customer service number. This, of course, required negotiating through their automated menu and trying to figure out which selections were most appropriate. I punched the technical problem button just to see what would happen. I got one of those automated help things that just drive me crazy. You have to answer about a dozen questions that have nothing to do with your actual problem before actually being able to talk to anyone. I finally went back and pressed the button having to do with new services or something like that.

The first person that I talked to didn't know anything about any offer for a self-install modem and wasn't familiar with the free trial offer either. She said she would transfer me to someone in the New York sales office who could help me. I got transferred back to the main menu instead.

The next person I talked to was more helpful, but only marginally. He actually pulled up my account and saw that there was a service call scheduled for the morning but couldn't say what it was for because the ticket had been closed. He thought it might be to install the modem, but wasn't sure. When I said I was told that I could do the install myself and the serviceman I talked to didn't seem to know anything about a modem he first said that Time Warner didn't offer a self-install modem. When I said that was what I was told he kind of backed down and said that it looked like they had one but that I would have to go to a Time Warner service station or something to pick it up and get the appropriate access codes.

He also initially said he was unaware of any introductory offer but the standard rate was $29.95 a month. When I said I was told the rate would be $19.95 a month for the first year and would then increase to $29.95 he did manage to find such an offer. But he still said there was no provision for sending out a self install package with a modem.

At this point I said to just cancel my order. I said if this was the level of service I could expect when I called the number I was given to call if I had problems, had the name of the person I talked to about the service, and still couldn't get a real good handle on what was going on I certainly didn't want to depend upon them if I actually had a problem in the future.

This is the kind of thing that drives me crazy. Someone actually gets you to try a service and you would think they would bend over backwards to make sure you were pleased with it. Instead, nobody even seems to be sure about what you were offered but seem convinced that what you described isn't available. Of course nobody even tried to get hold of Vincent Lewis to see what was going on. In my experience tele-marketers seldom give you their real name anyway, but they still should have been able to track him down. My conversation was even recorded by a verifier to make sure they had all of my correct billing information when I accepted the offer.

Needless to say, I will not be trying Time Warner's Road Runner Cable Internet Service, or whatever it is, anytime soon. Probably never.

By the way, I was supposedly offered this Road Runner Cable Internet package because I am a long term customer of Time Warner Cable whose account is in good standing. When I went to the Time Warner Cable website and entered my address to find out what offers were available nothing like what I was offered on the telephone showed up. I don't think their left hand knows what their right hand is doing.

Notre Dame And Caught In A Tourist Trap

Even a seasoned traveler such as myself gets caught up in tourist traps. Sometimes they turn out to be more fun than you expected and sometimes, well, sometimes not so much.

We decided to head to Notre Dame, you almost have to, don't you? We took the subway and got off at almost the right stop. At least we knew where we were going. Notre Dame is on an island and there are only two here in Paris and they are right next to each other. The smaller island is primarily residential while the larger one has, in addition to Notre Dame, a police headquarters that is quite large, a hotel, and some other stuff that I don't really remember. Oh yeah, and Sainte Chapelle. We had a hard time finding it because it is inside the walls of what looks like a drab government building of some kind. Sainte Chapelle is noted for its stained glass windows but you need to be inside looking out to appreciate the beauty. No matter though, it was closed.

Notre Dame, on the opposite end of the island, has a much more interesting and visible exterior.

Notre Dame From The Front

Of course the Mysterious Chinese Woman insisted on having her picture taken. I am impressed by how much space she managed to clear around her. I am sure she used some kind of a mysterious force field.

Photo Op

I actually think the view from the rear is more interesting. That would be the view of Notre Dame, not the Mysterious Chinese Woman.

From The Rear

We didn't bother to wait in line to go inside. I think most of the stuff that was originally in there was removed and is other museums.

It was getting to be around lunch time and here is where things went horribly wrong. A vaguely remembered picturesque alleyway lined with Greek restaurants popped into our collective conscious. Well, not the Equally Mysterious Sister-In-Law's, she had never been to Paris before. Unfortunately for us it wasn't far (the alleyway, not Paris) and we actually found it.

Oh, Honey, It Looks So Quaint

And So, We Entered

The alleyway is lined with tourist shops, fast food stands, and Greek restaurants. Go figure. There is a certain sameness to them. They all have displays of what looks to be fresh seafood in front and they all have someone trying to lure you into their restaurant. This, actually, is very similar to the practice employed in Little Italy in Manhattan. Well, except for the displays of fish.

Beware The Lurking Man

In addition to the display of fish or things that look like fish, this place also displayed a modestly attired statue.

On Display

The best thing about this restaurant was the free apertif they gave you when you sat down. And the best thing about that was it was free. Kind of a tart and somewhat sweet thing, but I have no idea what it was.

Bon Apetite

Okay, maybe if they display seafood I should order seafood. On the other hand, I never see them taking fish out of those displays so who knows how fresh the fish they serve you are. Maybe they use the ones out of the display when they start to go bad.

Anyway, suffice it to say that my roast suckling pig was a travesty. I leave more on my plate after eating something like that than they served me. Just bones with bits of meat adhering to them and skin. Worse, the Mysterious Chinese Woman ordered something totally different, fillet of pork chop, and she got the same thing. The Equally Mysterious Sister-In-Law got the best of the deal with a lamb shish-kabob. Not that it was anything all that great, but it was a hell of lot better than what we got.

Maybe we should have tried this place, it looks like they might serve game.

New Game In Town

There were gelato shops though and they do make excellent gllato in France. The Mysterious Chinese Woman decided to" splurge." She has to watch her figure, don't you know.

Just A Taste

Well, the Mysterious Sisters decided to go shopping and I decided to pop in someplace for a few beers. Being from Minnesota it was hard for me to pass this place by.

The Great Canadian

There was some hockey paraphernalia hanging on the walls but not too much else to distinguish it as being Canadian. They seemed to be out of most of the Canadian beers that they carried as well. I can't remember what I had.

Having Something

Well, I guess they did have another something Canadian.

Sgt. Preston, I Presume

Let me know if you know the name of Sgt. Preston's dog. And, no, it is not Yuk of the Yukon (but I always though it should be).

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Relaxing At The Riviera

My idea of stopping off for a bite to eat in Brighton Beach to avoid the over-crowded subway proved to be brilliant. The first restaurant we spotted was Riviera Grill & Sushi and we didn't bother looking further.

Riviera Grill & Sushi

I guess the only dress code they had was one that included wearing a shirt because this guy, coming from the beach, was putting one on before entering.

Dressing For The Occasion

For some reason the "outside" area seemed more crowded than the inside. Maybe that was because the inside was only for dining. They did have a little bar inside, but it looked to be a serving bar only. Everyone inside was pretty much fixated on the football game featuring Russia against the Netherlands. If you read my previous post you will know that Russia won 3 to 1 to advance to the Euro Cup quarter finals.

The Serving Bar

The first thing I did was order a large beer because I had worked up quite a thirst by that time. It was some kind of a French beer, but I didn't quite catch the name.

Just What The Doctor Ordered

Why a French beer in a restaurant that obviously catered to Russians in a decidedly Russian neighborhood? Well, why a sushi bar?

Fresh Fish

The decor had a French look to it, although like nothing I actually have ever seen in France, and I guess the name of the restaurant referred to the French Riviera.

The walls depicted what I took to be a hectic kitchen in a French restaurant.

Tony Bourdain Might Approve

Here is a closer look:

The French theme was carried forward to the decorative plates at the table:

I thought the artwork in the bathroom was appropriate as well:

Okay, so the decor was nice and the beer was cold, so what about the food? It was delicious and plentiful.

We started out with an appetizer that you don't see too often, grilled tongue.

Hold Your Tongue

This was thinly sliced beef tongue that was lightly grilled. Very tender and served with ribbons of mustard along side that added just the right bite. I think there were five slices, maybe six, to start with so you can see that it was a pretty healthy serving.

I ordered duck with some kind of a tart berry sauce and it was fantastic. Really tender with a nicely crisped skin. Even the mashed potatoes that it came with were tasty and they weren't instant.

Delicious Duck

The Mysterious Chinese Woman ordered the veal saltimbuca with couscous and it was delicious as well.

Saltimbuca With Couscous

It was exceptionally tender with a very flavorful sauce. The couscous was the large kind but it was done just right. A bit of a crunch on the outside but nice and soft inside.

All and all it was a most excellent meal and I wouldn't hesitate to go back again. As I said, the portions were large so we asked for a doggy bag. They packed everything up in a separate container instead of lumping it all together, which was thoughtful. I ate the duck cold the next day and it was still great. The veal held up to the microwave just fine too.

Oh, the bread basket was good too. My favorite was a rye bread roll with raisins and nuts inside. It came with a herb butter. They also set out a little plate of mixed olives.

You can find Riviera Grill & Sushi at 3100 Ocean Parkway just a block or so back of the boardwalk and only a block or two from the subway stop. A bit out of the way, perhaps, depending upon where you live. But you can always stop at The International, the biggest and most popular Russian deli in New York, on the way home and pick up some exotic treats that you aren't likely to find anywhere else. They also have a large selection of Russian beers.

As you can see, my plan to let the crowds thin out worked just fine.

No Crowds

And just like that, the Q train arrived to take us almost home.

Right On The Dot, The Q

We transferred at Atlantic Avenue, although we could have walked from there. We had been walking enough though.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Mermaid Parade - Part Deux

Still having some time to kill before the parade started, I decided to head to my all-time favorite beach dive bar in the whole, entire world.

I Bring You - Ruby's

It was more crowded than usual, as you might expect. In fact, it was downright packed.

Like Sardine's

There was still room for a mermaid to preen a bit though.

Water Repellent Lip Gloss

And I managed to find a place to belly up to the bar and have a hot dog and a beer. Actually, I was just holding the hot dog for the Mysterious Chinese Woman while she took this picture. Jeez, she ate a whole pulled pork sandwich and now she was eating a hot dog. She said it was a tradition to eat a hot dog at Rudy's. Who am I to argue.

Just Holding

Notice the authentic Ruby's tee-shirt that I am wearing. This is one that Sam, the manager, gave me a couple of years ago. Note the mustard stain that was there when I got it. It has faded a bit, but I hope it never disappears.

I had a couple of beers and gin and tonics and then the parade started to arrive. The combination of my alcohol ingestion and the huge crowds blocking the way made it difficult to get many good shots of the paraders, but here is what I got without further ado:

Mermaids? On Parade

Well, as you can imagine, there were many more mermaids, or whatever, than that. Thousands even. Way too many to endure. I decided to head out a bit early and try to beat the crowd. I got side-tracked by Beer Island though.

As you can see, it was really crowded. There was a line waiting to get in and they were carding just about everyone.

A Crowded Beach

I mentioned that the wait staff here was very eager. They were, however, a bit confused about just what they should be doing. When we got there in the morning we bought our beers at the stand by the entrance. As soon as we sat down someone came over to ask us if we wanted anything to drink, even though we had just walked to the table with full glasses. We said we were going to order something to eat though. She said she would send someone over. Well, someone did come over, but she didn't have a menu so she had to go back and get one. We ordered and she left only to come back a few minutes later to ask us if we wanted lettuce, tomato, or onion on our sandwiches. The Mysterious Chinese Woman didn't want anything but I asked for onion. I didn't get it though.

This time around we got seats at a table and I ordered a beer and a water for the Mysterious Chinese Woman. She decided she wanted to head back to the boardwalk to take some more pictures. After a bit I had to use the toilet so I told the waitress that I would be back and to not take my beer. Of course when I got back another waitress had cleared the table and seated someone. I had enough to drink so I wasn't going to complain too much, the operative word being "too."

We headed back to catch a subway home and passed by another of my favorite sights in Coney Island.

A Fun Facade

That, again, like Ruby's, is something that probably will not survive whatever redevelopment takes place here. Just too much valuable real estate that has, according to some, been under-utilized for far too long.

In some respects, I have to agree. There are few cities in the world that have a beach as nice as the one at Coney Island, and no cities that haven't utilized the beaches to much better advantage. Take a look at this piece of land just behind the boardwalk. Where else would you see something like that other than in New York. Think Far Rockaway, for those of you familiar with this neck of the woods.

Vacant, But Not For Long

We headed back to the subway but couldn't cross the street to get to it. The parade was still going and this was its route. This, however, turned out to be ill-advised. The crowds were starting to pile up from behind and it was just about impossible to turn around and go the other way. Luckily we were at the front of the back and managed to head to the right towards Brighton Beach. I didn't read about any deaths in this morning' paper so I guess everyone got out alright.

The Crowd And An Icon

It looked way too crowded at the subway stop so we decided to just walk down to Brighton Beach and have a leisurely dinner at an air-conditioned restaurant and wait for the crowd to thin And that is just what we did. I will put up a short post on the place tomorrow. Let me say though, the food was delicious, the service was attentative, and there was a Russian crowd glued to the many televisions (even in the restrooms) watching Russia play the Netherlands in a quarter-final match in the 2008 Euro Cup. This is a big deal, almost as big as the World Cup. Only one team has ever won the World Cup and then followed up by winning the Euro Cup. That was France who won the World Cup in 1998 (I was in Paris, too) and then the Euro Cup in 2000. Last time Italy won the World Cup and they are now out of the tournament so it won't happen this time either.

Russia won the match 3 to 1 so there were a lot of happy Russians toasting each other with vodka when it was over. I would have hated to have seen them if they lost. I think they weep and eat boiled potatoes when that happens.