Earlier this year, I attended a simply magical wedding. I’d never attended a black-tie wedding before and I was very nervous about my dress. What does nervousness do? It makes one fidgety. What do fidgety people do? They spill things. Sadly, I stained the dress. That’s where the story begins.

First the Bad: 

I’d never owned the kind of dress you wear to a black-tie wedding before, so when Time Out mag. recommended Dry Cleaner X (actual name withheld because I don’t want to grow the snark already in this story) that’s where I went. Note to self: ALWAYS ask friends for recommendations first. Do not trust Magazines.

The dry cleaner attempted to remove the stains. They missed quite a few. They dyed the dress, and returned it to me looking like this. The original pic is clearer, but there are three shades of blue-yellow/blue, bright blue and dark blue. When I called, their rep said “I knew you were going to be unhappy.” She told me nothing more could be done and then said it was wearable because dresses like these were meant for functions where it would be dark. I was pretty upset.

Now the Awesome:
I went back to the store where I purchased the dress. The fabulous sales rep, Thommy, was very comforting. He offered to send the dress to the dry cleaner the store uses: Slate, NYC.

Well, Slate accepted the “Mission Impossible” and worked on the dress little by little over a period of time. Yes, that’s how bad the dress was. Two weeks ago, Thommy called. Yesterday, I picked up the dress. (See pic to the right)

Horray for Slate, NYC!

Back to the Bad: 
I understood the first dry cleaner had spent time and money. However, because the problem had been fixable, I emailed them and I asked to for a 50% refund of my dry cleaning bill. I thought I was being reasonable. Their rep disagreed.

The conversation opened with her saying, “Well, you ruined the dress first.” Then, she said the store had tricked me and had actually replaced my dress, not sent it to their cleaner. She assured me she knew all the “tricks those people play.” After about ten more minutes, she offered a 40% credit but said she was unable to issue refunds. She should have said “unwilling” because, in her next breath, she offered to send me a check IF I sent the first pic with a date stamp, get a statement from the store to prove the dress was yellowed, get a statement from the second dry cleaner that they worked on the dress and provide the store’s receipt for dry cleaning.

“Serenity Now!” *breathes deeply*

Revisiting the whole:
Their sales rep definitely got under my skin. If I were her, I would have offered a refund to start, or not returned the dress in an unwearable condition. I was going to gather the information she demanded. But why allow myself to be bullied? She took my request personally and, from that moment, her accusations escalated. I mean, when a dry cleaner accuses a store of secretly replacing a dress, I think its safe to assume that reason has left the building.

Why should I let this woman who screams at customers take any more of my time and energy? Why should I allow her venom to taint the good things other people went out of their way to do for me?

Thommy was wonderful, a team at Slate worked very hard for a very reasonable price–less than half of my original bill. Two thirds of the people involved were sympathetic and helpful–that’s not a bad percentage. I’m out quite a bit of money and I’m astonished at the things this woman said. On the other hand, I once again have a dress that is gorgeous and wearable. Slate NYC and Thommy have earned a loyal fan and customer for life.

Here’s part of the response Slate sent when I emailed them to thank them:
“Thank you so much for your email, your feedback, and your kind words. I printed this out and showed to everyone in our team who worked on your gown.  They had a big smile on their faces :)”

Now that’s service!

Next week, I’ll resume blogging-as-usual with interviews with Suzi Love & Sarah Tormey coming up (yea!).

To ease back into the schedule, however, I’d like to share some pictures of this year’s Beau Monde Conference. The conference was particularly fun for me, as it was my first Beau Monde conference without any responsibilities whatsoever. I attended fabulous classes (given by Janet Mullany, Deliliah Marville and Isobel Carr), listened with rapt fan-girl attention to Mary Jo Putney’s Keynote speech & country-danced the night away at the evening Soiree.

 The fabulous Sally Mackenzie and Kate Pierce

 The Beau Monde members enjoy Afternoon Tea
(Complete with Cucumber sandwiches!)

Susan Gee Heino: 21st century Silent Auction coordinator by day to and Diamond-of-the-first-water Debutante by night!

Susan, Marissa Doyle, Regina Scott and a friend.

Lord and Lady Carlyle
…Better known as the Incomparable Suzi Love and her Charming Husband
Other Beau Monde Members having a fabulous time….
Pam Rosenthal and Miranda Neville
That would be me and the tireless Sharon Sobel
And, finally, Anke Fontaine and I recovering the next morning.

Can an urban park be art? Can it expand your perspective, challenge your ideas, deepen your experience?

Central Park Construction

For a historical perspective, lets take a look at New York City’s Central Park. The Park is the result of a prize-winning design by American Frederick Law Olmsted and Englishman Calvert Vaux. Today, when a New Yorker takes a nature-loving stroll through the park, all appears natural, but the landscape is, in fact, entirely engineered. The original soil was so infertile, new soil was brought in from places as far as NJ. Thousands of trees were removed and thousands more planted. Lakes were dug, roads were sunk. The park is the intentional creation of the picturesque, highly influenced by European gardens of the time. 

The l999 NYC series which originally aired on PBS described the design as revolutionary, meant to remind visitors of American democratic ideals (access by all citizens, not just the elite) and while providing an idealized natural setting, so that residents could escape from city life. I imagine, for those first visitors who stepped out of the city and into this carefully crafted wonderland, the experience must have been awe-inspiring.

But could a park jolt a weary New Yorker out of their daily grind today?

For a modern perspective, lets take a look at the High Line, a NYC park created on the former platform for an elevated train in the Chelsea neighborhood. The platform fell out of use in the late 70’s/early 80’s and was, in part, demolished. Over the years, drought resistant plants, including grasses, trees and shrubs made their home in this lonely place, high above the city streets. In the 1990’s the elevated platform was slated for demolition, and would have been lost but for local residents and activists, who lobbied for a park. Their dream was realized in 2009, when the first part of the park opened.

So is it awe-inspiring? Well, I believe that The High Line is to modern New Yorkers what Central Park was to earlier residents. To walk along the High Line is to have an entirely new experience of New York City, one that combines past and present and even suggests movement to the future. The design incorporates some of those plants who took up residence on their own, as well as other wild meadow flowers. In other words, every plant is a subtle reminder of nature’s ultimate dominance and the limited life-span of industrial use. The long, grey walkways recall the movement of the trains, and the large windows provide a peek into former factories–a literal, though uniquely lateral, birds-eye view of the city. Most intriguing, perhaps, are the openings that originally held billboards. They are glassed-off and provide a hover-view of city streets which happen to make me think of the Paul Simon Song American Tune (…I dreamed I was flying, high up above my eyes could clearly see…).

If you want experience the High Line from home, the publication Garden Design provides some pictures of the recently opened second section. If you are a reader planning on attending RWA 2011 in a few weeks, don’t miss this unique NYC gem. If you are more interested in Regency English Gardens, check out my friend Miranda’s blog series In the Garden with Jane Austen Parts One and Two.

So, can a park be art? What do you think?