book reviews, travel

Repost: Concierge Confidential: The Gloves Come Off—and the Secrets Come Out! Tales from the Man Who Serves Millionaires, Moguls, and Madmen

Here’s a repost of a book review I wrote for Epinions.com in 2011. I am reposting this review as/is.

As an average American of average means, I have never really considered how a hotel’s concierge services might benefit me.  The most I’ve ever asked of any hotel concierge is directions, or perhaps to order me a taxi.  But hotel concierges do a lot more than give directions or make reservations.  The best ones can pull off logistical feats that would dazzle the average person.  And if you’re in a place like New York City, a good concierge can mean the difference between eating in a hot restaurant at 8:00pm or eating at Sbarro’s.  I never considered any of these things until I read Concierge Confidential: The Gloves Come Off—and the Secrets Come Out! Tales from the Man Who Serves Millionaires, Moguls, and Madmen (2011), a book written by concierge extraordinaire Michael Fazio and co-author, Michael Malice.

The book’s premise

Michael Fazio is the co-founder of Abigail Michaels, Manhattan’s premiere concierge service.  But before he helped found Abigail Michaels, Fazio worked in Hollywood for famous actors and as a concierge at New York City’s InterContinental Hotel.  He admits to having the “service bug”, which I would think one would have to have in his job.  After all, he was routinely asked to do things like get tickets to sold out Broadway shows and score tables at hot restaurants for people who were “nobodies”. 

But aside from helping unknowns who were staying at the hotel, Fazio also had to arrange for some exotic requests from people with more money than they could possibly spend.  Fazio arranged for a bathtub full of chocolate for one client, who was hoping to impress a ladyfriend.  He arranged for a last minute helicopter ride to Atlantic City for a mysterious Russian with a suitcase full of cash.  And when the same people kept coming back to him for help, Fazio and his former co-worker, Abbie, started their own concierge business catering to the rich and famous.

My thoughts

I really enjoyed this book and probably would have gotten through it in a matter of hours had I not been trying to read it on a very small cruise ship.  I have a tendency to get motion sickness, so every time I tried to make progress in this book, I started to feel sick!  Once I was off the boat, I whizzed through it in record time.  I really enjoyed Fazio’s anecdotes and the enthusiastic tone of his writing.  I felt excited as I read about some of his more dramatic exploits in the concierge business.  Aside from telling stories, Fazio also includes some handy tips on how to get what you want from a concierge, book the best restaurants and hotels, and even how (and how much) to tip.

I definitely have a new perspective on the value of a good concierge.  Now that I’ve read Fazio’s book, I might even venture to the concierge desk during my next hotel stay!  Who knows?  I might end up with a completely different experience than I might have otherwise had!

Overall

If you’ve ever wondered what your concierge can do for you, you should definitely read Fazio’s book Concierge Confidential.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

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condescending twatbags, controversies, ethics, travel

“I’m not one of the people you should be pissed at, Luna Moona…”

This morning, I noticed a headline from The New York Times about Denmark’s decision to drop COVID-19 rules and restrictions. Bill and I were recently talking about taking a trip to Denmark, precisely because we’re fed up with the ever changing COVID rules in Germany. We’re both triple vaxxed, and we’ve both been “good soldiers”, and we want to spend some money. Of course, lots of people were commenting on the article, many of whom probably didn’t bother to read it. I’ve included the link above, and because I’m a subscriber, I can “gift” it. If you click the link, you should be able to read it for free.

One of the comments that caught my eye was posted by a Dane named Lars Pedersen. He wrote this:

Right on, Lars!

Plenty of people responded to Lars. Some “laughed” at him. Some gave him ugly orange “angry” reactions. One lady really went off the batshit deep end and was citing ridiculous right wing conspiracy theories as she made fun of Lars for encouraging vaccines. She left all kinds of derisive comments about how the vaccines don’t work. A number of very intelligent Danes came on to inform the American commenter about why there are so many people with COVID-19 in Danish hospitals. More than a few pointed out that the people who are in hospitals with COVID are not there because of COVID. They are there with COVID.

I got excited and, against my better judgment, left a comment for Lars. Naturally, I got responses, too…

At this writing, one person, calling themselves “Luna Moona”, left me an orange reaction. I wrote what I think is a very reasonable response. It’s included in the screenshot above, but here it is for those who don’t want to click on the picture.

Funny that one person is “angry” that I’m considering a trip to Denmark. Why be angry? I’ve been good. I’ve gotten my shots. I’ve worn masks when they’re required. I pretty much stay home all the time, and only interact with my husband and dogs. I literally haven’t left my neighborhood in a month. It’s not because I’m scared. It’s because going places isn’t enjoyable. The rules keep changing, and vary by state… and while I have always liked going into town and having a meal at a restaurant, it’s too much of a hassle. So I mostly stay home. I’m not one of the people you should be pissed at, Luna Moona. 

If you follow me, you know that Bill and I have already done some traveling during the pandemic. We haven’t done as much traveling as we normally would. For instance, in the years before COVID-19, we would take long weekends whenever we had a chance. But 2020 was the last year we took advantage of MLK weekend and President’s Day weekend. Last year, everything was locked down. This year, it just seems pointless and fraught with annoyances. As other countries start to open up a bit, Germany seems determined to remain restricted, with ever more requirements for “better” face masks, COVID testing, and rules about who is allowed to frequent businesses and be on public transportation. I don’t want this to be a permanent fixture of society, so I choose not to participate.

Although I did read that many places in Germany are dropping the “plus” from the 2G + rule– that is, being fully vaccinated and either being boosted, or having a brand new negative COVID test– some places are doing 2G ++, meaning you have to be fully vaccinated, boosted, AND have a negative test, just for the “privilege” of entering and spending money. The 2G ++ places, I’ve read, are mainly healthcare facilities. Still, the rules are annoying and onerous, and although I like going out, I don’t enjoy going out enough to put up with irritating rules. I can stay home and drink in my nightgown, and I get to listen to my own cool mix of eclectic music. I’m sure that’s NOT what business owners and restauranteurs want me to do, though. They’d rather I get dressed, dutifully and obediently put on a FFP2 mask (ugh), and spend money in their establishment.

I used to be a very enthusiastic patron of restaurants and bars, and I would write articles about them on my travel blog. I’m not doing that, these days. Bill is becoming an ever better cook and bartender, so why do I need to support restaurants? Especially when I’m going to be confronted at the door about what kind of mask I’m wearing, and proof that I’ve done everything “right”. Again, for the record, I have been compliant. But if another country is going to stop the nonsense, I want to reward them and put some money in their economy. Incidentally, the official tourism site for Denmark reminds everyone that masks and vaccines may still be required by some Danish businesses. And those who want to frequent those businesses should be respectful. That sounds reasonable to me.

Life has to go on at some point. Moreover, since I live in Europe, I have already been able to travel a bit, although I am eschewing flights for the same reason I haven’t been going to restaurants. Who wants to sit on a plane, in tight quarters, with hyper-anal, stressed-out people, watching everyone like a fucking hall monitor to see if they’re complying, to the letter, with mask mandates? That doesn’t sound like a fun time for me. Why spend time and money on that experience, when we can drive to plenty of cool places, and not have to worry about aggressive passengers, seat recliners, power tripping airline employees, baggage fees, security lines, uncomfortable face masks, and the chance of a plane crash? If I have to fly somewhere, of course I’ll comply with the rules. But I am NOT volunteering for it. I’m sure the more local establishments will be grateful for that. It’ll also be somewhat better for the environment, although if we’re driving, we’re still dirtying the air, I guess.

A lot of people are angry these days. Some people are angry about the rules. Some people are angry that people are flouting the rules. And some people apparently think they need to be “angry” when someone says they want to –legally– visit a place where COVID restrictions are going to be relaxed, and have some fun. Why should it matter to them? I’m an adult, and probably more educated than a lot of folks about disease transmission, since I have a fucking master’s degree in public health. I’ve been very compliant and relatively patient the whole time COVID has been an issue. I only got reprimanded ONCE about face mask usage, and that was because I was wearing a medical mask instead of a FFP2. The rules had changed the day before, and the person who chastised me was also wearing a medical mask. She was allowed, since she was an employee. Go figure Bavaria’s rules, which were not the same as Hesse’s at the time.

Bill says Hesse is getting stricter about mask type, too, which means I am not going to go out to eat or shop in any places. Because, fuck that. And fuck the ever changing RULES. I wish they would just come up with a set and make them more uniform, so we know what to expect and what to do. Another reason I don’t want to go out is because I hate confrontations. And the prospect of being hassled about my mask or vaccine paperwork is enough to induce anxiety and stress, even though I am fully vaxxed and boosted and always carry one of the dreaded FFP2s in my purse.

I do not want to go through the rest of my life wearing a coffee filter on my face. I’ll wear the mask if I must– and I will be visiting the dentist next month, so I guess I’ll put one on for that experience. But I will not willingly spend time or money in places where the heavier masks are required. Incidentally, last night, I booked a hotel in France for after our visit to the dentist in Stuttgart. I was originally planning to go to the Black Forest again, like we did in August last year, after seeing our dentist for the first time since 2019. We were going to go to a different area– one that we loved visiting when we lived near the Black Forest and could go there on day trips. But then it occurred to me that Baden-Württemberg has enacted stricter mask rules, while France has loosened them somewhat. Bill and I both love France, and we haven’t been there in two years. Yes, masks are still compulsory there, but at least it’s a different place. And the places I was considering visiting in Germany are only about twenty minutes away, anyway. I picked a hotel that is about as far east in France as a person can get and not be in the Rhein River. 😉

I’m sure some people will have a “problem” with my “bad attitude” about “better” masks. They might think I’m being reckless or cavalier, or maybe they’re just jealous. To those people, I would say, you live your life, and I will live mine. I’m pretty sure the vast majority of us will eventually get COVID-19 at some point. I’ve had three shots and I live a pretty solitary lifestyle. I figure my risk is very low. And if I do get sick and end up dying, at least I will have enjoyed one last experience outside of my bedroom one last time. Everybody has to die at some point, anyway. My liver is probably going to crap out because I’ve been drinking more… mainly because I’m BORED and sick of living like a shut in. Moreover, no one depends on me. Not even Bill. He just likes having me around for the “yuks” and to walk the dogs. 😉

I got a smile this morning from one of the Danes who were commenting on the New York Times’ article. He shared a link to a funny German song about the fucking COVID rules… It’s going to be in my head for the rest of the day!

Go Scooter! I get a kick out of Europeans.

Yeah. It’s time to have some fun again. I have been as responsible as I can possibly be. If I croak, I croak. So Luna Moona, if you want to be mad at someone, be mad at the unmasked and unvaccinated idiots who attend Greg Locke’s book burnings and “church” services in Tennessee. Don’t be mad at the Overeducated Housewife who lives like a fucking nun, right down to the wine drinking… I call this “responsible rebellion”. If I’m gonna bust out and be rebellious, why not do it with fellow blond people who enjoy profanity as much as I do? 😉 I think it’ll be okay.

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celebrities, lessons learned, music, musings, obits, YouTube

The first day of 2022…

I hope everyone enjoyed their New Year’s Eve 2021. Bill and I had a nice evening, marred only by the news that the great Betty White passed away. A lot of people reacted to the news of Betty’s New Year’s Eve demise with great sadness. She was a remarkable woman who was blessed with so much talent, beauty, and humor. When I think of how many people were touched by her, it almost overwhelms me. This was a lady whose career spanned many decades and generations, and she did it all– singing, dancing, acting, sales pitching, and especially comedy. She was the oldest Golden Girl, and the last one to leave us.

She was such an adorable and hilarious pro! God bless her, wherever she is… I hope she and her beloved husband, Allen Ludden, have finally reunited.

I loved Betty White as an entertainer. I admired her a great deal. However, I don’t feel particularly sad that she died, nor do I think of it as a tragic event. I think, as living and dying go, Betty White did it in grand fashion. As far as I know, she wasn’t seriously ill when she passed. In fact, she was even featured on People magazine’s cover this week, as she planned to celebrate her 100th birthday on January 17th. She was still “with it”, and not bed bound. Yes, it would have been wonderful if she could have celebrated one last birthday, but 99 years is still a hell of a good run. What happened to her eventually happens to us all… and she had the good fortune to do it on relatively favorable terms.

I think this one was my favorite! Betty’s dusty muffins could not be matched.

So no, I’m not totally saddened by Betty White’s death. She died the same year as several of her co-stars on the Mary Tyler Moore show, as we also lost Gavin McLeod, Ed Asner, and Cloris Leachman in 2021. And all of them lived to ripe old ages, having been able to work, play, and be in the world pretty much the entire time. We should all be so lucky… and in fact, I think we’re all lucky that we were alive at the same time she was.

*Giggle* She was so funny!

MOVING ON…

A lot of people were also mentioning how much 2021 sucked. I’m sure it really did suck for a lot of folks. COVID-19 has really screwed up normal living for so many. However, one good thing I have noticed about the COVID era is that some people are reprioritizing their lives. Yesterday, I read an awesome Reddit thread called “Twas the night before my resignation”, about a guy who decided some years ago that he no longer wanted to prioritize his career over his family. He started taking off the week between Christmas and New Year’s. In 2021, as usual, he scheduled that week off.

At the end of the year, a work emergency came up. It wasn’t something that should have affected his time off, and he did what he could to warn his employers that he would be taking that week off. But, as it happens, the company dragged its feet and the emergency, quite predictably, became dire as the guy’s week off approached… For best results, you really should read it for yourself. Suffice to say, the guy pretty much told his boss to pound sand, and was richly rewarded for his moxie. And to that, I say, “Kudos, and fuck those people!” I hate it when employers treat their employees like they own them. It’s nice to see that some workers have been able to claim some control over their work environments. I hope this is a trend that lasts, so that working conditions will improve for everyone.

I know… maybe it’s too much to hope for that there will be less greed and corruption in the American workplace. But I can dream, can’t I? Hell… if I were in the USA now, maybe someone would even hire me!

Bill and I actually had a fairly good 2021, in spite of COVID’s suck factor. We finally resolved our lawsuit, and it mostly went in our favor. I know it may seem like a small thing, but holding our former landlady accountable for her egregiously illegal actions, outright lies, and the really crappy way she treated us, was very satisfying. I think we learned a lesson from it, too. Hopefully, that lesson will carry over the next time someone tries to screw with us and shame us into automatically allowing them to have their way.

In 2021, Bill finally started working with a Jungian analyst, which is something he’s been wanting to do for a long time… and something I’ve felt he’s needed to do the whole time I’ve known him. The sessions have been very healing for him, but they’ve also been immensely rewarding and interesting. I didn’t know anything about Carl G. Jung when Bill and I met, despite my background. Social workers do study psychology, but it’s not really the bulk of what we learn, since social work is not psychology, per se. It’s been fascinating to learn more about Jung, and help Bill learn more. He’s been so intrigued by the process that he even started taking classes at the Jung Institute in Zurich. So far, the classes have been online, but we did get a chance to visit Zurich for the first time last summer. If we manage to stay here awhile, he may get to do some serious work.

As for my own successes… I’ve watched my relaunched blog explode. In 2021, I had over 560 times the hits I had in 2020, which was much more successful than 2019, when I moved my blog to WordPress. It really is picking up, and that’s been exciting to see, even though it took some time.

I felt pretty much forced to relocate the blog from Blogspot, although I had kind of wanted to do it for a long time. It was difficult and a bit depressing to start over in February 2019. I had a decent following on the original blog, even though it was a bit rawer than this one is. Moving the blog meant losing followers, as well as ad revenue. It’s not that I make a lot of money at all through ads, but it was kind of a nice thing to occasionally get paid by Google.

Well… that pretty much ended with a thud when I moved the blog, and for quite some time, I felt really constrained and nervous about writing. I know some people don’t think I have any talent… and some people think writing is a waste of my time, so they think nothing about messing with what I do… and some people just plain don’t like me, and want to cause trouble for me for selfish and dishonest reasons. This blog is NOT my life, but it is something I enjoy creating, and it gives me a purpose. So it was hard for me in 2019, when I experienced the setback that caused me to have to start over.

Two years later, I think my blog is better than it ever was. And I’ve been rewarded with new followers, and yes, more ad revenue. I only monetized the blog a few months ago, but pretty soon, I’ll be eligible to be paid. And I can only expect that this blog will be more successful than the original blog was, in terms of money, and quality content. The travel blog is a bit down in views lately, but hopefully COVID-19 will eventually be tamed enough so we can travel again. And really, I mainly write this stuff for myself, anyway, so anyone who reads and enjoys it is just icing on the cake.

I also found a new person with whom I can do music collaborations. In fact, I even uploaded our latest effort this morning! Music is something I do for fun and relaxation, so this is a rewarding development, too…

He lives in the States. We’ve never met, but we have similar musical tastes.

Another great thing that happened in 2021 was that Bill and I finally got to visit Croatia, and pay another visit to Slovenia. I already knew Slovenia was beautiful, but Croatia was magical. Although we didn’t have an “action packed” vacation in the fall, it was still probably one of my favorite trips yet. Just the sheer beauty of Croatia and Slovenia, as well as the time we spent in Austria (another favorite destination) was so awesome. I guess COVID has also made me a lot more grateful for ANY travel. Thank God for vaccines, too. I will be boosted in a few days, which may cause temporary discomfort, but will likely make my chances of dying from COVID lower.

We got to see a few friends, and make a few new friends… and the old friends who are real friends are still with us. We also didn’t lose any loved ones in 2021. In fact, in 2022, Bill will presumably gain another grandchild. And… our beloved Arran and Noyzi are still alive. Noyzi has even become a real part of the family, right down to loving on me when he wants something and showing up fashionably late to dinner! So that’s a blessing.

I have high hopes for 2022… I hope you do, too. To those of you who have been part of this blog, thank you so much! I especially want to thank my friends who have been here since the beginning. You are all a big part of the success, too!

2021 didn’t suck for us… but I know some people are really struggling right now. I don’t know what words of wisdom or comfort I can share. One friend mentioned how bad 2021 was, and I mentioned that I thought 2016 was worse– at least in terms of lost legends. She responded that she’d had a rough time of it in 2021, and compared 2021 to a few other horrible years she’d experienced.

I knew she’s been having a hard time, so I acknowledged that. And then I remembered one of my worst years ever– 1998. If I’m honest, there were a few times during that year that I seriously contemplated suicide. I was dealing with moderately severe depression, and I didn’t see how I was ever going to escape the situation I was in. It was NOT a hopeless situation by any means– which I clearly proved. But at the time, it felt hopeless… and my perspective was so blurred by depression and anxiety that I couldn’t see beyond the fog of despair and despondency.

But some very good things also happened that year. Yes, I was working in a restaurant job where I was abused daily, and I lived with my parents, who were kind of hostile and disappointed in me. I was young and basically healthy, but felt unattractive and unsuccessful. That year, I backed into some lady’s car in our driveway, because I was so upset… and that accident led me to finally seeing a therapist. Dr. Coe helped me so much, and I was eventually put on antidepressants that changed my life. To this day, I no longer feel as horrible as I did for most of my young life.

I eventually got pretty good at the restaurant job, and was able to make enough money to pay for the therapy and save up for an apartment. I bought a car. I had a terrible setback in November 1998– in fact, that was probably one of the worst months of my life. And yet, two months later, the medication was finally correct, and I started getting my shit together… and by November 1999, I was in a dual degree master’s program, proving to myself that I wasn’t as stupid or worthless as I had felt a year prior. That was also the month I “met” Bill online. By November 2002, we were married! And now, 19 years later, here we are… In 2022, I’ll presumably turn 50, and we will celebrate 20 years married.

So it’s good that I didn’t give in to my urges to off myself back in 1998. That would have meant missing out on some really wonderful things. That “abusive” job also led to meeting some truly great friends and learning valuable life and survival skills. In the long run, that turned out to be a good thing, too, despite the suffering that happened when I was still in that situation.

My point is, sometimes what seems like the shittiest times can lead to some pretty wonderful recoveries. So if you are struggling right now, I urge you to hang on as best you can. It can, and probably will, get better. But I also know that those words ring hollow when a person is really suffering. So just know, there are people who really do care, and have been through it, too… You’re probably more like them than you know… unless, of course, you’re Josh Duggar or Ghislaine Maxwell. Those two probably won’t be enjoying life for awhile.

And, with that bit of “wisdom”, I’m signing off for today… Got a few chores to take care of, and then it’s time to watch movies and concerts.

Happy New Year, everybody!

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travel

This morning’s hike…

We visitied Slap Savica (Savica Waterfal). It’s supposed to be a 20 minute hike up to the big falls, but it took us a lot longer. It was very much worth the trip, especially since we had some sunshine this morning. I think we’re going to go get some lunch at one of the few restaurants open here, and then I might be back to do some ranting. But for now, I hope you will enjoy some of these photos…

I really felt accomplished after doing this hike… it wasn’t very long, but it was a lot of steps up a very tall, wet, and leafy mountain. But we were rewarded at the top. No one is here, so not only were the trail and platform not crowded, but the experience of being there was also very peaceful and beautiful. November is a great time to visit Lake Bohinj, even if a lot of places are closed. I think if I were an artist, I might be going crazy by how beautiful the scenery is… and how many colors there are.

Not bad for a fatass housewife.

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travel

Now in Slovenia…

We have moved on from Croatia and into Slovenia, where it’s very rainy and grey. We are staying in a large house affiliated with a small hotel near Lake Bohinj. It’s totally deserted here…. We seem to have the whole lake to ourselves.

Even though it’s grey and wet, I think we’ll see some beautiful sights. Or, at least, some different ones. Today’s featured photo is of Lake Bled as we passed it. We were last here in May 2016, but that time, we stayed in Bled. Bohinj is definitely different… and less touristy.

Hopefully, we’ll have some dry time. But if we don’t, I’ll probably start writing blog posts… and rants again.

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