Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Vagina Song

Willam Belli of Ticked Off Trannies With Knives and Nip/Tuck re-works the "Billionaire" song, imagining what life will be like after the old *snip* and tuck. You can follow Willam's cheeky humor and in-your-face exploits on the blog we've been following forever, here: as long as there's sidewalks, I'll have a job.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Ticked Off Trannies

After unexpectedly getting a night off due to anemic ticket sales, I suddenly realized I would have an opportunity to check out what turned out to be a controversial entry in to last year's Tribeca Film Festival. Ticked Off Trannies With Knives, after initially receiving some positive support from more "mainstream" gay media groups like GLAAD, suddenly found itself the focus of a lot of negative notices after a group of actual "trannies" found the title alone to be offensive.

There ensued much wailing and gnashing of teeth, as much of the LGBT press on both coasts took sides. Ultimately, while the protesters failed to get the film pulled from Tribeca, The New York Times ended up censoring the title, and Ticked Off T****ies was listed on movie clocks and some press coverage.

I really wanted to see the film myself before I made up my mind, a craaaaaazy concept in this day and age I know, but I ended up working through most of the screenings. So when I saw a notice that it had returned to the major markets this week, I looked for a chance to see what the fuss was about.

The theater is on 12th street in between the East and West Village, very near NYU, and this was a Thursday night. While I didn't expect the screening to be sold out, I did think there would be some like-minded people, this is NYC, that would be there. If nothing else, I assume there are people that literally go to everything.

So imagine my surprise when I arrived at the theater about 10 minutes before showtime and I was the only person in the entire place. Still thinking there would be at least a smattering of people wandering in I took out a magazine and my crackberry and started reading and cleaning out my email. The movie started and I settled in, quite comfortably with no one to block my view or take up my armrest.

After seeing the film, I confess I don't agree that it was exploitative, nor do I think it promotes or encourages violence towards transsexuals. I also know that I've met many many trans women that support themselves performing in gay clubs as well as stripping or exotic dancing. I understand many trans people have everyday "normal" jobs, but this film wasn't about them, and these people, the ones in the film, do actually exist. I suspect all the protest was as much about an opportunity to get some press for people with a larger agenda as much as it was actual outrage over the actual content of the movie.

In any case, the movie really needed another screenwriter more than it needed to be more politically correct. The acting was OK and some of the line readings rang true, but most of those seemed like they might have been improvised, which is more a testament to the actors than the director. But there was a beginning a middle and an end, which I was always taught is the most important requirement for a story, it's just that the middle got quite a bit messy and really would have benefited from another edit. Or two. Overall, I've spent $11 on much worse.

As the credits rolled and before the lights went up I took a look behind me to see who had come in last-minute. It was then that I realized that I had just experienced a first. I was the only one there. My first private screening. Just me in a 150 seat theater. I wonder if they would have actually shown the film if I hadn't bought that one ticket?

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Verizon Sucks. No, They Are Evil.

Last week I received a bill from Verizon which I assumed to be a final bill after discontinuing what was, especially the last year, truly horrible DSL service. I finally opened it at the end of last week and found that it was a bill for internet service. For this month. And to add insult to injury, the bill was $5.00 more than I had ever paid for internet service, which had been slowly increased without notice for over two years.

Still thinking it was a clerical error, I called Verizon earlier this week. After going through their maddening set of phone prompts, I finally connected with someone who I thought worked in billing. After explaining the situation, I was told that I wasn't even speaking to someone in the DSL/ Internet "department" but she would connect me. Click. Again, I explain the situation, at which point this person looks up my account.

According to her, I did not, in fact, call Verizon in early September and discontinue my service. Verizon discontinued my service in late September because I was delinquent in payments. According to their records.

The truth is I spoke with a total of four different people the day I canceled my service. And every single time I used the words "cancel my service" or "disconnect my service" with each one of them. The first three claimed that in order to do that I would have to be shunted to a different department. Again. And Again. But I hung in there and finally spoke to someone who could flip that switch for me. As I mentioned before, she inexplicably tried to sell me on Fios, even though my building isn't wired for it. But we very clearly had a conversation where there was no possible way anyone would misconstrue that I was discontinuing my status as a Verizon DSL customer.

So this notation and allegation that I was disconnected by them is an outright lie. Aside from the fact that I have not been delinquent in payments to Verizon in years, even if I had missed it, it would have been one payment. And it would have been less than a month overdue. Everyone knows damn well that wouldn't be enough to have your service even interrupted, let alone disconnected.

I suspect that what actually happened is that Verizon, or a department at Verizon, is trying to cover up the fact that there are (more than likely) other people like me who are dissatisfied with the quality of the DSL service, as well as the infuriating customer service, and are leaving Verizon in rather large numbers. I'm quite sure that every termination in service initiated by the customer, is sent somewhere along the bloated chain of bureaucracy to a department that reviews them and makes a report. Too many terminations will eventually cause some data-checking monkey to throw down his banana and sound an alarm. And nobody wants to answer to an angry monkey, so best not let the customer terminate the account. Let's just say we terminated him and send out a bill. I'm further assuming they hoped I would pay it and move on. Some people surely do.

Instead I called them on it. At which point I was shunted from department to department. I was disconnected and booted from the system twice after speaking to live operators. I just kept calling. It took almost two hours. And I was decidedly not nice. But I've been really working hard the last couple of years to stay on top of my bills, get caught up on all my out of control credit spending, pay down my debts. And I've been really proud of how well I've done. So it was doubly insulting to have them accuse me of not paying my bill. And I'm wondering if that kind of thing gets reported to the credit bureaus, since I've also been trying to repair my poor beaten down FICO score.

Aside from the fact that the reason I terminated the service is because, for the most part, my DSL service was largely a nightmare, the only thing worse than Verizon internet service is Verizon customer service.

As I've said many times. Verizon sucks.

Friday, October 08, 2010

What Do You Do?

I was about to write a post about something that happened at work this weekend when it occurred to me that I haven't posted about work in a long long time. Looking back on the old posts, it appears I haven't written a work piece since the spring. Surprising, considering that "work" is one of the most-used categories for post labels I have. And believe me, I thought that spoke volumes about my inner workings that I had way more to say about work than I did about "relationships" or "sex".

I am currently a freelance bartender. Now while I realize that sounds almost like a euphemism for "unemployed", I am very much employed. NYC is one of the few cities in America where freelance bartender can actually be a viable work option. Basically it works like this:

I'm currently employed at three different companies. One of them is a staffing service and the other two are banquet and event spaces, where I'm technically an independent contractor. Every week, usually around Thursday, I get a set of text and phone messages inquiring about my availability for the following week. Occasionally, they will ask as far ahead as two weeks. The trick here is to respond to the messages as quickly as possible. I usually take each booking as it comes in, even though the temptation is to wait and see which is the best offer. There are variables, one company pays more for an hourly rate, another is usually better for cash tips, and the third provides me with the bulk of my work. But in my experience, playing one off the other can blow up in your face. You run the risk of pissing off a booking manager and then the calls could stop or become of a lesser quality. So I (usually) operate on a first-call first served policy. It also doesn't hurt my reputation as a desirable employee to have to turn down booking managers because somebody snatched me up first.

The calls and messages can last through the weekend, and usually by Sunday night I know my schedule for the week. If the week isn't already full, you can sometimes book a last minute shift. In that case, it's equally crucial that you respond to the call as quickly as possible. The booking manager is looking to fill a slot and be done with it, so they won't wait on a call back. The person who calls first gets it.

I usually don't know what event I've booked for, unless it's at a concert venue. Obviously, those are based on ticket sales and advertised. I find out when I arrive if it's a wedding, a corporate dinner or an industrial. Industrials are showcases that a company puts on for a new or revamped product. Phones, cars, watches, electronics.

I usually wear a tuxedo to most events, and I have two complete tux outfits. If I'm not in a tux it's all black shirt, shoes, pants and tie.

Basically, what happens is I arrive at the venue, change into my work clothes and report to a banquet manager. He or she gives me a verbal or written rundown of the event including start times, end times and any special requests. This can include specific drink requests, to signature cocktails created just for the event. I also need to know how many people are expected and what kind of bar package they are paying for. It can be open unlimited, beer and wine, of occasionally just a juice bar. I recently worked an event where the bar was just champagne and bottled water. At that point, I go off and move a bar on wheels in to place, fill up a beer bin on wheels with beer and ice, and wheel in all the rest of the supplies I need.

At the end of the event, everything gets wheeled back where it came from. I do an inventory if it's required and clean up all my empty boxes and bottles. I check out with the banquet manager, then I punch out and go home. I usually make between $100 - $200 per event for this work. Once in a while I make less, and I often make more. Figure on average $125, and if I do 5 shifts a week, that's about right. A very very good week is double that. Rare but sweet.

I love the unpredictability of it, I love the variety. I love working with different people and meeting all the different guests. I love talking to people from all over the country and the world. I usually love seeing all the live shows for free, even better, I get paid for it. I don't love the fact that it's feast or famine. I can be crazy busy for weeks and then only book one or two events for an entire month. (Although this is where having 3 jobs mitigates that problem fairly well.) I don't love working a lot of midweek corporate events and not making any money above my hourly rate. And you would think I would love getting my regular rate and only being asked to run a "bar" that serves juice, soda and water but that's actually the worst. It usually makes for a boring event and it's guaranteed there are no tips. So while I'm horribly overpaid for pouring Diet Cokes, I earn my hourly rate by plastering a smile on my face and pretending like it doesn't suck.