Blogs > Fresh Ink

Barbara Lombardo of Saratoga Springs, NY, is a journalism adjunct at University at Albany and retired executive editor of The Saratogian, The Record and the Community News. Follow her on Twitter @Barb_Lombardo.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Hard to be a good sport trying to update ESPN subscription

My husband doesn’t ask for much. Just ask him. When he asked me update his credit card info for his subscription, I was glad invest the minute it would take.

That was more than 20 minutes ago.

The window into which I input the new expiration date would not fully display and offered no visible way to submit the information. I tried three times, on the iPad and the laptop.

No problem. The customer service link anticipates the problems under its FAQs and provided this helpful information: “If you are having trouble adding new billing information, please call ESPN Customer Care at 888-549-3776 (ESPN) for assistance.” 

Unfortunately, that number answers with a multitude of choices, none of them remotely relevant:

“Thanks for calling espn customer care. Please listen to this new, brief (yes, it really says brief) message. If you need new help with you new ESPN name or password , press one. If you are calling from outside the continental United States or Hawaii, press 2. If you are calling about Espn/fantasy sports, mobile or espn 3, press something else I didn’t catch. If you are calling about espn radio or TV, press whatever the heck you want, it won’t matter, if you’re calling about the espn network, call someone who cares. To repeat these options, press star.

After more than five minutes of repeating these options, a recorded voice said: Enough already, you win, we’ll connect to a real, live person eventually if not sooner. Two minutes later, Mr. Recording said, Thanks for your patience. A representative will be with you shortly. Two minutes later, he said: Sorry for the delay. We’ll be with you shortly.

Twenty-one minutes later, I hung up. 

I just sent an email to customer service, which automatically promised a quick reply. I automatically doubt it. The quick reply said:

Dear Barbara,

Thank you for contacting ESPN Customer Care.  We will respond
to your email promptly.  If your issue requires immediate attention, please
contact us at 888-549-3776.  We are open 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. ET, seven days a
Does espn wants us as a customer or not?

American Pharoah: Watching history stroll around Saratoga Race Course

American Pharoah rounds Saratoga Race Course
shortly before 9 a.m. the day before the Travers Stakes,
in which the Triple Crown winner will be running. 
If you bring him, they will come. And did they ever. Well before 9 a.m., Saratoga Race Course was filled to the gills with people who didn’t want to miss the opportunity to see the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years.
As the crowd waited, the New York Racing Association replayed American Pharoah’s wins in the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont. Then out came the star, strolling around the track in preparation for tomorrow’s Travers Stakes.
My husband and I were on line with hundreds of others as the gates opened at 7 a.m. We had arranged to meet Joe and Kathy Condon for our annual breakfast buffet at the track before AP’s appearance was announced. We never saw the grounds fill up so fast and with so many people this early.
As AP time grew closer, people staked out their spots at the rail and in the seats. It looked like the busiest day of racing, with no races going on. Why not, for this chance to see a historic horse? Thirty-seven years ago, a year into my career in Saratoga, was the last time a horse won the Triple Crown. Add another 30-plus years to last time a horse did that and won the Travers, too.
So now I can say I’ve seen American Pharoah up close (and that the eggs benedict with salmon was very good). I must confess I wouldn’t recognize him if he galloped past me in the cereal aisle at Price Chopper (er, Market 32) without his blanket. But I’m glad I was at the track this morning, to see the horse and all the excitement he’s generated.

Hats off to Todd Shimkus, the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce president, who revved up the bandwagon to bring AP here. Glad NYRA upped the ante. And happy that AP’s owners decided to bring the horse across the country to run in the nation’s oldest racetrack. Looking forward to another historic day on Saturday. 

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Must be better place for unsold bagels than the dumpster

More than four dozen delicious but doomed bagels,
one night's leftovers at Bruegger's.
Made it to Bruegger’s just before their 5 p.m. closing last week and snagged the five plain bagels left in the wire bin. Added one sesame because the price for a half-dozen was only about 39 cents more. The sesame is languishing in the bread box, but that is another story. This one is about where all the bagels left in the Bruegger’s bins go at the end of the day: Into the trash.
More than 48 whole wheats, cinnamon raisins, everythings, blueberries, 12 grains, honey grains, sundried tomato, garlic poppy, salt and cinnamon sugars  were doomed to be eighty-sixed on this particular evening.
Whatever happened to the cut-rate basket of day-old bagels in half-dozen sleeves? Can’t offer them anymore, said the guy in charge; something about state law requiring labeling of all ingredients. Can’t donate them, either.
It reminded me of my weekly stops at the Price Chopper deli. The servers are usually spot on. But when they slice more than you want to buy, they simply lift the top slice or two with their gloved fingers – and dump it in the trash. Sometimes I just buy the extra couple of ounces. I’d rather pay the Golubs to let me store their cold c­­uts for a week rather than let them go directly from slicer to dumpster.
Oh, the sandwiches that could be made with those bagels and cold cuts.
Surely these are only tiny examples of distressing amounts of perfectly good food that goes to waste every day. Surely, there must be a better destination than the landfill.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Savoring the views from Lake George and the legacy of Lynn Schumann

A hiker stopping at the gazebo showed me how to use take a panorama with my iPhone. 
“I knew the woman this is named for,” I began several times throughout the morning, as twenty-somethings, sixty-somethings, and in-betweeners appeared at the gazebo overlooking Lake George to take a load off and savor the view. I wanted the hikers to know what it took to create this preserve and the special person in whose memory it was renamed.   

The preserve is 45 minutes from
Saratoga Springs.
Not that anyone needed to hear it from me. The Lake George Land Conservancy has an excellent flyer that describes the Lynn LaMontagne Schumann Preserve at Pilot Knob and its trails. More than 2,500 people annually enjoy what is accurately described as a moderately steep hike with the reward of “a shady rest at the preserve’s gazebo with expansive views of Lake George and the Adirondacks.”

Lynn, who died from breast cancer in 2010, had been executive director of the Lake George Land Conservancy. I was lucky to get to know her because her son, Jeff, and my son Joe have been buddies since Lake Avenue School. She was a lovely person inside and out, smart, sweet and classy – and passionate about preservation.
The trail fit what this tenderfoot was looking for to a T: a do-able hike with a place to sit and soak up the lake and mountains for as long as I liked, with the added bonus of being 45 minutes from home, not counting a pit stop at the outlets.  

Finally took the time to take this
one-mile hike and enjoy the views
of Lake George and the Adirondacks.
Soul food: sky, water, mountains.
So there I was on August 6 – a weekday! – navigating my first hike in way too long; taking my time along the trail; sharing the Lynn Schumann legacy with people from Hudson Falls, New Jersey, Webster, NY, and France; queen of the gazebo with my water bottle, a bag of almonds, a sliced-up pear, a chunk of Manchego, my husband’s binoculars and my new iPhone, whose pictures barely do justice to the scenery but are lovely nonetheless. They are my answer to people asking “what are you doing” since leaving my full-time newspaper job in July. 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Searching for Perseids meteors after an evening of Beethoven at SPAC

No-spill wine glass keeps blanket
and me clean and dry listening to
Fabulous Philadelphians at SPAC.
Last night I combined two of my favorite summer pleasures: listening to the Philadelphia Orchestra at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center and watching the stars appear overhead. On the SPAC stage, the star Wednesday was pianist Emanuel Ax, who looked like he was having a ball banging out Beethoven. And I got to test out my new no-spill wine glass (it worked!) and cheerfully striped roll-up picnic blanket (thank you, Betsy DeMars).  
Meanwhile, this was supposed to be the first and best night of the Perseids meteor shower. So I stayed up until almost 1 a.m. with the NASA TV folks describing what I hoped to see. Pretty sure I spotted three shooting stars in the course of an hour. Woke up at 4:30 a.m. and ventured out hopefully, but clouds pretty much blocked out any sky show. Anyone out there have better luck? I’m going to try again tonight. This would be my consolation prize for not seeing the Northern Lights in Iceland earlier this year.
As for SPAC, I was so glad to see a well-packed lawn and inside Wednesday night. SPAC is a fabulous place despite the lack of grass on the center lawn and the ridiculously inadequate men’s room (ask any guy who’s had to wait on line). I was so glad SPAC won No. 1 honors as America’s best outdoor music venue in the recent USA Today contest.
Lawn was comfortably packed with people for the Aug. 12
Beethoven night at SPAC. Glad the 49-year-old venue has
retained its classic, familiar exterior.
I could have saved six bucks off my lawn ticket had I followed a friend’s advice and bought it at Price Chopper with my Advantage card. But $26 is still reasonable for the experience. SPAC membership provides 10 percent off inside seats; the Price Chopper card will get you $5 off an inside seat at the box office. One of the nice perks of membership was two inside seats to the orchestra’s Aug. 6 “French night,” which was another lovely evening. You have one more week to take advantage of wonderful live music by a fantastic orchestra, under the amphitheater roof or under the stars.