Fashion. Podcasting. Cancer. Politics. A look back on 2017.


I’m not even joking – and unfortunately, right now I don’t have time to play catch-up. Here’s a summary of my 2017. For reasons that will rapidly become apparent, it begins in June. You may assume that the months before June also included “Activisting.”

June: Laid off in company-wide restructuring. Took the rest of the month off. Reconnected with self, family, and community. Activitsted.

July: Spent time with family. Looked for a job. Activisted.

August: Freelanced. Activsited.

September: Freelanced. Started a hyperlocal political podcast ( Activisted.

October: Freelanced. Got diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Also some rad podcast stuff. Also organized (along with my #ResistanceFam here in Bay Ridge) some pretty impressive (if I may say so myself) protests over the House’s passage of a bill to eliminate a woman’s right to bodily autonomy after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Here’s a video that was made of our first protest.

November: Freelanced. Had my thyroid out. Got to spend a few days with fam in NYC that I hadn’t expected, incl. the spawns. D’aw. And some rad podcast stuff.

December: Freelanced. Radioactive Iodine (RAI) treatment to destroy any remaining cancer cells. Hired onto the Omar Vaid for Congress campaign. More rad podcast stuff. Quit fashion in favor of politics.


…? (But definitely more rad podcast stuff. And politics.)

At any rate, dear reader friends, if you don’t hear from me here for a while, it’s because there’s a lot going on. It’s a good thing.

Whatever challenges you faced in 2017, I hope you you overcame them and got to spend more time reflecting on happy things than sad ones.

And may 2018 be even better!


Dear UPS, your service is terrible.

Note to blog readers: I will be mailing this letter out to UPS senior management later this weekend. Until then, here is a full (and at points, I admit, quite angry/emotional) response to the experience I’ve had getting two shipments from them this week. Caveat emptor, my friends. Caveat emptor.

TL;DR: Don’t use UPS unless you have multiple days when you can be available at home, a car, and the time to spend a total of 10+ hours on the phone trying to get the shipments you paid for. Oh, and unless you mind being lied to and misled at every turn by a company where no one is accountable for anything.

Enjoy the read. This is the worst customer experience I’ve had since Dorothy Perkins screwed me over a few years ago.


Dear UPS Senior Management:

Recently I had two shipments that were to come from UPS.

With the first shipment, a tag was left with the date but no indication of when another delivery would be attempted. The next day, I went into the hospital for surgery and apparently a second delivery was attempted. On day three, I arrived home and checked my tracking number, and was pleased to see that my item was “out for delivery” as of about 3:30pm. Some time around six, I started to get concerned because the bell hadn’t been rung – and when I went online the tracking system had changed to say that the delivery attempt had failed at 5:09pm. While I was in my house. And the doorbell never rang.

And the record online now showed “final delivery attempt”.

I immediately called UPS’ help line and asked what was going on. Lane (Lain?) responded. I asked why it said the final delivery attempt had been made while I was in my apartment and the bell had not rung. Over the course of several phone calls, including with supervisors who contacted your East New York UPS office at 10401 Foster Ave in Brooklyn, I was told that a delivery had been attempted, and the delivery man said he had rung the bell, and since he was a “good driver,” that the supervisor believed him. I was furious and asked what UPS planned to do to make this right, since the driver had taken the package to East New York – over an hour round trip from my house by car – and longer than that by public transit. I was stunned as well because in the past UPS drivers have left delivery items at a nearby pickup location. The person on the phone at your customer service center said I would receive a call before 10am the following day to give me an idea of when my package might be delivered, and that whether or not to drop the item off at a UPS location near my home was a decision that was entirely up to the driver.

Frustrated, I took to Twitter, and was pleasantly surprised when I was almost immediately asked to DM your help account…unfortunately, that soon soured as I realized that the reps (several of them) were a) not terribly responsive in terms of feedback time, b) simply reiterating information I had already been given, or c) claiming that I had already been given information that contradicted information I had been given over the phone line (specifically the hours of the pickup center; I had been told it closed at 7, then 9:30.). Upset, I finally DM’d Nordstrom Rack to let them know that UPS was not faithfully delivering their shipments and was not willing to accommodate the problem. Nordstrom Rack’s (very capable, friendly, and responsive) twitter team communicated with UPS and was able to get the depot to agree to send the shipment out again two days later.

The next day, a second shipment (two boxes this time) were sent out for delivery.

I started waiting at 7:30am, repeatedly checking both out my apartment window and regularly refreshing the screen. I never got the phone call I’d been promised the day before.

Again, I was shocked when I refreshed the screen only to see that the package was showing up as not having a deliverable address. When I called to ask what had happened,  I was told the shipper had not included my apartment number, but the driver would come back and re-deliver the packages.

This is where things got fun.

Over the course of the next four hours, I spoke to at least eight different members of your staff. I spent over two hours on hold (cumulatively). I was hung up on. I was transferred. I was told I would absolutely get my packages that evening. I was told that the depot would call me inside of an hour to arrange re-delivery.

An hour passed. Nobody called. I called back and asked what was up. I was told by “Chris” that it was still “three minutes” before the hour was up. I’m sure you can understand how gobsmacked I was by that response. I escalated (again) to a supervisor. Her name was Deb, and she said:

  • She understood why I was upset
  • She had personally spoken to the manager at the East New York depot, who had personally communicated with the driver that he needed to come back and deliver my items
  • That the driver had now been given both my apartment and phone numbers
  • That the driver was “working his way” back to me.
  • That she agreed it was important that I get my shipment
  • That I was lucky she had noticed the shipment was two boxes, so they would both get delivered.
  • That (and she volunteered this) it was very expensive and so of course I should be able to get it
  • That the driver would return within 30-40 minutes with my shipments
  • That the manager of the depot, Renee, would call me shortly, and that they had been speaking on another line over the course of my call.

I felt a bit better about this and waited for Renee to call me. Shortly afterwards, she did phone. But she had a very different message from Deb. She said that:

  • The packages would not be delivered this evening
  • That she could not guarantee if or when another delivery attempt would be made
  • That UPS was not going to take on the cost of returning a shipment, and instead my only option was to come to the depot to pick it up, or wait two days (It was sent two day air!) for it to have a turnaround in depot.

I tried to explain to Renee that Deb had given me specific information that contradicted what she was saying; Renee was not interested in upholding a promise made by your company representative and ensuring my packages arrived on time. In fact, she seemed to be blaming me for the fact that the package had been mis-addressed, even though I had immediately phoned upon finding out about the issue.

Now off the phone with Renee, I phoned your main customer service (hah!) line back and spoke with Susie, and asked if she could please re-connect me with Deb so I could figure out what the issue was. I told her that I had been told different things by every person I spoke to and felt that no one was accountable for what they were telling me. She said it would be “impossible” to reconnect me with Deb, put me on hold for another 5-10 minutes, then came back and said she was going to put me through to another supervisor, “Randall.”

Then Susie hung up on me.

I phoned back AGAIN, and this time waited about fifteen minutes to be connected with “Hansel,” who said he would make some calls back to the depot. I told him this was pointless as the depot had made their position known. He put me through to “Thomas,” who he said was from the local center, anyways.

Thomas repeated that they would not attempt to re-deliver the package that evening and he had no interest in explaining why I had been told different things by different UPS representatives. Finally, because of the urgent need for the packages, I had to make arrangements to borrow a car and will be making an hour-long round trip to collect the packages in the morning. (See “update” section below to see how that went. Sneak preview: badly.)

I am disgusted by what passes for “service” in your company. I was told lie after lie after lie by customer service representatives who are either maliciously misleading your customers, who are so incompetent when it comes to your company policies that they shouldn’t be let near a phone much less an actual human being.

I have informed Nordstrom Rack that while I love their products, I will no longer order from them unless they can send shipments via a different carrier. I am also going to be letting the person responsible for the air shipment know that UPS was utterly unconcerned with righting a shipping error and then gave misleading information (many different pieces thereof) to a customer who was incredibly concerned .

I have worked in retail and customer service for many, many years and I have never seen such a shambolic, clearly systemic mess – your company has utterly failed to deliver on its brand promise. Your representatives are poorly trained, your supervisors are confrontational and unhelpful, lies and misinformation were distributed by almost every single person I spoke to, and ultimately there was absolutely no accountability laid at the feet of the first driver for their failure to even ring my doorbell before saying a delivery attempt had been made (nor for leaving a blank slip; if I hadn’t called, I wouldn’t even have known no further delivery attempt would be made nor how to find my package), of the supervisors who gave me wrong times for pickup availability, zero concern from supervisors whose job – and maybe this is old fashioned of me, but what can you do – is to help customers who are being failed by the company. Over and over, I asked, what is UPS going to do to make this right? And over and over again the question was met by silence. (Please note that there was, of the dozen-plus people I spoke to, exactly one employee who was able to get my packages off a truck so I could drive a 90-minute round trip in a borrowed car to pick them up.)

As far as I can tell this is a systemic issue with the East New York facility, or at the very least with the driver assigned to this route. Your company representatives’ refusal to address or even acknowledge that, coupled with the disrespectful way I was treated for daring to ask where my packages were, are utterly nauseating.

My entire career has been one where customer satisfaction and issue resolution has been critical to the success of my employers. Please know that your team (with literally one exception, more details in the update below my signoff) failed miserably. I strongly suggest you advocate for an investment in better training for CSRs, depot supervisors/managers, and most importantly your drivers. Otherwise UPS will continue to let both itself and its customers down.

Having had enough of a letdown, I will not be one of those customers.

Good luck fixing things; I hope you encounter far less apathy than I did.


Rachel Brody

At 11:30pm last night I got an email saying the package was being sent out for delivery. I IMMEDIATELY phoned the depot and asked what was going on and would the package be there in the morning when we came to get it. I was ASSURED (by Tisha? Tricia? Tina?) that it was going to be there for pickup and was not going to be sent out for delivery again.

Well, guess what, I woke up this morning to another email saying it was on the truck and out for delivery AGAIN. I tried calling the depot and was put on hold for over 5 minutes before I hung up to call again. At that point, no one answered the phone. After multiple calls back, I got in touch with Janice at the depot. I told her the package had been guaranteed to be available for pickup this morning, that I had spent four hours on the phone last night trying to make sure we would be able to get the package, and that her coworker had promised at 11:30 last night that it would definitely, absolutely be there, so why was it back on the truck.

Janice responded by telling me not to “take a tone” with her, that she understood I was angry but she was trying to help me, and that she was not going to be spoken to with anger or frustration and that was not going to be spoken to in that way. She put me on hold to go see “if she could get the driver to take it off the truck,” and when she came back she said that my package was out on the truck. (Obviously. That was why I was calling).

IF I had any kind of tone in my voice, it was because I have spent the last three days dealing with your company employees’ failure to do their jobs. I have now dealt with three days of being lied to by your employees.  Including specifically being told last night, after calling at 11:30pm. I have spent two days waiting in my apartment and neglecting errands and other commitments because receipt of these packages is so absolutely critical.

Anyways. I reminded Janice that the shipment was TWO packages, not one package, and she seemed surprised by this, despite my conversation with Deb last night, making it explicitly clear to the depot (at least, she said she had) that it was a two-package shipment. She took my phone number at 8:52am and said she would try to reach the driver then phone me back.

I have now been waiting for nearly half an hour to hear back. I have written to both the companies who shipped me goods and begged them never to use your company’s pathetic excuse for “services” again. Not once have I been able to get ahold of the same person I talked to previously. Not once has anyone actually followed through on commitments made to me over the phone. Not once has anyone taken any kind of responsibility for what has happened. (Note: See below for the eventual resolution. Seriously, Janice is the only employee you guys should be keeping on board at this point. And I mean in the entire company)

After waiting over half an hour for a call back, I finally phoned Janice again and once again asked her how I am supposed to get these packages. I said I am upset because I have an event tomorrow of 100 people who need what is in those shipments, and I’ve already had to arrange two different friends to drive me out there to pick them up. She has put me on hold again.

Finally, at 9:24am, Janice has assured me that the packages have been taken off the truck and my friends and I can come pick them up. Once I have the packages I will be posting this letter to my blog. This is the worst customer service experience I have ever had, including the last time I posted an open letter to a company on my blog, which was several years ago.

Of everyone who works for you at 10401 Foster Ave in Brooklyn, and every single employee who I spoke to on the phone, Janice has been the ONLY employee who took the time and effort to actually solve this problem – and even that was after an initial confrontational attitude where she all but threatened to hang up on me because I was upset over being mistreated and lied to for three days straight.

Every employee other than Janice has lied or misled me, from the driver on Wednesday who said he had made a delivery attempt but never rang the bell, to the UPS customer service reps on the phone who gave me the runaround on when and how to get my shipment, to the UPS “help” group on Twitter giving me contradictory times about when the shipment could be picked up, to both Renee and Trisha/Tina/whatever her name was at 11:30pm last night.

That is all.

Radio Free Bay Ridge is live!

I’m doing a podcast. About politics. Surprised, right? 😉


It’s Not Dead Yet: the GOP Effort to Repeal the ACA/Obamacare still has legs.

Just when you think the Obamacare repeal effort is dead…it comes back. (Photo from T2, used w/out permission.)

Here we go again.

Last night, the announcement came through: four GOP senators are now “no” votes on a motion to proceed with the BCRA – the Senate’s version of the repeal-and-replace bill. The bill would not make it to the floor, let alone through passage.

The 80%+ Americans who didn’t want that bill to succeed were thrilled; an air of celebration streaked across my Twitter timeline and my FB groups.

This morning, the feeling of trepidation that kept me from enjoying the celebratory mood turned out to be justified: the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has given his approval of the 2015 ACA repeal bill. That bill, which passed both houses of Congress in 2015, repeals Obamacare – but with no replacement. At the time, the CBO scored the bill as meaning 32M people would lose their insurance while premiums would rise by 100%. The bill delayed the repeal, and if implemented now would end up taking effect after the 2018 elections.

It’s worth reading @IndivisbleTeam’s Twitter on why this is bad, but the short version: If this bill is passed as part of the current reconciliation effort, it would be possible for GOP leadership to completely replace the AHCA with language from the repeal-only bill. When the 2015 bill passed (on party lines), the GOP had a President who would veto it and no veto-proof majority. Now, we can be sure 45 will sign the bill – he called for full repeal directly on Twitter after the bill’s defeat.

So what’s the problem? The old bill is WORSE than the bill that just failed.

But here’s the thing: if you’re represented by a Republican, odds are (and are high) that they already voted for this bill.

That means that standing up against it this time around – the right thing to do, given the bill’s failings and the GOP’s proven failure to create a new, viable healthcare plan – means walking back their votes from the last congress. It means going to voters and explaining what’s changed their mind. In some cases, it may require a break with GOP leadership’s tribe, and a willingness to admit that their original vote was wrong. Maybe some will try; will it be enough? How many voters will hear “repeal” and, exhausted, think that’s what they’ve wanted all along?

There’s no time or room for complacency in this project; as Americans who care about our neighbors around the country, we can’t afford to let up the pressure.

Keep calling your members of Congress. Tell them you want them to reform and improve the ACA with bipartisan support and open debate. Tell them if they vote yea for McConnell’s latest strategy, you will vote them out in November 2018. And then follow through.


EDIT: This article from NBC News gives some more details.

I’m trying something new. If you learned from reading this and think it’s worth a dollar or two, please consider sending me a donation via paypal. Your donation will help fund this website and its content.

Local politics & political playwriting

It feels like a lot of my posts start with some variation on, “Sorry it’s been a while!” But the fact is, as much as I love updating this blog, there’s a lot going on in real life – some of which I’ll talk about and some of which I won’t – and often, after waiting for more than a few days or a week to update, I fall into the trap of thinking that whatever I post has to be hugely significant.

Sure, it would be nice to have something huge to say every week. But I don’t, really. And right now, a lot of my efforts (in writing at least) fall into two or three camps:

  1. Social Media / news-based conversations. This shouldn’t be number one on the list, but it is, because how else do you stay informed?
  2. Writing to my Congressman and Senators using Resistbot (@botresist, text “resist”to 50409)
  3. Blogging and other forms of writing for progressive activist groups
  4. A play where I eviscerate several political figures with language.

Even though the play is 4rd on the list, it’s an extension of the efforts I’ve put into writing something about the state of US electoral politics for a long time. Every day, what with the news that keeps crashing out of Washington (and everywhere else government reaches), keeping a steady hand on the play gets harder. And I’m well aware of how precarious writing this kind of political narrative can be – one reason Electalytics  has been shelved for the last year or so (and to those of you who were reading it via my mailing list, I apologize) is that what initially seemed like it was going to be a wild ride of a primary turned into the flaming garbage heap that is our current political status. Staying on top of that changing, shifting landscape presents a lot of challenges. So I take them one at a time.

Last night, I went to see The Public Theatre’s production of Julius Caesar  in Central Park, and in many ways it was a first for me. I’d won the tickets in the lottery, so it was my first time at the Delacourte theater in central park, but it was also the first time I’ve watched this particular Shakespeare tragedy and not been bored out of my skull.

The last few times I’ve seen Caesar, it’s been a rote, stilted mess. It’s not a play with a particularly strong plot, and part of the 100-minute production benefits from that in that we see Caesar’s assassination, the manipulation of the mob, and Brutus’ suicide, while the rest is glossed over. It didn’t feel like we were missing much, and in fact the brief length made the uncomfortable seating far easier to bear.

One of the strongest points in this production was how deftly it was reskinned to incorporate the Trump administration. From the guy who played the Republican primary challenger to Mellie Grant on Scandal (I’m writing on a tablet, and this isn’t an official review, so I’m not going to go look up his name, sorry), who blustered his way through a performance of a truly loathable Caesar, to the emotional depth of Brutus’ soul-searching in killing his friend (Brutus being played by the alcoholic congressman from House of Cards), there were subtle differences in watching this play about patriots trying to defend their country from a tyrant when you’re actually part of a movement trying to defend your country’s liberties from a wannabe tyrant.

The fight scenes weren’t super convincing, but our sightlines were a little weird – maybe seats nearer the center of the audience would have improved this. The set was inventive, and the many sly design nods – Calpurnia’s blonde hair, pink dress and Slavic accent; an arced set that at one point turned into the window behind Melania in her official White House portrait; RESIST posters and pussy hats; riot police and antifa – brought laugh after laugh. Perhaps the most telling moment about how deeply this production cuts was the when Caesar made his first, triumphant appearance. Nobody in the audience clapped. Nobody cheered. Not a whisper. I’ve only seen the play a couple of times, but generally speaking there’s at least one or two audience members who try to get in on the action.

The play gave me a lot to think about, and for that I thank the deft touch with which Brutus’ character was handled. Truly human and truly honorable, it was clear from the first moments of his conspiracy’s taking place that he had high-minded ideals, and that he saw Caesar’s murder as necessary to the continued health of the Republic. (This being Shakespeare, of course, it quickly devolves into battles.)

As I’ve struggled with my own current project, one of the biggest challenges I’ve faced is that my hero is not just an antihero – he’s a character based on a person whose humanity I have a very, very difficult time seeing. If you’ve read my work, you know that antiheros are kinda my jam – so it’s a weird feeling to try and repeatedly get into the head of a character who actually repulses you. The biggest influence for me has, thus far, been anger – but watching Brutus on stage giving one soft speech after another about the need to protect the ideals of Rome from a man too ambitious to keep them safe reminded me that for Brutus, Caesar’s murder was the most humane solution he could think of. It gave me a different take on my own piece, and besides making changes to the beat sheet for the play, I wrote a 15-page scene as the subway brought me home.

The Progressive Coder’s Network is still going well, and I’ve joined Fight Back Bay Ridge to help me get more involved with local politics. While I missed the New King’s Democrats meeting earlier this week, where endorsements were voted on, I’m hoping to get to the Bay Ridge Democrats meeting, where one of the first Democratic challengers for Dan Donovan’s congressional seat will be speaking. Since Donovan still refuses to hold a legit town hall (I think we get a facebook town hall next week), it’ll be interesting to see how his Dem challengers might approach their discussions with the area’s political clubs and associations. Personally, I’d love to start seeing cross-party, pre-primary debates for any and all contenders – but if I got everything I asked the universe for, we’d have Bernie Sanders in the oval. Oh well.

Theatre Review: LONESTAR at The Wild Project, NYC

By James McLure
Directed by Pete McElligott
Nine Theatricals
The Wild Project

While the plot of Lonestar is fairly cut and dry – sixty minutes of two brothers coming to terms with secrets and their relationship with one another – this production truly shines in the performances by each of its three cast members.

As Roy, Matt de Rogatis (previously reviewed in The Collector) opens the show surrounded by beers and scattered junk food packaging. He’s back from Vietnam – has been for some time, we learn – and has taken to spending his nights getting drunk on Lonestar beer behind the local dive. His brother, Ray (Chris Luopos) joins him and they relive old memories; we get a feel for the dynamic between these two easily. A third character, Greg Pragel’s Cletis (aka Skeeter), provides us with a glimpse of how Roy and Ray relate to the world outside their brotherhood.

The show’s unpretentious and simple design allows – wisely – the characters to carry this sixty-minute piece. Adhering to a strict economy of props and set, this means that de Rogatis, Luopos and Pragel are charged with bringing images of the scene to life in our minds – something the manage easily.

The greatest strength of Nine Theatricals’ Lonestar is in its performances, and the control over which all three actors – particularly de Rogatis and Luopos – are able to exert over their portrayals of their characters. From casual joking to intensely physical fury, each character is brought to life in these full, emotionally nimble performances that drive the narrative ever-onward.

Lonestar has completed its run at The Wild Project; information on additional performances can be found here.


Add Contacts, Congressional Edition – #PhoneYourRep

As you might expect (or know already, if we’re FB or Twitter friends), I have a lot of feelings about Tuesday’s election and its subsequent results. And maybe, eventually, I’ll be able to organize them coherently and present them in essay form.

For now, I’m trying to focus on concrete actions I and you can take to prepare ourselves for a long few years. Much of this will require getting in direct touch with our representatives in congress. Per this piece, by a former congressional staffer, the best way to do that is via phone.

Well, guess what. We all carry our phones with us 24/7. So if we have their numbers in our phones, we are already better prepared to engage our reps across congress in conversations about the issues that matter.


The leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Bernie Sanders and others, including Schumer, Warren, Reid and Booker, as well as the CWA, have endorsed Rep. Keith Ellison for the position of new DNC chair.

I’m starting with my own senators (Chuck Schumer and Kristin Gillibrand, both D-NY) and my House Rep (a republican who I have to look up again – see how much time I’d have saved if I’d whacked him into my phone the first time I called his office?) and the leadership of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. If you finish with those and want to keep going, think about adding regional DNC information as well.

So ask yourself, are you more likely to call your rep if you can just say, “Okay Google, dial Charles Schumer” and get a direct line to his office? Or if you have to go online, look up the number, and call from there?

If the answer is #1, and you want to help effect positive change in America, then take five minutes and put these numbers and more into your phone. Right now. Seriously. Cut and paste is your friend.

And remember, you can look up your reps and senators (links below), but think about looking up other reps and senators, as well. All of congress works for you. Your tax dollars contribute to all their salaries. You have a right to call and demand representation from any and all of them to address your rights and concerns, and you should do so.

And for Non-NYers:
Look up your Senator’s contact info here
Look up your Rep’s contact info here

Edit: Things are getting fun! A friend of mine has issued a #PhoneYourRep challenge to the internet! Once you’ve added your rep’s number to your phone, head to Dave’s Facebook and leave screenshot evidence – if we can get over 100 people to do it, he’ll be on the hook for a $500 donation to the Sierra Club (and given the person who’s in charge of their transition team, they’re gonna need it)!

Getting better at representative government AND saving the planet? Take part in this challenge and you’re basically a superhero. 😀