Cut the Cord

Cable is crazy expensive. Even when I wasn’t a Broke-ass™ I wasn’t willing to pay $100 plus for 500 channels that I didn’t watch. Plus Spectrum is an evil empire and we are the rebel alliance.

I was paying Time-Warner 40 bucks a month for years, basically by renewing a promo over and over. Then here comes Spectrum with no promo for Internet-only whatsoever. So, now I’m supposed to either pay $20 more ( Broke-ass™ NOT APPROVED), or pay $10 more for half the speed (10 mbps… LOL). Um, no.

I’m going to burn through my free 5GB T-Mobile HotSpot like never before. The Starbucks gift card I got from e-Rewards is going to come in real handy too.

Want to free yourself from ISP slavery? Here’s some of the things I’m doing in descending order of legality:

Torrents
Now if you want to remain in the clean world, skip the next two paragraphs. I torrent. It took me a while out of abject fear of bricking my laptop, but the desire to replace the DVDs I lost in storage overwhelmed my moral compass. I figure that I already paid for them so it’s okay. Then I ruined it and downloading films I hadn’t owned. I’m not Catholic so I can’t seek absolution on a weekly basis so I’m basically stuck until Armageddon. Darn Protestantism. I’m not going to give you a primer on torrenting because I really don’t need the FBI in my life, but uTorrent is a reliable program and completely non-scary.

Streaming
Still not legal, but a whole lot easier to do and you get broadcast television and cable shows. I have a reliable list of off-shore streaming sites thanks to Google (*whispers*movie4k.to*ahem*). Some better for movies, some better for television series. The only problem is that unlike Netflix, it becomes a chore to keep track of what episode you left off at. Then finding a working link is an issue with older videos. Quality is also problem. They can be some of the most bootleg of bootleg videos, I’m talking circa 1990s bootleg with people walking through them (Ugh Spider-man: Homecoming). But  once a film comes out on DVD, the quality is 4k perfect.
There are also apps like Movie Box but those are more involved and unreliable to maintain if you are on a unjailbroken iOS product. Android seems to be much easier.

The Public Library
There isn’t a better public service than the library. Okay, maybe water and sewer. Maybe. The DVD section in the New York Public Library rivals the dearly departed Blockbuster for selection. And unlike Redbox, if they don’t have it at your branch you can order it. I recently ordered seasons 1 and 2 of Outlander after I got tired of hunting for it on streaming sites. Plus why not do it the legal way if you can? Now the question is whether or not if it’s okay to burn the DVDs for later viewing. So many legal grey areas… so many.

Firesticks, Roku boxes, etc.
I can’t tell you much about any of these because I haven’t owned a TV since 2006. But I hear they are great! If you don’t mind subscribing to Netflix, Showtime and HBO al a carte, you’ll save a bundle and still be in the clear legally and ethically.

I think that’s pretty much it other than a sad digital antenna that you may or may not be able to get PBS on. Best of luck cutting the cord!

Class Action Lawsuit Settlements

Class Action Settlement

America is a great and litigious nation. We operate on a few immutable truths. MTA is ATM backwards, that guy swinging his unused cane around like a 30’s gangster has a Comp case that pays him more money you make with your aching back, and if you get margarine rather than butter on your bagel, you can join a class-action suit for Dunkin’ Donuts customers who “ordered a baked product, such as a bagel, between June 24, 2012 and June 24, 2016″.

Ah yes… good ol’ class action lawsuits. I’ve filed for a few over the years and the most I would get was a couple of bucks. Usually not worth the time it took to fill out the contact information. But today I just received a $30.68 check for telemarketers using mobile phone numbers in violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. I was basically paid for a robo-call going straight to voicemail. Gawd’bless ‘merica.

So far I’ve been going about this randomly. What I didn’t have was a virtual clearinghouse of class action lawsuits from all over the country in order to make these things worth my while. And finding out about suits after the fact helps no one. That got me Googling. I quickly found a site that’s one-stop shopping for all your petty lawsuit needs: Top Class Actions
Enough of the snark. ::whispers but i like the snark::  Most of these suits aren’t petty at all. The business were conducting questionable activities and were either too stupid or brazen to not get caught.

If you’re a consumer, you’ve most likely been taken advantage of by a company or two and not even known it. For example, if you’ve bought a new laptop, tablet or phone in the past couple of years, you probably qualify for a lithium-ion battery and a optical drive suit. Both groups of manufactures colluded in order to gouge the end user… you. So you’re not getting something for nothing. These manufactures thought they were going to charge you a “stupid tax” and were found out. There are many more that will get away with your hard earned money scot-free so don’t worry about the ones you catch.

No one likes to be ripped off. Go get your money back.

Top Class Actions – Open Class Action Lawsuit Settlements

Piano Karaoke @ Sid Gold’s

This certainly isn’t free but if the struggle is real and you just need to get out of the house, you can have some of the most fun you’ve ever had for 60 bucks max.

Sid Gold’s Request Room in Chelsea – NYC, I’m gonna sound corny… is my home away from home. I started coming every week when I was flush with cash, but trying to make it last as long as I possibly could. I’m not one to pop bottles just because I got some jingle in my pockets.
Unlike Korea-Town karaoke, you’re not renting a whole room. Technically, you could come in off the street and not buy a single drink and get up to sing. I wouldn’t suggest it thought. As many times as I’ve sang in front of strangers, I still need a drink or two or three. Who am I kidding… four.

For $60 I can buy two double gin & tonics (well liquor of course), tip 20% and still have about $10 for tips to the pianist. The rule of thumb is to tip your accompanist 2-3 dollars per song. More if you want something that’s not on the list and they can actually play it, and pre-more if you want to cut the queue. It’s a pay to play world, baby. Nobody works for free.

Single Gin & Tonic
Single Gin & Tonic. Singing works up a thirst.

They have more sophisticated cocktail bar food (shrimp cocktail, crudités, paté… it’s fancy if it has a diacritic acute) and standard bar food (pizza, mac & cheese, fries). But I’m going to be honest, I usually can’t afford to eat here and hit the 99¢ pizza joint around the corner on 6th Avenue instead. I’m not the Broke-ass Socialite™ for nothing.

I suggest coming any day other than Friday or Saturday if you’re really trying to spend your allotted pianist tip money because you may find yourself drinking more than singing and drinkin’ is expensive. It gets crowded and the audience likes to chat more than listen. But you can make that work for you if you’re more interested in chatting than singing. I’ve met some very interesting people here. Sometimes Paul Simon drops in and I’m not there to sing “Bridge Over Troubled Water” at him and then I’m sad. FOMO is a regular state of mind when in comes to Sid’s.

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Super sweet duet… D’awwww!

So as soon as I get my tax return, you know where I’ll be.
C’mon IRS! I wanna sing!

Sid Gold’s Upcoming Events – Click “More>>” for the individual pianist’s song lists. I will never judge you for practicing a song before you come, wear a dress because you want to be fancy like a lounge singer… not like I’ve done that very thing. *ahem*

Unclaimed Funds

https://ouf.osc.state.ny.us/ouf/images/comptrollerWithCheck.jpg

Every once in a while you might see a post about unclaimed funds, then ignore it because you can’t possibly imagine how you could ever misplace money like that.

I though I had every dime accounted for. When you’re broke off your ass there’s no “Oh! I found $20 in my pocket!” when sorting laundry. Instead you’re raiding your change jar for every last quarter so your clothes can completely dry. But over the past 10 years I had a lot of stuff happen resulting in a lot of moves. Moves that can result in returned mail. Mail that could possibly contain checks.

Being the eternal pessimist, I expected no more than enough for a cup of coffee. Bodega coffee, not Starbuck’s. I enter my name on the NY State Comptroller’s website and voilà! I see my name listed with one of my old addresses. That quickly I know I have money owed to me… just not how much. I’m still thinking it’ll just be coffee money.

I submit my social security number for verification and promptly forget about the whole thing. A couple of weeks later I get mail from the State Comptroller’s office. I open it up while waiting for the elevator. I start laughing hysterically and the lobby attendant looks at me funny.

Hello 352 Venti Mochas.
Not talls… ventis, baby.

Let me help you help yourself.
If you live in NY state, click here to get started. It takes seconds of your time: New York State Comptroller – Unclaimed Funds

If you’ve moved from state-to-state, there’s no Federal level search, but this link comes as close as you’re going to get to one: Unclaimed.org
You can easily access all the individual state unclaimed funds sites from here.

15 bucks or 800 smackeroos… it’s your money! Go get it!

Free/Low Cost Theater

Grounded @ the Public Theater

Growing up in the outer boroughs of NYC, I always thought theater was out of reach with tickets in the hundreds of dollars. I didn’t find out until last year that the whole time I was a teen I could have been a seat filler and seen any show I wanted by walking in after the Intermission. I’m a little bitter about this. Anyway… I’ve seen more plays this past year than I’ve watched TV or movies. And that’s with bootlegging a friend’s Netflix account.

Let’s start with the free and work our way up from there.

Yelp
Yelp is more than a place to give one star reviews to Mexican restaurants because the waiters dare to speak Spanish.  As much as I rip on Yelp and Stoppleman’s haircut, having Elite status does get you a steady supply of free food and drink. It’s actually worth being that person who won’t let you eat until they take a picture of your dish under different lighting conditions and angles.
Even though I’m blacklisted from ever becoming Elite (long story…), it’s still worth my while to have written 378 reviews since 2011. That’s an average of 4.5 reviews a month. And here I am thinking that I barely write reviews.

Yelp’s open events are what I stick around for. They are free-free. All my other sites have “processing fees”. $5 isn’t much, but it still isn’t free. Most of the seats have been font mezzanine but I’m not gonna complain about a free shows and views like this:

As you can see I’ve see the most and the best shows with Yelp and for that I’m grateful.

Show-Score
The dark-horse of low cost theater tickets. The quality has been all over the place. I recommended it to a friend just when it hit a growth spurt. Really bad timing. Not only did it take forever for him to start getting offers, the majority of these plays were off-off-off Broadway and what I like to call “Church Basement” plays. “Theaters” in office buildings and community centers. If they weren’t hot messes only populated with family members and other unfortunate Show-Score reviewers, then I wouldn’t have complained, but they were twice baked hot messes on metal folding chairs. I learned the hard way to google the theaters. If it’s located in 59E59 it’s guaranteed to be good. Thought recently all the seats Show-Score gets are by the sound booth, in the nosebleeds.
The tickets used to be completely free but once they took off, they had to start charging a $5 processing fee. It’s not bad and helps stop people from thoughtlessly ditching shows. I think they’ve gotten their sea legs back because they’ve started curating for quality again. Or maybe I’m just better at picking the good stuff.

I really like the review format. It used to be limited to 140 characters for and 140 against seeing the show. Recently they started offering a longer format. I’m not a fan. The Twitter style was challenging and forced me to be creative. Here’s how I handled it: My Show-Score Reviews. As you can see, I’m a generous reviewer.
They’ve also expanded into the Today Tix and GoldStar realm of offering reduced and full-priced Broadway tickets. Here’s to hoping they maintain the quality of their “free” offerings.

Goldstar
I’ve mostly used Goldstar for a wide variety of events like baseball and bull riding (Yes, there’s bull riding in NYC) but I’ve had my best luck with the comp off-Broadway show Neal Brennan’s 3 Mics. It’s on Netflix right now, you should catch it. I paid an $8 processing fee for a seat with a seriously obstructed view. But I made out like a bandit when the theater manager started moving people to fill seats smack dab in the middle. It was my first stand-up show and I loved it. GoldStar will get a mention later for sure.

TodayTix
The link above will take you to my referral page so you can get $10 towards your first purchase. With Lottery tickets starting at $20, it’s a sweet deal. TodayTix is a combination of full-priced, discount, Rush, and Lottery tickets. Set the search filter to Price>> Lottery/Rush so you don’t have wade through the full priced shows.

I was going to mention Shakespeare in the Park sooner since it too is free-free, but by far the most convenient way to get tickets is through TodayTix. You can set up an alert in the app to let you know as soon as shows become available. Once the lottery opens at midnight you have until noon to enter the drawing via the app. Then you have to check your email from noon until 2:15pm to see if you’ve won. It’s up to you to claim them in 45 mins. or else they return to the pool. Similar rules apply with the Rush and Lottery tickets. Rush tickets are within the $30 range. Still a sweet deal.

I don’t know how updates work on blogs (I’m so painfully green), but as I use new programs I’ll update. Since I’m a student again, I know there are other free/low cost ticket programs like Student Rush, but I won’t review them until I actually use them. No need to go off half cocked and give out bad information.
Stay tuned!

Links:

Rockwood Music Hall

Rockwood Music Hall on the Lower East Side is far and away my most favorite music venue. The acts are always high caliber and you can always find a show without a cover. Always.

There are 4 stages. Stage 1 is the smallest, no drink minimum if you avoid the tables, full service bar. Being small in no way diminishes the quality of the acts. These aren’t second string performers. I’ve yet to hear a mediocre show on Stage 1. I would inundate you with video if I could.

Rockwood Music Hall - Stage 0
Rockwood Music Hall – Stage 1

Stage 2 is the largest with an upstairs balcony. The 2 drink minimum applies upstairs with the all table service. Same for the table service if it’s downstairs. Basically all the tables everywhere have a 2 drink min. so I don’t sit at the tables. There’s always a stool somewhere! Here a wandering waitperson might or might not take your 1 drink min. order if you don’t hit the bar yourself.
When there isn’t a cover for Stages 1 & 2, they usually pass the bucket for the band. Tip as generously as you can. The place is already a bargain.
Sting guested on Stage 2 a few months ago… I’m not immune from FOMO even here.

Hundred Hounds @ Rockwood Music Hall
Hundred Hounds @ Rockwood Music Hall – Stage 2

Stage 3 is on the lower level and has nothing but table seating. Although I’ve never seen a show at this stage without a cover, those tend to be in the $10 range. The acts in this room are more mellow for the more intimate space. I thought I didn’t really dig jazz until I heard Now vs Now‘s electronic take on it. Now I know electronic jazz. ::insert Keanu Reeves meme here::

Paris Monster @ Rockwood Music Hall - Stage 2
Paris Monster @ Rockwood Music Hall – Stage 3

The 4th stage might’ve had performances in it at some point in its lifetime, but it’s usually where you can go drink (blackout) and converse (make out) without disrupting a show.

Rockwood does that lovely thing where they provide a free water cooler at the bar. No need to make a pest of yourself with the bartenders. Since I tend to compulsively drink whatever’s put in my hand, having access to free water helps me slow my roll.

I rave about Rockwood all the damn time because if you’re looking for a solid no-cover music venue with reasonably priced drinks, there’s always something excellent going on. Every time I come for one show, I leave with yet another band that I must follow until the End of Days. I know… poor me.

Rockwood Music Hall’s Current Schedule

SummerStage & the Lowdown Hudson Music Fest

CityParks SummerStage

CityParks’ SummerStage is the be all and end all of free summer event lineups. Oh, do you scoff? Do you say, “Pishaw! If it’s free how good could it really be?” Well let’s go back to SummerStage 2016 so I can prove my case.

As a kid I wasn’t sheltered, but you’d think I was from how little I went out. I was just a baby Broke-ass with zero social skills. I grew up in the Bronx and missed the rise of Hip Hop, Punk in dives like CBGB, Disco at the mega dance clubs that didn’t card or where a decent fake ID was ridiculously easy to get. I missed everything good about NYC in the 80s.

So when I see that Public Enemy is going to be playing at Betsy Head Park in the middle of Brownsville FOR FREE, I figure here’s my only chance to experience them like I should have back in the day. I got there 2 hours early to insure I got right in front. Unnecessary but hell, I wasn’t taking a chance or capturing a dream of my childhood.
It was the best concert I’ve been to in my entire life. I had a better view of the performance than I ever would have in Public Enemy’s heyday. I left sweaty and dusty and happier than I’ve been in 4 decades.

Since that went so well, I decided to catch the free showing of “A Ballerina’s Tale” directed by Nelson George in Central Park. While chatting in line, people asked if Misty Copeland was going to make an appearance. Staff couldn’t confirm or deny. I’m thinking that would be swell and all, but having Nelson George seemed like an awful lot already. Well, after Mr. George intros his film he introduces Misty Copeland. We were all the woman on the left.

Misty Copeland and George Nelson - A Ballerina's Tale Screening
Misty Copeland and Nelson George – A Ballerina’s Tale Screening – SummerStage 2016

Click here for the Full SummerStage Event ListThere are events up until September, with the vast majority of them being 100% free.
This year’s line up is like someone dug thru a crate of Old School Hip Hop vinyl and decided to get them all to perform. It’s like the Summer of 1986 all over again! I plan on catching George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic w/ DJ Marley Marl hosted by Roxanne ShanteKRS-One / DJ Chuck Chillout, Slick Rick, TKA (Freestyle FOREVER!), and last but not least… Rock Steady Crew 40th Anniversary featuring MC Lyte! Holy crap this is going to be an awesome summer.

The Roots @ the Lowdown Hudson Music Fest
The Roots @ the Lowdown Hudson Music Fest

Lowdown Hudson Music Fest down in Brookfield Place in TriBeCa isn’t nearly  as expansive as SummerStage stage, but it’s more current than nostalgic. Last year I got to see The Roots. I missed The Roots Picnic and was pretty bummed that I didn’t win tickets. This made up for it in a big way.

This year’s Fest is on July 18th & 19th. Common plays on Tuesday and OK GO on Wednesday. I think I’m going to catch that OK GO show! It should be lots of fun.

I have to get my calendar organized. This is going to be one busy summer!

Free New York Mets Tickets

This is as close as I’m going to get to selling my blood for money…

On June 6th, 2017 you can donate blood for two Mets tickets at Citi Field’s Caesars Club from 10 am – 5 pm. You also have until June 30th to make a platelet donation at New York Blood Center for ticket vouchers from a select list of game dates. Click Here to schedule an appointment or call 1-800-933-2566.

New York Blood Center also has a Donor Advantage Program. So instead of tickets you can get Donor Advantage Points towards a whole list of items and gift cards. I would probably join this program just for the hell of it if I weren’t borderline anemic all the time. I tried to donate for my second time ever today, and was 35/38 on the anemia test. Three points away despite having taken my iron pills for a whole week. I know not everyone can donate, but if you meet the requirements, why not? People are always in need of critical blood transfusions. It’s a very good deed that saves countless lives.

Plus look at the Blood Center mascot. Look at that goofy costume. Do it for that poor schmo.

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New York Blood Center Donation Scheduler

e-Rewards

Today is my 3 year anniversary with e-Rewards. If it were a year ago, I might have said it was a monumental waste of time. In fact, I did say that very thing to another member a year ago. Now that I’ve received a real $25 gift card for Starbucks, I’m singing a completely different tune.

e-Rewards Balance & Rewards

I’m going for the $50 one this time. 50 bucks worth of free coffee is more valuable than gold as far as I’m concerned.

What is e-Rewards, you ask? You fill out tons of demographic information and they email you surveys to complete almost daily. They can take as long as 30 mins. to finish, but whether you qualify to finish one or not you receive a little something for your trouble. e-Reward’s “money” isn’t real money. When it comes time to redeem you’re only getting 33 cents on the dollar. But if you qualify for 3-4 surveys a week, you hit those redemption goals surprisingly fast. Waiting for the bus… fill out a survey. Stuck in the doctor’s waiting room… fill out a survey. It’s more productive that putzing around on Facebook.

Since it’s been three years I don’t remember how I joined, but now it is strictly “by invitation only”. I know… that sucks. But don’t let it stop you! All you have to do is be willing to spread your email address around, thus opening yourself to a whole lot of mail to wade through. But beware, if you’re anything  like me and can’t stand that little red dot of unread emails, you could be opening yourself up for a whole lot of extra work.

For example, if you join Southwest Airline’s Rapid Rewards Email Update, you become eligible for an invite. But that’s just one. e-Rewards has many partner sites. Here’s a partial list:

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e-Rewards Partners

Maybe GolfNow is listed twice because you’d have a better shot with them. *shrug*
So, look for any free membership sign-ups, preferably anything that outright mentions e-Rewards like Southwest does.

My main criticism of e-Rewards in the past has been their less than attractive, à la Publisher’s Clearinghouse, magazine offers. Who on earth reads Redbook??? Now at the $75 level I have a $25 iTunes gift card option too. That’s pretty choice stuff. They also offer airline/hotel club points and a not highly rated Restaurant. com gift card that I’m not interested in, but someone might find them useful.  As long as e-Rewards keeps me in free Frappuccinos, they have won a place in my heart.

Good luck!