A Whole Lotta Shakin’:The Great Chicago Earthquake of 2008

I thought 5.2 on the Richter scale was limited to California. The Midwest, impossible…or not.

Friday morning I had woken up during the middle of the night, had dozed back off when I felt the bed shake. Kinda like when you put quarters in the beds at cheap motels. 4:37 am. I figured I must have been dreaming until I heard the news on the way into work.

It was the New Madrid fault line. Worst quake in the midwest in 40 years. Centered 120 miles south of Chicago. Here is what the Chicago Tribune reported the morning of the quake:

“A massive rock formation 7 miles below West Salem, Ill., moved just an inch or so at 4:36 a.m. Friday, but that was enough to cause the 5.2 magnitude earthquake that broke windows and cracked walls near the epicenter, shook Chicagoans in their beds and sent shock waves that people felt as far away as Kansas and West Virginia.

Neither the main quake nor the half-dozen aftershocks caused any major injuries or property damage. But the rattling was the worst to hit Illinois since 1968, when a 5.3 quake caused more damage to buildings but no injuries.”

I have thought for a long time that while the winters can be brutally cold and July and August can shelter that Chicago was clear of natural disasters. No hurricanes, tornadoes or quakes…or so I thought.

Well, you can get out of town, be fearful or just rock with the Jerry Lee. I vote for the latter.

First Name Basis?


They are everywhere. In restaurants, at airports, stores, office buildings. People from whom you need answers or they provide a service and they wear a name tag. Your interactions with them are typically brief and fleeting and you WILL NEVER SEE THEM AGAIN.            


During the conversation or at the end when thanking them, or cursing them, do you call them by their first name?


I have mixed feelings. One could argue that by doing so you acknowledge them as individuals and it demonstrates respect. On the flip side, one could consider this a show of personal connection or intimacy that goes beyond the few moments of interaction.


Personally I do not think that I would like someone to use my first name if I were Name Tag Person. I would be thinking, “Where do you get off. You don’t know who me”. But that is me.


And you?

Small Town Boy

I am in Pittsburgh today…Pittsburgh, TX. You know, right next to Mt. Pleasant and 15 miles from Paris. No it is not the pits, glad to get that out of the way.

I seem to have more than my fair share of clients based in small towns which by itself is not bad just inconvenient. Pittsburgh is a 2.5 hour drive from Dallas. I get to stay at a Holiday Inn Express. Free breakfast.

For dinner I get to choose between Chili’s, Applebee’s and a dive Mexican joint. No contest. Mexican it is.

Someday I hope to get clients in a major metropolitan area.  One with an airport.  And restaurants.

Harold, You Da Man

This week in Curacao was spent with my buddy Harold. We have known each other since high school, roomed together a year in college and have stayed connected ever since. We did a shorter trip like this in the Bahamas 10 years ago.

Harold is extremely organized. He planned out the whole trip. Found the air, the place to stay, had dive sights set up, everything. He also did all the driving and 110% of the navigating around the island. I am a negative 10% contribution to navigation.

Traveling with someone else has the potential to be stressful. Different rhythms to how you like to do things and what you like to do. Except that he hated the time we spent shopping for replacement clothes and I could have shopped longer, we generally agreed, were agreeable and got along well. Not bad for being together almost every moment.

This trip would not have happened as well or even at all without him. Thanks for a fun week. Let’s not wait another 10 years. 

New Record: Man Goes 8 Days Without Celebrity News…And Survives


While in Curacao last week I watched no television and never once checked the stock market.  I tried reading the newspaper but it was in Dutch. I was in a state of ignorant bliss.


But I came to know what I was not missing the most while in the supermarket check out aisle the day I returned. There I could not help but be overwhelmed with the faces of “celebrities” that I could not care less about. On the covers of People, US, In Touch and all the other rags were Britney (does it affect my world if she has another relapse), JLo ( so she lost 40 pounds after giving birth, big deal, she has so much money she can hire a personal trainer 24/7 to do the exercises for her), and all sorts of beautiful people I did not miss while away (yes you Matthew McConaughey…please put a shirt on). And yet we pay sooo much time fawning over their every move.


Instead of celebs I met a woman who drove miles out of her way to lead us to a restaurant we could not find, a young guy from The Netherlands who instead of trying to make all the money he possibly could was having a great time working as a dive master making enough to pay the rent and have some spending cash, and a sweet older woman who had moved to Curacao from Europe 40 years ago and who made sure that we felt welcome at Friday night services (at the oldest, continuous Jewish congregation in the western hemisphere. 257 year old synagogue. 350 year old congregation).


Real interactions with real people or celebrity gossip. No contest.



Thursday Has Become Adventure Day

I am working on how to keep the Adventure Thursday theme alive when I return to the U.S. and my regular life. I will let you know when this conundrum has been solved. For now I have the first Adventure Thursday to share.

Thursday April 10 in Curacao was definitely Adventure Day. It began with a drive to Christofel National Park on the NW side of the island, home to the highest peak on the island. The woman at the visitors center told us the climb would take an hour each way and that it was easy except for the last 15 minutes. She was right about the time but not about the easy part. It was a challenging grade for most of the way, at least for someone as not in shape as I am. (There were some middle school kids going up as we were going down. Three of the boys finished the uphill part and made it down only minutes after we did. Oh to be young again.) The trail was rocky and had some places where you had to navigate where your feet would go. Several times me and my 30 inch inseam had to conquer high steps from on rock to the next.  And then there was the final section. As tough as advertised.

First we had to scramble over some rocks using hands as well as feet. Then there was a vertical section involving finding footholds and rocks or tree limbs for my hands so I could pull myself up. The last 20 yards required squeezing through a very narrow passage, barely wide enough for me to get through, that had a very steep grade. My feet were on the walls to either side of me.

A few cuts and bruises but we made the summit. The views were stunning. I will post pictures when I return. I was admiring my stamina and fortitude just when I realized I would have to go back the way I came. Crap.

The climb down, at least for this first section, was harder than the uphill climb. Face forward going down. Finding places for hands and feet. Needing to jump or drop where you had reached and pulled on the way up. Complicating things were the people coming up sharing the same path. After surviving this first section the downhill was doable. Strenuous but doable. Amazingly it took about the same time down as up. We had thought that given the way gravity works the downhill would have been faster.

Thigh muscles ached by the time I finished. I expect that they may be worse tomorrow. However, Chistofel Mountain was just the beginning of this 4 part adventure day.

Part Two was the dive at Playa Kalki not far from the mountain. We made time to find a nice lunch and spend time on the beach. But then on to diving. We had rented equipment the day before. Unfortunately the entire dive set including air tanks had to be carried down 22 steps. (Also meaning 22 steps up on the way back.) We geared up, did buddy checks, got information about the reef and then jumped off the peer. This was to be only our second unguided dive. Ever.

Nice dive, good coral, interesting fish. Best of all was the freedom. When you go with a dive master and group, you all go where the dive master goes. Too often people bunch up. I have been kicked in the head many times on such a dive. But when you and your buddy are on your own you go where the whim takes you. See something interesting to the right, go check it out. Want to just play in the water like a fish…do it. We made it there and back on our own contributing to my SCUBA confidence level and adding to the legend.

Number Three was only a little bit adventurous but it all counts on Adventure Thursday. We had found a very nice restaurant on our way to Playa Kalki and decided to have an early dinner on our return home. The owner was a card. He came to our table and recited the day’s menu. I wanted to try something I had never eaten but decided against goat brains though they came highly recommended. I opted for the barracuda. It turns out to be a meaty white fish. The food was quite good and the atmosphere outstanding. There are bird feeders on the other side of a half wall next to our table. The birds there were beautiful. Orange and black, yellow and green, small and large. Then as we got up to pay the bill the owner tells us that life is to short to rush and that if we sat in the rocking chairs we could get a surprise. Ice Cream. That was a very pleasant surprise.

Last but not least was the Night Dive. I have done this a few times before. There is an extra bit of adventure, and for me trepidation, in diving when darkness surrounds you. All you have that allows you to see is a flashlight. The beauty of night dives are twofold. You see a few things that you may see during the day but all the colors are different. Even better, the nocturnal hunters are out. We did not encounter as much as I had hoped but we did see some lobster and a baby barracuda. For this journey in the deep we wisely chose to take a guide along.

Four adventures in a single day. Lets see to what extent I can keep up the new tradition of Adventure Thursday.

Male Model Convention

We spent a couple of evenings at the Curacao airport hoping to get our lost luggage off the night flight from Miami. If you are not coming, going or looking for lost luggage there is no apparent reason to be hanging out at this airport. A few airport shops, two fast food joints and a tiny bar are all it has to offer. Except for last Monday night.

I am still not sure why the people we saw were taking in the ambiance of the airport but they were there. My eye was first attracted to a stunning young woman going in and out of the few shops. She seemed to be alone which made no sense to me. But then I spied him. 6 foot 3. Wavy dark hair. Buldging biceps. Sculpted facial features and muscular body. My first thought was that this is Stunning Woman´s boyfriend. Sure enough.

Yet as the two stood and talked, two other great looking guys came over. Next thought. Male Model Convention. Nothing else could explain the bevy of great looking guys at the Curacao airport. Maybe at one of the beautiful topless beaches but not at the airport.  We later saw this gang sitting at a table with even more hunky guys. (It sure is good that I am comfortable with my own manliness to be able to colorfully describe this scene.)

I thought about trying to sneak a picture for the entertainment of my loving and lovely wife. However flash would have been required and I know from my own experience how annoying the paparazzi can be. (Yeah right.)

Just another night at the Curacao airport. The new hot spot for the beautiful people.