A Rich Lunch

I wrote earlier of my day last week in downtown Chicago. I did not mention the most enjoyable lunch that I had.

I have known Howard Bernick for 15 years or so. He was for many years the CEO of Alberto Culver and I was, still am, a consultant to the Company. We saw each other primarily in work situations but took the time to share stories of family. He was good to work with. In general a mench. We might not always agree but we could agree to disagree in a professional way.

He left the company a couple of years ago after completing a sale of a major portion of the company. He is on his own, sitting on some boards, enjoying his parents and his children and generally enjoying life.

I cannot say that I am not more than a bit envious. He is financially well to do which gives him options on how to spend his time. I would love to have those options. Yet while envious of his situation I can only wish him well. In my line of work I meet many very wealthy people. Many of them are not very nice. Howard is.

He took me to lunch at a nice restaurant, but that is not what made the lunch a rich experience. It was the conversation that made it rich. The conversation was a good mix of reminiscing and catching up on what has happened in the time since we had seen each other. We told stories. Good ones. I learned some very interesting details about people we knew in common. I shared about the loss of my mom, the increased responsibilities with my sister and the joys and pain of raising a teenage boy. Howard has raised two sons and a daughter so he could relate.

At the end of lunch he offered to make a donation to the organization that runs the group home which houses my sister. He did not need to do that. I did not ask. (I have never been good about asking for money from friends or others I know. I will have to find the courage now that my mom is no longer in the fund raising business.) He just did.

We agreed not to let so much time go between visits. I cannot wait to do this again.

I want to become a professional go-to-luncher. I have found my calling. Now if I can find a sponsor.

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Enchanting

I bring home take out for D and two friends. I can tell they are about to put on a movie. An action flick? Some sophomoric comedy, perhaps?

No. The Disney movie Enchanted! And this is not the first time.

I asked D why that movie. “Never underestimate the power of a beautiful movie.”

I do not understand 17 year old boys.

 

Sunday With Sandy

I spent Sunday afternoon with my sister Sandy. She has autism and lives in a group home about a 45 minute drive away. It was the first I had made time to visit her since my mom died. Over the past 5 months Sandy has had far less contact with her family than she had become accustomed to because our attention had turned to Mom’s needs. It is time to pay more attention to her.

Since people with autism can range broadly in terms of how and how well they function let me tell you a bit about my sister. She knows who people are. She knows her family,loves her family and certainly misses us whe n she does not see us.

Her speech is limited. She forms words and sentences often it is hard to figure out what she is saying. She has a tendency to babble and repeat things over and over and over.

She is on several medications that help her control her behavior. She can become obsessive about something and it will become hard to redirect her which may lead to physical confrontation. Often food is the object of her obsession. Her control has been relatively good for the past couple of years but  I still have memories of having to wrestle her to the ground  in public, crowded places to keep her from grabbing things she should not have. With her screaming at the top of her lungs. While people stare at you as they try to figure out what if anything to do since they do not know you are family or a mugger. One learns not to be embarrassed easily.

She loves music. She could play records for hours. Beatles, Beach Boys and Herb Alpert are amoung her favs. No accounting for taste on that last selection. If you spend time with her it is always a good idea to have some of her favorite tunes on hand.

She is very friendly and enjoys striking up conversations with strangers. Most are fairly good natured about it though as I said she is often difficult to understand. Once in awhile Sandy will try to hold someone’s hand or reach for a piece of jewelry. You never know.

She has few govenors on her speech or he actions. She is definitely not politically correct. That last characteristic can lead to many smiles–as long as you are not easily embarrassed.

So that is my soon to be 42 year old sister.

I went with my mom’s husband Fred who has been her de fact father for 20 + years. She seemed a little reserved at first. Normally I immediately get a big hug and kiss. I can understand. She could feel a little abandoned andon top of that her mom just died. Yes, she understands that. She was also very chatty, in a random word kind of way. Sometimes that is a warning sign that her behavior control is on the low side.

We started by going shopping for a new comforter and sheets. Most people with autism have some trouble with choices. I gave her the choice of polka dots or a blue pattern. She would say she wanted whatever one I said last. We finally agreed on the polka dots.

By this time she had warmed up. Lots of hugs and kisses and she wanted to hold both of our hands. Nice but hard to maneuver through narrow aisles that way. She waited patiently in line.

Non-PC moment number one. She asks the sales clerk if she showered today. One of the good ones. The response was  “No, not today but I did shower last night”. At least two more people got the same question before day’s end.

We went to another store to look for a winter hat and gloves. Sandy was doing a good job of reading name tags and addressing clerks by name. One got her necklace grabbed. Another was fun and offered Sandy a smell of some perfume.

People can be very kind or completely standoffish. Enough are kind that my faith in people gets restored consistently when I am with my sister. As Sandy was trying on hats another shopper asked if I had coupons for the store and offered me an extra. She made a point of finding us again before she left to give us more that she had not used.

We went to a movie. She tends to be more interested in live action movies especially musicals. Unfortunately High School Musical 3 was not for 2 hours so we saw Madagascar 2. (It did not hold her attention or mine.) Got pop and popcorn. Popcorn can be a problem because she never has enough but I took a chance. A little chatty during the movie about the popcorn but not too bad. Some great belches from the pop (hey, I am a guy of course I found that funny). Lots of kisses.

On the way home she borrowed my water bottle for a drink. She sits in back, its safer. I ask for the bottle back and then try to drink not realizing that she had removed the top. Soaked my pants. For a nanosecond I was mad, after all it was 30 degrees out. Then I burst out laughing. You never know what will happen when you are out with my sister. I turned on the heated seats and all was right with the world.

Once you take her home she is done with you. She starts saying goodbye and does not stop until you walk out the door. Every time you walk out you realize how much you learn from a day with Sandy.

Like The Good Old Days Just Different

For almost 8 years I drove one mile to the train station, took the commuter train to downtown Chicago, got off the train and walked the 1.5 blocks to my office. For over 3 years now instead of the train I drive 21 miles to one of the most sterile suburbs in the area. I rarely go downtown and the few times I do typically I drive. Yesterday was a reenactment of the old days. Sort of.

Got to the train station. Early. In the old days I knew just when to leave so that the train was pulling in moments after I arrived at the platform but yesterday I was conservative, leaving the house with plenty of room for error. The train schedule rarely changes but now the 7:21 had become the 7:17. I hang out on the platform. I can see the train in the distance. Wait, it is not slowing down. It breezes by without stopping. Ah, now I remember. The Breeze. Named for the wind that blows as it whips by our small station. Not the 7:17. I had forgotten.

As my train pulls in I realize that I am in no man’s land, the space between the doors of back to back cars. In my days as a regular I had known exactly where to stand.  I watched for the people who would have been like me if I had not switched employers. Only two people were even vaguely recognizable. Strange since most people take the same train every morning.

It is a short 22 minute ride to downtown. I found myself in a seat toward the back of the car. In the old days I would have been near the front. Quicker getting off that way. My 10 ride ticket that I have had since before I changed jobs slides under the metal clasp where tickets go so you won’t have to move or look up at the conductor when he comes by to collect them. My ticket is old and looks older. The conductor eyes it suspiciously. He squints. Finally he caves and pulls out his reading glasses. He squints again as he looks at the back of the ticket. “You bought this ticket in 2004. They expire after a year.”  I shrug. I knew i had been on borrowed time.  Seven times I had ridden the train long after the expiration date. Finally they caught me. He ripped up the ticket and I handed him $3.05.

As the train pulled into the station a man was leaving with his young daughter. She had bumped into something and had began to cry not quietly. He spoke to her softly, quietly. His voice was comforting, never waiving from that nurturing, caring tone. Not acting embarrased in front of strangers as some adults do when their child cries. I wondered at what age I stopped talking to my son in that calming, supportive way.

Riding the train beats driving hands down. Less stress. You can meet people and talk or ignore the world and doze. The only thing I hate is the feeling of being cattle as you get off the train with dozens of others, merge with even more people coming off other trains and walk through the station as one of the herd. For some reason every day that made me feel less like an individual. I do not like being one of a faceless crowd. I had forgotten that feeling. 

Once out of the crowd I enjoy walking around downtown. There is an energy, a life force in Chicago. I had several meetings and walked many blocks that day. Its funny. Chicago is so different than being in NYC. The story that says it all began as it started to rain after lunch. I decided to walk instead of hailing a cab. At one point I was holding an umbrella which started to turn inside out in the wind, I was talking on my cell–no bluetooth thing in my ear, I hate those which is another story–and I drop my leather folder. Its not going anywhere and I do not want to interrupt my call or put down the umbrella in order to pick it up. So I stand there with the folder at my feet. A young woman passing by stops, picks it up, hands it to me and smiles. I thank her and she continues on her way. That is Chicago.

The day ended with the trains being indefinitely delayed due to signal problems on the tracks. I stayed for twenty minutes before walking over to the L, the elevated trains that are part of the public transportation system. It took an extra hour to get home but surprisingly I was not steamed. Look, I had spent a day in downtown Chicago. All-in-all it had been a good day.

 No surprise this song was in my head much of the day.

I Want To Give Away $300 Million

What I mean is that I want the ability to give away $300 million. I think that means that I would have to have substantially more than $300 million, which is what I really want.

David Booth just gave $300 million to the University of Chicago Graduate Business School. Of course the name will now become the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. Good for them, though that is not what went through my mind when I first heard this story.

My first reaction was that if I had $300 million to give away BEFORE I died then I must have close to a gazillion dollars to begin with. It is not as if a person will give $300 million away and leave himself a paltry $10 or $50 million. You gotta believe that you would not do that unless you had at least a $billion or two.

I want to be that guy. When I am, feel free to come and ask for some. Just be aware that you may need to have your house, or better yet one of your kids, be renamed.

Anniversaries

Yes today is an historic day. The first African American President was elected today.

But that is not the sole reason why today made history. The election is a mere footnote next to the 2nd anniversary of 48Facets. Yes two years. Amazing. Many thought it could not be done but with the chant of Yes We Can ringing in my ears it has happened. It started in a small shack on November 4, 2006. After hundreds of emails to Frank asking how do you set these darn things up. It happened. First on Vox and now hosted by WordPress. We look forward to at least 4 more years.

Perhaps even more amazing in its own way is that yesterday was the 28th anniversary of my start in consulting. I began when I was 12 (my standard joke). Chris, who sits in the cubicle outside my office and does the same kind of work, was 3 months old when I started. I came to this career by accident and have wanted to find something else for many of these 28 years. But it turns out that I am good at what I do and Ihave no idea what else would maintain our modest standard of living. 28 years…and a day. Wow.

 

p.s. On a more serious note as I was contemplating my 2 years in the blogosphere I heard on NPR that November 4 was also the day that U.S. citizens at the Iranian embassy were taken hostage in 1979. Day 1 of their 444 days in captivity. The Iranian Hostage Crisis dominated the news and kept the 66 Americans in our hearts and minds for over a year. There but for the grace of G-d…

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