North By North Pole

At the beginning of March, I shared the story of John Huston and Tyler Fish. These two wanted to be the first Americans to ski unassisted to the North Pole. They did it on April 25th, the 55th day of the mission. By not without some drama. Here is an excerpt from a press release less than two days earlier:

Minneapolis, Minn. (8 a.m. April 24, 2009) – Forward Expeditions LLC announced today that John Huston and Tyler Fish will now have to ski, snowshoe and possibly swim 28 nautical miles in approximately 50 hours to reach the North Pole by Sunday morning, April 26. Huston and Fish are on Day 53 of their historic Victorinox® North Pole ’09 Expedition, and the Russian base that has agreed to fly them out from the Pole is closing on Sunday due to deteriorating sea ice conditions. If they have not reached the Pole by that deadline, the flight will pick them up where they are – even though that might be just a few miles from their goal.

They were leaving one way or the other but after many months of preparation and 50+ days of travel in brutal conditions they were not to be denied. They traveled for 16 hours and 15 minutes on their last day! That was after working shifts of traveling for 12 hours and resting for three  for the three days before that. Pushing themselves to the limit on a  475-mile trek to the North Pole from Canada’s Ellesmere Island.


 John is a local, Chicago area boy. 32 years old. Graduated from Northwestern University in 1999. He had already led an exhibition to the South Pole. Not bad for 32. Too bad he is a White Sox fan. No accounting for taste.



Tyler Fish is an old man of 35. According to his bio on the expedition website, According to Tyler, there has never been a day too cold to strap on some sort of ski.  He spends his winters skiing at a competitive level in long distance cross-country ski marathons and also coaching a local ski team in Ely, Minnesota. 

Since I heard they made it I have been considering adjectives to describe what they did. Heroic? Maybe. They did not save lives but they meet this definition of Hero (from “a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities”. Amazing? Certainly but not particularly descriptive or illuminating. Courageous. Definitely. I am open to reader suggestions.

One point of trivia. They consumed 8,000 calories a day. Think 320 candy bars. They say with all they worked off it could have been more. Now there is a diet. The North Pole Diet. Copyrighted. Next $1 million idea.

Check out the Expedition website here.

The Gift of Gab

My son and I have done more arguing recently than talking.  I know what he should be doing to better his life but for some  reason at eighteen he does not just automatically say “Ah ha, you are right dad”.  Go figure.

So tonight I asked him to read the “Best Gifts For Kids” post including the entire article so we could discuss it. He agreed (I will explain that little oddity in a minute). I was hoping that reading something written by another parent might give him some insight into what I was trying to do for (to?) him.

It started off slowly but we had a great conversation. For once we both listened as well as spoke. I shared with him how I felt and where I have not been doing a good job of bestowing some of these gifts. He shared many of his feelings about my parenting style as well as what he thought about each of the ten gifts.

When discussing the gift of conflict he pointed out that I certainly did not shy away from conflict. He was, however,  surprised that I felt guilty about not spending time with him. (Both are part of the explanation of this gift.) His retort was that if I felt guilty about the time why didn’t I spend less time on conflict, he would. I responded that I never sought out conflict with him but that my priority was to let him know what I thought was right rather than to be silent  so on the surface we would seem to be sharing a peaceful moment. We went back and forth on this one for awhile.

We also explored many of the other gifts. This conversation was the one of the most intimate and intricate father and son conversations we have had in a very long time. It was worth far more than the $15 it cost.

Yes, there was a reason he agreed so quickly. A couple of months ago he committed to, at my strong request, reading for 1 extra hour per week and then discussing with me what he read. He did that twice and then stopped. I finally got tired of the excuses and stopped his allowance until he read– and talked. At the beginning of the night he was two weeks in arrears and beginning to have a cash flow problem. I offered him a quick 1 week catch up if he read the post and the article and discussed it. I try not to bribe but we needed some reconciliation. The gamble paid off big time. (And he is still a week behind.)

So  based on tonight’s experience I am adding one more to the extended list of gifts to your kids. The gift of gab–with your parents.

Best Gifts For Your Kids

No, this is not about which iPod, new phone, new car, expensive trip to get your child. It is not about how to make your child like you more. Being your son’s or daughter’s “friend” is not in my top 5 of what they need. (BTW, not trying to be your child’s friend is probably the best way to make it happen.)

I saw this list on a website for people in the north shore of the Chicago area. This is generally an area of well to do parents. Often Filthy Rich. Check out the full article here, it is well worth the click. The 10 gifts presented by these authors are:

1) Gift of Your Time, Presence & Connection

2) Gift of Feelings

3) Gift of Unconditional Love /Acceptance

4) Gift of Empathy

5) Gift of Limits & Boundaries

6) Gift of Boredom

7) Gift of Struggle & Disappointment

8) Gift of Conflict

9) Gift of Chores and Responsibilities

10) Gift of Mistakes and Imperfection

I would add the gift of intellectual curiosity and gift of imagination. Other than that I found this to be an excellent list.

Who Cares


Bo the First Family’s Portuguese water dog

Oprah’s first Tweet

Mayor Daley proclaiming Thursday to be Talk Shakespeare Day

Anything in the lives of Britney, Lindsay, Miley or Paris (not even worth a link)

Former Governor Blago  being on some reality show in Costa Rica– or anything else in his life

I am sure there must be more things but…who cares.

The Bagel Snack: Sterotypical Old Jewish Florida…And Loving it

The Bagel Snack is a find. Our friends found it while looking for a breakfast place in Ft. Lauderdale. Great breakfast specials with an even more special clientele. Steve and Lana came back after the first time with a story of how they had  humongous breakfast, including a lox plate and spent $13 for the 2 of them. The next day they spent $9 and had to skip lunch they were so full. We had to check this place out.

My wife played tennis in the morning and then we leisurely headed out. That was almost a fatal mistake. Turns out that the breakfast specials were only good until 11 AM and we were strolling in at 11:02. Manny had already rung the bell signifying the end of the breakfast specials. We begged our hostess to let us still order the specials. A waitress rushed over and literally gave us 42 seconds to order. We both had a number 2–two eggs any style, a bagel the size of a small island, coffee or tea and either potatoes or grits. I had scrambled, grits and an egg bagel. Same for my wife except she had the potatoes.

After the rush of ordering we had time to gaze around the room. The people were old (most between 70-90) they were Jewish (beside the fact you can tell, much of the talk was of the upcoming Passover holiday) and they were happy (lots of banter both between patrons as well as with the staff) and as we found out a few minutes later they were well fed. Many people were clearly regulars. Some with canes or walkers. Many getting around on their own power. More power to them.

If you either grew up in a Jewish household or you at least watched Seinfeld, you have some idea of what this place was like.

Our breakfasts came and were overwhelming. We were stuffed for $3.79 each plus tax and tip. We had money left over to pick up Kosher for Passover cake and a box of Matzoh. (The Eighty Year Old who took our money was so dear. She apologized for the price of the Matzoh there relative to a grocery store. She was sincere. It probably cost us an extra 50 cents for the Matzoh after saving $5 on the breakfast.)

 Such a deal.

Skinned Knee

Remember when as a young child you would fall, skin your knee or elbow or something. If you were lucky like me you had a mom to check  it out, bandage it up, maybe kiss your forehead and send you on your way. No biggy.


My wife and I went biking yesterday. My first of the year.  I surprised my wife  by asking her to come along. She assumes that when I say I am riding that it is solo. Mostly it is but recently we have not had time  together and anyway every once in awhile I try to keep her off-guard. It’s good for the marriage.

The day started warm for April in Chicago, somewhere in the low seventies. Good weather to watch a high school baseball double header. By late afternoon it had already started to cool off. I under dressed for the ride.

All in all it was a good ride. The legs still work after a long winter of nothingness. Husband and wife were together. Not too windy.

We went close to 20 miles. It got progressively cooler and dark clouds rolled in. Good chance of rain before we made it home. Yet finally here we were within a 1/2 mile of the house. I wanted to get off a busy and potholed street so I made a modestly sharp right turn onto what is usually a concrete path. Yesterday it was a concrete path covered with loose stones. Down, down, down I plunged onto the hard, unforgiving plane of the urban jungle. (Pretty dramatic reading given that the top of my bike frame  is all 33 inches off the ground.)

Three inch by two inch scrape on my knee with a few cuts. Lots of blood. Each hand has torn skin on at least one finger. So what say you. Be a man. Not as if you have broken bones, torn limbs or some serious disease. And yet, I retort, do you know how many nerve endings are at the surface of your knee. Billions. Look it up on Web MD if you don’t believe me.

Anyway, we were still not home and in case you forgot it is challenging to ride a bike without flexing your knee. Each rotation sent screaming pain through my soul and trickling blood down my leg. And no mommy at home to do what mommies do.

Actually, living on my own for a long time got me to the point where I tend to do these situations my self. My wife kindly offered to minister to me but all that could be done was to wipe off the blood, clean the wound, and rub some antibacterial salve on the area. I did. For a couple of hours the pain was intense but I am relatively good with pain, even strong pain, if I know it will go away at some point. My wife  helped by going out to pick up dinner and a movie. I was in no condition or mood to leave the house.

Today only moderate pain except for when I occasionally swipe the knee against something. Then I am reminded about the billion nerve endings. Fortunately the prognosis is good. The patient will survive.

Writer’s Block



You know how when athletes are ‘in the zone” they say everything seems to move more slowly, baseballs seem bigger to the hitters,basketball hoops are largerger for the shooters? The same goes for writers.

When I am in my zone,  I sense all sorts of things around me more clearly, I am making connections between seemingly disparate concepts and events, I process information and draw brilliant conclusions at warp speed. When It comes time to write seemingly clever strings of words jump out of my head faster than I can write them down.

The last month or so I have not been in the zone. I have not even been in the same zip code as my zone. Maybe not even in the same universe. Lots of reasons perhaps, none worth listing. I tend not to post when I am not feeling it.

In my third year of this blog the tendency has been to only write when I believe myself to be readworthy. But i miss it. I started this to do something other than what I do as a profession. Therefore, no more worrying about how professional my writing is at any moment in time. I am just going to write. I read somewhere that that is how Hemingway did it–though he also relied on long alcoholic binges as well which I will only try as a last resort.

So to all you readers, all 11 of you, stay tuned. It may get a little bit funky before I wind up back in the zone.

Always Be Prepared

I never made it to the Boy Scouts. Cubs Scouting was my limit. I do, however greatly admire the Scout’s motto of “Always Be Prepared”. If I had followed this motto last night you would now be watching a 4 minute video of Celia, the finest belly dancer in South Florida– at least that is how she was billed at Taverna Opa the Greek restaurant we dined at.

In what would have been the video you should now be watching she danced on a table in strobe lighting using a large metallic, silver cloak. The cloak at time looked like angel wings and at other times swirled as she shimmied and twirled. Her hips oscillated, her stomach undulated in inhuman ways and her bosom shook until young boys groaned and grown men cried. And this was a family restaurant. It was not X-Rated it was just WOW!

Earlier in the evening Celia danced with a teenage boy who could barely contain his hormones as he danced. The boy’s father could not contain his own hormones as he handed dollar bills to his son with instructions to stuff them in various parts of Celia’s outfit. Later Celia invited others up on the table to join the shake-a-thon. My wife, who loves to dance came close to jumping on the table. (Just in case you are wondering about me, it NEVER crossed my mind).

So going back to being prepared, I had been caring our little digital camera all day. We originally were going to eat at Charlie’s Crab and I could not imagine that I would need a camera. At the last moment we walked into Taverna Opa instead and that was that.

So you will have to settle for these pics ripped from the restaurant’s website. Pity.






Half & Half

Not Miami

Not Miami

I have mentioned more than once that I am a half empty kind of guy. I am more likely to envision what is wrong in a situation than what is right. That helps me in work. In life, not so much.

Here are this week’s half full/half empties:

Half Empty. I am leaving the cold Midwest for a Florida vacation but I need to get up at 4:15 am on a Sunday to get this party started.

Half Full. On the way to the airport the snow begins. Before I am out of Chicago 24 hours they receive and I miss 4 inches of April snow. For vacations, the weather differential is more important than the temperature where you will be.

Half Empty. I am in Florida after an on time arrival but the car rental and other related travel delay our arrival at the hotel by almost 3 hours.

Half Full. We are in Ft. Lauderdale. It is 85 degrees, we go to a biker bar/restaurant near the beach and then walk on the beach. It is an amazingly bland beach.

Half Empty. Did I mention we were in Ft. Lauderdale? Yes it is Florida and much warmer than Chicago. However, Ft. Lauderdale seems like the place people go when they cannot afford Miami, a mere 70 miles away but worlds apart.

Half Full. I am here to watch my son in his last high school baseball tournament. He is surprised I came, pleasantly I think, because I usually work rather than make all his games. But we stay at different hotels and I hardly get a chance to be with him.

Half Empty. I am on vacation but I need to work. In one case because a client knew they would need help months ago but waited until the last minute. Yes it is only a couple of hours a day instead of the 10+ I would work normally but I rarely get time just to unwind and enjoy myself. Therefore I rarely enjoy.

Half Full. My son led off the first game with a hit but was caught stealing. He went two for three and played well in the field. We lost 7-1 to a superb team from Florida. They have already played almost as many games as our season will be.

Just Plain Empty. My son’s coach is terribly organized causing parents to be running around doing last minute errands and spending far more money than was promised.

Just Plain Full. I am in the same city as my son sharing the last parts of his high school life before he steps into the next phase of becoming a man. I could not be here but I am.