Celebrities In My Midst

I felt a bit like Dian Fossey as I stealthily observed the habits of a strange species. I found myself within arms length of three celebrities within 48 hours.

First William Petersen, best known for his role as Gil Grissom on CSI. He is currently starring in a play at the Victory Gardens Theatre in Chicago but stopped in at intermission to visit someone at the Steppenwolf Theatre on Wednesday night. My buddy Bill obviously did not see me since he walked right past me twice. He looked good. Fit and trim. In the last season he was on CSI they had him looking frumpy and old.

Second was Dionne Warwick. Before she shilled for the Psychic Friends Network she had over 50 charted hits. Now 69 and looking her age she was standing with a small crew on Fifth Avenue and 59th Street in NYC. I walked over to get a closer look. One of her party was a late 50s blond who looked good but very plastic. I had to believe that her boobs were enhanced and the skin on her face had been stretched more than once. I could not tell if she had some fame of her own.

The last celebrity is my wife. She was in a cooking segment on The Early Show, CBS’ morning show. They were filming the show in the plaza outside the CBS building which was across street from our hotel. I recognized none of the hosts. So what was my wife’s role on the show? She had the job of standing behind the woman doing the demonstration and the host who I did not recognize. (After all it is the #3 morning show.) You can see my wife here.

The guys working security were pretty cool. I was trying to click a picture of my wife and they let me get fairly close to the demonstration. Normal working people are often good guys.

As for celebrities, the study continues.

What Would You Do With $150

If you received $150 unexpectedly, how would you spend the money. For most of the people I know this is not a life changing amount of money but I could purchase something fun.

A night on the town? That gadget that you have wanted but was too expensive except now you have a $150 “discount”? Clothes? Shoes? Charity?

Whatever the answer, this is what I gave up yesterday. Instead of getting something unexpected,  I had to spend $200 on something that I could have bought for $50 just 32 hours earlier. Why? Because I did not take the 30 seconds to check the deadline on my car’s extended warranty. At $150 for 30 seconds of effort that comes to $18,000 an hour!

BTW, the $150 was the loss at the end of the story. The repair would have cost an extra $800 if not for the willingness of the car dealership to work out a deal with a long time customer.  (I have been trying to do the math on the hourly rate at $800 per 30 seconds but my computer exploded right after it started crying virtual tears.)

As I have been preparing for my son to leave for his freshman year of college I have been trying to cram in as many life lessons as possible. You know, getting him to understand how to conduct a good life and how to live in the real world– living with your parents is not the real world. Included in the lessons have been that some small things are big and keep track of important dates. I guess that even at 50+ I have my own life lessons to learn.

Try To Top This

The Setting. A client dinner for about 50 people. Attendees are either members of the Board of Directors, officers of the company or advisers like me. Round tables of eight. Mostly non-business conversation. On my right is a member of the board and across the table is a late 30 something, African American who three months ago became the company’s Treasurer. Two-thirds of the way through the dinner I had conversed with almost everyone at the table but had not heard the treasurer speak a word.

The Beginning. The board member on my right asks Treasurer how his first three months in the job have been. All of the sudden the quietest person at the table becomes quite animated and tell the tale of how the Company’ cash flow has exceeded expectation for the year so far by a quadrillion dollars and all the things that have been done to make this success happen. The two move on to discuss bond rates and the merits of being rated just above or just below investment grade. Despite an MBA earned over 30 years ago, I begin to tune out. Not a topic I become fascinated by. Yet the juices are clearly flowing within my young protagonist.

The Set-Up. Somehow the conversation migrates from the banal to the personal. We find out that our young Treasurer lived in Germany until he was ten at which time he migrated to the US of A. He tells the tale of how his mother, a typical German woman taught the kids to swim the German way—by throwing them in the water, pulling them out just before they drown and then tossing them back in. Since he is here to tell the tale I can only assume that this technique works. (Interesting tale but we have not arrived at the WOW.) It is the casual question of where in the US he emigrated to that turns the night on its head.

The WOW. The story begins. His father’s grandparents were slaves on a plantation in Florida. Over time they became sharecroppers and eventually the family purchased the plantation which they own today. It continues to be a source of family income in that there are abundant minerals on the land. The area is described as a place of great natural beauty. There is a side story that comes a little latter about how his great grandmother, at the time a slave, was a wet nurse (she breast fed) to a man who became governor of Florida in the late 1800s. The Gov sent our hero’s uncles, possibly great uncles, to college where they became engineers. Remember this is happening in the late 1800s.

That is only at best half the WOW. To where did his family emigrate? To a small town in Connecticut where his maternal grandmother had accumulated 250 acres. She had been a servant to the DuPont’s who had a summer place on this mountain—there was also a lake and a river nearby if I got the story straight. As the DuPont family sold off parcels of land, her grandmother bought them. Still in the family today. Our hero goes on to describe a wonderful childhood in a small town/rural are where the very rich and the not-rich-at-all played side by side. He spent much time in homes of the DuPonts as well as that of  William Buckley, a nice man so I have been told.

The evening ended before I could connect all the dots. Was his maternal grandmother also African American? I originally assumed so since she was described as a servant and his father’s people had been slaves. But that would not explain why he described his mother as being typically German or why she had to emigrate as opposed to just come home. And where was his father during this time?

One side of the family goes from slaves to land owners of significant property while the other side a similar story starting out as a servant and owning property once owned by one if the wealthiest families in America. I would had thought that given this background this man could of become the first black President– if someone had not beaten him to it.

I think I will just wait for the movie version of this story to come out. Though it may never get made. Who would believe it?


Quick story about a moment someone was particularly nice.

UA Flight 357 from Chicago to Dallas. plan was packed, every seat taken. You could tell that the flight attendants were a bit flustered even before the plane took off.

After we took off they came down the aisle with drinks and were pushing the pay-for-meals. The woman squeezed into the middle seat next to me asked for one and pulled out cash. Remember that the airlines need every shekel they can get. In a rude tone, the flight attendant tone told this young woman that they do not take cash.

The young lady politely apologized and pulled out a credit card. It didn’t work on the high tech device that has replaced the hand to hand exchange of cash. Still in good spirits she pulled out another. And yet another. All the while she was smiling and cheerful. And Nice. Finally the hi-tech gadget the flight attendant was using to take payment worked. She handed the young lady her receipt and then headed down the aisle.

As the flight attendant walked away, the nice, young lady made a sarcastic comment about how she got a receipt but no  meal. She followed that with a snide remark about how bitchy the flight attendant had been. Wait. Wait. No that wasn’t HER . That is what I was thinking. This woman was NICE.

She politely asked for the meal she had just paid for and giggled.

It was a small moment but a memorable one. It could have gotten nasty. Instead it was a smile.

Access Denied

As of a few weeks ago I can no longer check on one of my favorite blogs  from work. When I attempted to read Pax Romano’s Ramblings the following ominous message appeared.

Access Denied (content_filter_denied)

Access to this webpage is restricted. URL: http://paxromano.blogspot.com/ 
Category: Adult/Mature Content 

Unfortunately for all of us, Pax is taking some time away from blogging so it will be hard to show you what you have been missing.”Adult Content”, what a joke.

Sure Pax has the occasional picture of a strapping young man scantily clad on the site. So? And yes, a frequent commenter is Miss Magnolia Thunderpussy who is as outrageous as they come.

Most of his posts are truly adult content. Topics often include:

  • politics (he leans left)
  • work at a social services agency in NJ
  • sharing tales of the serious illness of family members
  • his joy of horror movies
  • his hatred of snakes– the human kind
  • some of the most beautiful pictures of flowers and sunsets

 Pax brings humor, insight, and a unique perspective on the world to the blogosphere. This is the kind of adult content that my company’s systems should be forcing us to read…not denying it.

NY State Of Mind

Kingsport, TN. NYC.  This week is Kingsport but last week was NYC. NYC is always an adventure to me. So much to observe. Last week I had two days.

The trip actually started in Stamford Connecticut. The flight into the Westchester County airport was routine. However once we landed the weather moved in. A brilliant lightning display. Unfortunately the rain could not wait until after we picked up our plane side luggage.

After a typical business meeting and lunch in a nice restaurant the adventure began. Here were the highlights:

  • Trainspotting. A four block walk to the commuter train heading from Stamford to Grand Central Station. I used to take a similar train when I worked in downtown Chicago. This was a little weird because the train crossed state lines. Is all of Connecticut really just a suburb of NYC?
  • Parlez Vous Francais? On the train there was a loud group of teens. Not unusual. What set this group apart is that for the entire 45 minute train ride they chattered nonstop in French.
  • Old School. As I walked out of Grand Central I noticed a man with a determined look and even a more determined walk. He was hunched over, carrying a brief case. Thinned out hair. Not expensive, not cheap suit that was neat and clean. Worn out look on his seventy something face. Bulbous nose giving his face real character. He has probably been doing his work, making his commute, for almost a half century. Few young people today can understand what it takes to go and do for so long.
  • One-in-a-million shot. Shortly after I arrived I decided to take a walk around mid-town. Within moments a man walked toward me and asked for directions. From the way he had been looking around with that “where am I” look I suspected that this was why he was approaching me. “Good luck mister” went through my head. I was in a part of Midtown I was not familiar with. He asked aboutthe one street I knew. The woman asking me about a bus 15 minutes later was not so lucky.
  • See me, feel me. Walking around Manhattan is not that different than downtown Chicago. Lots of tall buildings, lots of people. Two differences. The streets of NCY seem even more densely packed and the manners are generally worse. Maybe not worse but people seem immune to the jostling and incidental contact that occurs as one makes their way down the avenue. In Chicago, a bump is more than likely to lead to an “excuse me”. In NYC it does not seem expected or necessary…most of the time. I witnesses a guy yacking on the phone and walking with purpose. As he neared a street corner he bumped into another guy, harder than most casual bumps, but kept yacking and stopped at the corner. The other guy grew agitated. He tried to get to the other guy but the crowd had closed in. He had to make a circle around the crowd to get to his target. With typical NY attitude he got into the face of the man who bumped him and demanded an apology from the clearly clueless guy. After all several moments had passed since the incident. No punches were thrown.
  • Rain, rain go away. I walked for at least a mile just enjoying Midtown when the heavens opened up. I ducked into the nearest entrance way which unfortunately was for a woman’s clothing store. I did not feel like walking in. I stood there for over 20 minutes sharing space with an ever changing group of locals. I should have just bought a $5 umbrella from one of the guys with the cartfull of $5 umbrella who seem to magically appear when it rains in NYC.
  • In the Hood. A hotel on 57th between 6th and 7th Avenues will be my family’s hood for 6 days later this month. After dozens of business trips to NYC over the years this will be my first vacation. I checked out the place we will be during a break in the rain. It is a smal luxury hotel. Not much lobby to see so I spent time with the two 20 somethings that were working the door. I hung out with Jose and Edward for awhile getting the lay of the hood. I think this will be fun.

The next day I did the business I was there to do and headed for the airport. Another NY adventure. M

Date Night

If I want to spend time with my son, I have to make reservations. He is very social. This summer between baseball, his girlfriend, his friends and an 18 year old boy’s general aversion to spending time with his parents, I do not even see him much let alone have a conversation. And a meaningful conversation about something other than the Cubs…it had been awhile.

So, on a weekend my wife was out of town I made a date. For Friday night. At one time he was to be working so I assumed it would be late. Then he sends a text saying he is going to a friend’s house for a karaoke night. At that point I was steamed. It seemed as I was being blown off. I sent a harshly worded text (I don’t normally like to text. I prefer talk. But D would rather text so I was trying to meet him on his terms.) Part of my anger was that given how little time we have together and that in too short of a time he would be off to college if he was not working that we would spend more of the evening together. Not his idea.

D assured me that he was still up for a late dinner. Things changed again when he found out he had a baseball game. Dinner was on but not until at least 9.

I made the second half of his game. It ended poorly. Often not the best for mood setting. Yet I only get one shot and wanted to make the most of it.

We spoke a little during the long ride home. Most of the time he was texting. Not great for my mood. Still I have only one shot.

We finally got to a restaurant. My approach to getting my son to talk is to go slowly, to give him space.

OK. Enough about the process.

Did we talk. Yes. Even some personal and meaningful stuff. He learned some new, to him, things about me. He shared thoughts about his life and his feelings. I felt like a parent. This rarely happens these days. I enjoy feeling like a parent. It was one of the best dates ever.

Since that night we have gone back to our usual routine. Too bad. I am wise enough to not expect one shared meal to have led to a breakthrough in our relationship. We just need to find more moments. I need to find more moments. Lots more moments.