A Great Palin Post

You must read this though it is before the book tour began so there is so much more to be said.

Say It Again Sam

Real things said by real people and too good not to share.

  1. If today was tomorrow we would be good to go.
  2. I am all about Jack The Ripper
  3. I think people who love each other have to have fights sometimes otherwise they don’t understand each other very well
  4. I have a fat man living inside of me
  5. As long as there is a cold one and a TV out there
  6. Puting on latex gloves and sticking your finger up your ass twice a day is not as much fun as it sounds
  7. Hello, I must be going

I wanted you to first read them straight. Here is where they came from.

  1. If today was tomorrow we would be good to go. I love the pseudo-zen sound of this one. It almost makes enormous sense, sort of.  It was spoken by a male flight attendant. There was a two-thirds full regional plane waiting to go from Charlotte to Tri-Cities in TN. (the tri being  Kingsport, Johnson City and Bristol of course). The passengers were wondering why the plane was waiting for people coming from another flight rather than leaving them behind as has become the norm. The FA explained that on Mondays and Tuesdays this was now the last plane to the TriCities for the day. Tomorrow, Wednesday there would be a later flight and this one would have taken off rather than waited. Therefore, …
  2. I am all about Jack The Ripper. A friend and her husband had just spent 5 days in London. In addition to the excitement of seeing Verne Troyer (MiniMe) and damaging their rented Jaguar after driving all the way to Dover and back and being within blocks of their hotel, they did a walking tour of Jack The Ripper sites. When asked why, the response was …
  3. I think people who love each other have to have fights sometimes otherwise they don’t understand each other very well. An 11 year old was being interviewed by her father for a piece that eventually made it to NPR. It was clear from the story that while the father and mother loved each other there were many things that got in the way, finances– or lack there of– being one. I can only imagine an 11-year-old trying to sort things out in her mind. This 11-year-old was very wise. If all couples thought this way then the pain of fights would be less and last not as long.
  4. I have a fat man living inside of me. Click on the link to read the story by the original author. In short, this was spoken by a 16-year-old man-child who had just turned down a second portion of main course for more salad.
  5. As long as there is a cold one and a TV out there. A friend from the west suburbs of Chicago told me that he is traveling to s small town in TN for Thanksgiving. His wife has family in the area. One sibling has a house on many acres in this somewhat remote area.  After he told me how nice it was there I said that I did not see him as such a country boy. His response was…
  6. Puting on latex gloves and sticking your finger up your ass twice a day is not as much fun as it sounds. This one has not actually yet been said out loud. It has been in my head for a couple of months. I have a literal pain in the ass and the choices were surgery or applying an ointment two times a day. I chose the latter and have been waiting for the right time and audience to use the line. Still waiting.
  7. Hello, I must be going. This was not actually said by a real person but by a character played originally by Groucho Marx in the play, and then the movie, Animal Crackers. The Goodman Theatre staged an extremely enjoyable version which we watched a few weeks ago.  The actors playing the roles originated by the Marx brothers were all very good with Joey Slotnick, who played Captain Spalding/Groucho being outstanding. And now, I must be going.

Good Friends Are Forever

This week I had the opportunity and the joy of reuniting with former long-term colleagues. I was in NY Monday night for a meeting the next day. Two of these former colleagues were  to be in the same meeting. They and four others just left their long time employer and started up a new company.  I had not seen any of them for close to 5 years which is when I had left the same long time employer but I had known some of them for over 20 years. In many ways we grew up together professionally. So I invited as many as could come to drinks and dinner.

Three came. Peter T showed up first. Peter is one of the top in his field. Most top people in this field have egos the size of football stadiums. Not Peter T. He is a great guy. Passionate about providing excellence to his clients. Has that classy-guy-on-the-street personality.  Great to be with. Hard to get his time or attention if you are not a client or working with him on a client. We have known each other for 29 years but until a few weeks ago when we spoke about our mutual client I had not heard from him in almost 5 years.

For me, once you are “family” you stay that way. I have several friends that I no longer get to see with any kind of regularity. But if we share some History and we were close, we remain close as far as I am concerned.

When Peter T arrived, he was friendly. We shook hands. We had about 30 minutes together before others showed. It was good to have his undivided attention. He continually asked what was going on with me as I probed for information regarding his separation from our former firm. (I actually was hoping for detail and dirt but unfortunately Peter T is too classy to go down that road.) It took awhile for us to get to that ” it was like I had just seen you yesterday” feeling but we got there.

We were eventually joined by Rosie and Dan. Rosie and I also go back over 25 years and we had spoken several times since I left the old firm. Rosie is my favorite New Yorker. First, she sounds exactly like a New Yorker is expected to sound. She can be brash and tough but has a heart of gold and is one of the warmest people I know.

Dan is younger.  I met him maybe two years before I left the old firm. He and I had the chance to bond on a couple of internal projects. He is bright and full of that youthful enthusiasm that is but a dim memory for me. The best thing about Dan, OK not the best but I am excited, is that he recently grew a beard. There are very few people with beards in our profession. It may only be Dan and me for all I know.  We deal with heads of corporations and boards of directors. They tend towards the conservative. I grew mine in the late 1980s when business people wore suits and ties every day. I have been waiting for 25 years for someone to follow my lead. Thanks Dan.

Over a beers and cheeseburgers we caught up on current life and shared memories of old times and people we knew. It was great. It was one of those nights that makes one remember why you liked these people so much in the first place.  I believe they felt that way about me as well.

At the end of the night I got a big hug instead of a handshake from Peter T. Hugs all around.

As an added bonus Peter and Dan were part of my meeting with the client the next morning. Seemed just like old times.

Where’s Waldorf?

I stayed in two Waldorf Astoria hotels on consecutive nights in two different cities.

The Waldorf=Astoria Hotel in NY is famous.  But did you know the following (taken from the WA website):

William Waldorf Astor, heir to John Jacob Astor III, built the original 13-story Waldorf Hotel on the site of his Fifth Avenue mansion. Opened in 1893, the Waldorf immediately became the gathering place for the world’s wealthy and society’s elite.

Four years later, Waldorf’s cousin, John Jacob Astor IV built the adjacent 17-story Astoria Hotel. Separate, yet equivalent in grandeur and prestige, both The Waldorf and The Astoria were designed by acclaimed architect, Henry Hardenbergh, who in an act of great foresight added a three-hundred-foot-long marble corridor connecting the two hotels. This corridor, built to connect the two buildings, became an enduring symbol of the combined Waldorf and Astoria hotels – it is represented by the “=” in The Waldorf=Astoria.

For years I had the privilege to stay at the Waldorf 2-4 times per year because it was close to the NY headquarters of the company I worked for. It has been awhile.

For those who have not been there let me share a picture. It defines old world elegance, not opulence. Not that it does not have a feel of opulence but it is also understated in its show of riches. Toward the Park Ave. side of the lobby frescos grace the walls just below the incredibly high ceilings. Marble,  dark woods luxurious carpet surround you. The main floor lobby is enormous.

I arrived Monday night. As I walked the lobby it felt as if the Waldorf was its own little world. The bustle of well dressed people was palpable. By well dressed I mean both dressy and casual chic. The service staff was friendly without being intrusive and was everywhere. They make you feel as if you are one of society’s elite even if you are just a guy from Chicago.

Check out the picture gallery for the Waldorf=Astoria here.

Tuesday I flew to Orlando, Florida. (Two planes, 8 hours but that is a story for another time).  The Waldorf Astoria website lists 20 properties under the Waldorf Astoria corporate umbrella. Only one other uses the Waldorf Astoria name. It is located minutes from Disney World. Go figure. After over 100 years I cannot fathom why the only place beyond NY would be Orlando.

Having said that the hotel is beautiful. It is new world elegance but elegance nonetheless. The decor is more modern but not modern in that W Hotel kind orf way. The colors, the artwork, the wood trim all let you know that this is a Waldorf.  The hotel is new having opened about 6 weeks ago.

I had a two room suite with a small kitchen area as well as a living room and bedroom. There was one flaw. While the two closets in the living room were spacious and had an umbrella as well as the usual iron and ironing board, there were no hangers. None. A quick call and more hangers than I needed were rushed to the room. The bellhop rang the doorbell. Each room has one of course.

While the design of the two Waldorf Astorias differed the feel was similar. Still one must continue to question why the second Waldorf Astoria in the history of the world is  down the road from Disney. One would think that the answer to the question “Where’s Waldorf ?” would be a more urbane city.

The Facets Of Tinley Park

Tinley Park is a suburb located south-west of Chicago. I am not sure that I have ever been there despite living in the greater Chicagoland area all of my life.

Recently Tinley Park has been in the news. Good news and bad news. Even towns have facets.

First the good news. Tinley Park  received kudos in the November 17 issue Business Week as “America’s Best Place to Raise Your Kids” .  Not one of the top places but THE top place. Pretty special.

Then in the November 19 edition of the Chicago Tribune this headline appears.

Tinley Park Woman Charged with Hate Crime for Tugging on Woman’s Head Scarf.

Best place to raise kids and an atmosphere of intolerance that leads to hate crimes. Sounds a little schizophrenic to me.

Pirate Radio

Fun, funny, quirky and a soundtrack of some of the best songs of mid-1960s rock and roll.

A big smile just when I needed some upbeat entertainment.

Go see it NOW!

pirate-radio-poster

Take A Chance

I was at a party last Thursday. A celebration. Celebrating the latest big step in the life of someone who takes chances. She is now the VP Human Resources of a major corporation. Pretty cool.

The people invited to this celebration were the extremely bright and chance taking people she knows. Many of these people she hired at one place or another. They made her look good. In return she made them better. They are off doing  great things. Some running their own business and others with much bigger jobs than before.

I have one foot in this group. I am fairly bright and while maybe not the highest IQ of the bunch, I can hold my own. Risk taking however is not what I do. Not the big ones anyway. At least not often.

I get inspired by my friend, what she has achieved and by this group of people. They are special.

But taking a change is not only about making the Big Bet. It is also about the little ones. The ones where you could call it a night but you take one more little chance. The ones that lead to pleasant surprises. That lead to smiles.

The topper on this night of great conversation with amazing people happened at the end. Many had left the bar where we were celebrating but a small intrepid band was not done for the night. I let my self be cajoled into checking out the band upstairs.

There I discovered the Neverly Bros. Band. Three 40 something guys, rhythm guitar, stand up bass and stand up drummer. They played early rock and roll and British Invasion music. For just the three of them the sound was rich and full. This was fun. I do not get enough fun.

So I took a small chance and won. Thanks Sarah and Agent 94.

Between being inspired by these people and some changes at work, I am seriously considering taking a big chance. New job maybe. Maybe. I know that I should. I should take a chance.

Raking Leaves

falltree

Autumn. The beauty of leaves changing colors. Leaves falling to the ground.

In the forest these leaves provide a natural blanket for trees and other plants ahead of the snow and cold of winter. They are a sight to behold. Over time they dissolve and become a natural food for the trees they came from. Circle of Life.

In the suburbs the beauty of the leaves becomes transformed as they change from picturesque to chore. In the suburbs they are not a blanket, they are a pest to eradicate. Eliminating fallen leaves can go in many directions.

In my youth we would pile the leaves into the street and burn them. I can still remember the aroma of burning leaves.

When I was a younger man and my son was little we would rake leaves together. Kids at that age thought of these types of activities as fun not chores. We would build large piles of leaves and before  just putting them in bags we would jump in the piles  and throw leaves at each other. There are some ways of having fun that are not connected to new technology and can be handed down from father to son for generations.

We have had two bad experiences with autumn leaves. One year was especially busy with work, my son’s sporting events and life activities. We apparently did not rake our leaves soon enough to suit our neighbors– well at least one.  As I pulled the car into our garage I noticed something by our front door. I discovered a rake. The rake had a note attached. “This is a rake. Use it.” How neighborly.

Last year without asking, our lawn service cleared the leaves for a couple of weeks in a row. My initial reaction was how nice to not have to do that chore this year. My son was 17 and no longer found raking leaves with dad to be fun. My reaction charged to anger when I saw the bill for several hundred dollars for leaf clearance and a special charge for hauling them away. (In my suburb you can place your bags of leaves ain the alley and the city takes them away for free.) For $30-$40 I could have had some neighborhood kids do what I was charged hundreds to do.

This brings us to Fall 2009. Last saturday was Halloween. I was home passing out candy and decided to start on my leaves. It was a cool, crisp fall day. Perfect for some outside activity. I made several piles of leaves and filled the five lawn bags I had in the house.  i was not close to done but by now it was dark and I could not take off to get more bags because trick-or-treaters were still coming to the door.

I finished 90% of the job yesterday. Nine more bags. A couple of hours of work. Raking leaves is one of those activities that can become Zen-like. When I started yesterday the neighborhood was relatively quite. The re were sounds of people moving around, the occasional dog barking and the sounds of children. At that time I was in a zone. Me. The rake. The leaves. The task at hand. I was getting an old fashion workout (I was working), my mind was at ease (which it rarely is). No thought of work or responsibilities. Me. The rake. The leaves.

Today our back yard. After that I will need to wait until the ground is covered with snow to find the same  Zen-like experience.  Maybe I can go around the neighborhood and ask to rake leaves. Nothing like an extra $30 bucks burning a hole in your pocket.

Yom Kippur At JRC: Part Two

A few weeks ago I began to share with you the uncommon experience that is JRC on the high holidays. My intention was to share the stories but I got wrapped up in setting the stage. Now it is time for the stories.

The first is technically from Rosh Hashanah. Howard, our cantor, shared his experiences from his extended time off earlier in the year. Howard chose to visit services from the vast variety of Jewish, Christian and Muslim services in the Chicago area. One of his main themes was despite the great differences in the services in form, substance and god across religions and even within the different sects of Judaism, he was consistently welcomed  warmly by both clergy and congregation wherever he went. His stories were often hilarious and I can not do them justice attempting to repeat them here. The telling of the stories lent two impressions. First that of the personal warmth and humanness of the storyteller. Second,common are our bonds as people no matter the specifics of what we believe and how we choose to seek an understanding of our universe.

There were two deeply moving stories. First, a man shared his experiences from within the walls of Folsom Prison. Yes the same prison made famous by Johnny Cash. Today it houses men convicted of the worst of the possible violent crimes. This man was not a prisoner but part of an annual program in which men from all walks of life share three days with 30 hardened criminals discussing their lives. Not just the lives of the prisoners but all the participants.

The first amazing part of this amazing story is that agreeing to do this was not enough to get you in. This man needed to be accepted by convicted killers and rapists. All would be sharing their darkest fears and secrets during the three days. Acceptance required standing up in front of 30 prisoners and being asked why they should trust you. At one point a prisoner got directly into his face. He spoke of weeping openly as he thought about his life and the mistakes his regrets. He was accepted.

The second amazing part is what he learned about the prisoners as men. That even those who had committed horrible crimes still had bits of humanity. One man spoke of his sadness that he would not be there for his young son and that he was afraid that his son would end up following a similar path to his. Even more interesting was what the JRC congregant discovered about himself. He discovered that he had built his own prison. One made of fears that kept him from becoming the man he wanted to become and from doing things he wanted to do. He had turned down for several years the opportunity to participate in this program. The thought of three days in the heat and discomfort of Folsom being with hardened criminals did not seem appealing. Yet in the end it is what set him free.

I was in tears listening to this story. I know that I have let the enormous pool of fears that engulfs me keep me from doing and being more. I could definitely relate. This was not the type of experience I would have had in the synagogue I grew up in. Yet it was extreme but not out of the  ordinary for JRC.

While I like to tell stories. I am not a professional. At JRC there are several people who make their living as storytellers. Who even knew this was profession? On each day of the High Holidays one of our storytellers shares a story, typically a one of Jewish tradition with a meaning relevant to the holiday. I don’t particularly care for professionally told stories. I prefer ones that come from the heart told in less than perfect manner by a person. The sing-song cadence of the professional storyteller tends to  bore me rather than pull me into the tale.

One exception was the story told on Rosh Hashanah about becoming a grandfather for the first time. This story was well constructed as one would expect from a professional but this was indeed from the heart. It sang with honest emotion. Contrast that with the storyteller on Yom Kippur. I had heard her many times before and as I said I tend not to enjoy a story told professionally. Yet on this day she seemed off her game. The sometimes faulty delivery actually brought me more into what she was saying than if she had been “perfect” as defined by the union of professional storytellers. 

During the Torah reading portions, there will be three different readers. On Yom Kippur one of the readers was an elderly lady who actually read from a card rather than the Torah scrolls. The rabbi made a point of commenting that an exception was being made for Shirley. Shirley mad one small error during her reading but was generally great. I turned to my wife to ask how old she thought Shirley was. I had thought late seventies. My wife suggested eighties. More on Shirley later.

After the morning services, JRC has a long-standing tradition of having an “open mike” session. Anyone who signs up gets three minutes to talk about anything. We had never stayed for open mile. In the past our son would be anxious to leave. However, being empty nesters does provide extra freedom. So we stayed.

 The talks covered a variety of subjects. Several people discussed the recent loss of loved ones and often spoke of the assistance and kindness provided by members of the congregation that helped them through. One poor man lost four close relatives in the past year. One man spoke on behalf of Israel and while acknowledging the flaws of this kindred nation was asking for continued support.

(As an aside, while I was growing up, the state of Israel was the just and righteous country. It was the little Jewish state just trying to exist among powerful countries that on multiple occasions tried to drive the Jews into the sea. Somewhere along the way many mistakes were made and horrific acts of violence perpetrated on the Palestinians. Israel is no longer without blemish. This is a difficult conundrum for Jews wanting to show support for a Jewish homeland.)

Other open mike topics fell into the general category of “I am doing good things and I am publically patting myself on the back”. OK, this may be a bit harsh. I am sure that these people who are doing very good things just want others to know about them.

The second speaker during open mike and normally the first was Shirley the Torah reader. She walked with a cane and needed help climbing the stairs. Her first words were “I am 92 years old”. That led to several moments of applause. She went on to say that in the past she would share statistics about her exercise routines. Miles walked, number of push ups done, etc. I am guessing that I have missed years of entertaining milestones from a woman much older than she looked. This year she spoke about the trials she had been through. She had been through several illnesses and injuries and for months had been in constant, considerable pain. Only fairly recently had a doctor, a JRC member no less, figured out how to relieve much of her pain.

Shirley spoke of how she began to doubt if she wanted to fight after being so worn down with so much. Maybe at her age it was time to let go. She had lived a good life, a long life.  (I suspect that many people would think of themselves or anyone above the age of eighty in that way. Yet with someone younger they would be encouraging the person to kep fighting. Age discrimination?) Fortunately for anyone within the sphere of Shirley’s life she is still kicking. I for one look forward to next year when I suspect we will again be regaled with stat after stat of her exercise achievements. I certainly hope so.

We did not stay for the various discussion groups that followed the open mike session.By then we succumbed to the early hunger pains that are a part of Yom Kippur. It was time to go home and nap.

For those of you who grew up in and/or live in a Jewish tradition I suspect that JRC is not the norm. Yes we do say prayers, read Hebrew and the like but the connections to G-d, good works, and community are done in a way that is unique and special.