Interesting Only To Me?

Often I see things that I find interesting. Far too often other people do not. Either I have a healthy dose of weirdness or I lack the communications ability to  help others grasp the same fascination that I do.

This is another one of those.

I am at the gym for my fortnightly workout. I belong to a fairly basic gym. It is a facility of Northwestern University. I like it because  both young  and old workout there.

So here I am getting ready to shower and I notice the “gym bag” the guy a few lockers away is using. It is not a bag at all. It resembles a piece of luggage more than anything else. Hard sided, it stands up and has places for everything. I can see shoes, a towel, and clothes all in neat compartments. For what its  worth the guy on my right seemed in his mid-sixties.

Yes I found this interesting. Why you may ask. Simple answer. Heck if I know.

Perhaps the contrast between this organized, structured, piece of gear and my own simple bag. My bag is a one pocket bag with only a small outside mesh pocket as an extra compartment. I got it free as a hand-out at a baseball game. It is the perfect size for me. I holds everything I need to bring. Yes, I sometimes need to search through it to find what I need.

The contrast is not only in the physical makeup of the two cases but in the life philosophies and styles of the two people. I am comfortable with  simple, low-cost, but effective things. As I approach my mid-fifties and have the wherewithal to have nice things if I want them I have begun to move away from old, worn out and unattractive items. But the simple life, and things, for me.

Even if it were free I would never use the case he used. Having said that I am all for individual freedoms and will defend to the death his right to bring a small suitcase into the gym no matter how it turns its back on several centuries of male gym going tradition.

You Know Its Been Cold When…

…23 degrees seems tolerable.

The Year Of Flying Fabulously

This year United started a policy of filling every first class seat. I f a seat was not paid for they moved someone up from the cheap seats. It was a great year to have flown a ton the year before and achieve 1K status; their highest.

About 80% of my flights this year were in the relative luxury of first class. Ah, but all good things must come to an end.

Yesterday I flew my last United flight of the year…in first class of course. I flew once today and will fly twice next week but on rival carriers where I have no status. It’s over.

Even though I was on 71 United flights this year, I fall well short of the 100 needed for 1K. Next year they are raising the bar to 120. It will likely never happen again.

Timing is everything and I thank United for implementing this policy in a year where I had high status. Flying , going to and being at airports generally add up to large amounts of dead, useless and often painful time. Being in first class eased the strain.

It was a great year to fly.


9 degrees when I arrived at work this morning. 10 degrees when I left. Snow, ice and strong winds.

What happened to summer?

One Man’s… Is A New Yorker’s…

I am in Downtown NY, a portion of Manhattan I have been to rarely. Most of my time has been in Midtown. This portion of the island is the financial district and most notable for Ground Zero, the Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge.

I walked about upon my arrival at my hotel given a need to stretch the legs after a day of travel. The skies were overcast and cold wind was howling. I strolled along the water, stared at the Statue of Liberty awhile and then headed back.

On the way back I saw two things that were very NY. The type of things spawned by having far too many people packed into far too little space.

Liberty Freedom Garden. What passes as a garden in NY is a slab of concrete. On top of the concrete are large rectangular metal containers filled with soil and things growing out of the soil. On top of concrete.

Even more amazing was that I passed through a walkway between two buildings. the walkway was wide for a walkway and the ground was a patchwork of stone tile. Half way through this walkway was a large sign about four feet high and two feet wide. The sign said “No Dogs Allowed in the Park”. THE PARK!!!!  There was no grass, playground equipment, or any other signal to anyone outside of NY that you were in a park. I was 20 steps from the street with tall buildings on either side of me. A park?

Only in NY.

Fun In Philly

Dateline: November 13-14. Philadelphia, PA

(Why have I started to do the dateline thing? Not totally sure myself. First it makes it seem like a news report. Second I am no longer blogging in real-time and this sets a time frame. May be a fad.)

Headed to Philly for Justin’s wedding. Justin is Tom’s son. Tom and I go back about 20 years. What a great excuse to get out of Chi-town and into one of my top half-dozen cities to visit. My wife and I have needed and wanted some alone, away time.

Our flight leaves at a comfortable early morning hour on Saturday. Upgraded to first class. Nice. Take the train into downtown Philly and somehow manage to navigate the four blocks to our hotel.

Not just a hotel. The Ritz-Carlton. Have I mentioned before that I love this hotel line? The Philly Ritz is a gorgeous hotel with skylight rotunda. Lots of marble. Airy, spacious.

This Ritz had THE BEST service people I have encountered. We are greeted just inside the door by a friendly (just shy of too perky but on the right side of the line) young woman who escorts us to the front desk. The front desk woman is friendly, accommodating and efficient. The greeter woman has returned with champagne. Nice. Our room is not ready but they take our bags and we head out. Before continuing this tale I want to finish the point about the people of the Philly Ritz. The concierge not only gave us great ideas and perfect directions but he was fun and funny in a way that made you smile. The wedding was in the Ritz. Every single person serving provided whatever we asked for, sometimes things that were doable but inconvenient, and did so while being gracious. Even the bellman who stored our luggage made sure he carried them as far as he could short of walking us to the train station. When I am stupefying wealthy I am moving permanently into the Ritz.

On with the weekend.

Philly is an easy town to walk and walk we did. First stop was a restaurant my wife had seen on the Food Network the night before we left. The Good Dog. Our food was good to very good. A large pile of fries, a combo of regular and sweet potato fries…heaven. We then walked off our meal.

First we walked to  Rittenhouse Square. Every big city needs a several square block park like Rittenhouse where people can just be out doing whatever crazy thing they want. Semi-organized dancing, playing musical instruments or taking professionally posed pictures of a young woman looking very serious. Rittenhouse Square has a long and storied history going back to before the U.S.A became the U.S.A.

On one edge of the park was a small farmers market. We walked the stalls and came upon another treat. Fresh baked gluten-free breads.

I am supposed to be gluten-free meaning eating nothing made from wheat or the many other grains containing gluten. The most common remaining grains or starches are rice, corn and potato. Being gluten-free eliminates virtually all baked goods and pasta, at least the delicious kinds. Gluten free stuff is made out of rice, corn or potato. Even the best gluten-free goods tend to pale in comparison to the best wheat flour goods. The stuff available at chains stores such as Whole Foods is expensive and mediocre.

But here at the Rittenhouse Square farmers market was a young lass with three types of bread, plus flat bread and a slices of angel food cake. Arriving at the end of the selling session everything was half price. So I took one of everything. (As gluten-free goes – excellent.)

By now the Ritz called to tell us our room was ready and we were happy to drop off our packages and hang up our clothes for the wedding. One of us really wanted to take a nap but the smart one prevailed and we went out walking again. You can guess which one of us was smart.

I haven’t mentioned it yet but even Mother Nature contributed to this weekend. The temps were in the mid 60s (in November) and the sun shone. Being outside would have been a chore in normal November weather.

From the hotel we walked to the Reading Terminal Market. A ginormous indoor market with stalls of every type of food you could want. It is part butcher shop, deli, grocery store, bakery, farmers’ market and food court…and there is a used book store for good measure. We took in the sights, sounds and smells more than we shopped.  Aisle after aisle and the place was packed. Great people watching.

With time running out until the wedding we squeezed in a short visit to the historical district. We stood in line behind a large group of Chinese tourists to get in to see the Liberty Bell. Worth the wait. My first time being with the Liberty Bell.

That left no time to stroll through the other sites so we motored back to the hotel. We made one stop. The stop was a typical big city experience with low rent and luxury only a few short blocks apart. We needed a few sundries and walked into place that looked like a cross between a dollar store and a Woolworth. Tables with a vast array of inexpensive and cheap merchandise in almost random fashion. The prices were good because the place lost its lease and was closing within days. This was a place that provided items of value to those with little cash. We bought what we needed and left. The Ritz was 2 1/2 blocks away.

We dressed for the black tie event and attended a fabulous wedding. I will save the wedding description for another time. It is a story of its own.

The next day we strolled up the a block to the antiques district which had a number of cute shops and restaurants. We bought a couple of tchatzkies in a small art shop. We passed a cemetery with some graves from the 1700s. On the way back we passed a lovely synagogue and an odd-looking old woman dressed in colorful clothes with flower socks sitting on her steps smoking a cigarette.

The rest of the afternoon was spent with my friend Frank. Frank is a former work colleague, now business owner (along with his partner Sarah –hi Sarah) and one of the most interesting guys going. He came in from the Philly burbs to hang with us. We ended up spending a joyful couple of hours sitting outside at a restaurant across from Rittenhouse Square enjoying the food the people watching and the company. I had not seen Frank in over a year and it is worth a trip to Philly for no other reason than to spend some time with him. Next time I hope to have Sarah join us as well.

Some day I will try to put into words well what makes time with Frank such a great way to spend a part of your life. I am not yet up to the challenge but I am working on it.

Eventually back to the airport. We run into a friend from home. I turn down the last first class seat to spend the flight next to my wife. We return home.

All in all a fabulous weekend.


Liberty Bell 11/13/2010