Thanksgiving in NY – 2022

Last year, we attempted to spend the Christmas holiday in NYC and Rye, but we abandoned our plans midway through the week. Things are thankfully different this year, so our Park Thanksgiving was again planned for Addy and Charles’s house. 

Like last year, we spent the front end of our trip in Manhattan. We didn’t have any firm plans, except to see family and friends. Our first night, we saw a big group of summer camp friends in Koreatown. Liv was especially excited to see her cousin, Sara, who stayed with us for a night at the hotel. Thanks, Liz and Clarence for a great dinner!

It was bitterly cold those first few days. Addy and Charles came into the city for lunch at Quality Italian, which is always a must on our NY trip. We also got to see Jeanah for ramen. It was a long way to come see a movie, but Wakanda Forever was worth the trip.

One of the things I wanted to see was the 9/11 Memorial. I haven’t been down there in almost 20 years. Olivia and Lucas weren’t alive then, so I can appreciate that they don’t have the context of remembering it as we do. Still, it sparked a lot of conversation. I think it’s something I need to go see again alone and when it’s less crowded.

We met Grace’s parents and family for soup dumplings on Monday after they arrived. Afterwards, we walked over to Times Square, as Olivia really wanted to see it. We ended our last night in Manhattan with dessert at the hotel.

Tuesday, we headed out to Addy and Charles’s house in Rye. We haven’t all been there for a holiday since 2016, though Grace and the kids have visited more recently. It was mostly quiet time before Thanksgiving.

The Parks were kind to also include the Rhees (mom, Jen and Blue) for Thanksgiving. It was nice for all of us to be together again. I love Thanksgiving dinner and this one was prepared to perfection. Thanks to all the cooks! Sandor was hosting 30+ nearby and was also kind to invite all of us over for dessert for long overdue meeting of the clans.

On Friday, Ana and Bobby brought the family from Ridgewood to Rye to meet up for brunch. This was our first time meeting baby Courtney. She is such a cutie!

On Saturday, Jen hosted a big crew for the U of M vs. OSU game. Big props to Sandor for bringing the boys dressed for the occasion. They have much more spirit than Olivia and Lucas. Jen was dismayed that our flight time conflicted with the game. We missed the last two Donovan Edwards TDs just as we were getting into our car. Is it bad that we’re most thankful for this win?!?

Thanks again to everyone who hosted us this trip. It was really great to be back in NY and see so many family and friends. Happy Thanksgiving!

Harry Styles Concert in Los Angeles

We’re nearing the end of our concert series for 2022, but this is clearly the pinnacle for Olivia, who is slightly obsessed with Harry Styles. We were cool with Olivia wanting to see him on his tour, but it didn’t help that he was only playing a few cities, the nearest being in Los Angeles.

Back in May, Olivia came home from a school trip with a lot of memories and COVID-19. The silver lining of her being home that week was the she could focus all of her time and attention to securing tickets to this concert. She enlisted my help and as each show went on sale, we anxiously logged in to get in the queue. We first ended up with 4 tickets to last Saturday’s show, which thanks to being deep in line and Ticketmaster’s “dynamic pricing,” we paid an astronomical sum for upper bowl tickets. I was underwhelmed.

A few hours later, we tried again for the next Saturday’s show. While I was again thousands deep, Olivia somehow ended up 2nd in the queue. She was in tears with joy. I was just happy she got 8 General Admissions tickets for a reasonable sum and was now just stressed about who to invite.

In the end, only a couple of Olivia’s friends could attend the show, which was perfect because my car only holds 4 people. After our Olivia Rodrigo GA debacle, Olivia felt we needed to up our GA game and wanted to camp out. I was very hesitant to sign up for that, given an overnight in Inglewood with 3 teens seemed sketchy. Plus, I’m way too old to sleep on pavement. Olivia’s pragmatism prevailed and she decided on her own that it wasn’t worth it.

I picked them up straight from school on Friday and after seven hours, including a stop at Party City for feather boas and candy, we made it to LA. We tried to do a drive-by of the Kia Forum, but Friday’s show was just letting out and it was mayhem. The weather was really nice, so I agreed to go early and try to get wrist bands. We got up at 5:30am and got in line around 6:00am, behind about 600 people crazier people than us. There were people already in line and camping for Tuesday’s show – nuts!

We brought lawn chairs, Snuggies, sign-making supplies and even homework and the time passed surprisingly quickly. By 10:40am, our wristbands were secured. We were numbers 610-613 in line. Olivia’s friends had not really visited LA before, so we went for a well-deserved brunch in Manhattan Beach. Olivia wasn’t very unhappy that I forced them to take so many pictures after we had all just rolled out of bed and were not camera ready. Too bad.

We only had a couple hours to rest and get ready before heading back to the forum between 3-4pm to get back in line. From then, it was queue after queue until we finally entered the arena just after 6pm. Ben Harper opened  and was great and Harry’s set started promptly at 9pm. We had already been on our feet for 6 hours and I was now ready to sit and admit to shopping for seats on StubHub.

Within about 20-30 seconds of Harry coming on stage, I realized his fandom is something I hadn’t really experienced before. It was deafening (literally – ears still ringing). Olivia wasn’t crying just yet. However, the minute I realized all of this was worth it was when Harry waved to her and she just turned around to me and started sobbing. At 15, I didn’t love anything or anyone that much (because I didn’t discover Kim Basinger until I was 16). Olivia sobbed again in the car when she reviewed the video of Harry waving at her.

The show was actually really fun and the girls all had such a good time, Olivia especially. I will say I am more of a fan, but I’m not necessarily inclined to camp out for him again. Even Olivia conceded it was a once-in-a-lifetime thing.

We didn’t eat or drink anything for close to 12 hours, so it was time for dinner. It’s been close to 30 years since I had a late night in Manhattan Beach, but The Kettle is still 24-hours so we went there. It was a long, long day of Harry Styles.

I told Olivia I was only invited because they needed me there. She said that wasn’t true – they didn’t need me (oof). The truth is in a few years she’ll be able to do this on her own. I’m glad we got to experience this together and she was truly appreciative.

Lucas’s 14th Birthday

Lucas turned 14 on Tuesday. We’re already missing the little boy in him, but teen Lucas isn’t too bad (most of the time).

We celebrated as a family with dinner and opening cards and presents from family. This weekend, he invited several of his school friends to celebrate with him at Pinstripes and at home.

Happy 14th Birthday, Lucas! We love you!

Halloween 2022

Halloween has always been a big deal in our house and also in our neighborhood, which is very efficient for trick-or-treating. People come from all over. Our usual gathering of families was taken over by Olivia and her friends.

Olivia asked if she could have some people over. Some turned into a dozen or so, most of whom rode the train home with her. It took me two trips to the train station to get them all home. It’s a good thing Grace is back in post-pandemic hosting mode. These kids are welcome any time.

Happy Halloween!

MSU vs. Michigan BBQ

It’s great to be a Michigan Wolverine! We’re fortunate to have so many amazing college friends nearby and had a great turnout for today’s game. All smiles today (not always the case). GO BLUE!

U of M Trip to Blaine’s Tahoe House

I was lucky to spend this past weekend in Tahoe with a different set of brothers. Jen and Matt bought and renovated a home in Tahoma during the pandemic. It is on the shore of Lake Tahoe and every inch of it is beautiful. Matt invited the entire NorCal U of M crew up to break it in and attendance was near capacity.

The trip was almost waved off due to the nearby fires. Blaine and Yo arrived early to scout it out and we were assured it was just “hazy.” Grady and I drove up together and as we got closer, the visibility was low and the air became acrid. We were pretty certain they were going to be bugging out just as we arrived.

We mostly sheltered indoors except for a short walk up to a great pizza place for dinner. Grady and I haven’t roomed together since our legendary Vegas trips. Thankfully when we woke up Saturday morning, it was quite clear and it looked like it was going to be a great weekend.

The first order of business was the Michigan football game, which coincided with breakfast prepared by Matt. The first indication that we were growing up was that fruit was served. After some more football, we took the boat over to Chamber’s Landing for lunch. The lake was running too low to bring the boat in, so Matt ferried us 2 at a time in his under-inflated dinghy, which was rated to carry 0.75 Benjams (now an official unit of measure). It was precarious, but we all made it aboard his more seaworthy vessel.

We arrived at Chambers Landing only to find they weren’t open for lunch. Based on our dress, it was easy to guess we were Michigan fans and made friends with people who had Michigan roots wherever we went. After a couple rounds of frozen drinks, we continued on to Sunnyside for a proper lunch and some grocery shopping.

Getting off the boat was even dodgier, so much so that Grady and Matt decided to swim vs. risk falling in. The afternoon was spent consuming more football and various chips (Greg even brought out some vegetables). For dinner, Matt prepared an amazing meal of grilled tri-tip and salad.

Dinner conversation covered many topics, books and shows. On the drive home, Grady compiled a list of over 20 books referenced during dinner. 17 were from him with an average of 1 each from the rest of us, my contribution being a young adult novel I read about 10 years ago. By the end of the evening, we reverted to our younger selves, playing bad pool while watching Caddy Shack. Ben said night night early.

Having been away on sequential guys trips (thanks, Grace!), I wanted to make it home in time for Olivia’s soccer game. Grady and I got on the road early, just as Matt and Jason were heading out for a ride (strong move).

Super big thanks to Matt for hosting us all at his new home. This was a rare full gathering of this group of very old friends (almost 33 years to the week for me and Dukes). It was also a reminder that we need to do this more often. We’re already looking forward to our next football BBQ and annual holiday party.

GO BLUE!

West Bloomfield Fishing Trip to Alaska

Members of the WBHS ski and golf teams (both JV) traveled to the far-reaches of the United States for our annual gathering. As mentioned before, this group goes back to kindergarten/elementary school. While we normally do a ski trip, this year we mixed it up with a fishing trip to Alaska. Chris wasn’t able to make our last big trip to Austria, which ended right as the pandemic was unfolding in March of 2020.

Chris did a great job of organizing our travel after hearing about it from a friend. We all flew to Kenai, AK, which is a 20 minute flight from Anchorage. We stayed for 5 nights at the Tower Rock Lodge, which is on the Kenai River where we fished for a couple days. I had no idea what to pack, so I packed all my ski gear. It turned out to be a lot like skiing … cold, rainy skiing.

Our first day of fishing was the most scenic. We headed to Crescent Lake in Lake Clark National Park, which is only accessible by float plane or boat. We took the former, which was an adventure in itself. Once landed with our gear unloaded, we took a couple boats down river. Immediately we saw a couple bear cubs playing along the shore, with their mother nearby. This was only the first of many bear encounters and sightings throughout the day.

We were fishing for Silver Salmon, but caught some Pinks and Dolly Varden trout, which are not good for eating. The fishing was tough and we didn’t get our limit, but two other guys in another group didn’t catch anything all day. The challenging fishing was made up for by a very scenic and thrilling plane ride home. Our pilot seemed to be inspired by Top Gun Maverick, as we flew up and over the crest of a range and descended down a narrow canyon. I wished I had some video, but most importantly we lived to tell the tale.

We generally had breakfast and dinner at the lodge, which was always prepared and served beautifully. The food was really good. Thursday after breakfast, we walked a hundred yards to the river and fished the Lower Kenai all day. We were split 3 and 3 into two boats and neither boat hit their limit (3 Silvers per person). The limit just prior to September 1st was only 2 per person, which we did achieve.

Our Halibut charter on Friday was cancelled due to high winds and rough seas. We ended up on the Lower Kenai again with the same groups, but we switched guides. This meant we got to spend the day with Bear the dog, who comforted us through tough times. I think our boat only caught four keepers that day, though we did throw back a couple Pinks.

The weather and seas on Saturday were much nicer. We got up for a 5am departure and a 90-minute drive to Homer. I haven’t been on that many boats, but when we boarded Big Dan’s fishing vessel, we knew it was something special. He said it was the nicest sport fishing boat in Alaska and I don’t have a reason to doubt him. It was an almost brand new all-aluminum catamaran with four outboard Yamaha 425 V8s.

We cruised about 90 minutes to our fishing spot. We did an experiment where half the group took Dramamine and the other half didn’t. I didn’t, and honestly, I didn’t feel great. Nick, it turned out, wasn’t feeling 100% either, but we both gutted it out.

Halibut fishing seemed to be a lot easier. We started pulling up keepers almost immediately. There are a lot of regulations in fishing. For halibut, you must catch one smaller than 28″ and the other can be any size, so the goal is as big as possible. All of us got our big ones except Nick, which meant that every time there was a fish on, he had to reel it up. Nick caught 3 skate and a flounder while trying to get his limit. He was grinding hard and digging deep to bring up those fish.

It turned out to be surprisingly difficult to catch our last few small ones as the tide and conditions changed. I think we ended up being just one short when a line got caught in one of the props and we had to limp home on 3 engines. Once that was sorted in the marina, we made our way back to Kenai. Someone caught a halibut that was almost 7 feet long and 300 pounds, which we saw on the way out.

The cook prepared our halibut cheeks as an appetizer and cooked some of our halibut as our final entree. The rest of our fish was sent to the processor to be cleaned, packed and frozen for our return trip home. Five of us split up the fish and I’d guess it was about 30-35lbs each.

Even though I live the closest, it still took me 3 flights and about 15 hours to get home. I can’t really complain because Nick just got home and Mike might still be flying to Laguardia.

This was another epic trip in the books. I mostly came to hang out and take pictures of these guys fishing, but I had fun getting mine, too. One of the kids asked me if I was having fun and I said it was fun, but not pleasant. Fishing is hard work. I wouldn’t normally stand out in the cold and rain for 7 hours, bouncing bait off the river bottom about 12,000 times. But, it was worth it to spend some solid time together.

We’re already talking about our next trip. Chris feels like we missed out on King Salmon season and Nick is wondering why we don’t go somewhere warm to golf. I’m always game for anything and hope we can try it all (before we can’t).

Spring Break on the Big Island

Spring break this year was also a belated celebration for Grace’s 50th birthday. Although we used to go to Hawaii a bit before the kids and also when the kids were very little, they’ve only been one time that they remember. We had a great trip with the Lees to Maui for spring break several years ago.

Grace thought it was time for a return trip to a special place for us, which is Hualalai on the Big Island, where we spent the second half of our honeymoon. We also went there with my parents on a babymoon before Olivia was born. Then there was one last trip with Olivia when she was a toddler.

In the past, we rarely left the resort, but Grace planned some memorable excursions for us throughout the trip. On Monday evening, we went manta ray feeding nearby. There were about 10 other boats in the same area just off the coast near the airport. They use bright lights to attract the plankton, which in turn attracts the manta rays who feed right below you. We ended up seeing 6-8 manta rays with four continuously looping under our board for quite a while. We weren’t allowed to touch them, but they were close enough that they touched us. Lucas had some trouble with his gear so didn’t enjoy it as much. Olivia said it was the coolest thing she had ever experienced.

Tuesday we golfed together. It was a tough round for everyone as the wind got up. Olivia got hit by an errant ball early on in the round and took a break for a while. We were mostly all smiles by the end of the round (except Lucas). We checked that off the list.

Wednesday morning we went out on a canoe at the resort. It wasn’t expected, but a pod of dolphins went right past us, which was so cool. We also saw a couple sea turtles. On the way back in, we were able to snorkel along the reef and saw many fish.

On Thursday, Grace and I golfed again while the kids tended to themselves by the pool. They survived the several hours unattended. We had lunch together and had more pool time.

Friday was our last full day and Grace had planned a ziplining activity in Kohala, which was about an hour from the resort. I though it was controversial to spend our last day away, but it ended up being really fun and the kids said they enjoyed it even more than the manta ray feeding. We didn’t really have time to swim when we returned, but everyone was okay with some down time.

Our amazing week in paradise went by so quickly. Given our late spring break, we ran into several friends from school at the resort and then met a few more families who were on our plane home. I also ran into an old friend from my earliest start-up adventures when I first moved to the Bay Area. It’s always a small world.

Lucas said it was sad like leaving camp, which I understood. Grace said it was one of her favorite trips ever (perhaps behind her 40th birthday extravaganza). We all had an amazing time and did the math on how old we’d all be if it were another 13 years before we return. I hope it’s not that long, but it will be worth the wait.

U of M Ski Trip to Vail

A group of guys have been going on this ski trip for a while. This year, Thorne let me know he and Blaine had space in their room and invited me along. Among the other first timers were Blaine, Jon, Lamarchial and possibly some others. Some people departed as others arrived, but my guess is that there were about 16 or 17 people in this group (almost all Sigma Nus, plus some relatives and close friends).

The SF crew arrived Thursday afternoon, but some others had already had a full day of skiing and were gathered at the Red Lion for après. We spent hours there catching up before moving over to Vendetta’s for pizza and the Michigan basketball game. We finished the evening at the hotel before calling it a night. It’s no wonder why some of them did not make it to first chair, but the committed were waiting at the Gondola 1 before service officially started.

It’s not easy to keep a group this large together on a mountain like Vail. To that point, we lost Lamar about 3 minutes after getting off the gondola and didn’t see him again until lunch. It was almost as bad as losing your kid at the mall. There wasn’t a lot of new snow, but it was good enough. The groomers were a lot better than the back bowls, and we covered a lot of the mountain in search of good terrain.

How many old dudes can you fit in a hot tub? Too many is the answer. The size of the group also made it hard to find fine dining, but that was okay because we all fit inside the Blü Cow. Those guys behind the bar had no idea a group would come in and pay for the next 3 months’ rent. I wasn’t there to shut it down, but they reserved half the restaurant for us for the following night as well.

Although I’ve seen most of these guys here and there over the years, I hadn’t met John before because he was a little after my time in the house. The Flint crew showed up on Friday, and Paul and I decided we hadn’t seen each other since college. That meant it was awesome to catch up on almost 30 years and also learn he has 580K TikTok followers. Who knew!

The number of skiers/boarders dwindled on Saturday, with some opting for recovery. Greg and Scott had a beautiful champagne lunch at the Four Seasons. We’re all very happy for them. The rest of us were dining on burgers and chicken strips at the Eagle’s Nest and only the bravest continued on through the end of a very full day of skiing and riding.

Saturday’s Michigan-OSU game did not end as well, but we shook it off with more Vendetta’s (sorry, Blü Cow crew) in Greg’s room. Things got a little crazy with our all-night Euchre tournament. No punches were thrown, but let’s just say some people will do anything to win.

Sunday, I ventured out alone for a few runs in the morning before packing up and saying our farewells. Thorne, Idema and I had our first civilized meal of the trip at Sweet Basil before heading out to Eagle and home.

One thing I loved about this trip was that I got to really catch up with everyone, unlike at a tailgate or a game. There’s lots of time on the chairlift and while hanging out to meaningfully reconnect. On the mountain and in the bar, everyone is still 20. But our conversations really reflect our age as we celebrate our children (and babies!) and partners, support each other with our aging parents, lift some out of unimaginable hardships, compare colonoscopies and cholesterol levels, and contemplate the next phase of life.

However that next phase plays out for each of us, I hope we can keep doing this trip while our knees and (some) livers will allow. Until next time.

Note: I can’t be in all places at all times to capture all the shenanigans, so these are a collection of photos from the trip.

Long weekend in Tahoe with Moons

We spent the long weekend with the Moons in Lake Tahoe. Clara and Grace conspired to sign-up Lucas for ski team at Northstar. This was his first time skiing with his Mountain Explorers team. He’ll get some more days on the mountain this season and is happy to have Nico to keep him company.

Olivia and Alex didn’t ski/ride as much this weekend, but they still got out for some tubing. We didn’t end up getting on the mountain on our last day, so the four kids went tubing instead. It was a great end to our weekend together.

Thanks, Moons, for having us (as always). We’ll see you again in two weeks.

© www.graceandjason.com 2022