U of M Tahoe Trip to Blaine’s – Winter Edition

Matt invited the west coast crew back up to Lake Tahoe for a ski trip. It’s just as beautiful up there in the winter, just snowier. I rode up with Ben on Thursday evening and Matt and Dukes were already up there.

Friday, we skied Palisades, which was the first time for me in years. Because I last skied there when the kids were very little, I don’t recall the big mountain aspect if this resort. It was a welcome change. We met up with Greg and his friends and skied together after lunch.

On Saturday, we avoided the crowds and skied at Matt’s home mountain of Homewood. This was a first for me. I always thought Heavenly had the best views in Lake Tahoe but I was wrong. Homewood is right on the lake with spectacular views everywhere. It was well groomed and quiet. The plumbing is not modern.

Great weekend away with the boys. Hope we do it again soon. Thanks for having us, Blaine!

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Olivia’s Surprise 16th Birthday Party

Olivia hasn’t had very many birthday parties with friends over the years because her birthday lands during the holidays. Her very thoughtful and sweet friends threw her a surprise birthday party. She was in on some discussion for an impromptu party a couple weeks ago, but that never materialized.

On Sunday, while her friend took her to lunch, a bunch of friends came over to the house to decorate and set up. There was enough misdirection that Olivia really had no idea. When she came home, she was truly surprised and overwhelmed.

We can’t thank her friends (and their parents) enough for making this happen. We’re all very fortunate that she has such a kind friend group and we love having them all over. Happy Birthday again, Olivia!

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Annual U of M Holiday Party – 2022

The holidays are extra special for our U of M friends this year because the football team is 13-0! The calendar was extra challenging this year to get everyone together and some couples already had a full dance card. One surprise was that Theresa and Matt finally completed their decade-long assessment that the Golden Gate Bridge was indeed safe enough to cross!

Due to schedules, the White Elephant gift exchange was conducted before dinner. I think Theresa was traumatized by the brutality of all of the gifts she lost. This group is ruthless. Jenn and Michael said they had another party to go to, but who knows if they made it after they scored the Viagra (smuggled from London).

The older we get, the earlier this party starts. That said, it went pretty late this year, complete with an impromptu holiday musical concert that sounded so so bad. Thanks, Tam and Ben, for hosting us at their beautiful home.

Happy Holidays and GO BLUE!

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The Airborne Toxic Event Secret Show in SF

This is the last show in my 2022 concert series, which turned out to be the most intimate and memorable. While I was cementing my The Airborne Toxic Event superfan status, I joined their fan club. Along with a free t-shirt, members are entitled to admission to one secret show per year, one of which was scheduled in San Francisco on Saturday at the Rickshaw Stop.

This club is so secret that no one in my family would join me. I was resigned to go alone. I think I mentioned it to Eddie and somehow I roped him into going with me. I did all the hard work: signing him up, sending him his t-shirt, and telling him the date. All he did was fly coast-to-coast, golf with me in 40-something-degree constant drizzle, and swipe the bill at Che Fico (highly recommended dining in SF).

The show itself was even better than I expected. This was the smallest venue in which I’ve ever seen a band play. My guess was that there were only about 100 people there. The set included many songs they don’t normally play, and also excluded some favorites.

This was one of the best live performances I’ve ever seen and I don’t know if I’ll ever get to see a show like this again. It was super special to enjoy it with my best man/best friend, who also loves live music even if TATE is new to him. If you ever get a chance to see them live, don’t pass it up.

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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 happy 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. 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.

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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).

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