Sigma Nu Reunion at U of M Homecoming

Anyone who knew me for my first 19 years, or even first 49 years, might be surprised that I would join a fraternity. But, for a number of reasons, I returned to U of M for my sophomore year determined to try something different. Unfortunately, that didn’t include becoming a better student. I went through the Fall Rush process and found a house where I knew a couple of people and seemed like a good fit for me.

One main consideration was that up to that age I didn’t drink at all, which made the prospect of being a pledge all the more improbable. However, Sigma Nu was founded as a non-hazing fraternity, so if I believed it possible to remain myself, while at the same time expanding my horizons, it seemed the right place for me. Thankfully, the existing members somehow felt the same way about me.

I often reflect on how I could be standing by the keg at a party and someone out of courtesy would offer me a beer before they realized to whom they were speaking. It wasn’t uncommon for that person to apologize. Listen, we were young, and did truly idiotic things all the time, but even at that age, there was also respect, maturity and inclusiveness that I appreciate to this day. Reflecting further, I know we could have done even better, but I do believe there was a sense of honor and collective consciousness that made this group different from most others (I’m biased, of course).

This past weekend, dozens of brothers from all eras returned to Ann Arbor to celebrate a number of things at Sigma Nu. A little over 10 years ago, the house had lost its way. Despite efforts by alumni to help them get back on track, they were ultimately kicked off campus. It was sad to have another fraternity living in our house, and trashing what was one of the most beautiful, grand homes on campus (again, biased).

Thanks to some students who didn’t see the house they were looking for on campus, and with the help of alumni, the house corporation, and the national organization, Sigma Nu was recolonized over the last couple years and this Fall a great group of young men moved back into a partially renovated (i.e., inhabitable) house at 700 Oxford Rd. Super big shout out to Brownie, who has invested so much time and energy to making this happen.

It was also a celebration of 100 years of Sigma Nu at U of M, so there were festivities both before and after the Iowa game.

My personal experienced included:

  • Golf on Friday at Radrick Farms, hosted by Paul and Ryan. We’re terrible at golf. Thank you!
  • Jon and Greg hosted everyone at the Pretzel Bell on Friday night. Aside from great friends whom I have seen over the years, it was great to catch up with Tony Grover and Mark Tanase. Mark did his best to discredit the rumors that he is in the CIA. Later, we put together that the Obamas were also in town for Parents Weekend. Coincidence?
  • The most important reunion for me was seeing Eric and his son, Charlie. I’m not allowed to call him Eric (Grub, Grubbie, E-Dubs are all preferred), but he was one of my groomsmen and will always be one of my best friends. I don’t know how it happened, but I haven’t seen him since … my wedding!?! There’s no good excuse, except that we fly often over the great state of North Carolina instead of to it. He stayed with me at Grace’s family’s home, which allowed for a lot of quality time to catch up.
  • Also staying with me was Chip (Douglas) and his son, Anthony. Anthony, being 15, went a little harder this weekend and basically had the best time of his life.
  • Jen has had season tickets since college and this was my first time sitting in them (thanks, Jen). Jack needed a single ticket and joined me. It was great catching up with him and listening to the commentary from the two old guys in front of us who probably have been calling games for decades.
  • I guess everyone’s experience starts with older guys and ends with younger guys. I stopped by the older guys tailgate before and after the game and caught up with great group of men to whom I always looked up.
  • Back at the house, I got to see many friends, including a lot of younger guys I got to know because it took me 5 years to finish college.
  • Grub and I took Charlie for ice cream and then back to home after a long, long day. I went to Fran and Jon’s to catch the end of the MSU-OSU game. When I left, I asked where Chip was and he was still at the house! I went back over there, where a few really old guys were likely cramping the style of the students who were trying to get their party going.
  • Somehow, we ended up at the Brown Jug at midnight with a bunch of much older guys. Chip and I supervised a few high-school sons who all go to school together in DC, but had no idea their dads were fraternity brothers (we were essentially the vape enforcement squad).
  • The next morning, we skipped the two-hour wait at Avalon and took our chances at Zingerman’s, only to find the shortest line ever. It was brilliant and Charlie had his first Zingerman’s sandwich.
  • We said our goodbyes at M-Den. By goodbye, I mean see you next year, because we made a pact to make it an annual tradition. I’m in!

Best weekend with the best guys ever. GO BLUE!

Touring Michigan with Friends – 2019

Every year my week off while the kids are at camp is a little different. A lot of it depends on how much of the week Grace chooses to spend with me. The good news was that Grace was going to take the entire week off. The bad news was that it was decided very late, so I wasn’t able to book lodging at Arcadia Bluffs.

JP was also non-committal this year, but we twisted his arm into playing twilight golf with us at Forest Dunes after camp drop-off. This was the first time Grace and JP played together, so they got their first on-course dose of each other. It was a beautiful day (despite 800 gnats swirling around your head during every shot). We had dinner together before JP headed back to Canada and Grace and I drove up to Traverse City.

Grace and I played alone at Grand Traverse the next day. It was our first time staying there and pretty nice. Afterwards, we dropped by to see Frances and Jon at the cabana, which has grown since the last time we were there. Coincidentally, the Caries and Brimhalls were staying with them, so it was so nice to catch up with everyone. I know it’s trite, but when you don’t see kids for a while or even a year, they can get big. Jake is huge, at least compared to baby Jake.

The following day we spent with my parents. That evening, Melanie and Nick took us downtown for roof-top drinks and dinner at San Morello, which is in the Shinola Hotel. I spent my first five years after college working out of a downtown Detroit office. It certainly has changed and it was a perfect evening to show off. Thanks, Mel and Nick, for an amazing dinner.

On Wednesday, we played golf with Jin and DJ at U of M. The new club house is beautiful. The course is as tough as ever. Thursday, we played with Spencer, who I hadn’t spent time with in forever. I forgot to mention that when I dropped the kids off the prior week, the Rhee families had dinner together. I stopped by the new house in Northville and also drove by Paul and David’s old house on Mayo Dr., which was a huge part of my childhood.

Afterwards, we headed back up to Forest Dunes with Jin. Friday morning, we played a quick round before heading to camp for visitors day, where we saw many more old friends.

Even though we squeezed a lot in to our week in Michigan, I know there were many friends I didn’t get a chance to see this trip. We’ll be back!

Sae Jong Camp – 2019

Olivia and Lucas attended Sae Jong Camp for their 4th year last week. I think it was their best week ever for a lot of reasons. First, Lucas’s expectations could not have been any lower, so they could only be exceeded. There’s nothing we can do about the spiders, buddy. Olivia had been keeping in touch with her cabin friends over the year, so there was the anticipation of seeing them IRL.

Doug is still going strong. He said he hadn’t had more that about 65 campers during his most recent tenure, but with 22 new campers this year, there were 78 total. Many thanks to the families who continue to recruit family and friends to help the camp grow.

I was especially happy to see Paul, who brought Micah (and hopefully Kiri next year) from Virginia. Paul was my bunk-mate for my first few years at camp and our families were the best of friends when we were growing up in Michigan. It was also awesome to see Jin Hong and Tommy for his first year. I’m looking forward to more reunions at camp in the years to come.

The staff is incredible and continues to impress. Thanks to Jami for being a great leader and to Doug for his continued adult senior supervision. Camp is exactly the same in the best ways, and also evolving in many important ways. Each year it becomes more diverse, and thus, inclusive, which only redefines our notion of what it means to be Korean-American. SJC is trending way up.

Special shout-out to Olivia and Sebastian Shim, who earned the Chull Victor Kim award for their exemplary citizenship at SJC. I’m super proud of them. I think Grace is slowly getting the SJC spirit down in her heart.

It is a magical place.

Until next year…

 

 

Summer Trip to Michigan with Family

Despite some mild objections (from Lucas), the kids would be going to SJC again this summer. Last year, I took them out a few days early to get them adjusted to the time and to spend time at my parents’ house, which they love. This year, we asked my parents if they could spend a week there. Jen also joined in the fun and brought her new puppy, Blue, from NY.

We discussed several options to get them to Michigan that first week. I felt they were old enough to fly unaccompanied, but Lucas did not. We considered having our au pair, Ala, take them, but they declined. In the end, I chaperoned them on their Saturday flight and returned home the next day.

Ala went to travel, so it was very quiet at home with just me and Grace. The kids had fun with Aunt Jen, Grandma, Grandpa, and of course, Blue. Olivia taught him many new tricks. Grace went to Michigan the following Friday. I have been encumbered by employment and opted to take the redeye that evening instead.

Grace’s parents happened to be in town, so we had lunch with most of the Hur clan in Ann Arbor. We spent a little time downtown and also stocked up on Michigan gear at M-Den. We spent the rest of the day getting ready for camp.

The kids only had an extra day after camp to spend in West Bloomfield. I did a little home maintenance (there was more to do). The main mission was for the kids (and us) to spend time with their grandparents, which is too seldom these days. I think my dad’s mission was to show us his new driveway.

Thanks, Mom and Dad, for hosting us all.

Annual Summer Trip to Michigan

Despite Lucas’s apprehension about his 3rd year at SJC, the whole family made the trip to Michigan in August. My plan was to press re-play on my amazing week last year, but JP wasn’t available to be my golf partner-in-crime, so I had to recruit a new ride-or-die: Grace.

We always try to head east a few days early so the kids can get acclimated to the timezone change, which gives them some QT with Grandma and Grandpa at their place. The wide open spaces are never lost on them and we make the most of it. Aunt Jen was home, too, which made it even more fun.

Lucas could not like sandwiches less, but he persevered at Zingerman’s. We paid a visit to M Den, as we swap out their old Adidas gear for new Nike swag. We were also lucky to spend a little time with the Feleses and the Milano-Sessines, the latter of whom were coincidentally in town for a family visit.

On Sunday after dropping the kids at camp, Grace and I got on the road for the two-hour trip west to Arcadia Bluffs for our afternoon tee time. The nice thing about twilight golf there is that they play bagpipes while you look for your ball. We spent two nights there and enjoyed both the dining and accommodations. On Monday, Eddie, Ethan and Dr. Lee drove up from Ludington to make our foursome in the morning. Grace joined me in the afternoon for my second 18 of the day.

On Tuesday, Grace decided she had enough golf and flew to NYC for work from Traverse City. I drove her up there in the morning and turned right back around to head down to Ludington to play golf with Eddie, Emma and Ethan. We had dinner at the club with the entire family. I got on the road with the intention of driving back to West Bloomfield, but Ed called and talked me out of it. Once again, I was rooming with Ethan in the basement.

Wednesday, I did make it back home and hung out with my parents. On Thursday, I had breakfast with Jon and Greg in Ann Arbor. While waiting for my coffee, I made a call to Forest Dunes and found that there were afternoon tee times available, so I drove up there myself, played 18 and had dinner with Paula, David, Jeanah and Christine. I stayed there overnight and had the first tee time as a single on the new Loop course, which is supposedly the only reversible course in the US. I totally forgot it was walking only and what I envisioned as a two hour speed round turned into a three hour stroll looking for my ball. I was officially golfed-out.

The rest of my trip was my high school reunion, which was another highlight of the week. The beginning and middle were great, too. Can’t wait to do it all again next year.

Olivia’s 11th Birthday Celebration at Benihana in Michigan

Our last dinner together in Michigan was to celebrate Olivia’s 11th birthday. We don’t traditionally celebrate birthdays there, but it was what Olivia wanted. The number one thing Olivia has been asking for is a cat. I wasn’t a proponent of making a pet a Christmas or Birthday gift, but Grace had mentally committed to getting a new cat. Olivia was overjoyed to read the news that it was finally happening.

Happy Birthday, Olivia!

Christmas in Michigan with Rhees and Parks

For the first time in 8 years, we spent the Christmas holiday in Michigan at my parents’ house (and childhood home). The kids know it well from our summer trips, but they haven’t really experienced snow there as kids (and ironically there was a lot more of it than in Colorado). Addy and Charles were also in Michigan to visit Amy and Arnie’s family, and thus Grace’s parents and Dave also came to Michigan.

Everyone came over for Christmas Day and dinner. The kids had some daylight to play in the snow. I tried to buy some sleds, but there was nothing open. They improvised with cardboard and plastic. Grace improvised with the recycling container top. The Rhees (no relation) also joined us for dinner, which was prepared by my mom, Jen and Grace.

We spent time in Ann Arbor with Grace’s Hur side of the family. It was nice to see all the cousins. They each took turns kissing the ring (Dad Park).

We saw Melanie, Nick and the kids, who took us downtown for lunch and bowling at Punch Bowl Social. It was a nice excursion to my old work neighborhood. Detroit is coming along!

The holidays is also the time we celebrate my Dad’s birthday. We celebrated 82 with a great meal at Eddie V’s, which is new to Detroit. Happy Birthday, Dad!

We all love visiting Michigan at any time of year. Olivia and Lucas can’t get enough of the wide open spaces and my parents’ yard. Even though it was single digits, they never really complained about the cold, which encourages me that our California kids are tougher than we might think.

Epic Michigan Golf Tour

After dropping Lucas and Olivia off at camp, I had absolutely no where to be. Joseph (JP) and I have been contemplating this situation for some time. Still, we had no real plans.

We’ve been wanting to play Arcadia Bluffs for a while, but the opportunity didn’t arise until just a day or so before camp when a cancellation opened a spot on Monday. We left JP’s car at camp and headed to Crystal Mountain, which was not far from Arcadia Bluffs. When we arrived, we headed straight to the pro shop and got in a full round on the Mountain Course well before dark.

Eddie was visiting his parents in Ludington, which is about an hour away. On Monday, he and Ethan rounded out our foursome at Arcadia Bluffs. Despite living most of my life in Michigan, I had only laid eyes on Lake Michigan from the Michigan side a few times. I wasn’t quite prepared for how beautiful everything was: the lake, the elevation, and the links course nestled in the golden heather. Even though it was a tough course, JP went low and was actually under par through 9. Wow. I got our money’s worth on a per stroke basis. We all had lunch together and then JP and I decided to replay. We got in a solid 15 holes before we called it due to darkness. The wind had kicked up towards the end of the first round, but by late afternoon it was calm and beautiful as could be.

We had also secured a tee time for Tuesday. However, the one thing that didn’t go our way was that we wanted a room at AB, but it was booked (we only asked about 20 times during the day about cancellations). Graciously, Dr. and Mrs. Lee invited us over to their house, so we headed to Ludington. We got there late and stayed up even later being entertained by JP. On Wednesday morning, JP had to switch sports to tennis along with the entire Lee family. I went in search of coffee and postcards for the kids. We played golf at the Lees’ club, Lincoln Hills, followed by dinner together. We couldn’t have been more thankful for all their hospitality while we were golfing vagabonds.

Jen happened to be in Traverse City visiting friends, so we headed there to see them out at the bar. JP hit a wall like I’ve never seen (he’s usually always high octane), so we found a place to stay in downtown TC. Somehow he mustered some energy for 11pm ice cream. The next day we decided to play “The Bear” at the Grand Traverse, which was also a first for me. It was difficult, but fun. We had already payed for a reply when JP got the bat signal from our friend Anita that she was in town but had to head back to NY early. We changed gears and drove 3.5 hours back towards my parents house to meet up at Christine’s house.

JP now had the opportunity to entertain my parents for a couple days. We played U of M on Thursday (exactly a year to the day from our last round there). We had dinner at home together with Jen and cancelled our Friday golf plans at Forest Dunes. Our luck continued when a room finally opened up at Forest Dunes, which is the resort at which we stayed last year with Grace and YY. We got rained out then, so we were determined to play there this year. JP fancies himself a very lucky guy and true to form, when we checked in, they put us in a two-bedroom cottage because there was a group of 24 dudes that were expected to be a little rowdy. Perfect!

We finally got our last round together in at Forest Dunes, which didn’t disappoint. There was a lot of trouble and the greens were fast. The good news was that I made it through the whole week with only the balls I brought (and found of course).

I haven’t played this much golf since my honeymoon (Grace is the best). I just can’t see why this doesn’t become the annual ritual while the kids are in camp. We’re currently accepting applications for our 3rd and 4th players.

Olivia and Lucas Attend SJC – Year 2

After several years of conditioning, last year’s SJC experience was a huge success. The kids had such a great time and couldn’t wait to go back this summer. I couldn’t wait to take them!

I think they’re still processing their experience. Lucas knew all his friends from last year would be intermediates this year, so he was a little unsure about what to expect. He had three brand new campers in his cabin and he said he liked it better because he was the only experienced one in his cabin. Both kids said Junior Program was WAY better. Olivia had many of the same girls in her cabin. Whether she liked this year better or not, camp seems to have relieved her “resting sad face” as I see her huge smiles in many photos, which is very gratifying.

Each year, I see more and more of my friends sending their kids to camp, which is awesome. While giving the kids their first taste of Big Boy, I ran into Cathy who was taking her daughter up for the first time. I saw Liz earlier this year and mentioned SJC and she brought Benjamin all the way from California. Sue Ann was the camp health officer. Joseph continues to entertain the campers 31 years later. Anita’s oldest son was Lucas’s CIT! And, I’m still waiting on Grace, Tessie and Clara to enroll their kids (though it’s always great to see them visiting).

I still can’t thank all of the staff enough for taking such good care of our kids. Thanks to Jami and Tyler for stepping up as Program Directors. And, as always, a big thanks to Doug for his continued dedication to the camp his mom started  41 years ago.

It’s still the best, most magical place on earth. I’m hopeful Olivia and Lucas have many more years ahead of them to enjoy it. Maybe one day I’ll be lucky enough to come out of retirement???

Visiting Family and Friends in Michigan

There were three reasons for our annual trip home to Michigan:

  1. Visiting Michigan grandparents, seeing aunt Jen, and catching up with friends.
  2. Attending Sae Jong Camp
  3. My golf tour of Michigan

Last year, because we attended a reunion before camp, the kids didn’t feel like they had enough time at grandma and grandpa’s house. Thus, this year we went a few days early not only to adjust to the time, but also to spend quality time with family and friends.

Highlights:

  • Grace’s parents happened to be traveling back to LA from Michigan as we were landing, so they met us at the gate to say hello. Our flight was delayed, so we only had time to walk them down to their gate. Still, it was a great surprise for all of us.
  • My mom always likes to cook the kids’ favorite foods. Olivia’s best compliment to her was that we were so lucky to grow up with such great food. This is true!
  • We visited with the Melanie and Nick for a bit and Randy also came over.
  • Last year, I took my dad downtown to explore. This year, the kids and I took my mom. We went back to midtown and had lunch at Jolly Pumpkin and also visited the Shinola store for some souvenirs. The kids were also mesmerized by an actual turntable (hint hint, Santa).
  • We tried flying our kites again, but it was futile. I’ve done it many times as a kid back there, but now I think the forest has grown too tall and was blocking the wind. The kids never tire of my childhood elementary school playground.
  • We met up with the Feleses again for dinner and dessert at Stroh’s. We wouldn’t have another chance because they were off to Spain for an awesome summer adventure.
  • On Saturday, we met Jea and Eddie’s family in Ann Arbor. Jea and Emma were touring Chicago colleges and then everyone met up to visit Michigan in Ann Arbor. We had lunch together at Zingerman’s (check!)
  • Our golf tour included a detour to Ludington. Eddie’s parents invited me and Joe to stay at their place. I hadn’t been there in well over 20 years. Top Gun was being screened as we arrived. We slumber partied with Ethan in the basement like we were all 13 years old. We got the full Ludington experience, including tennis, lunch and golf.
  • After bringing the kids back from camp, I went to Michigan to have brunch with Fran and Jon. The Brimhalls were visiting their old hood from their new hood in Telluride.
  • Finally, on our last day, Kristen and Scott happened to be home visiting Scott’s parents, so we met up with Riley and Natalie in Birmingham.

For as much as we squeezed in, there wasn’t enough time to see everyone. We’ll be back in December for the holidays and will hopefully have a chance to see more friends then.