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.

Exploring Detroit with Dad

Last August, I took my dad to Detroit for lunch, but we didn’t make it past Midtown. This past trip, my mom was in Korea with my aunt, so my dad and I went exploring downtown. We parked at 500 Woodward, which was my office building for my first 5 years out of college.

We had a nice lunch at Central Kitchen before heading to Midtown. We saw Jon and Greg’s Detroit Jolly Pumpkin restaurant and also stopped into Shinola’s flagship store where my buddy (and former camper), Gracie was working.

I’ll always root for Detroit and I think it’s on its way!

U of M Homecoming in Ann Arbor

Jon and Greg have been trying to rally everyone to Homecoming for a few years. This year turned out to be the year (it doesn’t hurt that we finally had a good chance of winning too). Jon may have oversold it a bit with talk of a barn dance, carnival rides, petting zoo, etc. His excuse was that he wasn’t able to build the barn, which I guess is a good one.

On Friday, Fran and Jon hosted everyone at their home. It was awesome to see all of the kids (and adults) together. Pretty much the entire Bay Area crew (Grace and the kids excepted – sad face) made a strong showing.

On Saturday, Jon and Greg hosted everyone at their tailgate. Many more friends rolled in from all over on what turned out to be a glorious Fall football Saturday. Worlds collided as Jen, friends from b-school and even POPSUGAR were there.

Greg graciously hosted me, Buecker and Allard in his seats in the new club level. This was my first football game in the new Big House (I had been inside for the Man U vs. Real Madrid game a couple years ago), and experience was amazing.

Afterwards, we went back to the tailgate and then someone invited everyone over to Greg’s house (but I’m not sure it was Greg). I had a quick dinner with Jen and Kim on Main Street. I walked out of the restaurant and ran into two high school friends, one of whom I coincidentally ran into at the Utah game last year. Shenanigans at Greg’s lasted well into the evening and thankfully nothing was broken despite many high-risk activities.

Sunday turned out to be beautiful and warm, which was perfect for coffee outdoors at Zingermans (where I ran into more friends randomly). I drove around to all my old stomping grounds: where I used to live, work, miss class, get parking tickets, get towed, do the crossword in the Michigan Daily, etc. I made one last stop and had a quick visit with Maggie (a POPSUGAR buddy and her Carhartt-wearing dog, Rupert).

What an amazing weekend with lifelong friends. Thanks again to Fran, Jon and Greg for hosting all of us for a memorable weekend. Next time, Grace, Olivia and Lucas are coming, too!

GO BLUE!

Visiting Day and Pickup at SJC

Last Friday was visiting day at SJC, which we’ve attended for the past five years, but this was our first as camp parents. My parents and their friends also made the drive up, making it three generations of people at camp who have contributed so much over the past 40 years.

Lucas and Olivia were happy to see us, but were doing fine. When the bell rang at the end of music, Lucas abruptly departed, fully-programmed after just one week. We met their cabin mates and they showed us around.

There is no longer a bus option, so we stayed overnight to bring the kids home the next day. There happened to be a beautiful top-ranked public golf course right in Roscommon, so I hatched an ingenious plan to stay there overnight. JP and YY booked a room there at the last minute and we now had a foursome and the first tee time. It was all so perfect, until I woke up to steady rain. JP and I hung out in the pro shop and watched the radar before finally throwing in the towel.

We got to camp around noon and the campers and staff were already saying their goodbyes. There were lifelong friends, new friends, Westminster staff, and our kids’ new friends and heroes. Beautiful people all of them.

Lucas’s expectations were very low and they were greatly exceeded. Olivia said as we were walking out that she didn’t want to leave. Neither of them were happy about the spiders, but that’s camp life. Thank you to everyone who made this a great first year of camp for our kids. Until next year!

Visiting Family and Friends in Michigan

Olivia and Lucas were bummed to spend so little time at their grandparents’ house during our Michigan visit. Grandma and Grandpa were very proud to show them their expanded garden this year and even protected a few vegetables from the local vermin just so the kids could pick them. I saw a tiny little snake and hesitated for just a second to catch him. It’s been over 20 years since the last one I caught. They even indulged in the simple pleasure of spraying the hose, which is something that is not quite permitted in California.

The kids were introduced to “Detroit Style” pizza at Buddy’s before we headed up north to camp. JP, YY, Jen and I went to AA on the way back from camp. On Monday, JP got in a round at U of M golf course. Jen got crushed by the big Delta outage and her flight was cancelled. The silver lining was that we were all able to have dinner together at Social Kitchen in Birmingham.

On Tuesday, I took my dad to lunch down in Detroit. Nick suggested Selden Standard, which did not disappoint. I need to spend more time downtown. My West Bloomfield buddies made time that evening and we caught up until late night.

On Wednesday, I explored the area on my own for a while. That evening, I had dinner with Melanie, Nick and the kids in Fashionable Ferndale. I needed my beard for that hipster outing.

On Thursday, Grace came to town and we went straight to Ann Arbor. I had my second Zingerman’s lunch of the week (there can never be too many). I unwittingly introduced Grace to Shinola and she walked out with a watch. Jon plugged me into Ann Arbor Man’s Meal, which was a very convenient way to catch up with Marty, Greg, Paul, Rob and Jon. Grace was able to hang out with Frances and we kept them up way past bedtime.

When we returned with the kids from camp on Saturday, my mom was happy to be able to cook for all of us and took special orders from the kids. Lucas even got ramen for breakfast as his choice. We met up with the Feleses one last time and had a nice lunch with my parents before heading home.

Already looking forward to returning next year!

Sae Jong Camp 40th Anniversary Reunion

Sae Jong Camp started in 1976, so this year, a reunion was planned to celebrate its 40 years. It was conveniently held just before camp and although the official agenda was just an overnight, we upgraded to come up early and get as much time as possible together. This was my opportunity to finally get Olivia and Lucas to attend camp, and it allowed me to be with them for a couple nights to ease into it.

Jen met us at the airport on Thursday and we drove up together on Friday. The hard core group was small, and included only Doug, Sandy, Jen and us. I was worried the kids might get spoiled staying in the new Worthington Lodge, which was a little too nice compared to their regular camp accommodations. Jen and I bunked together right next to Olivia and Lucas.

On Saturday, more old-timers arrived. Grace, Sandy, Mary Ann and Doug and their families represented the 2nd generation of campers, as their four mothers were the founders of camp and to whom we owe so much. Jin and Christine made a special effort to come and join us from DC and our BFF Linda’s family came in from NYC. After some touring of camp and some fun on one of the high initiatives, we joined this year’s camp staff for dinner.

The staff members’ dedication and motivations for their service to SJC were very inspiring and especially gratifying to me as I retired 13 years ago. No one has dedicated more time, energy and years to SJC than Doug, who has been there for some 30+ years of the camps 40-year history. His mother, who I remember so well, would be so proud of him. I feel especially fortunate that camp has survived long enough for my own kids to finally participate.

We saw even more old friends on Sunday, as the campers arrived. Some really surprised me. Linda’s kids, Phoebe (the youngest in camp) bunked with Olivia, and Olivier bunked with Lucas. Also, Karin’s daughter, Jamie, was Olivia’s counselor. Karin get’s the assist for introducing me and Grace back in college.

Lucas had been especially apprehensive about going to camp. He was the youngest boy and on Sunday morning, I got up at 5:30am (2:30am “my time”) and couldn’t sleep as I was a little worried about him. There were some tears as I re-packed his bag. He pulled me aside for a private chat and said, “Dad, I need to tell you something. I only came here because I thought it would make you happy.” I died. He killed me at 7 1/2. “Buddy, that’s so sweet, but I only wanted you to come to make you happy.” He clung to me until the very end and there were tears.

Ben, the program director, and several of the counselors were my campers back in the day. It was awesome to have that continuity and know they were looking out for Olivia and Lucas. I had some special operatives who provided me with proof of life by dinner time and regular updates thereafter. They were fine. Our family’s 2nd generation of SJC campers were having a great time.

Thank you, all!

Visiting Sae Jong Camp – 2015

For the 4th year in a row, I’ve taken the kids to visit Sae Jong Camp. Olivia was technically supposed to be a camper this year, but perhaps we all felt she wasn’t ready to be away from home for a week. We rationalized that she and Lucas could just go together next year.

I was surprised to see my old counselor, Joe (JP), was sending his daughter this year, so we planned to meet up. I didn’t know who else we would see, but I was happy to see one of my dearest friends, Linda there. Her two boys were campers, and youngest, Phoebe, was visiting, too.

We arrived just as lunch was ending, and after the usual singing and games, a crowd gathered and I had no idea what was going on. It took a little bit to realize a real proposal between staff members was happening. Jordyn grew up not far from camp, so her family was there to witness it. It was definitely a first for me and so touching.

A brief storm passed by, which allowed JP and I to catch up. We met up randomly in LA earlier this year, which makes twice in the last 30 years. Linda and I didn’t see each other the last time we were in NY, so it was nice to see each other. We took a mandatory trip to the DQ together.

Olivia and Lucas spent most of the afternoon in Higgins Lake and went swimming for the first time. They didn’t really want to get out. They experienced their first shower at camp, which, due to the friendly spiders, was a bit of a setback in convincing Lucas camp was awesome. Olivia perservered. We enjoyed the traditional visiting day dinner and headed home.

There were some very ominous looking skies as we got on the road and we watched and drove through some spectacular thunderstorms. The kids don’t take rain like that for granted. After a stop for another meal, we finally made it home about midnight.

I’m still very appreciative of all those who work so hard and sacrifice so much to keep camp going, especially the venerable Doug and Ben. Olivia knows SJC is on her agenda next summer. We need to keep working on Lucas.

Greenfield Village with Grandma

In the days leading up to our trip, we had some discussions about Detroit and what made it prosper back in the day, as what had transpired since then. Living in California, domestic brands seem to be outnumbered by foreign brands, with Teslas outnumbering them all. They had zero aided or unaided brand recognition of Ford, so that required a little history lesson on Henry Ford.

While at home, I made it a mission to visit Greenfield Village and the Henry Ford Museum. Overall our visit was steamy, but we picked a particularly delightful (almost cool?) day to enjoy this Michigan institution. We only made it through Greenfield Village on this trip, which means we can look forward to the museum next time. Hopefully the kids got something out of this experience of Detroit and Americana. I don’t think I had been there since I was their age, so it was almost an entirely new experience for me, too. I highly recommend it.