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!

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.

Annual U of M Holiday Party – 2021

It’s hard enough to schedule a holiday party and much more so during a pandemic. We skipped it last year, but were determined to get back on track this year. Some regulars decided to leave the country (temporarily) and others had conflicts. Amy and Grady were kind enough to host at their new home.

In the time of COVID-19, it’s perfectly normal for one of the hosts to participate virtually. Grady had a solid reason to be away and Amy handled this rowdy group effortlessly. As we age, the gift exchange becomes tamer and tamer (and more full of CBD-related products).

Glad we didn’t pass up the opportunity to celebrate the holidays with dear friends, despite a lot of other things going on. Happy Holidays and GO BLUE!

10th Annual U of M Holiday Party

Up until a few weeks ago, there was radio silence on our annual U of M holiday dinner. Thankfully, we were able to lock in a date and the Hoffmans graciously offered to host at their beautiful house. One thing that makes it hard to find a time are those pesky kids and their schedules. We lost the Thornes at the last minute due to an out-of-town soccer tournament. We also lost our lone Aussie, Michael, due to work.

The rest of us had to press on with delightful food and company. Look at all of these beautiful smiles and festive people! Jenn preparing her salad in the laundry room / sous-chef area is something out of an InStyle spread. The white elephant gift exchange was rather tame, with only a few real stinkers, which Jenn had a knack for selecting. The squatty potty was a nice touch and thanks to Matt for demonstrating. Cutest couple goes to Jason and Ben.

The older we get, the earlier this party breaks up. That said, I’ll never tire of this group of amazing friends. Happy Holidays and GO BLUE!

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!

9th Annual U of M Holiday Party

One of our favorite traditions with our U of M friends continues. Grace and I hosted our annual holiday dinner and gift exchange. Even though I volunteered to cook the main dish, Grace had to hedge with her own. We ended up preparing dueling beef: prime rib vs. beef tenderloin. There were some issues with the timing and a large flare-up made things exciting. Eyebrows are intact and dinner was served.

Everyone came through on the potluck and delicious appetizers and desserts were enjoyed by all. Despite Krista’s strong objection (two years in a row), the women and men dined separately. It’s unclear what was going on with the ladies, but they were much more boisterous than the civilized conversation we were having about everything that never happened in Las Vegas or New Orleans over the years.

Somehow I got talked into Burt Reynoldsesque pose on the island. I was not the creative director of that shot. No one is going to see it anyway.

Our gift exchange is becoming less savage over the years. Ever since we mixed the nice ladies gifts with the more festive mens gifts, there’s less stealing because everything is either really good or really bad (in an awesome, Nicholas Cage kind of way).

Happy Holidays and GO BLUE!

 

Lions vs. 49ers at Levi’s Stadium

On September 16th, Hans invited our family to the 49ers game. Coincidentally, it was against my hometown team, the Detroit Lions. After 18 years of living here, this was my first 49ers game (I’m admittedly not a big pro sports fan).

I had a sense we weren’t sitting in the cheap seats, so I informed the kids not to get too used to the accommodations, which turned out to be stunning. Lucas said if there was a bathroom and shower, he could live there. It was a huge treat.

In the end, the Lions didn’t pull it off, but at least made it close. I’m sure my Bay Area friends were happy with the outcome. For me, it was nice to catch up with an old friend and see him doing well in his new venture.

Thanks, Hans, for the amazing hospitality.

7th Annual U of M Holiday Dinner and Gift Exchange

Although we’ve been gathering for years (odd, no football this year), by my count, we’ve been celebrating the holidays together for 7 straight years. This year, the Idemas graciously hosted at their beautiful home. I caught a glimpse of the shimmering new pool, but we won’t be wreaking havoc out there until next year.

Although Krista might be writing a letter to management about the seating arrangement, we ended up in two distinct dining areas. Dinner and desert were amazing, but the true main course is our gift exchange. You would think that with wisdom and experience, our gifts would become more age-appropriate. However, they’re only becoming more outlandish and yet strangely useful (my “Pocket Kim Wisdom” book excepted).

The photos are otherwise presented without commentary as they speak for themselves. A warning to all, if you pose for the photo, it’s definitely going to end up on the internet. I think you all look amazing.

Thank you, Idemas, for hosting another memorable event! Happy Holidays and GO BLUE!

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.

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