Monthly Archives: September 2008

Airport Reflections After Spending Week in Minneapolis

It’s been a very busy seven days as my work has taken me to the Twin Cities.  I’m presently sitting in the Minneapolis airport food court basking in the glow of an airport who has finally realized that the volume of available electrical outlets should meet the volume of laptop computers being carried through our nation’s airports these days. 

The Minneapolis airport food court includes multiple long counters with electical outlets as far as the eye could see.  Seriously, as I approached this area with a little time to kill, it was as if I was seeing a mirage… a imaginary oasis of cascading power amidst a dry dessert of dead laptop batteries. 

Business travelers who regularly depart from O’Hare know what I’m talking about.  Finding an electrical outlet is a constant scavenger hunt of frustration.  At each gate, I’m contstantly searching behind every column and row of seats for those elusive outlets.  Raise your hand if you’ve had this experience… you find an outlet, excitedly pull your laptop from your briefcase, power up only to learn that the outlet is clearly a prop… no juicy AC current whatsoever… a cruel facade likely set up as a sinister joke by those whose employment lives keeps them contained in the constant waves of travelers moving through the concourses of O’Hare.

All jokes aside, I would like to publicly state that I admire and appreciate all whose days are spent providing service to stressed and frantic travelers at our nation’s airports. 

Anyway, I’m on my way back to Naperville and I’m look forward to getting home to the family and our community.  SM 

 

Advertisements

Surviving a Weekend of Flooding Rain and Cabin Fever in Naperville

Dear Sump Pump,

While I have often taken you for granted in the past, I would like to personally thank you for the non-stop trench warfare you have waged this weekend against the relentless evil waters which unleashed their liquid fury upon us all. 

I realize you live a life of darkened isolation deep within the basement pit where you reside, but this weekend you rose from rock-bottom dweller to A-list celebrity hero as you continuosly expunged those sinister legions of water molecules from your humble basement dwelling to keep us all dry. 

On behalf of the drywall, carpet, assorted furnishings, devoted mechanical devices, air hockey table, Xbox 360, voluminous toys, guest bedroom, large screen TV and your two biggest fans under the age of 8, we thank you for your service.  Enjoy your days off this week as dry sunny weather returns to Naperville.

Dryest Regards,

Stuart, Shelby, Jake and Ben

To everyone else out there, my hope and prayers are with you that you and your family survived the flooding rains of this past weekend.  It was certainly a rough ride for us all, though considering what the the gulf coast of Texas experienced at the hands of Hurricane Ike’s wrath, it’s tough to feel too bad about any misforutne we may have experiences.  Nonetheless, I think we are all looking toward sunnier days ahead this week.

If you were like my family, you probably found yourself sticking close to home as the waters rose and perhaps contracting a slight case of cabin fever.  If you have young children, like we do, the pressue was a little more intense.  However, sometimes when push comes to shove and you lose control of your life’s routine, it’s time to create those exceptionally unexpected games for the kids which will delight them for hours.

For our boys, much today was consumed by a new game we created called Paper Airplane Roulette.  Before I explain the game, I think the pictures below will give you a hint:

I started by teaching both boys to model the standard paper airplne from their favorite colored piece of construction paper.  The game began innocently enough.  Our family room as a two-story ceiling with a large ceiling fan lofting overhead.  We also have a second story loft hallway which provides runway variation. 

At first, the goal was to see how far we could throw our paper airplanes.  Then we decided to see who could successfully launch their pulpy aviation wonders over the destructive spinning blades of the whipping ceiling fan.  We all began nervously as we didn’t want to see our aircraft meet such a fate from the indifferent propellers.  

The first plane was launched from the sweaty grasp of my seven year-old and though it appeared to have the right lofting rainbow-like trajectory, the velocity of the fuselage experienced a sudden and unexpected drag from the conflicting jet streams swirling above.  The plane slowed… the nose tipped… and the aircraft quickly made the short descent into the vortex of rip current air whose turbulence jostled the plane for a moment only to be catapulted violently by the swift unaware blow of multiple fan blades.  My boys and I quickly looked to each other with a momentarily speechless stare and then suddenly broke into uncontrollable laughter at our discovery.

The plane survived and the remainder of the day was filled with countless sorties and assorted launch variations from multiple trajectories.  The boys even persuaded their grandmother to join in the fun and though I was not allowed to take a picture, I can report that Grandy launched many times after her first taste of harmlessly violent destruction.

Now parents, by now you may be thinking that I am setting a bad example.  However, bear in mind it’s just paper, we had a long conversation about the many other objects which should never be thrown into the fan and nothing was damaged.  Sometimes, desperate measures call for improvisational fun.  I think we all created a long-lasting memory today and were able to forget about the heavy rains outside.  SM

A Review of Morton’s Steakhouse in Naperville’s Freedom Commons – Great Food, Great Service and a Great Big Check

It’s taken a while, but I finally headed over to the new Morton’s Steakhouse in Naperville for dinner with an industry friend last night.  As we all know, Morton’s is a well-established company-owned chain steakhouse traded publicly on the NYSE; however, their business model is far-reaching in terms of the high-end quality you would expect to find in big city gem of a steakhouse. 

I’ll have to admit, this technically wasn’t my first visit to Morton’s Naperville.  I first walked through the non-descript door into Morton’s within the first week of their opening.  My wife and I had headed out to Freedom Common’s on date night for a meal at White Chocolate Grill and the wait was hefty.  I decided to walk over to Morton’s to see how they were looking in terms of wait time.  Upon arriving within the interior of the lightly crowded restaurant, I approached the host desk near the bar and inquired about the wait time.  The hostess asked me if I had a reservation and upon saying no she said in an almost arrogant tone that she might be able to get me a table at 9:30 PM, which was just over a three hour wait.  Needless to say, the one hour wait at White Chocolate Grill was no match for Morton’s whopping surprise.

Nonetheless, I chalked the experience up to the first week opening and vowed to wait a while before giving Morton’s a try.  Last night was the night.  This time around, I lined up a reservation through Open Table for 6:30 PM. 

I arrived once again in the interior of the restaurant from the tiny awkward hallway, yet this time was different.  Everyone, and I mean everyone, was extremely friendly.  My friend had already arrived and was finishing a drink at the bar.  Though I didn’t even sit down, the bartender was extremely friendly and obviously skilled in the art of respectful customer-centric small talk.  We headed over to the host desk, provided the name on the reservation and was immediately ushered over to the Maitre D. 

We were seated and our server, Cydni, gave us a few moments to settle in before heading over.  It’s clear Morton’s does not want to make you feel rushed, which always improves any dining experience.  Our drink order was taken and I decided on the split of Piper Heidsieck champgane, which was perfectly chilled and quickly transferred into a chilled champagne flute.  Despite my love for champagne, I’m not typically a huge fan of champagne splits for the abuse the little bottles often go through; however, at first taste this one had been taken good care of.  Storage temperature and handling can have a huge impact on any size bottle of champagne or sparkling wine.

Our server wheeled the standard cart of displayed meat and seafood to our table for a quick feast of the eyes.  Only prime-aged beef makes the cut at Morton’s and the portions range from a large 16 oz. Ribeye to a whopping 48 oz. Porterhouse.  A large dazed lobster moved slowly on a platter as well as the biggest tuna filet I had ever seen served in a restaurant.  Only after the eyeball feast and lengthy monologue from our server did we finally receive the menu.  There’s a good reason for this ceremonial chronology.  If you are among the masses who suffer from sticker shock at the gas stations these days, stay away from a Morton’s menu. 

The only thing higher than the obvious quality of the food at Morton’s is their menu prices.  I settled on the 16 oz. boneless ribeye at $39.50 versus the $48 bone-in ribeye which weighs in at 24 ounces.  Keeping in upscale steakhouse tradition, that was of course only for the hunk of beef.  I started with the tuna tartare ringing up at around $16.  Finally, as a side dish, I chose the $10.50 gourmet mac-n-cheese. 

Before you get the wrong impression, let me say that every last bite of everything I ordered was absolutely decadent.  As a matter of fact, I’d put the perfectly cooked and seasoned steak in my personal top 5 of all time, competing with steaks I’d enjoyed in cities ranging from Austin, TX to Paris, FR.  The mac-n-cheese was rich and comprised of a high quality cheese blend.  The only minor complaint I would have is the tuna tartare, while good, did not quite live up to what I had hoped.  The top round layer was symmetrical hunks of tuna, followed by a layer of avocado and then on to what I thought was another layer of tuna, but was actually a layer of tomato.  The plate was drizzled with a duet of what appeared to be a spicy mayo and a soy sauce variation.

There was no room for dessert and I would recommend if you want to take advantage of their baked-to-order desserts, then go to Morton’s for dessert only or perhaps appetizers and desserts. 

Again, the service was reminiscient of being at a Ritz-Carlton and our server paused on a number of occaisions for conversation which my friend had initiated.  There was even a moment where she had to grab something for another table, but calmly and quietly pivoted to another server and whispered what the table had needed for him to retrieve for her as she barely skipping a beat in the conversation.

One final constructive criticism.  The parking at Freedom Commons during the dinner hours is a nightmare when combining the rush at White Chocolate Grill, Maggianos and Mortons.  I slightly resent that the two rows of parking immediately in front of the restaurant are reserved for Morton’s valet parking which left me parking quite a distance from the restaurant entrance.  At the end of the day, Freedom Commons is essentially an upscale strip mall and I would argue whether you really need to provide valet parking.  As much as I’m sure they enjoyed leaving the Bentley coupe out front with cones around it, I simply believe valet parking isn’t necessary and actually looks a bit silly in the small narrow parking lot.  

So, the sum analysis?  Go to Morton’s with allot of money in pocket and expect to be treated and fed like royalty.  It’s amazing that a chain restaurant can maintain such a high-level of service and quality.  While you might feel a little guilty when the bill arrives, the overall experience will leave you feeling it was well worth it.   SM

Live Your Purpose… Today!

I’ve been reflecting upon the courses we set in our lives a great deal lately. I remain constantly amazed by the immense pressure which is placed upon us so early in life to choose a path, long before we have any concept of what unique path is best for us as individuals.

As we move forward in life, the complexity and responsibilities begin to snowball to a point where our mission in life often falls off course from our true purpose and shifts to simply suriving each day with enough energy to make it through in satisfying the expectations of everyone around us.  Worse off, daily survival can be exacerbated should you find yourself on the wrong path to begin with in life.  

In reflecting upon my own life, I’ll be the first to confess it’s been a far from perfect journey; however, the one contant has always been the quest to understand and live my own purpose, based upon the unique gifts and talents I have been so humbly granted in life.  You, too, have unique gifts and talents which have been granted to you in your own life.  It’s our responsibility in life to become students of our own purpose so that we can grow to become teachers in putting our purpose into practice through action.

When I say “purpose”, I’m not talking about the external pressure prescribed by society suggesting the benevolent life is simply following the example of others and engaging in generalized activites which serves to benefit the good of society.  I’m talking about something far more exicting in finding ways to translate your passionate interests into purpose served for the benefit of others.  Even the fantasy-loving football junkie can convert that passion to purpose by going out and coaching a little league football team.  The important thing to remember is that when we inspire others, we ourselves become inspired.

Living your purpose is something you can do each and every day with as little or as much time as you have.  Even more, you don’t have to be operating on a grand scale to live your purpose and contribute your talents to your community.  Quite often, the easiest act of purpose is to find a way to put your talents out into the world.  For instance, I’m taking these strong life principles about purpose, which I possess deep within my soul and am offering this posting to the world… not necessarily in the hopes that thousands will read it, but more realistically hopeful that I might be able to reach at least one person to provide that tiny spark of encouragement which can propel us to great accomplishments in life.

So with that said, I challenge you to ask yourself the question, “what is my true driving purpose in life and what can I do today to offer up my purpose to some tiny portion of my world”.  Maybe the first step is to share with the World of Naperville what you feel your life purpose is through the posting of a comment below.  SM      

Gavin DeGraw Truly Rocks Naperville During 2008 Last Fling Concert

I’ve always been a fiercely independent person who has never had any problem going to a movie or concert by myself.  As a songwriter and composer, music has been my lifelong passion since I first taught myself to play the piano and guitar as a child.  Last night was no exception as I found myself heading over to Rotary Hill for the Gavin DeGraw concert at Last Fling. (photo from www.gavindegraw.com)  

Having heard some of Gavin DeGraw’s work over the past couple of years, I was very interested to see how his combination of rock, soul and funk translated on stage.  By the time the final chords of his hit song “Chariot” ended in his final finale last night, I sat in awe as a total fan contemplating the best Last Fling concert I had ever attended. 

Aside from his considerable talent, there was a wonderful youthful energy at the show which generated authentic excitement when taken in comparsion to the usual national nostalgia acts Last Fling is famous for.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed seeing legendary bands like .38 Special and Cheap Trick over the years, but the energy was much different on this evening.  Being among the thiry-something crowd, I often find myself caught in the middle enjoying both younger and older acts.  

Hailing from Fallsburg, NY, DeGraw took to the stage with a band which might geographically provide some hints as to the roots of his musical style.  With a keyboard player from New Orleans, a bass player from Arkansas and a lead guitarist from North Carolina, it was clear that DeGraw’s devotion is to a soulful brand of southern rock.  Yet, his music is very approachable for the masses. 

DeGraw has mastered the stage like a pro as was evidenced by his considerable and regular connection with the audience, which included a mediated proposal from one of the young audience members who tossed a note onto the stage asking a girl out to homecoming.  He also told a story from earlier in the afternoon in which the concert promoter mistook him for the opening act, Absentstar, shortly after exiting his tour bus after arriving at Rotary Hill.  A good story, but it left me wondering if this was a regular template “story” he might use to thank the opening act each evening.  Nonetheless, his stage presence definitely comes across as humble and genuine. 

DeGraw opened the concert on electric guitar, but quickly settled into a shimmering sparkling silver miniature baby grand style piano.  Despite his talent as a multi-instrumentalist, perhaps his greatest instrument is his unique soulful and gritty voice.  In a nutshell, in a live setting he certainly knows how to work out a song and seems to enjoy unleashing each and every note.

I want to pay special compliments to his sound and lighting engineer.  The opening act’s sound, engineered by the general house sound guy, was absolutely horrible.  Tragically, most opening acts suffer from not receiving “the treatment” from the sound folks.  Of course, DeGraw, had his own sound and lightning engineers who took the show very seriously.  I watched them working their magic from where I was sitting, just a few yards to the side of the front of the house sound pit.  Both lighting and sound spent the entire show bobbing their heads and working thier boards like an instrument in their own right.  The end product shined radiantly from the stage.  The crew is always the unsung heroes of a good show and I wanted to be sure they got their credit. 

The crowd delivered an enthusiastic wave of energy to DeGraw and company throughout the entire set and the sight of glowing cell phone screens shimmered within a large radius surrounding the stage.  While my folding chair was just behind the standing room only section, I would have moved down closer to the stage if I had the show to do over again.  Everyone stood throughout the entire show, which was great as I’ve received complaints in the past from fans who streamed into Naperville for one of the festival concerts and were irritated by the apathetic folks sitting in front of them.  Fortunately, this was a true fan’s show and I hope the Last Fling organizers continue to bring fresh acts like this in the future.

To Gavin DeGraw, thanks for a great show and hopefully we’ll see you again soon!  SM