An Item Off The Bucket List: Day 1

I have dreamed of a road trip to Seattle since my first visit to that City in 2000. Today, the love of my life and I are headed to Seattle, by way of Michigan. We plan on being on the road for at least 9 of our 14 day excursion. I will be posting picks and notes from the road and on my good old blog.

Before the posts start, I need to say thank you to a friend and mentor who gave Shannon and I an overly generous gift. When Steve heard about the floods from last year, he was upset that our plans were ruined. So, being the amazing human being he is, he stepped in and tried to make things better. His gift will be making our Trip not just possible, but amazing.

I wrote this for Steve’s retirement party. It was supposed to be included in his book, but somehow it wasn’t included. So I’m putting it here, so everyone knows how fantastic he is.

Thank you, Steve, for making this road trip possible.

Steve Eiseman is not a complicated man.  This is not to say he is not smart or that he lacks emotional depth.  On the contrary, Steve is a brilliant, caring and loving person.  At his core, this is who he is.  He isn’t duplicitous or insincere; he truly does care about those people around him, especially the clients.

At first glance, one might think that it is not humanly possible to care about other people as much as Steve does.  This may stem from our line of work.  As Probation Officers, we address more than the crimes our clients commit.  We see the environments that our clients live in.  We work with families that have dealt with more trauma, loss and grief than anyone should ever have to deal with.  What we see, day in and day out can easily be described as the worst behavior that humanity has to offer.  It is understandable, then, that our world view becomes more cynical with time.

And yet, Steve has worked this very same job for over thirty years.  He traveled in our neighborhoods, visited our schools, and worked with our clients, and their families.  When he did not work with our clients directly, he supervised us—his colleagues—sharing our experiences and listening to our concerns. Instead of burning out or reverting to an easy cynicism, Steve acknowledged the loss, the grief and the trauma  and instilled—as best he could—hope, optimism and compassion.  He did not avoid the pain with a Pollyanna attitude.  He acknowledged it head on and worked through it.  Steve recognizes the small miracles we experience for what they are:  Miracles.

This isn’t to say that it was easy work.  “On the road of life,” Steve would say, “I need a jump.”  Or he would say, “It doesn’t go. You have to push.”  He knows how difficult life can be, especially for our clients.  But it is not in Steve’s nature to surrender to these circumstances.  He accepts them for what they are—terrible, difficult and something that needs to change—and works to over-come them.  It is in Steve’s nature to do whatever it takes, even to his own detriment, to make life just a little bit better for those around him.

In theory, it is not a complicated philosophy:  To make life better for those around us.  In practice, it is damn near impossible to do.  And yet Steve has done it.  And Steve will continue to do it.  Retiring from the Juvenile Court is not the end of, “Steve the Sincere Optimist.”  It is simply a change of venue.

Our professional lives were enhanced by Steve Eiseman.  Some of us—myself included—were lucky enough to have our personal lives enhanced by him as well.  Through the years, Steve became more than a Deputy Chief.  He has been a mentor, a friend and a role model.  He has shown me what dedication, hard work and optimism can do for us.  Steve’s philosophy of love, care and support has affected me profoundly.   Simply put I am a better person because I know him.

Steve enriched the lives of everyone in our department.  Now that he is retired, it would be easy to slip into cynicism and sadness; but he has also shown us how to make our work place better.  Armed with his philosophy, framed by the philosopher Goethe, Steve has shown us the true definition of best practices—Treat people as if they were what they ought to be, and you help them to become what they are capable of becoming.

Steve, thank you for everything you have done for me.  I will miss you terribly.


Lost and Rediscovered Treasures


My father passed away before he could share some of our family’s most prized treasures. Two of these treasures are frequently mentioned and missed recipes. The first is his famous Caesar’s Salad. I don’t know what he did differently with his salad–more anchovy paste? More Egg? Did he let the dressing stew longer?–but I have not had a caesar salad that could hold a candle to his. For a few years after his passing I would try a number of salads just to see if it could compare. I eventually decided to save my money and swear of Caesar’s salad. Why bother trying to copy what has never been copied?

The other lost recipe was more of my mother’s work than his. My parents combined their culinary powers to produce one of the most delicious barbecue sauces known to humanity. My mother would make the sauce to my dad’s specifications. I know they used Open Pit as a base instead of ketchup, but it was a day long affair of sautéing, stewing and grilling. Both of my parents promised to teach me the secret of the Award Winning Sauce (16th out of 600+ at the Mike Royko Ribfest) but they never got around to teaching us.

Both are gone forever. There is no way to recreate the Casear’s Salad Dressing. There is chance at rebuilding my mom’s BBQ sauce… But then I would be stuck recreating their legacy instead of working on my own. My parents did not want me to dwell on what was. They wanted my brother and I to excel beyond their wildest dreams. We can’t do that if we are stuck trying to recreate the lost sauce.

If either Tony or I stuck to the past, neither of us would have learned to grill. Our father promised to fill us in on his secrets, but we had to relearn them. And we did. That’s why this Sunday, Tony and I will be trying a new sauce. We will also tap in to our recently discovered Grilling Skills and slow cook our the ribs we intend to serve as we celebrate my parents. Our new sauce may not be as awesome as what we lost, but given time, we will learn.

Three Kings

In Catholic tradition, the Feast of the Three Kings is a Holy Day of Obligation. It is a celebration of the arrival of the Three Magi in Bethlehem. In my family’s tradition, it is also the arrival of my Aunt Greg and Uncle Susan, with cousins Sara and Emily in tow.

This year, there was dancing.

(The VodPod link automatically played the video. I’m not doing that to you all))

In fact, there was even a conga line. I’ll be posting that one shortly.

90 Minutes For Beer

Tony and I are currently enroute to Racine, Wisconsin for Beer.

But Marty, you may think, aren’t there liquor stores in Chicago? Why yes, there are amazing liquor stores in chicago. I’m a member of a Binny’s, a fantastic chain in Chicago. But Binny’s does not have New Glarus beer. Binny’s does not Cran-bic, new Belgian red, Fat Squirrel or Organic Revolution. these are, by far, the greatest beers I have ever tasted.

Black Friday

Black Friday means its a month to Christmas. Typically, this is the time of year where I get crankier. Before my parents died, it was a bit of a joke. Every family needs a grump, and I did so without being a total jackass. When my dad died, my mom, Tony and I put up a brave front. When my mom died, Tony and I tried a variety of ways to keep our spirits up, but for the past two years, I didn’t bother.

In short: Christmas sucks.

I can pretend that it is about the over-commercialization of Christmas, the pressure of buying gifts and my hatred of Christmas music (I really do hate Holiday Music). The fact of the matter is I miss my parents. As much as I miss them, I don’t being an as is really the best way to deal with missing them.

Instead of wallowing in grief, this year I’m really going to make an effort not to be a grump. Who knows, maybe we’ll even get a tree this year.