Loring Knoblauch '64 sent his 2008 year-end letter to our Class Secretary
During the course of the year, I pass along a lot of miscellaneous items, from jokes, to pictures, to trivia, to articles, a whole potpourri of miscellaneous "stuff" of varying value. I love the worldwide nature of the internet and am delighted I can keep it touch with so many old friends from all over the world. But, I do feel once a year I ought to take the time to write all of you a "real" letter providing you a little update on what I and my family have been up to. I know that some of you like a "Christmas Letter" and others couldn't possibly care less about getting one (and indeed are bored to death with the minutia of other people's lives. It is even worse with me. As a recovering lawyer I can never say in three words when I can use 30. So, if you like "Christmas Letters," read on or print this out for bathroom reading. If not, exercise your constitutionally protected right to delete and move on without whining.
In general, 2008 was a better year for the Knoblauch's than some, not as good as others. We traveled a bit less than usual (due, at least in part, to the economy). We spent a weekend celebrating the 60th birthday of a great old friend from Seattle at the Greenbriar Hotel and then a week with our grandchildren at the Hillsboro Club in Florida. Some friends of ours (Ricardo and Laura Rosencranz who live in our building here in Chicago) invited us to attend their son's Bar Mitzvah in Mexico City. It turned out to be the Bar Mitzvah to end all Bar Mitzvahs (even for a couple of lapsed Episcopals), spread over three action-packed days, with Theodore Bikel flying in to be the cantor. Dinner one night at La Hacienda de los Morales (one of Mexico's greatest restaurants), a boat cruise on Xochimilco, and dinner one night with two great friends from my Hubbell days, Eduardo Morfin and Lupita Horcasitas. From there we flew over to the Four Seasons Punta Mita (near Puerto Vallarta). Mexico is such a wonderful country!
In April we took a long anticipated European trip, starting in Paris (which we have come to love), then a barge trip with Tauck Tours which began in Brussels, cruised the waterways of Belgium and the Netherlands, through Bruges and the Zeider Zee to Amsterdam. We particularly enjoyed the famous Keukenhof Gardens (purportedly 6 million bulbs in bloom) and the famous flower auction at Aalsmeer. We finished up in London where we saw "MouseTrap" (By Agatha Christie, in its 50th year, the longest run of any play ever) and "King Lear" at the new Globe Theater (we froze our butts off as it was April and we didn't know it was "al fresco").
I did a four-day fishing trip with a great old friend, Bill Blake, at the New Moon Lodge on Lake of the Woods in Ontario. We caught a ton of fish (I tried unsuccessfully not to embarrass him with my superior fishing skills), played a lot of Gin Rummy, Backgammon, Cribbage, and Rat F., where I fared somewhat less well. God's country, still plenty of fish, and almost nothing better than going fishing with a great old friend.
An interesting year of Duplicate Bridge for me. Last year (2007) I finally made Life Master. This year I moved up to the next rung in the hierarchy, Bronze Life Master. (After you make Life Master no one but a Duplicate nut cares in the slightest about the subsequent levels.) I am playing, on average, three days a week (with three steady partners and three or four more on an ad hoc basis) and played in three big regional tournaments, one in Omaha (where we played against and beat Warren Buffet and his world class pro partner) , one in Fargo, and one in Minneapolis. These regional tournaments are reasonably intense, with at least 12 hours of bridge a day for six straight days. I did not play in the Nationals this year, but am planning to play in the 2009 Nationals in July in Washington D.C. and will do a couple of regional tournaments as well (Gatlinburg, Tennessee and the Gopher Regional in Minneapolis). I have reconnected with a couple of old friends, Rick Olson from Hong Kong and John Crouch from Minneapolis who are equally passionate about bridge and who make terrific big tournament partners. It is a game you never master, but hopefully I can continue to improve before age makes me dingy!
Chicago remains a fascinating city, with so much to do. I am spending a lot of time on the Ravinia Music Festival Board (Ravinia is similar to Tanglewood in Massachusetts and provides 110 consecutive nights of music in a beautiful sylvan setting in the summer). I have gone on the Board of our Condominium Association (against my better judgment) as we are undergoing a massive, $5 million façade replacement project on our historic, vintage building, and I felt it was dangerous not to be a part of it.
I still spend a lot of time with the Chicago Council on Global Affairs (I attend probably 30 lectures/dinners a year with outstanding people from all over the world). I am an Opera subscriber (Carol who loves the symphony, dance, art, etc. has little interest in opera) and we go fairly often to the Chicago Symphony. Theater in Chicago is also very good and we have been unusually lucky this year. By the end of 2008 we will have seen at least 50 movies (we both, obviously love movies). Strong recommendations for 2008 are "In Bruges", "The Counterfeiters", "The Other Boleyn Girl", "Iron Man", "When the Rains Came", "Roman de Gare", "Mongols", "Appaloosa", "Changeling", "Slumdog Millionaire", and "Boy in Striped Pajamas" with the best time of the year still ahead of us.
I still work out with my personal trainer twice a week, do aerobic exercise at the gym twice a week, walk at least 30 minutes every day and have lost 20 pounds since last year. Arthroscopic knee surgery and a chronic bicep problem have kept me from playing paddle tennis this year (so far) and have limited my golf. My handicap remains in the 12 to 15 range, but golf has been, for the last 20 years, only 8 to 10 rounds a year and entirely an excuse to get out with friends.
Chicago politics is a constantly changing landscape. To our delight, Barack Obama managed to not only win the election, but win convincingly. For me, it was my first time voting for a Democratic Presidential candidate since I started voting in 1964, but it was the single vote I was most proud of. For the first time in years I have hope, both domestically and internationally. I have been telling people that I started microscopically to the right of center, but have been moving left slowly all my life. But, one friend did convince me it hasn't so much been my moving left as the Republican Party's moving right. Our Illinois Governor (Rod Blagojevich) has been indicted, with 72 pages of corruption counts, including his most recent effort to "sell" Barack Obama's vacated Senate seat. This makes him the fifth of the last eight Illinois Governors to be indicted for corruption. This has surprised no one in Chicago where corruption has been a way of life for 100 years, but I was surprised to find in a recent survey that North Dakota leads the nation in corruption, followed by Louisiana, and Alaska. Illinois is 18th. (But in fairness, the survey is on a per capita basis, dividing the number of corrupt officials jailed by the state's population). My cousin Jack Dalrymple, who is the Lieutenant Governor of North Dakota, may wish to have equal time for a rebuttal.
I am still actively involved with Yale University, an institution I have loved all my life and appreciate more and more every year. I am doing recruiting and interviewing for the Alumni Schools Committee and organizing periodic lunches for our class of 1964 which have proved a real delight. I am surprised, after 45 years how much we have in common and how much every single one of us seems to care about "giving back".
This has been a mixed health year for Carol and me. I continue to be 100% cancer free four years after my prostate cancer surgery at Mayo, my cholesterol is 156, and I seem to be reasonably healthy for a 67 year old. Carol has had, on the other hand, a frustrating health year as she struggles with a complex and frustrating set of issues and problems with her digestive tract. The good news is that it is not life-threatening; the bad news is that it has dragged on for most of the year and saps her energy and ability to do all that she would like to do.
Our son, Loring, is living in Bedford, New York with his wife Diana and two perfect children/grandchildren, Henry age 9 and Katje age 6. Henry, who is Mr. Cool these days, is all boy with a passion for sports (Giants and the Yankees), bionicals, Star Wars and fishing. He is the world's second worst eater (next to his father). Katje, on the other hand, is 100% female and loves pink, clothes, fairies of all kinds, American Girl, and despite her slim frame, is a passionate eater. After nine years, Loring and his wife decided they wanted to raise their kids in the East (as opposed to California often politically incorrectly described as the land of fruits and nuts). Whether Loring decides to continue with his own venture capital firm (Nanoscale Capital) or join an existing VC firm remains to be seen, but fortunately he has done well enough so he can take his time and decide at his leisure. We enjoy having them so close to New York City (which we love), but wish we had a chance to see a bit more of them than we do.
I like to finish my letters with a few thoughts I think might provoke rejoinders/comments and a few of my "favorites" which I hope will also encourage exchange.
- There is nothing innately perfect about our political system
(arguably it worked better when we were a smaller country and individual
voters were closer to the issues). It is the people we elect who make
the difference. Good people have a way of surfacing when we most need
them. Despite all the many and difficult issues which face us in the US,
I am more optimistic and hopeful than I have been for many years.
- Our current "troubles" are, I think, entirely self-inflicted with
greed at the core of many of the problems. We must now live through an
extended "correction" which will, I think, in the end, bring the system
back into balance. I suspect the bottom is still at least a year away
and that we will have pain to endure for several years. Sadly, our
troubles have inflicted and will inflict pain on a lot of innocent
people around the world. And, even sadder, we seem to have no collective
memory and will no doubt repeat the same mistakes ten years from now.
- Debt is a very different thing for countries than for individuals. It
is a good thing when other countries are willing to lend you money at
low rates of interest so long as you invest the money to grow and expand
your economy. While our debt is large in gross dollars, as a percent of
GNP it is lower than it has been at other critical junctures in our
history and, is, I think, supportable. So long as people find our paper
a safer investment than their alternatives, and they continue to have
confidence in our dollar, all will be well. Fortunately neither the Euro
nor the Renmembi are really safe harbors. I think our debt is, by and
large, more a perceptual problem than a real one. That is lucky, as we
will need to spend a lot of money we don't have to get our economy back
- While I know there is agreement on both sides of the aisle that
Afghanistan is a place we need more focus and more troops, I am not so
sure. Yes, there was a time when we could have declared victory in
Afghanistan, but we took our eye off the ball and the situation today
has changed drastically and is very, very serious. I am not sure there
is a winning strategy for us in Afghanistan. As the Soviets can attest,
the tribal areas are ideal places from which to fight a guerrilla war.
We went into Iraq without a plan to get out. I hope we don't go into
Afghanistan without either a plan to win or a plan to get out. Yes, it
is home to the world's worst terrorists and yes our cowboy mentality
would like to stick it to ‘em. Yes, we could have wiped them out had we
kept our eye on the ball. But, then is then and now is now.
- I am delighted with the start Barack Obama is getting off to. He has
appointed some terrific people who people on both sides of the aisle
admire and respect. More importantly, he has, as I always hoped and
expected he would, moved toward the center, not toward the left. While I
am not sure Hillary will be an ideal Secretary of State, he has removed
the person most likely to be the nucleus of dissent within his own party
in Congress. Very Lincolnesque!
- Anyone foolish enough to continue to root for, believe in, and
support the Chicago Cubs is, by definition, certifiable with an
unconscious death wish. The Cubs have gone 100 years now without
returning to the World Series and I worry that it will be another 100
years unless they learn to focus on winning instead of worrying about
losing. But, after long and serious consultation with my personal
trainer (the world's most avid Cubs fan who gave me a Cubs sweatshirt
for Christmas), I have decided to sign on with the Cubs for yet another
- My Favorite cities to visit:
- Hong Kong
- Buenos Aires
- New York
- St. Petersburg
- Ise (Japan)
- New Orleans
When you can stand back and remember fondly visiting all of these great cities, it does tell you you have lived an interesting and full life!
8. Resorts we have loved:
- Four Seasons, Big Island of Hawaii, Hawaii
- Bora Bora Hotel, Bora Bora
- Four Seasons, Punta Mita Mexico
- Palmilla, Baja, California
- Post Ranch Inn, Big Sur, California
- Oberoi Hotel, Bali, Indonesia
- Greenbriar, West Virginia
- Boulders, Arizona
- Amanpuri, Thailand
- Jasper Park Lodge, Alberta, Canada
- Lizard Island, Great Barrier Reef Australia
- Blackberry Farm, Tennessee
- Mona Lani Resort, Island of Maui, Hawaii
- Lodge at Koehle Bay, Island of Lanai, Hawaii
9. City hotels we have loved:
- Peninsula Hotel, Hong Kong
- Oriental Hotel, Bangkok
- Amstel Hotel, Amsterdam
- Okura Hotel, Tokyo
- Peninsula Hotel, Chicago
- La Mamounia Hotel, Marrakech, Morocco
- Raffles Hotel, Singapore
- Rafael Hotel, Paris
- Lutetia Hotel, Latin Quarter, Paris
So, let me finish by wishing you (from both Carol and me):
- A very Merry Christmas!
- A Happy and Prosperous 2009!
- A Happy Chanukah!
- Seasons Greetings (a catch all for any religions I may have missed)!
- And a Happy Chinese New Year! I am told that the Yi Chou (Year of the Ox) will be an uncommonly lucky and fortuitous one, but "success will escape without a sustained and mindful effort. It is not the time for unruly behavior or short cuts"!
Loring W. Knoblauch
1200 N. Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, Illinois 60610-3230