"It's not much but it's ours"

Wednesday, May 17, 2006



I have a saying.

Every now and again, just when you least expect it or deserve it, just for a brief moment, life stops kicking you in the ass.

Today was such a day.

I woke up about 4am with a hacking cough and gave up on any thoughts of going for a workout and lay in bed reading Entertainment Weekly until, showered and shaved I met up with our party at 7.30am for the early start to Palatine, the home of Weber-Stephens.

When we first started work with Weber, I knew they made grills but I had no idea what a loyal following they have all over the world. Just about every Aussie I know has one, South Africans too. In the US I think it is almost against the law to buy anything else. In Chicago, I think people get a Weber before they learn to walk. But, outside those obvious countries in places you would not expect, Weber has become so popular that it is almost a verb. We have sold the books in Spain, Germany, France, Finland, Norway, Holland, Sweden, Denmark and on and on.

You get the impression that when the people of Weber set their mind to doing something, they do it properly or not at all and so it proved with today’s trip.

They had organised our day with the help of their outside events team and our host met us at the lobby of The Ritz Carlton with a small mini bus for the long ( because of the reverse commute traffic ) journey to the manufacturing plant. I had some notion that this might be fun when, as we sat down, Peter, our host, explained that they had breakfast to offer us, a choice of about twenty asst pastries, two types of coffee, eight types of tea, juice and fresh fruit. Not a bad start.

On arrival at the factory, Peter proudly pointed out a small sorry looking item in the lobby. The very first Weber. Cut out of a harbour Buoy by George Stephens in the 1950’s when he was trying to come up with a new design for a grill. It did not mean as much to me as I don’t grill, but some of the party who are enthusiastic Weber-ites, cooed over it as if it were the Turin Shroud.

Then followed a route march through the ever so impressive factory which churns out, well I can’t tell you because I signed a confidentiality form, but it’s an awful lot. When you see the production line effort that goes into making all of these grills it really makes you appreciate them. Quite something.

Peter then offered us the chance of a little sightseeing. Who could refuse the chance to spend more time looking around this splendid city? So, we headed down to Millennium Park to see The Bean, a piece of public art that seems to have taken Chicago by storm. I think it is actually called Cloud Gate, but has in the way of all great public art been given a more used name because it resembles nothing more than a huge silver coffee bean. Very impressive.

Lunch was planned as a picnic by Buckingham Fountains and a rather lovely box lunch was set up for us to enjoy in the good weather. Ah, there’s the rub. Just as we sat down, the heavens opened and Chicago was subject to the unedifying sight of the great and the good ( and me ) of European publishing standing under a tree trying not to get soaked while eating turkey sandwiches. Ho hum

The weather did rather put a dampener on the rest of our plans which included the Chicago River Boat tour. Being brave little soldiers, we did carry on regardless and joined a few other unfortunates on the good ship Fort Deerborn which was being lashed with rain as the staff tried valiantly to haul a canvas over the top so we would not all drown. The other visitors were not quite as lucky as us as Peter, ever the perfect host, warmed our cockles with glasses of very decent Napa Sauvignon Blanc and managed to persuade the staff to let us take our glasses on board.

It almost made up for getting soaked to the skin during the first half of the ninety minute trip. Almost. And, of course, just as the boat docked again, the rain stopped and a thin strip of sunlight appeared as if the skies were flipping us the finger.

I can’t claim to have seen too many of the skyscrapers described from underneath the tarpaulin where we all hunkered. But, the commentary was good ( by a professor from the university ) and what we did see confirmed my thoughts that this truly is the great American city. I am not quite so convinced by one claim that AN Other building was the “ largest in the world, under 1000ft." Er??

Afterwards, the bus took us back to the hotel ( with the offer of a choice from about 30 types of freshly baked cookies just in case we were still hungry )for some free time before supper and was put at our disposal if we wanted lifts to go and do some shopping.

So, although the weather conspired against us, The Weber put up very strong resistance. I have rarely felt so pampered and, just for that brief moment, my backside feels less like the world has been taking an extra yard’s run up before kicking me in the posterior than usual.

A good day
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