Much of our time there was with Chris and Todd. Chris is one of Mark’s oldest friends from college, while Todd is his partner of nearly 25 years. They made us dinner twice and both dinners were amazing. The first dinner included a wonderful Latina couple, Nina & Sonia. The crazy part about it is that Nina is the data director for SEIU’s fast food organizing campaign, in which role she is a serious and regular VAN user. When, just a week or so before our visit, she learned that Chris’s friend had developed the VAN and was coming over, she said she had to join us. Turns out that she and Sonia were both great fun besides filling us in on all the benefits of using VAN for union organizing. (Note to any NGP VAN staff who might be reading this: Nina would love it if the MiniVAN worked better for union organizing…. 🙂 )
Beyond the dinners with Chris and Todd, we had time to visit with Lisa, another college friend of Mark’s. Lisa teaches Italian in the Chicago Public Schools and – to put it gently – filled us in on the challenges there under Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Sounds like a tough position.And we stopped by the Civis Analytics office in Greektown to see our old friend Ben Fuller. Over the years at VAN and then NGP VAN, we had a lot of great clients, some of whom became great friends beyond any client relationship. Ben was certainly that, having had key roles at both SEIU and the Obama campaign before joining Civis. It was great fun catching up, hearing how all the data work that we’ve done over the years is increasingly embedded in campaigns, recognized as a key part of an organizing campaign rather than just the geeks who are put in some back room and humored. Amusingly, when we first got to the office we ran into Civis’s CEO, whom we also know from campaign work, who introduced us to some guy he was going into a meeting with. You could tell the guy wasn’t interested in meeting us, and didn’t even tell me his name when I shook his hand and introduced myself. Turned out as we were leaving the office Ben observed that he was Eric Schmidt, head of Google and ranked by Forbes as the 138th richest person in the world. Guess I was just supposed to know who he was! Fun footnote that gives a sense of how … easy … our lives are. While waiting to meet with Ben in his Greektown office, Mark & I had lunch at a Greek restaurant. We were enjoying our meal when Mark said “Maybe we should spend July and August in Greece next year.” And just like that, because we had an hour to kill in Greektown, we’re planning a couple months in Greece and Turkey. So if you want to hang around the eastern Mediterranean with us next summer let us know.
Next stop, Washington D.C. for more friends, family, and colleagues.