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It’s beautiful up here. Beautiful and peaceful. In all my life, I’ve come to find that these moments are when I’m at my happiest. When it’s one of those cloudless days; when the entire country has a sky that’s unblemished and the jet stream is smooth. Where blue is the color and X is the number, since how many hours to go before you land just doesn’t matter. And it all starts with one of aviation’s most peculiar ironies: From 35,000 feet, the earth below looks heavenly, rather than the other way around. And it’s because I’m right where I want to be, sitting on the aisle in row 11 with my daughter in the seat next to me; my wife Kimberly in 11F; our other daughter sitting on Kimberly’s lap and giggling at her own faint reflection in the window.

There’s a point I want to make with this column, but the subject matter is too personal for me to just graze without a brief setup. So please bear with me as I take you on a journey down that proverbial second path in the woods, before we reach our emptying point and you reach your point of disembarkation.

I have this little pleasure that I like to indulge in this time of year. I’m trying to make it into a family tradition, but time’s reserve will be the Pitluk family tradition determiner.

My girls are growing up, you see, and I know that before too long, they won’t necessarily look forward to spending a long weekend with the family. That’s what I hear from many of the friends I meet in the sky when we engage in my other favorite little pleasure, which is swapping family stories when I’m up here and the fam’s back there. You’ve instructed me to cherish these moments — these times when my girls still think their daddy is stamped from pure steel and not the graying older man that time’s reserve is making him. It chokes me up to even think that such a day might come, yet you’ve informed me that I’m about to learn one of life’s lessons, and I am the consummate student. As a student, regardless of the many years of higher education I have under my belt, my greatest and most important education has occurred in the last two years from my friends in the sky. I not only believe this, I preach it as gospel: Don’t squander your sky hours with iPods or iPads or iAnything that might distract you from a golden opportunity.

That gentleman sitting next to you right now, you see, holds a Ph.D. in economics from Stanford. The lady on your right is a corporate lawyer with a wealth of trial stories as well as a life story that has more valleys than peaks, as is too often the case with corporate lawyers. Talk to her and you’ll see. The kid in the seat behind you is a Juilliard-trained classical violinist. That other kid, in front of you, can teach you survival skills in the South Bronx.

I love bringing my girls up to the troposphere every December because I’m teaching them a lesson right now. Or more accurate still, you’re teaching them a lesson. This is how you learn, my friends. Once you realize that someone close to you — perhaps next to you — is smarter than you in some regard, you have a perfect fixed opportunity to extract knowledge and then to pass it on. My girls, although of tender daddy-is-Superman years, are learning a lesson that no conventional school will teach them. And the fact that this lesson can be taught in my favorite setting, at my favorite altitude, from my favorite lecture hall, with my favorite professors and en route to my favorite university is akin to getting a prime spot in a popular class on your college campus, taught by that professor who lives on TV and whom everyone wants.

This is the best time of the year to expand your knowledge, and for all the right reasons. The prospect of turning the dial over one more time and wiping the slate is exhilarating. As is the place where I’m bringing my family right now — the world’s premier destination for forward thinking and object lessons.

New York City around the holidays is, bar none, the most magical place on the planet. The sky’s a romantic blue-gray, which accents the warm glow of the yellow streetlights and the decorated storefronts. Blankets of snow make Central Park look celestial, and the folks strolling the avenues in their trendy winter fashions make winter’s cold look cool. This is all a part of my daughters’ — and my own — education. New York City in the winter is an intellectual and cultural experience unlike any other they’ll receive in school: in any school, anywhere in the world. And I know this for a fact; I’ve been around.

If there’s one person in this city of more than eight million that knows the point I’m trying to make better than anyone, it’s Donald Trump. In the 1970s, he was becoming a household name in New York business circles. In the 1980s and ’90s, he crossed over into the financial and architectural realms with Trump Tower. And in the new millennium, he’s become a worldwide pop-cultural icon because of his prime-time The Apprentice, in which he managed to make the phrase “You’re fired!” entertaining. That’s why I approached him to write our cover story (which you’ll find on page 28), an unprecedented move in American Way history. The way I see it: When The Don is at the lectern, we can all stand to learn a thing or two; he’s been around.

Perhaps the only sight prettier than New York City in the winter is New York City in the winter by air. A fresh snowfall takes the anxiety of encountering all that concrete and steel out of the Big Apple. I lived in NYC for years and developed my own favorite neighborhoods and special niches, but on this trip, I’m letting The Don plan my family’s itinerary. My daughters and I will all be smarter for it.

Welcome to beautiful, peaceful New York. Your professor will be here in a minute. School is in session.

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Adam Pitluk
Editor