New York, Briefly

LincolnCenter

Lincoln Center

I got to sleep in my own bed for two nights! Two! Up and out the door on Thursday morning, riding into the city with Robin and Linda, then onto the Metro to Union Station and Amtrak to New York. I would have preferred to stay home, but had committed months earlier to speak to a group of international business students from Tec de Monterrey, the Mexican engineering and business school that I’ve been visiting in recent years. They were in New York for a field trip, meeting with execs, touring Wall Street, and, I’m sure, having some fun, too.

We arrived a couple of minutes early, and I ambled up and over to the subway, riding north a few stops to Columbus Circle, where I met Pete Pappas, an old pal from American Airlines. Pete and his wife Ivy live right on Central Park South, an awesome location. Met Pete in their lobby and we swooped a couple of blocks south and west for lunch at what Pete described as “a Greek diner.” It was, though one of the posher versions. We weren’t there for the food, but for the super conversation. He’s a swell guy, and we covered a lot of topics over omelettes and potatoes.

At 2:30, I hopped back on the subway, south to the students’ hotel on W. 39th. Checked in, put on a necktie, and some of the group headed north to the site of my preso, Columbia Business School. I led them astray by getting on the wrong uptown train, oops, so we had an interesting walk through Morningside Heights to the campus. Some of the rest of the group joined us, and I delivered the basic leadership talk to a very bright and engaged audience. Afterward, I mentioned to the group that it was Holy Week and I was headed to Protestant services at 7:00 (I found Holy Trinity Lutheran Church on line, 65th and Central Park West). Martín said “I am Protestant,” and I replied that he was very welcome to join me, so after a quick walk around the Columbia campus he and I rode the subway south to Lincoln Center, ambled around the performance halls a bit, then headed east to the church, which was a splendid and medium-sized, in the Gothic Revival style.

Mosaic, 66th Street/Lincoln Center Subway Station

Mosaic, 66th Street/Lincoln Center Subway Station

Martín had no trouble tracking the (to me familiar) Lutheran liturgy. I explained before the service began that Lutherans have strong musical and choral traditions, and he nodded. When the opening hymn began, he sang well and with great gusto. It made me smile. One thinks of New York as a place of speed and dispatch, but the Maundy Thursday worship at Holy Trinity was anything but – 90 minutes of wonderful prayer and ritual (laying on of hands, feet washing, the works). A wonderful experience. We walked south to Columbus Circle and onto the subway. At the hotel I changed clothes and agreed to head out to dinner with the youngsters, but changed my mind, opting instead for takeout from a wok place a block from the hotel. Ate my udon noodles and spicy tofu in my pajamas and was asleep in no time.

I was still not all the way back on Eastern Time, and woke up at 5:30. Did a bit of work, read the paper on line, and trundled down to the free breakfast, served in the basement. Though I was grateful that the student group paid for my room, the hotel was a bit spartan (especially compared to my swell suite in Doha), and the breakfast room reminded me of a submarine. High point was a nice T-t-S exchange with a fellow from Manchester, England, over with his son – the trip was a birthday present. Nice yak.

I had long wanted to walk the High Line, a 1.1-mile-long linear park built on an abandoned spur line of the New York Central, so off I went. It was a great experience, lovely design, varied plants and trees, public art, really cool (though I had some concern with the durability of some materials used, which after five years were already well worn; I do wonder about some designers’ sense of the practical). Daffodils were blooming, red tulips starting to poke out of the ground. At Gansevoort Street, I turned around and headed back.

On the High Line

On the High Line

Lively public art adjacent to the High Line (commissioned by a developer)

Lively public art adjacent to the High Line (commissioned by a developer)

More evidence of art as gimmick or stunt; this oeuvre, composed of concrete, fur, and pigment, is modestly titled "Realism Triumphantly Marching into the City."  Really?

More evidence of art as gimmick or stunt; this oeuvre, composed of concrete, fur, and pigment, is modestly titled “Realism Triumphantly Marching into the City.” Really?

This scene perfectly captures the makeover of the west side, tall condos and apartments replacing the 19th century low-rise landscape.

This scene perfectly captures the makeover of the west side, tall condos and apartments replacing the 19th century low-rise landscape.

New York's "in your face" ethos is not always good, but I did like this billboard!

New York’s “in your face” ethos is not always good, but I did like this billboard!

In your face, part two: truck driver yelling at police officer; I just don't think it's wise to do that.

In your face, part two: truck driver yelling at police officer; I just don’t think it’s wise to do that.

Checked out of the hotel at 11 and hopped a train downtown, to West Fourth Street, Greenwich Village. Although there’s a lot about New York that I appreciate, on balance I don’t like the place, and have never hidden my disregard for the noise, disorder, and especially incivility. On the way down, two crankiness-inducing examples of the latter. First, on the train, no one offered a seat to a man on crutches. When he finally sat down at 14th Street, I said I was disappointed that no one had shown him any empathy.  “It’s okay,” he shrugged.  I replied, “No it’s not, man, it’s wrong, it’s just wrong.”  I was happy that several fellow passengers nodded in agreement.   Second, walking out of the station I walk past a woman loudly throwing F-bombs into her mobile phone. New York is the In-public Potty Mouth Capital of the World. That’s not a good place to be. Grrrrrrrr.

Window shopping at Esposito's Pork Shop

Window shopping at Esposito’s Pork Shop

The lower density and vibe of Greenwich Village brightened my demeanor considerably. It’s an interesting neighborhood. I sat for awhile on a park bench on Sixth Avenue, then headed east on Bleecker Street, then north along the edge of the NYU campus to Washington Square, which was buzzing with locals and tourists. The dog run was hopping, chess games were in full force, and an innovative kids’ playground surfaced with artificial grass was full of laughing tots. Lots of energy in that place. Walked west and south to Carmine Street and plopped down in Father Demo Square. A lovely Catholic church, Our Lady of Pompeii, was just down the street, and I wondered if the two were connected. With a smartphone linked to the Internet all questions can be answered, and in no time I learned that the good padre was pastor for many years in what was the center of one of the largest Italian neighborhoods in the U.S., had been a prominent advocate for the rights of Italians, and played a role in ministering to survivors of the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist fire, one of the worst factory disasters in the U.S.

Washington Square playground

Washington Square playground

Washington Square

Washington Square

Washington Square street food

Washington Square street food

At 12:30, my friend-since-1960, Tim Holmes, emerged from 11 Carmine Street and we headed down the street to a colossal lunch at an Asian noodle house. Food was good, but conversation was better. Since he was a youngster Tim has had a special and incisive perspective on society and economy. We got caught up – I last saw him in 2010 – and after lunch he fetched his big dog Devin and we ambled north to Penn Station, yakking all the way (and pausing a couple of times for strangers to pet the hound, who is striking, with dark brown fur). Said goodbye, and I hopped on the 3:05 train, home to D.C. I don’t like the place, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have fun and interesting times when I visit.

Father Demo Square

Father Demo Square

Tim and Devin

Tim and Devin

 

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April Overseas 2: Qatar

The stunning Museum of Islamic Art, Doha, Qatar

The stunning Museum of Islamic Art, Doha, Qatar

 

From Stockholm, I would normally have flown west, toward home, but instead headed to a short consulting assignment, boarding a brand-new Qatar Airways 787 bound for Doha and my first visit to the Gulf – indeed to any part of the world between India and Turkey. This was a new kind of client (can’t say too much), and the contract provided for business-class travel on trips longer than six hours. Woo hoo! It was a fancy ride, with a good meal, and a good movie, “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.” We landed Doha at sunset.

Qatar Airways 787

Qatar Airways 787

A long queue for immigration, and I missed the hourly shuttle to the nearby Crowne Plaza, so I hopped in a taxi. The driver was multitasking cleverly: driving me and praying, the Qur’an being chanted on the radio. Not sure if it was blasphemy or not, but I diverted him with some questions: almost no one working in service or construction is Qatari (less than 15% of the population of 2 million are from there), so I was sure he was from somewhere else. An Egyptian, with a wife and kids 15 and 4 back home. They Skype every day, “but,” he said, “it’s not the same as holding them.” When I checked in, I was delighted to learn that my loyalty to IHG Hotels was paying off: I had become “Gold,” and that got me upgraded to a suite. Wowie! It was posh, especially after the dorm-like OK. Unpacked, and immediately headed to the gym to pound out some miles. The USBE bike was great for urban transportation, but you couldn’t really get aerobic. By the time I cooled down, it was nearly ten and I decided on sleep. Ah, finally my favored combination of a firm mattress and a very soft feather pillow. I was deep in dreamland all night.

Was up early Sunday morning. It was the start of the Muslim workweek, so locals were headed to work and school. The hotel restaurants were pricey, and even though I was on expense account, I went foraging for breakfast in a mixed neighborhood of modest apartments, newer flashy buildings, and some small construction-supply stores. Greeted the workingmen with “Salaam” (Peace). Spotted a totally local cafe, but I was self-conscious about using my (to the locals) unclean left hand – the one I learned to favor as a kid, hard to change six decades later – so at the tiny Al Faheem Grocery I bought a pint of Saudi milk, two sweet rolls and a banana (equivalent of $1.84) and headed home to practice eating with my right hand.

Journalists often use the term "Arab Street" to mean what ordinary people are thinking and feeling; on my way to get breakfast I walked right down that road!

Journalists often use the term “Arab Street” to mean what ordinary people are thinking and feeling; on my way to get breakfast I walked right down that road!

On the way to the souk, I walked down Bank Street, the country's financial center

On the way to the souk, I walked down Bank Street, the country’s financial center

A green oasis in the middle of the city

A green oasis in the middle of the city

Surprise

Fortified, I headed out into bright sunshine and a temp already in the mid-80s. First stop was the Souk Waqif, a traditional bazaar. I love markets, and this was my first visit to one in the Islamic world. I was surprised and happy that that there were no hustlers preying on visitors. It attracted visitors but mostly quite a few customers, ordinary people: older women buying spices, a fellow getting measured for a thawb (the traditional men’s white dress), a young guy buying wire mesh. Porters in red vests used garden-like wheelbarrows to tote customer purchases to the parking lot or taxis. The souk was partially arranged by type of goods, and I soon was in the pet area, surrounded by cages of songbirds, lizards, turtles, rabbits. Many looked underfed and poorly cared for, depressing (clearly, there’s no Doha chapter of PETA). I drank a can of soda and pressed on.  Some scenes from the souk:

SoukStreet

SoukStall

SoukRelax

Goods-Triptych-2

Goods-Triptych-1

This is a traditional place, judging from clothing: lots of men in thawbs or the pajama-like dress. Almost every woman was in a burqa and headscarf (hijab), a few of which had the veil that covered all but the eyes.

An Indian construction worker with fresh chapatis for lunch

An Indian construction worker with fresh chapatis for lunch

Rounding the corner at the northwest edge of the souk, shimmering in the distance was the new Doha skyline. The contrast with a traditional bazaar could not have been more startling. I crossed a busy street and walked east along the Corniche, a bayfront promenade, past the harbor full of traditional boats called dhows, to the spectacular Museum of Islamic Art, designed by I.M. Pei.

The dhow harbor with the downtown skyline in the distance

The dhow harbor with the downtown skyline in the distance

A "fish" of trash

A “fish” of trash

Looking up from the museum lobby

Looking up from the museum lobby

I needed a jolt of coffee, and sat down in a very comfortable lobby café with a superb view of that bay and skyline. First stop was a temporary exhibit, “Kings and Pawns: Board Games from India to Spain.” Superb museum interpretation of “war games” (chess) and “race games” (parcheesi, backgammon, and snakes and ladders). Turns out the latter originated as a fun way to teach children moral principles. Who knew? Then it was time to see the permanent collection, which was eye-popping. The key difference was that art meant not painting and sculpture (though there was some of that), but mostly what the West calls decorative arts: dishware, jewelry, architectural detail, illustrated manuscripts, weapons, and more. I swept through galleries on two floors, then started again, to re-admire some of the stuff that really caught my eye:

Qur'an page, India, ca. 1500

Qur’an page, India, ca. 1500

Armor, Turkey, late 15th C.

Armor, Turkey, late 15th C.

Huqqa base, India, ca. 1700

Huqqa base, India, ca. 1700

Silk tapestry, Iran, ca. 1575

Silk tapestry, Iran, ca. 1575

 

Tile, Iran, 17th C.

Tile, Iran, 17th C.

Earring, Egypt, 12th C.

Earring, Egypt, 12th C.

Earthenware jar, northern Iraq, 13th C.

Earthenware jar, northern Iraq, 13th C.

Syrian door knocker, early 13th C.

Syrian door knocker, early 13th C.

War mask, Iran, 15th C.

War mask, Iran, 15th C.

Star tiles, Iran, 13th C.

Star tiles, Iran, 13th C.

Astrolabe, Spain, 1304

Astrolabe, Spain, 1304

Treatise on Mechanical Devices, Egypt, ca. 1275

Treatise on Mechanical Devices, Egypt, ca. 1275

The lobby café was pricey, but I was hungry, so I paused for a plate of chicken biryani, then hopped into a cab. I slapped my forehead as I headed back to the hotel: forgot that I needed to make some photocopies for the meeting the next day. With a bit of resourcefulness, I found a Kinko’s-like place two miles away; the hotel concierge who called to ensure they were open then offered a 50% discount on the hotel’s normal rate, which made it a likely wash (cheaper copies, but two taxi fares). Ya gotta admire enterprise!

Residential area near my hotel; vacant land was awaiting redevelopment

Residential area near my hotel; vacant land was awaiting redevelopment

Grabbed a nap and 15 miles on a fitness bike. At six I headed to the bar; was glad I had a frequent-stayer chit for a free drink. At least in that Muslim land they discourage the tippler: a beer cost more than in Sweden, the equivalent of $11. I confess that I felt a bit immoral, especially when the only other people in the bar were drinking water, juice or tea. After a cold one (and jotting notes for this journal on my iPhone), it was pedal to the metal with a young and chatty Egyptian taxi driver. He got a bit distracted and missed the turn, requiring a long detour around a huge construction site, Msheireb Downtown.

Happily, he dropped me right on time for my dinner booking at Khazana, owned Sanjeev Kapoor, an Indian celebrity chef (I love Indian food, but don’t track the TV cook-stars). I was almost the only one in the place, and enjoyed a nice T-t-S with the manager, who was from Chennai. It was pricey, but delicious, with huge portions. The waiter kindly offered to package it up “for takeaway, sah.” I was surprised and pleased, and told him I hated to waste food. I reckoned it could be lunch after our meeting the next day.

Because of construction, Khazana was in a sort of no-man’s land (part of the reason for its emptiness), so I walked diagonally across the Souk Waqif to a busy street and a taxi home. At nine on a Monday the souk was buzzing with life. Found myself on “falcon alley,” a string of five or six shops selling falcons and everything you needed to handle them. That was way local.

After flagging a cab on Banks Street (apparently named for the finance houses that line both sides for about three blocks), I asked the young Sri Lankan taxi driver if he wanted dinner, and happily parted with my leftovers. Asleep soon, a long and fascinating day.

Up just after dawn Monday, back to the Al Rasheem Grocery for breakfast stuff, then suited up. At 9:30 I met Rabih, a friendly Lebanese fellow from the organization that was subcontracting my services, and hopped in a taxi to the client offices. There we met his colleague Shikha, and we spent a couple of hours presenting. All went well, and there may be more work there, which would be good.

It was almost two, and I was hungry. On the taxi ride back to the hotel I spotted a couple of simple, local eateries a couple of blocks away, so after changing clothes I headed over, settling into the Jawahar Restaurant. Lots of stares, returned with smiles. Most of the diners appeared to be Indian, all tucking, with great gusto, into a big aluminum plate of rice with three stews, and with their (right) hands – no forks, no spoons. “When in Rome,” thought I, and in no time I was digging in, though with a spoon in my right hand. It really wasn’t so hard to be ambidextrous, and I chuckled when I thought about the last time local convention dictated a new hand-to-mouth skill: Osaka, Japan, November 1993, when I either learned to use chopsticks or go hungry! A friendly fellow brought seconds, ladled with a smile. What a place! I was chuckling to myself about going totally local in the Jawahar. I’m glad I’m still the adventurous traveler I was 40 years earlier. Smiled again at the front of the place, when the manager punched “9.00″ on his calculator – $2.84 for the big meal and a can of 7-Up.

Scenes from my local lunch!

Scenes from my local lunch!

Ambled back to the hotel, did a bit of work, and hopped in a cab around the bay to the downtown area. Walked for a mile or so, then hopped on a free shuttle bus to cool off and see a bit more – like a Grey Line tour without the narration, and the cost! Jumped off at one of the several flashy malls that cab drivers extolled (and I politely replied, each time, that I wasn’t a shopper). This one had an ice rink. A little of modern commerce was enough, so walked to the basement of the mall and hopped in a cab with a Kenyan driver, a happy fellow with a good smile. His English was the best thus far, and I learned a lot about him. He was of the Mijikenda coastal people, from Mombasa. He had been in Qatar for three months, after two years next door in Saudi Arabia. Qatar, he said, was freer, but more expensive – running a red light costs you the equivalent of $1650 here, a huge chunk or yearly income. He said he could tell where in Africa men were from, by the way they walked: “See, there’s a Nigerian guy.” About halfway home he volunteered that his wife gave birth to their second child, Mohammed, yesterday. Maybe it was a scam, but even if it was I felt good handing him a tip that doubled the cost of the ride.

Downtown from the bayside Corniche

Downtown from the bayside Corniche

Construction sites create a sort of no-man's land downtown

Construction sites create a sort of no-man’s land downtown

Dueling styles: lots of non-rectangular glass and steel skyscrapers, and stone buildings that borrow traditional design idioms

Dueling styles: lots of non-rectangular glass and steel skyscrapers, and stone buildings that borrow traditional design idioms

Taxi drivers all recommended a visit to one of the many shopping malls; I managed five minutes in this one, with ice rink

Taxi drivers all recommended a visit to one of the many shopping malls; I managed five minutes in this one, with ice rink

My Kenyan driver, a lively and happy fellow

My Kenyan driver, a lively and happy fellow

Headed to the gym for a brief ride, then back to the bar for a free beer (on the second chit), then out for dinner. Like the night before, the young Nepali driver did not use the meter. Because I had lots of riyals and was leaving in 12 hours I didn’t ask the price as we left the hotel. When we got to the souk, I asked the price. He smiled and replied, “You decide, sir.” So I did. I headed back to the lively souk, to the restaurant area, where lots of people were sitting outside, many happily puffing on water pipes (shisha). Not my cup of tea. Spotted a Malaysian restaurant, and sat down outdoors for plates of chicken satay and spicy noodles. Back home, and fast asleep.

Was up at 5:30 Tuesday morning, over to the airport. I growled to myself in the Qatar Airways premium terminal, at people – largely fellow Americans, I’m sure – who were dressed like they were headed out to sweep their garage (not that many of them would ever do that). This lack of grace was especially visible in a conservative place like Qatar. A little adult supervision warranted.

One last T-t-S of the trip, with a very friendly young fellow, Dave, a health and safety consultant on oil rigs. Originally from Liverpool, he was living in Perth, Australia, and was enroute to a rig in the Libyan desert. Clearly a fearless soul. We covered a lot of topics in a short period, and it was a pleasure to yak with him. Before parting, we agreed that Talking to Strangers was a great thing while traveling, and I promised to send him my soon-to-be-published story on the topic. He agreed to email some photos of his Libyan gig. What fun those 20 minutes were!

Climbed on a long (13.8 hours, time for four movies), pleasant flight nonstop to Washington . We were late, and I did not walk in the front door until 6:30. The terriers were ready for a walk!

Postscript: I’m still unhappy with how WordPress software blurs the photos — every one of these was crisp before uploading.  Rather than delaying the post, I dispatch these with apologies.

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April Overseas 1: Sweden

I was home for a little more than a day – my own bed felt good, especially with Henry and MacKenzie snuggled on top – and at 5:15 the next day I took off on SAS for Copenhagen. The flight was way full, but I had a real ticket, and got a great exit-row seat with both legroom and a sense of space (the plane was an Airbus A340, a good-sized bird). The flight was fast, as were the connections in CPH and Stockholm, and I was in Umeå for the 18th time by 12:45, a day before I’d begin a week’s residence at the Umeå School of Business and Economics. My first visit was in 1994, so this was the 20th anniversary – USBE was the first overseas business school I visited. (April also marks the 25th anniversary of B-school guest lecturing, back to a first visit to Mac Noden’s airline management class at Cornell; indeed, I met my original USBE host, Kerstin Nilsson, when we were both visiting Ithaca.)

A foggy morning at Copenhagen Airport

A foggy morning at Copenhagen Airport

A first vignette of green Sweden: the bus from Arlanda to downtown Stockholm runs on canola oil

A first vignette of green Sweden: the bus from Arlanda to downtown Stockholm runs on canola oil

I had been in residence once before, for two weeks in 2009, and school policy for longer stays is a simpler but perfectly comfortable OK Hotell. It’s truly just that, okay but not fancy. Checked in, unpacked, took a needed shower, grabbed a sandwich at the convenience store next door, then took off on “my” bike – one of the great USBE traditions is provision of a two-wheeler, which is the way most of the town, young and old alike, get around. The tires needed air, and, happily, the hotel clerk had a hand pump that was a bit balky but managed to add a bit of pressure front and rear. And I was off!

For almost the whole two decades that I’ve visited, the splendid, wooded island of Bölesholmarna, in the Umeå River just upstream from the center, has been a magnet, so I headed there first. From the SAS flight 90 minutes earlier, I could see there was still snow and ice here and there, and the island had both of those as well as a lot of mud. Tough sledding, to mix sports! So I only made one circuit (1.5 miles), and headed back onto pavement. The bottoms of both pant legs were spattered with mud (happily, after it dried it simply brushed away, always good on your first day away with limited clothing!).

Rode west to Backen, past the wonderful old church, and north the Sculpture Park, about 50 works outdoors. We had visited in autumn 2008, on a spectacular fall day. It was gloomy, but I saw some cool stuff, and some “this is art?” stuff, too. Rode back to town, weaved around a bit, then back to the hotel. Grabbed a 20-minute nap, brought this journal up to date, read a bit, and at 5:45 got back on the bike to find dinner. Lots of stuff is closed on Sundays in Sweden, but the Bishops Arms, an attempt to reproduce an English pub, was open and pouring some nice ale from small Swedish breweries. Enjoyed some with a grilled salmon dinner. Slept hard.

Three sculptures from the roughly 50 in the Umeå sculpture park; I'm still wondering about that last one . . .

Three sculptures from the roughly 50 in the Umeå sculpture park; I’m still wondering about that last one . . .

Up early Monday morning, up the hill to the university. I didn’t have much to do on the first day, but it was fun to say Hej! (hello) to lots of old friends. Left campus at the end of the day, changed into bike shorts and tights (the saddle on the “comfort bike” was anything but, and I already had a sore rear), and rode 11 miles. The OK Hotel had a free, though rather limited, dinner buffet, and I tucked in.

Atrium, Umeå School of Business and Economics

Atrium, Umeå School of Business and Economics

Tuesday I had a meeting with the dean, Lars Hassel, a very good guy, a lecture in the afternoon, and another bike ride after work. High point that day was dinner at the Allstar, a sports bar downtown. I was there twice during my 2009 two-week residence, and they have big-screen TVs all over the place. When you arrive, the hostess asks you what you want to watch, and I knew the answer: game 5 of the semifinals in the Swedish Hockey League championships, Skellefteå, the 2012-13 SHL champs, against Linköping. In a country of 9.5 million, most SHL teams hail from smaller cities, and Skellefteå has only 32,000, plus it’s sort of local – in the same county (Västerbotten) as Umeå, about 80 miles north. I had a great seat, and the game started well, with Skellefteå scoring the first goal within about a minute. The Swedes stared as this fan erupted with cheers and a pumped fist, something I repeated twice more in period 1! Go S, go! Enjoyed a beer and a salmon burger (garnished with guacamole – something odd about eating that this close to the North Pole), and left after the second period. Caught the end of the game at the hotel, a 7-3 win. The European hockey style is different, and it was fun to watch.

Swedish Hockey League action on the huge TVs at the Allstar sports bar

Swedish Hockey League action on the huge TVs at the Allstar sports bar

As often happens, night two in Europe was a bit of toss-turn-toss-turn, so the Swedish coffee Wednesday morning was especially helpful. Gave a lecture in the morning and afternoon. Grabbed a short nap after work, and at 5:45 met Peter Vegh, a prof in the university’s culinary arts and tourism school (and host of my lecture earlier that day on airline service quality) at Lotta’s, a cozy bar and microbrewery. He’s a great fellow, very open, and we had a really fun chat and some fine home-brewed pale ale. I was not surprised that a food guy grows lots of fruits and vegetables in the summer (a greenhouse helps with warmth), but was intrigued by another summer pastime: he spends a few weeks each summer waiting tables at cutting-edge restraurants in Stockholm to pick up on the latest cuisine trends and techniques. Way cool. I missed my after-work bike ride, so near sunset (it was clear all day, a welcome respite from days of cloud) I pounded out eight miles. I’m grateful for a bike when I visit, but by day four I pined for my carbon-fiber road bike!

The path on the river island of Bölesholmarna, a favored place to ride, just upstream from downtown Umeå; I've ridden in the three warmer seasons; the winter track was muddy and not much fun.

Dusk on the path on the river island of Bölesholmarna, a favored place to ride, just upstream from downtown Umeå; I’ve ridden in the three warmer seasons; the winter track was muddy and not much fun.

Thursday saw me in meetings with the dean, senior leaders in the business school, and a wonderful fellow Minnesotan, Kjell Knudsen, retired dean of the B-school at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. Kjell was serving as a volunteer mentor, helping the school prepare an application for accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). After the meetings, I peeled off for another bike ride, rather unpleasant because of a howling south wind, out to the airport and around the island of Ön (in the river). At seven Kjell, Lars, and others gathered for dinner at TC Teater Cafeet, a fancy restaurant downtown. When we left the restaurant at nine, it was spitting sleet and freezing rain. Felt good to be back in the warm hotel room.

 

Up Friday, out the door for meetings. The sun came out at noon, and it warmed up a bit, but we were indoors. At 3:30, I rode the bike a block to the ePuben, the pub that the business students association, HHUS, runs. It was time for the second “drink and learn” lecture; the first one in September 2013 was a huge success, and we were looking for a repeat (90 minutes before the talk, I overheard one student ask, “Are you going to hear Rob Britton?” Yes, other replied, “and drink beer.” A good sign. The talk went well, good questions. Said goodbye to the students and rolled down the hill a last time.

Changed clothes and at 6:45 met Kjell and Lars for part a jazz concert (they had dinner reservations at 8:30, but I was going back to the OK to pack). Format was one set per group, and first up was FIVE38, two women from Paris, on long-neck guitar and hard. This was jazz? Really? WWBD (What would [Dave] Brubeck do?). The guitarist made much use of her wow-wow pedal. The program promised a “harp, liberated completely from its historic constraints.” It was yet another manifestation of gimmick as art, and as I whispered to Lars, a bad day for a headache! It got much better, with a brisk set by the Foyn Trio from Aarhus, Denmark: bass fiddle, guitar, and Live Foyn Friis, a young woman with a riveting voice. Finally, melody. We headed out, I rode back and clocked out.

Friday night jazz: one gimmick group and one legit.

Friday night jazz: one gimmick group and one legit.

Up early Saturday morning, seven o’clock taxi to the airport with a very chatty driver, then down to Stockholm. On arrival, I met two Master’s students from the Stockholm School of Economics, who heard me speak seven months earlier. They were doing a project on airport-airline partnerships, and I offered some strong views. At ten I peeled off, through security. First stop, the Swedish-design department of the duty-free shop. I had a specific item in mind and asked the clerk if she had silver moose napkin holders. “No, I’m sorry,” she said, “all we have are holders like painted horses.” I thanked her and started walking away, disappointed. “Wait,” she called, “are you looking for these?” Indeed, and I whooped with joy. “Your enthusiasm made my day,” she said, but I countered, “no, you made mine.” I told her the moose replaces an identical number that mysteriously disappeared in our move from Texas.

The jagged Swedish coast north of Stockholm, on approach to Arlanda Airport

The jagged Swedish coast north of Stockholm, on approach to Arlanda Airport

Farms north of Arlanda Airport

Farms north of Arlanda Airport

Success!  A moose napkin holder to replace the one that went missing in our move to Virginia.

Success! A moose napkin holder to replace the one that went missing in our move to Virginia.

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Dallas and Austin, Texas, and a Memorable Flight Home

With World War II veterans aboard American Airlines' Honor Flight to Washington

With World War II veterans aboard American Airlines’ Honor Flight to Washington

Second-quarter journeys started on the first day, up early and out the door to National Airport, then nonstop to DFW.   First stop, Hertz lost and found to retrieve the raincoat Linda left a few weeks earlier (happily, I have a 100% success rate in claiming lost items from Hertz, a string going back 20 years or more). Picked up a Budget car, a brand-new, red Ford Focus, and motored to the American Airlines Credit Union for a board meeting. Serious business concluded, I met a longtime friend, Anita, for a coffee at a nearby Starbucks.   Recently laid off from AA’s ad agency, Anita had worked tirelessly on the airline’s business for 34 years. Not much justice there, but the new leaders cut the ad budget. We had a good yak about retooling. I then headed to my “hotel,” the welcoming home of Peggy and Ken Gilbert in North Dallas. Jumped on a phone call for 45 minutes, then sat down for a quick beer. They are adventurous eaters, and proposed an Afghan restaurant in Plano. Zipped off in my red car, and in no time were tucking into some very savory food and good conversation.

Up early Wednesday morning, out with Ken to walk their two big dogs, Bella and Papi (the latter an immigrant from Tonga, a souvenir from their daughter Blair’s service in the Peace Corps). Peggy headed to work, and Ken and I peeled off for a coffee with another former AA colleague, Laura Freeland. Another great catch-up yak (I hadn’t seen Laura for a couple of years). Back home for a bit of work, then to lunch at a Korean joint with Laura 2, yet another former AA colleague. Fascinating conversation, much of it focused on her efforts to get a private high school funded and built; Cristo Rey is the organization, founded by Jesuits 20 years earlier in Chicago, with a commitment to provide quality schooling for students who could otherwise not afford the tuition. Back to Ken’s for a short nap, then up to SMU’s Plano campus for my twice-yearly talk to their Graduate Marketing Certificate Program. Always a fun presentation, tag team with Prof. Dan Howard, who I have known for more than two decades. Back to Ken’s for a quick visit, then lights out.

Was up well before six on Thursday morning, a bowl of cheerios, cup of coffee, and quick chat with Ken, then out the door, pedal to the metal to DFW airport. Traffic was light, and I was at the TSA barrier by 7:10. There, a T-t-S moment that brought great sadness: the TSA were giving a FEMA officer and his dog were the third degree (don’t get me started on the silliness of a uniformed and credentialed Federal employee encountering such treatment). Admiring the dog, I quietly asked the officer about the hound’s skills. “He’s a cadaver dog,” he replied matter of factly. “We’re going up to Washington to try to find mudslide victims.” I thanked him and the dog for their service and walked away, in tears. God bless them, and the victims. Hard work, and unhappy work.

Flew to Austin, Texas, landing at 9:20, and ambled briskly to catch the 9:30 Airport Flyer bus. No doubt drivers waiting in the long taxi rank were surprised to see a suit walk past them to the bus stop, but the T-Geek always favors public transit, and $1.50 works. At 10:05 I hopped off on the east end of the University of Texas campus, right in the shadow of the massive football stadium. It was good to be back at UT after a three-year absence.

A little piece of the Darrell K. Royal–Texas Memorial Stadium

A little piece of the Darrell K. Royal–Texas Memorial Stadium

The place is huge, but with a good feel, and a many wonderful older buildings with lots of architectural detail. My jaw was slack as I admired a series of friezes just below the roofline on one, depicting the old Texas: a pack horse, burros, a cattle head, a dagger. It reminded me of a sign on an outside wall of the Texas State History Museum: “Opportunity. Identity. Land.” Not a sentence, but it clear expressed the much of the state’s ethos for decades. I miss Texas.

UT-3

UT-2

UT

At 10:45, I met my new host, Ying Zhang, a young and energetic fellow, and from 11:00 to 12:30 delivered a lecture to an undergrad marketing class.  We walked a few blocks to Mercado for a Tex-Mex lunch and a good chat about the airline business in China – Ying goes back and forth a lot, and knows a lot. Headed back to the school, worked my email, and repeated the lecture to the afternoon class. At 3:20 I said goodbye and ambled a few blocks west to the Hotel Ella, a fancy boutique place. Checked in, changed into shorts, and headed to the fitness center, only to find no bike. Ugh. So a nap was the next best thing!

Austin's tallest building; the place continues to grow rapidly

Austin’s tallest building; the place continues to grow rapidly

The Container Bar, built from, yep, shipping containers

The Container Bar, built from, yep, shipping containers

Change on Rainey Street; the temporary structures at left are offices for a high-rise condo (not visible).  The fate of the cottage at right is just about sealed.

Change on Rainey Street; the temporary structures at left are offices for a high-rise condo (not visible). The fate of the cottage at right is just about sealed.

At 5:20 one of the bellman, an affable young fellow from the Florida panhandle, drove me toward dinner in one of the hotel’s courtesy cars. A nice service, but we got caught in the serious traffic that is Austin’s worst aspect. When we got within a mile of my destination, I handed him a tip, hopped out, and walked the rest of the way, briskly. Met still another former AA buddy, John Morton, who has lived in Austin for a decade. Dinner venue was Banger’s, a popular place for beer and sausage, on the southeast edge of downtown (the street was a mix of one-story houses and little joints, and I suspect it will be gone in a few years as residential high-rises continue to sprout). We had fun catching up, plus some seriously good local microbrews. Morty kindly drove me back to the hotel and I was asleep way early.

John Morton

John Morton

Austin bills itself as the "Live Music Capital of the World," so it wasn't surprising to see a crooner at Banger's

Austin bills itself as the “Live Music Capital of the World,” so it wasn’t surprising to see a crooner at Banger’s

Way early, because I was up at 4:05 and in a taxi with a chatty driver from Pakistan at 4:30. No traffic at that hour, so it was a quick ride to the airport. Short flight back to DFW, a bit of work in the Admirals Club, then the most interesting flight, maybe of my entire life . . .

As I approached the gate for AA1033 to Washington, I saw a crowd, lots of people in red shirts, and flags. Moving closer, I heard most of the people singing the national anthem, and I immediately realized what it was: an Honor Flight. I stopped, put my hand on my heart, and listened to the song, whispering “land of the free, and the home of the brave.” Less than a minute later – I was still not at the gate – a former colleague from AA Flight Service recognized me, explaining that she was helping with the flight, 39 World War II veterans headed to D.C. for a weekend of recognition. Without hesitation, I handed her my First Class boarding pass and asked her to find a soldier to sit in a big seat.   She went off, and I watched the men – and a few former WACs and WAVEs – board the flight to applause and cheers.

Hero1

The memory of my dad’s war service and the lifetime of subsequent injury makes me pretty emotional in situations like that; tears started to flow, and ran many times that morning. I had already said my morning prayers, and like every morning I had give thanks to God for all who had preserved freedom and nation. Now I was face to face with them.   As I boarded, I introduced myself to Charlie Boyd, sitting in the seat I happily yielded. Across the aisle from my seat in row 9, I also thanked a fellow for his service, and several more. Word of my seat swap had spread among the volunteers, and they all thought it was some big deal, but I waved it off. How could I not do the right thing? For much of the flight I yakked with Linda, a retired nurse who volunteers for these trips in case medical care is needed – after all, 26 of the 39 were more than 90 years old. An historian of sorts rides along, capturing stories of their service, bravery, and privation. Just one example: on board was a former POW who in 1945 was starving. He somehow caught a pigeon and found a potato on the road. He plucked the bird and hit it in his sock. Periodically, the guards let the prisoners wash their socks in scalding water, and the soldier managed to “just sort of” cook a meal.

When we arrived, the regular passengers got off first. There was more ceremony at the gate, and people waiting for the departing flight and dozens of others thronged the area. I was not in a hurry, so I parked my bag in a “front row” spot and cheered and clapped one more time as the honorees came off the plane. Many sported big grins, some were in tears. We can never repay them, but we can and must remember them each day.

It was quite a morning.

The veterans got on buses, bound for the World War II Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery, and other hallowed places, and I hopped on the Metro to Rosslyn and the shuttle across the Potomac to Georgetown, where I delivered a lecture to incoming MBA students.

 

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To Montreal and McGill University

Bronze of James McGill, founder of the university; it was the first day of spring, but winter was still in full force!

Snowbound bronze of James McGill, founder of the university; it was the first day of spring, but winter was still in full force!

I was home for about a month, so was really looking forward to the twice-yearly visit to Montreal and teaching at McGill University.  Hopped on a handy US Airways nonstop from Washington National to Montreal.  It was my 90th visit to Canada (yep, I keep track).  Bought an $18 three-day pass on the STM, the public-transit network, and in no time was downtown, familiar after visiting lots of times over 47 years.  Familiarity brought a smile as the Metro rolled into the Peel station and I spotted the colorful glazed-tile circles that I recall from our first visit as 15-year-olds.

PeelCircles

Checked into the hotel, dropped bags, and walked down the hill for a short meeting with a couple of colleagues from IATA, the International Air Transport Association.  It was past lunchtime and I was hungry, but also due for the meeting, so instead of the usual stop at Tim Horton’s I zipped into a McDonald’s on Saint-Catherine.  This was Quebec, so by law the menu posted above the counter was entirely in French.  Big shake, small burger, done.

Classic downtown Montreal sign; in the U.S. falling ice would produce a lawsuit, but here if you're hit, or fall on a slippery sidewalk, well, that's your fault . . .

Classic downtown Montreal sign; in the U.S. falling ice would produce a lawsuit, but here if you’re hit, or fall on a slippery sidewalk, well, that’s your fault . . .

Downtown redevelopment continues; it was evident that the city planners required the developer to retain the old facade!

Downtown redevelopment continues; it was evident that the city planners required the developer to retain the old facade!

Ambled back to the hotel, did a bit of work, rode an exercise bike, then headed out for a beer and dinner.  As I’ve done on most recent visits, I scouted out another brewpub, this time Saint-Bock on Saint-Denis in the Quartier Latin.  Once again I was the oldest tippler in the place by a factor of at least 2.5, maybe 3!  But no matter.  The waitress was friendly, tapped in the pub’s wi-fi password and I read The New York Times over a glass of homemade ale.  And as I always do at least once on every visit to Canada, I raised my glass to a country where everyone enjoys the basic human right of health care.  À votre santé!

The Saint-Bock menu was mainly pub snacks and I needed a substantial meal, so ambled a block south to Les 3 Brasseurs (the three brewers), a respectable chain that also serves beer brewed on premises and adequate, filling food.  I had a bowl of cassoulet and a green salad, perfect.  On the way out, a brief T-t-S exchange with the francophone on the adjacent bar stool.  It began after I commented to the waitress that we didn’t have handheld credit-card charging devices in the U.S.; at that moment I usually note that we’re a bit backward in my homeland.  The fellow segued, in English, “The French are superior.”  I reckoned he was kidding, but perhaps partly serious. “In Quebec,” I replied, “mais oui, that’s for sure.”  “No,” he said, “in all the world.”  “Okay.  Have a nice day,” shook his hand, and hopped the 24 bus back to the hotel.  An easy day felt good after two weeks’ of teaching at Georgetown.

I've commented in previous Montreal posts about it as a very stylish place, and store windows are just one manifestation; here a map and globe store in the Latin Quarter

I’ve commented in previous Montreal posts about it as a very stylish place, and store windows are just one manifestation; here a map and globe store in the Latin Quarter

Up early Thursday morning, back to the gym, then out the door for a full day at McGill’s Desautels B-school.  First stop was a MBA breakfast organized by the student marketing association, yakking informally with about 10 diverse students then a one-hour preso on airline marketing.  After class, I sat with one of the students, Urbain Kengni, a very bright Cameroonian, and got his life story.  He grew up in a small town, son of a nurse practitioner and a teacher,  won a scholarship to university in Morocco, graduated in engineering, worked at LG in Africa and Korea, and a Moroccan consulting firm, had an internship with Bombardier, a lot of experience.  The 30 minutes I spent with Urbain reminded me of how fortunate I am to be able to see the future of global management.  Business will be in good hands when people like Urbain are leading organizations.

Urbain Kengni, McGill MBA candidate 2015

Urbain Kengni, McGill MBA candidate 2014

At 11:45 I met my longtime host, Mary Dellar, and two other McGill pals, Bob Mackalski and Alex King.  It was a way-fun lunch, with a debrief from Mary on her rather troublesome morning guest speaker (I promised to do better!), lots of storytelling, and a fair bit of conversation focused on marriage (Bob would tie the knot in 50 days) and family – Alex and his wife were expecting their 8th child.  Yeah, we joked about fertility, too!  We would have been happy to spend the afternoon in that noisy booth, but Mary and I zipped back to school and three back-to-back classes.  I was tired when I finished at 5:30.

Back at the Holiday Inn, I put my head down for 15 minutes, then ambled out the door and back east a kilometer for another brewpub visit, to Le Cheval Blanc, then to a fried haddock dinner at yet another micro, L’Amère a Boire, where the vibe was friendlier than the White Horse.  At dinner, I added up the teaching: in the past 19 days I had taught for 50 hours.  A lot.

Montreal streets were filled with campaign signs, in this case one on wheels, for the provincial elections on April 7

Montreal streets were filled with campaign signs, in this case one on wheels, for the provincial elections on April 7

Back to the gym Friday morning, then a few blocks to the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association clubhouse on Peel for a caloric breakfast with Bob Mackalski.  We had a great yak.  He’s a seriously bright and very experienced fellow, just finished his Ph.D. at McGill, does a lot of consulting.  Before Bob arrived, I admired artifacts and art in the lobby – the place clearly has a lot of history.

MAAA Triptych: a curling trophy; detail from a photo of the 1890 golden jubilee of the the Montreal Snow Shoe Club; stained glass of a member with an old club symbol, "the old blue toque"

MAAA Triptych: a curling trophy; detail from a photo of the 1890 golden jubilee of the the Montreal Snow Shoe Club; stained glass of a member with an old club symbol, “the old blue toque”

At 11:45 I met my longtime host, Mary Dellar, and two other McGill pals, Bob Mackalski and Alex King.  It was a way-fun lunch, with a debrief from Mary on her rather troublesome morning guest speaker (I promised to do better!), lots of storytelling, and a fair bit of conversation focused on marriage (Bob would tie the knot in 50 days) and family – Alex and his wife were expecting their 8th child.  Yeah, we joked about fertility, too!  We would have been happy to spend the afternoon in that noisy booth, but Mary and I zipped back to school and three back-to-back classes.  I was tired when I finished at 5:30

Back at the Holiday Inn, I worked a bit, put my head down for 15 minutes, then ambled out the door and back east a kilometer for another brewpub visit, to Le Cheval Blanc, then to a fried haddock dinner at yet another micro, L’Amère a Boire, where the vibe was friendlier than the White Horse.  At dinner, I added up the teaching: in the past 19 days I had taught for 50 hours.  A lot.

Back to the gym Friday morning, then a few blocks to the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association clubhouse on Peel for a caloric breakfast with Bob Mackalski.  We had a great yak.  He’s a seriously bright and very experienced fellow, just finished his Ph.D. at McGill, does a lot of consulting.  Before Bob arrived, I admired artifacts and art in the lobby – the place clearly has a lot of history.

MAAA Triptych: a curling trophy; detail from a photo of the 1890 golden jubilee of the the Montreal Snow Shoe Club; stained glass of a member with an old club symbol, "the old blue toque"

MAAA Triptych: a curling trophy; detail from a photo of the 1890 golden jubilee of the the Montreal Snow Shoe Club; stained glass of a member with an old club symbol, “the old blue toque”

Walked back to the hotel, worked a bit, caught the STM 747 bus back to the airport, and flew, again nonstop, home to Washington.  I never tire of Canada.  That was the end of travel for the quarter, smaller in volume than in the past (in the first quarter of 2007 I flew 46,000 miles, this one 10,000) but still rich in experiences and opportunities.

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First Overseas Trip of 2014: Germany, France, England

Detail, Paris Opera roofline; the city is filled with these gilded statues

Detail, Paris Opera roofline; the city is filled with these gilded statues

The weather forecast called for a big snowstorm on the day I was to leave for my first overseas teaching, Thursday, February 13, so I moved the trip forward a day.  I was headed for Frankfurt, and American flies there only from DFW; rather than a huge, lengthy backtrack, I rode the bus to Dulles and checked in for a nonstop Lufthansa flight, flying standby.  Because paying customers also decided to fly out early, I barely made it onto the flight, a middle seat on a packed 747. I told the Lufthansa duty manager, Mr. Koch, that I had been flying standby for nearly 50 years, and was always happy to take any seat.

The scene deep in economy class,  Lufthansa 747-8, on arrival in Frankfurt

The scene deep in economy class, Lufthansa 747-8, on arrival in Frankfurt

On board, 34E turned out to be a good chair.  Mary, next to me, was on her way to Israel with a tour group from church.  It was her first trip overseas (“I’ve barely been out of Virginia”); she was really excited, and maybe a little apprehensive, so it became my job to help allay any concerns.  We chatted for more than two hours, a long and nice T-t-S.  In a middle seat next to a squirmy five-year-old meant I didn’t sleep more than an hour, but the flight was very fast. At FRA, I picked up my suitcase and ambled through the huge airport basement to the supermarket I found two months earlier, for a pound of yogurt, then to a bench to eat and work my email.  Bought a ticket to Wiesbaden, 18 miles west, and hopped on the S9 suburban train.

The railway station, Wiesbaden; red sandstone was a common building material in the western and southwestern parts of Germany

The railway station, Wiesbaden; red sandstone was a common building material in the western and southwestern parts of Germany

Had I known earlier that I’d have a free day (my teaching was not until the evening of the next day), I might have gone further afield, like down to Stuttgart for a tour of the Mercedes factory, but Wiesbaden was also a place I’ve always wanted to see.  It’s a mid-size city, and the capital of the state of Hesse.  I stuffed my suitcase in a locker at the train station, and set off for a look.  First thing I noticed were lots of balconies on the 19th and early 20th Century apartment buildings; it seemed distinctly Wiesbaden – I had not seen them in other German cities.  They typically projected from the building façade, and were covered.  Some were stone, some made of wood, and a few were wrought iron, reminiscent of New Orleans.  Way cool.

Wiesbaden apartment with wonderful balconies

Wiesbaden apartment with wonderful balconies

A splendid example of the Wiesbaden balcony

A splendid example of the Wiesbaden balcony

The station was a mile south of the historic core, with a couple of splendid old churches, including the brick Marktkirch (Lutheran).  It was ten o’clock, and bells pealed, “the sound of Europe,” as I have long observed.  An older lady, stooped, with a cane, was walking her small dog, who also seemed aged.  She was speaking to him, tenderly, in German.  It was one of so many little vignettes that remind me how fortunate I am to live a mobile life, to see so much of humanity arrayed in so many places.

Early 20th Century prosperity, Wiesbaden

Early 20th Century prosperity, Wiesbaden

Terracotta detail, Marktkirch, Wiesbaden

Terracotta detail, Marktkirch, Wiesbaden

Wiesbaden literally means “baths in the meadow,” and I knew it was a historic spa town, so a visit to a public bath seemed in order.  Some quick online research two days earlier pointed toward the Kaiser-Friedrich-Therme, a restored spa built 1910-13 in the Jugendstil.  I forgot to pack a swimsuit, so I asked the kindly attendant if I could wear my bike shorts; after a fairly long explanation, she finally said, “there are lots of naked people,” to which I replied, fine, I’m good with that (and have long been).

The Kaiser-Friedrich-Therme

The Kaiser-Friedrich-Therme

Inside, the baths were way cool, well, hot actually.  First stop was a small soaking pool, water temperature of about 130° F.  Then into a large coldwater pool at 50°, bracing.  Rinse, repeat, rinse, repeat.  Then to a whirlpool with warm but not hot water.  The attendant was quite correct: people in what Americans euphemistically call their “birthday suits”; all shapes and sizes, both genders, no one a bit self-conscious, which was really nice.  Last stop: a sauna, where at 11:00 an attendant ladled a mint and lemon mixture onto the hot stones, fanning the aromatic steam each time with a towel; after the third the heat was prickly on my back.  Showered, got dressed, departed.  What a great, and authentically local, activity.  I ambled a few blocks east to the original spa, the Kurhaus, for lunch at Käfer’s, an old-school bistro.  Pricey, but again authentically Wiesbaden.  Tucked into a huge lunch of venison goulash, winter vegetables, and a curious (and filling) pretzel terrine.  After a tiny dinner and breakfast, the repast was tonic. And transacted entirely in German.

Former cashier window, Kaiser-Friedrich-Therme

Former cashier window, Kaiser-Friedrich-Therme

The cold-water pool at the Kaiser-Friedrich-Therme; photo from Wikimedia (when I was there, bathers were not wrapped in towels!)

The cold-water pool at the Kaiser-Friedrich-Therme; photo from Wikimedia (when I was there, bathers were not wrapped in towels!)

This was an "oops, touched the shutter by mistake" photo, but I've long wanted to show the distinctive radial pattern of European paving bricks!

This was an “oops, touched the shutter by mistake” photo, but I’ve long wanted to show the distinctive radial pattern of European paving bricks!

It was pouring rain when I left the restaurant, and the mile walk back to the station was unpleasant, but part of being a tourist on foot.  Grabbed my suitcase, rolled onto the 1:32 train to Höchst and a connecting train “up the hill” to Königstein im Taunus, and my third appearance at the executive MBA program of Deutsche Post DHL.  I sprang for a $10 cab ride to the Siegfried Vögele Institute, housed (as I’ve noted before) in a former psychiatric clinic that Dr. Kohnstamm opened in 1905.  First step after check-in was a nap, not too long nor too short, but much needed after almost zero sleep on the flight.  Did a bit of work, then to the gym for an hour of pedaling.

The "skyline" of Königstein im Taunus, with the old fortress atop the town

The “skyline” of Königstein im Taunus, with the old fortress atop the town

At seven I met my host Patrick Rath, a wonderful young Ph.D. student at the University of Kassel.  Patrick manages the EMBA program.  We had a beer in the institute bar, then walked ten minutes to a Spanish restaurant for a leisurely tapas dinner and a great yak.  Though I’ve only seen him three times, Patrick has become a good friend.  The full stomach and some nice Spanish wine put me into a deep, eight-hour sleep.

Up at seven Friday morning and to breakfast; some of the students had arrived, though most drive to class in the morning.  At nine Patrick introduced me to the class, though my job was to deliver a dinner speech, as I did in December.  Headed back to the gym, then did a bit of work, then joined the students for lunch.

The view from the SVI classroom, Königstein

The view from the SVI classroom, Königstein

Königstein is a seriously affluent place, and this huge residence is a good example

Königstein is a seriously affluent place, and this huge residence is a good example

Lids atop a glass recycling receptacle, Königstein

Lids atop a glass recycling receptacle, Königstein

High point of the day was a visit to the institute’s research lab and an introduction to eye-tracking technology, which Deutsche Post DHL adopted early, as a means to demonstrate the value of direct marketing with paper.  Karsten and Laura from the lab explained the process, and let me try out the process, using a PC screen rather than a paper mailing (two infrared cameras beneath the monitor tracked the movement of my corneas and pupils as I surfed a website.  Their boss, Christian, showed up toward the end, and we continued the discussion.  Fascinating stuff.  Patrick and I then hopped in his car and drove a few kilometers east to a scenic overlook with a great view of the Frankfurt skyline in the distance, an old castle and village in the foreground.  We stopped for coffee and cake and another good yak.

The view from the Taunus Hills: Frankfurt in the distance, castles and villages in the middle ground

The view from the Taunus Hills: Frankfurt in the distance, castles and villages in the middle ground

At seven, it was finally time to stand and deliver, or in this case sit and deliver, a dinner speech to 15 EMBA students nearly done with their degree.  It was my customary informal talk on leadership and effective management.  Good dialogue, but many of the students were tired from a very full day of classes. After the talk, Patrick and I continued our wide-ranging dialogue, and I especially appreciated his view, as a young German, on the interwar years and the rise of Hitler.  He has become a good friend.

Saturday morning, Patrick drove me to the bahnhof and we parted.  I hopped on the 8:01 suburban train to Frankfurt, and by my good luck sat down across from a couple about my age, Ulrich and Dagmar.  He greeted me by saying in German, then English, “You’re too friendly to be from Königstein,” apparently a dig at the self-centeredness of the affluent population.  That launched a 40-minute yak across a variety of topics.  Ulrich was an engineer, now a strategy consultant, working mainly in manufacturing production.  We talked about the history of the Kohnstamm clinic, and he told me that back then the doctor and others were into more than just psychiatric therapy, inquiring into larger questions about the composition of our mind and soul.

My friendly seatmate on the HLB suburban train into Frankfurt: "Throw away the PowerPoint . . ."

Ulrich, my friendly seatmate on the HLB suburban train into Frankfurt: “Throw away the PowerPoint . . .”

We talked about teaching, formal and informal, and his most memorable line was “Throw away the PowerPoint . . . and just listen to me.”  He was justifiably critical of most management consultants; “tell the BCG [Boston Consulting Group] MBAs to go to Slovakia and figure out how to make things . . .”  He had spent a lot of time thinking about how to foster teamwork, “to create joy in working together.”  They were headed to Dresden, to attend a concert in the Frauenkirche to commemorate the anniversary of the Allied firebombing, 15 February 1945.  Whew.

I would have liked to chat with them for hours, but at Frankfurt we parted, and I headed to track 1 for the 9:01 ICE to Paris.  I half expected to see Madeline, her fellow students, and several nuns board the train.  That did not happen.  Instead, Juliette, 8, Alexander, 4, and their mom sat down in the other three seats around the table in car 22.   The mom seemed really worried that the kids were going to disturb me, but I kept reassuring her; 15 minutes into the ride, I showed her pictures of Dylan and Carson on my iPhone, explained that we all lived in the same house, and that I rather liked noise.  That helped, but she still seemed guarded for the rest of the ride.  Alexander was into dinosaurs in a major way; his sister worked on a sticker book, much like Dylan would.

Alexandre, 4, my seatmate on the ICE to Paris

Alexandre, 4, my seatmate on the ICE to Paris

On the platform at Saarbrücken, a little girl in a puffy down jacket ran past our window, arms outstretched; I craned my neck and saw her target: a grandfather just like me.  And I smiled to celebrate mobility, the great business of getting people together.

We arrived Paris two minutes early, and I headed to the Metro, where hordes of tourists queued for tickets.  Despite the touchscreen machines that offered step-by-step guidance in six languages, each transaction took ages, and I was reminded of critics who claim that tourists often leave their brains at home.  I strive to be patient, but was wondering “how hard could it be?”  Fortunately, a turf war between ticket touts (there’s a little money to be made on arbitrage; the touts buy 10 tickets for 13€ and sell each at the single-ride price of 1.70) provided some diversion.  Finally got my tickets, peeled off to line 4, then line 3, and in no time was in my digs for the night, a room in an Airbnb apartment in a superb central location, 2 blocks from the famous Opera.  The host’s son, Stephan, was home and showed me around.  The whole place was eclectic, with decorations and doodads from all over the world, but was clean, and the wi-fi was fast.  I couldn’t ask for more.

Paris Opera, just around the corner from my apartment

Paris Opera, just around the corner from my apartment

The plan was to get a day pass for Paris’ bike-sharing service, Velíb, but the machine at the closest station did not accept my magnetic-stripe debit card (you may know that Europe has a much more secure “Chip and PIN” card; indeed, the mag-stripe weakness has been in the news in the U.S. lately, after the big Target store e-fraud).  I tried another station a block away, then gave up, hopped on the RER suburban train to the Arc de Triomphe, and a long stroll back to the apartment.  Down the Champs-Elysees, past the fancy stores, some of which are a more brand showcase, not an actual place to buy stuff.  I was again struck by the volumes of tourists, especially Asians; on my last visit, eight hours on a sunny Sunday in April 2010 (passing through, enroute from the U.S. to Strasbourg), I had toured the city on a rented bicycle, and didn’t see the throng that you see on foot.

Did a little window shopping, then grabbed a late lunch at the Marks & Spencer food hall: sandwich, chips, mango-orange juice, and ate it on a park bench adjacent to where Thomas Jefferson lived when he was minister of state to France.  I learned that from one of the ubiquitous wall plaques (even street signs identify and describe the person for whom the road is named).  As I observed four years earlier, the appeal of Paris is really all the visual markers: the grand gold statues on bridges, the signal upward poke of the Eiffel Tower, and more.

Posing for the camera, Arc de Triomphe

Posing for the camera, Arc de Triomphe

Jefferson lived here; I loved reading this plaque, especially now that I am a proud Virginian!

Jefferson lived here; I loved reading this plaque, especially now that I am a proud Virginian!

Where Jefferson lived; it was hard to tell if it was the same building, but I suspect it may have been.

Where Jefferson lived; it was hard to tell if it was the same building, but I suspect it may have been.

Continuing east, I phoned Linda from Tuilieres Garden, in part for an update on the USA-Russia hockey game that was by my reckoning nearly over.  She texted me 20 minutes later (I was back in my room) that the USA won in a shootout.  Woo hoo!  When I returned, I met my host Antonella, who introduced me to her friend who was about to celebrate her birthday.  The two said that it might be a bit noisy in the evening, but I waved my hand and noted I sleep through lots.  They invited me to the party.

Seine

As regular readers know, I love the ordinary landscape, and this hardware store, just a few hundred feet from my accommodation, seemed pretty swell

As regular readers know, I love the ordinary landscape, and this hardware store, just a few hundred feet from my accommodation, seemed pretty swell

New construction in Paris, redevelopment of a former market square in the second arrondisement

New construction in Paris, redevelopment of a former market square in the second arrondisement

At five, I met a couple of old American Airlines chums, Jacques Alonso, who led the sales team in France for many years, and Olga Jacob, who worked in her native Belgium until she replaced Jacques when he retired a few years earlier.  We got caught up on life and yakked about the business.  It’s always fun to reconnect with AA people, more so overseas pals.  At 6:30 I peeled off and headed to dinner at a place I had not visited in almost two decades (in the mid-1990s, when I worked on AA’s international planning team, I went to Paris a lot), the Ambassade d’Auvergne, with rustic cooking from the Auvergne, a region in central France.  It says a lot that a place is unchanged; indeed, it opened in 1967.  I tucked into a huge meal, vegetable soup, then duck breast served with aligot, a specialty of the Auvergne, mashed potatoes with garlic and white cheese.  Dessert was a trio of custards each infused with floral essence.  Yum!

Quatre-September station, Paris Metro

Quatre-September station, Paris Metro

Scenes from Saturday-night dinner, Ambassade d'Auvergne; the vegetable soup was superb, as was the entire experience!

Scenes from Saturday-night dinner, Ambassade d’Auvergne; the vegetable soup was superb, as was the entire experience!

When I returned, the party was on, fairly sedate, everyone gathered in a large conversational circle.  An hour later, the music started, and laughing.  It was a bit noisy, but it was the sound of happiness and fun, and I decided I could live with that – or sleep with that.

I almost never oversleep, but that Sunday I awoke at 8:05.  Yow, late!  Showered, packed, and had an idea: went on the Internet and bought a Velíb day ticket.  Voilá!  Walked a block to the station, poked a few buttons, and in no time was “woo-hooing” as I rode south on Avenue de l’Opéra.  Stopped for light breakfast fixings at a mini-market, crossed the Seine, and parked at a station a block from my destination, the Musee d’Orsay, the art museum that opened in the mid-1980s in a former railway station.  I’m not sure I’ve ever had as great a museum visit as that day, simply colossal.  The collection is vast, and the supply of works by famed French impressionists seems limitless.  But they also showcased less known artists like Rosa Bonheur (1822-1899). There were wonderful themed rooms, such as “Decorative Arts of the Second Empire.” And excellent interpretive panels (in English) throughout; as a former museum guy (the Science Museum of Minnesota, 1979-83), I deeply appreciate clear text explanation.

Paris skyline, with the Basilica of Sacre Coeur atop the hill

Paris skyline, with the Basilica of Sacre Coeur atop the hill

I abided the "no photos" rule at the Musee d'Orsay, but since there was no sign at this vantage, I snapped a pic of the magnificent main hall of this former railway station

I abided the “no photos” rule at the Musee d’Orsay, but since there was no sign at this vantage, I snapped a pic of the magnificent main hall of this former railway station

Some of the rooms showcased the donations of a family, such as Max and Rosy Kaganovitch, and a theoretical physicist, Philippe Mayer (1925-2007); he was a huge donor, and a patriot,  interrupting his studies at Harvard to join the Free French Forces, becoming part of the army that landed in Provence and helped liberate his homeland.  In addition to admiring a lot of art, I learned quite a bit, for example the idea that much of Gauguin’s work was planar, lacking in perspective.  It was a way cool three hours.

This is a photo of a postcard of Monet's La Gare Saint-Lazare (1877); the card cost me 1.10€, enabling me to show you a splendid example from the collection and respect the "no photo"rule.  Although in the digital era that rule seems increasingly irrelevant, I did feel a little superior to those who were snapping pics every time a guard was not looking!

This is a photo of a postcard of Monet’s La Gare Saint-Lazare (1877); the card cost me 1.10€, enabling me to show you a splendid example from the collection and respect the “no photo”rule. Although in the digital era that rule seems increasingly irrelevant, I did feel a little superior to those who were snapping pics every time a guard was not looking!

I grabbed another bike (rides less than 30 minutes are free, so you’re always thinking about where to park and re-start the clock), and rode around the Left Bank, past the faculty of medicine, then east on Blvd. St. Germain, a little scary.  Paused for lunch on another street bench, then more Left Bank exploration (including a cruise past SciencesPo, one of France’s premier schools) before crossing the Seine and heading back home.  It was the most transport utility, and the most fun, you can get for $2.33!

I'm not sure this is an ordinary landscape, but I don't think many tourists would snap a picture like this; it caught my eye because this was the seat of many medical breakthroughs in the past 300 years

I’m not sure this is an ordinary landscape, but I don’t think many tourists would snap a picture like this; it caught my eye because this was the seat of many medical breakthroughs in the past 300 years

Inspired by the visit to the Musee d'Orsay: a still life, park bench, Blvd. St. Germain

Inspired by the visit to the Musee d’Orsay: a still life, park bench, Blvd. St. Germain

The Cathedral of Notre Dame

The Cathedral of Notre Dame

I dropped the key, picked up my suitcase and headed by Metro to Gare du Nord and the 3:46 TGV, fast, 125 miles north to Lille, almost on the Belgian border.  At Lille I hopped on the Metro and rode six miles north to the suburb of Croix, then walked a mile to my second visit to EDHEC Business School.  Conveniently, they have a simple hotel right on campus.  I washed my face, unpacked a bit, and headed back into the city.  Most restaurants are closed on Sunday, but by searching online I found a handful, and headed to l’Estaminet, a traditional brasserie in a very fancy hotel.  Had a big bottle of brown beer from Maredsous, a Benedictine abbey 100 miles east in Belgium, a creamy seafood bisque, and a traditional French Flemish dish called Potjevleesch, a terrine of pork, rabbit, and chicken, served cold with crispy frites and onions.  Really good, and unusual.  Rode home, clocked out.  What a day!

Grand Place, Lille

Grand Place, Lille

Benedictine monks produce this fine brown beer at the Maredsous Abbey, Belgium

Benedictine monks produce this fine brown beer at the Maredsous Abbey, Belgium

Monday morning I brought this journal up to date in the EDHEC library, a much more agreeable space than the hotel room, which was comfortable but solitary (and utterly void of color – only black, white, and gray).  At one, I met my host Joëlle Vanhamme, who I’ve known for about a decade, from when she taught at Erasmus University in Rotterdam.  We ate a quick lunch and at two it was show time.  Delivered a three-hour lecture to Master’s of Marketing students, half French and half international.  Said goodbye at five, headed back to the room, did a bit of work, and went “downtown” for dinner, to Brasserie la Paix, an old-school eatery specializing in seafood.  The three-course menu was great value for 22€ (about $30), and all from the sea: six Creuses oysters from Normandy to start, then another French Flemish specialty, waterzooi aux poisons, three varieties of fish, turnips, carrots, and other vegetables in a smooth velouté sauce.  For dessert, tarte au fromage blanc, literally a white-cheese tart, but the filling was sweet, light, and airy.  It was a fine meal.  Headed back to the hotel, read, and clocked out.

Student housing, EDHEC

Student housing, EDHEC

Monday-night dinner: Waterzooi aux Poissons, and Tarte au Fromage Blanc -- note the lovely decoration on the latter

Monday-night dinner: Waterzooi aux Poissons, and Tarte au Fromage Blanc — note the lovely decoration on the latter

Up early, out the door, into town again, to the TGV train station, ­Gare Lille Europe, and onto the 8:36 Eurostar to London,  zoom, then under the English Channel, then zoom again, and in London before nine (with an hour gain – it’s not that fast).  Walked across Euston Road from St. Pancras Station to my favorite foreign exchange office in all the world.  And I’ve seen a lot.  This place is before old-school: the rates are posted outside in chalk.  Inside, an older fellow sits behind glass and logs the transactions on a paper ledger.  And he gives the best rates in town.  Then onto the Tube two stops to Holborn and south to my 15th visit to the London School of Economics.

My host for ten years, Sir Geoffrey Owen, retired last year, and luckily I found a new host, Om Narasimhan, who I knew from the Carlson School at the University of Minnesota.  Met Om at 10:45, we chatted a bit, then walked a block to another older building that the fast-growing LSE acquired and renovated, adjacent to a large park, Lincoln’s Inn Fields.  Delivered a lecture to a very diverse group of students.  By pure coincidence, I found out a day earlier that Sir Geoffrey would be at the LSE for an interview, so he, another prof from the past David De Meza, and I had lunch and a good yak.  We covered a lot of subjects mostly related to Britain, including possible Scottish independence (the referendum is later in 2014), Margaret Thatcher’s biography (that I read recently), the UK and the EU, and more.  Good exercise for the mind.

The former Land Registry building, now a LSE classroom, Lincoln's Inn Fields

The former Land Registry building, now a LSE classroom, Lincoln’s Inn Fields

Geoffrey and David departed, and I did a bit of work, then zipped across town for a quick meeting with my friends at Stratajet, a start-up company, then out to my digs.  My young friends Caroline and Scott Sage kindly invited me back to their home in northwest London, and I was glad to accept.  Changed clothes and did a bit of work.  Scott was home from work by 5:30, but we worked a bit longer before repairing to the nearby gastropub, The Parlour, for a couple of pints, a big dinner (huge meat pie, wonderful), and a great yak across a lot of subjects.  Caroline was out with a friend, and returned just before I clocked out.  A long day.

Up at 6:30 Wednesday morning, bowl of Caroline’s homemade granola, and out the door.  First stop was coffee with another former AA colleague, Matthew Hall, now the #2 person at London City Airport, the close-in field.  We had a fast but deep yak; he has a keen mind, and we covered a bunch of industry topics in short order.  He peeled off and I headed to try to find granddaughter Carson an Olaf costume (from the animated movie Frozen), but the Disney store on Oxford Street was sold out of her size.  Drat!  Headed to a Starbucks to work for an hour or so, then walked south.

Ironwork, Liverpool Street Station

Ironwork, Liverpool Street Station

Spring is coming!  Daffodils, St. James Square

Spring is coming! Daffodils, St. James Square

It was time for the sixth annual lunch with my friend David Holmes, a career transport man, with the UK Ministry of Transport for 32 years, then British Airways – where I met him – for 8 years. David is another excellent window on Britain, and our 2.5 hour lunch in the posh Royal Automobile Club dining room, covered a wide range of topics.  High points were his personal experiences with Mrs. Thatcher (I knew he was senior, but didn’t know he was so senior that he was in many meetings with her during her government), a vigorous discussion of the disappointments of U.S. and U.K. foreign policy – we agreed that if we were in charge, the world would be better!   In between were a quite sumptuous lunch and some red wine.  Lunch with David has become a splendid tradition that I look forward to each year.  After that fun, what I wanted was a nap, but there was one more teaching gig on the trip, my tenth visit to London Business School.  I headed to the school early, sat in the reception area, did some work, and brought this journal current.

Basement workshop, Savile Row

Basement workshop, Savile Row

At 6:30, I met my host, Amanda Madureira, from the Marketing Club at LBS.  It had been almost a decade since the club function was in the evening, and turnout was about 20, smaller than the usual lunchtime gigs, but the group was friendly and engaged.  I introduced myself to about half the audience before we started, students from Hong Kong, India, Russia (“I don’t like Putin’s games” was, I recall, the second sentence from her, a reference to the Olympics underway in Sochi), France.  I spoke for an hour, answered questions for 20 minutes, then we repaired to a function room for drinks, snacks, and more chatter.  There were a couple of aspiring airline geeks in the room, and we continued the dialogue.  At 9:20 I peeled off, and as I walked back to the Tube I again marveled at my good fortune, of being able to see and speak with the future of global business.  Indeed a privilege.

A committed London Underground employee at the Kensal Green station prepares an inspiring message each morning; as a long believer in humanizing mass transport, I salute her!

A committed London Underground employee at the Kensal Green station prepares an inspiring message each morning; as a long believer in humanizing mass transport, I salute her!

Scott and Caroline were not yet home, but arrived a few minutes later, for a brief chat, then another hard sleep.  Up at 6:30, worked a bit, yakked with Scott, said goodbye, and headed to Heathrow for a flight to New York and on to Washington.  I had Henry and MacKenzie on leashes by 6 p.m.

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Florida, Briefly

Dawn, Coral Springs, Florida

Dawn, Coral Springs, Florida

Travels began on Wednesday, January 22.  I hadn’t been on an airplane for more than a month, and although it was a quick work trip, I was still excited.  Took the Metro to Washington National and flew in late afternoon south to West Palm Beach, Florida.  Before we boarded, I noticed a young man standing by a counter, holding a white plastic bag that I see fairly often in airports, a bag that read “International Organisation for Migration.”  The IOM is an independent NGO founded after World War II to resettle people who literally cannot go home.  I looked at the fellow, wondered about his story, and prayed that he was on his way to a safer, better place.  It was, I thought, another example of the transformative power of the jet airplane.

The refugee is behind the pole, with the orange backpack

The refugee is behind the pole, with the orange backpack

It was 15° F. in D.C., and 38 degrees warmer in Florida, which meant people were traipsing around in down vests and gloves – it’s all relative.  Picked up a rental car, pedal to the metal south on I-95, then west to Coral Springs.  I missed my exit, but zipped back around to the dinner venue I found on the Yelp website.  Spiky Ty’s was a Chinese-owned place in a strip mall, with something Asian for everyone.  I tucked into a Thai curry and a beer.

At the table next to me was a family of four, two teenage daughters, having a good conversation.  When they got up to leave, it was time for the first Talking-to-Strangers of the new year.  I told the older girl I liked her hoodie, navy with the name “Georgetown” in white, adding that I taught there.  “You teach there,” said her dad, “that’s cool.  We visited the campus last summer, what a place.”  I agreed, and the conversation unfolded.  Though his daughter had just started high school, he wanted her to see “an old campus, a place with history.”  We had a nice chat.  When I got to the hotel, I pinged the editor of American Way, the American Airlines inflight magazine; Adam and I have become friends over the past several years, and he has commissioned three stories.  Would you be interested, I wrote, in an essay on the joy of talking to strangers?  He answered immediately and enthusiastically, and I got an assignment.  Cool!

Was up at 6:15 the next morning, down to the hotel gym for a ride on an exercise bike.  When I finished the eight miles, I walked out to the pool.  The soft gurgling of waves from a swimmer met with the soft rustling of palm fronds, silhouetted against the dawn sky.  Sometimes I wonder if I should record those audio vignettes and post them here, in addition to photos and words.

I showered, dressed, and motored a few blocks to a Publix supermarket for breakfast fixings, and to Dunkin’ Donuts for a large coffee.  When I promise consulting clients that I’m careful with expenses, that’s what I’m talking about!  And it was just the right amount of food.

Breakfast

At 8:45 I met a new consulting client.  She and I worked at American years back, and when she took a new job in aviation supply, I reached out, both to congratulate her and offer my B2B marketing expertise, which was the purpose of the visit.  We had a good yak, then I met a few more people from the company, ate lunch, and departed.  It will be an interesting assignment.

I had plenty of time before my flight, delayed to 7:35, so I drove over to say hello to a friend who lived in Boca Raton.  Rang the doorbell on Sugar Plum Drive, but the lady who answered told me that Jim and Michelle had relocated to Mount Dora, in Central Florida, 14 months earlier.  I thanked her, got back in the car, Googled, and called Jim from in front of his old house.  We had a good yak, but Mount Dora was three hours away, so I said I’d see him on a future trip.  Drove north on I-95, dropped the car, and flew home.  A long, good day.

Sugar Plum Drive, Boca Raton; this is quintessential middle-class Florida, a scene that has attracted people south for more than a century

Sugar Plum Drive, Boca Raton; this is quintessential middle-class Florida, a scene that has attracted people south for more than a century

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