The Last Teaching Trip of 2014: England, Germany, Ireland, back to England

Effective advertising for a store that translates as The King of the Bells; in a bike-happy town, you need a store like that!

Effective advertising for a store that translates as The King of the Bells; in a bike-happy town, Münster, Germany, you need a store like that!

 

Two days after Thanksgiving, as I have done for quite a few years, I headed to Europe for the last teaching of the year: 6 schools, 12 lectures, 10 days. Busy, but not frantic, with time to see some long friends. The JFK-London flight was way fast, affording only a little nap, then onto the Heathrow Express, which that morning was not. They were working on the tracks overnight, and our train got stuck halfway into town. It took about an hour to do what’s normally less than 20 minutes, and I was sort of in a hurry, headed to Scott and Caroline Sage’s house to see their newborn daughter Eva Rose, and deliver a lovely pink blanket that Linda knitted.

Winter sky, enroute to JFK, day 1

Winter sky, enroute to JFK, day 1

Changing trains on the Bakerloo Line at Queen’s Park was a rare occurrence, something like the opposite of a happy Talking to Strangers moment: a young fellow, drunk, high on dope, or both, began speaking to me rather obscenely, making lewd suggestions. I wanted to pop him, but did not. Woulda been nice to be younger and 50 pounds heavier. What a jerk.

I was holding Eva Rose by about 8:15 (and reminded of how small two-month-old babies are) and catching up with my longtime mentee Scott (Caroline was sleeping). We had a good yak about parenthood, business, Texas, stuff. Headed out about 10:15, onto a red double-decker, then the Central Line to St. Paul’s. Again hewing to tradition I rolled my suitcase into Wren’s awesome cathedral for the 11:30 Sung Eucharist service. The virgers and wandsmen were so welcoming: “Where are you in from?” one asked (I’ve always liked that syntax: two prepositions at the end!). Fellow worshipers were also friendly. Hymns and the homily inspired me, a great start to Advent. And, as always, I rejoiced as the organ notes soared upward, to the top of Wren’s magnificent dome.

Eva Rose

Eva Rose

Scott Sage and Eva Rose Sage

Scott Sage and Eva Rose Sage

Inspired, I rode the Tube to King’s Cross railway station, ate a sandwich on a station bench, and ambled onto the local train to Cambridge, for my 19th visit to that wonderful university town. A couple miles south of the station, I spotted a sculpted silver helix, a DNA model that marked a place where brainpower has ruled for more than 800 years. Hopped the bus into town (when the railway arrived in the 19th Century, the town fathers refused a station in the center), and walked to Sidney Sussex College, my Cambridge digs, where they kindly upgraded me to the Senior Guest Room, a big suite. Grabbed a short nap, and at 5:30 met a new scholar, Sidney’s geography fellow, David Beckingham; contacted less than two days earlier, David and I yakked about his research on the geography of alcohol and alcohol abuse, and a little about my former career as an academic geographer.

The chat was short, because at 5:55 I took a seat in the packed Sidney chapel for the Advent carol service, second worship of the day. Some carols were familiar, some melodies different, for example, “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear.” At seven, I had to quietly sneak out; absolutely hate to behave that way, but I was due across town at 7:15, to meet my long friend John Crabtree, who had driven across the country just to hear my lecture the next day. To say I was deeply honored would be a huge understatement. Accompanying John at dinner at the (rather mediocre) Hotel du Vin was Jonathan Trevor, a Judge Business School lecturer in HR management and a quite interesting fellow (John had engaged him in some consulting projects). We had a good yak. But when the server asked “Would you fancy dessert?”, I replied that I would prefer a pillow. Plumb wore out, so the nine-hour sleep was most welcome.

I was sorry that I missed dinner at Sidney’s high table the night before, but it was good to be in the magnificent dining hall for breakfast Monday morning. Cromwell, who briefly studied at Sidney, was scowling at me from a framed portrait a few feet away, and I again reflected on how very fortunate I was to be in that college and at that university. Of all the schools I visit overseas, it’s my favorite.

At 9:30, I met my Judge marketing host Vincent Mak, and we walked a few blocks north and west to Magdalene (pronounced “maudlin”) College. Dr. Allegre Hadida, a Magdalene fellow and Judge lecturer, welcomed us. At ten, it was time to stand and deliver to 40 M.Phil. students. John Crabtree was there, and our mutual and good friend Andrew Manning Cox (regular readers will recall that we three have had some splendid outings on their canal boat in the Midlands) joined shortly thereafter. I had the gift of time, two hours to present an overview of airline marketing to a bright and engaged audience. At noon, we processed upstairs for a buffet lunch with 13 of the students and more conversation. Most were from overseas (only 9 of the 44 in the course were from Britain), including Korea, China, Germany, Turkey, Cyprus, and Singapore.

Allegre and Vincent walked me back to college, by way of the back of Magdalene, which abuts the River Cam. Took a short nap, worked a bit. It was dark by 4:15, and I was reminded of lyrics from “The Sidney Carol” from chapel the previous evening: “Each year it comes ‘round again/The aching chill/The ashen sky/The sunset bleeding through the fen/The freezing of our warm good will . . .”

At five, with 90 minutes of solid work completed, on the recommendation of David Beckingham I headed to a new pub near college, the curiously-named Champion of the Thames, a cozy and friendly little place on King Street. (The name began with a rower who won a sculling race in London before moving to Cambridge in 1860; he insisted that all mail be addressed to “The Champion of the River Thames, King Street, Cambridge”; when the house became a pub, the name stuck.)

ChampionPub

A few minutes later, Rosie arrived, and I walked over to say hello. Her master was somewhat surprised at a stranger greeting his dog, but Rosie, a Bedlington-Whippet mix, liked it when I stroked her chin and neck. I returned to my stool, past the bearded fellow facing the fire, who seemed made of stone. I smelled my hand, the light fragrance of hound, to me a lovely smell. Five minutes later, the publican set a metal water dish at the end of the bar, just below my feet. Rosie ambled over for more hugs.

I headed back to college to work a bit more, then toward dinner with Andrew. By long tradition, stopped into The Eagle pub on Bene’t Street, a place mentioned many times in these pages. At the bar I spotted a tap labeled Eagle DNA – their own brew, commemorating Watson and Crick, the Cambridge geniuses that first discovered the structure of the building blocks of life. Naturally, I ordered a pint, and sat down. Next to my table, a sign trumpeted 60 years of DNA research at and near the university, noting, among other things, that the entire sequence of the BRCA2 gene (grimly, the gene that causes early-onset breast cancer) had been laid along a cycle path.  Curious, I connected to the pub’s free wi-fi, Googled, and learned that the six-foot metal sculpture of the DNA helix I spotted by the railway tracks two days earlier anchors the BRCA sequence on the bikeway. Next visit, I gotta get a bike and see it. It was another reminder of the brainpower that courses through the town.

A special brew at The Eagle

A special brew at The Eagle

At eight, I met Andrew for a long, enjoyable dinner, ranging, as always, across a lot of topics. As the name suggests, the Cambridge Chop House was a meat place. Andrew tucked into an enormous steak, and I opted for pheasant, the first time I had eaten that bird in decades, and it was really delicious, roast nicely, moist, served with venison and mushroom stuffing, squash, and cabbage. Yum!

Slept hard again, up before seven, down to the dining hall for the heart-attack English breakfast, then over to the business school for a quick meeting with the (relatively) new director. From there to the train station, short ride to Stansted Airport and a flight across to Dortmund, Germany. Flying Ryanair is annoying, but it’s cheap, and mostly reliable – we arrived only 15 minutes late. I grabbed my checked bag and walked (via a small wrong-way detour) to the train station in the nearby town of Holzwickede.

The station was really just a platform, small shelter, and a ticket machine, and the latter refused to accept any of my debit or credit cards. So I hopped on the train, girded for a fight in “Gerglish” with the conductor. But none appeared. Arrived Münster at 5:22, just in time for a 6 PM lecture. It was my 14th visit there since 2003, but the street layout still confuses a Midwest guy accustomed to right angles and a grid. Smartphone map to the rescue, and I arrived in the classroom at 5:45, time to stand and deliver. It was a bit hard to read the student reaction, but the prof told me it was excellent. Hooray, more satisfied customers. My longtime host Manfred Krafft met me after class, and we motored across town to the Gasthaus Altes Leve, one of my favorite places in all the world. They’ve been cooking since 1607, so they know their stuff, and in early December they know their grünkohl, chopped kale cooked with potatoes and in this case served with a couple of tasty sausages. I had not seen Manfred for a couple of years, so it was good to catch up. He’s one of Germany’s brightest marketing profs, and always has lots to talk about.

After dinner, he kindly drove me to my Airbnb digs. For the second year in a row, I was staying with Svenja and her two cats, Findus and Momo. The building owners were expanding her apartment, and she now had a human roommate, Inge, friendly and welcoming. Sadly, Svenja was in the hospital (not serious, Inge assured me). Inge explained that the workmen arrived the next morning at eight, but that was no problem. I was in my pajamas and under an eiderdown (on a brand-new firm bed) by 10:15, plumb wore out.

Out the door the next morning, to a local bakery I recalled from the year before, for a sweet, star-shaped seasonal pastry, an Adventstern, and cup of strong coffee. If you were wondering whether I was going to rip off the Deutsche Bahn for my free 40-mile ride the day before, well of course not, so I walked back to the train station and told my story to a kindly woman in the ticket office. I handed her my credit card for the €16 fare, and she replied “impossible.” I protested, but she insisted that because the ticket machine did not accept my card and I could not find the conductor, the ride was on the DB. Okay, I tried.

Just before noon I walked back across town, along the Aa River that bisects the city, to the university’s Marketing Centrum. It was good to be back with old friends, Oliver Götz, Manfred’s assistant Malina, and a handful of doctoral students. We headed to lunch at an Italian place on the Aasee, a lovely small lake, for some good conversation. Back at the center, I did a bit of work, then headed out to purchase, by long tradition, a small wooden Christmas ornament (made in Germany, natürlich), and get a better look at the town. Back to the apartment, short nap, bit more work.

Prinzipalmarkt

Prinzipalmarkt

One of my favorite old signs, for the Stuhlmacher tavern on Prinzipalmarkt

One of my favorite old signs, for the Stuhlmacher tavern on Prinzipalmarkt

Frieze, Lamberti Church

Frieze of night watchman, Lamberti Church

Like the previous year, a young doctoral student, Christine Arden, picked me up (her sister, a graduate student in art history was along), and we walked a few blocks to an interesting venue, a small cooking school, akin to the “pop-up” restaurants that are becoming popular in the U.S. Soon nine marketing master’s students joined us for the annual fireside chat, the kaminabend, whence I present “ten pieces of advice for graduating students,” and informally discuss career and life matters. The group was friendly, but a bit less engaged than in previous years. Still, it was an interesting evening. The Münster visit was a bit too short, but it’s always good to be there.

Students at the Kaminabend

Students at the Kaminabend

Up early the next day, out the door, onto a bus, short ride to the train station, local train south to Hamm, then an ICE (express) east and south. Fifteen miles from my destination, Kassel, I looked up from reading the Times on my iPhone.  The land had become hilly. Green ridges were flecked with snow.  Plastic-wrapped hay bales looked like giant snowballs.  And I thought, as I often do, how blessed I am to have the gift of mobility.

Old and new on the UniKassel campus; the university is only 43 years old

Old and new on the UniKassel campus; the university is only 43 years old

At noon, I met my University of Kassel host and now good friend Patrick Rath, a doctoral student and manager of an EMBA program for Deutsche Post DHL. We hopped on a tram and rode to his office, worked a bit, then met one of his bosses, Prof. Wagner, for lunch and good chat. Next stop was Patrick’s nearby flat, to meet his partner Elli and three-year-old daughter Lotta. The tot was a little sick, but I managed to get her to smile. We enjoyed a cup of tea and lebkuchen, a traditional Christmas cookie.

Elli, Lotta, and Patrick

Elli, Lotta, and Patrick

The day was speeding past. I said goodbye, got back on a tram, and rode back toward the suburban train station to my Airbnb digs for the evening, a spotless room in Christoph Suda’s spotless apartment (hospital levels of cleanliness, for sure). Chatted briefly with my host, a grad student in political science who worked two jobs, in the university’s philosophy department and as a refrigerant technician. An ambitious fellow, emblematic of the German work ethic!

At five I headed back out, onto the streetcar again, and back to the uni. From six to eight I delivered a talk on leadership to a dozen business students, a nice group. They invited me to dinner, which was a nice surprise. First stop was a cup of traditional hot glühwein at a very nice Christmas market in the main square, then off to Lohmann, Kassel’s oldest kneipe, or pub. Eight of us had a wonderful time. The bar is famous for schnitzels, but I enjoyed one at lunch, so opted for herring and fried potatoes, another variant of German comfort food. We yakked around the table, but I spent a lot of time chatting with Thomas, a bright youngster (he asked some great questions in the session). Among other things, he told me about his walkabout the previous year to Australia, where he picked bananas in Queensland for six weeks for A$18 an hour (“I had to watch out for snakes and spiders”), and New Zealand, where he hitchhiked all over. He was amazed to learn that when I was his age, I also thumbed my way around NZ. It was a great evening, and I got home way past my bedtime.

Friday morning, Christoph’s girlfriend Katja had not yet left for work, and we had a nice chat over coffee. As I have written, Airbnb is awesome for the interaction with hosts, and Katja was typical. She grew up in East Germany, born one year before the Wall came down – it was fun to offer her my perspective on the Cold War, the GDR, their evil secret police, the Stasi. I said goodbye, and Katja twice said, “thanks for your business,” (and later wrote it in an email).

My Airbnb digs in Kassel

My Airbnb digs in Kassel; ordinary but that’s the point: Airbnb makes you feel local.

Paper plant and piles of recycled material, Fulda

Paper plant and piles of recycled material, Fulda

Walked a few blocks to the station, met Patrick, and jumped on the ICE to Frankfurt. I was hungry, so we had a late breakfast in the dining car, a fancy version of an Egg McMuffin, and a jolt of coffee. At Frankfurt, we changed to the little suburban train, riding west to Königstein, in the Taunus hills, headed to my fourth visit to the Siegfried Vögele Institute, the continuing-education center of Deutsche Post DHL. The building, as I have noted before, was for a few decades a psychiatric clinic, opened by Dr. Kohnstamm in 1905 and closed by the Nazis.

We walked to the institute, checked in, and ate lunch with ten students in the new EMBA class. I worked most of the afternoon, catching up, and managed both a 20-mile ride on a fitness bike and a tonic nap. At seven we ate Christmas goose, dumplings, and red cabbage; by formula, I then delivered an informal “dinner speech,” answered a lot of questions, and chatted informally. It was another nice evening.

Up early Saturday, quick breakfast and a taxi back to the station (I should have walked), back to Frankfurt, and onto the ICE, in a big first class seat, to Berlin. Did a bit of work, looked out the window, listened to the St. Olaf College Choir sing Christmas carols, all good. By formula and now six-year tradition, met Michael Beckmann and his son Niklas, now almost six, on Track 11 at Berlin’s Hauptbahnhof at 1:40. I needed a wi-fi hotspot, so we walked to Starbucks in the station, zipped some files to the USA, and grabbed a coffee.

After a short detour to an art gallery (to buy another little-angel Christmas ornament, oops, forgot Linda said to get one for each granddaughter), we jumped into the afternoon excursion (Michael always lines up something interesting to see), to the Archenhold-Sternwärte, a planetarium in Treptower Park in the southeast part of Berlin. I hadn’t been to such a museum for decades, and this one was small but interesting, with some storied history: in June 1915, Albert Einstein gave a lecture on his theory of relativity. Most impressive was a huge optical telescope built in 1896 with subscriptions from ordinary Berliners. It had a long shaft that looked a bit like an enormous cannon. Herr Archenhold, the namesake, supervised its construction, and it was the longest such device in the world; the Nazis exterminated his wife and daughter, and the plaque next to his portrait said only that he died in Berlin in 1939.

Nazi-era bunker, Berlin

Nazi-era bunker, Berlin

We had a good look around the place, watched a brief planetarium show, and departed. It was already dark, so we headed home to see Susan and daughter Annika, almost three. We had a nice dinner at home, a brief chat, and a good sleep.

 

Former East German watchtower in Treptower Park

Former East German watchtower in Treptower Park

The 1896 Archenhold telescope

The 1896 Archenhold telescope

A portrait of Friedrich Simon Archenhold (1861-1939) in the planetarium

A portrait of Friedrich Simon Archenhold (1861-1939) in the planetarium

An Einstein triptych: memorial plaque, kids' interpretations of the man, and the famous asymmetric clocks

An Einstein triptych: memorial plaque, kids’ interpretations of the man, and the famous asymmetric clocks

 

Sunday morning was slow, which was fine by me!   We had a leisurely breakfast of homemade bread with nice cheeses, meats, jams, and honey. At 11, Annika, Niklas, Michael, and I hopped into the Mercedes station wagon and motored south to Potsdam, residence of Prussian kings and the Kaiser until 1918. We wandered through a nice, less-commercial Christmas market in the center, had a light lunch and a glühwein, then wandered the huge grounds of the royal palaces. We intended to go inside one, the “new palace,” but the kids were getting cranky, so we walked a bit more, packed up, and drove home.

A tight squeeze; Michael's parallel-parking skills are second-to-none!

A tight squeeze; Michael’s parallel-parking skills are second-to-none!

In the Christmas Market, Potsdam

In the Christmas Market, Potsdam

Annika and Niklas with Christmas crepes

Annika and Niklas with Christmas crepes

Fancy shop window, Potsdam (candleholders were $250 each)

Fancy shop window, Potsdam (candleholders were $250 each)

Dutch-style house in the "Holland Quarter," Potsdam

Dutch-style house in the “Holland Quarter,” Potsdam

Detail, commercial house, Potsdam

Detail, commercial house, Potsdam

The New Chambers (1771-75), Sans Souci, Potsdam

The New Chambers (1771-75), Sans Souci, Potsdam

Chinese House, Sans Souci, Potsdam, built 1755-64 for Frederick the Great

Chinese House, Sans Souci, Potsdam, built 1755-64 for Frederick the Great

By tradition, dinner was at Zur Krummen Linde¸ a great restaurant we had visited every time I stayed with the family. They’ve been cooking since 1761. We had a great dinner: well-behaved kids, nice beer, goulash soup, and an entrée of tender boiled veal called tafelspitz (first time for me).

Bedtime at the Beckmanns: Annika with the blanket that Linda Britton knitted

Bedtime at the Beckmanns: Annika with the blanket that Linda Britton knitted

We were up at six on Monday, time to wish Annika a happy third birthday, watch her blow out the candles on her cake (to be eaten later) and open presents. An early party, because Susan, a physician, was headed into Berlin for some continuing education. Handily, her class was a mile from the Hauptbahnhof, so we rode in together. I hopped on the 8:32 ICE, no change of train all the way across the country to Karlsruhe, for my third visit to KIT, the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. Toward the end of the five hour ride, I had a nice T-t-S chat with a seatmate, artistic director of a summer festival in Ettlingen, a town not far from Karlsruhe.

Berlin continues to build; indeed, construction cranes were a common sight all across Germany

Berlin continues to build; indeed, construction cranes were a common sight all across Germany

We arrived right on time, which was good, because I was due for a tour of the Bundesverfassungsgericht, the German Constitutional Court, in 32 minutes. Waiting for the S1 train, I struck up a nice conversation with Mathias, a university student visiting his girlfriend and headed, the following week, for snowboarding in the Alps.

Mathias

Mathias

I have long admired the 1949 Basic Law (as their constitution is called in English), and in previous visits to Karlsruhe the court was closed for renovation. This time I arranged to join a tour. Unhappily, the tram was late, so I arrived at the gate out of breath and five minutes late. The first security guard spoke good English, and after a bit of verifying I was advanced to the building, where a polite guard said, “parking your luggage here in the corner.” There were no metal detectors, no X-ray machines, no frisking, no search.

The Constitutional Court

The Constitutional Court

A nice souvenir: tiny copy of the 1949 German Basic Law

A nice souvenir: tiny copy of the 1949 German Basic Law

Another guard brought me to the chamber, up three flights of stairs, two at a time. The courtroom was essentially unchanged since the building opened in 1969 (I saw original photos). It was plain and simply furnished. But the best thing was it was open: glass walls on two sides, with a view of the pale-yellow Baden palace (1715) on one side and the city art museum on the other. Above the eight brown leather chairs for the justices was an enormous adler, the German eagle. It resembled a modern university lecture hall. The tour was in progress, and I joined a group of 40 law students from Munich, who were asking lots of questions.

After they finished and we walked downstairs to a small museum, I introduced myself to one of the tour leaders, and we had a nice T-t-S, me explaining my high regard for their constitution. We talked a bit about history, touching on their first constitution, written in the Weimar era; he noted that it contained “some holes” that enabled Hitler to take control of the government.

Walking back to the tram stop and on the train to the hotel, I mused about the openness of the court – no U.S.-style security paranoia, glass walls, and more. Regular readers know that I greatly admire Germany and the society they built from the ruins of two world wars. They may well have “outfreedomed” the United States. Consider this from an article in The New York Times in November: the chancellor, Mrs. Merkel, eats at a neighborhood Italian restaurant in Berlin, no black limo in front, no enormous security detail. Symbolic, perhaps, but I believe in symbols like that. More fundamentally, their Basic Law institutionalized social democracy, guaranteeing individuals the right to things like health care that we Americans still don’t have. There’s a lot to admire.

My home for the next two nights was a very agreeable Gasthaus zum Ochsen, in nearby Durlach. The inn’s restaurant was closed Mondays, but the kindly owner welcomed me, apologizing for the climb up two steep flights to the top floor of a house built in 1746. The room was huge and very comfortable.

Durlach-3

Window, Gasthaus zum Ochsen

Window, Gasthaus zum Ochsen

The trip was going way smoothly, so I was due for a self-inflicted bump, and there it was: I left my laptop power supply and European adapter on the train. Aieeeeeeeeee! But, as I have written many times in these pages, failure is about recovery, so after a bit of bad language I set off for the center of Durlach to find a new power adapter so I could keep my iPhone charged (the laptop battery icon indicated 70 minutes of charge, so the challenge would be to meter usage during the next four days). Although it was already dark, I could tell Durlach was an interesting, old place, with lots of curved streets, half-timbered houses, and more. After a few polite inquiries in English and German, I found an adapter at a lamp store, and was back in business, at least partially, practicing my finger typing on the iPhone.

Town hall gable and church spire, Durlach

Town hall gable and church spire, Durlach

Lutheran church and town hall, Durlach

Lutheran church and town hall, Durlach

Bakery window, Durlach

Bakery window, Durlach

On my first Karlsruhe visit two years earlier, I found a great brewpub called Der Vogel (the bird), and they had several locations, include Durlach, so I ambled back across town (I was getting to know the place well!), and sat down at the bar. The bartender spoke no English, but by this point my simple German was understood, so was able to ask for a Christmas beer, then a nice plate of veal kidneys, dumplings, and salad, all auf Deutsch. The place had wi-fi, so I caught up on email read the scores from U.S. football, and more.

Tuesday morning, it was time to stand and deliver, so I hopped on the tram and rode west to KIT. At eight, it was still dark, a reminder of short days in the northern latitudes. Ambling across campus, I noticed a statue of alumnus Karl Benz (1844-1929), generally regarded as inventor of the automobile. It’s a brainpower place, for sure. At 9:15 I met my host Martin Klarmann, then delivered back-to-back lectures. My energy and interactivity surprised quite a few of the students, accustomed to distance and formality (at the start of the first class, I even told the group of undergraduates that they should expect something different).

As we had done twice previously, lunch was with four of Martin’s doctoral and post-doc students, Verena, Sven, Fabian, and Sophie (the two former were new) at a great little Italian-run pizza and pasta joint I had visited two years earlier. I said goodbye, hopped the streetcar back to Durlach, snapped a few pictures, jumped on a consulting call in mid-afternoon.  By the time I finished, it was nearly dark. I headed out in the fading light, walking Durlach a bit more. Zipped into a cozy pub, the Kranz Musik- und Bierkneipe. It had a large black portrait of Che Guevara on the back wall, a stylized metal fish above the bar, and mixed American rock and roll on the Internet radio.

Durlach has lots of half-timbered houses

Durlach has lots of half-timbered houses

Street scene, Durlach

Street scene, Durlach

At 7:15, I met Martin for what turned out to be a caloric, three-hour dinner downstairs in the Zum Ochsen.  He’s a great conversationalist and “window” on Germany.  With that much time, we covered lots of topics, but most memorable was the story of his wife’s grandmother, born 1922 and still living, in Kassel.   Among other tales, her parents were solid Social Democrats, and she was unhappy that they wouldn’t let her join the girls’ side of the Hitler Youth. We agreed that she has seen a lot!

After breakfast Wednesday morning I walked to the Durlach train station and hopped on a regional train for Stuttgart, my first time in Germany’s sixth-largest city and the capital of the state of Baden-Wurttemberg. Just as in the previous five German cities, construction cranes poked above a low-rise skyline, a reminder that in the world’s largest social democracy they don’t seem to have trouble growing their economy and providing a more equitable life for its people.

"Official" graffiti advertising a design studio in a small city near Stuttgart

“Official” graffiti advertising a design studio in a small city near Stuttgart

The area around the Stuttgart railway station is being redeveloped, amid great controversy over destruction of part of the historic building and other issues

The area around the Stuttgart railway station is being redeveloped, amid great controversy over destruction of part of the historic building and other issues

Commercial street, Stuttgart

Commercial street, Stuttgart

The center was flattened in 1944, and the commercial area was solely new buildings, rather soulless; it reminded me of Birmingham, another bombed city. The old city, Altstadt, has also been destroyed, but rebuilt. Especially notable was the (Lutheran) Stiftskirche, begun in the 10th Century, expanded sequentially in later centuries. It was rebuilt with a modern interior 1953-58, and again 1999-2003, with a new organ in 2004. There were some other interesting old buildings and palaces.   I was glad for a two-hour tour on foot.

Interior, Stiftskirche

Interior, Stiftskirche

Stiftskirche

Stiftskirche

Neues Schloss (New Palace)

Neues Schloss (New Palace)

Altes Schloss (Old Palace)

Altes Schloss (Old Palace)

There was lots more to see, but the main event, a tour of the enormous Daimler factory in nearby Sindelfingen, was next, so I hopped on a suburban train and rode 20 minutes southwest to Böblingen. From the train, you could see Stuttgart’s layout, sprawling across hills and ridges, which gave it immense texture. On arrival, I hopped on the free bus headed to the Mercedes Benz customer center. A couple about my age with a dog also boarded; I asked them in German if they were buying the dog a new car, “Ja wohl,” she replied happily.

Mercedes customers; woof!

Mercedes customers; woof!

Daimler factory, Sindelfingen

Daimler factory, Sindelfingen

The tour began at 1:50, about 25 of us from a range of nations. First up was an inspiring short film that included a story I had heard twice on this trip: Karl’s wife, Berta Benz, took his invention and drove from Mannheim to Pforzheim with her kids – the first driver in the world was, in fact, a woman driver! Clearly, she had an excellent head for marketing.

We visited two parts of the vast plant where they build the posh E Series, first to a place where frame and underbody parts are joined. It was industrial ballet, with choreographed robots doing laser welding, gluing, and more. Industrial process has fascinated me since I was a child, and I’m still particularly interested in machine tools – the machines that make the machines. Almost all of them were German, from big companies like Bosch and many smaller ones. No doubt OSHA inspectors would be apoplectic: sparks were flying (one nearly hit me); we crossed moving conveyor belts; supply trucks and carts whizzed past.Wheel

Detail from a reproduction of Benz's first car

Detail from a reproduction of Benz’s first car

Part two was closer to final assembly. Here people did most of the work, with help from machines. Doors were hung, innards added. The sense of precision was palpable: bins of parts with hand-signed quality assurance slips; sensors on the line tracked gaps around the windows and doors, flagging them on a video screen as flaws that needed fine-tuning. The tour leader described just-in-time logistics, including a small fleet of helicopters in case a truck or train was delayed.

This was mass production, so different from the last plant tour, Boeing’s 737 factory in 2009, where there’s sort of an assembly line, but nothing like cranking out a few thousand cars in a day.

My fellow tourists were mostly agreeable, save for a half-dozen seriously annoying Russians, who cut in front of other tour members; strayed behind; texted on their mobiles when the leader expressly prohibited them; and at the end one snapped pictures with his phone.  The leader, not to be messed with, busted the offender, and we all waited while she watched him delete every one (and there were many). Deep sigh.

The tour ended a bit early, which allowed me to catch the 3:45 bus back to Böblingen station. The Mercedes restaurant was closed for renovation, so by four I was really hungry. At Böblingen station I grabbed a couple of nicely seeded bread rolls (hooray for German bakeries) to tide me over. At 5:30 I hopped on the ICE to Frankfurt Airport and immediately headed to the dining car for a fourth rolling meal and a final helping of grünkohl.  The greens were not as good as eight nights earlier at the Altes Leve in Münster, but that restaurant did not move at 150 mph like the ICE!

After a day off, it was time to get back to work. Flew to Dublin. The immigration officer asked if I had been to Ireland before. “Oh yes,” I said, and he replied “So they’ve told you about the weather?” Outside, it was howling. Fortunately, the hotel shuttle bus arrived quickly, checked in, and clocked out.

Slept really hard, up at 7:20, out the door on foot, 1.5 miles to the campus of Dublin City University, my fourth visit there.  Close to school, I had a nice chat with a woman walking her little white dog.  Stroked her chin (the dog’s!), and told her owner how much I missed the terriers.  Doo Doo Doo, as I say to them.

The university didn’t work me hard enough in 2013, but they did in ’14, four classes, two morning and two afternoon.  In between, we enjoyed a very nice group lunch at 1838, the faculty club named for the year the building went up.  My original (2007-08) host Naoimh O’Reilly was there, as were her friend Christine O’Meara, a former American Airlines Europe colleague who introduced us back then; Noel, an engineering prof I met a year earlier; Barry, a Ryanair captain and teacher in the school’s aviation management program; Col. Andy, a new faculty member, recently retired after 36 years in the Irish Air Force (didn’t even know they had one!); and Brian and Elizabeth, two managers from Stobart Air, a regional airline that does franchise flying for Aer Lingus and others.  Nearly all “flying people,” so there was plenty to talk about over a fine, three-course lunch.

At four, hoarse from a lot of speaking, I walked to a nearby convenience store, bought a chipcard for the Dublin Bus, walked three more blocks, and hopped on the #16 bus back to the hotel. Changed clothes, worked my email, and at 5:45 headed into town for a pint or two and some dinner.  First stop was J.W. Sweetman, purveyors of craft beer, right on the River Liffey.  Sipped a pint of their homemade pale ale, brought this journal up to date, and marveled again at my great good fortune to have, for all my adult life, the blessing of global mobility. Can’t say thanks too often for that gift.

Next stop was Mulligan’s, which surely must be the quintessential Irish pub, and possibly the liveliest drinking place I have ever visited – and I’ve been in a lot of bars! We first visited a year earlier with my former Aer Lingus chum Maurice Coleman; he was occupied that night, but I managed to have a good yak or two with various fellow tipplers. Mostly, though, it was fun to survey the scene from a vantage in the corner of one of the rooms. Everyone was having a grand time. I would have stayed longer, but was worn out. Grabbed a sandwich from a convenience store and headed back to the Crowne Plaza.

Mulligan's, take 1

Mulligan’s, take 1

Mulligan's, take 2

Mulligan’s, take 2

Spent a long time in the hotel dining room Friday morning, another heart-attack breakfast, which in Ireland meant black pudding in addition to eggs, bacon, sausage, potatoes. So good. Hopped on the shuttle bus back to the airport. Had a bit of time, so ambled over to the airport church – of course Catholic Ireland would have a freestanding building on airport grounds, in that case the parish named Our Lady, Queen of Heaven. I had not visited since 2000, and it was a good place for daily prayers, and to admire a nice contemporary sculpture of Jesus’ mom, a few weeks before his birthday celebration.

Our Lady, Queen of Heaven

Our Lady, Queen of Heaven

At ten, I met Maurice for an all-too-short-but-better-than-nothing chat and coffee. We covered a lot of ground in 30 minutes: retiree pensions, children’s careers, the Irish economy, the manifold virtues of Mulligan’s. Said goodbye and joined a long queue for security screening, whence I noticed another electronics snafu: my iPhone appeared to have died. Blank screen, nothing. Good thing I was headed home the next day, but several key pieces of information needed that day were inside the device, including the phone number of my Airbnb host. Aieeeeeeeeee. On the flight to London, I jotted down all the stuff I had added to the phone since I last synced it to my laptop – appointments, contact names, and the like.

Departure board, Terminal 1, Dublin Airport; note the 10:10 flight!

Departure board, Terminal 1, Dublin Airport; note the 10:10 flight!

We landed at Stansted at one, literally minutes before a computer glitch caused London airspace to close. Without my GPS maps on the phone, I needed paper, and in the arrivals hall I found a free map of central London.  Even for a former geography professor, it felt a bit odd to go back to paper, but I found my Airbnb digs on the map, as well as the lecture venue a mile south. So I had my vectors. Ever thrifty, instead of the train into town I opted for the $5 EasyBus from Stansted, which turned out to be a minibus crammed with seats, captained by a Pole, and largely filled with an extended family from Spain. Happily, it was on time, and at three I was ambling west on Old Street toward my Airbnb digs.

Unhappily, the building directory didn’t list names, and I didn’t know 1) host Jonathan’s flat number, nor 2) his phone number.  By this point, my laptop had less than 8% battery, but it booted up long enough for me to find and jot down the number.  God bless the smokers outside the pub at the corner of Percival and St. John streets.  Explaining my predicament, one whipped out her mobile phone, tapped the number, and handed me the phone.  Jonathan answered immediately.  I was in! Unpacked a bit, put on a red necktie, and hopped bus #4 south a mile.

The 28th and final school of 2014 was Cass Business School at City University. I hadn’t been there since fall 2008, in fact as I told host Vince Mitchell, it was the day after Barack Obama was elected. From 4:45 to 6:00 I delivered a lecture to an EMBA class, stayed for 30 more minutes to answer questions, and said goodbye. I left the lecture venue, and walked two blocks to the Tube station at St. Paul’s.  On the south horizon was Wren’s dome; I smiled, for had come full circle in 12 days, back to a place where the trip began. Rode the Central Line west to the Apple Store on Regent Street; for the second time in just over four years I was a long way from home with a big problem. But the young fellow had the phone working in a minute. I didn’t know about the “hard reset,” but now I do!

Regent Street

Regent Street

Clearly, though, it had been a big crash, because the phone was 80% charged when it stopped, and it then showed 11%.  But it was working, and that was excellent. I hung out on the retail floor, charged it to 40%, worked my email, read some articles, and headed to dinner. I was tired, and considered finding a spot nearby, but I needed spice, and that meant Hot Stuff, a favorite Indian place across the river in Lambeth.

The owner, Raj Dawood, remembered me like an old friend. We yakked a bit, Coby the waiter brought a bottle opener for the beers I bought three blocks earlier, and all was well. They fixed me up a special plate (“give me some variety for £10,” I said, “and make sure to earn a profit!”). Raj knows I like it hot, and he delivered a zippy chicken karahi and palak paneer, cheese cooked in a thick spinach and garlic sauce. I ate it all but could not finish the special naan bread. Coby packed up the leftover bread to bring home for his family; “I don’t like to waste food,” he said, and I agreed emphatically.  My kind of person.

Still life: dinner at Hot Stuff

Still life: dinner at Hot Stuff

At 10:30, it was quiet in the flat.  I set out clothes for the flight home, and crashed hard. Up at 6:45, out the door, south on St. John Street, past a restaurant of the same name that I hadn’t visited in years.  Missed the turn onto Cowcross Street, passed the massive Smithfield (wholesale) Market, back onto the Tube and Heathrow Express, then the Silver Bird, home. And that was the end of travel for the year.

Windsor Castle, just after takeoff from Heathrow

Windsor Castle, just after takeoff from Heathrow

North Fork, Long Island, on approach to JFK

North Fork, Long Island, on approach to JFK

 

 

 

 

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Montreal, Charleston, Fort Worth, and Philadelphia: A Week’s Worth of Familiar Places

Growth on the edge of the University of Pennsylvania campus, Philadelphia

Growth on the edge of the University of Pennsylvania campus, Philadelphia

On Sunday, November 9 I flew up to New York, then on to Montreal for the fall teaching gig at McGill University. It was a clear day, good for looking out the window (see below).  Unlike previous autumns, because of budget the visit would be a single lecture the next day in the law school’s Institute of Air and Space Law. Sort of a long run for a short slide, but it was my eighth consecutive talk in the Airline Law and Business course, and I hew to tradition. We landed at sunset – much shorter days 500 miles north – and I bought a 3-day STM public-transit pass and hopped onto the 747 express bus into a place well familiar (first trip was at age 15, nearly 50 years ago).

Wetlands, Chesapeake Bay

Wetlands, Chesapeake Bay

Howard Beach, near Kennedy Airport; as in a previous post, I wonder about the wisdom of building -- and rebuilding -- so close to the rising ocean.

Howard Beach, near Kennedy Airport; as in a previous post, I wonder about the wisdom of building — and rebuilding — so close to the rising ocean.

Lachine Rapids, St. Lawrence River, near Montreal

Lachine Rapids, St. Lawrence River, near Montreal

Montreal skyline at sunset

Montreal skyline at sunset

Ambled up Rue Sherbrooke to my new digs. The fave Holiday Inn was becoming student housing, so the university booked me into a room in an adjacent student building. It was billed as an executive suite, woo hoo. It took the student desk clerk about 20 minutes to determine that in fact I was booked in the system, and another six or seven for her to take the elevator to the 25th floor “to make sure the room was clean.” Hmmmm, I thought, universities maybe shouldn’t try to be in the hotel business. Got the key, rode up, and it was both deluxe and huge. But no wi-fi.
Washed my face, changed clothes, and headed east on Sherbooke to the Latin Quarter and a by-now-favorite brewpub, L’Amère à Boire. Connected easily to their free wi-fi and had a pint of homemade pale ale, then a plate of fish, fries, and salad. Yum.

Young tipplers at the brewpub

Young tipplers at the brewpub

Up early Monday morning, out the door, breakfast, by long tradition, at the Tim Horton’s on Sherbrooke, then up the street to the law school. Worked a bit, and at ten met young Professor David Chen and another guest speaker, Lorne Mackenzie, director of regulatory affairs at the hugely successful new Canadian airline WestJet. Lorne took the first half of the class, talking about the secrets to their success (zero domestic market share to 35% in 18 years). I thought I knew them pretty well, but I learned a lot. I then delivered my airline alliances talk, good questions, applause, out the door.

Architectural detail, McGill University; long before the Twitter bird, the school's crest featured a little one!

Architectural detail, McGill University; long before the Twitter bird, the school’s crest featured a little one!

Headed back to the “hotel,” dropped stuff, grabbed a quick bowl of soup, worked a bit, and at four met a longtime McGill marketing colleague, Bob Mackalski, for an hour yak. Back to the room, wash face, and out the door, east on the Route 24 bus, then north on foot to the dinner venue, Bieres et Compagnie. Granddaughter Dylan is in a novel first-grade program, mornings in French and afternoons in English, so it made sense to visit Renaud Bray, a wonderful independent bookstore on Rue St. Denis that had long admired, and buy some children’s books en Française. The clerk steered me to the right area, and in no time I had translations of two familiar English-language kids’ authors, plus a cute and very Canadian book about a bear that loves trees. Mission accomplished. Tucked into a nice casserole of potatoes, sausage, and onions, with beer. Ambled a block north and east to the Metro and zipped home.

Royals

Is the typewriter making a comeback? Well, they’re making manual Royals again, and selling them at this hipster all-paper-no-digital store on Rue du Parc

Granddaughter Dylan is now studying French, so one of my assignments was to photograph signs in French -- figure this one out!

Granddaughter Dylan is now studying French, so one of my assignments was to photograph signs in French — figure this one out!

Tuesday morning, breakfast at (where else?) Tim Horton’s, then back on the bus to the airport, then south to Philadelphia. I had a few hours, so did some work, ate lunch, and on the way to the gate for a flight to Charleston, South Carolina I admired a new artistic media: knitted wraps, in this case around pillars on the concourse in Terminal F. Philadelphia artist Jessie Hemmons invented Ishnits, which mainly wrap outdoor objects like telephone poles, street signs, and parking meters. She calls it “yarn bombing,” and among its several beauties is that it’s non-destructive, “an expression of comfort and humanity.” Linda is a knitter, so I immediately texted her with pictures. Way cool!

Old and new in downtown Montreal

Old and new in downtown Montreal

Jessie Hemmon's yarnbombing in Terminal F

Jessie Hemmons’ yarnbombing in Terminal F, Philadelphia International Airport

Landed Charleston 3:40, taxi to the Marriott, 20 miles on an exercise bike, shower, and out on foot across the old city to dinner. The Eno Center for Transportation, the nonpartisan Washington think-tank where I’ve done some work, invited me to give the lunchtime keynote speech the next day, and that night invited me to a dinner and reception on King Street, in the splendid old downtown. Had a nice meal and met some new folks. Next day listened to some interesting talks, then it was my turn. I felt deeply honored to be introduced by former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta. I had met Norm a few times in the capital and like him very much, still vibrant and active at 83. Speech went well. Another couple of sessions, then back to the airport and a short flight north to Washington. Wish I had more time in Charleston, a really interesting city.  No pictures to show here!

Two days later, Linda and I drove to Dulles Airport and flew to Dallas/Fort Worth. The American Airlines Credit Union was honoring retiring board members at a dinner, and though it was a long way to go for a dinner, I wanted to be there, to see colleagues with whom I served for a dozen years. We were glad we met, especially for nice conversations with tablemates Sally and Peter Warlick. Sally worked on the food & beverage team 1998-2000, and earlier in my career I collaborated with Peter on some projects. He’s now Vice President for Fleet, a huge job at the new American. Genuinely great people. Woke up, flew home (Linda headed west to Lubbock to see Jack).

Two days after that, north on Amtrak to Philadelphia and the annual lectures in Prof. Americus Reed’s MBA marketing class at the Wharton School (where I studied management 30 years earlier). Arrived noon in pelting rain, hopped on a trolley to the University of Pennsylvania, and soon was ambling briskly down Locust Walk and smiling about being back in a place that changed my life, for the way, way better. Had a nice lunch with Pat Rose, one of the organizers of the postdoc program I attended back in the day. We’ve stayed connected, and glad for it.

War memorial, 30th Street Station, Philadelphia

War memorial, 30th Street Station, Philadelphia

Benjamin Franklin, founder, in 1740, of the University of Pennsylvania

Benjamin Franklin, founder, in 1740, of the University of Pennsylvania

I worked for several hours in the Wharton classroom where most of our courses were held 31 years ago, and it was cool to be in that space. At 6:30, I met Americus and we processed to dinner at a nearby restaurant, The White Dog. Wonderful meal, great conversation. Hopped a bus back to his neighborhood; by tradition – and budget – I stay at his house, which is a great treat.

Our 1983 classroom in Steinberg-Dietrich Hall

Our 1983 classroom in Steinberg-Dietrich Hall

Up early the next morning, into the kitchen, where I met Tia Maya, the Ecuadoran aunt of Americus’ wife Veronica. Maya speaks no English, so it’s sort of a forced – but totally enjoyable – Spanish lesson.  As I do each year, I also admired all the cool stuff in the Reed house — it’s really something like an eclectic museum:

Museum

At 8:30, Americus and I headed by bus back to campus, I delivered a morning lecture, enjoyed a big Asian lunch, repeated the talk, hugged him, walked back to the train station, and headed home. It’s always a joy to visit Penn, which Benjamin Franklin founded in 1740; indeed, on the way to the station I admired several of his famous sayings, inlaid on the 37th Street walkway on campus:

And you thought "no pain, no gain" was invented 25 years ago by some fitness fanatic; nope, it was Mr. Franklin, 250 years back!

And you thought “no pain, no gain” was invented 25 years ago by some fitness fanatic; nope, it was Mr. Franklin, 250 years back!

 

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Miami, Lubbock, Dallas

Statue of American humorist and cowboy Will Rogers (1879-1935) on the Texas Tech campus; he never studied there, but his sunny personality perfectly fits the campus ethos.

Statue of American humorist and cowboy Will Rogers (1879-1935) on the Texas Tech campus; he never studied there, but his sunny personality perfectly fits the campus ethos.

Flew to Miami on Thursday, October 22. From seven miles up, this geographer got a good look at coastal Florida’s vulnerability to hurricanes and rising sea levels. In their zeal to get people close to the ocean, they’ve built billions of dollars worth of property that is way, way too close to the ocean. The day of reckoning will come, initially from insurance companies, who steadily withdraw from these high-risk areas.

The view of vulnerability: central Atlantic coast of Florida

The view of vulnerability: central Atlantic coast of Florida

Landed at 11:30, met consulting client Jay from SmartKargo, and hopped in a taxi to Miami Beach and the super-posh Fontainebleau Hotel. One of Miami’s original mega-hotels, built 1954, it’s been expanded even more, and was the venue for an air cargo conference, CargoFacts 2014. To make sense of sky-high room rates, we shared a room, which worked well. Unpacked, worked a bit, and walked a few blocks west on 41st St. to an authentic place, Latin Café. We sat at the counter and tucked into a big lunch, arroz con pollo. The place was full of working people, a few businesswomen, most speaking Spanish. A nice slice.

The view from the hotel at dusk on a cloudy night

The view from the hotel at dusk on a cloudy night

The view from our hotel room

The view from our hotel room

I did not venture outdoors again for 48 hours, occupied to the max with the conference: making contacts, doing a bit of selling (take a look at http://www.SmartKargo.com), learning about the business (30 years on the passenger side, 3 months in cargo, a lot to learn), eating and drinking well. It was a splendid introduction.

The old Miami Beach, Collins Avenue; the new one is in the distance, a huge addition to the Fontainebleau Hotel

The old Miami Beach, Collins Avenue; the new one is in the distance, a huge addition to the Fontainebleau Hotel

After lunch on Friday, I eschewed the $55 taxi, walking a couple blocks south to bus stop for an express back to the airport. While waiting, got in a nice chat with a bus driver waiting to start driving. The young African-American woman sized me up, I’m sure thinking “what is this guy doing waiting for a city bus?” I ventured that spinning taxi meters have made me nervous ever since I was a little boy, watching my mom sometimes stress about the rising fare. “I hear you,” she said. Flew home. A good trip, lots of learning.

On the morning of Halloween, I flew to Dallas-Fort Worth then on to Lubbock. I was sorry not to see Dylan and Carson in their costumes, but pumped to visit Jack for the weekend. Flight out to West Texas was late, landed after five and headed to Jack’s house for an hour or so, then out to dinner with his friend Samantha Kelly, a second-year law student at Texas Tech. We had a great meal and some laughs at the Crafthouse, a gastropub near his house, then a dollop or two of frozen yogurt. A nice evening.

The view on approach to Lubbock airport: Irrigated cotton ready for harvest

The view on approach to Lubbock airport: Irrigated cotton ready for harvest

Saturday morning dawned cool and clear. We grabbed big coffees at his favorite J&B, then pointed the Subaru onto U.S. Highway 84 for a little road trip. Jack had waxed enthusiastic about interesting small towns northwest of the city, and we got our fill, pausing in Anton, Littlefield, Sudan, Muleshoe. Some of the places are shrinking, some are stable, but all of them are ghost towns when it comes to retail activity. Commerce began to hollow out with the first shopping malls and cheap gas in the 1960s and 70s, and accelerated with Wal-Mart and big box stores in Lubbock. Lots of these towns now have large Hispanic populations. I felt like a geographer again, out for some field research.

The drive-in theater has disappeared nearly everywhere, but the Stars and Stripes, northwest of Lubbock, is booming, with the latest releases; $8 gets a carload into the picture show.

The drive-in theater has disappeared nearly everywhere, but the Stars and Stripes, northwest of Lubbock, is booming, with the latest releases; $8 gets a carload into the picture show.

Three glimpses of a valuable West Texas crop; next year's knit shirt might be in the pictures!

Three glimpses of a valuable West Texas crop; next year’s knit shirt might be in the pictures!

Anton

Water tower, Littlefield, Texas (the late Mr. Jennings was a popular country music star in the 1970s)

Water tower, Littlefield, Texas (the late Mr. Jennings was a popular country music star in the 1970s)

The marquee of the former Wallace theater, Muleshoe, Texas.  It was a scene that reminded me of Larry McMurtry's novel, The Last Picture show.

The marquee of the former Wallace theater, Muleshoe, Texas. It was a scene that reminded me of Larry McMurtry’s novel, The Last Picture show.

Main Street, Muleshoe, Texas

Main Street, Muleshoe, Texas

Elevator, Muleshoe, Texas

Elevator, Muleshoe, Texas

Saddle Up!  Mobile advertisement in Littlefield, Texas

Saddle Up! Mobile advertisement in Littlefield, Texas

Zoomed back to Lubbock, yakking across a range of topics, and into a big lunch at Pei Wei. Jack peeled off for the gym (he works out daily) and I headed out on his sturdy bike for 22 miles, mainly around the huge Tech campus – second-largest contiguous campus in the U.S. The place was buzzing, folks arriving and partying in anticipation of a football game that evening. Showered, watched a little TV, and at 5:30 hopped on Jack’s motorcycle, the best way to get to the game, because we could park two blocks from the stadium.

BizBike

Fans

The view from row 37, Texas Tech stadium

The view from row 37, Texas Tech stadium

It was great fun to attend the second college game in four weeks. The bands, the cheers, the hoopla, really cool. Unhappily the University of Texas Longhorns beat the Red Raiders, but we still had a big time. Stopped at a Whataburger – a Texas chain that we like a lot – for a small burger and malt, headed home, and clocked out. A big day.

Up early Sunday, out the door for another good ride, again mostly around the Tech campus. The cleanup crews were removing all that the tailgaters and fans left behind. Stopped at a Starbucks across from school for a large coffee, and fell into a nice T-t-S with a fellow cleaning up the streets. Classic West Texas friendliness, quick to engage. He asked about biking, told me about his health issues, his new wife, and more. When we parted, he said “Have a good day, sir, and may the Lord look after you.” “God bless you,” I replied, and zipped east on Glenna Goodacre Blvd.

Back home, we cleaned up and headed a few blocks to breakfast. Jack’s recommended spot was packed, and I spotted Aranda’s Taqueria right across the street. The place was hopping, but not full, a largely Latino crowd tucking into migas and huevos rancheros. We had a great meal, lots of chatter. Headed home by way of a memorial to one of the greats of Texas barbeque and music (twin distinctions), Christopher Stubblefield (1934-95), known as Stubbs. Only Texans would build a monument like that, in that instance the Lubbock Arts Alliance. It was awesome. Tuned in the Dallas Cowboys, then out to a late-afternoon movie and dinner. Another big day, and my cold was bothering me, so I hit bed at nine.

Original sign at the Stubblefield memorial

Original sign at the Stubblefield memorial

Bronze of Christopher Stubblefield, better known as Stubbs.  One of his famous sayings: "Ladies and gentlemen, I'm just a cook."

Bronze of Christopher Stubblefield, better known as Stubbs. One of his famous sayings: “Ladies and gentlemen, I’m just a cook.”

Up at six, Jack departed, and I suited up for my first lecture at Texas Tech since 1991. Samantha, bless her heart, drove me to school, and I set up in a student lounge in the College of Media and Communication, bringing this journal up to date and working a bit. At ten, it was time to stand and deliver, with laryngitis, to 35 students in Professor Lee’s PR class in the College of Media and Communication. Cough drops and water helped a lot!

After class, I had a great T-t-S with the dean’s assistant, Kimberly. She was super-helpful when I arrived earlier in the morning, and the chat started when I commented on the photos of horses. Turns out she teaches and does a bit of equine therapy, a fascinating technique for helping people with a range of emotional and behavioral issues. She told me a wonderful story of working with a little girl who had been sexually abused. Conventional counseling and all that other stuff did not work, but Shiloh the horse knew what to do. It was a turning point, and the girl, now a teenager, has recovered well. As I have written in these pages, I continue to be fascinated by our relationship with domestic animals, and this was another wonderful example. God bless the animals.

An empty Tech stadium, viewed from the posh Texas Tech Club, our Monday lunch venue

An empty Tech stadium, viewed from the posh Texas Tech Club, our Monday lunch venue

At 11:30, I met the dean, David Perlmutter, a bright and affable fellow and second-generation professor (his father taught at Wharton for half a century). We motored across campus to the Texas Tech Club, high up in the stadium, for a nice lunch and good yak. Out to the airport and onto a flight to DFW, rented a car, and by 4:30 was on another campus, Southern Methodist University, for my twice-yearly talk on service quality in a graduate marketing program. I’ve been teaching in the program for almost 20 years, so the academic and admin cast is familiar. Ate dinner with students, then team-taught for three hours.

By ten I was at friends Ken and Peggy Gilbert’s house in north Dallas, catching up on their recent trips to South Africa and Big Spring, Texas. Stayed up (for me) late. Ken and I were out the door at seven on Tuesday morning, down Forest Lane to Cindi’s for breakfast. Ken peeled off for a meeting, and I headed back to our old neighborhood for a haircut at Rick’s. Was good to be back. Shorn, I hopped back in the red Fiesta and motored to the airport via downtown, marveling at all the new Dallas construction. Flew home.

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Chicago, Notre Dame (South Bend), Madison

The scene from Section 5, Row 34, Notre Dame Stadium; not visible: 130 decibels of cheering for the Irish!

The scene from Section 5, Row 34, Notre Dame Stadium; not visible: 130 decibels of cheering for the Irish!

I was home from Europe for a week, then headed back toward the EMBA classroom at the University of Illinois in downtown Chicago, my 10th visit there. Flew to O’Hare early on Friday, October 3, hopped on the Blue Line train, was downtown by 11, and onto an exercise bike by 11:20. Pounded out 12 miles, cleaned up, and at one met Kevin, Rick, and Amal, EMBA students from the University of Illinois who I met the previous year. I was teaching the next class later in the day, and the three wanted to bounce some ideas off me. They were an accomplished group, respectively a downtown real-estate developer, an exec of a Chinese manufacturer, and an emergency-room physician turned management consultant. They were smart, experienced, and ambitious. It was a fun lunch.

At three I met a former mentee Lora Tolar O’Riordan, once at American Airlines and now with United. It had been two years, so we had a good catch up yak. A nice sort-of-T-t-S with Jim Bonner, the security officer in the U of I’s building on Wacker Drive; I remembered his name from previous years, and he was pleased. We had a short yak. It’s good to take the time to visit with people like Jim.

Jim Bonner, annual acquaintance

Jim Bonner, annual acquaintance

At 5:15 it was time to stand and deliver, to 36 from the EMBA Class of 2014. I like older students, and this group was seriously engaged, asking lots of questions.   After class they served a buffet dinner (with beer!), and I had a good opportunity to yak some more.

Up early Saturday morning, down to the gym, then out the door on a cool but sunny morning, east to Millennium Park, passing and photographing Anish Kapoor’s fabulous sculpture “Cloud Gate,” then into a breakfast place for a huge startup meal.

Chicago is birthplace of the steel skyscraper, and they just keep building them: Trump Tower

Chicago is birthplace of the steel skyscraper, and they just keep building them: Trump Tower

 

Anish Kapoor's "Cloud Gate," Millennium Park

Anish Kapoor’s “Cloud Gate,” Millennium Park

By 8:45 I was rolling south and east on the South Shore train, bound for South Bend. I had not ridden that line for 48 years, and had not traversed the heavy-industrial landscape of the southeast suburbs of Chicago and northwest Indiana for almost 40. I looked out the window and saw a lot: the ornate red-brick office building of the former Pullman railway sleeping-car factory, still splendid though long abandoned; the Ford assembly plant where Robin’s new Explorer was built; the Gary Works of U.S. Steel, long a pillar of U.S. industry and still (judging from steam and smoke) making American steel; the Burns Harbor complex of the global steel giant Arcelor Mittal (formerly the mill of Bethlehem Steel); the tiny Cool Runnings Jamaican Restaurant in Michigan City (how did they get there?); and more. Beyond the factories were corn and beans farms, some dairy operations, some tourism closer to Lake Michigan.

Arrived in my weekend destination, South Bend, Indiana, at 12:15. It was football game day at the University of Notre Dame, a signal event I had wanted to attend for years. Seven weeks earlier, Rick and Murph Dow, both alumni, invited me down. I was pumped! But also a bit reluctant, for the forecast at kickoff was cold rain. Rick, who lived in South Bend for a decade beginning in high school, picked me up at the station (one of his dad’s last jobs was teaching at the university). We headed to his brother-in-law Jason’s house, which were my digs for the night, and started meeting some of Murph’s huge extended family. Jason, his wife Kara, and daughter Eavan. Henry and Thomas, small kids belonging to I’m-not-sure-whom. We paused briefly, then walked several blocks to campus, and on the Murph’s tailgate setup, one of hundreds in parking lots. The party was in full swing, more friends to make, including Rick and Murph’s oldest child, also Rick. Ate some of Murph’s wonderful food, yakked, had a beer.

Fans and Irish True Believers: Rick and Ricky Dow, Tara, and Tom

Fans and Irish True Believers: Ricky and Rick Dow, Tara, and Tom; the latter was not in our group, but we learned that this was the 40th consecutive year that he and some pals from St. Louis drove up for a game or two.

At 2:15, 75 minutes before game time, Rick took me on a tour of campus and a chance to see the band process across the quads to the stadium. Notre Dame college spirit was something; Robin’s alma mater, USC, has it in abundance, but not quite at the level of the Irish. And there was more to come at the game. After the huge band passed, we walked most of the large campus, including the basilica, recently restored (frescoes and ceiling freshly painted), the gold-domed administration building that I recall seeing more than a half-century ago on road trips. “What’s that gold building,” I asked my dad as we whizzed along the Indiana Toll Road. “The University of Notre Dame,” he replied. “Can we go see it?” I asked. We did not, so it was special to stand below the dome.

The Main Building (dome regilded 2005!)

The Main Building (dome regilded 2005!)

Interior, Sacred Heart Basilica

Interior, Sacred Heart Basilica

Library, with the mosaic "Touchdown Jesus" (its de facto title, from the days when it was visible from the stadium)

Hesburgh Library (named for the school’s greatest president, Father Ted), with the mosaic “Touchdown Jesus” (its de facto title, from the days when it was visible from the stadium)

It was nearly game time, so we headed into the stadium.  The ticket-scanner smiled at me and said “Welcome to Notre Dame.”  He said that to every patron, but his welcome was so genuine.  I did feel welcome, abundantly so.  True to forecast, it was pelting rain, 39° F, brisk wind. Rick had foresight to bring rain gear, a full suit for him and sailor’s vinyl pants for me, which helped a lot. The yelling, cheering, clapping went on for more than three hours, helped along by the marching band. The fight song (“Cheer, cheer for old Notre Dame . . .”) got us on our feet every time. The game was great, and it came down to the final 61 seconds. Notre Dame down 14-10. Fourth and goal on the 11 yard line. They moved the ball more than 50 yards in 120 seconds, but stalled. Not looking good I thought. Then quarterback Everett Golson drilled the ball to tight-end Ben Koyack in the far corner of the end zone, caught, touchdown. Pandemonium. The man in front of me grabbed and hugged me. Chaos, cheering, yelling with what was by then a hoarse voice. What a total blast.

DomerCrowd

We walked back to Jason’s house, where a party was well underway, lots of folks that didn’t want to brave the cold and wet. Met Murph’s other brother Randy and his wife Jory, Aunt Pebby, and lots more. A tight, loving family, truly wonderful people. Most were gone by 10:30.  But the Dows’ Notre Dame immersion continued.  Rick cued the classic “Irish Blessing” on the Kellys’ widescreen TV; you know the piece (“May the road rise up to meet you / may the wind be always at your back . . .”), but the video narrator was the great Father Ted Hesburgh, Notre Dame’s president from 1952 to 1987, and a totally righteous person (he’s now 97).  I have no Irish ancestry, but tears came to my eyes.  Then Murph cued another touching video, “Here Come the Irish,” and at that pointed I considered myself a well and truly adopted son of Notre Dame.  I don’t think it was the beer.

Rick and Murph left, and I yakked a bit more with young Rick, Jason, and Cara, then retired to a comfy bed in the basement. It had been a very special day, and their manifold kindness was a big part of it.

Up at 6:30, out the door with Rick the elder, off to downtown South Bend, past the site of his former music bar, Vegetable Buddies, and into Le Peep for breakfast. Almost every person in the restaurant had a ND logo on some piece of clothing. Some more than one. Go Irish!

Rick dropped me back at the station at 8:45 for the 9:01 back to Chicago. Barely 21 hours in South Bend, whew, an intense experience, and an awesome one. I thanked him, hugged him and hopped on the train for morning prayers, especially of thanks for the experience, for my blessed, varied, and mobile life.

Shipping containers on a freight train in south Chicago; a few days later I learned that half of all intermodal rail traffic in the U.S. (containers) passes through Chicago

Shipping containers on a freight train in south Chicago; a few days later I learned that half of all intermodal rail traffic in the U.S. (containers) passes through Chicago

Then I cued Steve Goodman’s “City of New Orleans,” train music, Gordon Lightfoot’s “Canadian Railroad Trilogy,” and Pat Metheny’s “Last Train Home.” The tunes fit as we lurched west toward a city synonymous with American railways. Unlike the day before, this was an express train, and we were back in Chicago in no time. Hopped back on the Blue Line to O’Hare and snagged the last seat on an earlier flight to Madison, landing at 12:25. I was bound for my 8th annual visit to the University of Wisconsin, a total fave.

The booking at the UW-run hotel got goofed up, and the aloof clerk at the place called Union South directed me back to the Memorial Union, an historic (1928) building on the shore of Lake Mendota. The rooms are spartan, but I don’t need luxury, and the lakeside location is awesome. Took a nice nap, and at 4:30 I went for a short walk along the shoreline.

Detail, Memorial Union, University of Wisconsin; the wings caught my eye!

Detail, Memorial Union, University of Wisconsin

Heading back, a fellow my age said to me “I heard [from a phone call with Linda] that you were staying in the Memorial Union hotel; did you get a lakeview room?” That query led to a pleasant T-t-S moment with George, a 65-year-old Ohio native who teaches sailing to UW students. We covered a lot of ground in 10 or 15 minutes. Just out of college he worked in the Lorain Works of U.S. Steel, which prompted my recall of passing steel mills the previous day, and a long conversation on steelmaking, industrial process, Midwestern economic geography, and more. At one point I really wished that UW Ph.D. John Borchert (1918-2001), one of my grad-school advisors, mentors and friends, had been with me. He would have loved the dialogue.

At five, according to formula – and the Madison visit is totally formulaic – I met friends Dan and Cheryl Smith in the Rathskeller of the Memorial Union. Dan has had a long and varied career in agriculture: as a dairy farmer in northern Illinois, CEO of a progressive ag supply business, and now as a head of a division of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture that looks after business development for all the bounty that state produces. He’s had that cool job for a year, and rates it 98/100 on job satisfaction. We chatted a lot about his position, our kids, the state of the world, and more, as we tucked into a splendid Italian meal at Cento, a new place downtown. Such great people.

Monday morning, waiting in the lobby of Memorial Union, this suit catches the eye of a youngster with a skateboard and big backpack. You could almost see what he was thinking. “I was your age once,” I said. Walking away, he said, “and it ain’t never coming back.” Yup. Next step was breakfast with Jan Heide, one of my favorite B-school hosts, just a great guy. Up to school for back-to-back lectures to first-year MBA students. Back to the Union, change clothes, buy a $5, 24-hour pass for BCycle, the Madison bikeshare, then west on the path along Lake Mendota. Such a beautiful campus. Like most bikeshares, you need to swap cycles every 30 minutes (or incur a charge), so the afternoon was spent zipping from station to station. High point was a large chocolate malt, made in the traditional way, at the Babcock Hall Dairy Store. Not surprising that the large public university in America’s Dairyland offers degrees in dairy science, milks cows nearby, churns its own ice cream. Wow. Rode 34 miles, a good afternoon.

Only in a place like Madison would a new traffic barrier include a quote a novelist; Stegner, maybe the best chronicler of the American West, taught at UW from 1937 to 1941.

Only in a place like Madison would a new traffic barrier include a quote from a novelist; Stegner, maybe the best chronicler of the American West, taught at UW from 1937 to 1941.

I turned a corner on my bike and this was the vista: the splendid capitol of the great State of Wisconsin

I turned a corner on my bike and this was the vista: the splendid capitol of the great State of Wisconsin

Malt-Diptych

At left, my Babcock Hall helper, crafting my malt the old-fashioned way; at right, a new take on drinking and driving!

Freezer case, Babcock Hall Dairy Store

Freezer case, Babcock Hall Dairy Store

After a quick nap, back onto the BCycle and a mile south and east, back to Cento, the Italian place where we dined the night before. I arrived a bit early, so sat down at the bar and studied the beer menu, settling on Central Waters Mud Puppy Porter from Amherst, Wisconsin (I pride myself on knowing Wisconsin places, but had to look up that town; it was in the middle of the state, in an area known for wetlands, which is why their logo features a heron). Read The New York Times on my iPhone, smiling at the news of a Nobel awarded to a British-American and two Norwegian scientists for discovering “an inner GPS, in the brain,” that makes navigation possible for virtually all creatures.  So that’s what helped me get to Cento.  Smiled, too, at the Supreme Court’s decision to let stand decisions allowing gay marriage.  And was saddened by news that a black bear cub was found dead in Central Park, New York, and may have been killed by humans. Who would do such a thing?

Jan, his wife Maria, fellow prof Jean Grube, and I had a superb meal and a long chat across a lot of topics. It was the sixth time we gathered, splendid continuity. At 9:45 I said goodbye, swiped my ATM card at the BCycle stand, and rode back to the Union.

This art in the window of the Madison Public Library caught my eye after dinner: the question mark is a perfect proxy for the genius of a free public library -- a place to get answers

This art in the window of the Madison Public Library caught my eye after dinner: the question mark is a perfect proxy for the genius of a free public library — a place to get answers

The BCycle pass was for 24 hours and my first class was not until 12:15, so I hopped back in the saddle Tuesday morning, south to Lake Wingra and Lake Monona, then east through the Marquette neighborhood to the Yahara River, which links Monona and Mendota. It was a warm (50° F.) morning, and I pounded out 17 miles. Stopped at a downtown supermarket for some yogurt and a banana and headed back to my room. A good start to the day. Suited up, walked to the B-school, worked a bit, and at 11:30 met a new host, Borbala Kulcsar, a nice young Hungarian woman who replaced Jean as a lecturer in HR, then delivered a 50-minute talk to undergrads. Not enough time, and a bit of torpor in the class. At one, Jan, Borbala, and I processed, by formula, east on University Avenue to Dotty Dumpling’s Dowry, a classic burger joint, for a caloric meal. Back to school, one more class, the goodbyes.

Back in my room I did some work, and at 5:30, I rode the elevator down to the Rathskeller, grabbed a glass of Zenith wheat beer, and headed out on the terrace. It was the picture of the good life in Wisconsin: sailboats cutting across Lake Mendota, puffy clouds tinged with violet on the horizon, students and profs talking earnestly. But it was a bit chilly, so I headed indoors to bring this journal up to date. I was hoping for a repeat of 2013, when about 6:45 the pep band marched through and out onto the terrace. It didn’t happen, so I finished my beer, and ambled to Chipotle on State Street for a tofu burrito (enough meat the last several days!). Back at the union, the sole elevator was busy with foodservice workers shuttling stuff to the airport, so I headed up the stairs, and was glad I did. The reading rooms on the second and third floors were superb, old school, students playing classical music on a piano, kids on their laptops. The best of college life.

Common room, Memorial Union

Common room, Memorial Union

Foyer ceiling, Memorial Union

Foyer ceiling, Memorial Union

Got to bed early, and up at 4:25. Out the door, but did not notice, until the taxi driver pointed it out, that the full moon seven hours earlier was now a crescent, and headed toward a total eclipse. The orb was fully covered, and peach in color, when our plane taxied out for takeoff from MSN. Way cool. Changed planes in Chicago, and had the dogs on leash before noon.

Wisconsin souvenirs, gift shop, Dane County Regional Airport

Wisconsin souvenirs, gift shop, Dane County Regional Airport

The Loop, downtown Chicago, a few minutes after departing O'Hae

The Loop, downtown Chicago, a few minutes after departing O’Hae

 

 

 

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Switzerland and Sweden, for the Start of Autumn Teaching

The Alps, on descent to Zurich Airport

The Alps, on descent to Zurich Airport

The cathedral in Uppsala, Sweden, seat of the state church

The cathedral in Uppsala, Sweden, seat of the state church

On Saturday, September 13, Robin and the girls drove me to the new McLean Metro station and I hopped on the new Silver Line to the airport (remarkably, though it opened in late July, I hadn’t mentioned it previously; way handy, 1.3 miles from home.) Flew up to New York, then across to Zurich. Descending through the cloud, a landscape of order and prosperity appeared. Switzerland. More evidence on the SBB (Swiss Railways) train northeast to St. Gallen and my 14th teaching appearance at the university there: perfectly smooth tracks; neatly stacked huge hay bales, shrink-wrapped in white plastic for outside storage in the coming fall and winter; and dozens of small manufacturers. As I have written, in a globalized manufacturing market, they are still viable, because the collective Swiss would not think of buying anything other than Swiss Made.  Only the graffiti – and it seemed that there was more of it – suggested that not all was perfect (although most of it looked quite “professional”).

Plastic-wrapped hay bales

Plastic-wrapped hay bales

A triptych of Swiss Made — expensive, but to the Swiss worth it, to support the nation: office furniture, the rubber ducky in my bathroom, and a coat rack in a university building.

I walked a couple of short blocks from the St. Gallen station to the hotel. I had emailed them to ask about an exceptional early check-in; the Swiss are a rule-bound folk, but the room was ready. It was actually a studio apartment, nicely sized and facing west, with lots of light. I quickly changed into bike shorts and my day-glo yellow jersey and hopped on the bike that my swell young host, George Guttmann, loaned me for a Sunday ride. Two options: up or down. Up was into the relatively low mountains south of town; down was north to Lake Constance, what German-speakers call the Bodensee. The former would be lots of up (and down); the latter was one long down at the start, 900 vertical feet to the lake, then flat, then, of course, a climb back up.

FallFoliage

Down I went, on a combination of bikeways and little-trafficked streets. At Rorschach, a lake resort town, I headed west along the water on bikeways. It was a picture-perfect day, and lots of people were out: on bikes, on foot, in cars. I rode west to Romanshorn, a bigger, ordinary town. At the SBB station I bought lunch (tuna sandwich, banana, yogurts = $10.24) and had a nice T-t-S with a young mother. Her four-year-old spoke to me first, and he simply couldn’t understand why I didn’t answer him! I rode back to a pleasant park in Arbon and had a late picnic lunch, then back up the hill, home by 4:10, 37 miles, a nice workout. In the room, my iPhone chirped a reminder to play “The Star-Spangled Banner,” for that day was the 200th anniversary of Francis Scott Key’s penning the lyrics to our national anthem.

A nice contrast on the edge of St. Gallen: bus stop and shelter in front of a small farm

A nice contrast on the edge of St. Gallen: bus stop and shelter in front of a small farm

Swiss still life: actually my picnic lunch!

Swiss still life: actually my picnic lunch!

Some pals spotted on the lake ride

Some pals spotted on the lake ride

Chapel on the edge of Romanshorn

Chapel on the edge of Romanshorn

Village on the shore of Lake Constance, the

Village on the shore of Lake Constance

Apples grow on trees, but the Swiss have them on something more like a vine (I saw pears growing this way, too)

Apples grow on trees, but the Swiss have them on something more like a vine (I saw pears growing this way, too)

Took a shower and short nap, and at seven hopped on the local railway, Appenzeller Bahn, for a short ride southeast from the city to Tom Staller’s Schwarzer Bären restaurant. Before entering, I looked up his name in these pages, and greeted him warmly, saying I had eaten there last September.  My bad, I didn’t notice on his website that he stopped serving dinner at seven on Sundays.  So when I arrived at 7:15, he said the kitchen was closed.  He remarked that they had served a wedding party of 80 people the night before, until 3 AM, and he was worn out.  The train back to St. Gallen would not arrive for another 25 minutes, so he offered a beer on the house.  I was grateful, and sat down.  An elderly couple a few tables away were just finishing up their meal.  A few minutes later, Tom appeared and said yes he would be able to serve me dinner after all.  Hooray! Asked for a small mixed salad, followed by bratwurst and French fries. The salad was truly mixed, with lots of yummy vegetables, and the main course came with an enormous mound of fries (reminding me of a train-platform advertisement I saw earlier in the day for the Swiss potato growers; they promised lots of recipes at www.kartoffel.ch).

As is the tradition, on Monday morning I walked to the stunning Baroque abbey church (the monastery dates to 720) for morning prayers and whispered words of thanks to the huge wooden angel in the ceiling that I’ve addressed on every visit for 14 years. Then up the hill to the university. At ten I met George, who asked me if I could give the lecture at 12:30 instead of the scheduled 10:15; he admitted to a very un-Swiss mix-up, apologized, but I waved it off, did a bit more work, then gave the talk to 25 Masters’ students in Prof. Reinecke’s class. It was another sunny day, perfect for a walk back down the hill, a stop to get a light lunch, and back to the room. As my head hit the pillow for a short nap, recess began at the elementary school across Kesslerstrasse, with the usual noisy commotion, but the sounds of young life and fun didn’t keep me awake. Did a bit more work, and at seven walked a couple of blocks west to Gartenhaus, a simple, spotless, family-run place.  Not a place where you’d expect free wi-fi, but there it was! A dozen older ladies, grandmothers likely, we’re sitting at two of the long tables that filled the place; it looked like a regular gathering, and they were having fun.

In the abbey church

In the abbey church

The university is above town, and the fastest way down is on a series of stairways

The university is above town, and the fastest way down is on a series of stairways

A trio of solid Swiss buildings on the short walk home from Gartenhaus

A trio of solid Swiss buildings on the short walk home from Gartenhaus

The university is growing, and the two lectures in Prof. Ruigrok’s classes Tuesday were in separate buildings downtown. In between, Winfried, George, and I had our now-traditional big lunch at Wienerberg, adjacent to campus (we drove up the hill). Class 1 was MBA students, and the late-afternoon group was younger kids doing a post-baccalaureate Masters of Management. Both groups were lively, and it was a good day in the classroom.

Stairway, St. Gallen Business School

Stairway, St. Gallen Business School

St. Gallen MBA class

St. Gallen MBA class

José and Naomi, from Costa Rica and Argentina, in the St. Gallen afternoon class

José and Naomi, from Costa Rica and Argentina, in the St. Gallen afternoon class

The SBB name their newest trainsets; this one carried a good one

Dinner was at Zum Goldenen Leuen, a small place in the old town that has not always exuded a friendly vibe, but it was cheery that night.  Most patrons were outside, enjoying the last of a sunny and warm day.  I opted for indoors, wood-paneled and cozy.  Ordered a dark beer that owner Walter Tobler makes nearby, and reflected on another successful trip to Switzerland.  The teaching was great, the weather was superb, the hosts totally hospitable.  A good beginning to the autumn term. At 8:00, through the open front door, I could hear what I have long described as “the sound of Europe”: church bells pealing right times.  All was well in the Swiss Confederation! Had a light meal nicely complemented with Walter’s “Mexican Ale,” with a bit of sweetness and citrus-like hops.

NAZ-Dinner

Speaking of bratwurst: the intensely democratic Swiss will hold a referendum on equalizing the value-added tax on takeaway and restaurant meals.  No sausage discrimination!

Speaking of bratwurst: the intensely democratic Swiss will hold a referendum on equalizing the value-added tax on takeaway and restaurant meals. No sausage discrimination!

Out the door Wednesday and onto the 7:48 train back to Zurich Airport. At 8:45 I met Gieri Hinnen, a young Swiss Ph.D. student at St. Gallen who works for Swiss International Air Lines. We had a quick, Starbucks-fueled yak about the airline business, his new son, and some cool ideas he had for a new business. At 10:30 I got aboard a SAS flight to Stockholm, back to Sweden, another favorite place (well, maybe they’re all favorites!). Breaking through the cloud on approach to Arlanda Airport, I smiled at the familiar landscape of forest, field, and water. Grabbed lunch at 7-Eleven in Terminal 4 and flew SAS on to Umeå, my 19th visit there. Landed on another clear, warm day – four in a row. In the bag claim, I spotted friends who I didn’t know were on my flight: Guy Pfeffermann, Devi Gnyawali, and Håkan Olofsson. France, Nepal, Sweden, USA, a good mix for the International Advisory Board at the Umeå School of Business and Economics. Into a cab for the short ride downtown and the comfy Uman Hotel. The receptionist handed me two keys, for the room and for one of USBE’s bikes (delivered earlier in the day by my young friend Marcus).

Like the previous Sunday, I was on the cycle in no time, riding east on Kungsgatan to the bike shop with free air, topping up both tires, then east to the long lake called Nydala.  It had been three years since I rode around it, so I circled twice. Places you frequently visit – in this case almost annually since 1994 (and was last in Umeå five months earlier) – often seem to stay the same.  Of course they don’t, and I began to focus on all the new buildings.  The city is clearly growing, notwithstanding the shrinking of an old-economy fixture, a Volvo truck plant west of town.  Returned along the river, past a wonderful new set of apartments right on the water (well, not quite: the bike and pedestrian path is closest to the riverbank) in the district called Öbacka. At seven, USBE dean Lars Hassel welcomed the board, four of us from the flight plus Marian Geldner from Warsaw School of Economics. A good start and a nice dinner.

On the eastern shore of Nydala; this is a perfect photo metaphor for the clean north of Sweden

On the eastern shore of Nydala; this is a perfect photo metaphor for the clean north of Sweden

Suited up Thursday morning, rode the bike up the hill for a full day of IAB meetings on its 15th anniversary.  Great discussions in sessions and at lunch.  It’s an interesting group, academics, practitioners, and Guy – a former World Bank economist who now heads the Global Business School Network – and me in between.  Swedish elections held four days earlier were a topic at mealtime. We finished at four, down the hill, changed into bike shorts, then over to my favorite Bölesholmarna, a small island in the river. It’s just a few blocks upstream from downtown, but is totally country. Rode around six times (each circuit is 1.4 miles). Early on, a good T-t-S: a couple was walking their West Highland terrier, a pooch like our Henry.  I waved when I passed them the first time, and stopped the second: “You probably don’t remember me . . .”  But of course they did, recalling that we met on that same island a year earlier. I petted Queso (a curious name) and rode on. That night we had an IAB anniversary dinner at Köksbaren, a fancy new-cuisine place, lots of laughs with members of the USBE Business Advisory Board (locals), and department heads from the school, people who have become good friends.

Pretty but poisonous

Pretty but poisonous

National elections were held a few days before I arrived, and varied campaign ads were still in view

National elections were held a few days before I arrived, and varied campaign ads were still in view

Friday was busy. First stop, Frukostclubben, the Umeå Marketing Association breakfast club. The association’s director, Nils Paulsson, welcomed me and a big group, about 75, heard my talk on real-world leadership. Rode up the hill for a morning IAB session, then down the hill in former dean Lars Lindbergh’s Volvo to one of Umeå’s three Rotary clubs.  I spoke at one years ago, when Linda briefly belonged to one in Richardson, Texas: notalottatime!  Delivered my general talk on financial challenges in the airline business in 20 minutes, two questions, done, whew.

Breakfast at the Umeå Marketing Association

Breakfast at the Umeå Marketing Association

The crowd forming for the HHUS Drink and Learn

The crowd forming for the HHUS Drink and Learn

Back at school I did 90 minutes of consulting work, then it was time to stand and deliver the day’s third talk, to HHUS, the business-students’ association. Time for “Drink and Learn” at the ePuben, their bar in the student union. We had done it twice before, an informal end-of-week seminar with beer. HHUS leader Marcus told me there was a waiting list, which added to my few stomach butterflies – I was giving a talk for the first time, a case study of cross-cultural management success in the jet-engine-building joint venture of GE Aviation and the French company Snecma. It went well, and I stayed on for almost an hour more, answering questions and enjoying a local microbrew. Down the hill one more time, an early dinner at the hotel buffet, then out with the boys for a couple of pints and some laughs and storytelling at Lotta’s, a pub I know well.

Up at six Saturday morning for a quick ride over to and around Bölesholmarna, then out the door in Lars’ car, with Guy, Marian, and Prof. Håkan Boter, north and west to Granö Beckasin, an outdoor-activity center. Lars arranged a morning of fishing. We caught nothing in a stocked pond, but Lars, who was well-experienced outside, reeled in three nice perch in the nearby river. I did remember, more or less, how to cast the rod. Afterward, Marian headed into the woods, where harvesting was much more successful – he knew wild mushrooms, and filled two large bags. We ate lunch and headed back. Time for a nap.

Lake-Triptych

Marian Geldner and some of his "catch"

Marian Geldner and some of his “catch”

At 5:20 I hopped on the bike and rode downriver four miles for dinner at the Paulssons. Nils, wife Carolina, and young boys Johan (11), Petter (6), and Olle (almost 5), welcomed me back, my third time in the wonderful traditional house they built themselves. We had a good visit and a fine meal, covering lots of topics, including news that Carolina won a competition to write a Swedish cookbook focused on sustainability. First course was carpaccio, from a nearby farmer’s steer, then baked cod fresh off the boat from Iceland. A wonderful evening with special people.

A curious shed in the middle of the river near the Paulssons' house

A curious shed in the middle of the river near the Paulssons’ house

The Paulsson boys on Nils' Triumph

The Paulsson boys on Nils’ Triumph

A superb cook, Carolina Paulsson

A superb cook, Carolina Paulsson

Out on the bike one more time Sunday morning, north on the riverside trail. At eleven, as I always do when in town, I headed to the Stadskyrka for my annual Swedish lesson, via the hymns. The teenage choir livened things up (“Can’t nobody do me like Jesus” were words from one tune). I think Luther, who believed that good music was central to successful worship, would have approved of the liturgy. The preacher had her sermon notes on an iPad. After church, I rode a bit more around town, admiring the outstanding renovation of an old hotel, then back to the hotel for an hour of work.

Recycled Swedish Army building north of the center; Sweden's last battle was fought near here in 1809

Recycled Swedish Army building north of the center; Sweden’s last battle was fought near here in 1809

My Swedish lesson book -- the hymnal

My Swedish lesson book — the hymnal

Locally-carved chairs in the beautifully refubished Stora Hotellet

Locally-carved chairs in the beautifully refurbished Stora Hotellet

Cruise-ship syndrome, the laziness that comes from people taking really good care of you while travelling, set in on Sunday afternoon. Four days with everything organized. Now back onto a do-it-yourself trip. The syndrome abated after flying 300 miles south to Stockholm, when I got off the airport bus, the Flygbuss, at St. Eriksplan in a steady rain. After a week of sun, the cold and wet snapped me back. “I can do this,” I said, and set off decisively for my lodging. In ten minutes I was a bit wet but happy to meet Ewa Rogala, my Airbnb host for the next two nights. Her apartment in a splendid 19th Century building was perfect, her welcome warm. My room was off the kitchen, clearly the cook’s quarters back in the day.

I unpacked, visited a bit with Ewa, then headed back out for dinner. I like Swedish cooking, but after four days I needed some spice; a few hours earlier I Googled a bit, and found Ethiostar, an Ethiopian restaurant four blocks north. Perfect! About four-fifths of the clientele were African, a good sign. I asked the friendly waiter to dial up the spice (“I lived a long time in Texas, a land of hot peppers,” I explained). After a big, late breakfast, I didn’t need lunch, but I was hungry at eight, and the meal, especially the spongy bread called injera that doubles as fork and knife, filled me up. Walked back, worked my email and visited with Ewa, then clocked out with the balcony door open.

Monday morning, time to stand and deliver. Out the door, onto Kungstensgatan, feeling like I lived there, like a local, which is another of the great benefits of Airbnb. Walked a few blocks north to the Stockholm School of Economics, my ninth visit, and met host Hans Kjellberg, a swell guy, and some of his colleagues. At 10:15 I delivered a lecture on airline alliances in a wood-paneled room that was once part of the library, on the southwest corner of the school. Students were bright and engaged. At noon it was pelting rain, and Hans suggested a place close by, in this case Indian food right across the street. I worked my email and consulting for a few hours, delivered another talk from 3:15 to 5:00, said goodbye to Hans, and walked home.

Living like a local: my Airbnb digs on Kungstensgatan

Living like a local: my Airbnb digs on Kungstensgatan

SSE classroom

SSE classroom

Changed clothes and walked a mile or so toward the center, to Stureplan and the splendid old-school seafood restaurant called Sturehof.  It was in this place in 1924 that two enterprising Swedes founded Volvo. Sat at the bar for a beer and at seven met another longtime SSE friend, Anders Liljenberg. We had a splendid meal: herring (hewing to tradition, he ordered schnapps with the fish), followed by a main course of Arctic char (called röding in Swedish).  We had a long conversation across lots of topics: politics, economics, the school, life.  A great evening.

Tuesday morning, easy start.  Ewa left early, for a trip to Edinburgh, so I paddled around the apartment in my pajamas.  Dressed and walked a block to the ICA supermarket (to me, a wander through a big food store overseas is as interesting as a museum).  Admired the huge herring department; spotted bottles of Stubb’s barbeque sauce from Austin, Texas (the equivalent of $7 a bottle and I’m sure worth every penny); and bought bread and yogurt for breakfast.  Took a short walk up the observatory hill, full of lots of nursery-school students, most in day-glo yellow vests, not unlike my bike jersey.

In the ICA Herring Department

In the ICA Herring Department

The view from Observatory Hill; Stockholm has lots of green space

The view from Observatory Hill; Stockholm has lots of green space

Waiting for my 10:30 pickup, I spotted a young woman across the street, struggling with some giant IKEA bookshelves, so I ambled over and offered help.  “Are you sure?” she asked.  “Yes,” I replied, “I’m old but strong.” We quickly moved the shelves into her office, and launched a nice T-t-S.  She was a magazine publisher, niche stuff. Yakking with her, I didn’t notice that my mentee Peter Gabrielson had parked and was waiting. Hopped in his compact Land Rover and motored a few miles north to SAS’ headquarters to deliver a seminar on trends in the airline business.  Peter heads the product development team, and before the talk he showed me SAS’ new business class seat and gave a short tour of an impressive building, beautifully sited amid woods and water. After the talk we had lunch with one of his colleagues, Cristina, then Peter drove me to the nearby train station at Solna.

SAS Headquarters, a wonderfully airy building a few miles from downtown Stockholm

SAS Headquarters, a wonderfully airy building a few miles from downtown Stockholm

Scandinavia's largest mall under construction in suburban Solna; the Swedish economy is powering forward, confounding critics of its social democracy

Scandinavia’s largest mall under construction in suburban Solna; the Swedish economy is powering forward, confounding critics of its social democracy

Hopped on a brand-new suburban train north to Arlanda Airport, then northwest to Uppsala, historic university city and seat of the Swedish (Lutheran) Church.  My ticket included a ride on the local bus, so zipped two miles more to a stop close to my next Airbnb “home,” with Carlos Teixeira.

I found Lings Väg 46 quickly, but I wasn’t certain it was the right place. A tradesman was working on concrete right in front of a second-floor outside entrance.  I asked about #46, and he waved me on.  I walked for several blocks, consulting the map on my iPhone.  A map at the entrance to the subdevelopment proved my first navigation was correct, so I growled and walked back to #46. The cement guy was gone, but the keys were in the mailbox as Carlos promised. Unlocked, walked in, found my bedroom, unpacked, then spotted a welcome note.  He had a bicycle for me!  Woo hoo!

The view from my room in Carlos' apartmenr

The view from my room in Carlos’ apartmenr

Changed clothes and hopped on the bike.  Unfortunately, the seat was way too low, making my posture like a circus bear, but the tires held air, so it was all good. Rode into town, quickly remembering the basic layout of the city from my last visit in 2008. Uppsala was home to some smart people, like Celsius and Linnaeus. Rode to his garden, pausing to marvel at a wonderful 1935 bronze sculpture of the taxonomist. Then south to the business school, locating the venue for the next-morning’s talk to the business-students’ association.

Linneaus-2

Rolled a few blocks to the huge brick cathedral, the Domkyrka, which was surrounded with police. Sweden is a relaxed place, so I wondered what was up. Inside, a young church official explained that it was the opening mass of the clerical year, and that King Carl and Queen Silvia were in the front row. Whoa! I sat for a few minutes, listening to the children’s choir. Rode back to #46. Carlos arrived at 5:15 and we hit it off immediately. His parents, from the Portuguese island of Madeira, emigrated to Capetown, where he grew up. Moved to London, met and married a Swede, and landed in Uppsala. He was divorced, but his three kids spent every other week with him (and he rented the room the other weeks).

My SSE host, Hans Kjellberg, pulled up at six, on the edge of Carlos’ neighborhood, in his prize, a red 1963 Ford Thunderbird convertible. With the top down. The ride to his house, several miles south in the hamlet of Berga, was a bit cold, but totally awesome. The big-ass V8 rumbled, the suspension lumbered – and that’s the right word, for the ride was like a land yacht. Totally way cool. He pulled the car into the garage and we walked into the traditional-style house. I thought it was 150 years old, but in fact it was a manufactured structure built in 2002 (turns out that most new Swedish houses are prefab, built in blocks and assembled on site).

TBird-Triptych

In the kitchen was wife Mia, cooking dinner. And what a repast it was. Roast moose from the previous autumn (Hans was headed for the 2014 hunt a couple of weeks hence), lean and flavorful. Sauteed mushrooms that they picked recently. Hans and Mia both come from the country, about 100 miles north of Uppsala. Although highly educated, they are country people, folks who know a lot about the natural world. Their daughter Linnea, who just began at Uppsala University, and teenage son Pelle, joined us for dinner. Dessert was ostkaka, which translates as cheesecake, but this dish was different: slices of a semi-soft cheese baked in cream, topped with homemade cloudberry jam. Naturally, they picked the orange-yellow fruit themselves. For the second time in three days, I was welcomed into a Swedish home. And for that I was so lucky.

Ostkaka

Ostkaka

Because Sweden arrests people who drive with even a trace of alcohol in their blood, Hans called a taxi. The ride home reminded me why I avoid them: the meter rose from a start of 43 kronor to 62 ($8.50) before we left the driveway – the elderly driver had trouble punching my destination into his GPS, then waited for several cars to pass before backing out of the driveway and into a rural road. The ride ran to 38 bucks, but the evening with the Kjellbergs was stupendous.

Airbnb host Carlos at the juicer

Airbnb host Carlos at the juicer

Carlos’ Airbnb offer included breakfast, so Wednesday morning I tucked into a big bowl of muesli, a double espresso, and some splendid homemade high-vitamin juice, his specialty with carrots, beets, spinach, apple (for sweetness), fresh ginger. Outstanding. We adjusted the bike seat upward, and I took off for Ekonomerna, the student association. They had their own building, an old pink house called Borgen.   A warm welcome, the leadership talk for the second time in a week. Students again hung around, asking questions, seeking advice. I worked for a bit in the B-school, and at 11:45 met my new host, Sabine Persson, and my former host, Mikael Gidhagen. We walked briskly to a tiny Thai place for a buffet lunch, then back to a 1:15 lecture.

Breakfast time at the Uppsala business-students association

Breakfast time at the Uppsala business-students association

Rode home, changed clothes. At six I rode back to town, with a little detour along the Fyris, the river that runs through Uppsala. I circled the cathedral, admiring its scale and its role as design model for countless smaller Lutheran churches in the U.S. I locked the bike by the river (the town is so full of cycles that you sometimes have to search for a parking place!), and talked my way into the pub of the Norrlands Nation, one of a number of “nations” that are distinctive to Uppsala University, a sort-of mix between college dorm and fraternity – a way for youngsters to belong.  The guard in the courtyard said the pub was only open to those in the tribe, but when I explained I was a guest lecturer he waved me in, adding that I “was very welcome tonight.” Nice! There was a long line at the bar. I asked the barmaid for a beer from “nearby” (there’s a microbrewery in town, but I forgot the name).  Her colleague proffered a bottle of St. Eriks, a distinctive rauchbier, smoky and a bit sweet, from a tiny brewery adjacent to Arlanda Airport. Sat at a bench with students and brought this journal up to date. Had another beer and a garlic-infused burger, and rode home.

Thursday morning, back to rain, and Carlos kindly drove me back to the railway station. Hopped on the #801 bus to Arlanda and onto my first flight on Norwegian, a fast-growing low-cost airline. Their success was quickly apparent: smiles and welcome from cabin crew, a PA from the captain that genuinely thanked us, spotless cabin, free wi-fi, wowie. One other cool aspect of the carrier: local heroes are painted on their tailfins. Originally Norwegians like composer Grieg and skater Sonja Henie, as they’ve grown across Scandinavia they’ve added Linnaeus, Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, and 120 more. Way cool.

Norwegian-Diptych

I was bound for Gothenburg, Sweden’s second city (a million people), 240 miles west-southwest. Landed in sunshine, whoopee, and hopped on the Flygbuss into town. I’ve always liked second cities, smaller places, and took an immediate like to Göteborg. My third Airbnb of the week was less than 2,000 feet from the bus stop, just west, in the old neighborhood called Nordstaden. Veronika’s flat was in a building from the 1880s, originally a factory. I trudged to the top floor, had a nice yak with my host, put on coat and tie, and walked less than a mile to my first visit to the business school at Gothenburg University. Passed wonderful old buildings, warehouses and other signs of a vigorous port. Lots of leafy parkland. The grittiness that comes with being a port. More cultural diversity than other cities in the kingdom. In short, a great city.

Scenes from the Port of Gothenburg

Scenes from the Port of Gothenburg

Bridge over the "outer moat"

Bridge over the “outer moat”

The view from my Airbnb home

The view from my Airbnb home

Ate a late lunch in the student cafeteria, and at three met my young host, Oscar Sellhed. The GU visit was a late, unexpected addition; he emailed me nine days earlier, when I was in St. Gallen, said he heard I was headed to Sweden and asked if I could “stop by.” Why not, I thought, so we made it happen. Met his advisor, Robert Orbelin, and at four delivered my leadership talk to 25 students. At 5:30, six of them and I walked a couple of blocks to Haga, the pleasant, car-free old town for an early dinner at Hemma Hos. Walked home at dusk, along the water, then into Nordstaden. The long blast of a ship’s horn reverberated through the narrow street, a splendid last sound. I was asleep by 8:40, because the homeward journey the next day would begin at 4:30.

At Gothenburg Business School

At Gothenburg Business School

Another thing to like about Gothenburg: they still have a network of tram lines

Another thing to like about Gothenburg: they still have a network of tram lines

Out the door, back to the bus, out to Landvetter Airport. I was flying standby on SAS to London, and my friend Peter said the flight was full but I would likely get a seat. And I did, prompting a little victory whoop and dance on the jetbridge. Landed Heathrow before eight, onto the Silver Bird at 9:45, home by way of Miami. Landed at National Airport at 7:00. Linda flew in at 9:00, so I waited for her and we rode home together. It was good to be home.

Volvo, though now a Chinese company, makes cars near Gothenburg; this plug-in hybrid was on display at the airport

Volvo, though now a Chinese company, makes cars near Gothenburg; this plug-in hybrid was on display at the airport

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The End of Summer in the Heart of Texas

Under the big Texas sky: U.S. Highway 87 east of Eden

Under the big Texas sky: U.S. Highway 87 east of Eden

The fourth and final customary August trip began on the Friday of Labor Day weekend. Robin dropped me at National Airport and I flew to DFW, then on to Lubbock. Met Jack at 3:00 outside the terminal, hopped in his blue Subaru. A buddy of his, Wes, was in the back seat, and was riding with us part of the way, to pick up his now-fixed car in San Angelo – five days earlier it had broken down. In no time we three were chirping like magpies. Wes works in the same treatment facility, the Ranch at Dove Tree, as Jack. We stopped briefly in Post, Texas (regular readers know that although I understand that it’s not necessary to add the state name, I always hew to local custom), to pick up shakes and malts at Holly’s, a traditional drive-in with car hops. Total quality – we like Dairy Queen, but Holly’s was a step up.

Holly's Drive-in, Post, Texas

Holly’s Drive-in, Post, Texas

 

Wes with his fixed VW

Wes with his fixed VW

We arrived San Angelo about six, found the car-repair shop, said goodbye to Wes, and headed east 85 miles to Brady, Texas, home of the World Championship Barbeque Goat Cook-off. I’ve been judging since 1991, 24 consecutive years, and Jack was headed for his 7th competition. The big Texas sky was full of little storm cells, and it was a fascinating array of cloud and light. We arrived Brady, checked into the hotel, and made fast for – where else? – a nearby barbeque called The Spread. No goat that night, but some splendid smoked turkey, jalapeño sausage, and sides. Mandy, one of the owners, remembered us from 2013, and we had a nice chat. I was full, but needed some exercise, so pounded out some miles on a bike at the hotel, then clocked out.

Cloud-1

Up at six Saturday morning, back to the gym, then out to the kickoff event, the judges’ brunch in Melvin, Texas, population 189, 18 miles west of Brady. It was so great to be back with a bunch of good ole boys (and, this year, five women judges), long friends all the way back 20+ years, people like Jim Stewart of Lubbock, Kinnan Goleman from Austin, and my original Brady host, Kim King. We ate well that morning, listened to the guidance for rookie judges, and headed out. Most of the group headed to Richards Park on the edge of town, site of the event, but I stopped briefly at the West Sweden Cemetery, halfway back to Brady. I first visited a decade earlier. The ground was overgrown, but the headstones told some stories: of a settlement that seemed to have begun in the last decades of the 19th Century; and mainly of the brevity and unpredictability of life back then – lots of infant mortality, and plenty of lives ended after just a few decades.

A couple of views of a little place: Melvin, Texas

A couple of views of a little place: Melvin, Texas

 

West Sweden Cemetery

West Sweden Cemetery

I arrived at the cook-off just before 11, and ambled around, admiring cooking rigs and encampments of varied design and comfort. Paused to visit with a couple of teams. Lots of the people who attend or participate in the cook-off have a family connection to this little town of 5,500, folks like Frank Brawley from Houston, Texas, grandson of Houston O. Brawley, who long operated a dairy farm just west of Brady. Back at the shady judging site, I yakked with veteran judge Eddie Sandoval, part Comanche, part Hispanic, and a total character; with John Johnson of Lubbock, Texas; with some rookies, including Daniel Vaughn, the barbecue editor of Texas Monthly (now there’s a job!); and with Paul McCallum, a fellow judge from the 1990s who had returned after years away. Paul grew up on a station in far western New South Wales, Australia, and is another interesting fellow.

TeamDiptych

Happy competitors; the team at right proudly displayed trophies from previous cook-offs, winning handsomely in the Best Showmanship category

Eddie Sandoval

Eddie Sandoval

 

Your scribe and Aussie judge Paul McCallum

Your scribe and Aussie judge Paul McCallum

At two it was time to stand and deliver, or in this case to chew. First event was “mystery meat” judging, and this year it was rabbit, one of my favorites. There were some truly wonderful samples, moist, tender. The mystery meat judging, now in its fifth or sixth year, is a bit more permissive, and there was some creativity in sauces and preparation. At three, and already feeling a bit full from 40+ rabbit chunks, we began the main event. I was captain of table two, and we four (including Jack) were a good crew, disciplined, fair-minded, and sober (well, mostly; some of us were enjoying a Coors or two). It’s a lot of work, but we got through it in about an hour, with a high degree of unanimity in our 1-to-7 scoring. No sevens, no ones, and a lot of twos and threes. Jack and I agreed that the best of the rabbit was tastier than the best of the goat. But we kept that view to ourselves!

Heart of Texas princesses

Heart of Texas princesses

 

Some "plated theater" in the Mystery Meat competition: rabbit dressed up as armadillo!

Some “plated theater” in the mystery meat competition: rabbit dressed up as armadillo (you might have to look at it for a bit, but you’ll see the armored critter sculpted in tortilla!)

We hung out for a bit longer, but were in the car and pointed northwest by 4:45, happy to keep tradition alive in the Heart of Texas. It is an awesome experience, and I am so glad that it’s an indispensible end to summer not just for me, but for our son. When I’m gone, Jack will carry on the Britton judging tradition. And perhaps his son.

Your scribe and son

Your scribe and son

The ride back to Lubbock was fast. We paused at Sweetwater, Texas, for a Dairy Queen shake, and were home by 8:45. Took showers, tuned in some football, and were asleep around ten.

Wind turbines are breeding like rabbits in West Texas; right now there's 12,755 megawatts installed -- the equivalent of about 15 nuclear power plants

Speaking of rabbits (see above!), wind turbines are breeding like them in West Texas; right now there’s 12,755 megawatts installed — the equivalent of about 15 nuclear power plants.  This scene was 20 miles south of Sweetwater

Mesa south of Post, Texas

Mesa south of Post, Texas

We were up at seven Sunday morning, Jack over to the gym, and me out on his Trek mountain bike, north to the huge Texas Tech campus, past the big new stadium, remembering that the Lone Star State is a windy place. Sixteen miles was plenty that morning, back for a shower and over to Jack’s favorite coffee place, J&B. Sat outdoors, enjoying a jolt and a good chat. Headed to the car wash, then to an early Asian lunch at Pei Wei. Passed the afternoon lazily, watching golf and yakking, then drove to dinner at Chuy’s, a favorite Tex-Mex chain.

They love the Texas Tech Red Raiders all over Lubbock, no less in this bit of front yard decor on 3rd Street

They love the Texas Tech Red Raiders all over Lubbock, no less in this bit of front yard decor on 3rd Street

Chile rellenos, Chuy's

Chile rellenos, Chuy’s

Jack had to work Labor Day, so he departed with a hug at 6:25. I waited until first light at seven, then took the Trek back out, feeling stronger than the day before, back toward the Tech campus, north into some neighborhoods. After 14 miles I stopped at Starbucks on University Avenue for a big coffee and a donut, then east on Glenna Goodacre Ave., named for a prominent contemporary sculptor. The area had been redeveloped in the last several years, and on earlier trips I had seen a lot of walk-up apartments for students, but further east were some wonderful two-unit and single family homes in Western farmhouse and craftsman styles, a very agreeable neighborhood.

Early-morning scene at the Ranching Heritage Center; the depot was from Ropes, Texas, the locomotive from the former Fort Worth & Denver Railway

Early-morning scene at the Ranching Heritage Center; the depot was from Ropes, Texas, the locomotive from the former Fort Worth & Denver Railway

 

Wonderful old-but-new farmhouse right in town (no outhouse in the back!)

Wonderful old-but-new farmhouse right in town (no outhouse in the back!)

Back to the house, shower, change, and at ten I met Samantha Kelly, one of Jack’s friends, who kindly agreed to drive me to the airport. Sam is a second-year law student at Tech, and we hit it off instantly, chirping at high speed in the car, at J&B for a second day in a row, and on out to the airport. I have long been partial to women lawyers, and those aspiring to be, and Sam was a quality example. I look forward to getting to know her better on future trips.

Sam Kelly

Sam Kelly

It was Labor Day, and I thanked the people who served me for working on a holiday. Halfway from Lubbock to Dallas, one of the flight attendants who I thanked when I boarded sat down next to me and offered a handful of cookies and packaged snacks. “You’re the only person who thanked us,” she said, and we had a nice chat. I told her I worked for American for 22 years, asked about her work and family. It was a nice T-t-S moment. On the flight back to Washington, I thanked all the flight attendants, and one of them replied, “I’m just grateful to have a job.” A good attitude, for sure.

By eight that night I was home, on the night before the first day of school. Summer was over, and it was a wonderful season.

Staying cool at the cook-off

Staying cool at the cook-off

Going home

Going home

 

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The Minnesota State Fair and “Up North”

Concession stand, Minnesota State Fair

Concession stand, Minnesota State Fair

On Thursday morning, August 21, way, way before first light, Linda drove me to National Airport and I flew west to Chicago, arriving just after 7:00 in rain and storm. Hopped on a connecting American Eagle flight north to Minnesota – time for the third recurrent trip of the month, to the Minnesota State Fair – but things derailed, to change transport metaphors. After taxiing around O’Hare for an hour, we returned to the gate and the flight canceled, because of bad weather northwest of us. I was on standby for the next flight, at noon, and I whooped noisily when the gate agent called my name, hopped on, and took off. The plan was to spend the afternoon at the fair with pals Rick Dow (my amigo from SABF in Argentina) and high-school buddy Bob Woehrle. But with a 2:30 arrival we scrubbed that mission, opting for an early start Friday morning. Unhappily, Bob had other plans, so it would be just Rick and me.

I picked up a Hertz car and headed to a Dairy Queen in suburban Richfield for a late liquid lunch, an enormous chocolate malt, then headed to Southdale, a shopping mall. Say what? Rob in a mall? I didn’t buy anything; it was a pure nostalgia trip, back to a place we frequented when we were young. Indeed, we were there the day it opened in July 1956, my mom, brother, and I, admiring what was the first indoor shopping center in the nation. Any mall 58 years old will have gone through waves of renovation, and I was curious: were the two large, abstract brass trees still in the center atrium. Indeed they were, as was a huge, 1950s-style wall clock. Way cool!

The original brass trees, Southdale Center, Edina, Minnesota

The original brass trees, Southdale Center, Edina, Minnesota

I motored around my hometown, Edina, an affluent place (and looking more so in recent years), and by 4:30 was in the driveway of Murph and Rick Dow’s cool Edina home. They lived in Minnesota for some years, raised their three kids there, but for more than a decade lived in an analogous suburb of Chicago. Murph opened the door and it was so great to see her – I see Rick quite a bit, but for her it had been eight years. Rick was running errands, so Murph and I sat in the kitchen and got caught up. It was great fun.

An hour later, we were sitting on their deck enjoying a drink and some really fine hors d’oeuvres that Murph made. An hour after that we were tucking into a seriously large and delicious salmon dinner and an Oregon pinot noir. And a lot of great conversation, some focused on the outstanding folk art that Rick collected on his many trips through the South. After dessert I was plumb wore out, and was asleep not long after nine.

BedroomView

Up early, fair time. I was so excited. Said goodbye to Murph, and Rick and I motored around traffic, only to get stuck in a massive jam waiting to park at the fair (I made a silly decision to divert from my usual parking area; won’t do that again). But we were in the gates by eight, and made fast for a sit-down breakfast. The fair is filled with on-a-stick-food, but we wanted a traditional start, and found the old-school (“Since 1937”) dining hall of the Robbinsdale Order of the Eastern Star. Robbinsdale is a Minneapolis suburb, and the OES is the women’s part of the Masons; on the napkin holders at table was a short description of their good work, and Rick and I felt good about the meal and their charity. Volunteerism at its best.

4H

Regular readers know that my fair visits – haven’t missed one since the mid-1980s and I guess I’ve been nearly 50 times – are formulaic. Five or six stops and were done. So we ambled up to stop one, the fine arts exhibition, where for nearly 30 years we’ve bought wonderful art. We got there early, and had a nice yak on a bench in front about Rick’s mom and dad and other kin; he’s a great storyteller, and it was a pleasant wait. At 9:00 we headed in, and I was again reminded that it pays to get to the show the first or second day, because I found an absolutely outstanding oil, entitled “Making Concessions,” by Jennifer Horton. Sold! Rick also bought art, a way-cool photograph.

A rather poor photograph of Jennifer Horton's oil painting "Making Concessions"

A portion of Jennifer Horton’s oil painting “Making Concessions”

On our way to stop two, the Creative Activities building, we paused and had a nice chat with Bob, a 92-year-old former small-town newspaper publisher (Rick shares my zeal for Talking to Strangers) staffing the small Minnesota Newspaper Museum, then walked through the 4-H building. As it is every year, the diverse stuff on view in Creative Activities was eye-popping. Layer cakes, cookies, knitwear, woven rugs, woodworking, stuff by men, by women, by kids. The aggregate hours spent making all of it were close to infinity, or so it seemed. As always, people were demonstrating their skill, and I chatted with a young woman who taught herself bobbin weaving.

Bob Shaw, lifetime newspaperman

Bob Shaw, lifetime newspaperman

Craft-1

Bobbin weaver

 

From whimsy to serious composition in the Creative Activities building (the oeuvre at left are crocheted hamsters)

From whimsy to serious composition in the Creative Activities building (the oeuvre at left are crocheted hamsters)

The Homel Company, makers of Spam canned pork shoulder, dispatched a couple of ambassadors to promote in advance of judging the best Spam recipe of 2014

The Homel Company, makers of Spam canned pork shoulder, dispatched a couple of ambassadors to promote in advance of judging the best Spam recipe of 2014

Stop three was the Horticulture Building, a splendid WPA-era building with six or eight wings showcasing all sorts of stuff. Crop art for starters, then flowers, then something I had not seen in all my years at the fair: an exhibit of the Minnesota Mycological Society, mushroom people. Two true-believer volunteers explained and answered questions, and one of the pair wase delighted to meet a couple of curious souls. Like a sea-siren, the Minnesota Craft Brewers’ Guild beckoned, with its opportunity to sample from dozens of small producers. It was only 10:30, but the opportunity could not be passed, so we shared two “flights” of four small glasses. There were some weak brews, but some splendid stuff, too, especially from the up-and-coming (and curiously named) Surly Brewing Co. More T-t-S while we tippled.

Specimens at the Minnesota Mycological Society exhibit

Specimens at the Minnesota Mycological Society exhibit

Cottage Grove Strawberry Festival ambassadors

Cottage Grove Strawberry Festival ambassadors

State Fair police, keeping order

State Fair police, keeping order

Final stop, for more than 90 minutes, were the animal barns. For the first 4 days of the 12-day fair the 4-H kids hold forth, and they were all great fun. We began with chickens, ducks, and geese, then rabbits, then into the sheep barn, where judging of the large, solid Columbia breed was underway (for a city guy, I know my animals). We watched the final winnowing, saluted the blue-ribbon winner, and moved on. By ritual, I paused at the table where visitors can help themselves to newly-shorn fleece and picked up a chunk, squeezing it for the lanolin that protects the beasts in rain and snow, and smelling the earth in the fiber. Domestic animals are such a gift, and the chance to see, touch, smell, and hear them each year is a true blessing, and a nice reminder that long before the supermarket there are families willing to endure a lot of uncertainty and hardship to bring forth food and fiber.

Rooster

4-H member from Hubbard County with her Australorp rooster

4-H member from Hubbard County with her Australorp rooster

4-H member awaiting the judge's decision on the best Columbia sheep

4-H member awaiting the judge’s decision on the best Columbia sheep

In the cattle barn, kids were hosing down their beasts in the “shower stalls,” and in the aisles they were prettying their best, spray-painting hooves, drying, trimming, shining. Time was running out, so we zipped quickly through the hog barn, admiring the sow with a litter of 12, then heading out. Rick had a call at 1:00, so we hugged and parted. I grabbed a corn dog, then headed to the car. It was one of the better fair visits ever, I think largely because Rick and I are so simpatico and share a lot of values.

Heifer

4H-4

In no time I was zipping northwest on Interstate 94, then U.S. Highway 10, then Minnesota Highway 25, through Foley, Buckman, Pierz, and Genola. Past Brainerd, and onto Crow Wing County 3 through Crosslake to my pal-since-1963 Tim McGlynn’s cabin on Big Trout Lake. Got there at 4:30, hugs and smiles. I missed him in 2013, so it was great to be back. We yakked a bit, then I jumped in the lake to clean off the road dirt. Grabbed a beer on the dock, yakked some more, then hopped in his boat and motored a mile east to a big dinner of walleye, a wonderful Up North fish, at a local lodge.

Sunset, Big Trout Lake, Crow Wing County, Minnesota

Sunset, Big Trout Lake, Crow Wing County, Minnesota

I woke Saturday to the cry of the loon, one of my favorite. It is the sound of the North Woods. Had a cup of coffee and more chatter, then borrowed one of Tim’s cool mountain bikes for a ride into Crosslake and breakfast with George Rasmusson, a former colleague from Republic Airlines and one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. We had a great meal and a better yak, laughing hard. It had been three years. To keep busy, he’s become an excursion boat captain on Pelican Lake, and had some great stories from that job, and the airline biz before that. He’s a character.

George Rasmusson

George Rasmusson

Rode back to the cabin, hopped in Tim’s new, scaled-down motorhome (his house in the winter, which he spends out west, skiing and snowboarding), and headed north and west to look at a building lot he’s considering. He wants to downsize to a summer-only place, in a quieter location. The lake district in central Minnesota was always pretty built-up, and the retirement of baby boomers is making it more so.

Tim McGlynn and son Charlie

Tim McGlynn and son Charlie

At three we got back in the boat and headed through a chain of lakes to Bill and Sally Terry’s cabin, picked up four passengers, and headed to Moonlite Bay to listen to the Elements, a rock band of older guys and one of their kids. Way fun. Drank beer, met old pals, danced a bit (my knees felt in for days), carried on like we were young again. Not! At 6:30 we motored home, washed up, and headed by car to the Terrys for dinner – it’s a traditional annual event, and it’s always big fun, with plenty to eat and drink. I had to be up early the next day, so we were home by 11.

I planned to take a bike ride at dawn Sunday, but a storm came through at four, so I packed up, had a cup of coffee, hugged Tim, and headed back to the Twin Cities in driving rain. I took a different, more interesting route home, skirting the shore of the vast Mille Lacs Lake, third largest in a state of big lakes. It was still stormy, and the water looked angry. It was a cool sight. Stopped for breakfast at a small-town café, K-Bob’s in Princeton, then headed into town. I had just a bit of extra time, to I parked at Lexington and University and hopped on the new Green Line light rail, riding seven stops west to Stadium Village, in the shadow of the new University of Minnesota football field. Nice system, and well-planned new development along the line, on a street long in need of fresh blood.

GreenLine-2

Green Line train at the new U of M stadium, and new transit-oriented development along University Avenue

At 11, I met another decades-long pal, Bob Woehrle, for a cup of coffee near our old house in St. Paul. Had a great catch-up yak, plenty of laughs, then zipped back to the airport and flew home.

 

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