Fram! To Linda’s 45th College Reunion

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Holland Hall, St. Olaf College; virtually every building on campus is built of limestone; it’s a solid place

On June 1, Linda and I drove to National Airport and flew home to Minnesota (it will always be home), bound for her 45th class reunion at St. Olaf College in Northfield, 40 miles south of the airport.  Picked up a rental car and made fast for where it all began, literally: on a warm Wednesday night in May 1973, I met my beloved in Marguerite’s, a bar in Dundas, just south of Northfield.  Lunch at Marguerite’s, now the L&M Bar, thus made a lot of sense.  Tucked into burgers and fries, and I had a couple of cold Summit ales.  Memory Lane, for sure!

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Your scribe and Linda where it began, 1973

We drove a few miles north to what is one of the loveliest small campuses in the world.  I remember I was transfixed that evening 4.5 decades ago, and was once again.  We registered in the student union, called Buntrock Commons, and immediately met a couple of Linda’s classmates, hugs all around, the first of many.  Drove a couple of blocks to our dorm accommodations in Kittelsby Hall, named for an early professor, one of the many Norwegian immigrants that built the college, then and low affiliated with the Lutheran Church (our church).   The room was simple (more on that later) and not air-conditioned.  Dropped our stuff and ambled around the leafy campus, then back for a short nap.

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At 4:45, we attended a “class” on the chemistry of olive oil, offered by an enthusiastic prof.  We learned a lot, sampled a bunch, had a great time.  At six, it was time for the first Class of 1973 function, drinks and light dinner, held in the undercroft (fancy word for basement) of the main campus church, Boe Memorial Chapel.  And instantly we were surrounded with long friends; I knew tons of Linda’s classmates both from previous reunions and from my high school – and in the case of Lyn Bearinger, from Mrs. Mansfield’s first-grade class at Wooddale School in 1957.  These were quality people, abundantly decent, well-informed, and with the humane values that develop in a place like St. Olaf.  After the meal, Brenda the host asked people to stand and briefly describe their passions, which included a self-described math and physics nerd, now studying English and history and “rounding out my education”; breasts and travel (a woman oncologist); chronic diseases; quilts; motorcycle touring; nursing (the school had a highly-respected program; running a free medical clinic in nearby Red Wing; teaching English to immigrants; and, not least, “all the wonderful people I met at St. Olaf.”  It was a lovely evening.

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Friday night in the chapel undercroft

Up early the next morning, down the hall for a shower, and off to a big breakfast and a long yak with classmates (and Linda’s roommates in 1973) Janet Lund and Karen Pedersen.  Then we joined the sidelines of a lively bridge game, yakking with Judith Beck, known as JB, her new husband Doug, and old pals Jane Alrick and Sue Perkins, plus Karen and Janet.  Then to lunch and more chatter, then from 2 to 3:30 a series of talks from classmates.  The best of those was “Lessons from the Iditarod.” One of Linda’s classmates, Cindy Gallea, has competed 10 times in that 975-mile sled dog race from Anchorage, Alaska, to Nome.  She is one of the toughest, most adaptable people I’ve ever met.  Her best time was 11 days, including a mandatory 24-hour rest for her 16 dogs.  She waxed eloquent about the dog named Hammer, and about the diligence of the rest of the team: “they just know what to do.” It was a reminder of one of my strong beliefs: domestic animals are one of the firmest pieces of evidence for the existence of God.

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Bridge was and remains a big pastime for Linda’s classmates

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Jane Alrick Swenson and Linda; it’s a long story, but if it weren’t for Jane there’d be no Linda!

Walking back to the term, I said once again, “You were so fortunate to have studied here.”  We took a little nap.  Linda wanted to chill a bit more, so at five I walked back to Buntrock Commons grabbed a beer, and sat in a good vantage for people-watching.  Enjoyed a nice T-t-S with Carol Anderson, Class of 1958; if you do the math, she’s about 81, and I complimented her on the longevity of Scandinavian folk!  At six, the Class of 1973 gathered in the Trollhaugen Room for a formal dinner.  More great yaks, including good ones with Lyn Bearinger and her husband Michael Resnick.

Linda complained a bit about the spartan dorm room, but I liked it’s untouched-since-1965 aspect, because 1) it was spotlessly clean; 2) it’s good to live more plainly from time to time; and 3) most important, it clearly reflects the school’s spending priorities: sure, they could get into the contemporary college “arms race” for poshest dormitories, but every dollar spent on that is a dollar foregone to tuition support for deserving students, quality faculty, up-to-date classrooms and labs, and other things that truly matter.  St. Olaf College has its priorities firmly in order.

Slept hard Saturday night.  It was cloudy and very cool Sunday morning.  We packed up, drove to Buntrock, and rejoined classmates for breakfast and more chatter.  I could talk with those folks for hours, because we conversed about things that truly matter.  Then we said goodbye, hugged a lot of people, and drove north.  Linda dropped me at the airport (she was headed to Denver on business), and I flew home.  Already hoping we’re alive for the 50th class reunion in 2023.

By the way, “Fram” is the first word of the St. Olaf motto; in New Norwegian “Fram! Fram! Kristmenn, Krossmenn,” is adapted from the Old Norse battle cry of King Olaf.  It simply means “Forward!”

The college excels in all of the arts, not least the visual, and here are but a few examples of student and professional art that is everywhere on campus:

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Chicago in the Present and Williamsburg in the Past

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The Capitol, Williamsburg, Virginia

I got to sleep in my own bed two nights, which was swell but short.  On Monday, May 21, I flew to Chicago.  The Airbus dodged thunderstorms but we were able to land and not divert, as the captain cautioned, to Grand Rapids, Michigan.  Zipped through pelting rain onto the suburban bus toward my destination, Evanston and Northwestern University.  The original, blue-sky plan was to meet Cousin Jim in the city for lunch, but we opted for the Sugar Bowl in downtown Des Plaines, a pleasant suburb a few miles north of O’Hare.  We got well caught up and tucked into a nice lunch, then I hopped back on the #250 bus and a quick nap at the Hilton Orrington, a nice old hotel in downtown Evanston.

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On the Northwestern University campus

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Kellogg’s new building, the Global Hub

At 4:30 my long friend Gary Doernhoefer and I met Anne Coughlan, another long pal and marketing professor at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management.  The school had just moved into a huge and posh building close to the lake (as a senior faculty member, Anne got a water view).  Got caught up, ate and early dinner, and from 6:30 to 8:00 helped Anne’s channels course with a case that the three of us co-wrote.  Gary and I ambled back to the hotel, then out for a couple of beers and a good yak.

As happens every time I’m in the Central time zone, I woke up an hour before I intended, and was on an exercise bike in the gym at 5:15.  I had arranged breakfast back at the Sugar Bowl with a former American Airlines colleague at 9:00, so I had a lot of time.  The Transport Geek jumped on the CTA Purple Line elevated train (the “El”), riding almost to downtown, then back north and on the #250 bus to Des Plaines.  My pal Tom got the date wrong – he texted me from Hawai’i saying he thought it was Tuesday a week hence.  Tucked into a big breakfast, back onto the bus to O’Hare and flew home.

For three nights, better than two.  On Friday the 25th, Linda, granddaughter Dylan, and I hopped in the Ford and motored 150 miles south to Colonial Williamsburg.  It had been a decade since I was last there, so I was as excited as a 10-year-old.  Dylan is studying Virginia history in fourth grade, and asked for the trip instead of stuff.  We parked the car, and ambled into the 18th Century.  The place, which is run by a foundation established with support from oil magnate John D. Rockefeller, Jr., is so well done: living history, great explanations, remarkable in all ways.  We ate lunch on Duke of Gloucester Street, and walked the afternoon.  Headed back to the hotel, got our room, changed into swimsuits, and walked a block to the pool.

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Living history, literally: Fiddler, Chowning’s Tavern, and the Marquis de Lafayette

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We spent most of Saturday in the past.  First stop was the museum, with a vast collection (we barely scratched the surface) of furniture, musical instruments, and folk art.  Then we headed to the capitol, site of the first elected assembly in North America, the House of Burgesses, for a dramatic summary of Virginia’s role in declaring independence from Britain – lots of audience participation and fun.  We appreciated that the scripts had been updated to point out, for example, that in order to vote you needed to be a white, property-owning Protestant, and the no-denial discussion of whether slaves were part of the “all men are created equal” business.  After lunch, we saw some more demonstrations (kids’ games, shingle-making).

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Meeting room in the Capitol

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In the museum: an early American piano, and portrait of Virginia patriot Patrick Henry; below, folk art of varied forms and vintages (the plane was from 1994!); at bottom, a superb map from the mid-18th Century

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Last stop was the Peyton Randolph House, where a young African-American woman discussed the wealthy family and the lives of the 27 slaves who lived in and around the house.  Her no-denial explanation was welcome indeed.  We headed back to the hotel, me for a swim, Linda and Dylan to chill in the room, then to a nice dinner nearby.  Drove home Sunday morning.  A great visit, but you really need more time there to see all the cool stuff – the museum, for example, could hold my attention for a full day, and I didn’t get to see some trade demonstrations, like blacksmithing.

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In the dining room of the Peyton Randolph House

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Dylan and Linda in the museum’s hands-on section on toy-making, using buttons and wood bobbins

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Germany, Switzerland, Germany

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Lübeck, Germany, a remarkable city

On Saturday, May 12, I headed into town for a quick meeting with an Argentine former student, then across to National Airport.  The Metro was not in its finest form that morning, and departure was, shall we say, stressed.  But I made the flight with 10 minutes to spare, south to Charlotte then across the Atlantic for my third trip to Germany in 2018.  Landed in Frankfurt at 6:55, waited a couple of hours, and hopped on the fast ICE train north, 180 mph.  I was bound for Dortmund and my second visit to the Technical University there.  The train stopped for 40 minutes north of Cologne; my Deutsche Bahn app showed the reason as “persons on the tracks,” which sounded bad.

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Heaven (top) and hell: the view before landing, and a 1945 archival photo of the Rhine at Cologne, where my train to Dortmund crossed.

Arrived Dortmund at 12:30, walked only a block to the hotel, checked in, changed clothes, grabbed a sandwich and potato salad from a quick-stop in the station, and headed back to my room.  Rain was forecast, and it looked imminent, but I had just enough time to hop on a bikeshare two-wheeler for a quick zip around Dortmund’s compact center.  Bombs flattened it in March 1945, just two months before Nazi surrender, and leftist postwar city leaders opted not to rebuild the old structures (“too bourgeois,” according to a local) and the result is charmless and utilitarian.  Here and there are some splendid old buildings, welcome sights indeed.  As I returned the bike, the skies opened, and I made fast for the Mahn- und Gedenkstätte Steinwache.  Built as a municipal jail during the Weimar Republic, it became a center for Nazi torture from 1933 onward.  In the early 1990s, Dortmund’s municipal archives office recreated cells and posted interpretive signs through five floors of the building.  The signs were auf Deutsch but they provided a printed guide in English.

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Downtown Dortmund: mostly new and charmless, but some older buildings were either not bombed or rebuilt

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The former Dortmunder Union brewery, now a city-run cultural center

It was chilling.  And it was a reminder that unlike Americans, Germans are not in denial about sordid aspects of their past.  Indeed, when leaving, I had a brief T-t-S with a young man about 20; after establishing that he spoke English, I complimented Germany’s willingness to confront the Nazi era.  “We don’t do that in the United States,” I said, “for example with slavery or the genocide of American Indians.  You should feel proud of your country’s honesty.”  He nodded, but seemed a bit taken aback by the vigor of my argument!

Grabbed a quick nap, and at 5:00 met Thorsten Autmaring, a Ph.D. student at TU Dortmund, and Sorush Sepehr, doing postdoctoral work after earning a doctorate at the University of Newcastle in Australia, a partner institution.  Thorsten was from nearby, but Sorush was Iranian.  We had an interesting discussion over beer and German food at Zum Alten Market, yakking about their research, careers, travel, the merits of various places.

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Main corridor and recreated cell inside the prison and torture center

Was asleep before 9:30, a hard doze to 5:30.  Up and out the door for another bikeshare spin, brief, four miles.  My host, Hartmut Holzmüller, picked me up after breakfast, and we drove to the TU Dortmund campus, a few miles west of the city.  Worked the rest of the morning.  From 12:15 to 1:45 delivered a talk on airline revenue management.  Grabbed a quick lunch with Oliver, a student office staffer, then worked a bit more.  At 6:30 I presented a leadership talk to ten Dortmund businesspeople, members of an association linked to TU’s business school.  The core of the German economy is the Mittelstand, small- to medium-sized businesses, often family owned, and most of the audience came from this sector – B2B enterprises that made stuff, and exported nearly all of it.  After the talk, over beer and sandwiches, had a good chat with a couple of people from ICA, that make self-service ticket machines for transit systems and railways, and Karl from Dolezych, makers of lifting equipment, slings, and ropes.  An interesting window on the German economy.

Was up before six Tuesday morning, blue sky and sun, out for a quick six miles on a shared bike, big breakfast, and onto the 9:25 train north and east, through Münster, Bremen, and Hamburg, to Lübeck, once upon a time an important center in northern Germany.  It was the capital of the Hanseatic League, a trade and defense confederation of about 40 core members, and many more associates (all the way west to London).  Early on, these places understood that trade created prosperity – think of a 13th and 14th Century version of the EU, without the massive bureaucracy.  Other members were nearby Hamburg and Rostock, Germany; Stockholm; Gdansk, Poland; Tallinn, Estonia; and others.  The whole broad partnership began to wither in the mid-1400s, and declined quickly after the Thirty Years’ War (1618-48).

The ride north on a sunny spring morning was pleasant.  Along the tracks I saw fawns scampering in woods; cows grazing in lush early-season pastures; wheat and barley coming along well; solar panels on south-facing roofs of barns, sheds, houses; wind turbines (these latter two a reminder that Germany is meeting its goals in converting to renewable energy); canals still very much in commercial use; a weathervane capped with a copper sailing ship as we rolled into Bremen.  And lots more.

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More bikes than people in the first car of the train north

At 1:15, I stuffed my suitcase and backpack in a locker at the train station and headed into town for a good look.  The place was immediately captivating, and a visitor could see why it was a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  First stop was the tower of the Petrikirche, St. Peter’s (Lutheran).  I love views from church spires, and this one was superb.  Even better, an elevator up and down.  Visitors got great perspective on the compact Altstadt.  The sanctuary was stark.

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The Holstentor (gate), symbol of the city

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Brick gabled row houses from the ground and above (and at right the Holstentor again)

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My guess is the developers of the silver-roofed shopping mall at left faced a battle when they proposed the structure, right on the main square

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Interior, St. Peter’s

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Marienkirche, St. Mary’s, one of northern Europe’s finest Gothic brick churches, built 1260-1350

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Next stop was the Willy Brandt Haus, an interpretive center honoring the life and contributions of the former mayor of Berlin (1957-66), German foreign minister (1966-69), and federal chancellor (prime minister), 1969-74.  I told the two woman at the entrance that Herr Brandt was to me “a Cold War hero,” for his efforts to reduce tensions between East and West.  “That’s a good phrase,” one said, “I like it a lot.”  More broadly, Brandt helped rehabilitate the German reputation; he said, “My true success was to have contributed the idea that in the world in which we live, the name of our land, Germany, and the idea of peace can once again be spoken in one breath.”  That is the Germany I have known and respected since my first visit in 1972.

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A colorful and evocative interpretation of Willy Brandt

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Your correspondent with the devil

After a good look (a foundation bearing his name operates a similar center on Unter den Linden, the famous street that was once in East Berlin, east of Brandenburg Gate), I headed out, pausing for a nice T-t-S with a mother and adult daughter who were just outside the door with a very cute Shetland sheepdog (Sheltie).  I walked through neighborhoods in the old city, north to a museum devoted to the Hanseatic League, but it was getting close to closing time and my senses were close to worn out – so I walked back toward the railway station.  At 4:45 I sat down at a sidewalk café along the River Trave for a cold beer and a relaxing sit.

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I had forgotten about the Stolpersteine (“stumbling stones”), until I literally stumbled on the one at left, commemorating Lübecker Marianne Häusler, murdered at Theresienstadt, 1942; a few hours later, the Horwitz siblings from Lüneburg — two survived.  Never forget.

I took an earlier train from Lübeck to Lüneburg, where I would catch a connecting train.  The ride was pleasant, through a landscape reminiscent of central Minnesota: woods, lakes, small towns.  We crossed the wide Elbe River, and arrived Lüneburg at 7:30.  I had done a bit of research, and made fast for Neptun, a fish restaurant a few blocks from the station in the middle of town.  It had clouded over, but was warm, so I sat outside, admiring some 15th Century brick houses while tucking into dinner.  Lüneburg was another Hanseatic city, though inland from the Baltic.  Salt was a major export and the city held a monopoly on salt production in northern Germany, a position that propelled them into the League (salt was essential for preserving the abundant stocks of fish in the Baltic).  When the Baltic herring (coincidentally my dinner choice) fishery collapsed in 1560, the town declined.  I read about the city in Wikipedia while eating, and learned two other tidbits: J.S. Bach went to the equivalent of high school here, 1700-03; and a precursor to the postwar Nuremberg trials were held in town just after Nazi surrender, when the Allies convicted 45 SS troops for atrocities at Bergen-Belsen and Auschwitz.

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Scenes from early evening in Lünenburg, above and below; at bottom, herring dinner!

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Walked back to the station, called home, then at 9:50 I hopped on the Austrian Railways (ÖBB) “Nightjet” overnight train south to Zürich.  From there, I was headed east and north to St. Gallen and my 18th visit to the B-school there.  For the price of a Swiss hotel room, I got a single cabin, the train ride, and a nice breakfast.  The ÖBB have invested heavily in an extensive overnight-train network, which cannot – to this Transport Geek at least – be profitable.  The sleeping-car porter welcomed me, showed me how all the stuff in the “room” worked, and departed.  I was totally worn out, so changed into my pajamas and clocked out, sleeping hard.  Woke up after six, and it was clear that the train was about an hour late, meaning I’d miss my connecting train, and I had a discount ticket for that specific departure.  Took a pleasant shower in the washroom at the end of the sleeping car, changed, ate breakfast.  At Zürich I caught a train 30 minutes after my ticketed service.  I was expecting a fight with the SBB (Swiss Railways) conductor, but after calmly explaining the situation she said “no problem.”  Nice!

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My sleeping car, inside and out

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A rainy morning on the edge of the Black Forest, north of Basel

Arrived St. Gallen, hopped on the #5 bus up the hill to my first stay in the Executive Education Center (I always stay down in the town).  Checked in, got a beautiful contemporary room in the “AlumniHaus,” dropped my stuff, and hopped back on the bus, down the hill for lunch with a MBA student, Thomas Paul, who I met last time I was in St. Gallen, in September 2017.  Super-capable young guy, looking for a job in aerospace.  We had a great lunch at a new organic-vegetarian place, and a wonderful yak across a lot of topics: Swiss industrial competitiveness, local wages, U.S. immigration laws (bad for him), emerging technologies, robotics.  It was the kind of chat that made me wish I were his age, to see all the changes that would unfold in four or five decades.  Back in my room, I worked a bit, took a quick nap, rode 17 miles on a fitness bike, showered.

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Tibits Restaurant, in a Jugendstil building that formerly were offices of a regional Swiss railway; below, downtown St. Gallen, with lots of trolley-bus wires overhead

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At 6:30, I met a group of about 30 students doing a certificate course in marketing management, an interesting group, mostly Swiss.  Delivered a talk on airline advertising and branding, answered some questions (they were clearly worn out from a long day), and tucked into some hors d’oeuvres and beer while yakking with a friendly fellow from Bern, a senior at the cantonal bank – most Swiss cantons (counties) have a local bank totally or partially owned by the cantonal government.

I was worn out, and instead of heading to dinner down the hill, I returned to my room, worked a bit more, and clocked out.

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The AlumniHaus at the University of St. Gallen (my digs), and a nearby very-Swiss house

Up early, a little work, and at seven tucked into a big breakfast and plenty of coffee.  My seatmate was Andre from Munich, who worked in commercial real estate.  He had lived in Dallas 1999-2001, so we yakked a bit about Texas, about Bavaria, the future of bricks and mortar retailing, and more.  Headed back down the hill to the railway station, and onto local trains to Bussnang, where I met Niko, a sales and marketing planner for Stadler, manufacturers of a wide range of rail rolling stock, from streetcars to high-speed intercity trains.  The Transport Geek was close to heaven: trains and industrial process (my longtime fellow T-Geek Michael Beckmann kindly arranged the visit).  Niko gave me a thorough slideshow-overview of the company, then we had a great tour of the plant, where workers in teams assembled the cars.  Stadler has grown into a leader in the sector in spite of the high costs of doing business in Switzerland (average monthly wages for workers was around $5000).  A great window on Swiss manufacturing prowess.

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Stadler prohibited photography inside the factory; these extruded aluminum pieces outside were the best I could do!

We said goodbye at noon, I hopped on two trains for Zürich Airport, tucked into a big fish lunch (I think I was still in deficit from no dinner the night before), and flew to Düsseldorf, a quick 276 miles.  Landed at 4:40, jumped on the S-Bahn into the city, then the U-Bahn to my hotel (another superb location, directly above the subway station).  I needed a workout, so hopped on the gym fitness bike for 40 minutes.  That was tonic!  Showered, read a bit, then ambled a block south to Uerige am Markt, a smaller version of one of Düsseldorf’s many producers of Altbier, the amber ale for which the town is famous.  Tucked into a bigger-than-huge plate of roast pork and potatoes, and three (250 ml. / 8.5 ounce) glasses of Altbier.  I was just on the edge of feeling stuffed, but it did propel me into a coma-like sleep.

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On approach to Düsseldorf; North Rhine-Westphalia is Germany’s most populous state, and dense, but still green

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Altbier, with at left the waiter’s tab-keeping pencil marks and at right some added protein!

Up at 5:30, back to the gym, then breakfast.  I wasn’t teaching until 1:30, so I did a second day of “T-Geeking,” on the train 20 miles east to Wuppertal and onto the city’s famous old Schwebebahn, a monorail that opened in 1901.  I rode the whole length, south to north, 19 stops on “hanging rails” directly above the Wupper River.  It’s a scenic ride, especially in spring.  Hopped back on the train, suited up, and walked to the Düsseldorf campus of WHU, the private German business school I’ve visited for almost 20 years (in February I was on the other campus, south on the Rhine near Koblenz).  Had a quick catch-up lunch with host Jochen Menges, and from 1:30 to 3:00 delivered my leadership talk to MBA students.

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New rolling stock on the Schwebebahn

Said goodbye, back to the hotel, changed back into jeans, and set off for the Altstadt for some beer and food.  Wandered from brewery to brewery, four in total, standing or sitting outside on a clear spring evening. At all of them, when servers pass a newcomer, they don’t ask “what would you like to drink?”, but assume you’re there for the beer, and set down a full glass.  The people-watching at the second and biggest, Uerige, was superb; I had a spot on a bench a few steps above street level, so had a broad panorama of tipplers and passers-bye.  At one point a wet black Lab ambled past, fresh from a swim in the Rhine two blocks west.  Nice!

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At the last, Schumacher, tucked into sausage-and-potatoes dinner, hopped the U-Bahn back to the hotel, and was asleep by nine.  Up at 5:10 Saturday morning, short walk to the train station, onto the fast ICE to Frankfurt Airport, and flew to Philadelphia, landing early afternoon.  Connected down to DCA, and was home just after 6:00, dogs out for a good walk.

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Airport art from Haitian-born Philadelphia artist Claes Gabriel; as I have noted before, the Philly airport has a superb commitment to showcasing local visual artists.

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Short trips: Omaha and Montreal

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Public art of all kinds is everywhere in downtown Montreal

 

On April 17, in between Saturday teaching at Georgetown, was up early and onto the Silver Bird to Chicago, then a smaller bird to Omaha, Nebraska, for a couple of days of teaching at the University of Nebraska Omaha’s Aviation Institute.  Scott Tarry, the institute’s director, picked me up at the airport, still called Eppley Airfield, a wonderful old-school name.  Scott had been at UNO for 18 years, and though not a native, knew the city well.  It was my first time there for 30 years; a lot was new and a lot was the same.  New was redevelopment of former railyards between the close-in airport and downtown, a stadium mainly built for the baseball College World Series (always held in Omaha), and some fresh construction downtown.  Omaha punches above its weight in corporate headquarters: Union Pacific Railroad, Mutual of Omaha (insurance), the Gallup Organization, and Kiewit (construction and engineering) among others.  Scott gave a great tour enroute to the campus, several miles west of the center.  We had lunch, then motored to the Aviation Institute.

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Lake Michigan and Chicago, both looking much warmer than on my January 1 visit

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The Great Plains in late-winter tan; at left, map-like contours show the gently rolling farms of western Iowa; right, the Missouri River meandering north of Omaha

Not new — but welcome — was Mid-continent friendliness, which I have missed since moving East in 2012. Smiling people, eye contact and friendly “how are ya?” with strangers on the street, genuine welcomes and cheerfulness at restaurants and hotels.  Good to be back.

From 4:00 to 5:15, I delivered a talk to a small class, then from 6:45 to 8:00 was part of a recognition evening for scholarship winners; my job was to give a talk on the airline business.  It went well; these were aviation-focused students, so they knew quite a bit about the business, though perhaps not from my long view.  Yakked with students afterward, then Scott dropped me at a nearby hotel.  After a huge Midwestern lunch (meatloaf, mashed potatoes and gravy, vegetables, rolls) and finger food at the recognition event, I was not hungry.  But thirsty, so I walked a couple blocks south to pick up two craft beers, making sure to find local Nebraska brews.  I was in the heart of Aksarben (Nebraska spelled backwards) Village, an ambitious and well planned redevelopment of the former Ak-sar-ben horse track and fairgrounds.  A nice story: the Knights of Ak-sar-ben, a civic-betterment organization, was organized in the 1890s to keep the state fair in Omaha; as times changed, the coliseum, fairgrounds, and track they built became less popular.  In 1992, the knights gave the land to the nonprofit Ak-sar-ben Future Trust, to redevelop the site, just south of the UNO campus.  It was all looking very good, mixed-use housing (some for students, some not), retail, and offices.  A block away was a new arena, home of UNO’s formidable NCAA Division 1 men’s ice hockey team.

Up early the next morning, did some work in the hotel room, and met Scott and colleagues for a big breakfast and a good discussion of future directions for the institute, which, like several dozen colleges in the U.S., does two things: trains pilots while they earn a bachelor’s degree; and offers courses in airport and airline management.  I also got a short tutorial in Nebraska government, including a reminder (first learned in 9th grade government class) that the state has a unicameral, nonpartisan legislature.  A nice idea.

We motored back to campus for a car and walking tour, including a good look at the insitute’s facilities.  The campus, with about 2/3 the enrollment of the main Nebraska campus in Lincoln, was very modern and growing — the state is clearly funding higher ed.  Nebraska is 500 miles across, but fewer than two million people, and about half live in the eastern 15 percent.  From 11:30 to 1:00, yakked over lunch with ten aviation students, then Scott drove me back to Eppley.  We detoured through Happy Hollow, a wonderful, affluent neighborhood from the 1920s and ’30s just east of campus.  I’d live there.  Warren Buffett has been there for decades.  Flew home via Chicago and prepped for the last Saturday class.

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On the UNO campus; below, “Castle of Perseverance,” a rather odd piece of public art on campus; with its depiction of former U.S. presidents as clowns funded with tax dollars it would likely drive Tea Party types nuts!

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On May Day, Tuesday the 1st, I flew north to Montreal, back for the second time in six weeks.  Cruising north, upstate New York and the Adirondack Mountains didn’t look all that different from the preceding visit: lakes were still frozen, ridgelines held a lot of snow, and downhill ski trails were demarcated, white on dark green.  Hopped the bus into downtown and checked into the hotel.  I was back at McGill to speak to their MBA in Japan students, just as I did in 2017 (and 2007 before that, in Tokyo), and they were staying at the fancy Le Meridien hotel.  A bicycle with the hotel logo stood next to the reception desk, and after dropping my suitcase in the room I pedaled east, three hours free if you belonged to Starwood Hotels’ loyalty program.  It was well past lunchtime, so made fast for my favorite Kantapia for a steaming bowl of Korean noodles.

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The Adirondacks at left; the distinctive “long lots” of Quebec, plowed and ready

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Slurp!

Fortified, I rode down the hill toward the St. Lawrence River, then onto a now-familiar bikeway that runs along the old Lachine Canal.  Got a good workout, especially the trudge uphill to the hotel.  Took a quick nap and at 6:00 started meeting students as we processed several blocks north to free beer at McLean’s Pub.  The group was only about half Japanese, the remainder mostly Indian, but also from Britain, the U.S., Morocco, Portugal; all were living and working in Japan.  It occurred to me – as it often does these days – that air travel is directly responsible for improving these students’ lives, not just in a weeklong visit to a new city, but more broadly in enabling long-distance migration.  Had several good introductory yaks and a couple of beers, then hopped a bus to my favorite Saint-Houblon pub in the Latin Quarter.  Michel, described in the account of the March trip, was not there, which was too bad.  The place was packed, but as always convivial.  Had a short exchange with a Francophone couple a bit younger than me, tucked into a dinner of pork belly and cannelloni, hopped the bus back to the hotel, and clocked out.

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Pleasant new residences line the formerly industrial Lachine Canal

It was raining lightly the next morning, so I rode a fitness bike in the hotel gym, suited up, and walked with students to a company visit, the huge financial coop Desjardins.  When I was on the board of the American Airlines Credit Union, we sometimes discussed Desjardins, because they are a leader among coop banks.  The presenter said it all.  “As an institution, we are social-values driven, and people come first.”  I had to peel off early for a meeting with McGill faculty.  At noon I met one of my stalwart McGill hosts, Bob Mackalski, and the two presenters who would precede me, Steven and Shawn.  Bob is lively, so the lunch was fun yakking across the table as we tucked into salads.  At three it was my turn to stand and deliver, and it went well.  Walked back to the hotel, washed my face, grabbed a quick nap, then walked back to McGill, to the Faculty Club, for a reception and dinner.  Bob and I sat with two guys from Taiwan and Portugal, and really had fun.  The after-dinner speaker was the CEO of Beavertails, a Canadian pastry franchise, who earned his MBA at McGill in 1991.  Great presenter, lots of humor.

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Complex Desjardins, shops and restaurants; most of downtown retailing has been remade into places like this

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More public art, in almost every Metro station

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Presenter at Desjardins Lab, the coop’s digital innovation center

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More expansion in the fine-arts district: a new home for the National Film Board

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Bob Mackalski and Ricardo looking at pictures of their new arrivals

Up before six Thursday, out the door with the hotel bike, back down the hill.  On my first visit to Montreal 51 years earlier, the big world’s fair called expo67 featured a lot of innovative architecture.  One of the premier examples, Habitat 67, an apartment block (literally blocks) designed by Canadian Moshe Safdie, was not actually on the fair site, but across the river.  Despite dozens of trips to Montreal, I had never seen it up close, and it was only four miles from the hotel.  The route required some zigzags, but most of it was on the splendid bikeways that now spread across Montreal.  It was pretty cool, as was the view of the skyline across the water.  Rode back to the Lachine Canal, south a few miles, then back up the hill to the hotel.  Ate breakfast with a handful of students, answering some last questions.

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Habitat 67

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Montreal from the Habitat 67 site

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Color-coordinated gear in the Port of Montreal

Headed back to McGill for a logoed T-shirt to replace my well-worn white one, then to Archambauld, a bookstore, to buy some children’s books en Français for Dylan and Carson (sort of tricky: what would fit a 10-year-old native Quebecois would not work for our two, who are in a French immersion program).  Check and done.  Back to the hotel, pick up my suitcase, roll down the hill, onto the Metro and bus to the airport.  I hadn’t made my obligatory visit to that great Canadian institution Tim Horton’s, so stopped for a light lunch in the airport arrivals hall.  I was unaware, but had been in a bit of a T-t-S deficit that trip, which was nicely corrected while eating my chicken noodle soup at Tim’s: the fellow at the next table was wearing a University of Southern California ball cap; when he and what I assumed was his wife stood up, I asked him if he studied, and he replied yes.  That launched a nice chat.  He graduated in 1999, six years before Robin.  “I lost everything when my business failed, and I had to start over,” he said, “and the USC network helped me get back on my feet.”  An hour later, I flew to Philadelphia, then on to Washington.  Was home by 6:45, dogs quickly on the leash.

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Architectural detail, outside and in: the old Birks Jewelers entry, and door frames and decorative columns in the McGill Faculty Club

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Wilmington (that’s Delaware!) and Philadelphia

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Market Street, Wilmington

The day after Easter, April 2, I rode with Robin to her new workplace northeast of downtown Washington, got a quick tour (she’s now Director of Public Affairs for the Emerson Collective, a nonprofit founded by Laurene Powell Jobs), and set off on foot, briskly, for Union Station, a mile away.  Hopped on Amtrak, bumping and lurching north to Wilmington, Delaware.  Hopped off, and in no time was getting a great city tour from Jean Spraker, a longtime friend – her late husband,  geography prof Tom Harvey, and I were in grad school together, and he was a great friend and an astute observer of landscapes urban and rural.  Those skills rubbed off on Jean, and in 25 minutes I had a good grasp of the inner districts of the biggest city in Delaware.

We motored back toward the station for a swell lunch at Banks’ Seafood Kitchen, right on the Christina River, and a good catch-up yak.  I had not seen Jean for nine years, way back to a weekend at their seaside house west of Portland, Oregon (Tom taught at Portland State University).  Jean recently moved back to Wilmington, where she grew up, and was settling in after decades away.

The downtown landscape was fascinating (perhaps I was channeling the former geography prof, Tom or me), and instead of hopping on the 12:50 train I asked Jean to drop me at the foot of Market Street.  I walked west for a bunch of blocks, then returned to the station.  Had a bit of a wait for the local train to my destination, the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, but it was so worth it.  Here’s the rich variety of architecture on Market Street:

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There was a lot of the mid-19th Century style known as “bracketed Italianate,” including a bracket that had made its way from roof to ground!

Climbed onto a commuter train at 2:45, and bounced north, making lots of stops.  Got off at the University City station, walked several blocks north to my hotel on the edge of the Penn campus, and set off for a walk around.  As I told the Wharton MBA students in all three classes the next day, the school changed my life.  Thirty-five years earlier, in 1983, forty of us began a summer postdoctoral program at Wharton called “Alternative Careers,” aimed at “recycling” academics as businesspeople.  Back then, the supply of Ph.Ds. wanting to be professors – in any field – far exceeded college demand, and a number of schools were determined to try to help right the balance.  Our cohort ranged from hard scientists like Jack Sheppard, a geneticist, through the social sciences, to humanities scholars – I think one of my classmates specialized in Renaissance French literature.  Over that summer, we were transformed, and it remains one of the best academic experiences, in addition to changing my life (a year later, I simply would not have caught the eye of Stephen Wolf, Republic Airlines’ new CEO, and subsequently been hired, without the Wharton lines in my resume).  Needless to say, I am so grateful to Penn for that opportunity.

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Benjamin Franklin founded the University of Pennsylvania in 1740, and the 37th Street Walk features many of his famous aphorisms, like this famous one about flies, honey, and vinegar

I stopped into Penn’s career-services office to thank, once again, the only remaining person on the Alternative Careers admissions committee, Pat Rose, who through the years has become a dear friend.  I was glad I did, because she would retire in a few months’ time.  We had a good catch-up yak, and I peeled off, bound for the hotel gym.

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Pat Rose

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I stopped into Steinberg-Dietrich Hall, and sat in “my” old seat, pausing again to give thanks for the opportunity.

Was up early Tuesday morning, back to the gym, then out the door for a bit more of a campus tour, past the high-rise dorm where we lived that summer, breakfast, then into the first class.  By tradition, had a big lunch at Pod, an Asian fusion place near the school, then back for two more lectures.  At 4:30 I said goodbye to Americus, picked up my suitcase at the hotel, and zipped through the rain to the New Deck Tavern to meet – for the third year in a row – Wharton classmate Jim Cohen.

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Locust Walk on the Penn campus

Beyond a successful career in medical market research (his Ph.D. is in zoology), Jim is an accomplished pedal-steel guitarist, and about to launch another career as sideman in a Linda Ronstadt tribute band, Ronstadt Revue.  We yakked about the old days at Penn, how we were lucky enough to get in, but a lot about music.  Music talent runs in the family; his son Jonathan is a music prof at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, and a way-talented saxophonist.  Tucked into a couple of beers and split a plate of nachos.  My flight was delayed and I would have happily stayed longer, but Jim peeled off to a birthday party.  I slogged through the rain back to the U City station, onto a train to the airport, and after a long wait, home.  For the second time in a week, head hit the pillow about 1 AM, but it was a good start to the quarter’s travels.

 

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Germany and England, Again

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The Neckar River at Tübingen, Germany

After Montreal, I was home for four days, including Saturday, March 24, when I rode my bike into downtown Washington for the “March for Our Lives,” nearly 200,000 of us calling for sensible gun control.  The speakers were all youngsters, including a number of survivors of the February 14 tragedy at the Florida high school.  I was so happy to learn that Delta Air Lines provided three charter flights to Washington so students from the school could lift their voices in the capital.

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The Youth & College Division of the NAACP at the March for Our Lives

The next day I hopped on the Metro to National Airport and flew to Charlotte, then across the ocean to Frankfurt for a quick teaching trip.  Landed at 7:30, and an hour later met my young friend Tobias Hundhausen.  We hopped on a train to the main station, then out to the Rödelheim district for a tour of a data center.  Since I last saw Tobias in fall 2017, he had taken a new job as COO of e-Shelter, which operates data centers in Germany and elsewhere.  Data centers, as you know, are the “home of the Cloud,” which puts my pal on the cutting edge of the new economy.  It was a fascinating morning.  His firm essentially provides a roof, electricity, and climate control (a big deal, since servers and related I.T. hardware require consistent temperature, humidity, and even atmospheric pressure).  Customers range from small to “hyperscale” firms like Amazon.  The local power company provides two lines of 120 MW each – so the place almost consumes the output of half a typical (500 MW) generating station.  Whew!  The company is growing about 20 percent per year, and there were several projects underway on the campus, workers laying cable, finishing walls, installing fire suppression systems, and the like.  I peppered Tobias with questions, and he had all the answers.

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Scenes from the data center

We ambled back to the Rödelheim station, had an early light lunch and a good yak, and I peeled off, headed back to Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof, then south to Stuttgart and on to Reutlingen, for my sixth visit to the European School of Business (ESB) at Reutlingen University.  It was Easter Week, and the train to Stuttgart was packed.  Middle seat, but no matter.  There was work to do, and I got it done.

Arrived in Reutlingen at 2:55, hopped on the bus up to campus, and from 3:30 to 5:00 delivered my “advice for graduating students” talk.  This was “just-in-time” teaching!  Hung around after the talk to answer some questions, then the bus back down the hill and the train west a few miles to the historic university (founded 1477) town of Tübingen.  I stayed there on my first ESB visit, and it was good to be back.  Trudged up the hill with suitcase to Goethestrasse 14, my Airbnb digs.  Tom welcomed me and we had a short chat.  I was totally tired, but also hungry and thirsty, so after working my email to zero I changed clothes and walked into the wonderfully preserved Alstadt, the old town.  Headed to Mauganeschtle, a restaurant I visited on my first trip.  It was already the start of spargelzeit, asparagus season, and I tucked into a wonderful dish of maultaschen (stuffed pasta, the local equivalent of ravioli) with white and green asparagus.  And beer.  Walked home, and Tom’s partner Sandra was there.  We had a nice quick yak and I clocked out.  Zzzzzzzz.  Whew, nine hours was tonic.

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The almost make-believe town hall, Rathaus, begun 1435

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My Airbnb digs

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Dinner Monday evening

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Spring poking through winter

Up at 6:45 Tuesday, a welcome shower, coffee, and Sandra’s special recipe of “overnight oats,” cold with nuts and cinnamon, and a banana.  A nice chat with both my hosts, then out the door, down the hill on the bus, train across to Reutlingen, bus to school.  Worked all morning in the student cafeteria, the Mensa, and ate a big lunch.  From 1:45 to 3:15 I gave a talk on airline marketing, then hopped bus-train-bus back to my Airbnb digs.  Changed clothes, worked a bit, and ambled into town for a light dinner at a simple German restaurant.  Early to bed again, but slept fitfully for part of the night.

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Fellow traveler on the 9:00 AM train to Reutlingen

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The Reutlingen Uni campus from my “corner office” in the Mensa

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Splendidly ornate banks opposite each other, Tübingen; below, architectural detail

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Out the door at eight, to the nearby supermarket for breakfast stuff (yogurt and freshly-based whole-wheat rolls with lots of seeds), then to the train station.  Hopped on the same yellow-and-white regional train that I caught the day before.  I was enroute to Stuttgart, then west to Karlsruhe, and south toward the airport at Baden-Baden for my 1:20 PM Ryanair flight to my next teaching gig, at London Business School the next day.  Plenty of time, right?  Well, not if the yellow train broke down for two hours.  We lurched to a halt three miles north of Reutlingen and sat and sat.  The only good part was that the train had free wi-fi, so I could make contingency plans.  Even after an hour delay I could still make the flight.  But no, so I opted to head to Frankfurt and fly standby on Lufthansa (one of the great perks for airline employees, huge reciprocal discounts; that ticket cost me $71).  Was able to buy the e-ticket online while I sat.  We finally got to Stuttgart, and I was aiming for the 11:51 express to Frankfurt Airport.  Stopped at the Deutsche Bahn info counter and explained the mess to the friendly young agent.  Here was a best case of recovery from customer service failure: he heard my story, printed out an itinerary for the 11:51 train, handwrote an explanation, stamped it, and wished me a nice journey – no additional charge, no fight, no hassle.

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The culprit: nicely painted, but kaput

The Lufthansa check-in machine at Frankfurt Airport spit out a boarding pass with a seat assignment, woo hoo, and I did my “flying standby, got on” dance, steps perfected over the course of 52 years of flying without a booking.  Like I did a month earlier in Düsseldorf Airport, grabbed lunch fixings at the REWE supermarket and had a little picnic outside the store.  Worked a bit, took a short nap sitting upright, and at 4:00 took off for London.  Landed at 4:45, got through immigration more quickly than a month earlier, and onto the Heathrow Express into town.  Then onto the Tube, and was at London Business School shaking hands with my host Oded Koenigsberg by 6:15.  He handed me keys to a room in their adjacent guesthouse, and gave me directions to the classroom for the next morning.

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Wednesday’s “picnic lunch,” Frankfurt Airport

I was not done.  Agreed to meet a young airline mentee, Freddie, in the pub adjacent to the school at 6:30.  Washed my face and zipped next door.  We had a good yak for an hour.  I peeled off, back to the room.  What to do about dinner?  I had done some research on top-rated Indian restaurants in London, and Dosa n Chutny looked really yummy.  It was clear across town, south of the river in a suburb called Tooting, but off I went.  And I was glad I did.  The place had zero ambience (orange walls, bright fluorescent lighting) but astonishingly good South Indian food.  So good, a fine base for a hard sleep, deep into dreamland.

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Fellow diner, Dosa n Chutny

Slept in, meaning past seven, suited up, out the door for breakfast stuff at the nearby market, back to the room to eat, then a short walk south to London Business School’s new Sammy Ofer Center, a stunning re-do of the historic Old Marylebone Town Hall, built in the 1920s.  From 10:25 to 11:40 delivered a talk to a very engaged and diverse group of 80 students.  Nice applause.  Afterward, two students from Minnesota introduced themselves, a nice bit of the small world.  Peeled off at noon, out to Heathrow for the flight home.

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Regents Park from my room in the London Business School guesthouse

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The splendid, recently-opened Sammy Ofer Center, London Business School

Captain Freeman commanded American Airlines 105, and at the end of the flight the purser announced it was his last flight before retiring.  Once we parked at JFK, I headed to the flight deck to thank and congratulate him.  I told him that I had a flight deck jumpseat card for years, and always left the cockpit wishing that passengers could witness, as I did many times, their consummate professionalism.  His wife was with him, and they seemed a bit bowled over by the gesture, and my words of praise.  I had a big wait at Kennedy, but used some of the time to bring this journal up to date.  The long layover became longer, because fog closed JFK to arrivals for almost two hours and the short flight down to D.C. was late by that amount.  Happily, a kind Pakistani-American taxi driver was still on duty at 12:45 AM, so I was home at 1:10.  And glad to be there.

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Montreal, Still Winter

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On the McGill campus, looking east toward downtown

On Sunday, March 18, I flew nonstop to Montreal on a “real” ticket (thanks to McGill University’s Institute of Air and Space Law, IASL).  Landed, zipped through border formalities, and into a nice T-t-S with Isabelle, an Air Canada flight attendant.  Told her my “first-visit-to-Montreal-51-years-ago” story and a couple of other tales while we waited for the STM (public transit) express bus to downtown.  The bus runs non-stop, but was not express – weekends are for freeway rebuilding, so it took an hour.  I was deep in my iPhone screen, but when I looked up close to the center I immediately knew where I was, and said to myself “this place is really familiar.”  Nice to have a collection of places that feel well known.

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The view from above: Adirondack Mountains, New York, and the St. Lawrence River at Montreal

 

Hopped on the Metro for the last couple of miles and walked to my digs.  First stop was lunch at Kantapia, a now-familiar Korean hole-in-the-wall close by.  Slurped a bowl of noodles in spicy broth.  Ambled back to my suite on the top floor of La Citadelle, McGill student housing, watched a bit of March Madness basketball, and took a nap.

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Stained-glass backlit art, McGill Metro station

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Another sort of e-Commerce: lunch at Kantapia

Out the door about five.  The wind was howling, and it felt like single-digits Fahrenheit.  Onto the #24 bus, then the #165, skirting the western flank of Mount Royal, the big, forested hill right in the middle of town.  It had been more than three decades since I was on Chemin Côte-des-Neiges (literally, the “Snowy Side Road”), but again it felt familiar.  Hopped off in the neighborhood adjacent to the University of Montreal and several other schools, and made my way to Saint-Houblon, a brewpub.  I had been to the other location, in the Latin Quarter east of downtown, many times, frequently enough to make friends with Michel, a manager.

Sat down at the bar, and there was Michel.  Instant recognition (yet more evidence of a familiar place!).  He explained that he normally worked the other venue, but was training a new server/bartender.  Michel explained that since my last visit five months earlier they had started a microbrewery, and he brought me a couple of IPA samples.  Yum, especially the “NEIPA Passion,” a New England IPA, fruity and hoppy.  It was not busy, and we had a long yak.  He was  26, what in America we call an “Army brat,” both parents in the Canadian Forces.  Dad of Italian ancestry, Mom a Quebecker.   We talked about the Saint-Houblon enterprise, the four owners, the new brewmaster who Michel said was “almost despicable” for his unwillingness to compromise with his produce.  Saint-Houblon (“Saint Hops”) serves great food in addition to fine beer, and I tucked into baked cod, cauliflower couscous, and beets.  So good.  Said au revoir to Michel, thanked the new server, and headed home via Metro (it was too cold to wait for two buses).

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Michel and your scribe, Saint-Houblon

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New Metro car; as I never tire of writing in these pages, every one of these Canadian passengers has health insurance. 

Up at dawn Monday morning, out the door, and a few blocks to Tim Horton’s for breakfast and a large coffee.  Met my McGill B-school host Mary Dellar in the classroom at 8:20 and delivered a talk to her Services Marketing undergrads, an engaged group.  At the end thanks came in loud applause as well as a Tim Horton’s prepaid card.  Yippee!  Mary had a midterm to proctor at 11:35, which gave us time for brunch and a good catch-up yak.  She’s a swell person, a true Canadian in the best sense.

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Poutine breakfast, Le Universel; this dish came with a handy referral to an English-speaking cardiologist!

Worked for a couple of hours, and at one met my law school host, Brian Havel, the new head of IASL.  I was still stuffed, but enjoyed a bowl of cream soup with scallops and corn in the McGill Faculty Club, housed in the ornate former mansion of a successful German industrialist.  From two to four I held a colloquium about aviation careers and the airline business with masters’ of air law students, informal and enjoyable.  Walked back to the hotel, took a short snooze, and headed back to campus for one more gig, 6:00 to 7:30, to the undergraduate marketing club.  A full day.  Back to the suite, into jeans, onto the #24 bus north on Sherbrook a mile to the Latin Quarter and another fave brewpub, L’Amère a Boire, for a beer and a rabbit burger.  Yum!

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Same street as above, looking west toward the mountain

The flight home was in early afternoon, so I paddled around the suite, worked a bit, and headed out for a Tim Horton’s breakfast, then a couple of bus rides around town (the STM three-day pass, including the ride from and to the airport, is under 14 bucks), admiring the old neighborhoods; Montreal has a lot of architectural texture.  Last ride was back on the Metro.  Grabbed my suitcase, walked down the hill to the airport bus, zipped west, and flew home.  I never tire of that city.

 

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One reason Montreal never tires: tons of rich architectural detail; here a weathered portico, Av. du Parc

 

 

 

 

 

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