Scotland and England

Glasgow: The Royal Highland Fusiliers building, designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh

Glasgow: The Royal Highland Fusiliers building, designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh

I was home from Mexico less than 40 hours. Just before noon on Monday the 18th I hopped the Metro to National Airport, flew north to Philadelphia, then across the water to Glasgow, Scotland. My first time in that city in 38 years (a similar lapse as in the 2015 visits to Amsterdam and Copenhagen), and I hadn’t been in Scotland for nearly 20 (Edinburgh with the family in 1996). The usual forecast for Scotland is damp, and they said rain for Tuesday, but it was a mostly sunny, if a bit cool. Landed before seven and hopped a bus into town. Happily, the Holiday Inn Express, a mere block from the Buchanan bus station, had a room ready. Showered, changed, and headed out.

Approaching Glasgow

Approaching Glasgow

Stream near Glasgow Airport

Stream near Glasgow Airport

Travel articles about the place invariably talk about “far different,” “cleaned up,” and other comparisons to its former rather dismal and industrial face, and it was true: it did look much, much better. Part of the difference was visiting under sunshine in spring versus my last and only time on a bleak and rainy Sunday in October 1977. The solid stone buildings, many from red sandstone, had been cleaned up, and new buildings interspersed. A lot of money had clearly been spent on the retail streets, many closed to vehicles. Streets and sidewalks were repaved with smooth stone. It had the look and feel of a well-planned city. What was also different from four decades earlier was the absence of heavy industry: back then, shipbuilding and other major works were still a big part of the local economy. That work left for Korea, China, and elsewhere.

Glasgow: solid

Glasgow: solid

Donald Dewar, Scotland's first-ever First Minister

Donald Dewar, Scotland’s first-ever First Minister

I ambled south on Buchanan Street, and into city hall, called city chambers, then around George Square and south to the River Clyde. Followed it downstream to a long stretch of redevelopment where some shipbuilding had been (although the core of that work, for instance the birthplace of many Cunard liners) was a few miles further downstream in a place called Clydebank). Paused for a cup of coffee in a hotel, crossed the river, ambled to a subway stop, and headed back to the center. Walked to the University of Strathclyde, ate a light lunch, and introduced myself to a marketing prof, offering to return as a guest lecturer.

Along the River Clyde

Along the River Clyde

Entry to the St. Enoch station of the Glasgow Subway

Entry to the St. Enoch station of the Glasgow Subway

Ceiling, lobby, Glasgow City Chambers

Ceiling, lobby, Glasgow City Chambers

Bridge over the Clyde

Bridge over the Clyde

Glasgow exhibition halls; the one at left is called The Armadillo

Glasgow exhibition halls; the one at left is called The Armadillo

Old-looking but new distance marker on a bicycle route

Old-looking but new distance marker on a bicycle route

The paddle steamship Waverley, built Glasgow 1946; she's the last one in the world

The paddle steamship Waverley, built Glasgow 1946; she’s the last one in the world

Tranquil park in the center of the urban campus of the University of Strathclyde

Tranquil park in the center of the urban campus of the University of Strathclyde

The traffic cone really says it all

The traffic cone really says it all

NewGlasgow

New buildings near the University of Strathclyde

 

Headed back to the hotel, did a bit of consulting work, took a short nap, and ambled back out, west to The Tenement House, a beautifully preserved apartment in a stone building that belonged to the National Trust for Scotland. This was not “tenement” in the grim U.S. sense, with squalor and shared bathrooms. It was an interesting story. Mrs. Toward moved into a four-room flat on the second floor when the building was completed in 1892. She was a widowed dressmaker, and her daughter, Agnes, a steno typist, was born there, and lived in the building for more than 60 years. When Agnes died in 1975, she bequeathed chairs to her church elder. He brought his niece Anna Davidson along to collect them, and she was fascinated with the place. Agnes changed it very little (she didn’t install electric lights until 1960) and kept the place pretty much the same for decades. Ms. Davidson bought the flat, moved in, and cleaned the place up a bit, but did not modernize. She sold it to the National Trust in 1982, and they have operated it, giving visitors a rare glimpse into a simple life from a century ago.

MrsToward

The National Trust prohibited taking photos, but they were readily found online; here is the tenement kitchen

The National Trust prohibited taking photos, but they were readily found online; here is the tenement kitchen

Household objects on view in the downstairs exhibit area (where photos were allowed); the wooden rod is a spittle, old "non-stick technology" for stirring oatmeal (porridge), a Scottish staple

Household objects on view in the downstairs exhibit area (where photos were allowed); the wooden rod is a spittle, old “non-stick technology” for stirring oatmeal (porridge), a Scottish staple

The flat had conveniences not all that common in Glasgow back then: indoor toilet, hot and cold running water (the former heated by pipes circulating around a huge iron range in the kitchen), and quite a bit of space. It was fascinating. And it was also fun to yak with the very chatty docents, women my age, who knew a lot. I walked back via Sauchiehall Street, a retail artery filled with lots of wonderful old buildings, including one by the renowned late-19th Century architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Washed my face, and headed out for an ale and dinner.

St. George's Mansions, a Mackintosh-like building on Woodlands Rd.

St. George’s Mansions, a Mackintosh-like building on Woodlands Rd.

This exuberant Art Deco building on Sauchiehall Street stuck out!

This exuberant Art Deco building on Sauchiehall Street stuck out!

Scottish nationalists live here: on the left, the logo of the Scottish Nationalist Party, and at right their revealed vote in the 2014 independence referendum

Scottish nationalists live here: on the left, the logo of the Scottish Nationalist Party, and at right their revealed vote in the 2014 independence referendum

Traditional dress is still for sale; in fact, I walked past three or four stores selling kilts and the rest of the kit

Traditional dress is still for sale; in fact, I walked past three or four stores selling kilts and the rest of the kit

I detoured to see another Mackintosh building, colloquially called The Lighthouse, then across downtown to a building called Merchant Square and a superb dinner at Arisaig, a place specializing in Scottish cookery. First course, haggis (look it up!) atop mashed turnips and potatoes, known in Scotland as “neaps and tatties.” Second course was smoked haddock and new potatoes. And a couple of bottles of Scottish pale ale. Yum! But the best part of the meal was another sort-of-T-t-S, this time with waitress Joy. The restaurant was not busy, so between courses and after the meal we yakked a lot. She was a geography major at the University of Glasgow, but unlike your scribe focused on the physical side of the field. We also chatted about the U.S., life in Scotland, her filmmaker father, and more. A nice time.

Detail above a door at Mackinstosh's building known as the Lighthouse

Detail above a door at Mackinstosh’s building known as the Lighthouse

The view north on Candleriggs, to the Ramshorn Theatre, once a church (or kirk), built 1824

The view north on Candleriggs, to the Ramshorn Theatre, once a church (or kirk), built 1824

Haggis, neaps, and tatties

Haggis, neaps, and tatties

When I downloaded the latest operating system update for my iPhone, some cool new apps were attached, including one called “Health,” which, among other things, tracks how much you walk each day. And just before my head hit the pillow it read “11.5 miles.” No wonder I was plumb wore out.

1970s-style high-rise public housing, The Gorbals

High-rise public housing, The Gorbals

Slept hard, up at six, out the door for a last bit of sightseeing, across the River Clyde to the Gorbals, once a slum but now, like the rest of Glasgow, mostly cleaned up. Hopped on the bus back to the airport and flew Ryanair to London Stansted Airport; they’re incredibly cheap, and totally safe, but the constant effort to sell you stuff onboard is totally annoying. Still, for $30 I was 330 miles south. Jumped on the train (for comparison, $20 for 25 miles, which points up airlines’ astonishing efficiency) and was in Cambridge by 1:00. It was my 20th visit to the university’s Judge Business School.

Walked to customary digs at Sidney Sussex College, and for the second consecutive Sidney visit was given a very large, very comfortable room. Did a bit of work, took a nap, walked around town a bit, and at 6:45 was in chapel for Latin Vespers. As I have written before, the Sidney choir, under director David Skinner, is celestial, and it was a soothing 35 minutes. We then repaired to the Old Library for a glass of sherry, and into the dining hall, seated at high table.

Sidney Sussex is known for its lovely gardens, and for the profusely blooming wisteria

Sidney Sussex is known for its lovely gardens, and for the profusely blooming wisteria

I always window-shop at the Cambridge University Press bookshop, and there are always fascinating titles on display

I always window-shop at the Cambridge University Press bookshop, and there are always fascinating titles on display

It is always a joy to be there, and the dinner conversation was splendid. To my left, Subhash, a trade economist from Southern Illinois University, native of India, visiting for the Easter Term. To my right, Rodolphe, an electrical engineer from Belgium, now a fellow at the college. Across the table, Richard, a Cambridge-trained fluvial geomorphologist at Aberystwyth University in Wales, and his New Zealand geographer wife Helen. And a superb meal. After dinner and two-word Latin blessing, as is the custom we repaired to the Know Shaw Room, where I had a long chat with Priscilla Barrett, a highly-regarded wildlife artist and widow of a former college master; and a brief yak with Lindsay Greer, a professor of materials science who I had not seen in several years. A colossal evening filed, as I have written before, under “old school.”

One of Priscilla Barrett's many works.

One of Priscilla Barrett’s many illustrative works. © Princeton University Press.

Clock, Old St. Mary's, Cambridge

Clock, Old St. Mary’s, Cambridge

Next morning at breakfast I chatted with another long Sidney friend, Christopher Page, professor of English and practitioner of ancient music, and briefly with David Skinner. Walked across town to the Judge Business School and set up “my office” in the second floor common room. Worked the morning, save for a nice catch-up with Paul Tracey, another great fellow (mutual friend of Simon Bell, the Aussie who first invited me to the school a decade back, and my Wisconsin host Jan Heide). Met my host, Omar Merlo, for lunch at one, from three to four delivered a lecture on airline advertising to an engaged group, and from four to five listened to class presentations. Omar treated me to a quick beer next door, and sped back to London. I sauntered north on Trumpington Street in warm sunshine, happy for another visit to a great university.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, locally the Round Church, built ~1130

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, locally the Round Church, built ~1130

Event posters are a common fixture all over Cambridge; one wishes for a week there to attend one after another!

Event posters are a common fixture all over Cambridge; one wishes for a week there to attend one after another!

I've always appreciated this plaque, across the street from the business school; this time I noticed the possessive: "his jet engine," perhaps something like a baby, his baby!

I’ve always appreciated this plaque, across the street from the business school; this time I noticed the possessive: “his jet engine,” perhaps something like a baby, his baby!

Changed clothes, worked a bit, and by tradition ambled back across town to The Eagle, the storied tippling place of Cambridge scholars through the years, as well as men and women from the RAF, U.S. Army Air Force, and other air corps during World War II. Then north to Cocum, a tiny restaurant with food from the Indian state of Kerala, for a spicy vegetable curry. Then to sleep; a long, fine day.

Eagle

Ceiling, dining hall, Sidney Sussex College

Ceiling, dining hall, Sidney Sussex College

Up at six on Friday, 90 minutes of work, then off to the dining hall for the full English (“heart attack”) breakfast: egg, sausage, bacon, potatoes, grilled tomato and mushrooms, canned beans. Back to the room for a last bit of work, then south two miles to the train station, and on to London. Arrived Liverpool St. Station at 11:45, and walked a few blocks to a law firm where my Airbnb host, Carolina, worked. She handed me the key, and I hopped on the Tube west to Hammersmith then two blocks south to her great flat, nearly on the River Thames.

I needed a bike ride, so donned shorts (and helmet, wisely packed) and headed out. The handy Spotcycle app on my iPhone steered me to a nearby Santander cycle-hire station, and off I went, along the river, through Fulham, then toward South Kensington. As six weeks earlier, I traded the bikes periodically, to stay under the 30-minute limit for free rides (one-day access is just £2). At the first drop station, I was sure I locked it, but when I tried to rent another, I got an error message. Walked to nearby station, but got the same message. Found a pay phone – there are still quite a few, mercifully – to avoid $2 a minute on my iPhone, and rang the service line. After a lot of to and fro, the advice was to walk back to the original drop point and check that the bike was, first, still there, and second properly locked in the dock. My bad: it was not, so I pushed hard, got the bleep and green light, and was then able to zip out, in lots of Friday-afternoon traffic (people left work early on the first of a three-day weekend). Rode toward Harrod’s, then back through Kensington Park, Notting Hill, a very posh area called Holland Park, and back toward Fulham.

There was another snafu, but this time it was not my fault. The station printer at Parsons Green was out of paper and thus I could not get the little slip that has the five-digit code to release a bike. Happily, another station was only about four blocks away, and I was back on two wheels. Back at the flat at 3:50, time to wash my face, drink some water, put on trousers, and walk a few blocks up the Thames to The Dove, a wonderful riverside pub. On the way, a nice T-t-S moment with a woman from Cardiff, in London for the weekend to dog-sit her daughter’s four-year-old cocker spaniel, Madison. I walked past Madison, who was sitting on a park bench, then turned around and asked the lady if she was friendly, which started a nice conversation and some intense face-licking from dear Madison. Doo, doo, doo, as we say to our dogs.

Madison, my Friday best friend

Madison, my Friday best friend

Just before 4:30, I met a friend from my eighteen month stint with Intelligent Avionics, the start-up company that wanted to make inflight entertainment systems (R.I.P., 2012). Peter Tennant is a co-owner of Factorydesign, an industrial design firm that designed and engineered the seatback units. I’ve stayed in touch with him and he bought me a pint at The Dove. We planned for a couple of hours, but family matters intervened, and he peeled off at five, just long enough to get caught up on Factorydesign work. They do a lot in airline-cabin design, including new Business Class seats for SAS. He’s a great fellow.

TheDove

My pint was still half full and the river view was superb, so I hung out for awhile, then ambled downstream, pausing for another glass at the Blue Anchor, licensed 9 June 1722. Back to the flat for a tonic 30-minute nap. It was past time for a meal (the huge breakfast kept me going for hours, but I was really hungry). Best idea was back to The Dove. I grabbed a pint and headed back to the river terrace, but all seats were taken. Then Steve volunteered his seat, launching a superb T-t-S with him, his brother Graham, and Graham’s father-in-law Andrew.

Panorama from just downstream of The Dove

Panorama from just downstream of The Dove

High fashion Mini, Hammersmith

High fashion Mini, Hammersmith

They had spent a pleasant afternoon nearby at Fuller, Smith & Turner, brewers of London Pride (and landlords of The Dove). We yakked across a bunch of topics. Andrew was retired, Graham worked for Honeywell, and Steve for insurers Marsh & McClennan – some common ground there, in Honeywell’s roots in the same city as mine (Minneapolis), and Marsh’s active role in insuring airlines. I introduced them to the U.S. term “helicopter parenting,” in response to news that Graham’s 18-month-old son Jack had fallen that day and chipped his tooth, causing his mom great stress. We guys simply concluded that that’s what boys do. On the way out, Andrew mentioned that Steve had served in Iraq and Afghanistan, adding that “one of your Chinooks (helicopter) saved him.” I simply said that our two countries have been together, in thick and thin, for a long time.

I headed to the bar to order dinner, and on return was happy to see that my chair was still vacant, but barely – a young guy said he was tempted to grab it, which launched another nice T-t-S with a group from the U.S. engineering firm CH2M Hill; I especially enjoyed a chat with a young Irish woman, civil engineer working on a MBA at Imperial College London, where I would be teaching the next day – indeed, I invited her to the daylong workshop on crisis management. They departed, my roast cod, lentils, and spinach arrived, and all was well. Lights out an hour later.

Up at six Saturday morning, out the door, onto a share bike for Imperial. I got there way early, in time for breakfast at Pret a Manger (and a big tub of yogurt from a nearby supermarket), then to review my slides. The forecast was for 30 students, but only 8 attended, an engaged group from Nigeria, Pakistan, Canada, and five other places – like Cambridge, Imperial is way diverse. High point of the day was a lot of nice conversation at lunchtime. At 5:05 I said goodbye, walked south to the Tube and home.

Changed clothes, and walked back to the Thames, to another riverside pub, the Rutland Arms. Enjoyed the sun (a long streak of great weather – five days with virtually no rain). The plan was for an Indian meal two blocks north in the center of Hammersmith, but Sagar had closed, so I hopped on the Tube for a short ride east to Earl’s Court. I was a bit hungry, but the Blackbird beckoned. It’s a favorite, and I hadn’t visited in nearly a year. It was hopping on a Saturday night, so I grabbed a glass of London Pride and a stool in the corner, and watched a wide variety of patrons: American tourists; a father and his seven-year-old daughter who colored while he tippled; a smiling old guy at the bar who patted everyone who walked past. Last stop, the reliable chain Indian place Masala Zone for a spicy meal and a mango lassi.

Patrons of The Rutland Arms; we wondered if the sword interfered with their texting!

Patrons of The Rutland Arms; we wondered if the sword interfered with their texting!

Mango lassi at Masala Zone

Mango lassi at Masala Zone

Up at 6:30 Sunday morning, out to the airport and onto a big Silver Bird to New York Kennedy, then on to Washington, landing in time to head to the swimming pool with Robin, Dylan, and Carson.

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In Praise of Wings

Flying home to Washington two days ago, I streamed the movie Maleficent (for free!) from the onboard wi-fi network.  I was immediately in thrall of young Maleficent’s wings, and it got me thinking about their power, whether in fantasy, given by God, or made by humankind.  The way she swooped around the moors  Whoosh!

Maleficent

Then yesterday morning, I read an article in The New York Times entitled “Flight Paths,” about avian migratory behavior.  The story related many interesting things about winged creatures, but what jumped out was this specimen from an anatomy museum at the University of Rostock, Germany:

Pfeilstorch

While enjoying winter in the warmer climes of Central Africa, this stork was hit by an iron-tipped wooden spear.  The Times wrote: “This unlucky bird survived the attack and flew back to Germany, only to be shot by a hunter in the spring of 1822. Newspaper reports revealed the spear’s distant origin, and the newly christened pfeilstorch, or arrow-stork, was celebrated for solving the puzzle of where German storks spent their winters.”  And to me celebrated for its remarkable power and persistence!

Last night, I downloaded an e-book to read on my iPhone in the forthcoming trip to Britain, Sue Monk Kidd’s The Invention of Wings, a story about two girls in Charleston, South Carolina, in the opening years of the 19th Century.  The opening words of the book:

There was a time in Africa the people could fly.  Mauma told me this one night when I was ten years old.  She said, “Handful, your granny-mauma saw it for herself.  She say they flew over trees and clouds.  She say they flew over clouds and trees.  She say they flew like blackbirds.  When we came here, we left that magic behind.

And this afternoon, we did fly, a short flight from Washington to Philadelphia, where in 90 minutes I will board a Silver Bird that will cross the Atlantic to Scotland in six hours.  Its wings look like these, on the ground, and in the air just west of Glasgow:

Wing-757

Wings-2

 

Wings.  Remarkable things, in so many ways, to be celebrated and, indeed, to be lifted up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Two Quick Trips: Philadelphia and Torreón, Mexico

On approach to Torreón: the desert blooms

 

On Wednesday, April 29, I flew up to Philadelphia for the day, short flight, then the suburban train to the University of Pennsylvania for a couple of meetings with profs and others. It was a gorgeous spring day, perfect for a stroll around the campus and the school that changed my life. Meetings went well, and in mid-afternoon I ambled down to 30th Street Station and hopped the train home, a bumpy ride that reminded me of all that was wrong with government-provided infrastructure in our republic.

Penn

Non-destructive graffiti: "Penn loves Ben" in chalk

Benjamin Franklin, founder of the University of Pennsylvania, the first secular institution of higher learning in British North America; non-destructive graffiti: “Penn loves Ben” in chalk

The famous sculpture by Robert Indiana

The famous sculpture by Robert Indiana

In between these two sojourns, a local sortie of note: on Friday, May 8, I rode my bike down Dolley Madison Blvd., down the hill to the Potomac River, and along the old canal towpath into Washington, D.C.  It was the 70th anniversary of VE Day, victory in Europe, the end of six years of carnage and destruction.  Regular readers know that I give thanks every day for all who made freedom possible, in our republic and elsewhere, so it was right to mark this day.  And what a marking: at noon, every combat aircraft involved in World War II flew down the river and over the National Mall.  It was spectacular.  And it was moving, especially from my vantage, the National World War II Memorial, where a few brave men and women from that war were still among us.

VE70

B-17s in formation above Washington

B-17s in formation above Washington

 

On Thursday, May 14, I flew to Dallas/Fort Worth and on to Torreón, a mid-size city in the state of Coahuila, in northern Mexico, to present a one-day seminar and evening presentation on leadership. Gabriel Rosel, the general manager of the Club Montebello, the hotel venue for the talks the next day, his bodyguard (more on that later), and Fátima Zuñiga, the local conference organizer, met me at the airport. As I have written before, Mexico is numero uno in hospitality, and I could tell from the first moment that they were going to go over the top. We yakked on the short ride to Montebello, and I was losing my voice, not a good thing on the eve of seven hours of speaking the next day. I was smiling, but feeling stressed.

Housing for Torreón's growing middle class

Housing for Torreón’s growing middle class

Gabriel and your scribe, on arrival

Gabriel and your scribe, on arrival

Over the top. Yep, when Gabriel walked me into the vast Presidential Suite. Oh my. After profusely thanking my new friend – and he was already truly an amigo – my first thought was, well, this is way different from the Airbnbs that have been my recent digs. I washed my face and at 9:00 sat down to dinner with Gabriel and Jenny Torres, a local woman who would be my (sequential) translator the next day. Jenny grew up in El Paso, Texas, so was well and truly familiar with both languages. We talked a bit of business, but mostly listened to Gabriel, a great talker.

Not the Airbnb: the Presidential Suite at Club Montebello

Not the Airbnb: the Presidential Suite at Club Montebello

Originally from Merida on the Gulf of Mexico, he had been in the hotel business 22 years, mostly resort properties in Mexico, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic. The Montebello was a small (53 rooms) hotel that relied on events (weddings, birthdays, etc.) for most of its revenue, owned by an industrial family from Monterrey. Married, two kids, smartphone pictures passed in both directions.

Dawn at the Montebello

Dawn at the Montebello

My idea of a great breakfast in Mexico!

My idea of a great breakfast in Mexico!

Was up early Friday morning, paddling around the suite. Cup of coffee, suit up, meet Gabriel for a traditional Northern Mexico breakfast: small omelette, beans, potatoes, and chilaquiles, a wonderful mix of corn chips, cheese, and sauce. Yum. Learned more about Gabriel, about Torreón, and more. Delivered the morning half of the seminar with little voice difficulty, hooray. Lunch with Gabriel and a couple of his managers, and a chance to meet his wife Gabriela and sons Diego and Bernardo, who were very shy around the gringo. Afternoon sped by (two hours, traditional Mexican lunch break, enabled a 25-minute nap, totally tonic). Last stretch was an evening conferencia with 200 people, some good questions at the end. After a nice round of applause, students, who were the majority of the audience, came forward to have their picture taken with me. Smiled for about 15 minutes and 50+ snaps.

Gabriel, his team, and your scribe

Gabriel, his team, and your scribe

I spoke with a lot of nice people that day, but I met the nicest of the lot when walking back to my room to wash my face and rest for a bit before the final event, dinner with a group of event sponsors and the mayor. Dante, Carla, Alejandro, and Alan, who had been at the evening show, were having a beer on the bar terrace. Dante stopped me and wondered if he might ask me a question. “Sure,” I replied, “and if you buy me a beer I will give you the answer.” “Deal,” he said. I returned in a few minutes and fell into an almost-T-t-S encounter. The four all worked at Toyota Bashoku, a plant that supplies fabric and leather seat covers to the big carmaker. They were excited because a few days earlier they learned that BMW awarded the plant a big contract to supply their South Carolina factory. Three of the four had studied industrial engineering at the local institute of technology. Dante asked his question and a couple of more; he had just been promoted to manager, and wanted to know about how to manage! The conversation was fascinating on many levels, but especially in getting to know new members of Mexico’s educated middle class. And of course they asked to me to be in a picture.

Dinner started late, nearly ten, and there was no rest for the guest. Students and adults peppered me with questions about the airline business, Mexico, the U.S., leadership, crises, yow. After the meal there were more pictures, and I finally got “off duty” at 11:10. A long day, but satisfying.

Up at 6:30, Gabriel and company drove me back to the airport, last hugs (I truly got to know him well in a short period).  He insisted on coming in and staying with me through check-in.  His last words were, “Rob, remember, the Presidential Suite is always waiting for you.” Hospitality on steroids.  A wonderful fellow and new amigo.

I had a long layover in DFW, so arranged with lunch with longtime friend and former neighbor Tim Griffy, who I had not seen in several years (his son Walker and our Jack were best buddies growing up, and indeed Jack, Linda, and Robin helped celebrate Walker’s wedding when I was in Europe a month earlier). While waiting for Tim, I witnessed something that made me happy and proud on many levels. A 20-piece youth Mariachi band from Fort Worth, immigrant children and sons and grandsons of people who came north in search of a better life, were outside the Customs hall, preparing to serenade a small group of exchange students arriving from Mexico City. In addition to the visitors from Mexico, there were families arriving from India, young black men from Africa, and more. E pluribus unum.  I was proud of the welcoming arms of our republic. Memorial Day would come in two weeks, and I think my dad and all the others who, through the years, helped us endure as a nation would also have been proud of that scene.

Welcome

Trumpeter

Tim rolled in at 11:20 in his zippy 1997 Porsche 911, we headed for a barbeque lunch at Spring Creek, a Dallas fave, and a good yak across a bunch of topics. Tim dropped me back at DFW, and I flew home. A full, good trip.

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England, Sweden, Denmark (briefly), and Norway

The harbor, Bergen, Norway

The harbor, Bergen, Norway

On Thursday, April 9, I hopped the Metro and bus to Dulles Airport and onto a British Airways Airbus A380, the double-decked behemoth. What a beast! It was roughly twice as long as the Wright Brothers’ first flight. Even in deepest economy class (seat 70B), it was comfortable and remarkably quiet. I actually had an exit row aisle seat, which helped a lot. It was a way-quick flight to London Heathrow, pretty much sleepless, but relaxing. Landed at dawn, hopped on the express train to Paddington, and in less than 10 minutes’ walk was in a superbly located Airbnb and yakking happily with the four residents: host Stephanie, English-Colombian (mostly the latter); Stefan, Dutch-Mexican; Ruben, Dutch; and Maria, Colombian. All four were grad students, renting a quite fancy flat in a block of red-brick Victorian buildings on a quiet street north of the station. We had a cup of coffee and a good yak in the kitchen about their studies, my teaching, and more.

British Airways Airbus A380

British Airways Airbus A380

St. Mary's Terrace, my London Airbnb difs

St. Mary’s Terrace, my London Airbnb digs

I took a shower, put on a necktie, and headed south to Paddington Green and a bike from the wonderful bike-share service (formerly under Barclays Bank sponsorship, now flying the red-and-white Santander banner). For under $3 a day, you get access to bikes all over central London, no charge for the first 30 minutes. Headed east a mile to London Business School via a Tesco supermarket for breakfast provisions. Needed to stretch my legs a bit more, so circled Regent’s Park (about three miles), waving to the giraffes you could see from Outer Circle.

Giraffes

It was a sunny day, and I worked a bit in their courtyard, put my head down for 20 minutes (one of the security staff asked if I was okay!), and at 12:20 met my new LBS host Oded Koenigsberg. I’ve only met him twice, but have taken a real shine to him – way-smart, funny, articulate, practical. For example, he sends his three kids to state schools rather than private ones. I like him a lot. We grabbed a spicy Thai lunch at the adjacent pub the school owns, and from 2:15 to 3:45 it was my turn, stand and deliver to a class of 70 EMBA students from all over (LBS may be the most international place I teach). Talk went well, and the loud applause at the end was much appreciated (I was a little apprehensive about articulacy given lack of sleep, but the coffee helped a lot!).

Rode back to the flat, which was then quiet, took a short nap, changed clothes, and hopped on the #18 bus west on Harrow Road, to Caroline and Scott Sage’s house. They were around the corner at the Parlour gastropub, along with new daughter Eva Rose (six months old) and their part-time nanny. The ladies all peeled off, and Scott and I enjoyed some pints and a delicious dinner. Jessie, the head chef who Scott knows well, appeared a couple of times, once bringing a bowl of pigeon talons (needless to say, they source creatively). We walked back to the house, I visited briefly with Caroline, and headed back on the bus, plumb wore out.

Mural-HarrowRd

Harrow Road

EvaRose

Eva Rose Sage

Jessie, head chef at The Parlour, clowning with pigeon feet!

Queenies, small, tasty scallops

Queenies, small, tasty scallops

Slept really hard, up at six, did a bit of work, and at eight headed out. The plan was a full day on the shared bikes, exchanging them every 25 minutes or so, roaming across the perimeter of the hire stations (there are more than 10,000 bikes at over 700 stations). I had a bit of breakfast at a Pret a Manger near Regent’s Park, and started riding. It rained for about 15 minutes, prompting a return to Pret for another coffee, but it soon cleared. I needed a bit more breakfast, so grabbed two yogurts. While eating them along Park Road, I had the first Talking to Strangers moment of the trip. A woman about my age walked past with a whippet-like dog, and I said hello. She responded to be careful with my yogurt because her pooch might take a lick. We laughed, and I told her I already missed our two terriers. Daisy Belle, a rescue dog from Ireland and named for her owner’s Iowa-born grandmother, got to lick the empty tubs of yogurt. The woman, whose name I did not learn, was a Michigan, transplanted to London since 1969. It was a nice visit.

Daisy

Abbey Road Studios, where much great music has been made

Abbey Road Studios, where much great music has been made

Under blue skies, I headed east and north, through Camden Town. First sightseeing stop was the St. Pancras Old Church, a good place to finish my daily prayers. It has been a Christian place of worship since the 4th Century, and claims to be the oldest such site in London. I continued on, zigzagging to stations in Islington, Hackney, Bow. After tracking east, I turned south not far from the site of the 2012 Olympics, down to Canary Wharf, the glob of high-rises east of the city. Paused for a picnic lunch on a park bench (salmon salad sandwich, chips, yogurt), but rather than pursuing the original plan, to cross the Thames and heading across the southern perimeter of docking stations, I headed west, through Whitechapel and the City, then along the north bank of the river, past Trafalgar Square, and St. James Park to Grosvenor Square.

Gates and St. Pancras Old Church

Gates and St. Pancras Old Church

Redevelopment, Bow, London

Redevelopment, Bow, London

Canary Wharf

Canary Wharf

Picnic venue, Canary Wharf

Picnic venue, Canary Wharf

It had been awhile since I saluted General Eisenhower, or at least a bronze of him in ordinary uniform that stands in front of the U.S. Embassy. On the back of the pedestal stands the first part of his Order of the Day for June 6, 1944:

Soldiers, Sailors, and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force!

You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hope and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other Fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.

Those words brought tears to my eyes, and joy at the triumph, hard won. I was less than joyful, however, at the fortifications that have turned our embassy into a virtual moated castle. As I have written in these pages, fear is not the image the United States should project. I think General Eisenhower would be dismayed.

I rode back to Paddington Green and parked the bike, sore in the saddle. Walked north to the flat, visited briefly with Stephanie, and took a quick nap. I wanted a pint, but in a historic pub; a little quick research online pointed me to the Star in the posh Belgravia neighborhood west of Victoria Station. I took the Tube there.

Not your ordinary bridge girder, Paddington Station

Not your ordinary bridge girder, Paddington Station

It was a good place, perfect for a pint, but I was hungry, and wanted to visit my friend Raj Dawood’s Hot Stuff curry place across the Thames in Lambeth. Consulting the bike-share app on my iPhone, I saw it would be easier, quicker, and cheaper to get another bike, so in no time I was sailing east and south, and soon tucking into a spicy vegetable karahi. It was not quite dark after dinner, so I rode back across to Sloane Square, then onto the Tube home. A total of 36 miles on the two-wheeler. Back at the flat, only Stefan was home, eating dinner. We yakked a bit, I showered, and was asleep before ten.

Raj and his head chef, Hot Stuff

Raj and his head chef, Hot Stuff

Still life, Hot Stuff

Still life, Hot Stuff

Up at 5:00, out the door, onto the 5:25 Heathrow Express and the 7:05 SAS flight to Stockholm (via the least organized, most bungling security screening I had encountered in years). I read the Sunday New York Times on my iPhone. I was sorry to read the obituary of Ivan Doig, a Montana native and superb chronicler, through many novels, of life in the American West. To honor his superb literature, I cued some music reminiscent of the region, including Basil Poledouris’ wonderful theme from Lonesome Dove. I missed the opportunity to make contact with Mr. Doig; my brother Jim learned of a personal connection to the family: the author grew up partly in White Sulphur Springs, Montana, where my Uncle Harold was the deputy sheriff.

Hopped on the 11:30 rocket north to Umeå and my 20th visit to Umeå University in 21 years. As we descended through cloud, I saw no signs of spring. Although I’ve visited many times, I always spot interesting new stuff, and as the bus to town rolled away from the terminal I noticed airport covered parking for bicycles. Totally Swedish!

Walked from Vasaplan west about a mile to my new digs. In previous years, when I taught for a week or more the school put me up at a rather plain place, the aptly-named OK Hotell. When we set the dates for the spring 2015 residence, I consulted Airbnb, and booked an entire studio apartment for way less than the OK. My host, Matilda, left the key, and I got in and got settled. Marcus, one of my student friends, had kindly dropped one of the bikes the business school provides to visitors at a nearby convenience store, where I fetched the key. As usually happens, the tires needed a lot of air, so I rode east to the bike store I’ve known for years, filled up, and headed back to the flat.

The view from my Airbnb flat

The view from my Airbnb flat

Matilda, actually Dr. Matilda, was at the flat to welcome me and point out a few things. She’s a psychiatrist at the big university hospital, and we had a nice, but brief visit (she returned a couple of hours later to deliver Pumpkin, a very furry cat who would be my companion – no extra charge!).  The OK provides breakfast, but obviously Airbnb does not, so I headed to the ICA Supermarket for provisions: seeded rolls, local cheese (Västerbottenost), yogurt, juice, milk, muesli, and, of course, herring. Ya gotta have herring at Swedish breakfast!

Pumpkin

Pumpkin

I intended to bike for the rest of the afternoon, but the clouds had turned to rain. I managed about 30 minutes, across the Umeå River to Bölesholmarna, a small island in the river, and a favorite place in all the world. But the trail was wet and quite muddy, so I headed back across the river on pavement, and west until I was sopped. Back to the flat, time for a nap and warm up (it was 39°), then, by formula, to the Bishops Arms, a cozy, English-style pub for a couple of beers and dinner (the barmaid described the weather as “Edgar Allan Poe-like,” quite well put).

That night, it turned out that I should have been the one to impose the extra charge for the cat. When I turned out the lights about 9:30, Pumpkin started meowing loudly, about every five to eight minutes. I texted Matilda at about 11, but her lack of response suggested that she, unlike me, was well asleep. The yammering continued, stopping only for about three hours, two to five. It was not a good night; I was cranky and baggy-eyed Monday morning. Luckily, I had no lectures that day. The good news was use of a whole kitchen and a great bath, so after some herring, cheese, and bread and a good wash, I headed east to the university, about two miles.

When Matilda got the message, she knew immediately that the cat was in heat, said she was going to give her some meds this afternoon, and that all would be calm down. I appreciated her forthright, very Swedish manner, and planned on getting a good night’s sleep. At school, I settled into a familiar study desk in a common area, and actually managed to get some work done. At five, I rode down the hill, changed clothes, and headed out for a ride. It was not raining, but the west wind was howling, gusting to about 40 mph. Rode across the river for a spicy dinner at a Thai restaurant, and settled in at home, looking forward to a good sleep.

Like clockwork, after the sun went down the meows began again. She wanted a man-cat! I texted Matilda, and told her that the whole situation was untenable. She really stepped up, booking and paying for a room in a new, hip-but-modest downtown hotel, the U&ME (a play on the city’s airport code, UME), and even insisted on driving me, or rather my suitcase, over to the hotel. I rode the school’s bicycle. Just another part of being on the road overseas, as I’ve been for 44 years now.

Tuesday morning, I was “up and at ’em,” as my father used to say. Spent a productive day, and from three to five delivered a seminar to the incoming officers of the student business association, HHUS. It was a small group, with lots of interaction. At five, I sped down the hill, changed clothes, zipped to the florist, then downriver to dinner with my friends Nils and Carolina Paulsson and their three boys, Johann, Petter, and Olle. The prospect of a home-cooked dinner (Carolina is an accomplished cook who won a Swedish cookbook competition) was huge, and I was drooling in anticipation. There was still a bit of snow on the riverside bike path, and I nearly crashed a block from their house, on two inches of slush.

Still winter: Tuesday morning, a bit of fresh snow

Still winter: Tuesday morning, a bit of fresh snow

The view upriver from the U&ME Hotel

The view upriver from the U&ME Hotel

 

The slushy bike track

The slushy bike track

TheBoys

Olle, Petter, and Johann

As I have written before, Nils is a way-cool, multitalented fellow, and the big news were plans for a summer cottage about 15 miles south, not far from the sea. Nils pointed out the window at some freshly planed boards; I was not surprised that the wood for the cottage came from the newly-bought land – he felled the timber and was preparing all the lumber himself. I am in awe of his skills. He is The Man!  Also new at the Paulssons: a German shorthaired pointer puppy, Egil.

Dinner was wonderful: chopped beef simmered in a cream sauce, boiled potatoes, cucumbers pickled in ättika (basically vinegar on steroids), salad. The meat came from nearby, they knew the farmer and almost knew the animal, a cross of the sturdy French breeds Charolais and Limousin. I wanted to yak with them a bit more, but really wanted to ride home before it got dark, so said goodbye about 8:20 and pedaled upriver.

Egil

Egil

Wednesday was the first really full day, a noontime seminar sponsored by tourism promotion groups from the city (Umeå) and county (Västerbotten), about 30 people. It went really well. Rode back up the hill to the university, grabbed a quick lunch, and delivered a two-hour lecture to an entrepreneurship class. Unlike the day before, there was zero interaction, which was a bit frustrating (Erik, the prof, explained the next day that it wasn’t “just me,” but an odd dynamic in the class). Had a nice bike ride around Bölesholmarna, a superb dinner of Arctic char at Lotta’s Krog and Pub, a Umeå fave.  Thursday it was rinse, repeat, a full day of lectures. High point was dinner at the Allstar sports bar, big-screen TVs showing the third game of the Swedish Hockey League finals – hockey night in Sweden. The defending champs, from the nearby small city (32,000) of Skellefteå, had a rough time against the Växjö Lakers. But it was still a lot of fun.

Better weather!

Better weather!

The sign reads "Dog Parking,"outside the ICA Supermarket in the Teg neighborhood

The sign reads “Dog Parking,”outside the ICA Supermarket in the Teg neighborhood

Hockey night in Sweden!

Hockey night in Sweden!

Old and new in downtown

Old and new in downtown

The new public library in Umeå, in the same building as my hotel

The new public library in Umeå, in the same building as my hotel

A nice surprise Friday: the dean of the business school, Lars Hassel, a swell guy, had returned early from an EU-sponsored visit to Baikal State University in Siberia (six time zones east). After an all-morning lecture on air cargo and a noontime seminar sponsored by HHUS, Lars and I headed for lunch and a good catch-up. I’ve met five or six deans at Umeå over the last two decades, and Lars has been at the top of the charts. Unhappily, his three-year term was up, and we yakked a lot about what would happen next. We drove back to school, I did a bit of work. It had finally cleared off and warmed up, so I changed clothes and took a last ride, on the path upriver. The late-afternoon light was superb. Grabbed a light dinner at Lotta’s and turned out the lights on a good week.

Up the river on Friday afternoon: still winter

Up the river on Friday afternoon: still winter

SpringComes-2

Poor Rudolph: reindeer burger, Lotta's

Poor Rudolph: reindeer burger, Lotta’s

I was up early and out the door, excited to be bound for Copenhagen, my first visit to the Danish capital in 39 years. Flew to Stockholm, then CPH, arriving about 11. Jumped on the Metro for a short ride into the city, and by noon was at my Airbnb digs in the Christianshavn neighborhood, a great central location. Met my host Jesper, changed clothes, chatted a bit (he was an old lefty, commenting “we must continue to fight imperialism!”). Walked a mile or so to Baiskeli, a bike rental service that donates all profits to various African development projects (basely is the Swahili word for, you guessed it, bicycle). I rented a jaunty, bright red bike, heavy but with superb gears and brakes.

Former Danish Sugar Factory, just down the street from my Airbnb

Former Danish Sugar Factory, just down the street from my Airbnb

Pile of bikes awaiting repair, then into the Baiskeli rental pool

Pile of bikes awaiting repair, then into the Baiskeli rental pool

Although it had been nearly four decades, I immediately felt oriented, remembering the basic layout of the center. First stop was town hall square, where I parked and headed for lunch. The place was teeming with locals and tourists. Refreshed, I jumped back on the bike and rode around the center awhile, then back across the harbor to Christianshavn, then up to see den lille havfrue, Hans Christian Andersen’s famous Little Mermaid rendered in bronze. It was time for a bit more sustenance, so I grabbed a Danish hot dog. The Danes know their wieners, and the relatively small country is one of the largest pork producers in the world. Headed across neighborhoods north of downtown, past the university, around pleasant small lakes.

Communiry bands and ensembles are a hallmark of Denmark; here a marching band parades through downtown

Community bands and ensembles are a hallmark of Denmark; here a marching band parades through downtown

Mermaid

Bronze of Hans Christian Andersen, Town Hall

Bronze of Hans Christian Andersen, Town Hall

I was struck by how much new building was underway in Copenhagen; as I often write, these social democracies don't seem to have trouble keeping the lights on.

I was struck by how much new building was underway in Copenhagen; as I often write, these social democracies don’t seem to have trouble keeping the lights on.

NewOld

The water is everywhere in Copenhagen

The water is everywhere in Copenhagen

Copper

Late lunch, Copenhagen: a fully-dressed røde pølser

Late lunch, Copenhagen: a fully-dressed røde pølser

Lighthouse

Danes love their red-and-white flag, here rendered in a harbor light

Contemporary sculpture, new office park north of downtown

Contemporary sculpture, new office park north of downtown

The issue of integration is front and center in Denmark; here, a poster from a conservative party

The issue of integration is front and center in Denmark; here, a poster from a conservative party

But what most caught my eye that afternoon were a set of about 10 quiet streets in the Østerbro neighborhood, lined with row houses that looked to be about 120-140 years old. Each street ran for about a quarter-mile, and halfway in every one of them narrowed to an area where kids could play safely, right in the street – there were sandboxes and small playgrounds, hopscotch squares painted on the pavement. That day I had already seen cool examples of Danish urban planning, but this was the zenith. Toward the end of my weaving back and forth, I paused and asked a fellow about my age about the neighborhood. It was a nice T-t-S exchange. The area is called “Potato Rows,” two stories why: one, from the air the streets look like a potato field; two, before the building, the place was a potato field. He told me that he had lived there three decades, that it was originally a working-class area, which meant, he said, that three families would live in each house, one per floor, 18 people. “Four people now,” he smiled, and we discussed the declining birthrate in Western Europe. I asked about prices, and he said the equivalent of $1 million. Not working class!

Potato Rows

Potato Rows

I continued on, back across the harbor, then returned the bike and ambled home, stopping for an ale at a friendly beer bar at the east end of Langebro. It was a mixed group, guys at the bar rolling dice from a cup, students yakking, a couple of bikers outside. Danes are a friendly lot: plenty of eye contact and plenty of smiles. Bartender curious about my home, what I was doing there, etc. I was sorry I was not staying longer.

Headed back to my room, where Jesper’s wife Mette invited me to have a hamburger cooked by her 10-year-old son and his friend (“Good to learn early,” I said). I washed my face and headed out again, right across the street to the a pub called the Cafe Rabes Have. You don’t find those places when you stay in a hotel. Hyggelig is the Danish word for “cozy,” and it was that. And friendly; I had a nice chat with the owners. And a Christianshavn Pale Ale, from the Amager Brewery, a few miles from where I was sitting. A patron got up and said “Sorry for the crazy people,” which began a brief T-t-S. Denmark is so different from Sweden. A few minutes later, a fellow asked where I was from. “Virginia,” I answered. “Interesting,” he said, “are you against Negroes and Homos?” I think he was baiting me, but I smiled and calmly replied, “Indeed not.”

In the cozy (hyggelig) Cafe Rabes Have

In the cozy (hyggelig) Cafe Rabes Have

Around the corner from my Airbnb

Around the corner from my Airbnb

DoorDetail

In the cozy (hyggelig) Cafe Rabes Have

In the cozy (hyggelig) Cafe Rabes Have

I walked a couple of blocks for a Thai meal at a simple takeaway restaurant, and at dusk headed home, admiring the mix of new walkup apartments and condos and older buildings, some from the 18th Century. As noted above the Danes totally get urban planning.

Was up well before six on Sunday morning, tiptoeing around the flat, and out the door to the Metro and a nonstop flight northwest 420 miles to Bergen, Norway, my last stop, headed to the Norwegian School of Economics, NHH, the most elite business school in the kingdom. Clear weather the whole flight, with awesome views, especially of the mountains in Norway and the dramatic approach over small fjords to Bergen. Hopped onto the airport bus to downtown, then north a few blocks to Bergen Cathedral and the 11 o’clock Lutheran service. It felt like Minnesota!

On approach to Bergen

On approach to Bergen

Fjord-2

Salmon "farm" south of Bergen; the city handles 70% of world wholesale trade in that popular fish

Salmon “farm” south of Bergen; the city handles 70% of world wholesale trade in that popular fish

Working the hymns in Norwegian, I got most of the vowels and consonants, but was only tripped up by the little O with the slash through it, this one: Ø. After church, in the best Lutheran tradition, there were coffee, cookies, and small cakes in the back of the sanctuary, and I visited briefly with a few people, one of whom help me pronounce the Ø. I practiced a few times, and the friendly young woman declared that I was on my way to learning Norwegian!

BergenDom

Bergen Cathedral

I then had one of the most wonderful Talking-to-Strangers moments in a long time. It almost didn’t happen. As I was walking out of the church, I heard a small voice ask “Are you from the States?”  It was Mary from Missoula, Montana, traveling around Scandinavia. One thing led to another, and I learned she was staying in hostels, and had been hostelling for years. I mentioned I had been on the board of AYH, the U.S. hostelling organization, and she said she had been an AYH trip leader from 1973 to 1992. Sure, we had friends in common from way back, including the late Bill Nelson, one of the greatest forces for understanding through travel that I ever met. The mention of his name brought a tear to my eye. He lives on!

A fellow Lutheran, Mary from Missoula

A fellow Lutheran, Mary from Missoula

After a good yak with Mary, I carried my suitcase up the hill, towing it when possible. Bergen is hilly, and my Airbnb digs at Tordenskjold gate 8 were 160 feet higher (I looked it up on Google Earth). But the trek was worth it, because greeting me was Mindor Nykrem, possibly the most welcoming and accommodating host in my 20+ stays with Airbnb. He showed me my bedroom (actually his teenage son’s room, rented during the two weeks the lad stays with his mother across town), a large and comfy place. I changed clothes, yakked with Mindor, and headed down the hill on his mountain bike (arranged in an earlier email exchange, totally cool). First stop was lunch at a 7-Eleven and an introduction to Norway the Expensive. Indeed, eating lunch in front of the shop, the image was that the entire country was like the affluent suburb, Edina, where I grew up – the whole nation is so wealthy.

Welcome to Norway: this pint of flavored milk was the equivalent of $3.70!

Welcome to Norway: this pint of flavored milk was the equivalent of $3.70!

Fortified, I rode around the harbor, Bergen was the westernmost outpost of the Hanseatic League, a commercial and common-defense confederation from the 13th to 17th centuries – sort of an old-days EU and NATO rolled together. Though technically not a member, like Hamburg, Bremen or Stockholm, Bergen was a foreign “trading post” of the league. The Hanseatic cities remain distinctive in outlook – early adapters of globalization, if you will. Not much landscape evidence (Bergen suffered a massive fire in 1476), but the vibe is there.

The tall ship Statsraad Lehmkuhl

The tall ship Statsraad Lehmkuhl

Gable

Old houses in the Hanseatic Quarter

Old houses in the Hanseatic Quarter

Seaside

Rode west several miles – and up a couple of serious hills (hooray for low gears on the bike) – to the NHH. It was a compact but ultramodern campus, with the most scenic setting of any of the 80 B-schools I’ve visited. Headed back to town, around the center, then back up the hill to Mindor’s house. Nap time, first in days, so tonic! Mindor recommended dinner at Pingvinen (the Penguin), a downtown gastropub, and it was great: a friendly vibe, comfortable older furnishings, an impressively large beer menu, and Norwegian home cooking. I had a microbrewed IPA, bowl of wild garlic and potato soup (the barman told me that the chef had picked the garlic himself, clearly one of the first plants to sprout up in spring), and a plate of plukkfisk, hearty fish stew topped with rustic bacon. A huge portion. Yum! Walked back up the hill, read a bit, and turned out the light.

NHH main building

NHH main building

Plukkfisk, yum!

Plukkfisk, yum!

I bounded out of the green house early on Monday morning, another sunny, lovely day. As usually happens when you leave an Airbnb place, I totally felt like a local, bounding down the hill to the harbor, and onto the #4 bus west to the NHH (the equivalent of $6.50 for 3 miles!). At 8:15, I met Tor Andreassen, a colleague I had not seen for many years, and we had a cup of coffee and a catch-up chat (he moved to NHH two years ago from a school in Oslo). Tor kindly provided an office for the morning, and I got a lot done. At noon, I met a handful of kids from Global Economic Perspectives, a student organization that was hosting a conference on leadership at the end of the afternoon. We had lunch, then did a bit of rehearsing. Had a nice yak with one of the other three speakers, Commander Roar Espevik of the Royal Norwegian Navy; it was a nice alternate perspective on defense matters.

A little museum-like collection of academic tools, NHH

A little museum-like collection of academic tools, NHH

The conference went well, with good questions from bright students. At seven we queued for sushi, and I had a good chat with a young Iranian in the line, and at table with students from Germany, Australia, Austria, and Peru. The best exchange was with two Chinese students, Masters’ candidates, who worked the previous two summers in souvenir shops in downtown Bergen. We were laughing about how cruise-ship tourists and others reacted when the clerk at the cash register was not blue-eyed and blonde! A marvelous vignette of globalization and further proof of the awesome influence of the jet airplane. After a quick beer downtown, I ambled up the hill and clocked out. A long day.

Your correspondent with two Chinese students at NHH

Your correspondent with two Chinese students at NHH

Up early Tuesday morning, back to school and a breakfast talk organized by another student group (there seemed to be a lot of them!), where I was joined by the CEO of the school, Nina Skage. Her talk, mine, and the questions all focused on career and finding a job. Like me, Nina had a lot of corporate experience (and she left Norway at 19 to study at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota, which was a nice coincidence), and our advice was practical. I took an immediate liking to her no-nonsense style.

At 1:15, I delivered the last talk of the trip, on crisis management, to a third student group, CEMS, part of a mostly European B-school network. Turi, the organizer, set up a little light lunch afterward, in a corridor, and I chatted with some students, then hopped on the bus back to the center and up the hill to the green house. Mindor was cleaning the other guest room, and we yakked for a bit. I changed clothes and headed out of town on his bike, mostly along a pleasant bike path on a former railway line, south to Lagunen, about 17 miles round trip. Halfway out, it started raining lightly, and I stressed about getting soaked (the Norwegian cyclists all were wearing Gore-Tex!), but by the time I was back in Bergen, the sun was shining.

 

Study area, NHH

Study area, NHH

Mindor, a world-class Airbnb host

Mindor, a world-class Airbnb host

Mindor recommended a couple of places for the evening, beer at the Barista Bar, and dinner at a little Thai spot, both very close to home, so I ambled down the hill (sore knees! sore knees!) to the Barista. Mindor told me about the owner, Mai, and there she was, holding court from a corner of the eclectically decorated saloon. A large woman, heavily tattooed, with wild hair, plus a smile and a nice welcome when I mentioned I was lodging with Mindor. I sat on a stool in the front window, alternately watching the scene on Øvregatan and the inner bar, with lively varied music as the backdrop. Enjoyed a nice Norwegian microbrew, from the tiny Kinn brewery on an island an hour north. Headed a block east to Rabab Thai for a red curry with mixed seafood. I like Scandinavian cooking, but a refrain from a song I heard on Garrison Keillor’s radio show years ago bounced around in my head: “No jalapeños grow in Sweden,” nor in Norway. I asked the Thai waitress to hot it up, explaining that I was not Norwegian!

In the eclectic Barista Bar

In the eclectic Barista Bar

In "my" 'hood, Bergen

In my ‘hood, Bergen

Flowers

Slept hard. Did a bit of work before breakfast, and ay eight joined Mindor and a pleasant young fellow from Seoul for breakfast. A week before arriving, Mindor offered to serve breakfast for a bargain price of 50 kroner (about $6.50), so I ate with him two mornings, and it was a nice spread: homemade multigrain sourdough and flatbread, salami made from lamb (Mindor grew up on a small farm, and told a nice story about herding the flocks down from the mountains each September), cheese, juice, the wonderful “caviar” paste made from fish eggs (common in Sweden, too), and plenty of solid Norske coffee. It was a lovely, relaxed meal, we three exchanging mostly small talk. I was sorry to say goodbye to Mindor, easily the best Airbnb host I’ve had.

I walked down the hill, wheeling my suitcase down gentler slopes, and to the closest stop for the airport bus. While waiting for the 9:30 trip, a young Norwegian said “Hello, Rob.” He had been in the conference audience two days earlier and complimented me. It was a variant on T-t-S – he was not a complete stranger. We had a nice chat about his first year at NHH. I asked what he was doing this summer. He said he was working in his hometown, Kristiansand on the south coast, and he seemed reluctant to provide detail. But I’m good at evocation, and with a couple more questions he said he was going to be working with his hands. “Nothing wrong with honest labor,” I said, slapping his back. He seemed surprised. The bus pulled up and we said goodbye. I flew to Heathrow, and back to Washington, arriving at sundown. A great trip.

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Two Quick Trips, New York and Lubbock, Texas

The student union at Texas Tech University in morning light; the Tech campus has a lot of architectural cohesion, built around the original buildings done in the Spanish Renaissance style; this structure is a nice meld of that style and the new.

The student union at Texas Tech University in morning light; the Tech campus has a lot of architectural cohesion, built around the original buildings done in the Spanish Renaissance style; this structure is a nice meld of that style and the new.

It was out of character to be grounded for a month, but there was a lot going on in Washington: the start of a nice six-month consulting assignment, and a two-week “intensive learning experience” at Georgetown University’s business school, essentially a semester of work crammed into 12 days. I was repeating a course I first offered in 2014 on advertising campaign development. I made some changes to lighten it a bit, but it was still a ton of work for students and the prof. Lots of work, but lots of fun, too, for the 33 students and for me.

So I didn’t take wing again until Thursday, March 26, out the door way before sunrise, to the airport and onto the US Airways Shuttle to LaGuardia. Whoosh, that takeoff was fun – 49 years later, flight still thrills me. It was a day trip with two activities, to hear my old boss Bob Crandall give a speech to the Wings Club, a venerable aviation institution, then zip over to Brooklyn to meet my young friend and mentee Emily Sheppard.

Landed, hopped on the new Q70 express bus for the short ride to the subway at Jackson Heights, then into Manhattan. In no time I was ambling across the main concourse of Grand Central, one of the world’s truly remarkable transport hubs, gazing at the robin-egg blue ceiling decorated with constellations. Way cool!

Art on the New York subway -- an interpretation of my fellow riders

Art on the New York subway — an interpretation of my fellow riders

The club now meets in the Yale Club, a rather stuffy place. By noon I was hugging and shaking hands with old friends, including Mr. C., catching up with folks I had not seen in awhile. The JFK team of American Airlines kindly offered me a seat at their table, and I yakked with AA airport chief, Mike, and Beth, who heads customer service. After a big plate, Bob took to the lectern and delivered his customary great speech; at 78 he still is totally on. He made us all proud. He always did.

The event ran long, and I zipped out, across the street, and onto a downtown train, then east to York Street in the new-cool Dumbo neighborhood of Brooklyn. Down Jay Street to the Brooklyn Roasting Co., where Emily works. She’s the youngest child of my dear friend Jack Sheppard, who died way too early, in 1993. As noted some months ago, I had not seen her in more than two decades, so it’s been great to reconnect, and try to help a bright and eager young woman develop her career. We had a great chat, a fine cup of cappuccino, and I was back out the door, onto the F train to Queens, back to LGA, and home. Fun to be back on the road, if only for a day.

My young friend Emily

My young friend Emily

One of the perks of visiting Emily at work!

One of the perks of visiting Emily at work!

The railway used to run through and around Dumbo

The railway used to run through and around Dumbo

 

Jay Street, Dumbo, undergoing a lot of change

Jay Street, Dumbo, undergoing a lot of change

 

Two days later, on Saturday the 28th, Linda dropped me at the McLean Metro station, to the airport and onto a flight to DFW, then out to Lubbock to see Jack.  I knew we were in Texas when, before the DFW-Lubbock flight left the gate, the flight attendant asked the four of us sitting in the emergency-exit row to verbally confirm that we understood her instructions, and all four of us replied, “Yes, ma’am.”  Civility is good.  Landed at 4:30 in summer – clear and 82°. Ahhhhh! We zipped to his house to watch the NCAA basketball playoffs, then out to dinner at Bigham’s, an old-school barbecue place.

Was up early Sunday morning, pumped air in the tires of Jack’s mountain bike, and out for 20 miles around the huge Texas Tech University campus, one of the largest in the U.S. Back home, out the door for a burrito at Picante’s, a nearby Mexican place, then back to the “man cave” for more basketball. Seriously relaxing, and great to yak with our son. Dinner was at Chuy’s one of my fave Tex-Mex chains, then home to watch a movie on Jack’s new way-big-screen TV.

Out the door Monday morning on foot, backpack over shoulder, necktie and jacket, toward Texas Tech and a 10 AM lecture in the College of Media and Communication, now a regular stop. Jack zipped over from work to hear the 50-minute talk, first time he was in my class since Tokyo in 2007. It was great to have him there. We visited with some students after class, said goodbye to my host, Sun Lee, and motored out to the Ranch at Dove Tree, the treatment center where Jack works, for an early lunch.  He dropped me at the airport and I winged home.

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Teaching at the University of Minnesota, my alma mater

 

Interior detail, Northrop Auditorium, University of Minnesota

Interior detail, Northrop Auditorium, University of Minnesota

On Monday, February 16, Linda drove me to National Airport, and I flew to Chicago and then up to Minneapolis-St. Paul. Picked up a rental car and headed a few miles south to Eagan and lunch with longtime friend (and our accountant) Mark Miller. I hadn’t seen him for several years, and it was great to catch up, laughing a lot (he’s one of the most irreverent and funny people I know).
At 2:30 I headed into Minneapolis and to the University of Minnesota for a 5:45 lecture to MBA marketing students.

Friend-since-1963 Mark Miller

Friend-since-1963 Mark Miller

As often happens, as soon as I arrived on campus, memories flooded into my brain, random images in the mind’s eye, but all focused on this great public institution that has transformed so many lives, including mine. My dad, brother, and I walking to a Gopher basketball game on a cold winter night; heading to the library to write more pages for my dissertation; hustling across the Washington Avenue bridge as an undergraduate, then southeast across the main campus to hitchhike from school to work; and many more. After working my email, I ambled into Wilson Library and down to the Borchert Map Library, named for one of my true academic heroes, John R. Borchert. A black-and-white portrait of him hung by the entrance, and I studied his eyes, looking for the twinkle of insatiable curiosity that was one of his many endearing qualities. I was sorry he was gone (for near 15 years now) but glad I was able to count him as a friend and mentor.

One of the thousands of maps in the Borchert Map Library, in this case a late 19th Century map of Chaco Province, Argentina.  This library has always held fascination and the ability to travel vicariously

One of the thousands of maps in the Borchert Map Library, in this case a late 19th Century map of Chaco Province, Argentina. This library has always held fascination, offering the ability to travel vicariously.

After the lecture I made fast for a fave place, the Black Forest Inn, for beer and dinner with Rick Dow. We had a fine meal and a great catch-up across a lot of dimensions. At 9:30 I was plumb wore out, and drove south to my hosts Deb and Phil Ford in southwest Minneapolis. Yakked for an hour and clocked out.

Got up before seven, had a cup of coffee, and headed out, first to Starbucks for another jolt. I was in the shopping district I knew so well as a child, 50th and France (the major intersection). The retail landscape was, not surprisingly, totally remade. Gone were Clancy Drugs, the Edina Cafeteria, the Brown Derby tavern. But the Edina (movie) theatre was still there, including its wonderful Art Deco façade and sign, erected 1934. I walked around the corner and into the Edina Grill (the only restaurant remaining from my youth is the Dairy Queen!) to meet a high-school classmate. I might have said hello and a few words to Nancy Carlsen (now Engasser) at reunions through the years, but our conversation that morning was the first for 45+ years. So there was a lot to talk about. Like me, she worked in the airline business most of her adult life, as a flight attendant for Delta; she retired in 2005. Married in 1980, three high-achieving kids (two doctors and business owner), surgeon husband. A happy life. But what I did not know was that, like me, her family struggled financially in her high school and college years, and like me the solution was to work while she studied. We had a great catch up. Such a joy to reconnect!

The ice rink where I used to skate, 52nd and Arden, Edina

The ice rink where I used to skate, 52nd and Arden, Edina, Minnesota

Drove back to the university, around the East Bank campus, then parked and headed into the business school. At 12:30 I met that day’s host, Carlos Torelli, for lunch, then delivered a talk to his undergraduate honors seminar, a group of about 20 very bright youngsters. After the talk I drove south to see another longtime friend, Jane Alrick Swenson, one of Linda’s classmates at St. Olaf College. We had a great yak, and she invited me to stay for a classic Minnesota dinner, meat loaf, baked potatoes, salad. Her husband Mike, a large and funny presence, arrived about 5:30, and we had a swell meal and good chat. Jane departed for a concert, Mike and I finished dessert, and I drove back to Deb and Phil’s for a long chat.

Wednesday morning dawned at eight-below-zero. Whew! Drove south to breakfast with my nephew Evan, and at eight he arrived along with my sister Carroll. For a bunch of reasons we have been apart for about a dozen years, so I was quite surprised, slack-jawed really, when she said hello. There are differences, but she is kin, and we had a good breakfast, yakking about Evan’s getting-closer-to-launch career as a screenwriter, about times in the past, and more.

The view from Deb and Phil's kitchen window, Southwest High School

The 7:45 AM view from Deb and Phil’s kitchen window, Southwest High School

Next stop was the home of Dave and Jennifer Horton, the latter the artist who painted “Making Concessions,” a wonderful oil that I bought at the Minnesota State Fair almost a half-year earlier. As I’ve done for a number of years, I like to meet the artist, and they were kind to invite me to their home, show me her studio, and yak a bit. She’s got talent, and so does Dave, a woodworker, who showed me some wonderful Craftsman-style tables he make in his shop, including three from a cherry tree that was a casualty of a summer wind, rescued from a friend’s backyard.

Artist Jennifer Horton in her studio

Artist Jennifer Horton in her studio

Jennifer's great work, "Making Concessions" depicting a familiar scene from the Minnesota State Fair

Jennifer’s great work, “Making Concessions” depicting a familiar scene from the Minnesota State Fair

Headed north, back to the University of Minnesota for a quick meeting with a friend of Deb’s who wanted to pick my brain on networking, a fast lunch, a quick meeting with a U of M B-school prof who leads their executive education, and a bit of work. After that, I hopped on a bus across the Mississippi (the big river divides the campus, east bank and west), and ambled into the student union, then north along the historic quadrangle to Northrop Memorial Auditorium, recently and nicely renovated. More memories, in that case of my first visit to the hall, on a 1963 school trip to hear the then Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Stanisław Skrowaczewski.

At 5:45 it was time to stand and deliver, repeating my Monday talk to MBAs. Whooshed out of class at 7:20 and zipped across to dinner with hosts Deb and Phil at World Street Kitchen, one of dozens of great new restaurants in south Minneapolis. We had a nice meal and a great yak, and continued it at home. Before going to bed, Phil kindly wrapped the painting in brown paper.

Was up early again and to a third breakfast with friends or family, back to the Edina Grill (Tuesday’s venue) for a repast with Allen Wehr, who I had not seen for 45+ years. Allen was the leader of our YMCA youth group in 11th and 12th grade, and a fine mentor, in general and in two specifics. I reminded him of those two. First, he passed along copies of the industry magazine Air Transport World. Back then I thought he got them from his dad, and that was true, but his dad got them from no less than Donald W. Nyrop, then president of Northwest Airlines, who was a family friend. A nice link to a legend in the U.S. airline business.

I believe I’ve written briefly before about the second bit of help. Allen sold industrial equipment, and one of his clients was Braniff International Airways, which had a hangar at MSP, the northernmost point on their network. Allen asked the hangar manager if one of his young friends could come out and have a look, which led to a dozen or more visits on Friday nights in 1968 and 1969. Things were way different back then: the front door was unlocked, as was the door to the hangar floor. No one seemed worried about liability, and the manager – I wish I could remember his name – had only two instructions for me: be careful around heavy stuff and don’t touch anything in the cockpit! Yes sir. Those evenings in the hangar, with a British-made One-Eleven jet, a Boeing 727, and a big Boeing 707-320 (that each morning left MSP for Kansas City, Dallas, San Antonio, and Mexico City) were truly special, and I thanked Allen for the opportunities.

We had a wonderful yak for a couple of hours, covering a lot of topics: families, cars, trips to Europe – he toured the continent when he was in college, early 1960s, in an Austin-Healey. We both agreed that Germany was a splendid place, and he told about dear friends he has made there. Another fine reconnection.

I fueled up the car, dropped it, flew to Chicago and on to Washington, big painting under my arm. A fine visit to a place that will always be home.

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To Germany, England, and The Netherlands

Moving spring forward: fresh flowers in The Hague

Moving spring forward: fresh flowers in The Hague

At 10:55 on the last day of January, Linda dropped me at the Metro. I was headed to my first teaching stint in Europe, via an afternoon lecture to EMBA students at George Washington University. The classroom was not on campus, but a mile northwest at the Four Seasons Hotel. Posh! As is always the case, these older MBA students (my tablemate at lunch was nearly my age) were a talkative lot, and the presentation was a lot of fun. I hung out after class to yak with a few students, from Lebanon, Libya, and Oscar, an officer in the Royal Netherlands Air Force.

Hopped back on the Metro to National Airport and flew US Airways to Charlotte, then onto a very nice Airbus A330 to Frankfurt. Out of the way, but a good fit for the day’s schedule.

Landed at 11, crossed the airport and hopped on the train north to Koblenz, headed to my first appearance at the private German business school WHU in five years. I hadn’t been along the Rhine since then, but it still looked familiar – I thought back to all the times I had traversed the valley, all the way back to my first trip to Europe in 1971. That prompted a musing about how many gigabytes of travel memories were stored in my head. Lots.

Deutsche Bahn ICE trains kissing in Frankurt

Deutsche Bahn ICE trains kissing in Frankurt

On the train, I cued German composers: Haydn, then Holst, then my Lutheran comrade, Bach. Then I played “Deutschlandleid,” the German national anthem; I often do that on arrival, to imagine the place in 1945, in ruins, people hungry, sick, homeless, and cold, then fast-forward to what the German people have accomplished in 70 years. As I always note when describing the Middle Rhine Valley it’s pretty close to a fairy-tale landscape, with the steep slopes rising from the water, impossibly tilted vineyards, castles atop the hills, and picturesque villages below. Way cool, even on a gloomy winter day. I recorded a video on my iPhone and queued it to send.

Pfalzgrafenstein Castle, on a small island in the Rhine, was actually a sort of toll booth of old

Pfalzgrafenstein Castle, on a small island in the Rhine, was actually a sort of toll booth of old

At Koblenz I hopped off the train and ambled east to my hotel, the charmless Mercure. Perhaps as counterweight to its anonymous and dull modernism (built 1986), on the walk I marveled at early 20th Century adornments on Markenbildschenweg and Mainzstrasse, and snapped some pictures of lovely architectural detail:

Detail-Koblenz

The view from my hotel room, Koblenz

The view from my hotel room, Koblenz

I ate a sandwich bought at the station, donned shorts and a tee, and pounded out 22 miles on the fitness bike in the basement gym. Took a shower, and just before dark headed out in light rain, north to the Deutsches Eck, literally the German Corner, where the Moselle River meets the Rhine, a national landmark dominated by an enormous bronze statue of Kaiser Wilhelm I erected 1897; a U.S. artillery shell damaged it in 1945, and in 1993 local benefactors paid to recreate the statue in 1993 (not everyone wanted to remember Willy I!). During the Cold War the corner became a monument to German unity, and since reunification, the flags of the 16 German states and the national banner fly, as do EU and U.S. flags. I had seen the Star-Spangled Banner there before, but never noticed the small plaque on the pole that reads “we remember 11 September 2001 and our friends in the USA.” “Friends forever,” I said, and ambled briskly, because the rain was getting heavier.

In ten minutes I was in the cozy confined of the Altes Brauhaus, since 1689, a long favorite for beer and dinner (it was a bit early, but I was hungry). I was able to ask for three beers and several plates of food all in German, which made me feel good. The place was much emptier than it usually is on weekdays, but the folks there, mainly older ones, were having fun.

Card players at the Altes Brauhaus

Card players at the Altes Brauhaus

Old City, Koblenz

Old City, Koblenz

I walked back to the hotel, read a bit, and fell asleep at nine. Woke up at 1:30 and switched on the Super Bowl, seeing both teams score touchdowns in the last two minutes of the first half, score tied at 14. I had zero interest in the halftime show, so set the iPhone timer for 30 minutes. I heard it signal me to get up, but I did not. At four I awoke, switched on the TV to see New England players dancing around, said ugh, and fell hard asleep.

Up early down to the gym, then breakfast, and out the door, walking a block to the bus stop and onto the #8 bus to Vallendar, a village across the Rhine that’s home to WHU. It was good to be back. At 9:15 I met my young friend Jochen Menges; we first met at St. Gallen when he was a Ph.D. student, I taught in classes at his first post, Cambridge, and last year he became chair of the leadership group at WHU. Delivered two lectures on leadership to big – and very engaged – classes of undergraduates. In between, a splendid lunch with Heidi Heidrun, who runs the MBA program at the school; she’s been a long friend, so it was good to reconnect after some years.

One of the repurposed buildings at WHU

One of the repurposed buildings at WHU

Jochen dropped me at the hotel and peeled off for Cologne Airport and a flight back to England (he hasn’t moved his family yet). I worked a bit, then ambled back to the Altes Brauhaus for a beer, and dinner at Mein Koblenz, a relatively new restaurant on Jesuitengasse, serving updated German comfort food, including the very best Himmel und Erde (heaven and earth) I’ve ever eaten. The dish, a regional specialty combines blood sausage, mashed potatoes, onions, and apples. Mein Koblenz served it sizzling in a metal pan, with a braised peach instead of an apple, and it was seriously good.

Himmel und Erde

Himmel und Erde

Late-18th Century Schloss, Koblenz; this was the former residence of residence of the last Archbishop and Elector of Trier, Clemens Wenceslaus of Saxony

Late-18th Century Schloss, Koblenz; this was the former residence of residence of the last Archbishop and Elector of Trier, Clemens Wenceslaus of Saxony

Back at the hotel I worked a bit more. Lights out at 10, but as usually now happens on the second night in Europe, I slept less well. No matter, still down to the gym at 6:15 for 15 miles on the fitness bike. Hopped on the train back to Frankfurt Airport and onto British Airways to London, arriving not at Heathrow, but at London City Airport, just east of the center. We approached from the east, pivoting around the new tall building nicknamed the Shard.

I hopped on the Docklands Light Railway, which provided great views of the rapidly changing East London landscape. A venerable English firm, Tate & Lyle, are still making golden syrup next to an open lot (likely a former factory site) next to a huge new housing project that fronted the north bank of the Thames. Tons of additional residential construction; demand seems limitless.

EastLondon

I changed trains, exchanged some leftover money for pounds and ambled north in Covent Garden to a big lunch at Masala Zone, a reliable Indian chain restaurant. I needed some spice, and I got it. Time to get to work, and I strode a few blocks east to the London School of Economics and a new host, Catherine Thomas, a young strategy professor. We had a quick brief before class, walked a block to a wonderful old lecture hall, and I delivered my talk on airline revenue management.

The Bridge of Aspiration, twirling high above Floral Street, a gift to the Royal Ballet School

The Bridge of Aspiration, twirling high above Floral Street, a gift to the Royal Ballet School

Puppets from the Indian state of Rajastan, Masala Zone

Puppets from the Indian state of Rajastan, Masala Zone

Lunch, Masala Zone, London

Lunch, Masala Zone, London

Splendid old-school classroom, London School of Economics

Splendid old-school classroom, London School of Economics

Nicely lit entrance to the old main building of the LSE

Nicely lit entrance to the old main building of the LSE

Next stop was the office of Stratajet, a start-up (I’ve helped modestly for a few years) that’s best described as the Uber of business aviation. Jonathan Nicol, a major in the British Army, is the brains behind it, and in no time I was shaking his hand and that of Paddington, his black Labrador. Said hello to Alex and some other staffers, and Jonathan and I headed across Oxford Street to a pub, The Spread Eagle, for a catch-up and a couple of pints. Things are taking off at Stratajet, pun intended, all good.

Last stop that day were my Airbnb digs, just north of the center in Kentish Town. I knew the neighborhood a bit from decades earlier. I chose the room for its three-minute proximity to a Tube station. Razvan, a young Romanian, welcomed me warmly. He was a tekkie, so the place was well wired, including a smart TV in my room. Yakked with Raz, ate a sandwich, and clocked out, because Wednesday would be another full day.

Up at 5:50, out the door, two Tube stops south to Euston Station, and onto the 7:13 train 50 miles north to Milton Keynes. It was clear and cold up there, with little wisps of snow on the ground. Hopped on the bus through town and north to Cranfield University, a relatively small and new school with a well-regarded focus on aviation: engineering, safety investigation, and management were all specialties. At 9:15, I met Keith Mason, director of the latter program. We grabbed a quick coffee and walked across campus (past the airfield and apron with a Boeing 737 and some other expensive hardware) for my first lecture there. Lots of good questions. I seldom teach in such specialized programs, so the queries were really well informed and way more nuanced than at “normal” B-schools.

Keith and I ate lunch with two young faculty and another visitor, yakking animatedly about the business in a way only T-Geeks could. Keith then drove me back to the Milton Keynes station, and I hopped on the train south to London, arriving 2:30. My next gig was at 6:30, but rather than heading to Airbnb I walked two blocks east to the British Library, a favorite and comfortable place to work. As it often is, the library was packed, but I squeezed in between students from China and Greece, and got to work. Very productive several hours.

At 6:30 I was at London Business School for the 11th time, keeping a long tradition alive by speaking with 30 members of the school’s Marketing Club. I delivered my “what American did after 9/11” talk, lots of good questions, and some painful memories. Peeled off at 8:15, east a couple miles to St. Pancras Station, not for a train but for a pint, just one, with two former MBA students from Cambridge, Tim and Fabio. We’ve stayed connected to several years, and it’s a joy to track their careers and young families.

Although Thursday was to be a relatively quieter day, opportunity to meet a new fellow arose the day before, and I was out the door at 8:15. First stop, McDonald’s for a large coffee and a nice T-t-S with the store manager, a friendly Greek guy who with a bit of encouragement discoursed on ancient Greek history. Whoa! Hopped onto the train a few miles to West Hampstead and a quick chat with a really interesting publisher. Worked the rest of the morning at a Pret a Manger near Trafalgar Square. Hewing to tradition stretching back nearly a decade, at noon I met my dear friend David Holmes for lunch at the Royal Automobile Club on Pall Mall. As regular readers know, David was for many years a senior public servant in the UK Department of Transport (head of the transport policy unit, for example), followed by a stint at British Airways, where I met him 20 years back. We processed to the ornate Great Gallery, tucked into a splendid lunch of halibut and even better conversation. Lunch with David is a high point of every winter visit to London.

Cheery Greek manager, McDonalds, Kentish Town

Cheery Greek manager, McDonalds, Kentish Town

Next stop, and last classroom gig, was back to London Business School and a first appearance in Prof. Oded Koenigsberg’s MBA pricing class in late afternoon. While he did his hour I ambled a few blocks to buy two jars of Coleman’s English Mustard, my traditional souvenir (each time I spread it on a ham sandwich I think of good times across the water!). When class was finished, we zipped over to the LBS’ pub, The Windsor Castle (it was my 11th visit to the school, but I had never been there). I was pressed for time, but we had a quick pint and I peeled off for the Tube, riding east to Liverpool Street Station.

MBA pricing class, London Business School

MBA pricing class, London Business School

If you’re U.S.-bound, the UK airline departure tax, called an air passenger duty, now runs to $230, which really makes it more of a ransom; this traveler is on a campaign to avoid, not evade, the levy. I did it in May, returning home via Dublin, and this time Amsterdam made sense. As in May, I would reach Dutch shores via ship, which meant a short train ride from London to the Port of Harwich. Grabbed two sandwiches and two beers (a light dinner, given the large midday repast), and hopped on the 8:00 train.

The Stena Hollandica was a splendid, nearly-new ship that was fitted nearly to the standard of a cruise ship. Really nice. I found my cabin, unpacked a bit, and explored the vessel. Just before heaving anchor, on deck 12 I had a nice T-t-S chat – second of the day – with a fellow. He was English but grew up in the Netherlands and considered himself Dutch. Was back in England (his parents relocated after retirement) because his father died. As I usually do in such circumstances, I expressed condolences, and then immediately asked if he had a good life. Indeed, the man replied, and we carried on for 20 minutes or so as the ferry slipped out of the harbor.

The Stena Hollandica at Hoek van Holland

The Stena Hollandica at Hoek van Holland

My Thursday-night digs, inside cabin

My Thursday-night digs, inside cabin

I slept well, the ship pitching lightly in the North Sea. Up at 6:30, shower, tucked into a huge buffet breakfast (at €15, about $17, it was not cheap, so I really filled up!), and wheeled my bag off the boat and into the Kingdom of the Netherlands, a place I had not visited for nearly five years. The crossing “package” included the rail fares in both countries, even better a day ticket for unlimited travel on the Nederlandse Spoorwegen. I hopped on the 8:26 train toward Rotterdam. A few kilometers east of the port I spotted the first locks, evidence of the water engineering that has helped build the “Low Countries” for a millennium. Indeed, the need to manage water collectively (if you pump out your land, where do you dump it?) has shaped Dutch culture for centuries toward an enlightened sense of cooperation. There’s a lot to like about the nation.

Changing trains, I look across the platform, read the poster, and think to myself "Dutch is not all that different"

Changing trains, I look across the platform, read the poster, and think to myself “Dutch is not all that different”

Changed trains at Schiedam, and was in the center of The Hague by 9:35. Through 44 years of European travel, I had been to Holland a number of times, but never to the seat of government, and the urban fabric of The Hague was immediately interesting, a fascinating combination of boldly styled high-rise office buildings and traditional Dutch architecture. Walking out of the station, a fine little T-t-S with a woman walking two Welsh terriers. “Are they related,” I asked, and she replied they were half brothers. In no time the smaller of the two was chomping softly on my hand, and I was telling her how much I missed our terriers – but would be home the next day.

The new in The Hague

The new in The Hague

More new, but with a reminder of old

More new, but with a reminder of old

I was bound for the Mauritshuis, one of the greatest repositories of 17th Century Dutch painting, and was excited about the visit. But it was not easy. When I got to the museum, the outside guard said I could not bring my suitcase in, so I had to walk back to the train station, where the digitally-controlled lockers were down (something to be said for the old mechanical approach, I muttered, along with some profanity). I walked to a hotel nearby, offered to pay to leave the bag, but they said no. Time for charm and a bold approach, I reckoned, and stepped into a dry-cleaning shop. “Sure,” the Dutch owner said, “no problem,” just leave it in the corner. They didn’t want my Euros.

Mauritshuis

An hour later, I had downloaded the Mauritshuis app on my iPhone and was marveling at the wonderful art. More than 40 years ago, I read Kenneth Clark’s book Civilisation, a survey of art and life in the West, and the chapter on the Dutch Golden Age particularly caught my eye (I had visited the Netherlands a couple of years earlier, 1971, on my very first trip to Europe). The chapter title, “The Light of Experience,” was apt, because the painters of the period – Vermeer, Rembrandt, Hals, Steen, and others, captured light like no one else. Rubens’ painting “Old Woman and Boy with Candles” was the first one with magic light. The glow on their faces was remarkable.

Kindergarten teacher and puppet, introducing pupils to the Golden Age

Kindergarten teacher and puppet, introducing pupils to the Golden Age, Mauritshuis

The museum was busy but not crowded. A Kindergarten class sat in front of a Rubens and Brueghel collaboration, entertained by a docent or teacher with a puppet. I moved along, turned a corner and there she was, Vermeer’s “Girl with the Pearl Earring.” She was looking at me, and, I thought, sharing my delight that she is still with us, 350 years after Vermeer created her, through wars and trauma. She triggered tears, gladness that I could see her and that she has endured wars and lots of trouble:

Girl

LaughingBoy

Frans Hals’ “Laughing Boy,” ca. 1625

 

Opposite her in the same room was Vermeer’s famous urban landscape, described by the museum as the most famous cityscape of the Dutch Golden Age, “View of Delft.” I smiled when I saw it. In 2006, I had taken a photograph in exactly the same spot where he painted it, and the landscape was little changed. The next day, the photo vanished, as did the camera and the briefcase that held it, on a NS train from Rotterdam to Schiphol Airport. It was nice to see the original! Elsewhere in the museum were several works by Jan Steen, who depicted varied humanity in splendid ways. Jacob van Ruysdael’s “River View with Church and Ferry” was another reminder of Dutch skill in conquering the water. Coorte’s still life of apricots that literally glowed was further proof of these artists’ mastery of light. I could go on gushing, but you get the picture! Just a splendid place, and on my way out I thanked two older docents for the opportunity to visit.

This detail from van Ruysdael's painting is a perfect reflection of Dutch competence with the water: the ferry is not overloaded, merely well stocked!

This detail from van Ruysdael’s painting is a perfect reflection of Dutch competence with the water: the ferry is not overloaded, merely well stocked!

North gate of the Binnenhof

North gate of the Binnenhof

I left the museum, headed south through the adjacent Binnenhof, a complex of old government buildings and courtyards, then along a residential street and back to the station (pausing to pick up my suitcase giving thanks again). Grabbed a Starbucks and answered some emails, then hopped on the train north to Amsterdam. Walked a couple of miles from Lelylaan station to my Airbnb home on Balboastraat and met Deirdre, one of my hosts. She was an interesting young woman, just finishing her studies to be a midwife – most Dutch mothers give birth at home, a good thing. After a quick yak, I took a tonic 20-minute power nap. Ahhhhh!

The Mauritshuis

The Mauritshuis

Street scene, The Hague

Street scene, The Hague

Church inside the Binnenhof

Church inside the Binnenhof

The view from my Airbnb digs (note stocking feet at bottom!)

The view from my Airbnb digs (note stocking feet at bottom!)

At five I hopped on the nearby #13 tram and rode into the center. I had not been in the old city for almost 20 years, but I immediately recalled the geometry of canals and streets (well, okay, the map on my iPhone helped, too!). Wandered up and down the Singelgracht (canal), and at six met Jan Meurer, an ex-KLM executive and friend of Rick Dow, at Café Hoppe, one of the city’s many famous “brown cafes.” It was the end of the work week, and the place was hopping, but we found a place to sit down and get acquainted. Jan and I immediately hit it off. He suggested we have another drink in the very posh Hotel De L’Europ, followed by a light dinner and more chatter. We got to know each other very well in a few hours, and I really hope we see each other again.

The Singlegracht at dusk

The Singlegracht at dusk

One of the many gabled town houses for which Amsterdam is famous

One of the many gabled town houses for which Amsterdam is famous

A nice view of Dutch comfort: man and woman reading in the window in the late afternoon

A nice view of Dutch comfort: man and woman reading in the window in the late afternoon

The lively end-of-workweek scene at Cafe Hoppe

The lively end-of-workweek scene at Cafe Hoppe

Cafe Hoppe, since 1670

Cafe Hope, since 1670

Was up at 6:45 Saturday morning and out the door on a sturdy red Dutch one-speed bike, compliments of Yahav, Deirdre’s partner. It was still dark when I headed toward the center (only about two miles). I spent a couple of delightful hours cruising up and down canals, major and minor: Singelgracht and Prinsengracht and Brouwersgracht, past skinny bell-gabled houses, brown cafés, and houseboats that were more like houses. The pavement was a bit slick, so I treaded carefully, 12 miles more or less. The ride ended with breakfast at the Buongiorno espresso bar near my digs. Locked the bike securely, changed clothes, headed to the airport, and flew home on US Airways to Philadelphia and a hop down to D.C. A great trip!

Singel-2

The Oude Kerk, Old Church

The Oude Kerk, Old Church

My trusty steed

My trusty steed

Detail-1632

This painted stone plaque on a house on the Singelgracht reads “Two canvas bales [or bags],” and the French fleur-de-lis and English Tudor rose symbols may suggest trade, something in which the Dutch have long excelled.

A houseboat?  More like a house that happens to float!

A houseboat? More like a house that happens to float!

 

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