Teaching in Germany, via Paris

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The skyline of Cologne, Germany, including the huge Dom begun in 1248 and completed in 1880

On Saturday, February 4, I headed to Europe for the 180th time.  But it’s still so exciting to cross the Atlantic.  Flew to JFK, then, although bound for Germany, to Paris to visit the fourth bar, Comptoir Voltaire, that terrorists attacked in November 2015. Regular readers may recall that in July 2016 I planned to visit all four but only made it to three.

Arrived Charles de Gaulle early, at six, and was on a RER suburban train soon after.  Stashed my suitcase and laptop in a locker at Gare de l’Est, the station from which I would depart five hours later, then picked up a Velib shared bike (bought a day pass for the equivalent of $1.92 online the day before).  It was still dark, and Paris was still asleep, which made for a pleasant and quiet ride. It reminded me of the voice on an American Airlines TV commercial promoting our Europe services; our jets were landing in Paris (and other places) “just as the city starts to stir.”  Rode to the bar to locate it, then headed south a couple miles to Coulée verte René-Dumont, a pedestrian and bikeway on a former railway that was one of the inspirations for New York’s High Line.  Gliding past other early-morning riders, I was reminded of a swell quotation from H.G. Wells: “When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the human race.”  Amen to that!

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My trusty steed at Gare de l’Est

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While doing a yo-yo on the trail, it started raining, lightly at first, then pelting.  By the time I circled back to Comptoir Voltaire, I was wet (the Gore-Tex coat helped, but my head and lower legs were soaked).  But it was warm and friendly inside, lots of regulars greeting the barman with a smile and handshake.  Had a café au lait and dried off a bit.  Before leaving,  showed the barman my iPhone with the following in French, thanks to Google translate (I did the same thing, with a shorter message, last July):

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Morning customers watching the news at Comptoir Voltaire

Good morning.  I’m very glad to visit Comptoir Voltaire for the first time.  I’m here to enjoy a cup of coffee, and to remember the people who were injured here in the terrorist attacks of November 2015.  I worked for American Airlines for 22 years, and was there on 11 September 2001, so I am well familiar with terrorism.  But we are not afraid, because if we fear, then the terrorists win.  And they will not win.

He read it, shook my hand, and wished me a pleasant day (in French, naturellement).  Back on the Velib, in lighter rain, toward the railway station.  About a half-mile south, the rain stopped, so I changed direction, following the Canal St. Martin south, past the Theater Bataclan – site of the worst carnage in the terrorist attacks – to the Bastille, then on to the River Seine.  Rode west past Notre Dame, then back north to the station.  A fine morning in a city that is so visual and so majestic, even in the dumpier parts.  There’s no place like it.   I was feeling young.  And connected, thanks to changing wireless providers, from AT&T to T-Mobile, which offers unlimited data and texts in France and 139 other countries (as well as voice calls home for 20 cents a minute vs. $2).  Cool!

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The new normal: the French Army at the railway station

At 1:01 the Deutsche Bahn ICE to Frankfurt rolled out, and pretty soon were were at 320 km/hr (about 200 mph, zippy).  Ate sandwiches I bought in the station, read The New York Times on my iPhone, and brought this journal up to date.  Crossed the border that flipped-flopped several times in recent centuries and arrived Kaiserslautern, Germany, at 3:30.  Got on a branch-line train at four, down a narrow valley, very scenic, into the Nahe Valley, and finally to the Rhine at Bingen, just downstream from Mainz.  Arrived Koblenz at six, walked to the hotel, and took a much-needed shower and a 20-minute nap.

At 7:30 I ambled a few blocks to the Altes Brauhaus, a swell bar and restaurant that’s been in business for 328 years, so they know how to serve a beer and a plate of food.  The place was surprisingly empty.  Sat down, had a couple of beers and a plate of (cold) herring and fried potatoes.  Yum!  Back to the hotel and asleep by ten, all the way through to seven.  No time-zone woes, nice.

 

Out the door Monday morning and onto the bus across the river to WHU, a private business school I had visited 12 times before, including a stop at their graduate campus in Düsseldorf seven weeks earlier.  On a walk around the small town of Vallendar, I looked down and saw four stolpersteine, remembering four murdered in Treblinka.

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The two classes weren’t until the afternoon, so I worked the morning, and at lunch met two longtime WHU friends, Heidi Heidrun and Susan Boedeker.  I see Heidi once a year, but hadn’t seen Susan for about six years, and it was good to catch up.  At 1:30 I met my new host, Raphael Silberzahn, a friendly young guy filling in for my usual colleague Jochen.  Delivered two talks on leadership and at seven hopped the bus home.  Worked a bit, changed clothes, and at eight walked back to the Altes Brauhaus to meet Raphael (we planned to eat at another place, but it was closed Mondays).  Tucked into an enormous plate of venison stew with spätzle and red cabbage, really good and really a lot.  Even better, a long chat with Raphael, a seriously interesting guy.  We yakked about a lot of stuff, including his recent unpleasant academic experience in Spain, his research, his entrepreneurial bent, and more.  A nice evening.

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Old and new on the WHU campus, Vallendar

Up Tuesday morning, repeat Monday, except class was in the morning.  Walking up the hill to the campus, I spotted four more stolpersteine.  The Nazis murdered three of four of the Loeb family on Wilhelm-Ross Strasse, parents Felix and Flora and younger daughter Martha; Anna, born 1923, somehow managed to flee to Belgium, then on to the United States.  I thought of the Loebs a few hours later, when at lunch I read in The New York Times that police arrested 20 rabbis obstructing traffic at Trump Tower.  They were protesting Trump’s order restricting Muslim immigration.  Rabbi Jill Jacobs said, “We remember our history, and we remember that the borders of this country closed to us in 1924 with very catastrophic consequences during the Holocaust.”  Memory is a good thing.

Finished class at 11:15, worked a bit, grabbed lunch in the Mensa, and got on the train back to Koblenz, then south.  The Rhine Valley south of Koblenz is of storybook quality, with steep slopes, cliffs, hilltop castles, and picturesque villages.  I shot a video on the iPhone to send Dylan and Carson, updated this journal, and worked a bit.  Arrived Stuttgart at 4:22. The 4:52 local south to Reutlingen canceled, slowing things a bit, but was working in my hotel room by 6:30.  Met my longtime friend Oliver Götz from Reutlingen University’s B-school at 8:15 and tucked into a light dinner (I’ve been eating plenty).  Slept hard.

Up and out the door, on foot up the hill to the university Wednesday morning (it was my fourth visit in under two years, so I knew the way).  On the way, a nice walk through the old town, passing through two ancient gates, the Gartentor and the Tübinger Tor:

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I love cooked kale, grünkohl, but had never seen it for sale raw

Worked a couple hours in the Mensa, and from 11:30 to 1:00 gave a lecture to a quite diverse group of marketing students: half from Germany and kids from Mexico, Bolivia, Costa Rica, the USA, Pakistan, Korea, China, and more.  Oliver peeled off to a meeting and I got the bus down the hill, picked up my suitcase at the hotel, changed clothes, and ambled to the train station.  Late lunch al fresco on platform 1, then onto the 2:48 local back to Stuttgart, then a fast ICE north to Cologne.  The wi-fi was not working, so I couldn’t get some needed work done.   The ICE track between Frankfurt Airport and Cologne parallels an autobahn, and it’s always cool to see the 180 mph train zooming past cars – even tricked-out Porsches – like they’re standing still.

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Terraced vineyards near Stuttgart

On the connecting train north to Münster, somewhere between Wuppertal and Hagen, my brain locked up, but positively, on the following simple thought: What I Get to See.  The privilege of mobility, it’s such a blessing.  Arrived Münster about 30 minutes late.  Got to the hotel (I normally stay with Airbnb host Svenja, but this was just one night), dropped my bag, and walked briskly toward Altes Gasthaus Leve, long a favorite restaurant.  I try to visit on my December trip, but the place gets booked months in advance of Advent and the city’s popular Christmas markets, so I hadn’t been since 2012. Lunch was late but small, and I was way hungry.  Tucked in, maybe too much, but it was really good.

Up Thursday morning, a bit of work, then some meetings with doctoral students Julian Allendorf and others.  Pizza lunch, walked back to the train station, and headed south to Cologne.  It was a long way to go for short meetings, but I kept a promise.  Arrived Cologne at four, and checked into the youth hostel in Deutz, across the river from the center.  It was my first hostel stay since 2009, and that was at the same place, a quite new and very convenient place.  I was looking to save a few dollars, and to link to my past, because youth hosteling was one of the activities that expanded my horizon as a teenager, and because I had served on the USA youth hosteling association board of directors for nine years in the 1990s (as “compensation” for my service, I received lifetime membership, and when I checked in I showed my card).

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Audis whizzing north for export

They were installing wi-fi in the building, and it was only working on the main floor, so I grabbed my laptop and headed down to a table and bench to do some work.  Swirls of teenagers on school trips swirled around.  Then a wonderful T-t-S: a little girl about seven walked up to me, hovering right over my computer, and began speaking, in German of course.  I mustered my best skills, and we were able to have a little chat.  I vividly remember the last such encounter, in Vietnam in November 2010, and recalled what worked well was to scroll through family photos on my iPhone.  So out came Dylan and Carson, then Robin and Jack, then Linda, then Henry and MacKenzie.  After about five minutes, her mother and grandmother appeared.  They spoke some English, so we filled in the blanks.  The little girl was Viola.  I told her, auf Deutsch, that she had a pretty name.  She proudly spelled it for me, V-I-O-L-A.  Then said auf Wiedersehen.

Took a short nap, and walked a block to the tram, riding across the Rhine to the Altstadt, the old city.  At 7:15, met Jan-Marc, an undergrad at the University of Cologne and one of the heads of the student business association, at Gilden im Zims, one of the city’s oldest bars – from the 13th Century.  The place celebrates “Heroes of Cologne” with a series of large black-and-white pictures on the walls and messages on the little glasses (by tradition, the local beer style, Kölsch, is served in 20 centiliter (6.7 ounce) glasses).  I had visited once before, and again admired the photo of Konrad Adenauer, a former mayor of Cologne, but more important the first Chancellor of the postwar federal republic.  I often think of Adenauer, leading the rebuilding of a country and economy flattened by the Nazis’ horrific wrong turn. (Indeed, while I waited for Jan-Marc near the entry, I noticed behind me a photo of Gilden in spring 1945 – buildings on either side destroyed, but the bar still standing tall.)

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At Gilden, beer is still tapped from oak kegs

We got to know each other, and talked about future guest presentations.  His friend Kevin arrived, in high spirits because he had just written his last exam and only had to prepare a thesis to graduate.  The topic then moved to Carnival, the annual big party in Cologne, and the anecdotes reinforced my belief that this is one of the party capitals of the world.  Soon Tina and Johanna, Kevin’s roommates, joined.  In a small world moment, Johanna had just finished at ESB, the school I visited the day before, and her adviser was my host Oliver.  I tucked into a traditional Cologne meal, Himmel und Erd (“Heaven and Earth”), blood sausages with mashed potatoes and a little side of apple compote, yum.  The youngsters were staying on, but I departed at 9:30, walked across the Rhine, and fell hard asleep.

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Up at 6:30, four-minute walk to the train, onto the 7:13 ICE to Frankfurt and the flight home.

 

 

 

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Three Short Trips to Start 2017

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Entry, Trinity Lutheran Church, Orange Street, New Haven

The New Year got off to a mobile start.  On January 1, I drove to the Metro (Linda would pick up the car later), hopped the train, flew to Chicago, and picked up a rental car, headed to a New Year’s Day party at Cousin Donna’s house.  Had the first Talking to Strangers episode of 2017 before noon, a nice exchange with the smiling young African-American woman at the Budget exit gate.  No one was behind me, so we yakked for a minute or two, me telling her my destination, she asking if was gonna cut loose on the dance floor, and on from there.

I took local routes north and west to Cousin Jim’s house.  He was out for a run, so wife Michaela and I yakked (we had seen them a week earlier, when they visited Michaela’s sister’s family nearby in Washington).  Several DVDs needed to be returned to the public library, and I needed some air, so hopped on Michaela’s bike and rode off, then zipped around town for six miles.

After three we headed a few blocks to Donna’s and Tim’s house.  Five of my Aunt Sally and Uncle Bapper’s six kids live within a mile of each other in suburban Arlington Heights, and they were all there, with spouses and most of their offspring.  I had not seen some of the kin, including Donna, for about seven years, and it was splendid to reconnect with all.  Nice beer, good food, and a lot of laughs.  Bapper suffered a stroke and was seriously disabled when Jim was 13 and the youngest, John (who lives in Fort Worth, Texas) was 6, and the challenges in that household created enormous solidarity and love.  It’s always a joy to see people who overcame serious family issues.  Solid.

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Cousin Bob, hamming for the camera

Up early Monday morning and out the door, east six miles to Cousin Larry and Judy.  Lorenzo is a first cousin once removed, the youngest son of Alice, my maternal grandfather’s only sister (b. 1898).  We’ve been reconnected for several years, and it’s a joy to know him.  Judy suggested we head out to breakfast, and tucked into big meals at a popular pancake house in Glenview.  Was fun to catch up with them, and to meet Blackie, their new dog, rescued at age seven.  Hugged ‘em both, and drove back to O’Hare.

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Larry is a wonderful artist, and I spotted this etching, based on an old photo of my great-uncle Frank (b. 1892), great-aunt Alice (Larry’s mom, b. 1898), and my grandpa Jim (b. 1894)

The same woman who checked me out the day before checked me in, and wanted to know about the party.  “Did you drink a lot?” she asked.  “And what about that dancing?”  I told her the day before that my knees kept me from getting down, and as I departed she said she’d come along next year and help me with some steps.  Such fun to engage with people who are often made to feel anonymous.  Flew home, landing in the rain, a good start to the year.

Two weeks later, on another rainy day, flew to Dallas/Fort Worth, headed the next day to the memorial service for Liener Temerlin, a legend in U.S. advertising.  The Dallas ad agencies that Liener led (which changed names a bunch through the years) had American Airlines as a client from 1980 until 2015, one of the longest agency runs among any big company anywhere – and they kept the business in large measure because Liener worked hard to keep the business he pitched decades ago.  Liener took a shine to me during my first stint in AA’s ad department, 1990-93.  I don’t and can’t know all the ways he supported my career, but I know he helped several times.  Saying goodbye at his memorial just fit.

Although I’m pretty good at Talking to Strangers, sometimes I get the timing wrong, and I wished I had begun yakking with my seatmate earlier in the flight to DFW.  Commander Brown of the Royal Australian Navy was returning to Canberra after a three-year stint in Washington.  He and his family lived less than a mile from us, and I wished I had met him earlier.  A really interesting fellow, and a reminder that we need committed military leaders like him.

Landed at 5:30, picked up a rental car, and zipped east and north to our old neighborhood.  Stopped at a Kroger to buy flowers for my overnight hosts, Kim and Adam Pitluk, and while waiting to pay had another brief T-t-S that was so emblematic of Texans’ warmth and friendliness.  The African-American man in front of me had huge bags of collard and mustard greens, and a big smoked pork shoulder, fixings for a nice side dish.  “Man,” I opened, “I want to come to your house tomorrow.”  He replied, “come on, then”!  We yakked about his recipe (“might start the slow cooker tonight”), about the party (the Dallas Cowboys were playing Green Bay), and the guests.  Nice.

At seven at one of our old neighborhood faves, Rockfish Seafood Grill, I met Roger Tremblay, a longtime publishing exec turned media-business headhunter.  His wife Gayle was with their daughter in Austin, so a late ask worked out perfectly.  We yakked for two hours, ate some fish, and laughed a lot.  Roger has had a varied and interesting career, publisher of Chicago, one of the best city magazines around, sales exec for Sports Illustrated (which landed the Brittons a trip to the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City in 2002), and more.  A genuinely nice guy.  As we parted, he said he hoped I’d mention him in this journal, and I responded, “with pleasure!”  At 9:15 I drove to the Pitluks.  Adam and I yakked for 45 minutes and I clocked out.

Up at seven, down to the kitchen for a yak with Maddy, age 11, Kim, and Adam.  After Kim left to drive Maddy to Sunday School, Adam and I yakked more.  He has a lot of stories from his fine work in journalism (he was editor of American’s inflight magazine, American Way, for eight years, and by far the finest editor among the four or five I met over almost three decades).  And some remarkable family stories: both paternal grandparents were Holocaust survivors.  Grandmother lived through Auschwitz.  Grandfather and his brother jumped off a train headed to the Bialystock camp; brother was immediately shot, but grandpa escaped, and scavenged in a forest for three years.  Whew.  Lily, age eight, came down and we chatted about art, elephants, and more before Adam drove her to Sunday School (coincidentally, both kids headed to Temple Emanu-El, venue of Liener’s memorial that afternoon).

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Lily and her blue bear

The house was empty, save for a plump cat and their new puppy Dusty.  I ate some breakfast, and at nine drove east to our old (2007-12) neighborhood in Allen, then south to the Richardson neighborhood where the kids grew up (1987-2007).  Brought this journal up to date to a Starbucks, and at 11:30 motored south to lunch at Spring Creek Barbeque with longtime AA pal Ken Gilbert. Tucked into smoked turkey with sides, and a lot of fine banter.

I expected to see a lot of old friends at Liener’s service, and it started in the parking lot, greeting Liener’s longtime business partner Dennis McClain.  There were lots more inside, including my old boss Bob Crandall and wife Jan (it was comforting to feel him squeeze my upper arm tightly, a gesture he did many times when we were at the airline); one of my AA ad colleagues, Ann White (Bob, Ann, and I were the only former AA clients); and lots of folks from Liener’s and Dennis’ ad agency.

Before three, we entered a beautiful sanctuary, with a huge glass wall behind the pulpit and Torah.  It was just a stunning space (after the service, I told the presiding rabbi, David Stern, that I believed a nonbeliever could enter that temple and be transformed to a believer, just by its simple beauty).

The memorial service perfectly reflected a remarkable man.  After a series of piano pieces, mainly show tunes (“On the Street Where You Live” and other old favorites), the cantor sang.  Rabbi Stern welcomed us, and we all recited Psalm 23: “ . . . I will fear no evil: for thou art with me.”

The rabbi began the eulogies, continued by a daughter, grandson, and great-granddaughter.  All spoke of a man who began with nothing, and built a remarkable family, a career, and an unstinting commitment to the betterment of Dallas.  A man with an unwavering moral compass; several spoke of his “MELAK” test: is a proposed action moral, ethical, legal, and Kosher?  You can, and should, read his obituary here.  The rabbi noted, to laughter and many nods, that Liener planned the entire memorial; he was a precise fellow, and we were not surprised; he even chose a wonderful passage (author unknown) in the printed program; here is an excerpt:

Death is nothing at all. It does not count. Nothing has happened. Everything remains exactly as it was. I am I. And you are you. And the old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged. What we were to each other still is. Speak of me in the easy way, which you always used. Put no difference in your tone. Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow . . .

A reception followed the service, more opportunity to celebrate his life, raise a glass, nosh a bit, hug more old friends.   At 5:00 I drove back to DFW Airport and after a storm delay, flew home, glad I made the effort.  Liener Temerlin made everyone, from janitor and me to the Chairman and CEO, feel special.  We will miss him.

On Thursday, January 26, I hopped bus and metro to the airport and flew to Philadelphia, then to New Haven’s tiny airport, bound for a weekend with son Jack.  We were home in 10 minutes – now that’s close-in convenience!  Climbed onto the inflatable bed in his living room and clocked out.  Up early Friday, out the door, Jack heading to work and me jumping in his blue Subaru and heading north and west into the ridges and valleys of the Appalachians, through old towns, then along the Housatonic River, pausing at a covered bridge, then into the pleasant town of Kent:

At 10:15 I rang the doorbell of Stephen M. Wolf, the man who hired me into the airline business in 1984.  He was President of Republic Airlines, and was engineering the turnaround of a broken airline.  I’ve just written a business-school case study of that transformation, and after talking with and emailing other former colleagues, I needed input from Stephen.  I had not seen him for decades, but we instantly fell into comfortable conversation, not only about the airline business (after Republic, he was CEO of United and US Airways) but about our lives.  His was a story of overcoming obstacles at a young age (his father abandoned the family when he was 15), and through grit making his way upward in the corporate world.  It was a delightful morning.  With our talk finished, he briefly showed me one of his hobbies, collecting old Jaguar automobiles.

I then drove 20 miles east to Litchfield, another lovely old town.  Parked on the village green and had lunch at the Village Bar, then motored a mile east to see another former Republic colleague, Sky Magary, who was the Senior Vice President, Marketing, and his wife Susan.  I had not seen them in 16 years, and it was grand to catch up.  At 4:30 I said goodbye and drove back to New Haven, taking a few wrong turns along the way.

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On the green, Litchfield

Jack, his friend Julia, and I headed out for a drink at a lively college bar, followed by a wonderful, spicy meal at Taste of China (doing big business on the eve of the Chinese New Year).  Julia is from a small town in Montana, and the story of making her way from the Bitterroot Valley to Yale was interesting indeed.

Saturday was relaxed.  We slept in until seven, went to the YMCA gym, lunch at Claire’s, a vegetarian standard for 40 years, then a walk through the Yale Art Gallery.  Took a nap.  Chilled with some televised golf.  At 5:30, we repeated our steps from last visit: burritos at Chipotle, enormous ice cream cones from the Arethusa Dairy Store, then a brisk walk north to Ingalls Rink and the Yale Bulldogs men’s hockey team vs. Brown (University) Bears.  We had cool seats right behind the goal.  After a lackluster first period, the Dogs came on strong, and beat the Bears 4-1.

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William Glackens, “Bathers, Blue Point Peach,” 1913, Yale University Art Galley

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Mask by 20th Century Yoruba (Nigeria) artist, Areogun-Yanna, Yale University Art Gallery

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Sunday was equally relaxed.  A good workout at the Y gym, shower, and an amble north to Da Legna, a newer pizza place.  Another outstanding Naples-style pie, bottle of local soda, Foxon Park White Birch (that’s the flavor, very distinctive), good conversation.

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The gulls on either ornamental sphere looked like they were part of the building!

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We walked home slowly, down Orange, one of New Haven’s historic streets, lined with interesting architecture (the whole city is filled with cool stuff from bygone eras):

Watched college basketball for awhile, then north to Hartford airport and a flight home.  A swell trip.

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Global Friends

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Global friends from the last two trips of 2016: Matteo, Alexa, Eva Rose, and Max

Most days when I am home, I walk Dylan and Carson to school.  It’s a short walk, but we have some interesting discussions along the way.  Yesterday, Carson and I had this exchange:

Carson: Potsy, why are all your friends in other parts of the world?

Me: You’re right, Carson, Potsy doesn’t have too many friends around here, but I have lots of friends all over the world, and I am lucky to have them.

Carson: How did you find them?

Me: Well, I’ve been traveling all over the world for many, many years, and along the way I made friends in lots of countries.

Carson: Like where?

Me: Well, remember before Christmas I went to Germany?  And when I was in Germany I saw old friends, like Patrick, Julian, and Martin, and made some new ones, Sven, Agnes, and Wiebke.  That’s a girl.

Carson: Do you know any Wolfgangs?

Me: No, I don’t think I do.  Wolfgang is a nice name, but not very common anymore.  Do you know any Wolfgangs?

Carson: Yes, Mozart.

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The Last Teaching Trip of 2016

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Jesuitenkirch (1711), Heidelberg, Germany

The last teaching trip of the year began on Saturday, December 3, up to New York and across to London.  Made my way to the home of longtime friends Scott and Caroline Sage and their cutie-pie, two-year-old, Eva.  Had a quick yak and a cup of coffee, washed my face, and walked back to the Bakerloo Line and into central London for an annual tradition, Advent service at St. Paul’s Cathedral – it was the fourth consecutive year.  The choir was great (when they would end a hymn, you could hear the music continue on into Wren’s soaring dome and back), a fine homily from the head of the Anglican Church in Canada, a time for renewal.

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Eva Rose with a book I brought her

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St. Paul’s outside . . .

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. . . And in.  The cathedral prohibits photographs, but I simply couldn’t resist a pic of the dome soaring above me . . .

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. . . Nor the noontime low sun shining near the choir benches and organ.  Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa!

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The cathedral had varied exhibits commemorating the centenary of World War I, including this sample of embroidery as therapy, done by soldiers recovering from PTSD, or “shell shock” as it was known then.

After the service, I headed back to the Underground.  Waiting for my train, I spotted two small dogs getting off.  I caught the eye of a woman about my age walking a Welsh terrier:

Me: I’ve only been away from home 18 hours and already miss our dogs
She, without missing a beat: Would you like to give him a stroke?
Me: Yes, please.

He jumped up on hind legs, we had a few hugs and licks, and I said thanks.  Hopped on the Northern Line, riding north-northwest to suburban Hendon and the Royal Air Force Museum, last visited in 2004.  The collection and interpretation are good, not great, but the chance to touch a Spitfire fighter used in the Battle of Britain was way cool, as was the sight of a U.S. Army Air Force B-24 Liberator (beneath the bird was a plaque noting that 26,000 U.S. airmen died 1942-45).

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On a timeline of a century of flight, this tidbit from the 1970s; as a former owner of  Maclaren strollers, I have renewed respect for their Spitfire strength!

Headed back to the Sages for a good suppertime chat in the kitchen with Caroline, then sat down to a simple supper of vegetable soup and grilled cheese sandwiches.  She’s a fine cook.  We yakked a bit more, and at nine I headed to my room, not yet to sleep but to begin assembling an Ikea toy kitchen, a Christmas present for Eva.  It had been some years since I put together an Ikea product, but the basic logic came back quickly.  After an hour I was plumb wore out, so I put down the screwdriver and hex wrench and fell asleep.

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The completed project!

Woke up Monday morning at 5:40, resumed assembly, and was done by 7.  Showered, headed down to breakfast, then out the door on Scott’s bike.  Headed west on the towpath of the Paddington Branch of the Grand Union Canal, a waterway that runs 137 miles west to Birmingham.  The branch runs west-southwest, toward Heathrow Airport.   The first few miles were relatively crowded, mostly with work-bound commuters, and I rode carefully, steering clear of the water.  Parts of the path were bumpy, but it was a bright morning, and I worked up some momentum, riding 25 miles round trip.

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Swan traffic jam, Southall; I tread carefully, because 1) these critters belong to the Queen, and 2) they don’t move out of your way (maybe they know they’re royalty!).

After noon I headed into London for a spicy Indian lunch, bought Linda a Christmas present at Liberty, a wonderful old store, then walked west to Grosvenor Square and the U.S. Embassy.  The statue of General Eisenhower exerts some magnetic pull, and in no time I was peering up at Ike, whispering my thanks.  But, as I have written before, the fortifications around the embassy make me really cranky.  General Eisenhower was fearless, and now, the building behind me, indeed U.S. legations all over the world project a cowering fear.  Just so silly.

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Flowers next to my lunch table, Masala Zone, Soho

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Liberty of London, opened 1875

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The area around the Eisenhower memorial was disgracefully messy, because there are no trash bins nearby.  I wished I had a big plastic bag to clean up the litter.

I was tired of walking, so grabbed a red shared bike (at £2 for 24 hours, cheaper than a short ride on the Tube), and set off for the Battle of Britain Memorial near Westminster, then upstream along the Thames to Belgravia.  Worked for a couple of hours on my laptop, then walked to The Orange, a fine gastropub in Pimlico, where I met former American Airlines friend and fellow Minnesotan Don Langford.  We had a nice dinner and a fine yak.  Headed home, way worn out.

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Up early Tuesday morning.  The original plan was a morning flight to begin teaching in Germany, but British Airways canceled it 15 hours in advance.  I scrambled a bit, and booked Ryanair from Stansted to Dortmund.  I had used that flight twice before, and would have booked it originally, but wanted a bit more slack: scheduled arrival was 3:20 and my lecture an hour north in Münster would begin at 6.  Back at the Sages, I looked after Eva after Caroline left for work (Scott was working late the night before), had an all-too-brief chat with Caroline’s father, Michael, who stayed overnight in their other guest room.  Michael, 75, was still going strong, still working, still active.  Keep moving, that’s the idea!

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Boarding Ryanair 1788 to Dortmund: the democratization of flight always makes me smile, even when I’m stressing about being late.

At 9:50 I began to head toward Germany, by Tube and train via Stansted Airport (a truly bad airport, like an endless shopping mall).  My worry about cutting things too close became reality.  Ryanair was, uncharacteristically, 45 minutes late, then the regional train was almost 10 minutes late, putting me into Münster at 5:35.  It’s not a big place, and I know my way, so I “landed” in the classroom with six minutes to spare.  Just-in-time education!  The talk went well.  Afterward, my student host Julian, five doctoral students, and the prof, Sebastian, headed to a traditional restaurant, Töddenhoek, for my first plate of grünkohl, kale cooked with onions, potatoes, and ham.  German soul food, good for the 25% of me that comes from Deutschland.  After the meal I said goodbye and walked briskly across town to my Airbnb; it was my fourth time with Svenja, a friendly young woman who has a really comfortable apartment.  It truly feels like home.

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Prinzipalmarkt, Münster

Tuesday was a short night.  Up before six Wednesday, out the door at 6:30, onto the 6:33 bus to the train station.  The local train to Hamm was late, and I just barely made my connection to Hannover, then south to Kassel, a day trip to teach at its university.  Met my friend and host Patrick Rath at 10:35, headed to the uni, then a noon lecture to a large class of marketing undergraduates. The first question after the talk was about Trump and his insularity, which provoked a small rant on my part, and nods of accord from the students.  I told them their country seemed to be the last large place led by adults, by people who understood that things were not simple, and by people who understood that an open and liberal global system had served the world well for 70 years.  Many times during those days in Germany my thoughts returned to this idea: did it take the debacle of the Third Reich and the destruction of their country to embrace those ideals?

Patrick’s officemate Sven joined us for lunch.  Sven was from Leipzig and among other interesting things he told me that when he was in high school he and classmates made a video about Kurt Masur, the legendary conductor of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra and New York Philharmonic, and – unknown to many – a key figure in the collapse of East Germany.  Pretty cool.

We had a nice fish lunch in the university mensa (student cafeteria), a coffee, then walked over to Patrick’s apartment.  Picked up his son Louis from day care (what Germans call Kindergarten, this one a shining example of Germany’s large commitment to early childhood development), then over to meet kids from a student business group called CTK.  We had a short chat, then I delivered a two-hour lecture to about 25 CTK members.  After the talk, we walked to Kassel’s Christmas market for a cup of glühwein, spiced red wine.  I said goodbye to a dozen students, then jumped onto the tram to the train station.  More delays: my train was an hour late, but so was the one an hour in front of it, so I hopped on, made my connection in Hannover, and was asleep by 11:15.  A long day.

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Patrick and Louis Rath at Kindergarten

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The view from my bedroom window: sunrise and sunset, proof that the sun’s daily arc is small in the northern winter!

Slept in Thursday morning, until 7:20.  Put on jeans because my talk was not until that night, and headed out for coffee and breakfast, then over to the university’s Marketing Center.  It was my 16th visit to Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität, and since 2002 I have gotten to know waves of grad students.  My longtime host Manfred was at Kellogg in Chicago (working with friend Anne, who introduced us years ago), but Julian and the doctoral students took good care of me.  I worked the morning, had a quick lunch with the team, then headed out to do a bit of shopping, by long tradition buying small guardian angels made in the Erzgebirge, low forested mountains on the border of Saxony and Bohemia (Czech Republic).  Walked back to the Airbnb and brought this journal up to date.  Svenja’s two cats both greeted me.  Momo is shy, but Findus decided my lap was a good place to stand while I tapped on the laptop!

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My office assistant Findus

Took a much-needed afternoon nap, the first one in a week, and at five set out for my evening gig, the 12th talk to a group called “Circle of Excellence in Marketing,” a select group of Bachelors and Masters students.  The “fireside talk” (called a kaminabend or kamingespräch) didn’t begin until eight, so I stopped in at the Pinkus Müller Brewery for a small cold one, then met my student host Julian and two other grad students, Nora and Charlotte, at 6:30 for another dinner of grünkohl, this time topped with a big slab of meatloaf.  Yum!  The CEM talk went well, but lasted past 10:30.  Said my goodbyes and walked a couple of miles across town, back home.

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It was another short night: up at six, out the door, repeating the journey two days earlier (this time without any train snafus), back to Hamm, then east to Hannover and south to Kassel.  The difference that morning was that Patrick Rath joined me at Kassel and we continued on.  The Friday-morning train was packed, and we stood the whole way to Frankfurt, yakking across a range of topics.  Hopped on the Taunusbahn suburban train for the ride to Königstein and my sixth visit to the Siegfried Vögele Institute, a training center owned by Deutsche Post DHL.  My job that evening was a dinner speech to a small group (seven) of EMBA students.

We walked from the train station to the institute, working up a major appetite (we intended to eat a late breakfast on the train, but the dining car was packed).  Once again, the institute’s chef, Heiko, delivered the goods, in that case a huge lunch of wildschwein (wild boar), slow-cooked and tender, with dumplings, brussels sprouts, salad, and a heavenly apple tart.  Whew.  Repaired to my room, worked a bit, took a long nap to catch up on sleep, then rode 14 miles on a bike in the gym.

At seven, I met the group – three were not from Deutsche Post DHL – and we tucked into a dinner of roast duck, red cabbage, and more.  I skipped dessert.  Gave a short talk after dinner, answered questions, and enjoyed some conversation with Patrick and others.  Each weekend of classes, one student brings food and/or drink from their region, so Beate brought Landskron beer from her native Görlitz, close to the Polish border, plus three flavors of glühwein, and schoko spitzen, chocolate cookies filled with raspberry jam, from Pulsnitz, near Görlitz   Whew!

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Although my conversational German is weak, I have a pretty good vocabulary, and am always happy to add to it; that night I learned waschbär und holunder.  The former means “raccoon,” the literal translation “washing bear,” because ‘coons habitually rub their front paws like they’re cleaning their hands.  The latter means “elderberry.”

Up the next morning, breakfast with the group, then Patrick and I walked briskly back to the station and hopped the 9:01 to Frankfurt, where we hugged, then split.  I headed east and south to Ulm, a mid-size city east of Stuttgart in the state of Baden-Württemberg.  By long tradition, I would have gone to Berlin to see the Beckmann family, but we were together in late September (still, it seemed a bit odd not heading to see Michael, Susan, Niklas, and Annika).

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Gingerbread house, bakery window, Königstein

I walked a short way from the Ulm station to my simple hotel, which was a stone’s throw from the city’s major draw: the largest Protestant church in the world, with the world’s tallest steeple, and a tower to the top, 768 steps.  Had to do it, and not just because Lutherans are my people!  Checked into the hotel (commenting on proximity to the church, the owner said “it’s like sitting in the front row at the cinema”), then made fast for the tower.  It took awhile to climb 469 feet, but had a nice T-t-S with Markus while inching up the last 200 steps.  Yes, the view was spectacular, and going down was easier on my gimpy knees than I thought it would be.

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The Ulm Minster (technically not a cathedral) from the main shopping street

Scenes from the top:

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Two-way traffic on the descent

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A nice reward at the end of the descent: an oompah band playing Christmas music

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The top of the top, viewed from the bottom: two visitors stand on the viewing platform.

Grabbed a quick lunch at a nearby bakery, then ambled about the Fischerviertel (fishermens’ neighborhood), seriously old and filled with half-timbered buildings built around two little tributaries of the Danube.  Walked across the Danube to Bavaria (the place is called Neu Ulm), then back to the hotel for a much-needed nap.

At five I headed back to the Fischerviertel and into the boatmen’s guild hall, the 550-year-old Zunfthaus der Schiffleute, for a Christmas beer.  The friendly bartender and I bantered in English and a little German.  The place was fully booked for dinner, but the barman told me if I returned at 6:30 I could sit at a tiny table in the corner of the bar.  I ambled around the area for a bit, had a short beer in a very unfriendly place, then returned for a nice dinner.

But a not-so-nice exchange.  I guess it was inevitable that at some point in my more than four decades of travel in Germany I would meet a bonafide German far-right redneck (oops, that may be redundant), and there was Josef standing next to me at the bar.  He asked me where I was from, and I told him.  He replied “Ku Klux Klan.”  I did not respond.  He then showed me some small piece of jewelry attached to a necklace and said “SS.”  I replied “God help us,” and did not engage during the time it took to eat my enormous main course.  I kept thinking, “get me outta this place.”  I paid the bill and rocketed away.  What an asshole.

Slept a long time.  Up Sunday morning, out the door for a walk around town, then into the big church for 9:30 Lutheran worship.  Attendance was larger than expected.  The hymns were unfamiliar, but melodies and words were simple, so I sang along.  The huge church would be impossible to heat, and it was right at 32° F outside, so most people helped themselves to red blankets from a large.  I’m from Minnesota, so I toughed it out, but it was pretty chilly!

After church, I ambled a few blocks to the Museum of Bread Culture, formerly the German Bread Museum, built in a 1592 grain warehouse.  I like bread, but the original impetus for the visit went back more than 40 years: the parents of my pal Tim McGlynn owned bakeries, visited the museum in about 1975, and brought back a postcard that lodged in my memory.

I was glad I went: the museum told the story of grain cultivation, breadmaking technology from 10,000 years ago to the present, bakeries, bakers, and more, all with wonderful artifacts, including paintings by famous artists like Brueghel, Chagall, and Dali.  Lots of “I didn’t know that” facts, for example, that in the 19th Century, bread products accounted for about 80% of a German’s daily nutrition.  And as expected in a country willing to frankly confront its past, even a specialized museum had exhibits about the Nazi debacle.  The museum was funded by the Eiselen Foundation.  Willi (1896-1981) and his son Hermann (1926-2009) owned a business that was a major ingredient supplier to bakeries.  The superb audioguide explained that both father and son knew hunger during the two world wars.  Remarkable.

Below:  Scenes from the museum: a kleiekotzer, roughly translated as “bran puker,” a common decorative element of small flour mills in Europe; bran is now a valued nutrient, but back then is was discarded; tabletop artwork with bread as centerpiece; a baker’s horn, used to announce that fresh loaves were available; a 17th Century painting; and a late-1940s CARE package from the USA, in the section on bread and hunger.

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A postcard version of this poster, announcing emergency food aid in nearby Karlsruhe during the Depression, was what stayed in my head for 40+ years. It’s easy to see why.

I left the museum, walked the town a bit more, then crossed the Danube into Bavaria, into the town of Neu-Ulm.  My eye caught the modernist St. John the Baptist Church built in the 1920s, then crossed the street to a small Christmas market, which in food and crafts exhibited an earthiness unseen in other December markets.  Inspired by the bread-as-80%-of diet fact above, and needing to eat less after a succession of huge, hi-cal means, lunch consisted of two hard rolls covered with sunflower seeds, a perfect repast.  Walked back to the hotel to get my suitcase, and had a nice chat with the young owner, Florian Röhrig, who bought the hotel two years earlier and was working hard to make it a success.

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Note the bottom of the sign: I was well familiar with New Ulm, Minnesota, Neu-Ulm’s sister city.

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Chapel, St. John the Baptist Church, Neu-Ulm

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Woodworker, Christmas market, Neu-Ulm

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Some last scenes of Ulm:

Hopped on the 3:51 ICE express to Stuttgart, cued some German composers on my iPhone, and sat back.  At Stuttgart, I connected to a local train, absolutely packed, and rode west to Durlach, an agreeable suburb of Karlsruhe, next stop on my teaching tour.   Walked some blocks to my hotel, the eight-room Gasthaus Zum Ochsen, in a splendid half-timbered house built in 1746.  After the right-size lunch I was hungry, and found sustenance less than two blocks away (the Ochsen has a superb, but very pricey, French restaurant), venison goulash, dumplings, red cabbage.  A multinational family sat at the next table, speaking mostly Spanish and German, but with some English.  When I got up to leave, I wished them “Muy buenas noches,” which launched a wonderful T-t-S in three languages.  The Germans were local, and the others were from Barcelona and Mexico City.  I mentioned Georgetown University, and the Spanish mother told me she had a son studying there.  I wrote down my email address and invited the student to be in touch.  We parted with a hug and two kisses!

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My seatmate on the train to Karlsruhe, mom reading an Astrid Lindgren Christmas story

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My digs in Durlach, a splendid old house

Up before dawn Monday morning and onto the tram, west to my fourth visit to the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), a place with a long history of serious brainpower: auto pioneer Karl Benz, electrical whiz Heinrich Hertz, and nuclear physicist Edward Teller all studied there.  I worked the morning, interrupting my labor for a little walk around town.  As I wrote in a 2015 post, a German artist, Gunter Demnig, began a multi-year project to remember Holocaust victims by placing brass “stumbling stones” (stolpersteine) on sidewalks in front of their former residences.  Online one can find lists sorted by city, so I looked up Karlsruhe and found that one memorial was quite close to KIT, and the surname, Ettlinger, was the same as older friend of mine, Harry, whose family departed Karlsruhe the day after Kristallnacht in 1938 (I emailed Harry, now 90, to see if they were kin, but have not heard back).

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At 12:30 met my host Prof. Martin Klarmann, plus doctoral students Max and Sven.  We had a long discussion on the way to lunch and at table about the current political messes in Europe and the U.S.  Sigh.  My scheduled 2:00 lecture was rescheduled to 5:30 because of room shortages, so I worked and read after lunch, and brought this journal up to date.  The spare office where I sat afforded a splendid view of parkland and the tower of the 18th Century castle that belonged to the Baden nobility.   Delivered a talk from 5:30 to 7:00, then hopped on the tram home to Durlach.  Changed into jeans and ambled across town to Der Vogel (The Bird), a brewpub.  Monday night in Advent, the place was hopping, but I managed to get a stool at the bar, and enjoy a Christmas beer and a plate of the Swabian version of ravioli (maultaschen).

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A small part of the massive Karlsruhe palace, just around the corner from the KIT campus

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The German Constitutional Court.  The court chamber is inside the brown-framed windows.  The building exudes openness and fearlessness: marks of a confident and strong democracy.

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Max, doctoral student and accomplished barista!

My scheduled 2:00 lecture was rescheduled to 5:30 because of room shortages, so I worked and read after lunch, and brought this journal up to date.  The spare office where I sat afforded a splendid view of parkland and the tower of the 18th Century castle that belonged to the Baden nobility.   Delivered a talk from 5:30 to 7:00, then hopped on the tram home to Durlach.  Changed into jeans and ambled across town to Der Vogel (The Bird), a brewpub.  Monday night in Advent, the place was hopping, but I managed to get a stool at the bar, and enjoy a Christmas beer and a plate of the Swabian version of ravioli (maultaschen).

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The view from my temporary office, KIT

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Mug commemorating the 500th Anniversary of the 1516 German Beer Purity Law

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City offices, Durlach

Tuesday was a day off, no teaching, and I planned a full day.  Out the door, back to the station, and onto a regional train to Heidelberg, the storied university town.  I had only been there once before, in 2005, but I remembered the basic layout, the old town south of the Neckar River.  Ambled through the old town to the core of the university (founded 1386) and the baroque Jesuitenkirch (1711), then back to Bismarckplatz via the river.  I was glad I stopped briefly, and was reminded that the geographer is an efficient tourist (riding the tram back to the station, mused about times when I got acquainted with a new landscape in just an hour or two, and immediately recalled Ottawa in 1993, New Orleans in ’77).

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Hauptstrasse, Heidelberg

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However interesting, Heidelberg was just a 90-minute detour from the main event of the day, a tour of BASF’s massive chemical works – the largest in the world – on the Rhine at Ludwigshafen, about 15 miles away.  Checked in at their visitor center an hour before the 1:30 (English-language) site tour.  There were no restaurants nearby, but I earlier scoped out something called the BASF Gesellschaftshaus, much like an executive dining room, and open to the public.  Posh, with prices to match, but had a plate of pasta and zipped back to the start of the tour.  There were only five of us, three BASF employees from India, one from Poland, and me.  We climbed on a fancy Mercedes tour bus and set off, zigzagging through the facility.  Vast doesn’t even describe it: within the complex are 200 separate plants, 38,000 employees (17,000 of whom arrive by bicycle, hooray!), consuming the same amount of power as the city of Hamburg.  The tour guide offered facts and figures nonstop, and by the end of the hour drive we had covered 10 miles inside the complex!

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The BASF Gesellschaftshaus

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A tiny part of the massive complex

The guide had impressive command of the plant and all that it made, and – in keeping with German forthrightness – he even told the tour about a fatal accident eight weeks earlier (three firefighters were killed after an explosion and fire when a propane line was accidentally cut).  No denial there, and I couldn’t imagine the equivalent U.S. company being so transparent.  Back in the museum-like visitor center, he also flagged a 1921 ammonia explosion that killed more than 500.  Lack of denial is always good.

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Bubbles and plastic: but two of many things BASF makes at Ludwigshafen

The exhibits in the visitor center told lots of stories and introduced us to the myriad products made with things from the complex.  Like 15% of the CO2 for Europe’s fizzy drinks, or synthetic indigo dye for blue jeans (the guide mentioned with some pride that BASF synthetic indigo launched German immigrant Levi Strauss’ denim business in faraway California).

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Exhibits: at left, bringing the periodic table of elements to life, and at right, the answer to a sticky question (I did not know how glue works, but now I do!)

We think of chemical plants as messy places, and a big chunk of the visitor center described their efforts to reduce emissions.  I don’t know how other big producers stack up, but I was impressed that 93% of the chemical raw materials that arrive at the plant are used, and only 7% are incinerated.  Other exhibits explained how various BASF products promote sustainability, for example, insulation for residences; a Paris villa renovated with their insulation products yielded an 87% drop in annual energy consumption.  German know-how!

After the hour site tour and 90 minutes in the visitor center I could absorb no more.  Hopped on a tram across the Rhine to Mannheim, worked my email, and at 5:30 met KIT host Martin, who offered a walking tour of the city before dinner.  We headed first to the university, built in a sprawling former palace.  As we walked, I learned a bunch more about Germany, including a fascinating intro to its ecclesiastical geography, which is way more complex than I thought (didn’t know that Calvinist reformers came north from Geneva, and squabbled with Lutherans about who had true Protestant theology).  I had passed through Mannheim many times on the train, and from the tracks you see lots of modern buildings, but on the tour we saw quite a bit of the central city that survived massive Allied bombing.  Martin even provided some marketing lessons, for example, when we stopped in a retail store of the coffee roaster Tchibo, which sold way more than coffee – clothing, cookware, toys, and I was astonished to learn they rotate 100% of their inventory every week.

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Mannheim monument to a famous son: Karl Benz

We walked on and on, then at 7:15 sat down to dinner at Marly, a one-star Michelin restaurant right on the Rhine.  It was a colossal dinner, five courses; most were small, but the roast duck main dish was not.  I was enjoying the meal, and especially conversation with Martin, who knows more about U.S. politics than I do, but was a little stressed about being 40 miles from my bed.  At ten, Martin suggested that we might amble back to the station.  Good idea!   Head hit pillow after midnight, a really full day, and way cool.

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Remembering: just outside my Durlach guesthouse

Wednesday morning, out the door and onto the tram to KIT.  Worked the morning in the spare office, and at 12:30 headed to lunch with Sven, Max, and Wiebke, a new doctoral student.  Had another plate of maultaschen, huge, then ambled back to campus to deliver the airline-pricing lecture to 20 undergraduates.  Changed into comfy traveling clothes, said goodbye, and hopped on the tram to the Karlsruhe main station, then north to Frankfurt, out to the airport, and onto an Aer Lingus flight to Dublin.  Before boarding, had a nice T-t-S chat with an Irish woman about my age, returning home after visiting her son and grandchildren in Frankfurt.  Her other son is a pilot for Aer Lingus, so we yakked briefly about the joys of the airline “magic carpet,” a perk that lets her visit her grandchildren every six weeks.

I woke about an hour earlier than expected, because Ireland is an hour behind Germany.  Step one was to iron my trousers, step two was instant coffee in the room.  Tucked into an enormous breakfast, including black pudding, the Irish version of blood sausage.  Rolled my suitcase to the bus stop, and hopped the #16 south a mile or so, then walked several blocks to Dublin City University, DCU.

Met my host Naoimh (pronounced “Neeve”) O’Reilly and some new faculty, and delivered a couple of lectures.  The semester had ended six days earlier, so I was honored and pleased that more than 50 students came back to campus to hear me speak.  The highlight of my fifth DCU visit was a short chat with Nimra Khan, in her final year.  When she entered the classroom, she looked familiar (maybe because you don’t see a lot of hijabs in Ireland); after class, she reintroduced herself, said she heard me speak in 2014, and thanked me for career advice I had provided back then.  But the best part was when she showed me her American Airlines ID card and spoke proudly of her new job in operations at Dublin Airport.  Moments like that are so joyful.

Ate a quick lunch with Naoimh and colleagues.  When I was planning the visit, I reckoned I had just enough time to zip downtown before heading back to the airport, so hopped in a taxi.  The driver was a total character, a man of strong opinions.  When I told him I was from Minneapolis, he asked, “Do you know the Juicy Lucy?”  I was astonished; the Juicy Lucy is an only-in-Minnesota food, a burger with cheese stuffed inside the meat, invented at a small tavern in South Minneapolis.  His accent was thick and he spoke softly, so I could not savvy how he knew about the sandwich, but he had never visited my home state.  Whew!

Even in mid-day, Dublin traffic is challenging, but at exactly 2:15 I rolled my suitcase into Mulligan’s, one of the world’s greatest drinking places, and greeted my longtime chum and former Aer Lingus executive Maurice Coleman.  We hoisted glasses, and crammed a lot of yakking into 65 minutes.  Hewing to timetable, I hugged Maurice precisely at 3:20, walked a couple of blocks, and hopped on the airport bus.  Flew back to Germany for the last lecture of the year.

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Several times that December 15, I celebrated the ten-year anniversary of being fully retired from corporate life.  It was a great decision.  And a couple of times I cued the soundtrack of the 2016 Irish film “Sing Street”; the lyrics from the cut “Drive It Like You Stole It” fit perfectly:

I heard an angel calling
This is your life
You can go anywhere.

 Landed in Düsseldorf at eight, hopped the S-Bahn downtown, and walked a few blocks to the hotel.  Checked in, changed out of the suit, and headed across the street for a late dinner at Uerige, a city institution.  Up Friday, out the door, and a mile to the Düsseldorf campus of WHU, the private business school I’ve visited for almost 20 years.  Met my host Jochen Menges and delivered my “ten things” leadership lecture to 11 engaged MBA students: 5 Germans, a Finn, Argentine, Pole, New Zealander, and Chinese, and an American, Nishant from California.  A great group, and as always, my thought was “these people are the future, and that makes me confident we are in good hands”:

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Peeled off at 12:30, hopped on the subway back to the main station.  At one, I met Tobias Hundhausen, a young German pal I’ve known since he was an exchange student at SMU in Dallas.  We had not seen each other for 30 months, and it was great to catch up on his new wife, new job, and coming new baby.  And to enjoy a swell lunch in an atmospheric old brewpub (called a hausbrauerei), Füchschen, in the Altstadt.  Tobias lived nearby, and knew the place well.  We parted and I headed back to the hotel.

Worked a bit, walked the town, and at 5:15 ambled into another brewpub, Schumacher.  The place was packed, but I found a chair in the corner of the front bar, and settled in to watch the scene of holiday merriment.  In that part of Germany, beer comes in one and only one size, 0.2 liter (not quite 7 ounces), which means you might have a few over the course of several hours, as I did, chatting with folks who sat at the table.  Like the Dutch couple who asked “Do you have places like this in America?”  Emphatically not, I replied.  Every half-hour or so, we heard the loud pop of a fresh keg being tapped, traditional oak barrels.   The last T-t-S in Germany was at table with two brothers, Peter and Roland, and their wives, both named Gabi.  They spoke zero English, so the chat was rudimentary, accented with plenty of laughs.  In between, I tucked into my third plate of grünkohl; my trip goal was four, well, close.  Kissed the two Gabis and shook hands with the brothers as I left, happy to have met them.

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Waiter at Schumacher with lots of glasses of altbier

Up way before six Saturday morning, homeward bound at the end of a long but fine trip, most of the time in Germany, such an admirable place.  Hopped on the ICE, which at a max speed of 186 mph got us to Frankfurt Airport in a little over an hour.  Onto the Silver Bird to Charlotte, where things slowed down because the connecting flight was first late and then broken.  Silver lining was a wonderful T-t-S with Salisha, an actor in the traveling troupe of “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” and (drum roll) Miss California World.  Just a delightful person.  Finally rolled up the driveway at 11:15.

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Salisha and her tiara

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Italy, Italian Switzerland, England

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Interior arcade, Torino

Some 12 hours after Election Day ended, I hopped in a taxi for the short ride to the Metro station.  After greeting the driver, I said with a smile, “We’re not going to talk about what happened last night!”  But he wanted to talk about it, so we did.  He was from Ethiopia, had been in the U.S. seven years, and voted for the first time the day before.  I congratulated him on citizenship and on voting.  We agreed that Mr. Trump would need to get along better with, well, with just about everyone.  When he handed me my suitcase and backpack, I shook his hand, looked him in the eye, and said again “I want you to know how welcome you are in this country.”  No doubt this would be the first of many conversations in the coming week, for I was headed to Europe, to teach in Switzerland and England.  Flew to JFK, and at 5:45 hopped on the Silver Bird for one of my ancestral homelands, Italy.  Landed at Malpensa Airport near Milan at before eight, zipped through formalities and got on the 8:35 bus to Torino, 85 miles southwest.  I was teaching the next day in Lugano, Switzerland, and wanted an interesting place to visit for a day.

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The Italian Alps at dawn

Much of northern Italy is flat, great farmland with fine soil, good rains, and sun.  The spring wheat had been harvested, stubble golden in the morning sun.  We crossed a tributary of the mighty River Po, and I spotted a grey heron and swan.  To the west, the Western range of the Alps came into view, gradually through the smog that frequently covers northern Italy.  We arrived right on time, and rolled my suitcase from the bus stop to the main train station, about a mile east.

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Musicians at the “play me” piano in the main train station (Porta Nuova); a fine welcome to Italy, a land of culture!

The basic urban landscape was as I remember it, five- and six-story apartment buildings on tree-lined streets, commercial buildings with arcades covering the sidewalks, and visible prosperity – not riches, but comfort.  I took an immediate liking to the place.   Here and there were elliptical markers telling the story of a building in three languages.  I dropped my suitcase at the station; the clerk was typical of the friendliness of Italy, and we had a nice short chat.  I zigged and zagged around the station in search of a public-transit day ticket, and finally found one at a newsstand.  Hopped on the #1 Metro line south to Lingotto and the enormous former Fiat plant, now converted to mixed use – retail, hotels, cinema, and a nice museum funded by the Agnelli family, Fiat’s historic owners.

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Skyscrapers poke out in several districts in Torino, but much of the cityscape looks like the foreground: solid four- and five-story buildings.  Below, splendid detail that speaks to the city’s long affluence.

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The historic (1923) Fiat factory in Lingotto

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In the Fiat parking lot: Jeeps are now part of the lineup!

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The spiral driveway to the rooftop test track

By sheer serendipity, across from the north end of the factory was the original Eataly, a fine-food market and eateries in the former Carpano vermouth factory (Antonio Carpano invented vermouth in Torino in 1786).  I always assumed that the Eataly Mario Batalli opened in New York in 2009 was the first, but no.  Wandered the halls, admiring the non-industrial food about which Italians have long cared, and now celebrate in the Slow Food movement.  At one, I hugged a long friend, Matteo Pericoli, who I first met in 2007, when I convinced American Airlines to hire him to produce a huge mural, “Skyline of the World,” above the check-in counters of AA’s new terminal at JFK.  Trained as an architect, Matteo does a bunch of things, and I’ve stayed connected for nearly a decade.  We had pizza and pasta at Eataly, then walked back across to the old Fiat plant to admire the interior spiral driveway that led to a test track on the roof.  All way cool.  Walking back to the Metro, past the historic Fiat head office, Matteo mentioned that when he telephoned to arrange to deliver a drawing that the company commissioned several years earlier, the person asked “What kind of car do you drive?” After some back and forth, the Fiat rep matter-of-factly said that only Fiat products were permitted on the property.

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Matteo Pericoli

Hopped on the Metro back to the center, and began a walk.  Matteo grew up in Milano of parents from the Marches, a region on Italy’s Adriatic coast, and he said he never thought of Milan as home, but really liked Torino.  I knew it was long a center of manufacturing, not just Fiat but other companies, and Matteo provided good detail on a place that has been a center of Italian innovation for a long time, all the way back to kings and queens of Savoy (Savoia), who encouraged creativity.  Lots of stuff was invented there, and not just vermouth.  Not all the innovators endured.  Olivetti, for example, was a leader in office machines, but lost its way at the start of the digital revolution.  We talked about the city as we walked.  Matteo met a couple of people he knew along the way, which made me think the place was a small town, not a city of a million.  Had a fun chat with Pablo (not Paolo, he explained, long story), who grew up in Dallas of parents from Lucca, the same place from which my maternal grandparents emigrated.  “We’re cousins,” I said, and gave him a hug!  We stopped for a mid-afternoon espresso at a little place across from where they used to live, and I chatted with the young owner about the election.  Matteo lived in New York for many years, and was well versed in the results.

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A new best friend from the neighborhood coffee shop

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My Lucchese cousin Pablo

Matteo had a subscription for the local bikeshare service, and at 4:10 we grabbed one of the yellow bikes for me (he had his own), crossed the River Po, and rode two miles to his daughter Nadia’s school to say hello to her and spouse Holly, both of whom I met in 2007 in Jackson Heights, Queens.  Had a quick chat before Holly drove Nadia to ballet class, then got back on the bikes, riding upstream to the Parco Valentino, one of many large parks in the city.  Circled the recreated medieval village built for a World’s Fair in 1884, past one of the Savoy castles, and headed back into the center just as it was getting dark.

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The River Po downstream from central Torino

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Castello de Valentino

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Medieval village replica, Parco Valentino

Docked the yellow bike and ambled a few blocks to a comfy old coffee shop for a hot chocolate, another Turin invention, but far different from what Americans call the drink.  Dark, less sweet, chocolatey, and almost like thin pudding.  Yum!  Matteo and I parted with a long hug, and I walked back to the railway station.  A fine day.  Got the 7:10 Frecciarossa (red arrow) fast train to Milan, zipping east at 184 mph, then onto the train north to Lugano.  Arrived 9:40, walked down the hill to the hotel, called home, worked email, and collapsed.  Even by my standards it would have been hard to cram more into one day, especially the day of arrival in Europe.

Slept until 7:30, whew, big breakfast, worked a bit more, walked Lugano, a place now well familiar, stopping to say hello to a friend at the Università de Svizzera Italiana, the host institution.  Just after 11, I paused to remember and to give thanks for all who served their nations to preserve freedom.  I watched a couple of videos, and thought about the how recent U.S. policy differs from Switzerland, where military service remains compulsory, where every Swiss man has to serve, where defense has not been offloaded to the poor and working class.  I have long admired the Swiss approach.

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On the campus of the Universita de Svizzera Italiana

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At noon, I met my paesano Prof. Omar Merlo, frequently mentioned in these pages, for lunch at a Neapolitan restaurant, pasta in tomato sauce with tuna chunks, a nice slice of cake, and a cappuccino.  From 1:45 to 3:30, it was time to stand and deliver to his Masters of Marketing class, a small group.  After class, met his dad, a smiling 73-year-old; Omar translated a little of my story, starting with the happy fact that 25% of my DNA is Italian, and some about my maternal great-grandparents, who emigrated to Chicago in 1885.  We promised to get together for dinner on my next visit to Lugano.  Went back to the hotel, worked a bit, took a nap, and headed out to dinner.  In a city where an ordinary meal can cost the equivalent of $50, I stumbled onto the pleasant and simple dining room in the Hotel Pestalozzi (a nice aside: Pestalozzi was a Swiss education reformer, said to be responsible for the elimination of illiteracy in the 19th Century).  I was able to conduct the table transaction in Italian, which made me smile, and I enjoyed a nice bowl of vegetable soup, grilled salmon and vegetables, and a beer for under 25 bucks.  I love value!

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The view from my USI classroom

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Made in Switzerland: as I frequently note in this journal, it simply would not occur to the Swiss to buy manhole covers or hotel hair dryers from China. This is a compelling cultural value at which free-trade economists scoff, but which has built and today maintains much of their remarkable prosperity.

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Lugano just before sunrise

Up early Saturday morning, nice hotel breakfast, then walked up the hill to the train station and the 8:33 local to Milano.  Arrived 9:50, and soon after was giving my longtime friend Massimo Vesentini a big hug.  Massimo was American’s sales manager for northern Italy in the 1990s; I met him the day before the inaugural flight from Milan to Chicago in May 1991.  We hopped in wife Lucia’s fancy company car and started chattering like magpies.  After about 30 minutes of driving south, I asked “where are we going?”  The answer was the Oltrepó, the land beyond the Po (river), a hilly wine-producing district in the province of Pavia.  Massimo wanted to stock up for the winter for Lucia and him, and for his parents and in-laws in Pisa.  We stopped for a coffee, then headed to the first winery, a coop that Massimo explained sold decent but not fancy wine.  We tasted a bit, my favorite being Bonarda, a frizzante (slightly bubbly) and fruity red wine, and he bought three cases.  Next stop was La Fracce, a fancier winery six miles west.  We sampled a bit, bought two cases, and set off for lunch.

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At the coop winery: bring your own container, and red table wine is as low at $1.25 a liter!

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Signor Vesentini stocking up for the winter

Massimo know the district well.  His great-grandmother lived in a village ten miles away, across the Po, and he had spent a lot of time there as a kid.  So he knew that Signor Colombi had a nice restaurant in Montù Beccaria, and that was our next stop.  A huge lunch: antipasti of various smoked meats homemade by the owner, easily in his mid-80s; main course of linguine topped with truffles (pricey and, for my palate, overrated, but still a savory dish); a nice sort of pudding cake, and coffee.  After paying the bill, Mr. Colombi insisted we have a small tot of grappa.   Fortified, we set off for the last vineyard and bought two more cases.  We crossed the wide Po, made a U-turn, and parked close to the water, and walked to the bank.  It’s a big river.  We then headed back to Milano, Massimo pointing out his great-grandma’s old house in the village of Costa de Nobili.

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Antipasti at Colombi; Massimo was certain that Mr. C. was still curing these meats himself

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Vineyards near Montù Beccaria

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Downstream and upstream, River Po

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Harvest time in the Po Valley (Alps in the background)

Arrived back in his neighborhood just after five, and met my Airbnb hosts Sandra and Beppe, less than a block from Massimo.  Found my room upstairs at Via Plinio 43, and had an hour yak with them, two architecture students writing a joint master’s thesis that was due in 18 days.  I was honored they made time, given the deadline.  Beppe was Italian but grew up in Capetown.  Sandra was from Novi Sad in Serbia.  The recent elections of course came up, as did other topics.  I repaired to my room to work email, grabbed a short nap, and at eight met Massimo, Lucia, and their cute little dog Lupetta (rescued two years earlier from a dumpster, where some unspeakable human-turds dumped her and three siblings).

We walked to Piccola Ischia, a great pizza place.  Their daughter Martina joined us – I had not seen her since 2001, and she’s now a Ph.D. psychologist and very interesting young woman.  We had a great dinner.  Martina peeled off with friends, we walked back to the apartment that had been in the family since it was built in the early 1930s.  We had a final yak and shot of limoncello, said goodbye to Lucia, and walked downstairs to the garage to fetch Massimo’s bike for a ride the next morning.

Up just before first light, out the door, whee!  Rode across the city to Castello Szforzesco, around the perimeter of Sempione Park five times, then back by way of La Scala (opera house), the original Galleria, and the massive cathedral.  Met Massimo to return the bike, grabbed a cup of coffee at the little bakery across from their apartment, and walked back to the Airbnb.  Took a shower and, as she promised, Sandra was making Serbian pancakes, what we think of as crepes, in the kitchen.

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The Vesentinis’ apartment building

She offered me a coffee and we started just a wonderful conversation, across so many topics.  Two stand out.  She told me that as a teenager she was the #2 ranked junior tennis player in Serbia, had already landed a company sponsorship, headed for greatness, then seriously injured her knee, ending her playing career.  We agreed that many injured athletes lose themselves.  “I didn’t want to become a social case at 25,” she said, “so I went back to school.”

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Aleksandra (Sandra), the best Airbnb host to date!

And Sandra talked about what it means to be a Serbian in the world, in the wake of the troubles between that state and neighbors following the breakup of Yugoslavia 25 years ago.  I told her I could relate: when I traveled at her age, young Americans carried the stigma of the Vietnam war, assassinations, and more, and I often bore the brunt of things I did not like and did not make.  We agreed that being open and broad-minded was the best way.  I could have chatted for hours, but Sandra needed to get back to thesis-writing (Beppe stayed up until four and was still sound asleep), and I needed to get to Bergamo Airport for my flight to London Stansted and the annual teaching gig at Cambridge, so I hugged her, grabbed my stuff, and departed.  I have stayed in more than 20 Airbnbs since the first visit more than 4½ years earlier, and have never had a better experience.

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Winged horses above the railway station entrance

I walked a mile to Stazione Centrale, and hopped on the bus to Bergamo, Milan’s hub for low-cost carriers (I was flying Ryanair).  Went through security, found a quiet place to sit (it’s a remarkably comfortable and well-designed terminal), and brought this journal up to date, aided by an instrumental version of Puccini’s “O mio Babbino caro,” one of Italy’s greatest tunes, and some short works by Vivaldi.  Flew to London Stansted, hopped on the train for the short ride to Cambridge, and was in “my” guest room at Sidney Sussex College in time to shave, put on a tie, and head to Evensong in the chapel.  As always, the choir, led my long friend David Skinner, was celestial, followed by a fine homily from a young guest preacher, Rev. Bob Evans of Peterhouse College.

By long tradition, after service we repaired to the Old Library for a quick drink, your scribe yakking with Emily, a second-year choir member, mathematics major, sunny personality.   Then it was time to process to high table in the dining hall.  There were only six of us, with Professor Christopher Page presiding.  I’ve known Chris for some years, a good fellow, an expert in medieval music and literature.  Brett Gray, new Sidney chaplain and fellow Yank, Bob Evans, his French wife, David Skinner, and I had a fine meal and a good yak, with rather a lot of discussion of the U.S. election, but also forays into the hygiene of the Vikings, raisin production, Calvinism (one-third of the table were ordained Anglican priests!), and sundry other topics.  After dinner we headed to the paneled Knox Shaw Room to roam across more topics: the end of liberal democracy, college finances, and competitive rowing.  Every time I’ve joined these august groups I’ve worried a bit about my ability to hold my own, and every time I say goodnight I conclude that indeed I can.  Before retiring for the night, I again signed my name in the red guest book in the suite, and noted that since July there were visitors from Greece, Australia, Argentina, Spain, France, Belgium, Czech Republic, Myanmar, Germany, Wales, and of course England.  What a place!

Was up and out the door at eight for a big English breakfast in the dining hall.  Was ready to leave when an Israeli biochemist, Dr. Tony Futerman, and his wife and son joined the table.  We had a nice chat.  He was an expert in Gaucher’s disease, an inherited malady in Ashkenazi Jews.  He and his wife had just become grandparents.  And his son, who just graduated from high school, was to begin his compulsory military service (2.8 years) in a week’s time, working in combat intelligence.  Always interesting people in the Sidney dining hall.

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The view from my room at Sidney Sussex

I ambled across town, pausing for daily prayers in St. Botolph’s, a small 13th Century parish church, then into Judge Business School to work.  I got a lot done, and by mid-afternoon it was time to clock out.  Walked across the River Cam and into Sidgwick Site, a newer part of the campus, then back to college for a nap.  Crossed the river again, had a pint at The Pickerel and a spicy dinner at a small Indian restaurant.  Done for the day.

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12th Century Round Church in moonlight

Had another fine conversation at breakfast Tuesday morning, with Nicholas Smith, a professional singer and teacher, and mountaineer.  He remembered me from a previous visit, me not so much. We mostly yakked about his singing and climbing – a lot of experience in both, including ascent of lots of the tallest peaks in the Alps.  He teaches voice at Sidney Sussex.

Walked across town to the school, worked the morning.  At 11, on the way back from the washroom, I spotted a slide on the screen in one of the big lecture halls, which led to an “ambush-introduction” to a prof who teaches organizational behavior classes, a guy I’ve wanted to meet for awhile, and the subsequent discussion might lead to another invitation to my favorite teaching venue.

At 12:45 I met my host, Andreas Richter, for lunch, then walked across the street to present my fifth or sixth talk to his “HR for Engineers” class in Cambridge’s revered Department of Engineering, a place humming with brainpower.  We walked back over to the business school, parted, and at 4:15 I met another colleague, Paul Tracey, for a brief yak.

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Given his ingrate behavior of late, the markdowns on this book at the Cambridge University Press shop seemed appropriate . . .

My Cambridge visits always include a stop in the venerable pub The Eagle, so before heading to the railway station I detoured for a glass of IPA.  Then through light rain a mile or so to the train, stopping to pick up a sandwich and salad for lunch on board.  As I have done many times, rather than flying from London and paying the confiscatory ($240) departure tax, I opted to fly west from Amsterdam (where the tax to leave is $26), so headed across Suffolk to the port of Harwich for the Stena Line ferry to Hoek van Holland near Rotterdam.

At Cambridge station, I re-downloaded to my iPhone one of my favorite novels, La’s Orchestra Saves the World, by the prolific Alexander McCall Smith.  Set in Suffolk mostly during World War II, it tells the story of a young widow, La, who forms a village orchestra to build morale.  But it is so much more, and I re-read most of it on the train ride and on the flight home the next day.  Smith is a gifted observer of the human condition, and parts of the book brought tears to my eyes.

At Harwich I boarded the Stena Britannica, a nearly new ferry almost as fancy as a cruise ship.  I last rode her almost two years earlier.  Splurged on an outside cabin with a large porthole.  There was free wi-fi in public areas, so worked my email to zero, walked out on the sundeck in lashing rain, and went to bed.  The ride was smooth, almost motionless.

Up Wednesday morning the 16th, big breakfast, then off the ship into more rain, and onto the efficient Dutch railways east to Schiedam, then north to Schiphol Airport.  My ex-KLM friend Jan Meurer was waiting for me at the meeting point (the clever Dutch designed a huge red-and-white checkered cube as a visible and easy-to-remember rendezvous point).  We had a cup of coffee and a good chat.  He peeled off at 11, I checked in for the flight to Philadelphia, and zipped back to the U.S.

But there was one more stop, so I waved as we flew over Washington, enroute to Charlotte for a lunchtime speech the next day.  Landed early, and for the second time in a week told the immigrant taxi driver, a Pakistani, that he was welcome in our country.  Early in the ride, he said, “We are hard workers, sir.  We only want the chance to work.”

Checked into a hotel on the south end of downtown.  I needed a ride on a fitness bike in the gym, but forgot shorts, so rolled up pajama bottoms to my thighs and pedaled 16 miles.  Lights out at nine, up before six, down to breakfast, then out the door to pick up a bike from Charlotte’s bikeshare system.  Found one at a station opposite the jail, paid $8 on my debit card, and in no time was coasting south on 4th Street.  By pure chance, travel serendipity, I spotted the Little Sugar Creek Greenway, and coasted south.  Most bikeshares are set up for short rides, 30 minutes max, so earlier I set the handy iPhone app, called Spotcycle, to Charlotte, to get real-time location and availability (so cool).  I always heard Charlotte was a nice place to live, and zigzagging on the greenway confirmed it.  Really lovely.  Rode around a bit more, then into downtown, and a nice side-by-side T-t-S with Shannon Binn, head of Sustain Charlotte, an advocacy organization.  Always good to meet committed young people.

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The new Mecklenburg County Courthouse featured a series of panels with our ideals.  We’ve still got work to do.

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Charlotte skyline and the Little Sugar Creek Greenway

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New-to-look-old streetcar, Gold Line

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Captain James Jack of the Charlotte militia, who in May 1775 rode 600 miles north to Philadelphia to deliver documents expressing Charlotteans’ desire for liberty.

Returned the bike at ten, and walked back to the hotel, pausing for a brief engagement with a young black man, who opened with “What did you do with that bike you just had?” and closed by offering his hand and wishing me a blessed day.  If each of us could each day have just one interaction like that, we would have a better world.

Showered and walked several blocks to the Dilworth Neighborhood Grill, site of my talk to the local chapter of the American Advertising Federation.  Longtime readers of this journal know that last decade I did a ton of these talks, mostly in Texas and neighboring states (and had spoken to the Charlotte group once before, in 2009).  Met my hosts Alex and Jonathan, visited with some friendly locals, and delivered a short talk on crisis management.  Garrett, a billboard salesman, kindly offered to drive me to the airport, and we had a good yak along the way.  Flew home, a fine trip.

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Your scribe by the River Po (thanks, Massimo, for the great day and the pic)

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Minnesota, Illinois, Ontario, Quebec, Connecticut

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Yale University

Well before sunrise on Thursday, October 20, I hopped bus and Metro to National Airport and flew home to Minneapolis/St. Paul.  Bought a $6 ticket good for 24 hours of rides on the public transit system and jumped onto the Blue Line light-rail for my alma mater, the University of Minnesota.  Met hosts George and Debbie John for lunch at the Campus Club, a faculty retreat on the top floor of the student union, then delivered a talk to Debbie’s undergraduate advertising and branding class, a seriously bright group of youngsters.  Afterwards a walked a couple hundred feet to Wilson Library, the main repository at “the U,” to do a little research: I was looking for annual reports of Republic Airlines, the company that launched me into the airline business (I’m intending to write a business case study about their remarkable turnaround).  Found the reports deep in the library basement (had to move other materials to get at the folder with the stuff).  After that, I went one floor down, to the sub-basement and the John Borchert Map Library, named for one of my Ph.D. advisers.  I drafted most of my dissertation on a big table in a far corner, and it’s always fun to find that spot.

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Mall, University of Minnesota

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Maybe only in Minnesota: a quilt depicting the geological regions of the state, Wilson Library

Because the visit was less than 24 hours, I opted not to stay with friends, and found an Airbnb perfectly located a few blocks from the Blue Line.  Katie the host met me at 5:30.  The place was wonderful, a classic South Minneapolis bungalow, spotlessly clean, with a nice big bedroom – and good heat on a blustery and chilly day.  Worked a bit of email, took a short nap, and at 6:30 headed back to the Blue Line and into downtown Minneapolis, passing the massive new Vikings’ stadium, and on to dinner with pal-since-1963 Tim McGlynn at Freehouse, a cool brewpub.  Got caught up on Tim’s comings and goings, had a couple beers, and a nice pulled-pork sandwich.  Was back at Katie’s and asleep well before ten.

Up early Friday morning, out the door, expecting a busy day.  Waiting for the eastbound #21 bus, a nice T-t-S exchange with a bicyclist well bundled against the cold:

Me: Going far?

Cyclist: Stillwater [which was 30 miles away]

Me: Wow, a long ride.  Are you commuting to work?

Cyclist: No, just a day ride to clear my head and see the fall color.  I’m getting married tomorrow.

Me: Congratulations!  That’s exciting.

Cyclist: Yes, for sure.

Me: It will work if you work at it [raising my arm and pointing to my ring finger]; 38 years.

Cyclist: Wow, congratulations on that.

Me: Again, to you. Have a joyous day tomorrow.

I rode five minutes east to a Dunn Bros. coffee shop, where at seven I met my young friend Emily Sheppard, daughter of my late friend and B-school buddy Jack.  I’m a friend and have become a mentor.  We see each other two or three times a year now, and it’s always fun to catch up.  Emily moved from New York back home to the Twin Cities late last year and is settling in.  We had a coffee, and because she works for Dunn Bros. she treated me to breakfast, yogurt and a gooey cinnamon roll.

Emily drove me back to the Blue Line, I hopped on, then flew to Chicago, then a short hop to Champaign and my first visit to the University of Illinois.  I was pumped about being on the third Big Ten campus in two weeks.  Was headed to my 12th lecture to the U of I EMBA program, which normally meets in downtown Chicago, in the Loop, but once a year heads to the main campus.  Rented a car with a free-day coupon (total cost was $1.73 for taxes) and drove north to downtown Champaign.  Dropped my bags at the hotel and zipped across town to the red-brick campus.  The second Emily of the day, a program assistant, welcomed me, and provided a welcome late lunch in a box.

Fortified, I set off for a walk around the core of the campus.  Some wonderful old buildings, two grassy quadrangles, and lots of sculpture.  Really nice.  I am a softy for inspiring words carved on the side of university buildings and other places of learning, and above the front entrance of the main library was the following: “The whole world here unlocks the experience of the past to the builders of the future.” Wow!  At 3:00 I had a short meeting with Carlos Torelli, a friend and host who moved from the U of M earlier in the year.

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Business school classroom building

 

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This lovely foliage was straight from lyrics of a school song:”We’re loyal to you, Illinois / The orange and blue, Illinois.”

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Lorado Taft (1860-1936), “The Pioneers,” original plaster model of a bronze in suburban Chicago

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Another Taft sculpture, according to an adjacent plaque it was part of a “vast unfinished Fountain of Creation to stand at the east end of the midway in Chicago,” prepared for the 1893 Columbian Exposition.  Below, Lincoln Hall, outside and in.

 

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Main Quadrangle, U of I

From 4:55 to 6:30 I delivered a talk to the EMBA students, a lively and engaged group (as I have written many times, I really like teaching older, experienced students).  They invited me to beer and dinner at Murphy’s, a classic college dive in Campustown.  It was way fun to yak with students – the U of I always seems to recruit a really great mix of people and experience.  Kevin, for example, works for Otis Elevators, and he had all sorts of interesting info about the business of vertical travel.  Two tidbits: elevators move the equivalent of the world’s population every three days, and the Willis (formerly Sears) Tower in the Chicago Loop, sways six to eight feet on high-wind days.  Whoa.  Also met an expert in energy conservation, a pharmaceutical researcher, and more.  They showed no signs of leaving early, but I was plumb wore out.

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EMBA students and good guys Marty, George, and Kevin

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Champaign City Hall at dawn

Could have slept in on Saturday morning, but I don’t sleep in, so was up in the dark and down the the hotel gym for 20 miles, then a big breakfast, and back out to the airport.  Such a joy to fly into and out of small airports, where the scale is gentle.  I was headed to Toronto via Chicago, so needed to get into the Canadian way, a way I admire greatly.  So I tracked down Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s address to the UN General Assembly a few weeks earlier.  His concluding words:

Listen, Canada is a modest country. We know we can’t solve these problems alone.  We know we need to do this all together.  We know it will be hard work.  But we’re Canadian. And we’re here to help.

We landed in Canada at 2:45, I hopped on the Airport Rocket (actually line #192 of the Toronto Transit Commission, but sure like the name!), then onto the subway east to downtown.  Checked in at a Holiday Inn on the edge of the University of Toronto, a place I always stayed when teaching at the U of T (a gig that inexplicably went away about 2012).  It was even colder and windier than Minneapolis two days earlier, just howling.  Winter was coming!

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Old and new on the campus of the University of Toronto

I hadn’t been on the U of T campus for awhile, and was drawn, almost magnetically to the university’s war memorial, Soldier Tower, built after World War I.  I have been there many times, because it is a superb place to give thanks to all who made freedom possible, in Canada, in the U.S., and lots of other places.  As always I read aloud the quotation from the Greek statesman, orator, and warrior Pericles:

Their story is not graven only on stone over their native earth, but lives on far away, without visible symbol, woven into the stuff of other men’s lives.

Woven into a free and democratic Germany, into a new constitution for Japan, and so many other places.  I prayed a gratitude to all who made that and more possible.  We can never repay them, but we should remember them every day.

Grabbed a quick nap and at six met Javier Ortega, a young friend from Chihuahua now living in Toronto.  We had a great, brief catch-up.  At 7:15 my longtime Canadian friend Lorne Salzman and his wife Nancy picked me up and we motored south and west to Bent, a small new restaurant with seriously good food.  We ate well and more important had a great catch-up chat.  I met Lorne in 1993 when he helped American Airlines with an investment in Canadian Airlines (that didn’t work, but the friendship has endured!).  We covered a lot of conversational territory, but one topic is worth amplifying here: Lorne relayed in some detail that remarkable level of care his 89-year-old mother received in her last weeks of life.  Humane, thorough, professional, and entirely free, thanks to Canada’s system of universal health insurance.  His mom’s experience, the truth, is so distant from the creeps like Trump who diss the Canadian solution, one that covers everyone, delivers excellent care, and does is for half of what the U.S. spends (as a percentage of GDP).

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Highrise apartments continue to soar in Toronto, this at the corner of Yonge and Bloor

Was up early a fourth consecutive morning, out the door, east on Bloor.  My admiration for Canada was tested slightly when the TTC #320 bus broke down and I had to walk more than a mile to the train station, but the exercise was fine!  Hopped on the UP Express, a new train that zips from Union Station to Pearson Airport (the U and the P) in 25 minutes.  The Airport Rocket bus and subway is cheaper, but UP was a nice ride.  Ate a couple of bran muffins from Tim Horton’s en route.  Air Canada texted me the day before with news that my preferred flight at 9:00 was canceled; I was flying standby, so was a little stressed, but got a boarding pass for the 10:00 flight, and was in Montreal just after 11, for my 17th appearance at McGill University.

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The UP Express at Toronto airport

Bought a three-day pass on STM, the public-transit system, and hopped on the #747 bus into the city.  Had a great T-t-S session with Ash, a fourth-year medical student at McGill.  Born in Punjab, India in 1983, he came to Canada at age 16.  When he graduates he want a residency in dermatology or family practice.  I told him how much I admired Canada, and relayed my father’s awful experience when you don’t have health insurance.  We yakked across a bunch of other topics, and were downtown in no time.  Shook Ash’s hand, wished him well, and hopped onto the Metro, riding several stops to my “hotel,” which for the third consecutive year was a large apartment atop a highrise university dorm.

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Lionel Groulx metro station; every one of these people has health insurance.  Every one.

As happened before, the front desk guy had no clue how to check me in (and in fact did it wrong, because the next evening I was no longer “in the system” and had to persuade the clerk that I really did live there!).  Changed clothes, and headed next door to lunch at Kantapia, a family-run Korean place.  I was one of two Europeans in the place, and tucked into a big bowl of noodles.  Fortified, I bought a one-day pass on Bixi, Montreal’s superb bike-share service, and rode west into a howling wind, five miles, through the affluent Westmount neighborhood and into Notre Dame de Grace, NDG to locals.  The eastbound sailing was nicer, save for two close calls with cars – Bixi handbrakes are weak, and a left-turning Toyota almost pasted me.  Wished I knew how to say “asshole” in French!

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Lunch, Kantapia

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Street art, Notre Dame de Grace neighborhood

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Bixi station

Took a nap, and at 5:30 grabbed my laptop and headed on the bike east a mile to Rue Saint-Denis and the Latin Quarter, a place I’ve gotten to know well.  Nipped into L’Amère a Boire, a brewpub I visited many times, for a pint and a chance to bring this journal up to date.  I then ambled down the street to 3 Brasseurs, another brewpub, but with a wider dinner selection.  Had a brief T-t-S with a waitress.  I told her if the worst were to happen and Trump got elected, I would move north; “And we will welcome you with pleasure,” she quickly replied.  Nice!  Tucked into salmon, mashed potatoes, and green beans, Sunday dinner.  Was asleep early.

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Place des Arts, performing arts hall

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Montreal has become known for projecting images on building facades at night; here a rotating series of iconic people and events on a building of UQAM, the University of Quebec at Montreal

Was out the door at seven Monday morning for a full day of lectures.  Step 1 was breakfast at Tim Horton’s on Rue Sherbrooke, where I recognized Celine behind the counter.  “I remember you from last year,” I said, and she told me she had been at that store for 18 years.  Bowl of oatmeal, raisin-bran muffins, and coffee, and I was ready for the day.  Met my McGill B-school host Mary Dellar at 8:15, and plunged into the first talk at 8:35, then another at 11:35.  Mary and I had a quick lunch at one and I headed up the hill to the law school and my annual talk on airline alliances to grad students at McGill’s Institute for Air and Space Law.  Finished that at five, back to the B-school, worked my email, and from 6:30 to 8:00 gave the last talk to members of the undergraduate Marketing Network, a young and engaged group.  Whew, more than six hours of talking.  I was worn out, but after changing clothes I headed back to the Latin Quarter (that night by bus, a very short ride) and beer and dinner at St.-Houblon, a great little pub with seriously creative food.  The Montreal Canadians, the hockey team locally known as the Habs, were playing Philadelphia, and I watched the last half of the game, Habs winning 3-1.  Woo hoo!

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Young entrepreneur Marc-Antoine and your scribe, McGill University

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Dinner, Saint-Houblon; even a pub presents food with style!

Tuesday morning, coffee at Tim’s, then met McGill Prof. Bob Mackalski at his athletic club at 7:15 for breakfast and a great yak.  He’s marketing whiz, very strategic thinker, and we covered a lot of ground.  Walked a block to school, gave a final lecture in Mary’s class, said goodbye, and rolled my suitcase south to the #747 bus to the airport.  While working my email at the departure gate, I heard a distinctive voice I recognized.  Looked up, and ten feet from me was an old boss, former American CEO Don Carty.  After he got off his call, we chatted for a bit – I hadn’t seen him in more than six years, and was good to catch up.  I mused at the prospect of running into someone like that, and even more remote, in his hometown of Montreal!  Said goodbye to Don, hopped a flight to Chicago, then home to Washington.  Had the dogs on a walk by 7:15.

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Montreal is booming again; as I have often observed about social democracies, they don’t seem to have trouble keeping the lights on.

After lunch on Friday, October 28, I hopped bus and Metro to National Airport and onto a jet to LaGuardia, bound for New Haven and a first visit to son Jack’s new town (the original plan was for him to pick me up in Hartford, 50 miles from New Haven, but I had some time and thought I’d save him the drive by hopping a train from New York).  As often happens, LGA was a mess, and the flight was 40 minutes late.  I still thought I’d make the 6:17 train from Harlem station, only 4.2 miles from the airport, but rush-hour traffic put me on the platform at 6:20.  Roll with it, I thought, and got on the 6:42, into New Haven at 8:20.  My first visit to the home of Yale University, and I was pumped.  Jack picked me up at the station and we headed to dinner at Caseus, an agreeable bistro and cheese shop.  Tucked into a big dinner and some fine conversation, and headed to his downtown apartment to watch the World Series.

Up early Saturday, out on a car tour of New Haven, around the downtown and university, then up to East Rock, 300 feet above town, for a good look at the city and Long Island Sound.  It was a crisp morning, perfect viewing.  Parked the car, grabbed a coffee (the Starbucks, across from Yale, was buzzing with the low hum of brain power), and set off for a thorough walking tour of the campus.  We visited the Center for British Art, in a striking building designed by Louis Kahn, then the Yale Art Museum, with a stunning collection, bigger than most big-city museums.  I’ve been on a lot of campuses, and Yale was perhaps the finest I’ve ever seen, wonderful old stone buildings, beautiful grounds.  We stopped for a Thai lunch, then headed back to the apartment.

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New Haven is full of old buildings from many periods of American architecture; I’ve always been fond of the style known as Bracketed Italianate, on commercial buildings like this and homes.  Below, terracotta architectural detail.

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Jack’s favorite sitting room, Center for British Art

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Brand-new construction, in traditional style

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Jack laced up for the gym and I headed out on his new, bright-orange Trek, north 15 miles on the Farmington Canal Greenway, a bike and walking trail along a canal built in the 1820s.  It was a perfect afternoon to cover some distance.

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On the Greenway

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Former lock, Farmington Canal

We then watched a little college football and at 5:15 headed out for dinner then up to Ingalls Rink to see the Yale men’s hockey team open the season.  The arena, designed by Eero Saarinen (Dulles Airport terminal, Gateway Arch in St. Louis), was way cool, small, with a soaring roof – it’s nicknamed “the Whale.”  College hockey is to me the apex of the sport, fast and clean – players check each other, but there’s no fighting.  We had seats right on the glass at the blue line, perfect vantage to appreciate Yale’s speed, great passing, and outstanding defense.  Best of all, the Bulldogs won, 4-1.  Just a wonderful time.

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Sunday morning Jack went to the gym and I walked the campus again.  We then motored around the suburbs before heading to Little Italy for an early lunch at Frank Pepe’s, a pizzeria in business since 1925.  Piles of meat, cheese, and vegetables atop a crispy thin crust baked in a coal-fired oven, maybe the best pizza I’ve ever eaten.  Whew.  We zipped across town and west to Costco in Milford, then a couple of hours of football on TV, then a speedy ride north to Hartford and a flight home.  New Haven is a great town, and I look forward to going back.

 

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Old Campus Quadrangle

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Mexico and Madison

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One of the best places on any college campus: the terrace of the Wisconsin [Student] Union, on the shore of Lake Mendota, Madison

Travel in the last quarter began four days after returning from the north of Sweden.  On Wednesday, October 5, I flew to DFW and on to Chihuahua, Mexico, my fifth visit to a booming city that now counts a million residents.  My academic hosts, Laura and Monica from the Universidad de La Salle, a Catholic (Christian Brothers) institution with 15 campuses throughout Mexico, picked me up at the airport.  We headed to dinner at Las Faenas, a pleasant taqueria I got to know on my last visit, in December 2015.  Pilar, one of their faculty friends, joined us, as did a student, Santiago, who helped organize the visit.  We had some tacos and a nice chat, and they dropped me at my hotel, literally across the highway.

I knew the visit would be short and busy, and we got started early the next morning.  The main event that day was a student conference at the university (known as ULSA), and at breakfast I met a very interesting fellow speaker, Mario Arvizu.  Originally from a small city in Chihuahua state, he now lives in the capital and makes a living with his voice, narrating TV commercials and dubbing Spanish into Hollywood films (he was the penguin voice in the animated “Madagascar”).  We had a nice, but too short yak before I peeled off to give a press briefing related to my presentation the next day, sponsored by EVM, an association of sales and marketing people.  About fifteen media folks showed up, and I told them a little about the talk (my “Ten Things” preso), and answered questions.  The first three were all about the prospects of Donald Trump, who I simply called the evil man with the orange hair.  They were clearly worried, and with good reason, given his racist remarks about Mexicans, his desire to dismantle NAFTA, and more.  Ugh.

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One datapoint for a booming Chihuhua: new condo across from my hotel

At about 9:45, we headed up the hill to ULSA, and I was able to hear the last part of Mario’s talk, and an interesting presentation from another fellow on corporate social responsibility.  Then it was my turn, noon to 1:30, and it went well.  Big audience, more than 300 students.  Afterward, bunches of students wanted to get a photo with me, and I was glad to oblige.  Lots of fun.

 

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Mario Arvizu, urging students to follow their dreams

Two students drove me back to the hotel.  It was well past lunchtime, so I ambled a block to Barriga, an agreeable restaurant I also visited in December, for a big plate of chiles rellenos and a Coke.  Time for a quick nap, did some consulting work, and at six met Lester, a former student I met in Chihuahua in 2013.  We headed into town for a couple of beers at La Antigua Paz, a wonderful old-school bar.  Lester now works for a company that makes airline seat covers and cushions, so we yakked a lot about aviation.  Great fellow.

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Advice outside a bar

 

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Where are we?  Home Depot, Chihuahua.  The volume of U.S. retailers and restaurants in the neighborhood attests to the merging of economies and societies.

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Lester at the bar

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Musicians at La Antigua Paz

Up at dawn the next morning, back to ULSA for the EVM presentation, more than 200 people, another big deal.  Great to meet lots of wonderful people, hardworking, sincere.  The orange-haired man has no clue.  An EVM official, Raimundo, drove me to the airport for a noon flight, a few hours in DFW, a delay, home at 12:30 a.m.  A lot crammed into 2.5 days.

 

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The view from Universidad la Salle

 

Home for less than 36 hours, then back to National Airport, west to Chicago, and north 109 miles to one of my fave places, Madison, and my tenth consecutive visit to the University of Wisconsin.

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It’s been awhile since this geographer posted some views from above; here, the shrinking steelmaking landscape of Gary, Indiana; below, the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois, with the circular accelerator clearly visible from above.

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Grabbed a bit of biking in the fitness center, washed up, and headed by city bus to Oakwood, a retirement complex on the west side of town, to visit one of my Ph.D. advisers, Professor John Fraser Hart, and his wife Meredith.  Now in their 90s but still vital, we had a nice visit, and an ample Sunday dinner in the dining room.  A nice visit, a small way to recognize a man who helped me improve my writing skills, something that has served me throughout my career.  It was good to see them.  Back at Union South, the second presidential debate was underway, students jeering at Orange Hair.

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Up way before dawn Monday morning, onto the fitness-center bike, then to breakfast with my UW host, a wonderful fellow, Jan Heide.  We got caught up over eggs and coffee, walked to the business school, and I delivered two back-to-back lectures to his first-year MBA students.  In previous years I was done at noon, but instead of heading back to the hotel I walked two blocks to Science Hall, a massive, red-brick Victorian building that has been home to the university’s highly regarded Geography Department for decades.  A couple of years ago I made contact with the department chair, Lisa, and offered to give a talk; in 2016 it happened, an informal lunchtime yak with eight students about job prospects in applied geography.  It was my first preso in a geography department in 31 years!

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Samples of student work from the Introduction to Cartography class; when I taught that course at Minnesota in 1978-79, we only used India ink and paper!

Picked up a two-wheeler from Madison’s bikeshare system ($6 for 24 hours), rode back to the hotel, took off my suit, ate two pieces of cold pizza from the geographers, and grabbed a quick nap.  At three I got back on the red bike and started a series of short rides (if each ride is under 30 minutes it’s free) around Madison.  I know the city pretty well now, so zoomed around familiar parts of town – the shores of lakes Mendota and Monona, around campus, and more.

 

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On the shore of Lake Mendota, aboard the BCycle shared bike

At five I rode over to the Wisconsin Memorial (student) Union and their wonderful, recently enlarged terrace on Lake Mendota, for a beer.  Had a nice T-t-S with a Turkish grad student at the University of Kansas, working on a Ph.D. in astrophysics.  He’s studying the collision of galaxies, out there 5.5 billion light-years.  Whew, rarefied stuff.  Back on earth, we talked about recent developments in his homeland, Syria, job prospects, and more.  A nice yak.  At six I met Jan for dinner at Dotty Dumpling’s Dowry, a famous burger joint.  More good chatter.  Then back to the hotel and a hard sleep.  Thirty miles on bikes, three talks, plumb wore out.

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Penny, a Welsh Springer Spaniel; UW is studying a canine disease similar to MS in people; because it only affects male dogs of this breed, females like Penny are available for adoption

Tuesday morning was up and on the fitness bike, then breakfast with Dan Smith, former dairy farmer and great guy.  Rode the red shared bike around town a bit, circling the wonderful state capitol and stopping to buy a red UW T-shirt.  Just after noon I delivered a talk to undergrad HR students, then biked over to the Babcock Hall Dairy Store for a liquid lunch: large chocolate malt from university-made ice cream – in America’s Dairyland, UW plays a major role in improving the science of cows and all the good things they give us.  I raised my glass to those marvelous animals!  Finished the visit with a second talk to undergrads, headed to the hotel, took a short nap, and worked a bit.

 

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The Babcock Hall ice-cream plant

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No lake view, but still pleasant: the terrace at Union South; the colorful metal chairs and tables are a UW union tradition

At 5:30, I ambled downstairs, grabbed a beer and sat on the terrace of Union South – a pleasant place, but not on the lake like the main student union.  Read stuff on my iPhone, and at 6:40 met Jan and Maria Heide for dinner.  We motored across town to Sardine, right on Lake Monona, for a colossal dinner and nice yak.  They are fine people.

Up in the morning dark, out to the airport, and flew home via Chicago, dogs out for a good walk by noon.

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