To Europe to Teach: England, Switzerland, Germany

Part of the Ehrenbreitsen Fortress across the Rhine from Koblenz, from my seat on Bus #8 enroute to class; I had been staring at my iPhone screen, and this splendid sight (German red sandstone makes for handsome buildings) was a reminder to pay attention to the world, not the screen!

On February 2, it was time to start teaching again, and in Europe (in 2018, 18 of 29 schools visited were across the Atlantic).  Flew to New York and on to London, landing on Sunday morning, February 3.  Hopped the train into the city, a quick ride on the Bakerloo Line (Tube), and walked a mile through Queen’s Park to the home of long friends Scott and Caroline Sage, and their two young daughters, Eva, 4, and Sadie, 1.5 (Scott and our daughter Robin were classmates from grades 3 through 12).  The Sages were just finishing breakfast.  We had a good yak, changed clothes and walked back across the park to a Farmers’ Market on Salusbury Road.  Lots of nice produce, baked goods, flowers, and more for sale.  Walked home via the playground, so Eva could ride the swings and climb around.  Tucked into homemade soup and salad for lunch, and caught a tonic 40-minute nap.

London Transport employees sometimes get creative with their info boards. Below, produce at the Queen’s Park Farmers’ Market

__________________

My young pals Eva and Sadie

Scott and Eva inspecting a vintage Austin motorcar

At 2:15 I pumped air into the tires of Caroline’s bike and headed a mile south to the towpath of the Grand Union Canal (commenced 1793), which runs 140 miles northwest to Birmingham.  It had been cold and snowy in recent days, and the towpath, often narrow, was icy in places.  Vigilance was definitely in order.  I rode relatively slowly, mindful of the slick surface and plenty of pedestrians out on a sunny Sunday.  Also needed to dodge a number of Canada geese, who are among the most assertive of birds: more than a few seemed to say, “You go around me, not the other way round.” I first rode the towpath in December 2016, but didn’t recall the litter and refuse, mostly from folks who live on the canal boats.  It was really quite disgusting, beer cans and other loose garbage everywhere.  Yuck.  Rode west to the suburb of Southall, then reversed course, riding beyond the starting point, to Little Venice, 15 miles in total.  A nice ride, trash notwithstanding.

Along the Grand Union Canal

Back on Chevening Road, dinner guests Douglas and Jessica had arrived with their three young children.  Scott, Douglas, and I had a good yak, played with the kids, and tucked into homemade mac and cheese (Caroline is an inspired cook).  Helped clean up the kitchen, read Eva Rose a bedtime story, and climbed into bed, bringing this journal up to date.  A fine first day.

Up at six, down to breakfast with the family, then out the door.  Hopped a bus and tube into central London to the venerable (but now struggling) Marks & Spencer on Oxford Street for some new dress socks (the ones I was wearing were worn out), then west to Imperial College.  Worked the rest of the morning, and at one met my long host and dear friend Omar Merlo for lunch.  I crammed a longer talk into 50 minutes from 2:00, listened to a second guest speaker, Katharine from Procter & Gamble, said goodbye, and hopped on the #52 bus, which conveniently rolls to within 200 feet of the Sages’ house.

The looming mess of Brexit manifest in varied ways!

When I got home at five, Carrie the nanny was out with the kids, and I didn’t have a key, so I headed to The Chamberlayne, the corner pub, for a pint.  Place was mostly empty, four tipplers plus a shy beagle.  Thirst slaked, I walked a half-block home.  Caroline was cooking dinner, the girls were out with their day nanny, Carrie.  Mrs. Sage and I had a good yak in the kitchen, then I was dispatched to varied tasks: fill the tub for the girls’ baths (asking Eva for advice on water temperature), install some new translucent film on the bathroom window, go to the store for a jar of spice needed for the main course.  The kids went to sleep, and the grown-ups ate dinner in front of the TV.  Neither Scott nor Caroline had seen the superb German series “Babylon Berlin,” so we watched the first two episodes – and like me, they were immediately drawn in (if you haven’t seen it, track it down on Netflix).  Then off to bed for a long, hard sleep, nine hours, tonic.

Your scribe in action at Imperial College London; below, fellow tipplers at the Chamberlayne pub

Out the door Tuesday, for what would be a busy day.  Headed to London Business School, worked an hour or so, reconnected with a young airline expert I had met years ago at a conference (he had just started a MBA), and from 11:30 to 12:30 delivered a now-annual lecture to the LBS Marketing Club.  Well attended, lots of good questions.  Peeled off, ate a quick lunch at Pret a Manger, hopped on the Tube to Euston (railway) station, met my Dutch friend, ex-KLM exec Jan Meurer, at 1:45, and hopped on the train to Milton Keynes, 50 miles away, bound for our third joint presentation in Cranfield University’s specialized program in air transport management.  We had a great T-t-S with a young Welsh woman sitting next to us; as we got off the train I asked her if she spoke the language, “Indeed,” she replied, “English was my second language.”  Gary, a university driver who had taken us in previous years, met us at the station; we had a lively discussion on the drive to school.  The presentation went well.  Jan peeled off in a car for Heathrow, and I hopped in a minivan with another driver, Kevin.  Another lively chat, mostly about our children; fun to hear that he and his wife have skied in the Canadian Rockies every year for the past 25 – and his son is on a two-month “sabbatical” over there.  Nice break!

I had passed this building many times, and never noticed this plaque; if you don’t know the remarkable story of the Norwegians who did this audacious raid, you should!

Jan holding forth at Cranfield

Hopped on the 6:03 fast train back to London, then the Overground train to Queen’s Park.  Scott and Caroline already had dinner, so I ambled to Curry Nights, an Indian place two blocks from their house.  I had eaten there last year and enjoyed it, and had a repeat experience, really good food (with extra chopped green chiles) and friendly service.  Walked home, watched another episode of “Babylon Berlin” with the Sages, yakked a bit with Scott, and clocked out.

Up at 5:30.  When I opened the door to my room, Eva was smiling at me.  “Shhhh,” she whispered, “I don’t want Dad to know that I’m up here.”  I smiled, kissed her forehead, and said goodbye – was happy she was there, because I didn’t say goodbye when I left the morning before, knowing she’d be asleep when I returned from Cranfield.

Walked to the corner, hopped on the #452 bus to the Tube, into Paddington Station.  I was way ahead of schedule, so grabbed breakfast at my fave Pret a Manger, then onto the Heathrow Express.  Flew to Zürich, landing at 11:45.  I was headed for another lecture at UZH, and it was a just-in-time gig – I was due to present at 1:15, so was a little stressed.  But, slap my forehead, this was Switzerland, and Swiss efficiency meant I went from plane to train, through immigration and a fairly long walk, in 10 minutes, hopping a train into the main station.  (And bought my day ticket for the ZVV, Zürich’s superb public transit, while waiting to get off the plane.) Had a quick T-t-S with a father and son from Queens, New York, who were headed to ski in St. Anton, Austria (a great place, I told them, even though it had been 33 years since I last skied there).  Zipped outta the main station, across the Limmat River, and onto the #6 tram, up the hill to the university.  No need for stress; I even had time to eat the sandwich and chips I bought at Heathrow.  I was feeling efficient, too!

Old and new Great Western Railway locomotives at Paddington Station

Delivered a talk to a big group of engaged (but shy) undergraduates in Martin Natter’s class, said goodbye, and walked two blocks to my hotel, same small one where I stayed three months earlier.  Changed into jeans, worked a bit, then walked 200 feet to the business school, meeting briefly with friend Jochen Menges, then back to the hotel.  Quick nap.  Had a brief chat with a young colleague who was working temporarily in Zürich, then walked across the street to dinner at Oberhof, a neighborhood restaurant where Jochen and I dined in November.  Back then it was empty, but it was hopping when I entered.  Happily, the owner found me a small table – I was in!  (One of Martin’s Ph.D. students invited me to dinner, but it was to start at nine, way too late for me.)  Tucked into a nice salad, big Swiss bratwurst, and fried potatoes.  Slept hard!

Left, the beautiful main classroom building at UZH; at right, the giant cedar tree across from my hotel, which I first admired a few months earlier

Fellow patrons at Oberhof, and my clean plate (even ate the rosemary garnish)

Up Thursday morning, an easy day.  Got a leisurely start, departing the hotel about 9:15, and headed via tram #10 to the train station in the suburb of Oerlikon.  Enroute, I spotted a cable car (seilbahn in German), and the Transport Geek had to ride it – I had time, and hopped off, then onto the little car that headed uphill.  Big fun!  Back onto the tram, snapped pictures, onto a train back to the main station.  Bought a sandwich and potato salad at a supermarket below the tracks, and hopped onto the 11:00 train north to Koblenz, Germany, and the fifth and last school in five days.  It was a pleasant ride through familiar territory, and the last hour along the Middle Rhine Valley from Mainz to Koblenz was lovely: blue sky and sun, illuminating a landscape I have long described as “storybook Europe.”

Above, the Rigiblick cable car; below, Oerlikon railway station

The most recent exercise in Swiss direct democracy: voters rejected a February 10 referendum to control urban sprawl

______________________________

Along the Middle Rhine Valley; the river’s level is still well below normal, because of a 2018 drought

Koblenz is well familiar.  Walked a mile to my hotel, the Trierer Hof, and checked in.  Frau Demmer, one of the owners, actually remembered me, which was nice.  Hopped on a conference call for an hour, then headed to dinner at a longtime favorite, the Altes Brauhaus, opened 1689.  Tucked into a huge serving of cold herring in sour cream, and fried potatoes.  And beer.  So good.

Up early Friday morning, out the door, onto the #8 bus across the Rhine to WHU, the German business school I have visited regularly since 2000. Delivered a two-hour lecture on leadership, and met a new host, Steffen Löv.  During the break and after the talk I met a bunch of engaging students.  A good morning.  Steffen took me to lunch at Die Traube, a wonderful, cozy restaurant in a really old half-timbered house.  Another plate of fish, this time salmon in mustard sauce and leeks.  Yum!  And good conversation, including interesting talk about ancestors – Steffen’s grandfather had opposed the Nazis and would have been imprisoned but for his knowledge about operating a power plant.  “The electricity helped a munitions plan to keep operating,” he said with some regret, to which I replied that life is complicated.

Brother-sister students at WHU; we had a nice chat during the morning break

Above and below, scenes from Vallendar, a truly pleasant village

After lunch, I took a walk around Vallendar, a small town, then worked most of the afternoon at a table in one of the classroom buildings.  At five, it was time to stand and deliver the last talk of the week, to WHU’s student association, on crisis management.  Forty students attended, a good group.  At 6:30, we headed to a student bar in the keller, the basement of one of the very old campus buildings, for a wine tasting and good yaks with a handful of students.  My student host Jöran drove me back across the river.  Changed clothes and headed back to the Altes Brauhaus for a nice dinner of venison goulash, spaetzle, and red cabbage.  Yum.

I noticed these characters on doors in Vallendar and Koblenz, but couldn’t decode; it turns out to be an Epiphany greeting. In between the year (2019) are either initials of the names of the three Wise Men, or an abbreviation of the Latin for “May Christ bless this house.”

____________________________________________

Asleep at ten, up at 5:40, out the door to the train station.  Track work slowed us way down, arriving Frankfurt Airport 20 minutes late.  Got through most hoops quickly, but the security screening was way slow, and I made the flight to Charlotte with only ten minutes to spare.  Cutting things a bit too close.  Had a couple of hours in CLT, so worked on this journal and photos for the blog, then flew back to Washington (during the winter, American does not fly Frankfurt-Philly).

Linda was out of town, but Robin, the girls, and the terriers were on hand to welcome me.

The view from above: St. Lawrence River, Quebec, Canada

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Short Trips: Connecticut and Vegas

On the literal frontier: new housing on the western fringe of Las Vegas, Nevada

Travel in the New Year began on Friday, January 18, when I flew north to White Plains, New York, hopped in a Lyft, and zipped into downtown Greenwich, Connecticut.  Had a delightful “reconnect” lunch with Andy Von Kennel, a young marketing whiz I worked with at American almost 20 years ago.  Super good guy.  My flight was late, which cut into our yak, and he had to zip off to a 2 p.m. meeting, but we covered a lot of ground.  Walked south on the main street, Greenwich Avenue, lined with stores of every upmarket brand imaginable; it was almost like a parody, especially when you added in the leisured wives jockeying for parking spots in their Land Rovers and Porsche SUVs.  I was bound for more proletarian transport, Metro North and CT trains east to New Haven, bound for a short weekend with son Jack. 

Greenwich Avenue

Left, the former Greenwich City Hall; right, a gravity-defying bronze in a fancy art gallery

Arrived 4:00, ambled quickly north on Orange Street to pick up apartment keys at Jack’s office (he was away with his girlfriend Reed), then south to Crown Street.  Settled in, grabbed a quick nap, and at 5:45 headed out for dinner at a popular vegetarian eatery, Claire’s Corner Copia. Tucked into a massive plate of stuffed peppers (on top of a huge lunch), then walked north to Woolsey Hall, a concert venue built in 1901 for the bicentenary of Yale University.  Ever since I began regularly attending classical music concerts in 1972 (with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra), I’ve felt anticipatory excitement prior to the start of a performance. So it was when I sat down in Yale’s Woolsey Hall for a concert by the Yale Philharmonia, a huge student ensemble directed by Peter Oundjian. (I was once more familiar with orchestra luminaries, so did some Googling before the concert – the guy’s a player, on the Yale music faculty for almost 40 years, and conductor of world-class ensembles in Toronto and elsewhere.)  

Tickets were general admission, so arrived just before seven and found a great main-floor seat ten rows back.  The excitement was well founded.  After a rousing performance of Beethoven’s Symphony #1, the orchestra launched into Shostakovich’s 11th, “1905,” depicting an uprising that year in St. Petersburg that foretold the Bolshevik Revolution a dozen years later.  It was, simply, the most intense musical work I had ever heard, full of emotion and full-blast volume, especially from the horn and percussion sections.  Whew.  Slept hard that night.

Woolsey Hall

Up early, couple of cups of coffee and a wheat bun squirreled from Claire’s, then out on Jack’s orange Trek city bike, into a cold, clear morning.  Rode across the Yale campus and onto the bikeway of the Farmington Canal Heritage Greenway, which follows the route of an old canal (then a railway) north.  I had to be alert for the patches of ice, but it was a splendid 13-mile jaunt.  When I got back, Jack was home from helping Reed chaperone a Friday-night ski trip.  We yakked for a bit, then headed out for some urban exploration, mainly in East New Haven (known to locals as “Staven”).  Met Reed at noon, and walked to a Chinese restaurant for a big lunch and good conversation, down the street for ice cream at the Arethusa Farm Dairy (some of the best ice cream anywhere), then into the car for more sightseeing, east to Guilford and Madison, a couple of pleasant old towns with traditional village greens.  I took a short, tonic nap, then it was time to watch golf on TV, something Jack loves. 

On the greenway bike trail, sailing past brand-new-buy-look-old Yale dorms

Left, a mountain of salt, getting ready for snow and sleet the next day; right, a wonderful Victoria in East Haven

Just before six, we drove a mile or so north to Ingalls Rink for a Yale Bulldogs men’s hockey game.  We opted for snacks and hot dogs in lieu of dinner (I had been eating a lot), and watched the teams warm up.  Reed had never seen a hockey game, so we explained the basics (which are pretty easy).  National anthem from the pep band, puck drops, and we’re into one of the purest, fastest sports I know.  Yale won, hooray.

Up early Sunday morning in just awful weather, sleet and rain, over to Jack’s gym for a quick, needed bike ride, then back for showers.  I was checking my American Airlines app for flight information – I was flying out of Tweed, New Haven’s tiny airport, and the weather was just on the margin.  Last stop was J. Pepe’s (1925), one of the storied pizzerias on Wooster Street, Little Italy.  My flight was late, but we got to Philadelphia, where the storm had already passed.  Down to Washington, Metro home, out with the dogs in a cold wind.  Trip 1, nice!

Five days later I flew to DFW and on to Las Vegas, only my third time there, and for good reason.  It’s tawdry, excessive, and artificial.  Las Vegas is in the West, but it’s not the West. It’s nowhere. I imagine when it first got going as a tourist destination, in the first part of the last century, western sensibility and sense of place was there, but those have been long gone.  Walking through the airport, past slot machines and a liquor store (in an airport!), I chuckled briefly when I thought about my ne’er-do-well paternal grandfather, who lived in this state for decades after he abandoned his wife and children. His death certificate listed his occupation as gambling dealer. Fits perfectly, both that jerk and the place.

I was there because Linda was there for a five-day conference, and wanted some company on the weekend.  After an expensive taxi ride with a Congolese driver (Me: “How’d you end up here?”  Him: “Life”) through massive traffic, I was in the enormous (almost 4,000 rooms) Caesar’s Palace, hugging Linda in the lobby and tucking into a light dinner.  Lights out at 9:30 (somehow I cope with 5 or 6 hour time changes when I fly to Europe, but 3 in the U.S. are harder!). 

Up at 5:30 Saturday morning, dressed, out for a little walk, across the street to Starbucks, and a delightful Talking-to-Strangers (T-t-S), the first good one of 2019, with Kurt and Sara from Los Angeles.  Trigger was Kurt’s University of Wisconsin sweatshirt.  They were in town for their daughter’s gymnastics meet.  Covered a lot of topics with sensible Midwesterners.  He was a scientist with Amgen and she worked for the outdoor retailer REI (I’m a loyal customer of the latter, and, touch wood, don’t need anything from the former!). 

Homeless person sleeping in the lee in the Flamingo Hotel

Kurt and Sara

Back to the room, chat with Linda, then out the door, she heading to a meeting and me doing a bit of exploring, then a $25 ride on a zipline.  It was my first, and I was underwhelmed – way too slow!  Met Linda for a nice lunch at a barbeque place.  She peeled off for more meetings, and I hopped on the RTC, the local public transit ($8 for 24 hours of unlimited bus rides) north on the Strip (technically Las Vegas Blvd.) to Circus Circus, a big, older hotel with Adventuredome, an indoor amusement park.  The customers were diverse, lots of immigrant families having a good time, a much better time than many of the other, wealthier tourists I saw along the Strip.  There were two roller coasters I wanted to ride, but El Loco was down for maintenance.  Probably just as well, because the Canyon Blaster was intense: upside down three times, and fast.  Maybe there was a reason the tracks were painted Pepto-Bismol pink.  Whew.  Hopped on a bus back to the hotel, grabbed a couple of beers in the lobby shop, back to the room, continued reading a great novel. 

One of the few agreeable landscapes on the Strip: a pedestrian street and a new hotel that didn’t try to look like it was from somewhere else

At left, the zipline route from the top, and at right, the view from near the end of the ride

The Canyon Blaster

Linda returned about five and we headed across the street to dinner at Giordano’s a Chicago pizza place we knew from visits there.  Tucked into pasta on bar stools outside, a nice meal.  But such a strange place, Las Vegas.

Up early again Sunday morning, back to Starbucks for coffee and time to bring this journal up to date.  Back to the room, but still had time to spare, so hopped back on the RTC Deuce bus, riding several miles north to the old downtown Las Vegas.  Had a nice T-t-S with my seatmate from suburban Seattle, in town for a trade show (he owned a company that manufactured handbags in Cambodia, and had made a lot of money in real estate there, whew).  Between the Strip and downtown were a couple of miles of ugh, tired by-the-hour motels, strip joints, cannabis dispensaries.  Downtown was trying hard, but it looked, as they say locally, down on its luck.  Hopped off the bus walked a couple of blocks, grabbed a $1.59 pre-breakfast cheeseburger slider from White Castle (first one in some years, so yummy), got back on the bus and headed home.  Enroute, it occurred to me that public transit might well be the best thing in Las Vegas: dense network, lots of buses, helpful recorded advice onboard (“the bus stop is next to Denny’s”), and a real effort to get at least some tourists out of their cars. 

 

“Recreational marijuana” has been legal in Nevada since 2017; at left, a cannabis museum downtown; at right, a billboard for a “dispensary.”

Double-decker bus used on the RTC’s Deuce route up and down the Strip

Older, shabbier Vegas; note the name of the since-1940 wedding chapel: Wee Kirk o’ the Heather; must have been targeting the Scots!

A few more scenes from downtown; at right, the citizen in the background is transferring morning beer from a can to a plastic soft-drink bottle.

Linda was just leaving for her first meeting, so I gave her a kiss and hug, showered, and zipped out the door.  The original plan was for breakfast across the street, but because I was headed to the airport on the RTC bus (to save a few dollars, and get the most out of my $8 pass), there were breakfast possibilities along the two bus routes.  It didn’t take a geographer long to find the right place, in this case Rincon Catracho, a Honduran restaurant on Maryland Parkway a couple of miles east of the Strip, right where I changed from the #202 bus to the #109.  Hopped on the #202 east on Flamingo Road. 

The Deuce bus up and down Las Vegas Blvd. carried mostly tourists, but the #202 was the route of the people.  It had been many years since I was on public transit in the West, a region where anyone who can afford a car has a car.  So the folks on the #202 were salt of the earth: immigrants, elderly, some down on their luck.  I liked them more than the tourists on the Strip.  For one, they knew bus etiquette and how to ride.  For another, they were almost all polite, thanking the driver as they got off.

I got off at Flamingo and Maryland, spotted the restaurant, and in no time was in a booth.  The waitresses and the other diners seemed a bit surprised an old gringo was there, but I smiled at everyone and felt welcome.  The big-screen TVs were airing major-league soccer from Mexico, Toluca vs. Los Tigres (from Monterrey).  Tucked into a cup of coffee and an enormous Honduran breakfast that would last me ‘til I got home in nine hours.  Hopped on the bus south to the airport, and flew home.  Not a great place, but Linda appreciated the company.

Above, fellow diners at the Rincon; below, first and second courses of my desayuno centroamericano!

The route home was clear, and Western sightseeing was superb:

Above, a solar farm south of Vegas; below, left, the Colorado River below Hoover Dam, and deeply-incised stream

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Milestones in Minnesota and Texas

Austin, Texas, has gone vertical in the 30 years since my first visit

On Monday, December 17, Linda and I flew back to Minnesota.  Her mother Karen died in late November and it was time for her memorial service.  Landed at noon, picked up a minivan, and headed to Karen’s condo in Edina, not far from where I grew up.  She was so fortunate to have been able to stay at home in her latter years, thanks to remarkable sacrifice and help from Linda’s brother Gordy, who cared for her for more than a decade.  We spent the afternoon with him and Julie (the fourth and youngest sib, Mike, was working that day), going over details and affixing old photos to some posterboards for the memorial.  At four, we drove to a nearby hotel, checked in, then headed to dinner at our long fave, the Black Forest Inn.

Karen Matthews as a young woman; below, her senior-year entry in the South High School yearbook: “Blondie”

Poring through piles of old photos, we also came upon a great snap of Linda’s Uncle Kenny, second from right, navigator on an Army Air Force B-24 that made many bombing runs over Germany, including Berlin

Up early Tuesday morning, to the gym, then breakfast, then back to the airport to pick up Robin Dylan, and Carson, dropping them at the hotel.  I then went on to South High School in Minneapolis, where Karen graduated, at the top of her class, in 1940.  I called the school the day before, and was quickly connected to Tom Klein, director of the school’s foundation.  Tom told me they had yearbooks for every class going back to the 19-teens, and I was welcome to find the 1940 edition.  I wanted a little more history for my eulogy, and perhaps some images snapped with my iPhone.  Tom was not an alumnus, but his two daughters graduated in 2002 and ’04.  His sidekick Jerry Herby was SHS Class of 1968.  We had a good yak before I got down to business, and I learned that the foundation dispersed funds for teacher development ($80,000 in 2017), and lately some modest scholarships.  As you would expect in an inner-city high school, the demographics have changed markedly over the decades.  It was a good chat.  I found several pictures of Karen, or Elsie as she was known back then.  A productive visit.

Back to the hotel, then to lunch with Julie, Linda, Robin, and the girls.  Dropped them at the enormous Mall of America, then headed to Target to print out the school photos I had snapped earlier.  Back to the condo, short visit, then dinner.  Last task of the evening was to pick up Jack, who arrived late.

Carson modeling her great-grandmother’s mink jacket

We motored to the funeral home, set things up, and received family, several of Linda’s cousins and spouses.  The sendoff was good, helped with kind words from Rob, the pastor of the Lutheran church Karen faithfully attended, from Linda, and from me.  We headed to Fort Snelling National Cemetery for a brief commitment service, then to a welcome lunch nearby.  I dropped the family at the airport, headed across town for a quick coffee with my nephew Evan, then flew home.

The Minneapolis/St. Paul airport features commissioned works, including surely the loveliest men’s room entrance in the whole world, Barbara Benson Keith’s “Seasons of Change”

 

_________________________________________

 

A few days after Christmas, Linda and I flew to Austin, Texas, the last trip of the year, for the wedding of Claire Griffy, daughter of longtime Dallas friends Tim and Missy.  Got to Austin about five, into town, and to our hotel.  Jack was sharing the room and had already arrived.  We watched a little TV, and at 7:30 headed a mile or so to Terry Black’s Barbecue, very local and very good (the long wait for food said it all).  Then across the river to a pre-wedding party at a downtown music venue, fun but noisy.  Great to reconnect with former neighbors and friends.

Up early Saturday morning, to the gym then breakfast (Linda and Jack were snoozing), then onto a bikeshare two-wheeler, north on Congress (“The Main Street of Texas”), around the imposing red-granite capitol building, then back south, across the river, and to a second breakfast with former American Airlines colleague John Morton.  John and I worked together in the mid-1990s in the corporate communications department, and we’ve stayed connected through the years.  He’s now at the University of Texas, and spent three years writing speeches and other comms for the recently departed chancellor, Admiral William McRaven (a wonderful, exemplary leader, the fellow who directed the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden).   After tacos at Güero’s, a famed Tex-Mex joint, we walked for a couple of miles around his neighborhood, then back downtown.

Above and below, local ‘cue in Austin, Texas

Live music at the Friday pre-wedding party

 

Historic building on Congress Avenue; let’s hope these structures are protected for the long run

Left, more evidence of Austin going vertical; right, no fewer than five companies are battling for two-wheeled mobility sharing — a cluttered market in more ways than one. Below, John Morton

At 12:30, it was time to meet another former AA co-worker, Tracy Evans Petersen, who I had not seen for more than 20 years, maybe 25.  So great to reconnect with her.  She suggested we have a light lunch at the new Austin Public Library.  Grabbed a bowl of chili at the library café, Cookbook, and a good yak, then she showed me around the way-cool building, truly state of the art.  Books, of course, and all kinds of technology, multimedia, and more.   As often happens on trips back, I was reminded of Texas friendliness several times that day: with the server at breakfast who shook my hand on entering, the waitress at Güero’s, and the young woman who picked up our lunch bowls – I remarked on her cheer, which triggered a nice discussion of regional friendliness.  I miss Texas.

Inside the Austin Public Library

Took a nice nap, suited up, and walked a block to Brazos Hall, a good venue for a wedding – I hadn’t been to nuptials for a lot of years.  After the ceremony, up the stairs for drinks, then a lovely sit-down dinner.  High point was a long conversation with Glenn Stetson, a friend of Jack’s for 30 years, way back to when they all played soccer on a team called the Tigersharks.  Danced a bit, kissed the bride, hugged her parents, and headed back to the hotel.

Up early again, to the gym, then breakfast, then a quick Lyft ride to the airport, a flight to DFW, then home to Washington.

And that was travel for the fourth quarter.

Jack Britton, and Stephanie and Glenn Stetson

 

___________________________________________________

 

Postscript: given my dad’s service in the 145th Field Artillery Battalion, snowballs seemed a fitting addition to his headstone

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Germany and Ireland

“Sculpture” outside the Porsche factory, Stuttgart

On Sunday, December 2, I flew back to Europe for the last teaching trip of the year, flying to Frankfurt via Charlotte. On the Metro to the airport, I had the first T-t-S of the trip, with Joan and Michael Cunningham from Chicago.  They were in Virginia to watch their daughter, a senior at WashU in St. Louis, play in a Division 1 soccer tournament.  We had a long and happy chat, a great way to start the journey.  Landed in German rain and dark, typical December weather at latitude 50° N.  Spent a few hours wandering the airport, working some email.  Hopped on an ICE (super-fast) train, 180 mph, whoosh, arriving my first classroom stop, Cologne, about 11.  Onto a suburban train (S-Bahn) for two minutes, across the Rhine to the Deutz neighborhood and my usual digs, the youth hostel. (Regular readers may recall that I served on the board of the U.S. youth hosteling organization for a decade back in the 1990s, and I have long believed in their mission, fostering intercultural understanding through travel.)

Checked in, locked up my suitcase, and hopped on a tram back across the Rhine to lunch at a fave place, Gilden im Zims in the old town, the Altstadt.  Tucked into plenty of greens from a big salad bar, then the daily special, pork neck and fried potatoes.  Turns out oinkers’ necks are lean and tasty!  Had one small (under seven ounces, the customary size in Köln) beer, admiring the many big black-and-while photos in the big bar-restaurant, images of “Heroes of Cologne” through the years.

Gilden im Zims scenes; above, beer delivery man and your scribe admiring one of the Heroes of Cologne, former mayor and first Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, Konrad Adenauer

Hopped back on Tram #9 to the university and a short meeting with Prof. Reinartz, a longtime marketing colleague.  Back to the hostel, got my room key, and took a short nap.  Worked a bit, then at six got back on the streetcar for a little joyriding west of town, then back to the uni.  While waiting to meet my host for the evening, two students approached me after they heard me speaking English on a phone call home.  They were Language majors studying English, and had a disagreement about “shall” vs. “should,” which I was able to resolve, sort of!  At 7:30, I met host Paul and other students – part of a student marketing organization called MTP – who organized my evening presentation.  A big group showed up to hear me, good questions.  I joined about a dozen students at a Christmas market (a tradition in German places big and small), quick mug of glühwein (hot spiced red wine), then peeled off, back across the Rhine and a late-night (for me) beer and dinner at Lommerzheim, a tiny neighborhood pub 100 steps from the youth hostel.  When I first visited a year earlier it was earlier in the evening, and the place was packed, but at 10:15 it was just full.  Stood at the bar and had a few small beers and my first plate of grühnkohl, cooked chopped kale topped with a sausage.  I’m a great fan of the dish, sort of German soul food, that night served with some very strong mustard from a stoneware crock.  Yum!  Slept hard.

Students at the first talk of the trip, University of Cologne

 

Scenes from Lommerzheim

Up Tuesday, into the breakfast room, which was filling with French pre-teens, plenty of energy.  I worked a bit in the hostel, then walked across the Rhine to the main station, pausing below the enormous Gothic cathedral that has delighted me for four decades.  Bought a salad-bar lunch to eat on the train, and rode north to Münster, my 18th visit there since 2003.  The town plan has confused me for years, but this time I found the hotel without looking at a map, hooray!  Checked in, worked a bit, suited up, and headed to the university for a talk to Master’s students.  In previous years, my young host Dr. Schmidt would take me to dinner afterwards, but he had a Christmas party, so I peeled off, changed back into jeans, and ambled a couple of blocks north to Töddenhoek, one the city’s many traditional restaurants.  Tuesday night, and the place was jumping, but I was able to snag a tiny table.  My seat was sort of a wooden throne, columns rising to a little roof.  I felt like a prince as I tucked into cold herring in sour cream, fried potatoes, and a side order of grünkohl (second serving of the week; the goal is four).  Back to the room, short phone call with a client, then to sleep.

Cologne Cathedral (Dom)

Graffiti is an annoying problem across Germany; let’s hope the “Anti Spray Aktion” team can keep up with the vandals in Cologne!

 

Above, scenes from Töddenhoek; below, three of Münster’s many churches

After breakfast Wednesday morning, I rented a bike from the hotel.  This from the city’s website says it all:

Münster is a city of bicycles, and the “Leeze”, as it is known in Münster dialect, is the most frequently used means of transport. Bicycles constitute 39 per cent of traffic in Münster. In 2014, the amount of motorized vehicle traffic fell to 29 percent, making it lower than the bicycle traffic statistics. This is unique in Germany.

So I was totally local.  It had been several years since I rode in the town, and I quickly remembered that you really needed to be alert: for other cyclists, pedestrians, and cars and trucks.  But especially other bikers.  I rode south and west, out of the town, to a village called Rozel, then back, 12 miles.  When I reached farmland, I spotted fields of kale, glistening with frost, source of many future plates of grünkohl.

Above and below, old and new in a university town

At 11:30 I met a couple of former marketing students who had a clever idea for a start-up; I agreed to offer a little free marketing advice to Lara and Marvin, and they were appreciative.  The meeting was in a business-incubator building out by the harbor on a canal (still used for shipping some bulk commodities, but not busy like the old days).  The meeting ended at one and I rode a mile or so to the university’s marketing department, said hello to a few people, and walked a block to the Mensa.  Had a nice chat with a student while I shoveled in some salad and needed vegetables.  Back to the department, visited with a few people, and headed back out, bound for the shop where every year I buy a little wooden angel Christmas ornament, beautiful stuff from the Erzgebirge region in Saxony.  I did a little web research and found some new models this year, so I was delighted that they had the piano-playing angel in stock!

German innovators Lara and Marvin; at right the city harbor and new development

At that point, I had put 17 miles on the rental bike, so I opted to do 3 more for an even 20, along the wooded Promenade that encircles the old city.  Back to the hotel, short nap, then out for dinner at six.  It was raining lightly and I didn’t want to go far, so I opted for a Vietnamese noodle joint a block away.  It was awesome.  Tucked into the traditional soup, pho, slurping happily.   On the way out, a nice T-t-S with my server.  I asked him if he was of Vietnamese ancestry, and he replied yes, adding that he was born in Germany.  We chatted across some other topics, including his excellent English.  “I am a soldier,” he said, “and I fought in Afghanistan.”  Present tense “am.”

Back to the hotel, suited up, and walked a couple of blocks to give the only lecture that day, to the Münster MTP chapter, a packed hall, more than 100 people.  By 9:00, I was plumb wore out, but had a quick client call, then off to sleep.

Thursday was packed, starting with a quick breakfast with my host-since-2000 Manfred Krafft, catching up on a bunch of stuff.  Walked briskly to the train station, hopped on a fast train 40 miles south to Dortmund, then the S-Bahn a few stops to the Technical University.  At noon met host Hartmut Holzmüller, a great fellow.  We walked to the Mensa for lunch, a coffee, and a long yak.  From 2:15 to 3:45, I gave a lecture to about 80 students, then departed.  I checked my Deutsche Bahn (railway) app, and, Aieeeeee, my S-Bahn train at 4:19 was canceled.  Could I make the 3:59 rocket?  Well, I sorta had to, so walked quickly, and got to the platform on time.  But it was the wrong platform, so back up the stairs, down the others, and barely, barely squeezed onto the 3:59.  Hooray.

Above and below, along the Promenade in Münster

My new friends at Dortmund; I was missing our dogs, so nuzzled with these two while waiting for my train

Was back in Münster at 5:20, washed my face at the hotel, and at six met Julian Allendorf and a new Ph.D. student for dinner at a fave traditional restaurant, Kruse Baimken.  Julian knows the daughter of the owner, Walter, and he joined us at the table for some conversation about German and U.S. politics, then about Walter’s journeys in the U.S. as a young man in the 1970s – similar, but more adventurous, than my visits to Germany back then.  A lot of laughs.  From 8:00 to 11:30, I presented an informal talk on career and life to a dozen Master’s students, repeating a gig that we’ve done for more than a decade.  Good questions, but by the end I was fatigued.  Happily, the hotel was only a few blocks away.

Friday was an easier day, sort of.  Onto the local train south to Hamm, then a fast train to Kassel, in the northeast corner of the state of Hesse (same state as Frankfurt).  My young friend Patrick Rath picked me up at the train station, and we headed to lunch in a 18th century food market, still used for that purpose, and for restaurants.  Tucked into a plate of pasta, then headed to his apartment nearby.  Wife Elli and 7-year-old daughter Lotta were there.  Patrick earlier told me about Lotta’s new keen interest (which she discovered without her parents’ suggestion), ice hockey, and after chatting a bit he showed me some videos of her on the ice.  As native of Minnesota, a huge ice-hockey place, I was cheering loudly for Lotta, and just sorry I would miss her game the next day.

Enroute to Kassel

 

Above, Markthalle, Kassel; below, attractive public housing along the Fulda River, and a haunting Holocaust memorial entitled “The Ramp”

At two, we met Professor Mann, the marketing chair at the University of Kassel, for a coffee and a chat.  Back to the apartment (two blocks from the uni), then at four Patrick and walked back, he to pick up son Louis (three) at kindergarten, and me to meet three student hosts.  We yakked for awhile, then from 6:00 to 7:30 I delivered the last talk of that week.  It was raining and we didn’t expect many, but 17 showed up.  Nice!  Walked back to the Raths’ house, had a light meal, and clocked out.  That was a long, good sleep.

The University of Kassel is building new, and recycling graceful old buildings that were on the site of a former Henschel locomotive factory; at right, attractive apartments on Patrick’s street

Lotta Rath’s homemade Advent calendar, created from toilet-paper rolls

Up at six on Saturday.  Nine hours of sleep were tonic and much needed.  I had caught a mild cold, not bad, but sleep was helpful.  Showered quickly in case the family needed the bath (like most older apartments in Europe, the Raths have only one bathroom), dressed, and sat in the kitchen, reading The New York Times on my phone.  Patrick walked in at seven, and Elli a few minutes later.  We chatted briefly, and at 7:15 Patrick walked me to a nearby tram stop.  Rode out to the Wilhelmshöhe railway station, grabbed a big coffee, and hopped on the 8:37 fast train.  I was hungry and was looking forward to a big breakfast in the dining car.  Alas, they were out of eggs, and had no other hearty alternatives, so the server brought me one roll and butter (charging me for two, grrrrrr) and another big coffee.  So I was stimulated, but still hungry.  The ride from Kassel to Frankfurt is scenic, traversing a series of valleys and through tunnels under forested hills, storybook villages in the distance.  Arrived Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof, made fast for the supermarket in the basement, bought a big tub of yogurt and a giant streusel sweet roll.  Ahhh, much better!

Climbed on the 10:57 fast train east and a bit south to Würzburg, a city in the far northwest corner of Bavaria, another scenic ride, along the valley of the Main River .  I passed through the city in 2012, made a note to return, and in 65 minutes I was back.  It was raining lightly, not ideal weather for touring, but ya gotta get out there, so I found the storage lockers.  After three tries, one finally seemed to work, but clogged with my four Euros inside.  You know my thrift, so rather than just trying a fifth, I went to the Deutsche Bahn counter to ask for a refund or help.  A middle-aged woman said “I’ll come with you.”  Nice.  I thanked her profusely.  When we got to the locker, she suggested it was my fault.  Wrong response.  I politely told her I was a frequent DB customer, and had no need to trick the railway out of $4.60.  She soon discovered that indeed the mechanism was kaput, gave me my money, and I finally found a functioning locker.  Off to discover Würzburg, woo hoo!

Architecture from the 1950s and ‘60s close to the station suggested that the city was bombed in World War II, and further along it was clear that the Altstadt had been rebuilt to look old.  Stopped for lunch at a simple restaurant, sitting at a large table with a couple of older, laughing blue-collar guys who were talking politics, and an even older (late 70s) couple who were tucking into roast goose and roast beef, along with some large beers.  At that moment, I wished I were German-fluent, because I wanted to talk to all four strangers.  They were out of my choice, lentil soup, so I had another soup and a beer, and headed back out in the rain.

Stift Haug church, Würzburg; right, note the cow with angel wings — Holy Cow!

Würzburg is best known for the Residenz, an 18th Century palace, and I was soon there.  The huge building is relatively restrained on the outside, but inside it is Baroque to an exponent, largely the work of the era’s most famous architect, Balthasar Neumann.  Just remarkable.  In March 1945, the British Bomber Command flattened the city, heavily damaging the palace (with classic German balance, an interpretive panel I saw late in the visit mentioned Coventry and Rotterdam as other places similarly destroyed).  Restoration has thus been underway for almost 75 years.  It was all eye-popping, but perhaps the most astonishing was a parquet floor in the “Green Room,” which had been rebuilt 1969-1974, thousands of inlays.

After admiring a number of beautiful rooms, I found an exhibit focused on the bombing and aftermath.  I smiled broadly and stood tall: U.S. Army Second Lieutenant John Skilton, an art historian and member of the Army’s Monuments and Fine Arts Section (the so-called “Monuments Men”), was described as “the savior of the Residenz.”  I felt proud of Lt. Skilton’s work.

I left the palace and ambled around the center a bit, stopping in the cathedral (Dom), then back to the main station, grabbed my suitcase and rode one stop to Würzburg Süd, just steps from my digs for the night, at Olaf’s Airbnb.  It was raining hard, and I was wet and cranky.  Like a lot of Airbnbs I’ve used in Europe, this was up four flights of stairs, a slog with heavy luggage, but his welcome was warm and his apartment was awesome.  He showed me around, then left with his girlfriend for the night.  The apartment was mine.  Nice!  I unpacked, settled in, then headed out to find breakfast provisions at a nearby supermarket, and some cold beer after a long day.  Started bringing this journal up to date.

The view from the palace; atop the hill at left is Marienberg Fortress

Stolpestein (literally “stumbling stones”) outside my local supermarket, Würzburg; as noted in previous posts, you find these reminders all over Germany. No denial.

At 6:30, I headed to dinner at SophienBäck, just a few blocks away.  It was still raining, and I didn’t want to walk far, not back into the city.  The restaurant was named for Princess Sophie, daughter of Bavaria’s King Maximilian I.  The place was packed when I arrived, but just as at lunch, a kindly server found me a seat at a shared table.  That was fortuitous, because as I was halfway into a much-needed big dinner of roast, stuffed duck, dumplings, and red cabbage, a husband, wife, and late-teenage daughter sat down.  We launched an epic T-t-S, lasting about an hour as I finished my meal and they ate theirs.  They were from Aachen in the north, visiting their daughter, a first-year medical student at the university.  We had a wonderful discussion about ancestry; Thomas’ dad, a retired metallurgy professor, has taken charge of “roots research,” and is tracking multiple paths across central and even southern Europe.  Fascinating.  And we also yakked a bit about Thomas’ two years in Milburn, New Jersey, when he was just a boy.  Walked back to the apartment and clocked out.

The cozy Art Nouveau interior at SophienBäck, and my duck dinner

Up at 7:30 Sunday morning, no rain, hooray!  Did more work on this journal, had a nice breakfast, and at 9:20 ambled several blocks to St. Johannis, a Lutheran church in Catholic Bavaria.  Having been in a German Lutheran church a month earlier in South Tyrol, the sequence was familiar.  Different hymns, Advent songs with which I was totally unfamiliar, but the cadence made it easy to follow.  During the sermon I thought fondly about my German grandmother, a very devout woman, about the church universal, and about the need to be “our better selves,” a phrase on my lips in recent weeks.  Two high points at the church.  First, as noted weeks earlier, communion is truly communal, worshipers standing in a semicircle, and at the end holding hands for the benediction (I mused that the man to my right might well have been a child when the city was bombed in 1945).  Two, after the service, we all processed to the church hall, gemeindehaus, for a lunch of soup, bread, and lots of goodies.  The treats would have bested the fanciest in a Midwestern church basement, so delicious and sweet.  And people were very friendly.  A fine way to spend the morning.

Above, St. Johannis Church; below, another Holocaust memorial, commemorating the site where Würzburg Jews were deported to death camps

Walked back to the main station, and at 12:37 got on a regional train south toward Stuttgart, and my next destination, Karlsruhe.  Changed trains a couple of times.  I wanted to do a bit of sightseeing before the short day ended, and that morning I did some online digging to find Bretten, a village that in 2017 celebrated its 1250th anniversary.  Arrived Bretten about 3:30, back into rain, walked several blocks to the town center, admiring the birthplace of Martin Luther’s sidekick Philip Melanchthon, and wandering around Germany’s only Guardian Angel Museum.  Back to the station, and onto a slow local to Durlach, a suburb of Karlsruhe and a familiar place.  Walked a few blocks to my hotel, the half-timbered Zum Ochsen, from the 18th Century.  Checked in, relaxed a bit, then walked a block (back in the rain) for a fish dinner.

Above, main square, Bretten; below, scenes from the Guardian Angel Museum, showing traditional renderings, as well as angels in more recent popular culture and in advertising (for a bandage brand)

Monday morning, back into coat and tie, and onto the tram west to KIT, the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology.  Found one of my student hosts, Max, almost done with his Ph.D. in marketing.  We had a good yak, and he found me a vacant office.  Headed out for lunch with Max, Ingo (another doctoral student), and host Prof. Martin Klarmann.  From 3:45 to 5:15, I delivered a talk to undergraduates, then hopped in Martin’s car for an early dinner at a fancy restaurant atop a small mountain.  The first three courses all featured goose, a traditional Christmas meat, but all prepared elegantly.

Just a corner of the sprawling 18th Century palace of the former Duke of Baden

Tuesday was another “day off.”  Bought a day ticket for unlimited regional travel in the state of Baden-Württemburg and headed east to the capital, Stuttgart.  Rode a couple of trams up the sides of the slopes that girdle the city center, then west to the suburb of Zuffenhausen, home of Porsche automobiles.

Above, scenes from Stuttgart; below, on my way to the factory, the first signs of production

Connections via Manfred Krafft enabled an afternoon tour of the factory, and I had a few hours to tour the museum.  I probably should have expected that an upmarket car company would build a spectacular museum, but I didn’t, and was completely blown away by the place.  The exhibits were all themed around the 70th anniversary of their first sports car, the 356, and their vehicles’ evolution since.  The interpretive panels in German and English were very well written, for example, clearly explaining the importance of the power-to-weight ratio for engines (something in common with aviation teachnology).  It was just totally awesome.  There was also a look-back at the founding of the company, which included some very honest discussion of dark practices like slave labor during World War II.  No denial.

Das Original: 1948 Porsche 356

The founder also had a hand in development of the Volkswagen in the 1930s

Toward the end of the linear museum amble was a big exhibit on their forthcoming electric car, the Taycan.  Porsche was investing more than a billion Euros, building a new plant on the grounds, and really gearing up.  It was clear that they intended the $120,000 Taycan to best every other plug-in car on the market, for example, 15 minutes to wirelessly (induction) charge the batteries for a range of 400 kilometers (250 miles).  They also pointed out that company founder Ferdinand Porsche built an electric car in 1900!

Above and below, beauty shots of various Porsches; it’s hard to take a bad picture of their gorgeous machines!

Above, the Taycan electric car, on the roads in 2019; below, race cars, and, yes, a Porsche farm tractor!

And, yes, you could hop in a number of models; the challenge for me, with gimpy knees, was climbing out the low-slung cars!

I had a quick lunch in the café, then joined the 1:45 tour.  It was a more thorough look than the visit to Daimler Benz in nearby Sindelfingen a few years earlier.  We spent a lot of time at several points in the final assembly building, then across to a building where the leather for interior panels (but not seats) was inspected and cut, and finally to the engine shop.  The plant produces the 911 and 718 cars, 250 per day.  Way cool, but a bit long.

Train delays made for a long ride home, only 40 miles, but took two hours. A cascading set of errors.  When we got to Pforzheim, 15 miles from home, the destination, the conductor announced that the train would not continue to Karlsruhe, and the connecting train was right across the platform.  The departure sign above the platform read “Karlsruhe,” but the sign on the car read “Stuttgart.”  Germans and the American were confused, but we boarded, wondering which direction we’d head.  We all sighed with relief when we started rolling toward Karlsruhe. “The Deutsche Bahn is a little like gambling in Las Vegas,” I said aloud, and fellow riders laughed and nodded.  Got off the train at Durlach and walked a few blocks to Vögel, a brewpub.  The place was packed on a Tuesday night, but I found a stool at the bar and tucked into salad and a pair of sausages.

Back to work Wednesday, lecture in late morning to Master’s students, then to a huge late lunch.  Said goodbye to the KIT team, hopped a tram to the station and two fast trains to Frankfurt Airport.  In my mind, the flight to Dublin departed 8:50, plenty of time.  While I was eating a light dinner from a supermarket salad bar, I glanced at my iPhone calendar: Aer Lingus departed in 80 minutes, at a terminal quite a ways off.  Yikes!  A bit of stress, but made the flight with time to spare.  Arrived Ireland 9:00, nice chat with a smiling immigration officer, then out into howling wind and onto a shuttle to a nearby hotel.

Sacred and secular in Karlsruhe

Thursday began remarkably.  On Tuesday afternoon, Will McConnell, a young filmmaker from Belfast, emailed me about a 2015 post I made on a blog about a bygone Ulster firm, the York Street Flax Spinning Company, a company my father represented in the Upper Midwest for about a decade in the 1950s and ‘60s.  I sent him a reply to which he responded Wednesday afternoon.  I then mentioned that by coincidence I would be in Dublin the next day for teaching, and did he want to drive 120 miles for a longer interview.  And yes, it happened at 9:15.  Just a remarkable chat, all filmed, for a art-documentary he’s making about York Street.  Quite an awesome alignment in time, space, and interest.

Will drove me to Dublin City University, and I headed to the B-school for three back-to-back talks (late lunch wedged in).  Had good chats with host Naoimh O’Reilly, and colleagues Cathal and Andrew.  It was dark when I finished at 4:30.  Walked a mile to the bus, then back to the hotel to change clothes.

Headed back out at six, bound for one of the greatest drinking places in the world, Mulligan’s of Poolbeg Street.  Traffic was awful, and it took 45 minutes to go 5 miles, but at 7 sharp I hugged my longtime pal Maurice Coleman, like me retired from a long airline career.  As always, the pub was totally packed, but we found space next to Brendan and Tom, who immediately started yakking with us.  Talking to Strangers is part of the Irish DNA!  The lads peeled off, and Maurice and I stayed for another hour or so, chatting about politics, Brexit, families, and books.  Said goodbye, ambled to the bus stop, back to the hotel, long day.

Maurice Coleman, and the scene at Mulligan’s

Holiday lighting on the Custom House; the lighting was kinetic; a video would have been better, but it was cold and I wanted to get home!

Up early Friday the 14th, glad to fly to Philadelphia, then home to Washington.

 

 

More wonderful art in the Philadelphia Airport: “Pink,” a mosaic by Ava Blitz, on Concourse B

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Thanksgiving in Chicago

Chicago is the birthplace of the steel-frame skyscraper, and they just keep building them downtown. At left, along the now-cleaned-up Chicago River; right, the Reliance Building (1895), an early example of the form.

On the day before Thanksgiving, Linda and I flew to Chicago to spend the holiday with Cousin Jim and his family (after my brother’s death, they are my closest kin).  O’Hare was, as you might expect, a total mess, but we managed to find our Lyft driver (my second ride with them), snake through airport traffic, and out to Michaela’s and Jim’s house in Arlington Heights.  All four of us immediately got into a long yak with some beer, then a light dinner.  As we had done years earlier, Jim, neighbor Rolf, and I motored into downtown AH for a couple more beers.  Cousin Mike (three of Jim’s five siblings still live nearby) joined us.  Lots of laughs, and some commiserating on the sorry state of the republic (“Stupid is everywhere,” was a memorable quote from Rolf).

On Thanksgiving morning, Jim and I motored east to Wilmette and a high-school hockey game.  It had been years since I saw “schoolboy hockey” (as they call it in Canada), and it was a lot of fun.  Drove home to watch the Chicago Bears win their football game, then out on Michaela’s bike for a quick ride before dinner.  The repast was spectacular; Michaela is an accomplished cook, and everything was wonderful.  Their oldest child, Jack, is a freshman at Villanova, but Charlie and Katie, high school senior and junior, were at the table for color commentary on suburban adolescence.  Cleaned up the kitchen, went for a walk, had dessert, and went to sleep well before ten.

Was up at dawn Friday, out on Michaela’s bike again, around Arlington Heights.  At 9:30, Linda and I hopped the suburban train, called Metra, into downtown Chicago.  We ambled to a German-style Christmas market, which was nice but totally packed, then east to the Art Institute.  By my reckoning, it had been 43 years since I last visited, and I was totally wowed.  Whew.  What a collection, and even more, a wonderful visitor experience: clearly marked, wonderful interpretive panels for each work and larger genres, a fine place for lunch, just a wonderful few hours.  Need to get back soon!

Christmas Market in Daley Plaza; note the Picasso sculpture (1975) looming over the huts.

The famous lions, wreathed for the holidays, in front of the Art Institute.

Just a tiny sample from the collections.  From top left, a model of Alexander Calder’s “Flamingo” (the full-size version is in a Federal complex nearby); a small part of a stained-glass work, “America Windows,” by Marc Chagall; Monet’s “Gare St. Lazare” (the Transport Geek loves his flowers, but a train station, wow!); Thomas Hart Benton’s “Cotton Pickers”; Georgia O’Keeffe’s “Gaspé”; terracotta ornamentation from the Wrigley Building, one of the city’s landmarks (as an aside, my great-grandfather worked in a plant that made architectural terracotta, and it was fun to muse about whether he or his co-workers made that piece); and more ornamentation from the famed Chicago designer Louis Sullivan:

We hopped a taxi back to the train station, then back out.  Michaela the tireless host had organized a party that night for the three nearby cousins, plus Cousin Bob who lives across town, their spouses/partners, and a couple of their kids.  It was a lot of fun.  Linda had not seen these folks for nine years.  And when the Fredians get together, there are bound to be stories from their youth: my Uncle Joe was disabled after a bad stroke when he was just over 40, and my Aunt Sally worked hard as a school principal, so there was room for some pretty wild stuff.  My fave story from that night was when the boys rolled a keg into a nearby movie theater the afternoon after a large party at their house (“Hey, it wasn’t empty,” said one)!

With the cousins in the kitchen

Up early, Cuz and Michaela delivered us to O’Hare, and we flew home.  So nice to connect with family.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Across the Atlantic Again: Switzerland, Italy, Germany, England

Vineyards in the Adige Valley near Bolzano, Italy

I was home from Omaha less than two days.  Hopped on a flight to Philadelphia at two on Sunday afternoon, November 4, then across the ocean to Switzerland, bound for my debut in the business school of the University of Zürich.  Landed at eight on Monday morning, grabbed a big tub of yogurt (I slept through breakfast on the Silver Bird), and climbed on the #10 tram for the university.  Happily, the small Hotel Plattenhof was 1) right by the school and 2) had a room ready for early check-in (larger Swiss hotels are less accommodating; this place had a friendly and flexible vibe from the beginning).  I took a shower, put on jeans, and headed into the center for a short walk-around.

More great art in Philadelphia airport: Adam Ledford’s “Fly Me to the Moon” (nice glimpse of the 1950s!), and Colleen McCubbin Stepanic’s “Peak”

 

Good morning, Switzerland; protruding cloud in the center of the photo is water vapor from a nuclear power plant (well, yes, I know the country pretty well!)

Enormous cedar tree across from my hotel — on Cedar Street!

Above, window shopping on Bahnhofstrasse, the city’s fanciest shopping street (those are boots for ice-climbing); below, detail in a shopping arcade

Swans in the Lake of Zurich, eager for handouts from tourists loaded with loaves of bread

At noon, I met Rev. Paul Brice, pastor of St. Andrew’s Anglican Church, a little outpost of England in the middle of Zürich.  I’ve known Paul for about a decade, back to when he was chaplain at Sidney Sussex College, my digs at the University of Cambridge.  Paul showed me around the church, originally built by the Swiss Reformed Church for services at an adjacent cemetery.  We walked down the hill to an Indian restaurant for a buffet lunch and good conversation.  Said good-bye and looked around town a bit more (I had hoped for a short ride on one of the ferries that play the Lake of Zürich, but they run infrequently in fall and winter).  Back to the hotel, worked a bit, short nap, worked some more, and at eight met my young, longtime colleague Jochen Menges, who has just taken the chair of leadership and human resource management at UZH.  We ate at Oberhof, 100 feet from the hotel, in a building that dated to 1293.  Had a schnitzel and potatoes, a good base for a long sleep.

The Limmat River

Intense autumn color in the park near Paul’s church

Up early Tuesday, time to stand and deliver, two back-to-back lectures to Jochen’s undergraduate and Masters students.  At 12:15 we parted, I headed back to change out of my suit, then to a nearby Mensa (student cafeteria) for lunch.  Fortified, I walked down the hill, into the Grossmünster, the city’s largest Protestant church, and up 180 steps to nearly the top of one of the two towers.  Great views, though it had clouded up a bit.  Spent another couple of hours joyriding on the city’s superb public transit system (especially the dense network of trams), using my 24-hour ticket.  Worked a bit, short nap.

Above and below, graceful main lecture hall at UZH

Above and below, views from the church tower

Mosaics depicting postal transport modes, Sihl Post Office

Colorful sign for the Oberhof Restaurant

At 6:30 I met two of Jochen’s assistants, Nicolas, a Swiss postdoc, and Leonie, a German Ph.D. student.  We hopped the #6 tram into the city and tucked into a big dinner and some good conversation.  Said goodbye, rode the streetcar back to the hotel, and clocked out.  It was Election Day in the U.S. (I voted a month early), and I was determined not to check results until 6 a.m. Wednesday.  And it worked, though as often happens on the second night in Europe, I kept waking up.

The train to my next teaching gig, at USI in Lugano, Ticino, the Italian part of Switzerland, was not until 1:30, so after breakfast I zipped downtown and walked along the Limmat River and through the Altstadt (old town).  Was able to snap a quick, though poorly composed picture of the reception hall of the main police station, designed by Alberto Giacometti, before an officious woman waved me away (in fairness, posted signs said the hall was closed for renovations).  Hopped on a funicular up to ETH, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, walked a bit of the campus, then next door to the university.  UZH is proud of the fact that it was the first university in Europe to be founded by the state rather than a monarch or the church, and proud of some notable alumni, like Albert Einstein.  At 11, I met Martin Natter, marketing chair in the UZH business school.  In all my guest teaching I’ve never had a meeting like that: within 15 minutes he had invited me to give a lecture in February 2019, set the date, agreed on terms, done!

Oil vial from a Roman bath, ca. 40 B.C.; during redevelopment, builders have unearthed lots of material from Zürich’s Roman past

The city has lots of “wedding cake” buildings

Spires in the old town

Ceiling of Giacometti’s police hall, and detail at ETH

Ambled a few hundred feet from the B-school to my hotel, checked out, hopped the #6 tram downtown, bought lunch, had a little picnic in the sun in front of the Swiss National Museum, and got the train south.  As I wrote in 2018, the Swiss have finished a $9 billion, 35.5-mile tunnel through the Alps (the Gotthard Base Tunnel), which made the trip way faster than before.  North of the mountains, it was sunny and you said “Danke” to the SBB conductor; south it was rainy and the word was “Grazie.”

Swiss National Museum

Was in Lugano by 3:50, onto a bus and to the Hotel Lido.  For several years, I stayed at a newer hotel much closer to the campus of Università della Svizzera Italiana, but was back at this four-stars-but-worn hotel.  Happily, they had a fitness bike, slightly broken, and I cranked out some miles.  Cooled off, then ambled a block to a new restaurant, Neapolis, featuring Naples-style pizza.  The website made it look promising, and I especially liked the owner’s comments, pushing back on unfair social-media reviews, plus this gem:

We want to highlight that our production involves original ingredients, manual processing, care of cooking, firming times, hours used exclusively for the product and subtracted from other working processes, all which go far beyond the time and cost of buying an industrial and / or frozen product. We regret that “occasional” clients omit such realities, artisanal and contractual, and they criticize the cost. Therefore, clearing any doubts, we invite the “critics of Sunday” to reflect well before pointing out and remembering, as a pure example, that there are people who want to have Louis Vuitton bags, others … supermarket bags, so the use is the same and everyone is free to have, in fact, to eat what he chooses.

When I sat down at my table, I was feeling a little lonely.  The couple next to me was chatting with their children via FaceTime on their iPhone.  I thought of my traveling-salesman dad, who ate dinner alone for decades, in Appleton, Wisconsin, Devils Lake, North Dakota, and hundreds of other Upper Midwest towns, then I thought of what he often said to me when I was in a bad mood: “Snap out of it.”  So I did.  The pizza was great, and my server was a friendly young guy, half Swiss and half Italian.  A little T-t-S with him after the meal, showing him pictures of my Italian great-grandparents and other kin.  Asleep at 9:30, finally a long, hard sleep.

Neapolitan-style pizza; at right, a first: spray bottles for the olive oil and the balsamic vinegar!

When I checked into the hotel the day before, the clerk gave me a Ticino Card, good for unlimited public transport on all modes, throughout the canton.  Free mobility excites the Transport Geek, and because I was not teaching until afternoon, I mapped out a morning excursion, north and west to Locarno on Lake Maggiore, then up the Melezza Valley on a narrow-gauge railway known locally as FART (Ferrovie Autolinee Regionali Ticinese).  It doesn’t translate well, but it was an awesome ride, west and up and up and up, lots of curves.  The train to Locarno was 5 minutes late (very un-Swiss!), so I missed an earlier train and thus had to shorten the ride up the valley, getting off at Verdasio.  It was remote.  Three days earlier, when I got off the #10 tram in central Zürich, I said aloud, as I often do, “Well Butch, this is it; this is Bolivia,” words spoken by Robert Redford, a/k/a The Sundance Kid, in the 1969 movie “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” when they disembarked in some remote town in that country (they headed south to rob banks).  But when I got off the FART train in Verdasio, that statement really had currency!  I was back at USI in time for lunch in the Mensa.

The first mile of so of the FART train is underground, and the graffiti artists have been busy; then you surface and things look much better

__________________________________________

 

Swiss-made: at left, regional train from Stadler, and a von Roll fire hydrant; as I have written many times, part of Swiss prosperity is a cultural propensity to buy locally, even if it costs more; below, a $2,2o0 Swiss chair that doesn’t look too comfy!

The view from the fitness bike

Met my host and long friend Omar Merlo (we first met at Cambridge, and I’ve followed him to several, schools, mainly Imperial College London, where he is full-time), and delivered a talk to a dozen grad students.  Headed back to the hotel, rode the bike, worked a bit, and at 6:30 took a local bus into downtown, then a Postbus (the Swiss postal service, 180 degrees different from the USPS, runs a network of buses all over rural Switzerland) up the hill to Omar’s place.

He grew up in Lugano and he owns a small flat in the village of Carona.  His father and sister still live in Lugano, an Omar invited me to an early birthday party at the flat.  When I arrived the welcome was like I was part of the family: hugs and kisses from father Luigi and his partner Alida; sister Adriana, husband Sandro (who I had met several times before), and daughters Victoria (12) and Nicola (14).  The banter at the dinner table, and the laughing, were nonstop, moving easily between English and Italian.  Luigi and Alida did not speak English, so Omar translated – we also discovered that both grandfathers spoke rudimentary Spanish, so we occasionally conversed that way.  The main course was Alida’s wonderful lasagna, then a special almond-cream birthday cake for Omar.  It was a special evening – so wonderful for a visitor to be invited into a home when traveling abroad.

Slept hard again, up Friday morning and out the door, onto a regional train south 50 miles to Milan.  Walked a kilometer to the Pasticceria San Gregorio, and at 10:20 met longtime (since 1991) friend and former American Airlines colleague Massimo Vesentini.  We only had about an hour, so we talked fast, updating on families, work, and a little about the state of the world.  He accompanied me back to Stazione Centrale, hugged, and went back to work.

Massimo Vesentini, and an unusual ceiling display at the coffee shop

I hopped on the 12:05 fast train east to Vicenza, ultimately headed for the Brenta Valley, where my late brother Jim and wife Pam vacationed for many years, bicycling up smaller valleys and around the villages of the Veneto region.  In my backpack were the last of Jim’s ashes, and I wanted to consign them to the ancestral (well, 25% at least) homeland of which he was most proud.  Our dear Giacomo loved Italy and all things Italian.  A few months before he died, we agreed that we needed to do a cycling trip back to the Veneto, and that journey would include a visit to Pinarello, maker of some of the world’s best bicycles (I’ve owned a red one since 2011).  Once I committed to take his ashes, I wrote a paper letter to Fausto Pinarello (son of founder Giovanni, who started building bikes at age 15), told him that story, and that I bought my Pinarello on Jim’s recommendation.  Three months passed with no reply, and I gave up on the prospect.  Then just three weeks earlier an email arrived, Alice sending a nice invitation.

So at Vicenza I jumped on a local train east to Treviso, then into a taxi to the factory, arriving about 3:45.  Alice was the receptionist, and she called Andrea, a young marketing manager, who led me around the showroom, then into the production area.  It was fascinating.  They build bikes in three small plants, and this one, attached to their main office, was only for the serious high-end machines, the ones the best pros use.  We saw the paint shop, decal-application room, and the assembly area.  It was hand-crafting at its best.  As a souvenir, I got a Pinarello water bottle.  Shook Andrea’s and Alice’s hands, thanked them profusely in Italian, and hopped back in a taxi.

Back on the train, one change, arriving in Bassano del Grappa (yes, it’s the place that gives the simple brandy its name) at 6:10.  Short walk to my modest hotel, wash face, and at 7:00 I met Walter, one of the Italian friends that Jim and Pam made on their trips.  Walter, 39, was a wonderful guy, spoke great English (he had worked in England), always smiling.  We headed to L’Antica de Abbazia, a pizza restaurant in a former Benedictine abbey.   We had a great meal and got to know each other a bit.

Next stop was his Aunt Elsa’s bar in the village of Pove del Grappa, a few miles north of Bassano, which was where the Brittons stayed (sadly, the hotel they always used had closed).  They actually met Walter through Elsa – every day after their bike ride they would stop at her Bar Romanelle for an orange juice or soft drink before heading back to the hotel.  Elsa was away when we arrived, eating her dinner.  While waiting for her at a table outside, an “opposite T-t-S” happened.  A pretty young woman kept staring at me.  Finally she walked over and, apologizing profusely for interrupting, said “I love your accent; where are you from?”, which launched a chat about the U.S., including, alas, politics.  Soon Elsa was back behind that bar, at age 71 still working hard.  We had a chat with Walter translating, and met her daughter Eva and grandson (“Gabri Blu,” who at age 10 was already one of Italy’s best hip-hop dancers; go figure!).  I was plumb wore out, and Walter looked tired, too, so we motored back to Bassano and parted with hugs.  It was a long day.

I woke in the middle of the night with a start: where were Jim’s ashes?  I knew I packed them, but where?  Rummaged through my backpack and suitcase, and, aha, they were exactly where I put them a week earlier.  Up at seven, breakfast, and out the door.  As in northern Minnesota in August, I wanted to dispatch Jim to the earth, air, and water.  Earth first, at the base of still-blooming roses at the northeast gate of the (walled) old town.  Then into the air along the wall of the ancient Ezzelini Castle, and finally into the Brenta River from the historic Ponte Vecchio (old bridge), designed my Andrea Palladio, Italy’s most famous 16th Century architect.  Every deposit violated Italian law (so Massimo informed me weeks earlier), which requires that all human remains be buried in a cemetery, but, well, ya gotta do what ya gotta do!

R.I.P., Giacomo: the last of my brother returned to the earth, the air, and the water

Above, looking north, up the Brenta Valley; below, the Ponte Vecchio designed by Palladio

With the day’s main task finished, prayers said, and tears shed, I ambled around Bassano for a couple of hours, through the old town.  Two highlights.  One, the Saturday open-air market with beautiful local fruits and vegetables.  My eye landed on peeled whole garlics, then immediately a memory from 60 years ago: the smell of garlic sautéing in olive oil in my grandmother’s kitchen in Chicago.  Two, climbed to the top of the ancient city tower, Torre Civico, for great views in all directions.  In the tower were a series of interpretive panels in several languages that explained Bassano’s evolution in great detail; most salient was that the river was truly the lifeblood of the town: abundant water for drinking and bathing; for crops and watering livestock; for shipping (south to Venice and the rest of the world); and for power, for example to spin silk thread.  Scenes from Bassano:

At left, new meaning to the phrase “attack dog”; at right, the town’s namesake product

__________________________________

 

Ambled back to the hotel grabbed my suitcase, and got on the 11:25 slow, slow train up the Brenta Valley, over a pass, and down into the Adige Valley to the City of Trento.  As we went north and west, house architecture looked less Italian and more Alpine, with steeper gables to handle the weight of snow; and ecclesiastical architecture tended away from Romanesque toward Austrian-Baroque.  Also notable: lots of fruit cultivation: grapes, apples, apricots, pears.  I had an hour between trains, so I found picnic fixings at a supermarket, then ate lunch in a pleasant park with fountains, ponds, and ducks.  Last ride was 35 minutes north to Bolzano, in the autonomous province of South Tyrol.  This is complicated: there’s another autonomous province to the south, Trentino, and together they made up the autonomous region of Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol. Yes, it’s Italy, but about 40 years ago the national government in Rome transferred most legislative and administrative powers to the two provinces; and taxing authority, which means the region keeps 90% and remits only 10% to the national treasury in Rome.  The whole setup reflects historical forces going back centuries, and a lot of to and fro following World War I and World War II.  In South Tyrol, 62% of the population have German as a first language, 25% Italian, 5% Ladin (an ancient tongue spoken in remote valleys, not unlike Romansch in Switzerland), and the remainder are the languages of immigrants.  You can read more in Wikipedia!

San Lorenzo (12th C.), Trento

Walked a few blocks from the station to my Airbnb, met the host’s son, Andrea, 23, and settled into a nice big room in a large flat.  My host, Simona (she was in India), had taken great care to decorate the guest room.  It was beautiful, and the bed beckoned, for a short nap.  Andrea showed me his bike out on the street and gave me the lock key for riding the next day.  I hoped for no rain, because some two-wheel touring would be great.  Out the door before six, literally steps to my dinner venue next door, a brewpub called Batzen.  Settled in on a stool at the bar, had a couple of beers and a nice plate of meat and potatoes.  Sitting on a bar stool and paying attention to customer interaction, I learned a bit about the dynamics of language and power (my bartender was a neutral party, a young immigrant from Albania!).  Walked next door, called home, and was asleep by ten.  Hard sleep, dreamland.

Up at seven, looked outside, cloudy but no rain, so pedaled off for a quick ride around town, south then west, then back.  Stopped for a double espresso at the little Bar Luce by the Talvera River, which joins the Adige in Bolzano.  Back to the house, light breakfast with bread and jam (rolls from dinner the night before, squirreled away, jam from the fridge).   Back out on the bike, across the river to the Evangelical (Lutheran) Church, which I found on the Internet.  The locals, whether German- or Italian-speaking, are largely Catholic (and overtly so, judging by all the roadside shrines).  It was Armistice Day, the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, the Great War, “the war to end all wars,” and it seemed to be a good day to give thanks and supplication.  (Although Italy changed sides in 1914 and joined the Allies, the region’s historic ties to Austria, and thus the Austro-Hungarian Empire, made it likely that a century earlier a lot of locals were “on the other side.”)

Italian “jet fuel,” Bar Luce

I emailed the pastor, Rev. Jäger, the week before to confirm that worship was at 10:00, and he confirmed.  I arrived early and he welcomed me warmly.  The congregation was small, perhaps 25 people.  Wonderful organist, I got through the hymns (easier auf Deutsch than Swedish weeks earlier), and sang the last, familiar one with special vigor, Martin Luther’s “Ein Feste Burg” (“A Mighty Fortress is Our God”).  As I experienced at German Lutheran worship in 2002 and 2016, communion is truly communal, the group gathering in a semicircle at the altar.  It was a good place to be that morning.

Evangelical (Lutheran) Church

Bolzano had a wonderful network of bikeways

Evidence of long prosperity in the city

Back on the bike, zipping downriver several miles, then back to the train station for lunch fixings (almost everything is closed Sundays), then back to the Airbnb.  Tucked into a big sandwich, chips, and a Coke, then back out, short coast to the bottom station of the Ritten Seilbahn (cable car).  Bought a regional day ticket for €15, and hopped on.  Up, up, and away.  I hadn’t been on a big aerial tramway for years, and it was way fun, sort of like flying.  At the top, Soprabolzano (or Oberbozen in German), I hopped on a little narrow-gauge train east to the end of the line, then on foot, up to see a geological curiosity, “earth pyramids,” reddish-brown spires formed by deposition and erosion.  Alas, as I descended toward them a thick fog set in, and I saw nothing (as I got back to the little train station, the fog lifted, sigh).  Back on the train, back down on the tram, on the bike home and a short nap.

Villages above Bolzano looked decidedly Alpine; below, one of many shrines along roads and trails

The earth pyramids were down in the fog; at right, I did see a little one, barely visible; below, goats both real and imagined (oh, vanity! note she’s admiring herself in the mirror!)

At 5:30, I headed next door to Batzen, back on a bar stool for beer and dinner.  High point was a glass of their Habanero Pils, yes, spiced with hot peppers.  ¡Arriba!  Back home, re-packed by bag, starting reading a novel on my iPhone, then Zzzzzzzzz.

Woke before six Monday morning, out the door to the station and onto the 7:32 train north to Innsbruck, Austria.  In no time all Italian-style buildings disappeared, and I was decidedly in Central Europe.  We went through a tunnel below Brenner Pass, into Austria, and downhill to Innsbruck, last visited in 1973 when I was briefly a tour manager across the border in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.  Most people with an hour between trains would hang in the station, but I kept moving, out for a 40-minute walk through the center to the famous Goldenes Dachl (Gold Roof, below), a landmark built in 1500 for a royal wedding.

Back to the Bahnhof and onto the 10:40 to Munich.  Coasted east, down the Inn Valley, then across into Germany.  As soon as we crossed the border the solar panels appeared – the Germans so understand solar and renewable energy, what insight!  It was a little too early for lunch (11:30), but the train arrived Munich at 12:25 and it had a dining car, irresistible to this traveler who grew up riding trains with rolling restaurants, so I headed in for a small plate of meat dumplings and sauerkraut.  Not great, but the ambience was superb – the scene along the tracks was the Alpine version of the “storybook” landscape that I have often described along the middle Rhine Valley north of Mainz: this is the Europe that non-Europeans imagine it to be!

Hopped on the 12:47 train west to Plochingen, through Augsburg and past the huge church spire in Ulm that I climbed two years earlier, then onto a connecting train south to the historic university of town of Tübingen.  As the crow flies, from Bolzano it was only 165 miles, but it took nearly the whole day to get over and around mountains and hills.  I was teaching the next day at the European School of Business (ESB) in Reutlingen, 9 miles away, but Tübingen is a more interesting and historic place.  Hopped on the bus, stopped at the supermarket for breakfast supplies for the next days (brief T-t-S at the bakery with a young immigrant with family in the U.S.), and up the hill to Sandra’s and Tom’s Airbnb, my second visit.  They were away, but left directions to the hidden key, and I was in.  Unpacked, connected to Wi-Fi, did a bit of work.  Headed into the center at six, back to a cozy restaurant for a plate of bratwurst and fried potatoes.  Back home, asleep by 9:30 – I really didn’t do anything hard that day, but was totally worn out.  Way deep sleep, dreamland, tonic!

Up at seven to shave off four days of whiskers and don a necktie – time to stand and deliver (in the afternoon).  Had a nice, brief catch-up chat with Sandra before she headed to the gym (Tom was in Detroit), a couple of cups of coffee, and out the door.  Did some errands, worked a bit, brought this journal up to date, and at noon met Professor Dominik Papies, Marketing Chair at Tübingen University.  We had a good discussion and a nice lunch at a fancy restaurant, and by the end of the meal it looked very much like I landed another teaching venue at a storied university.  Dominik was a young guy, clearly up and coming; among other things, I learned he had been an exchange student at Eagan High School in suburban St. Paul, Minnesota, not far from where I grew up.

Tübingen is a delightful university town; below, evidence that Germans lead the world in recycling: everything into the Yellow Bag (Gelber sack)

Nice wordplay in a help-wanted sign at a Tübingen bakery: “Weckle” means bun in the local (Swabian) dialect!

Took the train 9 miles east to Reutlingen, then the bus up to ESB, the European School of Business at Reutlingen, my seventh visit there.  Met my host Oliver Götz, and from 3:30 to 5:00 delivered a talk on airline selling to 40 undergraduates.  Oliver and I then hopped in his car and motored back to Tübingen, parked in a ramp just outside the old town, and walked to a new restaurant, Gasthaus Bären, specializing in Swabian tapas (Swabia is the historic region that rambles across two modern German states).  The latter two words turned out to be oxymoronic – traditional Swabian cooking is hearty, and the eight small, shared dishes turned out to be a huge meal.  Burp!

Oliver dropped me at the Airbnb, I chatted briefly with Sandra, and was asleep before nine, because I was up at 4:30 Wednesday morning, out the door, and onto a bus to Stuttgart Airport, 25 miles north.  I was stressed, because the bus arrived 59 minutes before my flight departed.  But I was at the gate 14 minutes after the bus dropped me, stress relieved.  Flew Eurowings to London, landing Heathrow at 8:20, fairly short queue (under 20 minutes) at immigration, then onto the Picadilly (Tube) Line into town.  As always, once on the train I cued The Beatles, English genius at its best.  Off the train at South Kensington, and seriously in need of coffee (I had a light picnic breakfast on the bus to the airport, but no coffee).  Headed into Pret a Manger for two coffees and a Danish, and life was way better.  Walked a half-mile north to Imperial College London and worked the rest of the morning.

On the Piccadilly Line

From 1:00 to 2:00, delivered a webinar to alumni of the business school at the University of Hull, in Yorkshire (I’ve started doing webinars organized by an enterprising woman, Jane, who I met in Düsseldorf in 2017).   Grabbed a quick lunch from the cleverly-named  Pie Minister, a sort of indoor food truck in the Imperial student union.  The server, a smiling African immigrant, heard me say I was hungry and added another scoop of mashed potatoes and a ladle of gravy.  Time to deliver again, a two-hour seminar for about 150 Masters marketing students.  By 5:30, I was worn out.  Walked back to the Tube, then west to Kew and a night with Omar and Carolyn and their kids.  No humans were home when I got there, but Mr. Waffles, their more-than-spunky golden retriever welcomed me with games of fetch and tug of war.

Changed clothes, and walked a couple of blocks to the agreed dinner venue, the Kew Gardens pub.  Sadly, the kitchen was closed.  Omar arrived and we opted for dinner at Pizza Express in the Kew village, a serviceable chain and a fave of their kids, Sophie and Freddie.  They and Carolyn arrived, and in no time we were jabbering as old friends do.  Pizza, pasta, beer, and then a welcome sleep – had been up since 3:30 UK time.

Mr. Waffles plays tug of war; Freddie Merlo (far right) in front of the Queen’s School, Kew

Up early, more fun with Waffles, quick breakfast, then out the door with Carolyn, walking the kids a few blocks to school.  Hugs to all, then onto the Tube into Central London.  Quick coffee with a young colleague, then onto a sharebike a couple of miles to the London School of Economics.  Last gig of the trip.  Omar was teaching a intro to marketing course to undergrads, and I was guest.  Finished that at two, ambled a couple of blocks to Masala Zone, a curry chain, for a spicy lunch.  Then one more stop before it got dark, onto the Tube east to the Olympic Park, site of the 2008 summer games.

Mounted police, City of London

Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

No games that day, instead a solemn event.  Four days earlier, I marked the centenary of the end of World War I in a church.  Now I was walking toward and around “Shrouds of the Somme,” an enormous art project consisting of 72,396 small (about 18” long) figures wrapped in white shrouds and arrayed in a grassy field in the park – one for each of the British and Commonwealth forces that died in the bloodiest battle in British military history.  When I came upon the scene, I wept, as did many others.  Over loudspeakers, a volunteer read names, ages, and the military unit of each.  Further along, a separate display, one shroud for each day of the war, and a small sign showing the death toll of that day.  I counted the tallies for Christmas, normally a day of peace: 1914, 147; 1915, 208; 1916, 269; and 1917, 281.  Then I thought of my great-uncle Maurice, who died a month before the war ended.  I didn’t know the day, so I Googled his name, and learned that he died of shrapnel wounds while eating lunch on October 11, 1918.  This was all so grim.

I bought a program when I entered the site, and read the story of the artist, Rob Heard.  Imagine my surprise when I saw him standing by the exit, chatting as visitors left.  Of course I had to thank him.  We had a nice exchange.  Despite his fame, he was quiet, unassuming, kind.  I told him about Maurice, and showed him his picture on my iPhone.  As I left, thanking him again, I told him that one of the many things I admired about the British was that they were good at remembering. “Yes, he said softly, “yes, we are.”

Left, reading names of the dead; right, artist Rob Heard

Headed back to town, picked up my suitcase and backpack (left at my friend’s office), worked in his lobby a bit, walked a couple of blocks to Liverpool Street Station, then onto the 7:00 train to Harwich, then the ferry across the North Sea to Hoek van Holland.  This was the fifth time I’ve returned from Britain via the Netherlands, to avoid the $250 (and soon to rise again) departure tax, and have a little adventure along the way (the whole package by boat, trains and breakfast included, is $125).  Was in my cabin and fast asleep by 9:45.

Up at 6:30, big breakfast, down the gangway, onto a bus, then a train, then another bus (the Dutch were repairing a piece of a major rail artery, which caused some disruption).  Along the way, glimpses of the orderly and dense Dutch countryside, intersected by canals and ditches – they do know their water!  Arrived Schiphol Airport at 10:25, in time for a coffee and chat with ex-KLM executive and friend Jan Meurer.  We had a good yak and some laughs, taking turns showing pictures on our smartphones.  Jan peeled off at 11:30 and I flew home via Philadelphia.

The orderly Dutch cityscape, Schiedam; at right, my friend Jan Meurer catching up on the news

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

St. Louis, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Montreal, and Omaha

M04

Along the Lachine Canal, Montreal

On Sunday, October 7, jumped on a quick flight west to St. Louis, bound for my second appearance at Washington University.  Landed early, hopped on the handy Metrolink light-rail from the airport, and within 30 minutes was at the hotel on campus.  Along the way, something I’d never seen on public transit: a card shark working passengers, mostly young black men, on the train.  I really wanted to get a picture, but, well . . .  He had a wad of cash, plenty of Franklins, and in the three minutes I was on the Blue Line train he had done a brisk business.

At five, I reconnected with Bill Burnes, a St. Louisan and great fellow.  Back in Aughts, Bill and his colleagues worked at Momentum, the agency that handled American Airlines sales promotions.  I had not seen him in a dozen years, found him on LinkedIn, and up he drove in his Mustang convertible (it was about to pour, so the top was up).  We drove a mile to Salt & Smoke, a barbeque restaurant I visited the year before with students, and had a 2.5-hour repast, catching up, discussing marketing, ranting about the idiocy of procurement departments, and more.  Oh, yeah, some good local craft beer and a plate of pulled pork, beans, and tomato salad.  It was a great evening.

Up Monday morning to the hotel gym, cranked out some miles, breakfast, then over to the Olin Business School.  Met my host, Professor Chak Narasimhan, and delivered a talk to a small but engaged class in (distribution) channel strategy.  The Faculty Club was closed, so we walked next door to the law school for a quick lunch and yak.  Hopped in a taxi at 1:00, like the year before bound for the suburban house of Steve Schlachter, friend since 1963 and former AA co-worker.  Much of the joy of Talking to Strangers is conversing with people way different than me.  The cab driver, from the Kikuyu people of Kenya, was way different, but much the same.  We talked about work and family, about faith and values.  We also talked about how, almost five decades ago, we were nearly in the same place at the same time: on my only visit to Kenya, in 1972, we visited Lake Nakuru, famous for its huge flocks of pink flamingos.  A couple of years later, he started school in Nakuru, traveling from his home village 100 miles west.  Those kinds of time/place near-intersections are not uncommon, another datapoint on a mobile life.  I gave him a good tip.

D01

WashU has an impressive campus, not least for the quality of the buildings: renovated older halls and dazzling new ones

Steve and I immediately fell into a long chatter across a bunch of topics, including other friends, current events, and some substantial remodeling of their home.  We zipped a mile to the supermarket for some supplies (read: beer for Rob), then back for a mid-afternoon snack.  At four, I hopped on his sleek city bike and coasted down a big hill to Creve Coeur Lake, ringed with a great biking trail.  It was warm but not hot, and I cranked out 17 miles, then pedaled over to the gardening store where Steve’s wife Cindy works.  Steve met us at 5:40, we put the bike on the car rack, and drove home, up the hill (I sorta cheated a little, but the hill was big).  Took a shower, grabbed a cold beer, and at 6:30 we headed back to Paul Manno’s Café, a wonderful Italian place where we dined the year before (do you detect a pattern?  The St. Louis trip was like, as Yogi Berra memorably said, “Déjà vu all over again).  Was fast asleep well before ten.

M04 (1024x768)

Creve Coeur Lake, suburban St. Louis

M05 (1024x768)

Chris and Haley, Cindy’s father and daughter co-workers at Schmittel’s Nursery

M06 (574x1024)

Hospitality!  Fellow Minnesotan Steve served my beer in a Vikings glass.  Skol!

And up at 4:40 Tuesday morning, out the door, and back to the airport for a 6:12 departure to Minneapolis/St. Paul on Delta.  Even though I had been to my home state just six weeks earlier, I was still excited to return.  Landed in rain and mid-40s temps, and began a bold experiment: public transit everywhere, no rental car.  Bought a Metro Transit day pass for $5 and hopped on the Blue Line light rail toward the University of Minnesota, where I would teach later in the morning and afternoon.  At the 50th Street station, a woman with some bulky bags squeezed in next to me.  “I’ve met you,” she said, “You’re a teacher.”  I replied affirmatively, launching an outstanding T-t-S.  More specifically, for the second time in two days it was a T-t-S-w-P-W-D-T-M – with people way different than me.  Susan looked Ojibwe, and halfway into the conversation I asked her if she were Anishinabe, the more respectful term for that nation.  Yes, she was, and told me that her “real” first name was Flower in the Wind (she said it both in English and Anishinabe).  Lovely.  We talked a lot about her 28-year-old son; she was happy that “he finally seems to be directing his energy in positive ways.”  Just before I got off the train, she told me that at age 55 she had outlived most of her friends, a sad commentary of the life expectancy of Native peoples.

M07 (1024x768)

The famous spherical-triangle roof at Lambert St. Louis International Airport

 

d041.png

Flying into rainy weather, and a perfect flight on Delta Air Lines

I grabbed a quick breakfast in the B-school, worked a bit, then set off, across the wide Mississippi River to the East Bank Campus of “The U.”  It was raining lightly but steadily, so I ducked into a few buildings as I made my way around.  Paused for 20 minutes in the atrium of the architecture building, where a civil engineering job fair was just getting underway.  More T-t-S with several organizations looking to hire imminent graduates.  Despite all the time I spend at universities, they always fascinate me, that morning in the broad range of things to study.  After the job fair, I lingered in the mechanical engineering building, specifically in the shops where students built things.  Just wonderful.

M10 (768x1024)

Longtime friend and stalwart Geography Prof. Rod Stewart in his tidy office

M11 (1024x768)

The Washington Avenue bridge connects the U of M’s West and East Banks. As an undergraduate, I crossed this two-block-long span up to six times in a morning.  I still know the way!

D03

Outside the Mechanical Engineering shops; at right, a machine that can cut any material using 60,000 psi of water pressure.  Whoa.

 

M14 (768x1024)

Last stop on the campus roam was the Borchert Map Library, named for a wonderful former professor; here a close-up of a USGS topographic map showing my father’s birthplace in Cascade County, Montana

Hopped the Green Line light rail back to the West Bank and met my longtime U of M host, Debbie John.  Delivered back-to-back lectures to her undergraduate advertising class, with yummy pizza in between.  At 3:30, I said goodbye, and hopped on an express bus, then a local bus, then three blocks through the rain to the home of long friends Deb and Phil Ford.  Such a joy to lodge with friends, way better than a hotel.  We yakked for an hour.  I cheated a bit and headed to dinner in Deb’s car rather than public transit, north to the home of Emily Sheppard and new husband Michael, plus their swell big dog Buster.  Emily’s mom Martha, widow of old pal Jack Sheppard arrived, and we tucked into a big dinner and lots of conversation.   But I was plumb wore out, so hugged them all before nine and drove back to the Fords.  Yakked briefly and clocked out.

M15 (1024x768)

Undergrad advertising class, tucking into free pizza

M16 (671x1024)

D02

Canine pals along the way: Sadie (Steve and Cindy were petsitting) and Emily’s dog Buster

I didn’t teach until 9:55, but my body was still on Eastern Time, so woke up at 5:25 (one hour difference seems to mess me more than the five or six across to Europe!).  Showered and out the door, several blocks south and west to 50th and France, the shopping area of my childhood.  Stopped at the fabulous Wuollet Bakery for a Danish, then yogurt at Lund’s & Byerly’s supermarket, then a big Starbucks.  At eight I hopped on the #6 bus, a line from my childhood, and rolled toward downtown Minneapolis, then across to The U on light rail.  Delivered a talk to MBA students in mid-morning, met host Mark Bergen for lunch, worked the afternoon, and repeated the MBA lecture at dinnertime.  Mark is an enthusiastic and welcoming host – the only of my B-school hosts who whoops at the end of my lectures.  Great fun!

M18 (1024x1008)

M19 (1024x768)

50th and France, Edina, Minnesota, familiar for 60+ years

M20 (768x1024)

Carlson School of Management

Deb and Phil picked me up at 7:30 and we motored a couple of miles to Brasa, a wonderful casual eatery we had visited several years earlier.  We tucked into a great dinner, and even better conversation.  Headed home.  Last nice moment of a good day was Deb playing some tunes, Cole Porter and the Beatles among others, on their Steinway.

Up early Thursday morning, out the door and onto the 46 bus across south Minneapolis and the Mississippi to the Highland Park neighborhood in St. Paul and a wonderful reconnection (and caloric breakfast) with Ruth Mordy Friedlander, who I had not seen in more than three decades.  Ruth was the daughter of Wendell Mordy, who was president of the Science Museum of Minnesota when I worked there briefly in the early 1980s.  Wendell, his swell wife Brooke, and Ruth, we all became friends, but the last time I saw her was at her wedding in 1984.  There was a lot to catch up on.  Staying connected and reconnecting is such a joy.

Ruth kindly dropped me at the airport, and I flew home.  A good start to the quarter’s peregrinations.

Rob-Jack-Oct1984

After returning home, Ruth dug out a picture from the last time we met, at her wedding in October 1984; I’m holding a one-month-old Jack in his car seat, and yakking with the father of the groom

 

Ten days later, on a windy and crisp Sunday morning, October 21, I flew Air Canada to Montreal, for my third 2018 visit to McGill University and, by my pretty-accurate reckoning, the 100th trip to Canada since the first one in 1967.  Landed at 1:30, and made fast for the STM (local public transit) express bus downtown.  While waiting to board, I struck up a conversation with a friendly fellow American.  It turned out to be one of the better T-t-S ever.  Mark Inch served in the U.S. Army for 35 years, rising to the rank of major general and heading the entire MP organization.  He served in the new Administration as director of the federal Bureau of Prisons, but resigned after just seven months following significant, “principled” (his word) disagreements with the Attorney General and others.  We continued the conversation all the way into town.  He had a hugely varied military career (for example, serving with UN forces in Somalia in the early 1990s and teaching at West Point).  And he was a fellow geographer, earning a Master’s at the University of Texas at Austin.  Just a fascinating guy.

M01

After a quick connecting ride on the Metro, I checked into my “hotel” atop a McGill highrise dorm, a place now very familiar.  Hewing to formula, slurped a bowl of spicy noodles at the tiny Kantapia Korean café, then hopped on Bixi, Montreal’s bikeshare.  It was windy and cold, but I needed some exercise, and to see (for the first time) the largely Francophone neighborhoods of east Montreal.  Had a great ride until my iPhone suddenly lost all power.  The Bixi app was thus useless, but happily the kiosks at the stations recognized my debit card and account, and was back on my way, returning to downtown.  No phone meant no camera, and I wanted to snap some pictures of the neighborhoods and some lovely older buildings, especially churches.  Next time!

D01

Grabbed a quick nap, hopped back on a Bixi, a mile east to my fave brewpub, Saint-Houblon. on Rue Saint-Denis.  The friendly server told me that Michel, a manager there who I had gotten to know on many previous visits, had left two weeks earlier.  I had a couple of beers and a sensational plate of salmon and shrimp dumplings.  Rode back, clocked out.

I wasn’t teaching until Monday afternoon, so at dawn put on warm clothing and hopped on the Bixi, down the hill to the St. Lawrence River, then west along the formerly industrial Lachine Canal.  Lots of detours, because of the seemingly endless residential and commercial construction downtown and on the edges of the center.  The whole city seemed to be a construction zone, either buildings or roads.  My Republican friends would no doubt be dismayed to see all this growth in a “socialist” economy!  Rode back, parked the bike, and ambled a block to a bowl of oatmeal and muffin at Tim Horton’s.  Suited up, grabbed my suitcase, and headed south and west to the McGill campus.  My class was in the law school, but I parked for a couple of hours on the second floor of the business school and did some work.  Halfway through, a student who was in two of my lectures a year earlier sat down for a chat.  “Do you remember me?” he asked.  As I usually do, I apologized, but then actually recalled that he had worked summers for Delta in Atlanta, and we talked about career prospects in the airline business.  I subsequently sent a couple of email recommendations for him.

D02

At left, industrial buildings recycled as condos along the Lachine Canal; at right, the new construction that is everywhere in Montreal

At noon, I met my long friend (and now co-author; stay tuned for details) Bob Mackalski for lunch at Universel, a familiar and fave eatery a few hundred meters from the B-school.   We had a lot to talk about and less than an hour, but we managed to cover a lot of ground, mostly about his new job as director of McGill’s Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship, the university’s business incubator.  Bob, a consummate marketing pro both in and out of the classroom, was brimming with creative ideas on how to advance the center.  It was a great yak, but way too short.  As I have written before, he’s one of the most interesting people I regularly meet.

M07

Montreal brims with street art; this colorful critter coiled outside our lunch venue

After lunch, I trudged up the hill on Peel Street (torn up for new water mains) to the Institute of Air and Space Law, and delivered a talk on airline alliances to a hugely multinational class of 20.  Back down the hill (wish I could have balanced on the rolling suitcase, wheeeeee), onto the Metro, the 747 STM bus, and a flight home.  I never tire of Montreal, even for a short visit.

M08

I visited just days after marijuana became legal in Canada; here a deposit bin just before entering the U.S. Customs Preclearance Facility

 

Six days later, on Sunday, October 28, I flew west to Chicago and on to Omaha, for a week of teaching in the Aviation Institute of the University of Nebraska Omaha.  Landed in early afternoon, hopped in a taxi piloted by a friendly Ethiopian immigrant (tech-savvy, I paid him via the Square app on his smartphone), checked into the hotel near campus, changed into jeans, and jumped on a Heartland BCycle, Omaha’s bikeshare system.

D03

Omaha’s Midtown district, anchored by Mutual of Omaha (insurance); new commercial and residential buildings and plenty of green space

I have for decades said that anyone who thinks the Midwest is flat has never been there, and that’s totally true about Omaha.  I headed east toward downtown, up and down, up and down, up and down.  Nearly everyone I passed nodded, smiled,  or made eye contact.  Chatted briefly with a few people at stoplights.  It was great to be “home” in the Midwest.  Had a good look at a pleasant mid-size city, then rode across the wide Missouri into Council Bluffs, Iowa – an interstate ramble.  I missed lunch, and my “fuel tank” was low on the ride back.  One way to conserve energy was to time the three downhill glides to zip through green lights at the bottoms – it was the cycling equivalent of large birds riding thermal updrafts in the summer!

D04

The city still has wonderful old buildings from its era of fast growth a century ago; at left, the former public library (note authors’ names above the windows), and a big office building in what’s simply called Commercial style

O6

The sinuous Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge across the wide Missouri (named for a former U.S. senator)

D05

O9

My fave Omaha neighborhood, Happy Hollow, just east of UNO

O10

Nebraska microbrew, a reward for the hilly ride!

My UNO host and director of the Aviation Institute, Scott Tarry, and his wife Mary picked me up at 5:45, and we motored a couple of miles north into an agreeable older neighborhood called Dundee for dinner at Pitch.  A superb meal, and good talk.

As on every recent trip into the Central Time Zone, I woke at five.  The Courtyard by Marriott had a tiny fitness center and no bike, but happily guests could use a nearby gym, so I headed there for some exercise on Monday morning, then onto a shuttle bus and over to the larger north campus (UNO has two, separated by about a mile).  Spent some time getting settled, then in meetings with faculty.  Delivered three back to back lectures from 11:30 until 3:45, whew (glad to have eaten a big breakfast), then another talk from 6:30 to 7:45.  Then I was plumb wore out.  Back to the hotel, into jeans, and down the street for a Thai curry.

O15

The art in the foreground was funded under a 1978 Nebraska law that mandates 1% of the capital cost of constructing new public buildings be allocated to art; now there’s a good idea!

Rinse, repeat on Tuesday and Wednesday.  I was glad that Scott and his colleagues were keeping me busy.  Wednesday was Halloween, and a few students wore costumes (though not in my classes).  I missed trick or treating (it seemed like years since I was out of town on Halloween), and I didn’t finish teaching until 8:30 Wednesday night.  Whew.  Thursday was an easier day, two classes in the morning and a short one in early evening.  High point of the day was a nice T-t-S with the shuttle driver back to the south campus.  I was the only passenger.  He was an African-American man about my age.  I greeted him cheerfully, and sat down.  “Man,” he said, “you are in a good mood.”  I replied that I tried hard to always be that way, and cited sage advice from one of my bosses, CEO Gerard Arpey of American Airlines, who said we don’t really control much in our lives, but we have absolute control over our attitude.  That launched a great chat, mostly centered on family. I wished the ride were longer.  Back at the hotel, changed clothes, found a new BBQ restaurant for dinner, tucked in, and was asleep before nine.

D07

Nebraska clearly invests in higher education; UNO facilities were new or newer, and well-kept

D08

The first building on the new campus (1931, when a former private college became a municipal university), and the Henningson Campanile, named for a Nebraskan who headed a construction company that brought power to rural people, among other projects

D06

Two Omahans: painting of investor Warren Buffett in the lobby of the business school; and a recent arrival working the wok in the student union

O18

“Quest for Knowledge,” also funded under the 1% law

Friday morning, up again at 5:00, off to the gym for a longer ride (17 miles), then to a caloric breakfast with Scott and his Aviation Institute colleagues.  I did a “gentle hard sell” to return in 2019, because I really enjoyed the week with nice kids and a great, small faculty team.   Stopped to drop my expense report at the school, then, for the first time ever, hopped in a Lyft to the airport.  Kemy from Seattle was the driver, and it was a fine ride.  A young African-American from Seattle, he came east to college and stayed.  Showed me pictures of his kids, compared notes on house prices, and agreed that our President was a complete dolt (I’ll ride Lyft again, but not Uber, at least not until they hire more grown-ups to run the company).  Flight to Chicago was late, but I had two hours until my connecting flight.  Was home by nine.  It was a good week.

O20

Backlit ad in Omaha Airport; as a heartlander, I like the message and the double-entendre slogan. Hooray for civic pride!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized