Atlanta for the Day, Then Alohas in Hawai’i

Waikiki Beach, Honolulu

A week after judging in Texas, fall travel began in earnest.  Early on Monday, September 9, I flew to Atlanta for a one-day consulting assignment.  High point was a wonderful T-t-S with Ronesha, a Lyft driver who carried me from the big airport to a meeting a few miles away.  She was the definition of a go-getter, undeterred by some hard life experiences.  Ronesha was driving Lyft as a second job, to help with a down payment on her family’s first house; and she was finishing her bachelor’s degree in psychology, “hoping to go on to get a Ph.D.”  We finished the chat with a yak about her oldest child, who had finished high school and was studying to be an aircraft mechanic.  She sounded a little tentative, almost apologetic that he wasn’t in a regular college.  “Wow,” I replied, “that is a great choice,” I said, adding that I knew something on the topic from a lifetime in the airline business.  It was a fine start to a busy week.

As they say in the South, “When you die, you might go to heaven or you might go to hell, but you’ll have to change planes in Atlanta”!

Two meetings later, it was already 5:00 PM, time to get back to ATL, then onto a big Delta 777 to Los Angeles.  A long ride, but it went quickly, with movies and a short nap.  Our 72-minute wait for a gate at LAX was a reminder that we Americans do not have enough aviation infrastructure.  Airlines get the blame, but U.S. airports are public entities.  Sigh.

Sigh again after we deplaned, a massive traffic jam on the airport access road (= not enough road infrastructure), another 30 minutes to get two miles to the hotel.  The original plan was to zip down to nearby El Segundo for dinner at cool Mexican place (Jack’s friend Matt works for the company), but it was late in L.A. (and three hours later at home) so I ambled 150 feet to a McDonald’s for a Big Mac.  Soon asleep.

But awake way earlier than I wanted, a reaction to the three-hour time difference; one of life’s mysteries is how I can cross six time zones over the Atlantic – as I would six days hence – and be totally fine, but get messed up crossing the U.S.  In any event, I was awake before five, so headed to the hotel gym and pounded out 20 miles.  Tonic.  Grabbed a cinnamon roll and milk at a nearby gas station, back to the hotel room, then out the door and back to the airport for the second stop of the trip, Honolulu, Hawai’i.  I hadn’t been for ten years, and was excited to be heading across the Pacific.  I was traveling west to do a day of leadership training for Hawaiian Airlines, so was on one of their Airbus A330s.  Service was so good; their flight attendants are almost all from Hawai’i, and their aloha hospitality is genuine, warm, and at the top of the charts for any carrier anywhere in the world.

Another wait for a gate on arrival at HNL, 40 minutes, but was in my hotel room before two.  Changed into my 20-year-old aloha shirt, light pants, and sandals, and set off for lunch at the nearby Ala Moana mall.  The food court had a bewildering array, including lots of Asian choices.  Settled on spicy pork ramen, slurping happily away.  The mall, loaded with all the upmarket brands (Fendi, Prada, you gotta) was teeming with tourists from all over Asia, especially single Japanese women in small groups.  Young Japanese women are either not getting married or marrying later, and they use their incomes to travel.  A lot.

Above, hotel room views, pick the one you like better: Los Angeles Airport, or Honolulu? Below, lunch and flora.

Sustained, I headed a mile to Waikiki for a walk along that storied beach.  It was such fun to be there, first time in 20 years.  I smiled, looked upward to heaven, and said a prayer of thanks when I passed Fort Derussy, the Army recreational facility in the middle of the beach; this was where my dad relaxed with his field artillery outfit in 1944, between Pacific battles on Kwajalein and Tinian.  Last stop along the beach was the fabulous Royal Hawaiian Hotel, “the Pink Palace of the Pacific,” opened in 1927.  It is like a museum.  We Brittons stayed there in 1999, and I wished I were billeted there.  Such a cool place.  Here are a few scenes:

Above, the main entrance to the “Pink Palace”; below, a lobby table and ceiling

Above, in 1935, Matson Line, the shipping company that carried people from San Francisco to Hawai’i before the airplane, commissioned a prominent fashion photographer to capture scenes from Waikiki; at right, a secondary lobby closer to the beach. Below, the hotel on opening night, 1927.

When I hopped on the #22 bus to head back to my simpler hotel, I tendered the driver $1 for a senior fare.  “Did you bring the senior with you?” he asked.  “Man, you made my day,” I said, “I’m almost 68.”  The bus was packed with a mix of locals and visitors.  Took a quick shower, drank a splendidly cold beer, and at 6:15 a former American Airlines colleague, Jon Snook, now COO of Hawaiian Airlines, rolled up in his Tesla.  I hadn’t seen Jon in a decade, and we had a great chat for two hours, over dinner at a very posh restaurant right on the beach.  Way fun.  Lights out at 9:30, and finally a good sleep.

Above, you don’t find pounded breadfruit at a convenience store on the mainland; below, the view from our Tuesday dinner table.

 

Up at 5:30, to the gym, then breakfast, then out to Hawaiian Airlines Cargo, my host group.  Met leader Brad Matheny, set up my show, and had a quick tour of their facility.  In the 50th State there are no roads between islands, so the airplane is an important part of logistics (ordinary white bread, for example); they also carry a lot of goods to and from the islands from cities in East Asia and the South Pacific, and the mainland U.S.  At nine, it was time to stand and deliver, three back-to-back sessions.  After Brad introduced me in the first session, two women came forward and, in true Aloha spirit, placed two garlands around my neck.  I wore them all day.  The three audiences were engaged.  Wonderful people, and so diverse.  The local population is probably the most culturally and racially varied of any American city.  Looking at the human rainbow, I was reminded of a great article I had read a few months earlier, “Want to Be Less Racist? Move to Hawaii.”  So interesting.

The day sped past.  At 5:30, we hopped in Brad’s Mini Cooper and zipped back to Waikiki for dinner at Roy’s, a well-known spot.  One of Brad’s directors, Dana, met us, and we had a swell dinner and great conversation.  They are fine people, at a fine airline.

Up early again Thursday, back to the airport.  My flight was not until two, but I had fixed up a short meeting with another former AA colleague, Brent Overbeek, who leads Hawaiian’s revenue management and network planning team.  My Lyft driver was another joy.  Henry was 72, and from Vietnam.  He joined the South Vietnamese Army in 1966, age 19, and because he spoke English he did a lot of translating, all until the South collapsed in 1975.  Henry was jailed for two years.  When released, he knew he needed to escape, “because if I stayed they would have treated me like an animal.”  So he hijacked a fishing boat (“no one got hurt”), put his wife and son aboard, and sailed three days to Thailand.  They arrived in Honolulu in 1977, but Henry lived most of the intervening years in Southern California.  Quite a story.  E pluribus unum.

Henry Le

After yakking for 45 minutes with Brent, I walked across parking lots and ramps to the airport, worked for several hours in the Admirals Club, and hopped on Hawaiian Airlines flight 90 to Boston; it’s the longest domestic flight in the U.S., but it went pretty fast, and even bolt upright I slept about five hours.  Quick connection in Boston to jetBlue, zippy flight to Washington, and was hugging the dogs by 8:55 AM.

Above, my ride east to Boston; below, a wall of Massachusetts innovations and firsts in Boston Logan Airport.

 

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Summer Traditions in Minnesota and Texas

World Championship Barbeque Goat Cook-off judges Jack Britton and Eddie Sandoval discussing matters of the day prior to the start of the 46th annual event in Brady, Texas

Was home from South Carolina for four nights, long enough to tidy up the yard, do a little business, and watch Dylan and Carson head back to school (already in 6th and 4th grades).  On Wednesday, August 28 I flew to Minneapolis/St. Paul, first stop in a two (or three, depending on how you count) stop itinerary.  Unlike the class-reunion visit a month earlier, Twin Cities weather was glorious: blue skies, breeze, temperature barely 70° F.

Talking to Strangers on the Metro to the airport, three questions for my fellow passenger: 1) how fast does it go? 2) how much did it cost? 3) did the wounds on his knees come from a crash? Answers: 45 mph, north of $2500, and no, they were from rock-climbing!

First stop on the first stop was literally in front of 1032 Goodrich Avenue, St. Paul, the bungalow that was our first house.  I had a bit of time, and walked around the block, admiring the neighborhood with its mix of modest and bigger homes, and the maple and other trees planted when we lived there, 1979-87, to replace tall elms that succumbed to disease.

Second stop was lunch with a long friend, David Herr, a law-school classmate of Linda’s 45 years ago.  We’ve stayed connected through the years.  He’s had a distinguished career in litigation, and has done a great deal of writing on legal education.  We had a long lunch, rambling across a bunch of topics, not least the joy of keeping busy in our seventh decades.  In mid-afternoon, I motored north to my overnight digs with two more long pals, Bob and Paula Woehrle (I’ve known Bob since 1963).  I suggested a bike ride to Bob, a keen cyclist (keener than me), and we set off for a nice spin around Lake Como, one of St. Paul’s smaller urban lakes.  We had a beer when we got home, then headed out for early dinner, back to Grand Avenue in the old neighborhood.  Was asleep early.

Up Thursday morning at six, quick cup of coffee, then back onto the bikes and five miles west to the Minnesota State Fair.  As regular readers know, I go back every year (as an adult, I think I’ve only missed one year, in the mid-1980s).  It was another perfect summer day, sunny, cool, breezy.  What has become a core group – Bob and Steve Schlachter from the 1960s, Rick Dow from Northwest Airlines in the mid-80s, and Randy Essell, a former AA exec I met in the mid-90s – assembled for the second year in a row at the Salem Lutheran Church dining hall for a caloric breakfast.

The country in the city: experimental corn growing adjacent to the St. Paul campus of the University of Minnesota. Simply called “the farm campus,” it’s next door to the fairgrounds. At right, a forested bike trail a mile from the Woehrles’ house. Both scenes were less than six miles from downtown.

Above, the fair team; below, more creative and healthful cuisine (we did not sample it!). At bottom, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources fish pond, a longtime fair fixture.

We then walked across the fairgrounds and spent more time than usual, a welcome increase, in the animal barns, admiring the stock and yakking with a few owners.  Then back across to the Horticulture Building to admire enormous pumpkins, vegetables, and other plant life.  Next, by formula, a mid-morning respite at the stand of the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild for some samples (the state now has 145 craft beermakers, astonishing).  Then a few zigs and zags for mini-donuts and corn dogs (we insist on the Pronto Pup brand).  Into the art show, then creative activities to admire quilts, pickles, embroidery, and dozens of other handicrafts.  Then a last stop for another beer, where we had a nice T-t-S with Lynn, Eileen, and Larry, originally from Williston, North Dakota, but longtime Twin Citians; like me, Lynn and Larry had Montana roots, grandparents owned a big spread in the far eastern part of that big state.  Check and done.

Above, all things porcine: a champion, a sculpture, a sow and hungry piglets angling for an available teat. Below, Zia, a 22-year-old Paso Fino, one of the first breeds imported into the U.S. (Columbus brought mares and stallions).

Above, State Fair treats, liquid and solid. Below, prizewinning peppers.

Above, a fine specimen of crop art (that’s Lin Manuel Miranda as Alexander Hamilton), and handicraft in a medium new to me, arranged embroidery thread. Below, more Minnesota creativity.

Bob and I rode home, grabbed a tonic nap, yakked a bit.  Paula made chicken salad for dinner.  They are literate people, and we always have plenty to talk about.  Asleep early.

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The local StarTribune newspaper had been warning about huge waits for airport security, so I got in line at 6:06 Friday morning, for an 8:20 flight to Dallas/Fort Worth.  But there was no line, which gave me plenty of time for a huge Starbucks and some work.  Landed DFW, picked up a rental car, then picked up son Jack: we were headed, as judges, to the 46th World Championship Barbeque Goat Cook-off in Brady, Texas.  Pumped, as we are every year!

Above, Minneapolis, blue and green; below, Starkly different heartland landscapes from above: corn and soybean fields on the township-and-range land grid in Iowa, and the dissected Llano Estacado region of West Texas

First stop, again for the second consecutive year, was a buffet lunch at India 101, a vast restaurant near the airport.  Not just lunch, but lunch with longtime American Airlines colleagues Nisha Pasha (from Chennai, formerly Madras) and Ken Gilbert, who I saw in August.  Jack had met neither, and we had a swell meal and conversation.

A thunderstorm rolled in while we were tucking into our daal and mango lassis, which slowed freeway traffic to a crawl.  We crawled for about 90 minutes, well to the west of Fort Worth on Interstate 20.  The road finally emptied, and I could set the cruise control at 80, 5 mph over the speed limit.  Whoosh.  By tradition, we stopped for shakes at a Dairy Queen enroute, in Cisco, Texas, then zoomed south.  We were at Brady by seven, into the gym at the Holiday Inn Express, then down the road for dinner at Mac’s Barbeque.

Up early Saturday morning, back to the gym, showered, and out the door.  For years the cook-off was a single day, but this was the second year it was a two-day deal.  First things first: the traditional judges’ brunch, first chance to reunite with pals and Texas good ole boys (and gals).  This was my 29th consecutive visit, and Jack’s 12th, so we knew a lot of people, and met some promising rookies, like Santiago, newly hired as the chef in the local hospital, and Dr. Bell, a young doc recently relocated to town.  Then over to Richards Park, hopping with cookers.  On the first day, we judged beans, chicken, and pork ribs, and had some good conversations.  It’s always wise to avoid political discussions in Texas, but I did need to ask veteran judge and Native American Eddie Sandoval (of the Mescalero Chiricuahua tribe), about Donald Trump’s “Send them back” remark.  He smiled, turned toward Washington, and advised the President, “You go. And take your wife with you.”

Above, at the judges’ brunch

 

Above, at left, veteran judge Paul McCallum of Grapevine, Texas, sampling beans; right, appropriate stuff in Eddie Sandoval’s back pocket. Below, Eddie’s big-ass Ford pickup (that’s a protective “cattle guard” in front, useful in case you hit a Black Angus at 75 mph!)

Above, Judge Jack Britton conversing with two rookies, identifiable by the goat horns around their necks; below, anticipation and satisfaction at the spigot.

Later that day, an urban male couple from suburban Austin spotted “Judge” on my shirt, and asked about how to raise goats.  They had recently acquired some land in the country, were keen to put it to use, but had no clue.  My advice was simple: “You boys need to get hold of what’s called the county extension agent.”  They wrote down the advice.  By five, Jack and I were smoky, sweaty, and sorta worn out.  Revived with showers, we headed into town for Tex-Mex at La Familia, home for football on TV, and lights out.

Back at it Sunday morning: gym and hotel breakfast, next a good driving tour of Brady (population 5,500), then back to the park.   We had some time before “work,” so I wandered around the site a bit, yakking with cookers from two well-known teams: Cook n Co out of nearby Goldthwaite, Texas, and the Waco Boys, perennial characters easily identified by their team color, bright orange that adorns shorts, boots, aprons, the works. Enjoyed a long chat with a rookie cooker from the Waco Boys squad, a firefighter from Lubbock, Texas.

The last operating sand pit on the outskirts of Brady, Texas; once thriving, sand mining has moved west

 

Jack headed out at eleven to judge cooking rigs, and I judged Bloody Marys (0.25 ounce in a straw was all that was needed).  Then we judged “mystery meat,” which is never a mystery, and this year it was quail.  Neither Jack nor I were assigned to judge dessert, but we managed to sample some wonderful cobblers, and an outrageously good banana pudding (known in much of the South and Southwest as “naner puddin”).  Mid-afternoon, a big thunderstorm brewed up.  Jason Jacoby, a local businessman, declared “Gonna rain like a cow pissing on a flat rock.”  And it did.

Sunday morning, goat on the grill at the Cook n Co campsite

After thanking the lady at left for keeping things tidy, she told me, with some pride, that this was the first year the City of Brady allowed women to collect the garbage. Progress. The crooner at right ended her set early when the thunderstorm approached. “It’d give new meaning to the phrase ‘electric guitar,’ I offered. “Yessir,” she replied, “I think I’ll just unplug and plop my ass down.”

Finally, we got to goat.  I’m now a senior judge, so first task was to judge nine entries in the Super Bowl, an elite category open to any first-place finisher the previous 45 years.  Man, those winning cookers know goat, but one was a total standout.  So good.  Finished up with 22 samples in the main event, finalists from 220+ entries.  Tallied the scores, assigned gold, silver, and bronze medalists, done.  Jack and I said goodbyes, hopped in the car, and drove home.  Traffic was light, and including a stop at the Dairy Queen in Comanche, Texas, and a needed pee for this old man, we were “home” in north Dallas by 8:15.

Your scribe and son, two generations of goat expertise!

 

High cuisine in the Heart of Texas: banana pudding, first-place winner in desserts, and the champion in the Super Bowl of goat.

Judging table still life

The new landscape of Texas energy: wind turbines near Comanche, Texas; the state best known for oil and gas now has 26,000 megawatts of wind generators, the equivalent of about 50 ordinary power plants.

Home in that case was the pleasant residence of Julie and Les Ciesielski, longtime friends (Jack and their son Brad have been buddies since age four).  We had a good yak with them before needed sleep.  Julie prepared a hot breakfast Labor Day morning, some more visiting, then out the door at 7:30.  Jack’s flight was at 10:20, and he wanted to see our old neighborhood, and other parts of Richardson, Texas.  We had a great drive down “memory lane.”  Then pedal to the metal to DFW, dropped him, hugs.  I had a couple of hours, so drove around American Airlines’ huge and impressive new corporate headquarters, grabbed a Starbucks and did some work on my laptop, dropped the rental car, and flew to Washington.  A great “two-fer” trip to my two homes, Minnesota and Texas.

Above and below, scenes of American Airlines’ new headquarters, near Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport

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[A little note about place names in post above: you’ll notice that I append “Texas” to the town or city, even when it’s clear that the place is in the Lone Star State.  This is a long and endearing tradition, rooted in the remarkable pride Texans have for their special place, and it bests my writing style that always seeks to eliminate unneeded words and redundancy.   Maybe the reader knows Dallas is in Texas, but to me it’s always Dallas, Texas.  Or Houston, Texas.  Or one of my very favorite place names, Rising Star, Texas.]

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Kiawah Island, South Carolina

Four days after returning from California, it was time for the annual family vacation in South Carolina.  We would have a full house, with children and grandchildren, plus Jack’s girlfriend Reed, and Courtney, Robin’s long friend from Dallas.  Picked up a minivan at Charleston Airport, stopped for lunch (by long tradition) at the Wendy’s near the airport, then motored west to Kiawah Island.  It was raining cats and dogs, and the weather app in our smartphones showed thunderstorm icons for the entire week.  Happily, the rain stopped that night.

Above, scenes from our balcony; below, varied fun indoors; at bottom, interesting scenery near two of the island’s golf-course clubhouses

By long formula, beach-cruiser bicycles arrived the next morning, and I immediately headed out.  They are lunkers, but the tires have air and the scenery is superb.  I rode miles and miles each of seven mornings, trying to get ahead of heat and humidity – hard to do in South Carolina in the summer.   Days spun past, thanks in part to a comfy large house that had its own pool.  We ate in for breakfast and lunch, and went out each night for dinner.

One of the many bike paths on the island; at right, splashing around

 

Vacations really shouldn’t have to-do lists, but I had an assignment, to read Rep. John Lewis’ autobiography, Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement.  During the Civil Rights Movement, Mr. Lewis was seemingly everywhere, and his detailed eyewitness account was powerful and moving.  I wept at the injustice (after I returned home, I sent him a note thanking him for the book, which he signed some years earlier, “To Rob, Keep the Faith”).

Again hewing to formula, on Wednesday afternoon we headed into Charleston, one of America’s most interesting cities.  Everyone split up, older granddaughter with Robin and Linda to the wonderful South Carolina Aquarium; Jack, Reed, and Carson for a drive through old neighborhoods and a tour of a historic mansion; and me to meet Sam, a Charlestonian and former student at Georgetown.  We met at the Blind Tiger, one of many bars on Broad Street downtown, and had a good yak.  He’s working for a multicounty consortium focused on economic, educational, and workforce development; on the side, he’s an aviation geek, so we yakked a lot about airplanes, including the big Boeing 787 factory in Charleston.  We parted and I walked a few blocks to dinner with the family at a great place, Slightly North of Broad.  Some scenes from Charleston:

The next two days zipped past.  High points Thursday: One, driving the cart as Jack played 18 holes of golf at the Osprey Point course.  Way fun to watch him drive and putt, along with Steve, a nice fellow (and relaxed player) from Charlotte. Two, cheering on Jack as he completed the second round of the day on the way-difficult Ocean Course.

Jack swatting the ball at Osprey, and pointing out one of the many four-legged course hazards! Below, the cheering section and players at Ocean Course; at bottom, spectators awaiting Jack’s arrival

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Kiawah Island has a large deer population, and no predators, which means many are almost tame

 

Above, drinks in the posh lobby of the Sanctuary Hotel; below, Carson making friends with the lobby pianist

Flew home Saturday.  It was our ninth visit to Kiawah Island.  When I was a kid, we went to the same simple resort on a lake in northern Minnesota.  Before the trips back then and before the trips now I would think, “Maybe we ought to go somewhere different,” but then and now after a few days a familiar comfort sets it.  Something to be said for continuity.  And both the boreal forests of northern Minnesota and the fecund wetlands of coastal Carolina are breathtakingly beautiful, brimming with nature, and quiet.  Perfect.

In Charleston Airport: above, a stained-glass interpretation of the Emanuel AME Church (site of the terrible terrorist attack in 2015); and Fred Jamar’s “Broad Street”; below, another Made in South Carolina product, from the new Volvo assembly line in suburban Charleston; at bottom, John Duckworth’s “Ashley River”

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San Francisco as a Tourist

Part of why 40 million people live in California!

After teaching a short-course at Georgetown, and grading projects and tests, on Thursday, August 8, I tagged along with Linda to the annual meeting of her employer, the American Bar Association, in San Francisco.  She would be working for four days, and I could be a tourist.  What a plan!  We landed in perfect California weather, blue skies and 70° F.  Hopped in a taxi, and were soon downtown, checking into the fancy Nikko Hotel.  It was a lot nicer than the hostel in Buenos Aires!  Unpacked and headed to the hotel gym and the fitness bike, then a shower and out for a short walk.  I had not been to San Francisco for nine years, and change was evident, mostly for the worse: dirtier streets, and more homeless and/or mentally ill people begging, or just ranting.

At 7:15, I walked across the street and met longtime Argentine friends Martín and Valeria for dinner (they were co-founders of SABF in 2005).  They’ve been living in the city for about three years, working their second start-up business, a podcast app that now has about 500,000 daily users.  We hadn’t seen each other for several years, and it was good to catch up, and to get their perspectives on California, the U.S., and living away from home.

When I got back to our room, up popped a text from longtime friend Mike Hindery with good news: the next morning he was not heading to Yosemite for a week of camping as originally planned, and could meet me for breakfast.  After a gym run at dawn Friday, I ambled south and east across downtown S.F. to Red’s Java House, a tiny greasy spoon built over the water, in the shadow of the Oakland Bay Bridge.  Along the way, I got a good intro to the downtown makeover, largely at the hands of the big tech companies – the tallest skyscraper is now the Salesforce Tower, and you see signs for Google, Yahoo, et al. everywhere in the center.  The Transamerica Pyramid, once the tallest, was barely visible.

Above, a lot of steel and glass has come downtown, but some splendid old buildings persist, especially ones in the ornate Beaux-Arts style; below, the venerable cable cars are not the only really old streetcars in town — the transit agency bought some splendid old rolling stock from Milano; at bottom, the Salesforce tower (in center) and other new construction, and a high-tech lobby scene

It had been nine years since I saw Mike, and we had lots of catch-up to do.  I’ve owed him for a long time, because he was one of three members of the committee that admitted me to the 1983 retooling program at the University of Pennsylvania, a summer of studies that changed my life for the better.  He’s a super-interesting guy, with huge experience in the outdoors.  A great morning.

Hugged Mike and walked along the bayfront, the Embarcadero, for several blocks, admiring the old pierside warehouses and the Ferry Terminal, then hopped on BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) under the water to Oakland, then north to Berkeley.  More than 25 years earlier, I had been on campus, but just for a few minutes, so a good amble around one of America’s best public universities was in order.  I forgot a ball cap, oops in full sun, but my walking shoes were suited for the large and sloping campus, up and up to the Haas School of Business for a look-around (Walter Haas was President of Levi Strauss & Co., the blue-jeans maker and one of the city’s oldest firms, from 1928 until 1970).  Small creeks bisect the campus, and towering above are redwoods, plus lots of flowers and plants, altogether a pleasant place.  Hopped back on BART, and home.

Above, under the Bay Bridge on the Embarcadero; below, in the center of UC Berkeley, and six reserved space parking spaces for Nobel prizewinners (five were economists from the Haas School); at bottom, scenes from a verdant campus

Linda was back from her first day of work.  She invited me to come along to a reception, met some of her colleagues, and tucked into some heavy hors d’oeuvres.  We were plumb wore out by 7:30, so headed back to the room and got into pajamas.  Slept long and hard.

Up at dawn again, back to the gym, then out the door, onto a tram west to Ocean Beach on the Pacific.  Paused for a light breakfast at a sorta-hippie eatery, then back on the tram.  National media and political attention has focused on the city’s surging rents and house prices, the result of housing undersupply and huge demand from the growth of high-tech companies, but a child could easily understand the root cause: San Francisco urban density is just way too low – blocks and blocks of small houses.  Or as I thought to myself, if the X and Y dimensions were constrained by water, what about Z?  Seems pretty easy to begin to fix, though I suspect a combination of existing homeowners, preservationists, and the privileged will ensure that little changes – and that the people who cook their food, drive their Ubers, and keep their gardens will need to make long commutes.

Above, examples of flowers we just don’t see in the rest of the U.S.; below, proof of the city’s remarkable low density; at bottom, the tiled steps and St. Anne’s

On Google Maps, I spotted a label for the 16th Avenue Tiled Steps, a few blocks away, so hopped off, then started climbing another of the city’s legendary hills, up about 200 feet or more.  The steps were cool, 163 panels of mosaic, a community project that began in 2003.  Check and done, then onto St. Anne’s of the Sunset, a 1931 Catholic church I passed on the way to the beach.  Just lovely.  Walked a few blocks, then onto the bus east to the infamous Haight-Ashbury district, seemingly unchanged since my first visit in 1968: head shops (now selling legal pot), used-clothing stores, dive bars, and all manner of eccentrics, dopers, and freaks.  And teeming with tourists; a half-century after the “summer of love,” the place is still a magnet for all kinds.

Walked another block north to Page Street, and at noon met another young Argentine entrepreneur and former SABF organizer, Lucas Diaz.  Rick and I visited his company, Mudafy, in Buenos Aires in July (described in previous post).  Like Martín and Valeria in 2017, Lucas and his partner Franco had been accepted into Y Combinator, a 90-day high-tech “start-up accelerator” that’s become a fixture in Silicon Valley.  YC receives 40,000 applications for their two annual classes, and accepts 400. That’s 1 percent, way more selective than Stanford’s B-school!  Lucas and I walked a mile or so to a Greek fast-casual restaurant and tucked into salads (with kale, of course!).  Franco arrived a bit later, and we had a good yak about their business, already with a big number valuation.  We also talked about the 2019 SABF and some other stuff, a fun time.  Walked back to their pad, said goodbye, and hopped buses back downtown.

Lucas in his home office

Took a short nap then walked a few blocks to the Museum of Modern Art.  The day before, Mike told me about a free exhibit called “The Chronicles of San Francisco,” a play on the name of the city’s newspaper.  An astonishing work by the young French artist JR, it’s hard to describe: a slow-moving, slightly animated mural comprised of hundreds of photos of San Franciscans, showcasing the diversity and humanity of the city.  Truly remarkable.

Adjacent to the mural were a bank of interactive tablets, enabling visitors to click on a person in the mural and listen to a short interview; I liked Iheem’s words a lot

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Back to the room, suited up, and headed to the nearby St. Francis, one of the city’s venerable old hotels, for the Thurgood Marshall Reception and Dinner, an annual award function that would that night honor U.S. Representative John Lewis, one of the heroes of the Civil Rights movement.  Sadly, Rep. Lewis could not attend, but he sent a nice video.  After that, a truly wonderful performance from Rhiannon Giddens, a North Carolina musician and musicologist.  Her gig was part homage to the ongoing struggle for justice and equality, part music history, and part moving performance.  She bridges black and white musical styles; picking up her banjo (which she explained had roots in Africa, though widely regarded as a “white” instrument), she said “Here’s a song from the other side of the tracks, but there is no tracks.”  Amen to that!

Met yet another friend for Sunday breakfast.  John Massopust, pal since 1963 and now living in New Mexico and in Minnesota, was in town for the birth of their second grandson.  Pure serendipity!  We had seen each other as recently as the high-school reunion three weeks earlier, but hadn’t really yakked for years, so was great to catch up.

At eleven, I hopped on an old streetcar, northeast on Market Street, then west along the bay to Fisherman’s Wharf.  Hadn’t been there for four decades or more, and it had only become more tourist-tawdry.  Just when I despaired about another block of souvenir and T-shirt shops, I spotted the logo of the National Park Service and a sign for the San Francisco Maritime Historical Park.  Woo hoo!  My tax dollars spent on a good cause!

Vintage cars run on two of the tram lines; this is a “PCC Car,” which was a popular style worldwide from the 1930s

I ambled into a very well done visitor center, relatively new, that told the story.  It would be hard to understand the city without understanding that it was first a port.  In the center were lots of cool artifacts and some very fine interpretation.  But there was more: across the street was Hyde Street Pier, also part of the park, and at anchor were half-a-dozen old vessels.  Paid $15 and zipped in.  First stop was the huge bay ferry Eureka, offering “open house” in the engine room.  The Transport Geek climbed down a steep ladder (I marveled that OSHA hadn’t busted their cousins in the Park Service!) and was in marine heaven, admiring the boilers, the steam lines, the giant piston, and more.  Had a long chat with volunteer docent Doug Ford, retired from Lucasfilms, about the elaborate mechanical controls that drove the paddlewheels.  Way cool.

Above, a sample of artifacts in the maritime park visitor center: part of a fresnel lighthouse lens, a bronze finial from the same lighthouse, and a lovely painting; below, vessels on Hyde Street Pier

Next stop was the C.A. Thayer, a schooner that hauled lumber up and down the Pacific coast, then saw service in the Alaska salmon and cod fisheries.  Below deck was a colorful NPS employee who told me her (ships are always women) story, then explained that they’ve rigged the sails again (synthetic, but the same color as canvas!), and are getting read to hoist them.  I asked about passengers, and he despaired – all sorts of goofy Coast Guard safety rules likely will keep we enthusiasts from getting a ride.  I’m just not sure why we couldn’t just accept the risk, rather than trying to pretend it doesn’t exist.  Deep sigh, and the ranger agreed.  I was due to again meet Martín and Vale in less than an hour, so was only able to spend a few minutes on the steel-hulled Balclutha, built in Glasgow in 1886 and one of the last of the sailing ships to visit S.F.  Gotta get back to that pier to see more stuff.  Such a cool place.

A bonus at the end of Hyde Street Pier: barking seals copping some sunrays

At 2:30, I met my long amigos on Fort Mason.  Soon another Argentine and former SABFer, Matías Sulzberger, joined us.  Hadn’t seen him in a decade, so was good to catch up.  He’s a project manager for Apple, figuring out how to improve Siri.  Hugged everyone at 4:15 and hopped the bus back to the hotel.  Washed my face, had a quick beer, and walked to the top of Nob Hill for drinks and dinner with yet more friends, James and Lael Beer (Linda was supposed to join me, but had to prepare for the next day).  After leaving American Airlines in the mid-2000s, he’s mostly worked in high-tech, and we had a long discussion about the sector, good and bad, as well as catch-up on kids, life in San Francisco, their recent trip to Iceland, and more.  And a fine pasta meal at a neighborhood Italian place a block from their condo.  A super evening.  Only “downside” was having to descend 260 vertical feet on gimpy knees.

Above, a couple of scenes on the bus ride back downtown; below, the view south from the Beers’ condominium atop Nob Hill

On the last day, Monday, I walked a mile south to the station of Caltrain (the commuter line that connects San Jose and Silicon Valley with San Francisco), and hopped on the 9:43 train south to Redwood City.  Original plan was to ride several stops further south to Palo Alto, but the train was late and I needed to be in a quiet place for a noon client call.  Ambled around Redwood City for a bit, then sat in the shade beneath a big palm tree and read.  The client rescheduled the call.  At 12:30 I reconnected with Mike Schonenberg, more an acquaintance than a friend: in the mid-1970s, when I was in graduate school, I spent a week every summer working on the Wisconsin dairy farm that belonged to his aunt and uncle, my dear and long friends David and Katherine Kelly.  Mike and I worked Monday to Friday in 1974 and ‘75, cleaning manure from barns, baling and stacking hay, and doing a bunch of other chores.  I had tracked him down some years ago, and it was great to catch up over a plate of enchiladas.  He raised a family in Palo Alto, and has worked in commercial real estate for most of his life.

Above, start-ups are everywhere on the peninsula; at Redwood City, the seat of Invoice2Go, and above Five Guys hamburgers was a banner for “FinTech Co-working Incubator” space for rent; below, the former San Mateo County Courthouse and my Monday-morning “umbrella”

There was one more reconnection, friend number 11 of the trip.  After lunch another childhood friend, Mark Hennessy, and his son Eric, picked me up and we repaired to Harry’s Hofbrau, also in Redwood City.  The boys had a late lunch and I had a beer.  Mark missed the high-school reunion, so wanted the scoop on classmates.  He raised his kids in Gilroy, south of San Jose, worked for the Southern Pacific Railroad, then Amtrak briefly, then Caltrain, and like me retired early.  He lives in Mexico now, in a couple of different places, on the Pacific and inland.  He’s a character.

Hopped back on Caltrain, then the tram.  Washed my face, headed across the street to dinner, then asleep early, then a flight to DFW and on to Washington.  It was great to be in California.

On the bicycle car on the Caltrain express north to San Francisco

 

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Looking Back and Looking Forward: Minnesota, Texas, Argentina

The pep band at the 50th Reunion of the Edina High School Class of 1969

 

A week later, I flew home to Minnesota.  It will always be home, all the more so in the coming weekend: I was bound for the 50th reunion of the Edina High School Class of 1969.  Woo hoo!  Go Hornets!  Landed at noon and picked up a rental car, driving east, then across the Minnesota River to eat lunch with a special person from a half-century ago: Chuck Wiser, one of the founders of Vanguard Travel.  Chuck’s partner Rick Fesler actually hired me (I called him a month earlier to thank him).  As I have written several times and in several places (including a LinkedIn post last month), that job gave me direction, identity, and a way for pay for a university education.

About a half-hour after takeoff from Washington, my “flight odometer” turned over five million miles. Flight is such a gift.

I had not seen Chuck in eight years, but because I’ve known him well, we picked up where we left off.  At 84, he’s had more than his share of health issues, but was sharp as ever, and still active on the golf course.  He treated me to a walleye (fish) sandwich at his Mendakota Country Club.  As we left, I thanked him to changing my life.

Pedal to the metal, west to Edina (a southwest suburb of Minneapolis) to “check in” with dear friends Rick and Murph Dow – it was so handy to stay just a few minutes’ drive from the reunion venues, and the Dows are superb hosts.  But I could only yak for a few minutes, because I was due to meet nephew Evan Kail at four.  Picked him up at work, and we motored three blocks north to The Lowry for a beer and fun yak.  He was starting an interesting second job.  Woulda been nice to chat longer, but the first reunion evening began at six, so I dropped Evan at his apartment a mile south, then drove familiar local streets across southwest Minneapolis and Edina to Braemar Park and the golf course clubhouse.  As I walked up to the building, I spotted long friend Jim Grotting sitting in the shade on the phone, talking to his high-school girlfriend Cathy, who was in San Diego and not at the reunion (Cathy’s mom Verna helped get me the travel-agency job 50 years earlier, a fact I mentioned to Cathy with thanks and praise).  As I said goodbye, memories flooded in at a rate I could not absorb.

Nephew Evan

It was well above 90° with almost equivalent humidity, and not much cooler in the clubhouse, but it didn’t matter, because I was immediately surrounded by friends and classmates, laughing and backslapping and kissing girls I never would have kissed 50 years ago.  The night sped by.  There were plenty of reunion regulars, last seen a decade earlier, but a large number of people who told me this was their first – folks like Karna Lundquist from elementary school, recently retired after a career in pediatrics.  Two former teachers were on hand, Jinny Winter Jensen, widow of my late dear friend and 12th grade English Teacher, Bud Jensen, and Larry Stotts, who was my theater-arts teacher.  The next morning, I jotted down the names of 52 people I talked with.

I paged through my high-school yearbook a day before winging out to Minnesota

 

Chris MacPhail, and Dana and Jim Arnold; neither of the Arnolds went to Edina, but knew a lot of us, and it was grand to see them

 

As always happens, I woke at about 6:00 Eastern Time, which was 5:00 in Minnesota.  Wide awake, time to get up and get going!  Murph is an early riser, so we had a good yak and coffee in their kitchen, catching up on our kids’ lives.  Clear skies soon changed, and by 8:15 it was pelting rain, with wet forecast until early afternoon.  Hopped in the Toyota and zipped across Edina to the apartment of Marlys Chase, mother of longtime friend Steve Schlachter.  She had cooked us a superb bacon-and-egg breakfast, and I got caught up with their lives.  Mrs. Chase is inspirational, still strong at 85.

We yakked for several hours.  At 11:45, classmate Marty Kupper picked us up, and we drove west to Lake Minnetonka and a hospice, to visit a classmate, John, suffering from pulmonary fibrosis, a dreadful terminal illness.  I saw John a year earlier, and while ill, he wasn’t sliding downward; unhappily, that changed in the spring, and his goal of attending the reunion was dashed.  So the least we could do was bring a little of the reunion to him.  It was sad, but I’m glad we went (John passed away two weeks later.)

Happily, the rain stopped and the sun was peeking through clouds.  Motored back to Edina, then back to the Dows.  Rick kindly loaned me his fat-tire bike, and I zipped off, on a new regional bike trail across Edina, then north around two of Minneapolis’ many urban lakes, then home, 27 miles in total.  A great ride, through familiar, yet changing, neighborhoods.  It was especially fun to ride up and down several streets in Edina’s Country Club neighborhood, a solid place where we lived before my dad got sick and had to sell the house to pay his medical bills.  There was Steve’s house, and Jim’s, and Ann’s, and Lucinda’s . . .

Left, the splendid view from my room at the Dows; right, the “building on stilts,” home in 1969 of Vanguard Travel, where I worked to pay for school

Refueling on the bike ride at the Dairy Queen on 66th Street; at right, a preserved door column from our Wooddale Elementary School, razed in the 1980s.

As I finished the ride, I thought of wonderful words from the popular BBC TV series, “Call the Midwife”; at the beginning and/or end of most episodes, actress Vanessa Redgrave voices memorable and poignant words, and these came to mind:

Home is not simply a mark upon a map, any more than a river is just water.  It is the place at the center of the compass, from which every arrow radiates, and where the heart is fixed.  It is a force that forever draws us back.

___________________________

Rick and I had a nice yak and a beer, I showered and changed clothes, and headed less than a mile to Interlachen Country Club.  I was ten minutes early, but the place was already hopping with classmates (I learned from one of the organizers that it was a record turnout, 260, including a few spouses).

It was a repeat of the night before: connecting with people I had not seen in a half-century and others I see regularly.  Conversations with a couple of Montanans, but mostly people who stayed in Minnesota.   Many of us observed that we could look across the room and instantly recognize someone we hadn’t seen in five decades, while others looked completely unfamiliar; such is the intersection of aging and memory.

Total high point that night was a pep band that lifelong musician Ralph Campbell organized, a mix of players from our class and some from later EHS classes; they played our two high school fight songs.  We cheered along, “H-O-R-N-E-T-S, Edina Hornets fight, fight, fight,” and tears came to my eyes.  The event ended at 11, but I was totally worn out by 10:30.  Said goodbye to a number of long friends and motored home.  Colossal.

 

Above, 11 students from Wooddale Elementary, 1957-63; yes, there were boys, but none were listening when instructions were given to gather! Below, band organizer Ralph Campbell and Guy Drake; at bottom, friend-since-1957 Linda Bearinger.

 

Milestones are so important – don’t miss them in your lives.

_________________________________

 

Same drill Sunday morning: up with the sun at five.  Like 24 hours earlier, first task was to jot down the names of classmates and friends I met the night before, and the count was 17, plus “kids” from Friday night.  Murph was up, so we had another great chat.  Rick peeled off for a bit of work (like me, he’s staying busy in his seventh decade).  I hugged Murph at 7:25 and drove to 50th and France, the shopping area of my childhood.  At 7:45, I met longtime Edina pals Chris MacPhail and Greg Paske, and a few minutes later Jim Marquardt.  We piled into a booth at Edina Grill, tucked into another big egg breakfast (this time with smoked salmon), and a lot of good conversation.  We were close friends for many years, but don’t see each other much anymore: 10 years earlier for Greg and Chris (at the 40th reunion), and by my reckoning more than 25 for Jim.  We talked a lot about Greg’s second career, 17 years as a substitute teacher in the Scottsdale (Arizona) public high schools (he taught across the entire spectrum, from music to physics), and Jim’s life work as a pediatrician (he told some funny stories, including selective use of his hearing aids when listening to overly worried moms).  Some revisiting of memories from childhood and adolescence.  Fun time, but not enough time.

Jim Marquardt

I peeled off about 9:30 and headed out “on assignment.”  In December 2018, I met a young Irishman, Will McConnell, who was making a documentary film about a Belfast firm, York Street Flax Spinning Co., for which my father worked as a sales rep in the Upper Midwest.  Will wanted me to capture a bit of video for the documentary, trying to find scenes that looked more like that era, late 1950s and early ‘60s.  I did my best, in neighborhoods and older parts of downtown Minneapolis.  Last stop was Fort Snelling National Cemetery to pause for thank yous and prayers at my dad’s grave.  A lot of remembering in one weekend.

Above, a still from the video clips shot for Will: the renovated Grain Belt sign on Hennepin Avenue and the Mississippi River; below, the rebuilt Linden Hills station on the streetcar line; service ended in 1954, but part of the line was rebuilt and open for weekend rides.

The memory factory would continue for another day or so: Sunday afternoon I flew to Dallas/Fort Worth for a Monday reunion lunch of people who worked in American Airlines’ advertising department or for our longtime ad agency.  Picked up another Hertz car, and in no time was zooming along I-635, 70 mph.  Unlike folks in the Northeast U.S., Texans build fast roads, and plenty of them, which made me smile – yes, I get that cars are not the optimum mobility solution, but they exist, so you gotta deal with them (in the Northeast urban planners tend to deny their existence, hence massive traffic jams in places like Washington).

Was at Ken and Peggy Gilbert’s house in North Dallas by 5:30, hugging the humans and petting their two dogs, Bella and Papi (who came with daughter Blair from her Peace Corps stint in Tonga).  Had a quick beer and headed with son Allen, a business-jet pilot, to a great Tex-Mex restaurant, Cantina Laredo.  Filled myself with enchiladas – at home, I would have taken half of it home, so I tucked in.  We motored home, and Ken suggested a dip in their pool, which was tonic.  We bobbed in the shallow end and yakked for an hour (Ken and I were colleagues at American Airlines for decades).  Lights out at 9:15, for nine solid hours of much-needed snooze.

Up at 6:15 Monday morning, cup of coffee with Peggy and Ken, then out the door to a Starbucks for another jolt and some work, then at 8:30 met another former AA colleague, Laura Einspanier, for breakfast.  I had not seen her for five years, and it was great to catch up.  Back then, she was already toiling in retirement, helping to organize a Catholic high school, Cristo Rey.  Five years on, the school was open and indeed just graduated its first class of about 110.  She’s doing God’s, and society’s, work for sure.  We yakked about family, and her biggest news was her playwright daughter just had a breakthrough, with the premier of “Lunch Bunch” in New York.

I had more than an hour until the ad-alumni lunch, so Googled “Dallas Public Library” and found the Cedar Springs branch was three minutes from Avila’s, our Tex-Mex venue.  Worked my email, did a bit of research, and enjoyed the spectrum of humanity in the reading room.  The lunch was colossal, reuniting people across more than two decades.  We were jabbering in all directions.  A special time.

At the public library; below, the ad alumni lunch

Never have I connected with more people from the past in less time than on those four days.

________________________

I returned the rental car a bit early, falling into a nice Talking-to-Strangers moment with the Hertz agent.  She was from Kenya, and I asked where. “Near Lake Nakuru,” she replied, and she smiled broadly when I told her I visited the lake and its famous huge flock of pink flamingos “well before you were born.”  Dropped the wheels early because the Transport Geek wanted to ride the new TEXRail commuter line from DFW Airport to downtown Fort Worth.  A great ride on brand-new Stadler rolling stock.  Along the way, a nice T-t-S with another T-Geek, a MIT-trained electrical engineer, who grew up in a West Virginia railroad family, and spent a long career at Texas Instruments.

Two visions of urban mobility: the 1900-era North Texas Traction Company, and the modern TEXRail that connects downtown Fort Worth and DFW Airport

At 7:30, I flew southeast to Buenos Aires for my 12th appearance at the South American Business Forum.  Like every year, I was excited to be heading back to the student-organized conference that every year attracts 100+ motivated youngsters (half from Argentina, a quarter from the rest of Latin America, and a quarter from the rest of the world).  Two volunteers from previous SABFs, Milagros and Guillermina, picked me up at the airport and we zipped into town.  After a couple of wrong turns and some detours we arrived at our digs, the Art Factory Hostel.  The room was not ready, so I trundled down to the basement café and voila, there sat my long amigo Rick Dow (last seen three days earlier in Minneapolis!), who like me has become a SABF stalwart.  He arrived a day earlier.  We yakked a bit, had a cup of coffee, worked, and headed out for a good walk.  It was cool and overcast, and after hot summer days in the Northern Hemisphere, winter felt really good.  We grabbed some lunch at Petit Colon, a traditional café behind the opera house, then ambled back to the hostel.  Room was ready.  It was, like the rest of the place, spartan.

Views from downtown B.A.: the Argentine central bank at left, and a preserved facade in front of a new skyscraper

There was less than zero time to relax, because I was due to give a talk on leadership at a startup online travel agency, where another SABF alumnus now worked.  Rick tagged along, and we zipped in a taxi a few miles west to the offices of Avantrip.   Hopping in the taxi, feeling a bit stressed for lack of time, I had my first “Thanks, Don Miguel” moment in Argentina when I told the taxi driver our destination, in near-perfect Spanish; every so often, the lessons of Howard Hathaway (Don Miguel), the man who taught us Spanish on “educational television” in the early 1960s, come back with total clarity!

Emiliano greeted us when we hopped out of the taxi.  It was then time to stand and deliver.  Rick chimed in from time to time, and the talk went really well.  Said goodbye about 5:15, into a taxi and into rush hour, north to our dinner venue in the Palermo district.  The way-popular steak restaurant, Don Julio, had already booked up (even in a Tuesday night), but you could line up at 6:45 and likely get a table.  We were in the queue at 6:05, numbers two and three, right behind a friendly Argentine women who was a freelance producer of TV commercials.  We had a good yak with her.  The restaurant kindly provided free glasses of sparkling wine at 6:45, and by 7:00 we were seated, joined soon after by Jaime, a wonderful Argentine entrepreneur in his 70s (and the uncle of a 2018 SABF organizer), and Ary, a local director for United Airlines (our usual United host, Christoff Poppe, was in Chicago looking for a house, following reassignment to their corporate headquarters).

The audience at Avantrip

Dinner was long, ample, and as the Spanish say muy amable.  We talked about families, jobs, and lot about the Argentine economic and political situation.  All eyes are on Mauricio Macri, the center-right president up for re-election in a few months.  He has done a remarkable job of beginning a turnaround after 70+ years of goofy rule by the Peronistas, most of whom still believe in Santa Claus, along with a lot of corruption.  (As one practical example of Macri’s get-it-done approach, the city recently opened a truck tunnel on the edge of downtown that greatly reduced traffic congestion, noise, and smog; it was completed in a couple of years, and on budget, which never would have happened under the old regimes.)

The conference began Thursday morning, so Wednesday was a welcome “day off.”  Stop one was a couple of hours at a start-up company, Mudafy, that Rick and I have unofficially and slightly advised for a couple of years (another project of former SABF organizers).  Sort of like an Argentine Zillow, the company seems to hold promise, and it’s always fun to listen to youngsters building something with passion.   At 12:45 we walked a few blocks to La Rural, the biggest livestock show in a country that raises a lot of animals.  I had visited once before, in 2007, and was looking forward to a return.  Rick, one of my compadres at the Minnesota State Fair, was game, and in we went.

Above, brainpower at Mudafy; below, artists and cow-washing at La Rural

It was awesome.  We ambled through buildings filled mainly with beef cattle, but also saw some poultry (missed the sheep).  High point was reconnecting with Antoinette Huffmann, Tony, who I met at La Rural 12 years earlier.  She and her family raise a relatively rare French breed called Blonde d’Aquitaine, so it was easy to find her (the various breeds are all co-located).  She didn’t remember me, but we three immediately fell into a long conversation about the economy, her story (she’s in her mid-70s, and emigrated from Belgium in 1946 at age 3), her early life as the only girl in the family, and animal husbandry – including a long graphic discussion of the reproductive biology of their breed.  Country people are nicely matter of fact on such topics!  We said goodbye, and headed to a late lunch outdoors.  Tony appeared again as we were eating, and we yakked some more.

Antoinette Huffmann; below, a few more glimpses of La Rural

Hopped into a taxi, back into heavy traffic, and after an address snafu on my part arrived at the SABF launch party downtown, plunging into introductions and early discussion.  At one of the several downtown buildings of the host institution, the Buenos Aires Institute of Technology (ITBA), we met students from Canada, South Africa, Argentina, Costa Rica, Lithuania, and more.  Walked back to the hostel, washed my face, and Rick and I headed out to dinner with some other SABF alumni, 12 or 15 of us at a big table in a serviceable Italian restaurant.  Last stop of the day was a bit of cheerleading for the 2019 organizers – as is the custom every year, Rick and I did our best to rev them up for the coming three days of hard work.

Up early Thursday morning, out the door, onto buses to the auditorium of Buenos Aires’ modern city hall, for a plenary day.   To say the first speaker rocked it would be a huge understatement – every few years the SABF manages to land a superstar, and in 2019 it was Nicholas Negroponte, longtime director the future-wow Media Lab at MIT.  As you would expect, he was a stellar and provocative speaker, and in retrospect we could have spent the rest of the day discussing the three main ideas he launched.  But we didn’t, and of the remaining seven speakers, five were complete failures: pompous, off-topic, deceptive, or all of the above.  Whew.  Then again, as Rick and I have long understood, much of the genius of the event takes place in informal conversation between students and young adults who have fire in their bellies about improving the world.  Rick’s job at the end of the day was to summarize and guide the conversation, and he did that masterfully.

Professor Negroponte captivating the SABF audience

We hopped on buses, back downtown to a simple restaurant for a group dinner.  As in previous years, Rick and I ordered wine and beer for those at our big table; that night it was Sofia from Colombia, Pedro from Chile, Lucas from Argentina, and several others.  We had a great time; high point and huge coincidence was that Lucas on my left and Pedro on my right were both volunteers at prisons, working to help people who most of society has forgotten or would like to throw away like garbage.  Remarkable young people.

Pablo, your scribe, and Lucas collecting bottles for recycling!

The Friday sessions were held at one of ITBA’s buildings not far from city hall, and were a mix of student presentations, group activities, and, at the end of the day, mentoring sessions (Jaime, Rick, and I joined several Argentine executives and leaders in hosting six or seven students).  A few hours earlier, during lunch hour, I did something I had wanted to try for awhile: a “pop-up” 20-minute seminar, that day on crisis management.  It was great fun, about 20 students piling into a small classroom.

That evening, Rick and I walked across downtown to one of our favorite restaurants, a simple parrilla (grill) called El Establo.  Great service, fair prices, and food way better than Don Julio.  We tucked into more steak (as I’ve written previously, I eat almost no steak back in the U.S.), and shared a nice bottle of Malbec.  Fortified, we headed out to the SABF party at Honduras Hollywood, a nightclub in Palermo.  The place was hopping, and Latins being Latins, Rick and I were on the dance floor in no time.  My knees creaked, but I could move my other joints pretty well (the next day a youngster told me “you can dance better than I can!”).  We only stayed about 45 minutes, but earned a lot of cred from the students.

Above, big times at El Establo; below, a scene from the SABF party

Day 3, Saturday, back to city hall.  Morning student activities were varied.  Rick and I met a young city planner, Pablo, and after about 20 minutes of conversation about city progress (the new mayor is of the same party as the national president), he offered to show us the building, designed by the prominent Englishman, Sir Norman Foster.  The afternoon sped past, and soon it was time for my annual (since 2011) big task, summarizing and closing the meeting.  Check and done, hugs to people, and into a car to the airport.  Flew to New York Kennedy, landing at dawn.  Hopped train, train, and bus across Queens to LaGuardia.  Took a needed shower in the Admirals Club, worked for several hours, and at noon flew home.  A great trip.

Buenos Aires City Hall; below, Pablo, one of many enthused and committed young municipal officials

Students at the Sunday morning freelance activities; below, at left, some nice ideals, and at right promises that the Buenos Aires government would deliver — these posters are all over town, and when a project finishes, they add a check mark. Nice accountability.

________________________________________________

E pluribus unum on the New York MTA E Train beneath Queens; below, Manhattan from above

 

 

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New York, New Haven, and Hartford

The Farmington Canal Greenway, a wonderful bikeway on a former railway line, and adjacent to a canal dug in the 1820s

 

Travel in the second half of 2019 began with a flight to New York on Wednesday, July 10.  I was bound for New Haven, Connecticut, to spend a couple of days with son Jack and his girlfriend Reed, so decided to detour to New York (sorta weird that we live only 200 miles from The Big Apple, but I only visit once a year; regular readers know it’s not a fave place).  Landed at LGA, hopped on the jammed Q70 express bus to the Jackson Heights subway station in Queens (it was free until September 2; almost nothing in New York is free!), then the E train into Manhattan.  So speedy, so much better than a taxi, not least for the rainbow of humanity on New York public transit.

I was due to meet longtime airline friend Pete Pappas at his apartment on Central Park South at noon, and had time, to zipped into a Starbucks, one of my usual away-from-home offices, for a small cup and some work.  Ambled a few blocks north, goggling at the many new pencil-like apartment high-rises that are springing up (and thinking “I hope they get the foundation engineering right”).  Met Pete, and as a bonus his wife Ivie, in the lobby of their building.  Visited briefly with Ivie, who I had not seen in many years, then Pete and I peeled off for an agreeable lunch at an Italian place nearby.  Pete’s older than me, with way more airline experience, so it’s always enlightening and entertaining to spend time with him.

At left, one of the new pencils; right, a welcome new addition to the NYC streetscape, signboards that display bus arrivals at that stop, along with advertising. Unhappily, the bus info rotates into view less frequently than it should. At bottom, wonderful old station signage on the subway platform.

We parted at 1:45 and I hopped on a southbound train, then bus across 34th Street to the new Hudson Yards residential and commercial development, built atop former railway land (the “yards” part) just by the river.  It was pretty much as the architectural critics described it: for the wealthy.  Been there, done that, hopped back on the subway, and another train to 23rd St.

The copper-clad staircase monument, “Vessel,” at Hudson Yards; below, agreeable open space north of the buildings, and, meh (as New Yorkers say), fancy retail space.

Walked east to Poster House, the nation’s first poster museum (they’re common in Europe, and I visited the Danish iteration in Aarhus in February), opened just a month earlier.  I read about it in a recent issue of The New Yorker, after I had committed to the trip, so decided to visit.  Wowie, I was excited as I walked in, and the staff were still glowing with excitement too.  The magazine article described their first two exhibitions, and I was much more interested in the poster art of Alphonse Mucha, a Czech-born artist who became famous in Paris in the late 1890s.  Here’s a good, excerpted summary from the opening interpretive panel:

The stylized, confident women … changed the landscape of modern advertising and made him the most important graphic designer of the Art Nouveau period … The image of this Nouvelle Femme (New Woman) became a staple in Mucha’s work, replacing the submissive advertising ladies of previous years … his advertisements were reprinted as home décor, blurring the line between fine and commercial art.

Mucha’s fame skyrocketed after a serendipitous opportunity to make posters for the promotion-obsessed actress Sarah Bernhardt; a Paris printer contracted him to create images to sell everything — below, cookies, bicycles, and Monaco, and at bottom, Champagne.

At left, Mucha; right, when he was not drawing commercial art, he created art posters, and the quotation in the photo says it all.

The other exhibit was of two German poster artists who formed a firm called Cyan; they actually got started in the former East Germany, and their stuff was, well, complex.  Mucha rocked it.  Before leaving, I asked the staff about the permanent collection (9,000 works, which will mostly be exhibited online), and the next special exhibit (hand-painted movie posters from Ghana).  Just way cool.

I’ve often described New York as at the extremes of best and worst, and after seeing some of the best, the scene on W. 23rd St. smacked me back to the worst: a man sleeping next to his bagsful of aluminum cans and bottles, perhaps his primary means of support. Walked a few more blocks, past the venerable Flatiron Building, then onto the 6 Train north three stops to Grand Central Terminal.

When you see a low-rise landscape in Manhattan, you stop a take its picture! This is W. 23rd St., between Fifth and Sixth avenues

Hopped on the Metro North New Haven Line, and in two hours was hugging Jack at Union Station.  We motored a mile west to Tandoori, a simple Indian place in a former stainless-steel diner.  Ate well.  Back to his apartment, hugged Reed, met her Huskie Kora, yakked for a bit, and promptly dozed off.

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Up at six with the three of them, put Kora on a leash, and walked east to Wooster Square, a pleasant urban park.  Like our Henry and MacKenzie, Kora loved to chase squirrels.  She weighs about the same as both of the terriers, so the traction was equivalent, but still pretty hard on my knees!  Back home, cup of coffee, bye to the three, and out on Jack’s bike for a long ride up the Farmington Canal Greenway, a rails-to-trails route north from New Haven clear into Massachusetts.  Stopped for another coffee and a sweet roll at Dunkin Donuts, then back on the trail.  It was a warm morning, but the ride was great, 37 miles round trip.

On the trail, part of the East Coast Greenway, a series of trails that one day will link Maine and Florida; at right, the only existing lock from the canal

Took Kora for a walk around the block, then ambled a few blocks west to a great sorta-hippie eatery called Claire’s Corner Copia for lunch.  Back home, showered, took a nap (just like at home, especially tonic after a long ride).  Hopped back on the bike to get up to an even 40 miles, east a ways, then west to the Yale campus.  Needed to do a couple hours of work, and while aiming for the law library I stumbled upon the Beinecke Library, Yale’s repository of rare and old books.  Opened my laptop in a comfy chair right next to a Gutenberg Bible, which was pretty cool.

Zipped back to the apartment.  Jack got home from work, and we yakked and watched the Scottish Open with a true golf fan.  Reed has been a positive force in lots of ways, not least upgrading his home cooking, and he prepared a yummy meal of chicken, gnocchi, and salad.  Nice.  Clocked out early again.

Rinse, repeat.  Kora on leash by 6:05, retracing steps to Wooster Square, back home.  Hugged Reed as she left for work.  Back onto Jack’s orange bike, east to the Quinnipiac River, up the east bank a few miles, stopped at Dunkin for breakfast, back down the west bank.  Shaved, showered, and prettied up for an 11:00 meeting at the Yale School of Management, introducing myself to Professor Shin, doing a bit of selling.  Would be good to be invited, but we shall see.  Grabbed a nice lunch in the school’s café, then rode a mile to Jack’s work for a tour of Turnbridge, a growing treatment center.  Met a half-dozen of his co-workers (I was beaming inside when they told me how much they respected and liked him).  Back to the apartment, short nap, out the door, over to State Street Station.  My original plan was to fly right from New Haven’s tiny airport to Philly, then home, but the Transport Geek learned that CT Rail, the state’s commuter-rail operation, had reopened the line north 45 miles to Hartford, and I could get a nonstop home at 7:40.  Hopped on the 3:29 train, rolling north past marshes, low hills, hollowed-out industrial towns.

Above, wonderful 19th Century houses on the east bank of the Quinnipiac; below, a marina on the west bank. At bottom, the Mill River Swing Bridge, opening to allow passage of the tugboat Connecticut.

 

Yale School of Management

Arrived Hartford 4:20.  I had never really been downtown, and the bonus was a pleasant hourlong ramble from Union Station to the CT Transit express bus to the airport.  It was hot, but no matter.  As I left the station, the vista to the south was the 1878 State Capitol, a blend of architectural styles, but mainly looked French Renaissance.  It stood atop a hill in Bushnell Park, lovely, clean (Hartford was so much tidier and more orderly than New Haven).  Ambled on, pausing at the refurbished 1914 carousel, which was a simply wonderful conveyance; nostalgia welled as I watched happy kids, teenagers, and grown-ups go ’round and ’round.  Up a hill, past headquarters of The Travelers, one of the many big insurance companies in Hartford, and the art museum, then down the hill to the stop for the #30 bus to the airport.  It was conveniently right in front of a big Marriott hotel, so zipped in for the men’s room.  The place was teeming with attendees of ConnectiCon, according to Wikipedia “an annual multi-genre convention dedicated to a celebration of pop culture – everything from anime, to science fiction, comic books and card games.”  Mostly it looked like gamers; forgive a bit of judgment, but those people need to get away from their computers and get outdoors.  At the very least it would fix their pallor.

Above, the Connecticut State Capitol and a fine fountain in Bushnell Park; below, the Monument to Soldiers and Sailors, erected after the Civil War, and the Bushnell Carousel. At bottom, two pillars of Hartford: the Wadsworth Atheneum art museum and the 1919 Travelers Tower, headquarters of the insurance company with the red umbrella.

The express bus rolled up a bit late, but the A/C was blasting, and the ride for a senor was 85 cents.  Sweet.  And fast.  Was at the airport in no time.  Flight was late, but I was not in a hurry.  At an airport bar, brought this journal up to date in the ample time, and had a nice T-t-S with Jackie the bartender, about dogs.  She wanted to buy her young boys a dog, but the landlord required another $1000 damage deposit (on top of the existing one), and another $30 per month in rent.  As a single mom, she couldn’t afford that, so had to defer getting the Australian Shepherd puppy.  It was a poignant reminder of how unfair things are for working people.  Absent the ability to put a cream pie in the landlord’s face, I settled on a large tip, which she said she’d put in the special piggy bank they have for the puppy fund.  Hopped on American Eagle, and was back in D.C.

 

 

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Miami and Miami Beach, Briefly

Downtown Miami, at the mouth of the Miami River

Was home for a few weeks, getting things ready for fall teaching.  On Monday, June 17, I flew south to Miami to attend and give a keynote speech to a customer symposium for SmartKargo, the start-up air cargo software company I have helped on and off since 2014. On the way to the airport, the first T-t-S of the trip, with a young man from Trinidad.  He was a row behind me on the Blue Line, and said, “Excuse me. I’m a little lost.”  I got him “found,” and on his way.

Forty-plus years ago, when I was in graduate school, I got to know Miami well over the course of three summers (1975, ’76, and ’77), when I helped my long and dear friend Herb with some research for a book he was writing on Caribbean tourism, which by happy coincidence was the focus of my Ph.D. research.  But that was nearly a half-century ago, and to say the place has changed would be a colossal understatement.  The drivers of change were the rise of mass tourism (including cruise ships); emigration from all over Latin America and the Caribbean; and a lot of money – sometimes with people attached, sometimes not – from all over those regions.  A great deal of the latter was dirty: wealthy Latins shipping wealth out of unstable places, and lots and lots of drug money.  So while the skyline has grown impressive, it’s a tawdry and tainted impressiveness.

South Florida gets afternoon thunderstorms in summer, and we circled for 40 minutes before we swooped in, just between storm cells.  Hopped in a Lyft car with Oscar from Bogota, Colombia, for a yakking ride east to Miami Beach.  His story was not quite as grim as the Afghan taxi driver in Umeå a month earlier, but it was not a happy one: he was an only child, and could not stay in Colombia because of the violence and, I sensed, real threats.  He doesn’t go back, but his parents come north several times a year.  Whew.

Arrived at the Cadillac Hotel, site of the meeting, in 25 minutes; when built in 1940, it was the largest hotel on Miami Beach, and during the 1950s it was the place for Hollywood types like Jackie Gleason and Ann Margret.  Still and impressive place, with beautiful rooms, lovely grounds, and especially friendly staff.   Checked in, and riding the elevator up and down had two more T-t-S. The first was compressed, with a fellow from suburban Minneapolis, who was lamenting the weather: “Well, we had 45 minutes of sun today.”  The second, slightly longer, with a young German from Munich:

Me: You sound German.  Yes?  Where are you from?
Him: Yes, from Munich.
Me: You’ve got a great country.
Him: Yes, I know.

I added a bit of shading to my assertion, about universal health care as a right enshrined in the German Constitution.  He smiled.  That encounter may well have been the first time — in decades of travel in that country, and in meeting German people elsewhere in the world — when I heard a German acknowledge without hesitation the goodness of his native land.

SmartKargo had arranged a photographer to snap photos to update their website, so I smiled through a bunch of clicks, then met the SmartKargo hosts, and in no time was glad-handing with customers from all over the world: India, Norway, Hawai’i, and more.  Had a couple of beers and a nice dinner.

Up at 5:30, just like at home, but with no dogs to walk I had time for a good ride on one of the gym’s fitness bikes.  After breakfast, it was time to stand and deliver, and the speech was well received (might even get a couple of speaking invitations from it!).  Helped a bit the rest of the day, and reimmersed in the detail of global logistics, learning, for example, that the TSA recently granted Hawaiian Airlines (a SmartKargo customer) permission to use dogs to screen air cargo for explosives; the example was remarkable: personnel had to inspect every loaf of bread flying from Honolulu to, say, Maui, and the process might take 45 minutes.  The hounds can do it in 45 seconds.  Woof!

We finished about 3:30, which gave me time to borrow one of the hotel’s sturdy bikes for a ride north on Miami Beach’s main drag, Collins Avenue, then across a canal and into a quiet residential area, La Gorce, that felt like the 1950s.  It was just so lovely, cool old houses, quiet, no tour buses or honking SUVs.  Back to the Cadillac, shower, and onto a tour bus, west to downtown, then onto the M/V Venetian Lady for a classic “booze cruise.”  On the way, had a nice conversation with Jeff from Hawaiian Airlines, a fellow bicyclist and second-generation airline guy (his dad was with Eastern Airlines for years, and Jeff had worked for Continental and United previously).  It was raining pretty hard when we arrived at the dock, and on the first hour of the boat ride, but then cleared.  A swell outing.

The La Gorce neighborhood from a distance and (below) up close.

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In the Port of Miami: above, a U.S. Navy hospital ship; below, a container ship, and smaller things that float — looked like the guy was ferrying tourists’ jetskis.

Even back four decades, I never thought of Miami nor Dade County as well planned, and this bridge to nowhere (background) was solid evidence!

Up early again Wednesday morning, pounding out 19 miles on the fitness bike, then into day two of the conference.  Finished before three, said a lot of goodbyes, and to the airport with SmartKargo’s new CFO, Mike, then flew home.

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