Buenos Aires and Santiago

La Moneda, one of my favorite subway stations in all the world, because of "Chile Hoy (Today), a series of 14 large paintings depicting the land and people. Artist: Guillermo Muñoz

La Moneda, one of my favorite subway stations in all the world, because of Chile Hoy (“Chile Today”), a series of 14 large paintings depicting the land and people. Artist: Guillermo Muñoz, 2005

 

I’m traveling quite a bit less this year, and was home all of July, working and in the last week teaching a crisis-management short course at Georgetown.  Finished grading exams and projects on Monday, August 1, and the next day I headed to the airport for my ninth visit to the South American Business Forum, a student-run business conference in Buenos Aires.  The trip did not begin well: it took four hours to get to Miami.  And continued poorly: I was headed first to Montevideo, for a one-day quick look-see, and the 10:10 p.m. flight first posted an ETD of 12:00 midnight, then 1:30, then 1:30 the next afternoon.  Happily, the Admirals Club remained open all night, and I found a couple of comfy chairs, one for my seat and one for my legs, pulled my blazer over my head, and managed to get almost five hours of sleep.  Took a shower, and headed off to breakfast at the airport’s La Carreta, a longtime Miami institution.  Bowl of cereal and muffin, to which I added a nice dessert: Cuban tres leches cake.  I needed some sugar!

The map for the first leg of my trip: not a good start!

The map for the first leg of my trip: not a good start!

 

Dessert for breakfast!

Dessert for breakfast!

Never a good sign when police are called to keep order at an airport departure gate!

Never a good sign when police are called to keep order at an airport departure gate!

 

I could not abide hours in the airport, so I bought a public transit day ticket for $5.65 and hopped on the Metrorail train into downtown, then south to Coconut Grove, a neighborhood I knew well from working there three summers in grad school in the mid-1970s.  I opted not to leave my luggage at the airport club, and after walking a few blocks from the Grove train station I regretted the cargo – was immediately sweaty, and was reminded that Miami is not comfy in the summer (40 years ago, my host Herb did not believe in air conditioning, but he had a marvelous swimming pool which we used several times a day!).  Coconut Grove was once a funky sort of place, full of hippies and natural food stores and such, but real estate values have transformed the place, and it’s now boringly affluent.  Well-heeled tourists have replaced the flower children and bohemians.  More broadly, after being swatted down in the 2008 recession, Miami is booming again, high-rises everywhere.

Although Miami is becoming more vertical, there are still some interesting gaps in density

Although Miami is becoming more vertical, there are still some interesting gaps in density

The Miami building boom has resumed

The Miami building boom has resumed

One thing that hasn't changed in Coconut Grove: lush vegetation

One thing that hasn’t changed in Coconut Grove: lush vegetation

Back at the airport, the new ETD for the Montevideo flight was 2:30, then 4:00, then they canceled it.  So I got on the standby list for the 6:00 and 8:00 flights to Buenos Aires.  I have an AA-employee app on my iPhone that shows flight standby lists, and it was clear I wasn’t going to get a seat at six, nor probably at eight.  I repaired yet again to the Admirals Club and looked at other ways to get south.  The first available flight to Buenos Aires was three days hence (and from New York), meaning I would miss most of the conference.  Then, slap my forehead (why didn’t I think of this before?), I checked flights to Santiago, and I could get on American’s nonstop that very night, buy a standby ticket across the Andes to Buenos Aires, and be where I was supposed to be at the time I was supposed to be there (minus a stopover in Montevideo).  After a bit of drama at the gate, I got a seat, uttered a loud “woo hoo” and got on the Silver Bird.

The bad luck continued, though at relatively smaller scale: the 777 had a mechanical problem, so we went back to the gate, finally climbing into the sky three hours late.  While at the gate, I bought a standby ticket for a later flight to Buenos Aires, but I still needed to sprint through Santiago airport to make the 10:50 a.m. KLM nonstop.  God bless the Dutch, I snagged seat 20B, did a little dance at the gate (informing a bemused staff of my half-century of standby travel), and off we went.   It had been four years since I flew over the Andes, and I had forgotten both how tall they were and how close to the jet.  Way cool!

The Andes from seat 20B

The Andes from seat 20B

 

When I finally arrived in Argentina I practically kissed the ground.  Bought a bus ticket into the city, enroute working my email (Wi-fi on the bus!  Nice!).  When I got off in Retiro, on the edge of downtown, I was elated.  Even more, because of my many trips there, Buenos Aires felt comfortable, familiar, home-like.  Walked briskly to the hotel, 10 minutes, and checked in.  Sergio, one of the front-desk clerks, remembered me, and vice-versa.  More sense of home.

Welcome to Buenos Aires: street protest an hour after arriving

Welcome to Buenos Aires: street protest an hour after arriving

 

Showered, grabbed a quick nap, and at 4:45 met my long friend and now fellow SABF stalwart Rick Dow, and we walked a mile to the host institution, the Instituto Tecnológico de Buenos Aires and an informal conference opening event, billed as a “tea party,” The Spanish word, merienda, sounded better, but in any event we were soon in the middle of what has long attracted us to the academy – the energy of youth.  Jimmy, a former SABF organizer, told us of his start-up venture.  Priscila, standing next to him, seemed eager to tell us her story.  So when Rick asked what she was working on, she became incandescent, and for good reason: an architecture student, she had designed recently designed a circular shield for a university astronomical observatory in Rosario.  The observatory is in the city center, and for many years has been unusable because of light and heat pollution, and dirt and particulates in the air.  She solved those problems with an ingenious design combining function and beauty, and the observatory will soon be again open to the heavens.  Whew!  Rick and I worked the room separately.  I met Gabriel from Germany, Javid from Azerbaijan (headed to Berlin to start a MBA), Qhayiya from South Africa, and lots more.  A fine kickoff.

At the opening merienda: a good start

At the opening merienda: a good start

 

Grabbed another short nap, and at 8:15 we met Juan Trouilh, the fellow who in 2005 first invited me to SABF.  More than a decade after helping to found the forum, he’s still deeply committed to its success, which is exemplary.  Rick, Juan, and I walked a couple of blocks west to Tancret, a Spanish restaurant, for a fine meal, mainly fish and seafood, some wine, and great conversation across a range of topics, not least the prospects for the new Argentine president, Mauricio Macri, a center-right candidate elected in late 2015, replacing years of corruption and cronyism by Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and other descendents of the goofy Peronist ideology.   The last task before sleep, has become customary: a bit of cheerleading for the 18 members of the SABF organizing team 10 hours before the start.  Rick and I both spoke, cheering them on.

The first day of SABF is always a plenary, and the after the ITBA dean welcomed us, the first speaker was brilliant, a Palestinian citizen of Israel who told group that when facing challenges, we can either cry, become insular, or take control over what surrounds us.  She has chosen the latter, not an easy choice in a place divided by centuries of conflict.  Unhappily, most of the subsequent speakers were not of her caliber (and one was simply awful), but the day ended on a high note, a superb summary of the day from another SABF stalwart, Diego Luzuriaga.

SABF4

We buttonholed Priscila, the architecture student we met the night before, and Pascal, a Ghanaian we met earlier in the day, and invited them to join our table at the group dinner at El Figón de Bonilla, where we’ve eaten on the first night for years (the owner remembered Rick and me, hugged us, and at the end of the meal brought the table complimentary glasses of sparkling wine; that’s hospitality, no?).  Dinner was leisurely, which gave both youngsters the opportunity to tell their stories.  Pascal grew up in a subsistence-farming village in northern Ghana, without access to education, and in 2014 he graduated from Harvard.  In between was a remarkable story of determination, help from some Americans who believed in him, and pure serendipity.  Before Priscila began studying architecture, she qualified as a certified music teacher (piano and violin) at 17.  She was especially delightful because she opened her soul, telling us about being bullied as a child, about some odd experiences as an exchange student in Switzerland, and more.  It was a remarkable evening.

Saturday was spent in breakout sessions, punctuated by lunch with a Brazilian, a Pole, and an Argentine.  They were especially interested in what we did at American Airlines after the 9/11 attacks, and I was happy to tell them the story.  I skipped out of the last session in order to start writing closing remarks for the next day, which was my major job.

WindowWasherTriptych

Vertical ballet: window washers on Avenida Corrientes

Buenos Aires brims with architectural ornamentation

Buenos Aires brims with architectural ornamentation

At 7:00, Rick and I met a former SABF organizer with whom I’ve kept in touch, Julieta Rodriguez.  I had not seen her for six years, so it was good to catch up.  She was married a few months earlier, and we talked about matrimony, jobs, business, life, all at a bar around the corner from our hotel.  At nine, we hugged goodbye, and Rick and I hopped in a taxi out to the Palermo neighborhood and a wonderful steak-and-Malbec dinner at Rio Alba, a comfortable neighborhood place.  The place was empty when we arrived at 9:15, and packed by 10, including families with small children – the Argentines are flexible about kids’ schedules, a good thing for sure.  We shared a small bowl of ice cream, whence Rick remarked “They must have cows in this country!”

High point of day three was a short speech by Marcos Peña, chief of staff in the new government and, perhaps not coincidentally, the son of friend Felix, a longtime professor at ITBA (I’ve known him a decade).  Sr. Peña did not strike Rick nor I as a “business-as-usual” politician.  He was young, well-traveled (like us, a backpacker in an earlier time), smiling, articulate, and not glib.  The challenge for the new administration is to manage expectations.  It took decades of misrule and kleptocracy to create the mess, and fixes will take awhile.  But the country is in better hands than at any time since I began helping with the conference.  I did my closing, a short talk summarizing the conference and lifting up the stories of a few of the shining students we met, answered questions, and it was over.  Rick and I hugged a few more folks, walked back to the hotel, changed clothes, and headed across the street to a corner restaurant and bar for a beer.

Marcos Peña

Marcos Peña

A final exercise: students worked in teams to summarize learning from the three days

A final exercise: students worked in teams to summarize learning from the three days

At 8:15, we met Christoff Poppe, country manager for United Airlines (I met him years ago when he was working at United’s Chicago headquarters and earning a MBA at Northwestern).  American helped SABF for a couple of years, but United has really stepped up.  This was the third consecutive year when we’ve met Christoff for a meal (he also moderated a session on Saturday).  We drove in his car to the San Telmo neighborhood south of downtown and La Plata, a steakhouse where President Obama’s wife and daughters had lunch on a recent visit.   Christoff’s newest hire, Ary, coincidentally an ITBA grad and former SABF organizer, joined us.  Three airline veterans and a newbie, the latter marveling as we carried on about various aspect of our business, the carrying on rising in vigor as we tucked into a lot of meat and more than a little red wine.  It was a long and fun evening, a perfect way to end the visit.

The scene inside La Plata

The scene inside La Plata

 

I was happy that I could sleep in Monday morning, 7:30.  I had time for a short walk around the center, snapping a few pictures with a cool new digital camera (I had reverted to iPhone photos a couple of years earlier, largely because the digicam I bought in 2006 was bulky; this one is tiny, weighs 8 ounces, and has tons of power, including a 30X optical zoom lens).  Shook Sergio the hotel guy’s hand, promised to be back in 2017, and set off for the bus to the airport.  First stop, though, was to deliver the couple of pounds of meat left over from the night before.  I gently deposited it at the feet of a homeless person snoozing in a sleeping bag.

Recipients of our dinner leftovers

Recipients of our dinner leftovers

Buenos Aires' Avenida 9 de Julio

Buenos Aires’ Avenida 9 de Julio

In Buenos Aires, bakeries still deliver bread by bike

In Buenos Aires, bakeries still deliver bread by bike

Plaza San Martin

Plaza San Martin

Bus

Flew back across the Andes to Santiago.  Had a nice T-t-S moment with a woman immigration officer.  When I greeted her in well-accented Spanish, she responded in her language.  I asked if we could switch to English.  “No,” she replied, “you need to practice.”  Loved her assertiveness, and valued the lesson.  And valued Don Miguel, my first Spanish teacher, way back to fourth grade, 1960.

On the Metro

On the Metro

The flight was almost an hour late, which required me to hustle onto the bus then the Metro.  My 13-year-old Metro chipcard no longer worked.  The ticket seller at Pajaritos station smiled when she saw it, a look that said “this old guy is way, way behind.” At the hotel, in the suburban Las Condes office district, I quickly donned suit and tie, and headed to a 6:00 lecture for MBAs at Universidad Católica downtown.  It was my first visit there since 2012, and it was good to be back in Andrés Ibañez’s class.  Gave a quick lecture, spent 15 minutes with Christoff’s Chilean counterpart Arlette (a late invite to the class), and peeled off for dinner at a favorite rustic restaurant, Patagonia Sur.  It had been awhile, but the place was the same.  Had some craft beer and a plate of congrio, a large eel that is a fave, really tasty.  Was asleep before ten.

Another look at the art in the La Moneda Metro station

Another look at the art in the La Moneda Metro station

My only task during the last day in South America was a seminar for employees of LATAM Airlines, the carrier formed through the merger of LAN in Chile and TAM from Brazil, and it didn’t start until four.  So step one was a long walk around downtown, snapping some pictures.  Back to the hotel, worked a bit.  Step two was a 1:30 lunch with LATAM’s new VP-Network, Mike Swiatek.  Mike was a guy I knew only by reputation, and it was great fun to hear his story.  Son of a United Airlines gate agent in Buffalo (then LAX), after graduation from Iona College he headed to Poland to work for a couple of years (his family was Polish, and this was before the fall of communism, remarkable).  Back in the U.S., he moved to L.A., worked in banking, got into the way-competitive MBA program at the University of Chicago, and embarked on an airline career that took him to United, Continental, United again, Alitalia, Air New Zealand, and more.  Just a great story and a great fellow.

Juice squeezers are now everywhere in downtown Santiago

Juice squeezers are now everywhere in downtown Santiago; there must be a nutrition craze in town

 

The stock exchange building in Santiago

The stock exchange building in Santiago

Art Deco bank

Art Deco bank

Chile's National Congress

Chile’s National Congress

Atop the main building, Universidad Catolica de Chile

Atop the main building, Universidad Catolica de Chile

Spring

Lone protester, Supreme Court of Chile

Lone protester, Supreme Court of Chile

 

A former medical clinic that was a torture and execution center during the Pinochet era; it is now a protected historical landmark

A former medical clinic that was a torture and execution center of the Chilean secret police (DINA) during the Pinochet era (1973-90); it is now a protected historical landmark

ShoeShine

Delivered the seminar to about 70 youngsters, answered a few questions, hopped in a car, zipped to the airport, and flew home.  The annual SABF foray is such a joy: seldom does one have the opportunity to meet so many interesting and energetic young people in such a short time.  The future is in their hands.

Las Condes from Mike Swiatek's office

Las Condes from Mike Swiatek’s office

 

 

 

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Fort Worth and Dallas, then Bristol, London, and Paris

The prow of the SS Great Britain in Bristol

The prow of the SS Great Britain in Bristol

On Sunday, June 26, I flew to Dallas/Fort Worth.  It made sense to be in the air, because it was exactly the 50th anniversary of my first airline flight (The Huffington Post has published my essay on a half-century of flight, here).  Arrived DFW at sunset, and hopped in a cab to the Gaylord Texan, an enormous hotel a few miles north of the runways.  Along the way, a nice conversation with a Somali taxi driver who lived in frigid Minneapolis for eight years.  At the hotel, I met Jay Shelat and his colleagues from consulting client SmartKargo, and a handful of customers; the company was holding its first customer forum, and I was there to give a short talk the next day, and to schmooze a bit.  The group had been at a baseball game that afternoon, and were having a late dinner.  I opted to stay at Jay’s house rather than have a roommate at the hotel, and at 10:45 we departed.  Spent the next day and evening in meetings and socializing, and another night at Jay’s.

The view from 15C, my 50th Anniversary of Flight chair

The view from 15C, my 50th Anniversary of Flight chair

I was headed to Europe in two days, so rather than fly home for a day I spent Tuesday in Fort Worth and Dallas.  Jay dropped me at the airport, I picked up a rental car, and headed west to Cowtown (Fort Worth).  Took a nice drive around downtown, which I had not seen in years, and was happy to see a core in great shape.  The prominent Bass family began to invest downtown more than a quarter-century earlier, and the fruits of their commitment were obvious; retail was mostly gone, but dining, entertainment and cultural facilities are shiny, as are tons of condos and apartments.  It’s an impressive place. I then motored into Mistletoe Park, Park Hill, and a couple of other historic neighborhoods south of downtown, and was reminded that when we first visited these districts in spring 1988, a few months after moving from Minnesota, Linda and I agreed that we probably should have moved there!  Wonderful old bungalows, Spanish Colonial, and other styles, and lots of trees.

Tarrant County Court House, Fort Worth

Tarrant County Court House, Fort Worth

Mistletoe Park, a leafy old neighborhood of Fort Worth

Mistletoe Park, a leafy old neighborhood of Fort Worth

Splendid Craftsman bungalow, Fort Worth

Splendid Craftsman bungalow, Fort Worth

Just before noon I met a couple of former AA colleagues and long friends, Al Becker and John Hotard, both veterans of the PR team (which I led 1996-98), for lunch at the Paris Coffee Shop, a Fort Worth institution.  Tucked into a vegetable plate (collards, mashed potatoes, black-eyed peas, and creamed cauliflower) and yakked about the old days and the new days with a couple of great fellows.  Motored back toward the airport, pausing to do a bit of work at a Starbucks near AA corporate headquarters.   As I have noted, sometimes strangers initiate a Talking-to-Strangers conversation, and while sipping an iced coffee a fellow tapped me on the shoulder and asked “Is your last name Britton?”  Yes, I replied, offering my first name.  It was John Gleason, who said he worked at American but “was kind of a nobody.”  “No one’s a nobody,” I said, and we had a nice chat about the company, his work, and mine.  It was a sweet moment.

Longtime airline colleagues John Hotard and Al Becker

Longtime airline colleagues John Hotard and Al Becker

American Airlines' Robert W. Baker Integrated Operations Center. Bob was a neighbor and friend for years, one of the finest airline people I've ever met; it's fitting that they've named the building for a master of airline operations

American Airlines’ Robert W. Baker Integrated Operations Center. Bob was a neighbor and friend for years, one of the finest airline people I’ve ever met; it’s fitting that they’ve named the building for a master of airline operations

Time to meet the next set of friends, Randy Essell, longtime airline scheduler, and Ken Gilbert, like me an airline jack of all trades, at 4:30 at On the Border, a longtime hangout for AA people a few miles east of the airport.  We had a beer and a lot of laughs.  Ken and his wife Peggy were hosting me that evening, so at 6:30 we made fast for North Dallas.  Dropped my stuff, greeted their swell dogs Papi and Bella, and we headed out to MesoMaya, a Mexican restaurant near their house.  Wonderful meal and great chatter – I hadn’t seen Peggy in almost two years.

Returning to Texas, a former resident notices, and admires, the big sky

Returning to Texas, a former resident notices the big sky

Out the door next morning, north through Richardson, pausing a couple of times in the neighborhood where we lived for 20 years.  “A nice place to have raised a family,” I said to myself.  At 8:00 I met yet another long friend, fellow Lutheran John Laine, who introduced me 20 years ago to the joys of building wheelchair ramps.  I stayed with that project until we moved to Washington, and since 2006 John has worked tirelessly to establish ramp projects all across Texas.  He is a righteous person.

John Laine

John Laine

 

Drove again through the former ‘hood, past the kids’ elementary and high schools, then out to DFW.  Flew to New York Kennedy, then on to England for the first teaching of the fall term, or else the last of the spring semester.  Landed in Birmingham at 7:15 Thursday morning, and hopped on a train to Bristol, a city I had long wanted to visit (I am gradually making my way to all of Britain’s secondary cities, and was not due in the classroom until the next day).

Train station or shopping mall? Birmingham's New Street is both, and both are well done

Train station or shopping mall? Birmingham’s New Street is both, and both are well done

 

I had a precise schedule laid out between 11:00 and the train to London at 3:30.  Hopped on the #8 bus west to Clifton, along the way a nice T-t-S with a Bristol University student; the convo pretty quickly gravitated to Brexit, then over to U.S. politics – as I did several times that trip, I tried to reassure worried folks that The Donald was not going to win in November.  Jumped off in the Clifton neighborhood, towing my wheeled suitcase up a hill (there were no lockers nor bag storage service at Bristol Temple Meads, the main railway station) for a good view of the Clifton Suspension Bridge, a brilliant piece of 19th Century engineering that spans the River Avon, which is navigable to the ocean – before Liverpool, Bristol was a main port for ships plying the Atlantic and beyond.  Snapped some pics and headed down the hill to the Pump House quay, then onto a wonderful little city-run ferryboat that plies the inner harbor.  I was pretty excited to be in Bristol, and had in the first hour taken a shine to the place, best described as “hilly and curvy.”

Clifton suspension bridge, spanning the River Avon

Clifton suspension bridge, spanning the River Avon

North pylon, Clifton suspension bridge

North pylon, Clifton suspension bridge

 

Inner harbour ferry, Bristol

Inner harbour ferry, Bristol

 

Fellow ferry passenger

Fellow ferry passenger

Harbor scene, Bristol

Harbor scene, Bristol

Alighted at the SS Great Britain, like the bridge a product of the clever mind of English engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1803-59).  Brunel is well-known in England but not overseas. As a Transport Geek, I learned about him years ago, as the brains behind the Great Western Railway, the network that runs west from London to Oxford, Bath, Bristol, Plymouth, and all the way to Land’s End at the tip of Cornwall.  The ship, launched in 1843, revolutionized sea travel in many ways, not least an iron, not wooden, hull, and a screw propeller rather than paddles.

 

I knew I was going to have a great visit from the start, when the people at the ticket desk said “no problem” to me leaving my suitcase and backpack.  First stop was the Drydock, below water, to learn how they built her, touch the hull, and get an overview.  Next, a thorough museum tracing the ship through time – she did a lot of different jobs in her 90-year life of service, from posh transatlantic crossings to carrying emigrants to Australia, to hauling cargo, and finally serving as a floating warehouse in the Falkland Islands.  That’s where someone who cared found her in about 1970, and began raising money to return her to her native Bristol and restore her.

23-Jun

 

22-Jun

Then I did something I promised to do since seeing the offer on the ship website: for £10 (on that day a lot less than before, $13.65, because of the vote to Brexit exactly a week earlier) I could climb the mast, up 85 feet to the crow’s nest, then out 20 feet on a spar.  Shannon, a young staff member, helped me into the harness, showed me the ropes (so to speak!), and up I went.  Along the way, John, a fellow visitor from the Midlands, kindly took pictures with my iPhone – while waiting to ascend, he, wife Barbara, and I had a wonderful T-t-S conversation, which began with Barbara saying she wouldn’t let John ascend, too old at 75 she said.  I tried to convince her otherwise.  Whooping and hollering on the way up, across the crosspiece, and down, it was just a blast.

Shup-Triptych-1

Next stops were below deck, where they had restored first, second, and steerage classes, the engine room, and more.  Volunteers dressed in period costume helped explain.  I had a nice chat with one, a retired aerospace engineer, who knew a ton about Brunel, the engines, and more.  I surveyed two decks twice, looked at my watch, and knew it was time to leave – I could easily have stayed for hours more.  In a country known for outstanding presentation of things from the past, it may well be the best example.  Just stunning.

In the engine room

In the engine room

Second-class cabin

Second-class cabin

First-class dining saloon and menu

First-class dining saloon and menu

Museum volunteers in period costume answered every question -- and I had a lot of them!

Museum volunteers in period costume answered every question — and I had a lot of them!

Broadside promoting the SS Great Britain to Australia

Broadside promoting the SS Great Britain to Australia

Inner harbor, Bristol

Inner harbor, Bristol

Bristol Temple Meads railway station

Bristol Temple Meads railway station

Hopped on another ferry, gliding toward Temple Meads station and chatting with a London and his pathologist partner.  At City Center quay, I made fast east to the train, bought a sandwich, and hopped on the 3:30 Great Western express to London.  After a quick and welcome lunch, I worked most of the ride, thanks to free wi-fi.  We arrived London Paddington, a Brunel-designed terminal, on time at 5:15, but instead of heading to my customary digs with Scott and Caroline, I got on the Tube and headed west on the District Line to Kew (near the famous botanical garden of the same name), and two blocks southeast to the home of my Imperial College host Omar Merlo and his partner Carolyn.  Omar is a swell fellow, and I was glad for the invitation.  Rang the doorbell and in no time was friends with his kids Sophie and Freddie, 7 and 5, and his dear mother-in-law, Maureen, visiting from Australia (The Swiss Omar got his Ph.D. and taught for some years in Melbourne).

The family had just moved from a smaller house, also in Kew, and were getting settled.  Carolyn, a lawyer with the BBC, was still at work.  Omar ordered take-out Indian food, and showed me around the new house.  A keen musician and fan of all things musical, he took special pride in showing me a 1920s Capehart jukebox and a Swiss-made portable record player (“the 1920s iPod,” he said).  It was like being in a museum!  Carolyn returned (I had not seen her since a month before she delivered Sophie), we sat down to dinner and a good yak.  After helping clean up, we watched a bit of telly and I collapsed, well before ten.

Omar with "the iPod of the 1920s," a portable phonograph

Omar with “the iPod of the 1920s,” a portable phonograph

52-Jun

Inner workings of an elaborate Swiss music box, part of Omar’s collection of music-playing devices

Story time with Sophie

Story time with Sophie

Up Friday morning, and as at home the first task was to walk the kids to school, Queen’s, a Church of England school a few blocks away.  Maureen and I shepherded the scholars, and had a nice yak along the way.  I then peeled off, onto the Tube to Imperial College Business School and a lecture to the Executive MBA program.  Before the talk I had a coffee with another Aussie, Mikhaela Gray, who I described in these pages last year – she studied at the same school where I taught as a visiting lecturer in 1981.

Fan set, Rolls-Royce Trent jet engine, evidence of Imperial College's long tradition of excellence in science and engineering

Fan set, Rolls-Royce Trent jet engine, evidence of Imperial College’s long tradition of excellence in science and engineering

After the talk, Omar and I grabbed a bit of lunch with two of the students, then headed home.  I changed my clothes and headed out on one of Omar’s bikes, south to Richmond Park, a vast green field.  I had been there years ago while attending a meeting at a hotel in Richmond, a pleasant suburb on the Thames, and not far from Heathrow.  Omar’s mountain bike was terrific, and I circled the park 1.5 times, then back into Friday-afternoon traffic, 21 miles.  A great ride.  At home, Omar was cooking dinner, and Maureen was helping prepare for a summer fair at the kids’ school.  Sophie’s friend Olivia had arrived.  I yakked a bit with her, learning about a mum from Idaho and a dad from Northern Ireland, another example of the combinations largely enabled by the jet airplane!

Richmond Park

Richmond Park

The River Thames, upstream from Richmond

The River Thames, upstream from Richmond

Fallow deer, Richmond Park

Fallow deer, Richmond Park

A slice of English design prowess at a florist in Kew

A slice of English design prowess at a florist in Kew

After dinner, Omar and I watched a great UEFA European Championship soccer match, Wales upsetting the 2nd-ranked Belgium 3-1.  After tiny Iceland beat England a few days earlier, and Brexit woes, it gave the British something to cheer about.

Counterclockwise from right, Sophie Merlo, friend Olivia, Freddie Merlo, and Pooh

Counterclockwise from right, Sophie Merlo, friend Olivia, Freddie Merlo, and Pooh

It gets light well before five in summer, and I was awake early, out the door a bit after six for another 17 miles, this time along the Thames, upstream and downstream, pausing for a big mug of coffee and tub of yogurt in “downtown” Kew.  Carolyn, Maureen, and the kids departed for the fair, I suited up, grabbed my suitcase (I really didn’t want to leave such a convivial home), and headed back to Imperial for a lecture to a big (65) class in the Weekend MBA program.  Check and done, and Omar and I headed back to the Tube.  I hugged him and peeled off, east to St. Pancras Station and onto the Eurostar for Paris.

As I have written before, I am unhappy about the huge ($245) UK departure tax, so often head home from other nearby places.  This time Paris made sense, and for a specific reason: after the attacks of November 13, I committed to visiting the four bars that ISIS attacked.  A beer in each in the spirit of solidarity and, more important, to show those assholes that I am not afraid.  After a late lunch, short nap, and moments of panic about a misplaced wallet (it was in my suitcase, exactly where I put it when changing into blue jeans in the train restroom), we rolled into Gare du Nord just before six.  Put my stuff in a locker and headed south, less than a mile to Le Carillon, one of the four bars (15 dead and 11 injured).  The sidewalk tables were nearly all full, but I found a small table, got a small beer, and quietly prayed for the dead and toasted the living.  After paying, I headed inside to pee, and when passing the bar, I spoke with my waiter.  His English was as bad as my French, but he understood “last November” and “solidarity.”  Shook his hand and headed south a few blocks to bar #2, Bonne Bière (5 dead and 8 injured).  Shortly after I arrived, it began to rain hard; my table was mostly under an awning, and it was fun to see street life in the rain.

Le Carillon, Rue Alibert

Le Carillon, Rue Alibert

The shower lasted awhile, and I realized I was behind schedule.  Walked a mile briskly south to the third, Le Belle Équipe, (19 dead and 9 injured) stopping briefly at the Bataclan Theater, scene of the worst carnage (89 perished).  I found another open table on the terrace, and tucked into a nice plate of fish.  La Belle Équipe, which reopened on March 21, was perhaps the liveliest of the three, and all that life made me smile.  The joie de vivre in the joint contrasted with the four soldiers I passed enroute, 400 meters from the bar.  If my French were better, I would have thanked them for keeping us safe.

Bonne Bière, Rue du Faubourg du Temple

Bonne Bière, Rue du Faubourg du Temple

Patrons at Bonne Bière

Patrons at Bonne Bière

Bataclan Theater

Bataclan Theater

La Belle Equipe, Rue Charonne

La Belle Equipe, Rue Charonne

The adjacent table, La Belle Equipe

The adjacent table, La Belle Équipe

While watching the lively scene inside the bar and on the street, I finally hit upon the best, quickest way to express my feeling.  Connected to the bar’s free wi-fi, I typed the following into the Google Translate box on my iPhone:

I was working for American Airlines on 11 September 2001, so it’s important for me to express solidarity with the staff and customers at Le Belle Équipe.  We are not afraid.

When I departed, I showed the screen to my waitress, who murmured the French equivalent of “Awww.”  I hugged her and left, making fast for the Metro, collecting my suitcase, and heading out to the airport.  The last shuttle to my hotel departed the airport train station at 11:30, which kept me from visiting bar #4, Le Comptoir Voltaire.  I’ll get there next time for sure.  A promise.

Head hit the pillow just before midnight, up at eight, back to the airport and the Silver Bird home to Washington.  Another splendid trip.

68-Jun

 

We remember souls like Monsieur le Dramp, who died at La Belle Équipe. Photo and text (c) 2015, The New York Times

We remember souls like Monsieur Le Dramp, who died at La Belle Équipe. Photo and text (c) 2015, The New York Times.

 

 

 

 

 

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Back on the Move: Minneapolis/St. Paul, North Carolina, Virginia

Long my favorite Victorian home on Summit Avenue

Long my favorite Victorian home on Summit Avenue

My wings were clipped for a long time.  On April 18, Linda had knee-replacement surgery, and I was home helping for quite awhile.  So it felt really, really good to fly to Minneapolis-St. Paul on Sunday, June 12, arriving mid-morning.  The Twin Cities have an extensive bikeshare network, and I wanted to try it out.  Changed into bike shorts in an airport rest room, picked up a rental car, slathered sunscreen, and drove a couple of miles to a station in the Highland Park neighborhood of St. Paul.

Downtown Minneapolis; at lower center is the main reason for the city's location: the Falls of St. Anthony.  In the mid-19th Century, it was the U.S. biggest waterpower site west of Niagara

Downtown Minneapolis; at lower left is one of the reasons for the city: the Falls of St. Anthony. In the mid-19th Century, it was the U.S. biggest waterpower site west of Niagara

I have a handy app on my iPhone that shows maps and updated info on bike availability at every station (not just for MSP, but dozens of systems).  Bought a 3-day pass for $10, adjusted the seat on the green bike, and rode off,a few blocks south to the former site of the Ford Motor Company plant.  I remember touring the factory as a child, one of the experiences that led to a long interest in industrial process.  Then north toward St. Thomas University, east on Summit Avenue, back toward the neighborhood where we lived for almost a decade before moving to Texas.  Had a splendid lunch at Café Latte, then rode to the old house, pausing to take a picture (it looks almost the same as 30+ years ago).  I recognized a former neighbor who I had not seen in that many years, Chris, and we had a nice chat.  Serendip!

The former Ford Motor Company plant, 140 acres on the Mississippi River in St. Paul; no plans for redevelopment yet -- it will be interesting to see what gets built

The former Ford Motor Company plant, 140 acres on the Mississippi River in St. Paul; no plans for redevelopment yet — it will be interesting to see what gets built

Our old house, 1032 Goodrich Avenue

Our old house, 1032 Goodrich Avenue

Rode back to Summit, down the hill, past the state capitol, then all around downtown St. Paul.  The center looks mostly good.  I especially liked the new ballpark for the St. Paul Saints on the east edge.  Trudged back up the hill (bikeshare machines are the equivalent of an old Lincoln Town Car!), rode around more neighborhoods, then rang the doorbell at 376 Summit, home to David Herr, a former law school chum of Linda’s.  He was home, offered a glass of water and a quick yak.  Like a small town!  I continued west, back to where I started.  All told, 31 miles.

Splendid commercial building from the 1920s, St. Paul

Splendid commercial building from the 1920s, St. Paul

The dome of the St. Paul Cathedral

The dome of the St. Paul Cathedral

Got back in the little Ford, stopped for a Dairy Queen chocolate malt, and arrived at Deb and Phil Ford’s house in southwest Minneapolis about 4:30.  Had a quick visit, showered, and we departed for dinner at Sainte-Genevieve, a little French restaurant nearby.  Jo, one of their longtime friends, joined us, and after the meal she gave us a tour of her 1916 Craftsman-style bungalow and garden, both lovely.  Next stop was dessert at a new place in Linden Hills, a Minneapolis neighborhood I recall well from growing up a couple of miles away.  I was asleep by 9:45.

Up early and out the door to meet Emily Sheppard, my late friend Jack Sheppard’s youngest child, who recently moved back after years in New York.  It was great to catch up with her.  Grabbed a Danish pastry at one of my fave bakeries in the whole world, Wuollet, and some yogurt.  At 9:45, I met nephew Evan Kail, an aspiring writer and filmmaker; he created a YouTube channel of interviews, and did an hour Q&A with me for that “show.”  We caught up (it had been almost a year) at breakfast at 50th and France, the shopping area blocks from our house in the 1950s and ‘60s.

Bicyclist and small friend, Lake Calhoun

Bicyclist and small friend, Lake Calhoun

Back to the Fords, picked up Phil, and we motored south in his car to the outdoor equipment coop REI to pick up a new bike Phil bought.  His Mini was way too small to carry the bike, so I rode it home, an indirect route of 17 miles via the three main lakes in South Minneapolis, Harriet, Calhoun, and Lake of the Isles.  I’ve known the bike paths around them for more than half a century, and it’s a lovely ride.  Quick shower, keep moving, and on to the whole reason I flew out: a mini-reunion of the Edina High School Class of 1969.

Picked up my airline sidekick and pal-since-1963 Steve Schlachter at his mom’s new coop apartment (a year earlier she moved out of the home where she was for more than 50 years), had a quick visit with Marlys, and made fast for McCoy’s a bar in the adjacent suburb of St. Louis Park.  About 40 of the class of 806 attended, and I knew almost all their names from their faces: Jim Knutson, Tom Keegan, Nancy Carlsen, and more.  At my age, it was the most fun you could have in three hours, yakking with old friends, catching up, telling stories that were mostly true.

The best conversation was with Guy Drake.  Back then, a super-talented musician and actor.  Not sure what he did for most of his career, but five years ago he studied theology and became an ordained deacon in the Episcopal Church.  “Talked shop” with Ross DeKraay, longtime airline captain who has worked all over the world and was headed to Korea on a Boeing contract.  Reflected on parenthood with Tom Boulay.  It was over far too quickly.  Dropped Steve off, grabbed a light dinner, and headed back to Phil and Deb’s for another nice yak.  Deb was also Class of ’69, but transferred in, so did not grow up with my buddies.

Got up early again Tuesday morning, worked a couple of hours at Caribou Coffee at 50th and France, ate more yogurt and pastry (you can get Yoplait anywhere, but no place has bakeries like the Twin Cities, thanks to the German and Scandinavian immigrants).  Drove east on 66th Street, tracing the route we used when we bicycled to the airport, as we did almost every day in the summer of 1967.  Flew home on the fast nonstop.  So great to not have to connect.

Three days later, at 4:30 AM on Friday the 17th, I motored south on I-85 and I-85 to suburban Greensboro, North Carolina, to deliver eight big boxes of Portmeirion Botanic Garden dishware we no longer used.  We started buying the pattern on a 1988 trip to England and amassed a lot of it over the years, much bought on frequent trips to Britain the 1990s.  Linda and I loved it, but Robin thought it old-fashioned, so it was time for change, and there was a willing buyer at Replacements Ltd., which specializes in used china and cutlery.  It would have cost more than $200 ship, hence the road trip.

Off the freeway!

Off the freeway!

Old barn near McLeansville, NC

Old barn near McLeansville, NC

I was there in under five hours, by 9:30, unloaded, got a receipt, and headed back north.  I had the rest of the day, so instead of a freeway with too many trucks and lots of cars, I headed up U.S. Highway 29, “The Seminole Trail” that connects  Washington, D.C. with Pensacola, Florida.  It was a divided highway and almost-freeway most of the way, but not as frenzied.  Stopped in Lynchburg, a small city on the James River, for a pleasant walk along the riverfront, lined with old brick factories and warehouses, and some new construction.  Parts of downtown were time-warped, back at least six decades to the exodus of retail for the suburbs.  Fascinating stuff.  Grabbed a quick lunch at the nicely named but disappointing Biscuitville (I had seen signs for them at several places earlier in the day, and I was hoping for a nice place rather than fast food).

Nicely restored riverfront building, now a children's museum

Nicely restored riverfront building, now a children’s museum

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Riverfront warehouse under renovation

Riverfront warehouse under renovation

Main Street, Lynchburg

Main Street, Lynchburg

Evidence of the Lynchburg time warp

Evidence of the Lynchburg time warp

I got off U.S. 29 and meandered up the Rockfish Valley, the easternmost part of the Appalachians, a network of ridges and valleys.  Really beautiful country (should have pulled over and snapped a picture).  I was, by 2:15, at the tap room of my favorite Virginia small brewery, Starr Hill, in Crozet.  It was a different kind of rest stop, pausing for 75 minutes to sample (5 ounce glasses) three of their brews.

StarrHill

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Back in the car, east 10 miles to Charlottesville and massive traffic on the U.S. 29 bypass, then stop and go all the way to suburban D.C., arriving just after six.  By the numbers it was 602 miles, just under 12 hours at the wheel.  As I headed home, tired and bored, I thought about my traveling-salesman father, who regularly clocked 50,000 road miles in a year.  Especially in his latter years, all that driving must have really taxed him.  We are so lucky.

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London and Lugano

On the London River Bus

On the London River Bus

On Monday, April 4 I headed to Georgetown to meet two students, then down to National Airport for the short flight to Philadelphia and a return to the classroom at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.  Before meeting my genial host, Americus Reed, I spent an hour with a graduating senior who was interested in the airline business.  At 6:45, Americus and I walked over to Doc Magrogan’s, a seafood restaurant near campus.  His T.A., Jay, joined us, and an hour later Americus’ wife Veronica sat down.  It was a nice dinner.  Veronica drove us home; for many years Americus’ has welcomed me overnight, the only host to do so, and it’s always nice not to be in a hotel.

Locust Walk, University of Pennsylvania

Locust Walk, University of Pennsylvania

 

Benjamin Franklin, founder of the university (1740), rendered in bronze and seated on a park bench. I chatted with him in between some phone calls

Benjamin Franklin, founder of the university (1740), rendered in bronze and seated on a park bench. I chatted with him in between some phone calls

 

The Reeds' house is filled with cool stuff, including this dining room light fixture

The Reeds’ house is filled with cool stuff, including this dining room light fixture

We were up early the next morning, Veronica dropping us at school.  I worked a bit, then delivered the first of two lectures to MBA students.  By tradition, we eat lunch at Pod, an Asian-fusion place.  Gave another talk, took a short nap on the couch in Americus’ office (he was in a meeting), worked a bit more, and said goodbye.

Inside Pod

Inside Pod

At 5:15, I met Jim Cohen, a fellow student from the summer Wharton postdoc program we attended in 1983 (the one that changed my life and, I learned that evening, his too).  We repaired to a local watering hole and caught up.  Though I saw him briefly at a Wharton reunion in 2002, each of us “rewound the tape” 33 years and we went through career and personal life.  A zoology Ph.D., Jim recycled himself in medical marketing research, and on the side continued to hone his pedal steel guitar skills.  One nice aside: during a time when he was working less, he worked a lot on his music, and he told me that there was one specific moment when he instantly improved.  His wife, a choral musician, heard him playing much better, walked up a flight of stairs and asked “What just happened?”  I love hearing about moments like that.  We had a couple of beers and a really good catch-up.  He’s a great fellow.

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Spring blossoms on Chestnut Street

Once upon a time, no Philadelphia building could be taller than the top of City Hall (actually a statue of William Penn), but that rule is long gone!

Once upon a time, no Philadelphia building could be taller than the top of City Hall (actually a statue of William Penn), but that rule is long gone!

As I did two weeks earlier, I paused to admire the art of Caroline Lathan-Stiefel on Concourse A of the Philly airport. Splendid!

As I did two weeks earlier, I paused to admire the art of Caroline Lathan-Stiefel on Concourse A of the Philly airport. Splendid!

At 6:50 exactly, I shook his hand and walked briskly back to the University City station and onto the train to the airport, then a flight to London – back to Europe after just 10 days.  We landed at Heathrow mid-morning, and I headed not to the Sages’ house but to London Business School, which offers simple accommodation that perfectly fit a one-day visit.  I had to wait 90 minutes for the room to be ready, but when it was I showered, changed clothes, and headed out for a bike ride, using the wonderful bike-sharing service that costs less than $3 a day (provided each trip is under 30 minutes).  The weather was mixed, patches of rain then patches of blue sky, but I had my Gore-Tex raincoat and all was well.  First sortie was around Regents Park, past the giraffes and the posh houses that front the park.

Courtyard, London Business School: an agreeable place to wait for your room to be ready

Courtyard, London Business School: an agreeable place to wait for your room to be ready

On Regent's Park

Chester Terrace, Regent’s Park. Built 1825, it is one of London’s finest neo-classical streetscapes

Britain's CIA: headquarters of the Secret Intelligence Service, commonly called MI6

Britain’s CIA: headquarters of the Secret Intelligence Service, commonly called MI6

I then headed east to Kings Cross to swap some cash dollars for pounds (didn’t need much) at a favored hole-in-the-wall exchange.  Then south through Clerkenwell and Farringdon, pausing for a late lunch.  Then across Blackfriars Bridge and west to Vauxhall and Pimlico.  At 4:15 at St. George’s Wharf, Vauxhall, I hopped on a River Bus, floating downstream on the Thames to Embankment, past the massive London Eye Ferris wheel and Big Ben.

The River Bus

The River Bus

The sky was again blue, and it was a spectacular ride, offering London views that I had never seen before.  Really, really cool.  I admired the pilot’s skill, given fierce winds, strong current, and more traffic than you would expect.  Got off at Canary Wharf, the massive office development that looks a lot like a U.S. downtown, only nicer, and hopped on the Tube back to Baker Street and my digs.  I was so tired that I slept past my stop, but only by one!  Views from the boat:

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Canary Wharf

Canary Wharf

Back at LBS, I washed my face and revived.  Grabbed another bike and headed west two miles to the Prince Alfred, an old (1856) pub recommended by a young colleague at Imperial Business School.  It was lovely inside, old wooden bar and fixtures.  Had a pint, biked a mile south to an Indian place for dinner, where I had a nice T-t-S exchange with my server, Sally from Australia.  She was in the first month of a planned two year walkabout (almost a rite of passage for young Aussies).  When I told her the purpose of my trip, she said, “I guessed you were a lecturer, because you project well.”  Always interesting to learn what people perceive at first glance.  Hopped on the last bike of the day, and home (after a couple of wrong turns), 20 miles all told.  Then I was really tired.

The view from my stool at the bar of the Alfred

The view from my stool at the bar of the Alfred

A splendid 1930s cinema in Bayswater is now apartments and shops

A splendid 1930s cinema in Bayswater is now apartments and shops

 

Additional chopped green chilies are an essential add-on when I eat Indian food!

Additional chopped green chilies are an essential add-on when I eat Indian food!

Was up early Thursday morning, out the door for breakfast fixings, big cup of coffee, and at 8:45 I met my LBS host Oded Koenigsberg.  Delivered the airline revenue management talk from 9 to 10:30, and a talk to the LBS Marketing Club from 11:15 to 12:30.  Zip, zip, zip.  Out the door at 12:37, and was able to get to Paddington Station and onto the 12:55 to Heathrow (public transport generally works very well in that huge city).  I was headed to Milan.  The British Airways flight was lightly booked, so I got a boarding pass early.  Because I had a tight connection from plane to bus for my destination, Lugano, and because the flight was not full, I didn’t have to check my bag.  Then I remembered that Oded gave me, as he almost always does, a bottle of Veuve Clicquot champagne.  Couldn’t carry that on, so I gave it to the kindly BA agent who checked me in.  Nice!

The lucky recipient of my offloaded Champagne

The lucky recipient of my offloaded Champagne

The view from seat 18F

The view from seat 18F

The flight was 20 minutes late, and I was sure I wouldn’t make the bus (another one left an hour later), but I somehow managed to speed through the airport, get ATM Euros for bus fare, and hop on the 6:40 trip.  Got to Lugano (my seventh visit there) before eight, walked down the hill to the hotel, then out for dinner.  As I have written many times before, Swiss prices make me cranky, so I opted for dinner at McDonald’s (they have beer!).  Still, the meal was about $20.

As I have written many times before, it simply does not occur to the Swiss not to buy from each other; McDonald's no doubt could source cheaper salt, but Swiss salt, well, that's quality!

As I have written many times before, it simply does not occur to the Swiss not to buy from each other; McDonald’s no doubt could source cheaper salt, but Swiss salt, well, that’s quality!

My lecture was not until mid-afternoon, and I did a poor job of planning the morning.  In hindsight, I should have headed to Bellinzona, the capital of the Italian Swiss canton of Ticino; next time for sure.  So I spent the morning on a long walk around town, the high point being lovely lakeshore gardens, brimming with seasonal flowers — it was Switzerland at its best.  Met my host Omar Merlo (for the third time in two months) for lunch, worked a bit, took a short nap, and from 3:00 to 4:30 delivered a lecture to a big class of engaged students.  Omar grew up in Lugano, and has family here, so I was on my own that night.  I opted for a takeaway meal, and was asleep by 9:00.

Where the well-to-do Luganesi live

Where the well-to-do Luganesi live

 

Looking up: the dome of the Sacro Cuore parish church

Looking up: the dome of the Sacro Cuore parish church

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Modern window shopping: 3D printer in an office-products store, and high-tech Swiss kitchen

Modern window shopping: 3D printer in an office-products store, and high-tech Swiss kitchen

Traditional window shopping: sausage shop, cake shop, produce shop

Traditional window shopping: sausage shop, cake shop, produce shop

 

Apart from not wetting the bed, seldom does having to pee in the middle of the night do old guys any good.  But there are exceptions: at midnight I checked my email, and spotted a headline: Italian air traffic controllers to strike Saturday, April 9.  I checked AA.com and my departing flight was delayed, but I worried that it might not leave at all, so I got into rebooking mode, buying a train ticket to Zurich and getting an AA flight to New York.  Happily the Silver Bird had seats.  Went back to sleep, fitfully, up at five.  The night clerk at the hotel printed out my Swiss Railways ticket, I grabbed a couple slices of bread and some cheese, and hoofed it up the hill to the station (I got there with a half-hour to spare).

The ride north, last done in autumn 2010, is spectacular.  Like the last time, I cued Anton Bruckner’s Fourth Symphony, dramatic music to match the dramatic mountain scenery, and horns reminiscent of the Swiss alpenhorn.  We zipped through Bellinzona, capital of Ticino, rolling right under one of the town’s famed medieval castles.  A brand-new, 57-kilometer tunnel (the largest public works project in Swiss history) opens in June to replace the much shorter one we used (opened 1882), which included slow climbs and descents, but way-cool views.  You gotta admire how the Swiss have mastered the earth in three dimensions – not a lot of the country is flat.

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At the top it was still winter, trees flocked with snow.  We seemed to poke along in places, but we arrived Zurich Hauptbahnhof exactly on time, and out to the airport with almost an hour to spare.  Hooray!  Flight home was routine, connection to Washington on time.

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A good use for my last Swiss Francs: a small coffee on board for the equivalent of $5.12

A good use for my last Swiss Francs: a small coffee on board for the equivalent of $5.12

 

Postscript: the original Milan-New York flight departed exactly on time.  But how could I have known?

 

 

 

 

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York (not the New one), London, Berlin

Somerset House, London, splendid in the fading light

Somerset House, London, splendid in the fading light

I finished teaching an intensive short course at Georgetown on Saturday the 19th, got up Sunday morning at five, finished grading, did a little more lifting and toting in the new house, and headed to the airport.  Flew to Philadelphia.  Working my email, I noticed that a front button on my suit coat was about to fall off.  My mother taught me basic sewing, so it was no problem to reattach sturdily.  That quick task was nothing compared to one in November 1985, when, on my first business trip to Europe, the seam on the seat of my trousers ripped on the flight from Minnesota to Chicago – in the first hour of the journey.  Three decades on, I vividly recall sitting on a toilet seat in a men’s room of the airport Hilton, needle and thread in hand.  Always good to fix on the fly!

Mending at Philadelphia Airport

Mending at Philadelphia Airport

The people who run Philadelphia Airport really work hard to make it pleasant, and I've previously noted some cool temporary art exhibits throughout the terminals; this stuff was sensational

The people who run Philadelphia Airport really work hard to make it pleasant, and I’ve previously noted some cool temporary art exhibits throughout the terminals; this stuff was sensational

Although I was headed to London, I was not due to stand and deliver until the next day (Tuesday), so flew to Manchester.  The plan was for most of a day in York.  Unhappily, the three-hour flight delay changed things, but happily the railway staff took mercy on me and accepted my cheap, train-specific ticket on the 11:33 ride.  I’m not sure airlines are that flexible!

We rolled into central Manchester, then east.  I had been on that line in 2014, and it’s quite scenic – across the Pennines, low but sometimes steep mountains, astride the Rochdale and Huddersfield Narrow canals, past small villages.

We arrived York at 1:11 and in fifteen minutes the Transport Geek was in near-heaven: the National Railway Museum, a colossal collection of hardware.  One could reasonably expect that the nation that invented the railway (George Stephenson is generally credited with “perfecting” the steam locomotive in the 1820s) would have an over-the-top facility, but it was still way cool.  I visited the museum in 1977, but I recall it as small and limited.  This place was vast.  There was a vast “attic” of varied artifacts that alone would merit a day: signaling equipment, old signs, china from deluxe passenger services, uniforms.  The interpretive panels were concise and clear.  Animated docents, nicely relabeled “Explainers,” greatly enhanced the experience.  I tarried in the cab of the Duchess of Hamilton, #6229, a steam behemoth built in 1938 for the London, Midland & Scottish Railway, listening to Chris (and his splendid Yorkshire accent, rendering much and London closer to mooch and Loondon) explain how the engine worked to a group of 11-year-olds.  He was really good.  Later, for adults, he added some interesting science, for example, the staggering inefficiency of steam locomotives – they were never able to convert more than 9% of thermal energy into motion, and early versions were closer to 3%.  But it beat horse and carriage!

A replica of Stephenson's original passenger train, The Rocket

A replica of Stephenson’s original passenger train, The Rocket

Dining Car from the 1930s

Dining Car from the 1930s

Streamlined cowling on the Duchess of Hamilton

Streamlined cowling on the Duchess of Hamilton

Inside the locomotive cab of the Duchess of Hamilton: pretty basic controls, but driving the train still required a ton of skill

Inside the locomotive cab of the Duchess of Hamilton: pretty basic controls, but driving the train still required a ton of skill

NRM-Attic-Diptych

The museum had a huge, accessible “attic” filled with artifacts of all kinds

. . . And lots of old signs

. . . And lots of old signs

You could also see workshops where they were restoring old rolling stock

You could also see workshops where they were restoring old rolling stock

I was sorry the plane was late, because I could have spent a couple more hours in the museum, with time left to walk over to York Minster, the second-largest Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe. I had not been to York in almost 40 years, and I was also sorry not to have time to see a bit of the town.  Still, the museum was an outstanding way to spend an afternoon.  At 3:30, I grabbed my bags, walked to the train station, bought a late lunch, and hopped on the 4:02 express to London.  The sun was out and it was a nice ride, high point being the paddocks filled with ewes and newborn lambs.

Arrived London about 6:30, hopped on the London Overground, and was at Scott and Caroline’s house by 7:15.  Scott was still working and as soon as I arrived, Caroline zipped out, with me in charge of the slumbering Eva Rose.  Scott arrived about nine, we had a yak, a beer, and some dinner, and I clocked out.

Breakfast time with Eva

Breakfast time with Eva

Tuesday promised to be full, and it was.  Suited up, out the door at eight, onto the #52 bus south to Imperial Business School and two lectures to visiting students from Hong Kong.  My Imperial host Omar introduced me and returned at 12:15 for a chat.  Also had a nice visit with Mikhaela Gray, an Aussie described in a 2015 update.  Great people, great school.

Arches across London: at the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Natural History Museum, and Heathrow Terminal 5

Arches across London: at the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Natural History Museum, and Heathrow Terminal 5

Next stop was traditional lunch with David Holmes, a former British Airways colleague.  It was our eighth consecutive spring repast.  We ate at The Wolseley, an upmarket café in a former (1921) automobile showroom of the same name.  It was noisy, but we managed to cover the usual topics of work, family, UK and U.S. politics, and the mess elsewhere in the world, including sad reference to the Brussels airport and subway bombing that occurred six hours earlier.  We both tucked into smoked haddock, splendid.  We could not tarry, for I was due at the London School of Economics for a 4:15 lecture, so we peeled away at the Green Park Underground Station.  It was grand to see him.

The Wolseley (from a photo on their website)

The Wolseley (from a photo on their website)

The LSE lecture went well, a small but engaged group.  Worked my email after class ended, then walked a mile west to the Ship and Shovell, an historic pub on the slope below the Charing Cross railway station.  Their featured tipples were Badger Ales from the Hall and Woodhouse brewery in Dorset, since 1777.  But the main feature was Tim Letheren, a fine lad from Liverpool who I met at Cambridge in 2011.  We had a great yak and a couple of Badgers.  By then I was plumb wore out.  Happily, the Bakerloo (Tube) Line was a block away, and it carried me within five blocks of “home.”  Was asleep by 9:30.

Wednesday was a day off, much needed, the first true break in weeks, and I enjoyed it immensely.  First stop was the Design Museum just east of Tower Bridge.  The permanent collection is packed away, ready for a move to larger quarters in West London in November, but two sensational temporary exhibits carried the day.  Cycle Revolution looked at the revival of bicycling, focused on four distinct “tribes” of users: performers (racers), thrill-seekers, urban bicyclists, and cargo carriers.  Like the railway, the British perfected the two-wheeler, and the range of machines was impressive.

Nice old warehouses along the wharves on the south bank of the Thames

Nice old warehouses along the wharves on the south bank of the Thames

The view from the front of the Design Museum

The view from the front of the Design Museum

Left, the iconic Brompton folding bike, well folded, and a cargo bike

Left, the iconic Brompton folding bike, well folded, and a cargo bike

 

A Rover “safety bicycle” from the late 1880s, and the Pinarello Dogma that Sir Bradley Wiggins rode in the Tour de France

Better, though were the 76 nominees (in six categories) of the Designs of the Year 2015 competition.  Professionals nominated many, and a jury winnowed them down.  I had three faves: a 3D printing lab in South Sudan to produce prosthetic arms for amputee victims of the prolonged uncivil war there; the Moocall, a wireless sensor that attaches to a pregnant cow and texts the farmer when she is about the deliver, to greatly reduce bovine infant mortality (regular readers know my soft heart for domesticated animals); and the Loopwheel, a truly revolutionary design for wheelchairs that puts the suspension in the wheel, in the form of looped carbon-fiber springs.  That the last two were UK inventions made me feel good: the British have long been innovators and creators across a wide spectrum.  It was awesome, and I look forward to revisiting them in their new digs.  I love design.

Design finalists: Loopwheel, Moocall, BMW Electric

Design finalists: Loopwheel, Moocall, BMW Electric

I ambled across the famous Tower Bridge (people think it’s old, but it’s only 122), past the Tower of London, and onto the Tube, north to Finsbury Park, then west to an interesting neighborhood, Crouch End.  Hopped off in the “village” center, bought a couple of Hot Cross Buns, Easter favorites, and at 1:30 met another Cambridge-student friend, Fabio Scappaticci, who lives nearby.  We ambled a few blocks north to a Turkish restaurant for a huge lunch and good yak, mainly about his career.  He’s had hugely varied jobs, and is a seriously bright fellow.

Before lunch with Fabio, traditional Lenten favorite: hot cross buns

Before lunch with Fabio, traditional Lenten favorite: hot cross buns

I was back at the Sage house by 3:45, time for the first nap in a long time, then on to babysitting duties.  It was a small bit of service for Scott and Caroline, who are so kind to me.  And Eva was already fast asleep, so there was not much to do.  Brought this journal up to date, ate leftovers from the huge Turkish lunch (at least another pound of yummy leftovers), and waited for the Sages to return.

I was out the door with Scott and Eva (who were bound for the U.S. Embassy to get the tot a passport), onto the Bakerloo Line south to Waterloo (the “loo” in Bakerloo) station and a cup of coffee with former AA colleague Matthew Hall, who has for the past five years been the commercial head at London City Airport.  We talked aviation for awhile, U.S. politics (inevitably!), UK politics, family, commuting, and more.  So great to stay connected with longtime pals, especially across the water.

At ten I headed back onto the Bakerloo Line (it was getting a lot of use that trip), north to London Business School for the last lecture of the week, to Prof. Oded Koenigsberg’s MBA class on strategic pricing.  It was my 13th visit there.  I arrived early, and sat in the reception area, working my email and listening for the low hum of brainpower – it’s one of Europe’s best B-schools.  At noon, Oded appeared with Olaf, a Dutch guest lecturer, exec with SKF, the Swedish maker (pioneer, really) of ball bearings.  We repaired to the faculty dining room, with food that would be at home in a fancy restaurant.

LBS is one of the most international schools I visit, and at 12:45 I worked the crowd in the classroom, meeting students, from India, France, Germany, the USA, Bulgaria, Chile, and more.  For the first time in years, the AV system messed up, so I presented for the first 15 minutes without slides, adding a bit of pressure but also loosening both the class and me.  They were laughing, and, I hope, learning.  The rest went well, they applauded loudly, and I headed home, done for the week.

Later that afternoon, I stopped in St. John the Evangelist, the nearby parish church, for a brief afternoon prayer, on the day before we Christians observe Good Friday.  I prayed for the victims of the terrorism in Brussels, and lifted up Christ’s example of fearlessness: on the day he was crucified, he was unafraid.  The two are connected of course: if we give in to fear, then those Daesh assholes win.

It was a point I tried to make to a young woman in the neighborhood florist 30 minutes earlier.  She told me she had a week off, and was heading to Amsterdam. “I was planning to go to Brussels, too . . .” but she didn’t complete the sentence.  I offered the view above, and she only nodded politely.  I’d go to Belgium tomorrow, without hesitation.  “Do not be afraid” is a good way to live.

Cuddle time with Eva

Cuddle time with Eva

Scott and I headed to dinner at the nearby (less than a block) Parlour, a gastropub where he is a regular.  Had a nice meal (salted cod and stuffed quail), some pints, and a truly great conversation.  He is a truly bright and global fellow, and a really fine friend.

I was up at 5:45 Friday morning and out the door, onto the #18 bus to Paddington Station and the Heathrow Express to the airport, where the fun started.  I was headed to Berlin for what under ideal circumstances would be a long day.  Flying standby on British Airways, I didn’t get on the flight at 8:40.  Hooray, I got a seat on the 10:10 flight, but my suitcase did not come with me.  Happily the “bag lady” at Tegel Airport, Berlin, told me it was arriving on the next BA flight, due about 4:00.  And, happily, Tegel is not far from the city – under 30 minutes on bus and subway.  Another cheery take: I would save 4€ on a baggage locker at the railway station.

In further praise of wings: British Airways' Airbus A321 enroute to Berlin

In further praise of wings: British Airways’ Airbus A321 enroute to Berlin

So after a little bad language (for me, not the bag helper), I bought a day ticket on the BVG, the city’s superb, integrated transit system, and headed to into the city.  On the way through the airport, I spotted a poster advertisement from the (German) Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure.  That last element alone is telling, but it got better: the headline read “Turbo-internet für alle,” which essentially meant the state was investing about US$3 billion into creating super-broadband infrastructure throughout the country.  Do we do that in the U.S.?  Nein!

Once downtown, I grabbed a sandwich and walked through light rain to the German Historical Museum in the oldest surviving building on Unter den Linden, Berlin’s famous boulevard.  The museum had a special exhibit, Art from the Holocaust, 100 works from 50 Jewish artists produced between 1939 and 1945.  Half of them were murdered during the Holocaust.  And one, Nelly Toll, lives still, in New Jersey.  I read about the exhibit in The New York Times after the January opening, and was determined to see it before it closed in early April.

H-Nelly

“Girls in the Field,” Nelly Toll, 1943 (Visitors were not permitted to photograph the art, but images could be freely downloaded from the DHM website)

"Transport Arrival," 1942, Lev Haas

“Transport Arrival,” Lev Haas, 1942

The exhibition was superb, though grim.  The saddest works were those that depicted or were created by children, and there were more than a few.  Pavel Fantl painted for his four-year-old son, colorful and whimsical works as an “alternative reality based on imagination and hope” (it was an idea not unlike that depicted in the Italian film “Life is Beautiful”).  Fantl did a caricature of Hitler, blood on his hands and on a guitar, entitled “The Song Is Over,” which prophesied the end.  But Fantl did not see that end; he was shot in a death march in January 1945.

"One Spring," 1941, Karl Robert Bodek and Kurt Conrad

“One Spring,” Karl Robert Bodek and Kurt Conrad, 1941

Many works, including Nelly’s, offered sunny scenes or color, which contrasted markedly with the colorless and oppressive ghettoes, labor camps, and death camps.  Some artists drew or painted at great personal risk; some did work for the oppressors in exchange for materials.  One created linocuts from a discarded tire; Zvi Szylis, painting in the Łodz ghetto, used potato sacks as canvas and produced his own pants from aniline (coal tar).  In a 1981 interview, Lev Haas (1901-1983 – he survived) said he painted not art but documentation for prosecution.

"The Song Is Over," Pavel Fantl, 1942-44

“The Song Is Over,” 1942-44, Pavel Fantl

Several poems punctuated the art.  Two days before her death in the Theresienstadt ghetto in 1942, Margarethe Schmahl-Wolf titled hers “But my soul is free.”  Here is what 13-year-old Abraham Koplowicz wrote in the Łodz ghetto a year before he was killed in Auschwitz; it caught my eye for an obvious reason:

When I will be 20 years old,

In a motorized bird I’ll sit,

And to the reaches of space I’ll rise.

I will fly, I will float to the beautiful

Faraway world

And skywards I will soar

The cloud my sister will be

The wind is brother to me . . .

Whew.  When I finished three walks through the show, I wrote in the visitor book that I admired the will of postwar Germans and their government to take specific responsibility for, and atone as best they could, the genocide the Nazis perpetrated.  And I wrote more: this stands in marked contrast to America’s unwillingness to do the same for genocide of Native Americans and the subjugation of slavery.  We need to own up.

The German Historical Museum, Berlin

The German Historical Museum, Berlin

Main entrance, Humboldt University

Main entrance, Humboldt University

The rest of the museum looked really interesting (I recognized that the new wing was designed by I.M. Pei, because in line and material it closely resembled the symphony hall he created for Dallas).  But I was worn out, and still needed to fetch my bag, so I walked briskly back to the station, and out to the airport.  Woo hoo, the suitcase arrived as promised, so I headed back to town and to the Hauptbahnhof.

My flight home the next day was from Frankfurt, so I hopped on the 7:49 ICE (fast) train to Hanover, immediately heading to the dining car for a beer and a big dinner, a sort of German meatloaf.  Changed trains in Hanover, napped a bit, and was at Frankfurt Airport at 12:30.  Thrifty Rob reckoned it made no sense to get a hotel, so I found an agreeable bench, used my backpack as pillow (the foam on the back was surprisingly comfy), wrapped my arm through the suitcase handle, pulled my raincoat over my head to block the light, and conked out, sleeping well for four hours.

Beer shown larger than actual size! On board the ICE to Hanover

Beer shown larger than actual size! On board the ICE to Hanover

Bedtime at Frankfurt Airport; the back of my daypack was a surprisingly nice pillow!

Bedtime at Frankfurt Airport; the back of my daypack was a surprisingly nice pillow!

 

The Japan Airlines lounge, also for AA customers, opened at 5:30, and I was first into the shower, then some breakfast.  Waiting to board the rocket to Charlotte, had a nice T-t-S with a fellow carrying on an insulated container labeled “live cells” in English and German.  “May I ask what’s inside?” I said.  Nothing, he replied, he was on his way to pick up stem cells.  So I launched: social conservatives in the U.S. have hijacked medical research.  Him: and you seem to have plenty of money for weapons.  Me: I like your country, your priorities and your determination are in order.  Somehow we got onto the topic above: owning up the past, and he mirrored my observation: “The genocide of your Indians was pretty awful.”  Yep.

We landed Charlotte at 1:30, hopped on a flight north to Washington, and had the dogs on the leash by 5:30.

 

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Two Zippy Trips: New York and Chicago

Hudson-Panorama

The panorama from the apartment of friends Jeff and Susan

I was home for a few weeks.  On Thursday, February 25, I left the house way before sunrise, drove to the airport (a rare luxury!) and  flew north to New York.  Even though we now live close, I don’t get there often.  Hopped on the new Q70 express bus from LaGuardia airport, then onto the E train into Manhattan, and in no time was at my destination, the Hyatt at Grand Central Station, and an event called Aviation Day USA, sponsored by IATA, the International Air Transport Association, and the Wings Club, a New York aviation institution.  I had a small role as the conference closer, delivering an end-of-day summary of the talks and panels.  Saw a few old friends, met some new ones, and did a 15-minute wrap-up.  Done.

Hopped on the subway toward lower Manhattan (Downtown in local parlance), riding a few stops to Union Square then west to 14th Street.  From there a bracing walk in a cold wind to my digs, at the West Village apartment of friends Susan and Jeff Campbell.  Jeff and I worked together at American Airlines going back to the mid-1990s, and I had not seen them for six years, when they lived in San Francisco.  In 2014, Jeff took a big job as CFO at American Express.  Susan and I yakked a bit, I worked my email, Jeff came home, and we headed a few blocks east to the Waverly Inn, a comfy, old-school restaurant opened by the editor of Vanity Fair.  I’m not one to recognize celebrities, though I’m sure they were there.  We were there for a fine meal and to get caught up after a long gap.  It was a wonderful evening.  They are quality people.

The dawn view from my bedroom

The dawn view from my bedroom

Was up before sunrise the next morning, admiring the panoramic view from their 14th floor condo, which was right on the Hudson River.  Wowie, what a sight, from the Statue of Liberty on the south past Jersey City and Hoboken.  Way cool.  Jeff zipped off for work, yakked with Susan a bit more, and I hopped on the subway north to Columbus Circle and late breakfast with another former AA pal, Pete Pappas.  Pete’s about 10 years older than me, with tons of airline experience, including a stint at Pan Am (he was there when their 747 was bombed out of the sky over Scotland, and has seen lots more).  We had a great yak about the state of the industry, the old days, and more.  Fun.

Waiting for the Uptown train

Waiting for the Uptown train

Air rights, the ability to build atop an existing structure, is a big deal; here a scene on W. 57th St.

Air rights, the ability to build atop an existing structure, is a big deal; here a scene on W. 57th St.

Flew home in early afternoon, after an hour waiting to take off at LGA. At the conference the day before, many speakers spoke about not enough aviation capacity in the New York region, and the wait underscored the point.  Sigh.

Four days later, on the first day of March, I flew to Chicago, landing in heavy snow.  Hopped on the familiar Pace #250 bus east to Evanston, dropped my bag at the hotel, and ambled a few blocks to Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.  My longtime host, Anne Coughlan, airline pal Gary Doernhoefer, and I collaborated on a newfangfled B-school case study.  They’re usually paper, 8-25 pages.  This one was multimedia, on a website, with video, slides, links, the works.  The first case discussion would be that evening.  We three yakked for awhile, and at 4:30 two others joined us, a way-smart fellow from United Airlines, Amos Khim, and Paul Wait, who leads a UK association of travel management companies.  We had an early dinner and a yak, then joined the class.  First half was Anne leading a class discussion, and the second half was a panel discussion and student questions.  It was lively and fun.

The view from my chair in Anne's MBA class

The view from my chair in Anne’s MBA class

Anne’s husband Chuck dropped Gary and I at the hotel, and we headed out for a couple of glasses of beer.  At the bar, we met Felipe, a student in the class; an interesting Chinese-American barmaid (who in between beer runs told us some of her life story) who just finished a B.S. in mechanical engineering; and the voluble Dr. Parag Gupta, who just finished a doctorate in that same field.  In between talking to strangers, Gary and I had a good yak about the business, family, and more.  A nice evening.

Dr. Gupta, quite a talker

Dr. Gupta, quite a talker

But a short one.  Woke up at five, which was six at home, my usual time to rise.  Headed to the gym for some miles on a fitness bike, then back onto the #250 bus to Des Plaines, a suburb just north of O’Hare, for a speedy breakfast with Cousin Jim.  He kindly dropped me back at the airport, and I flew home.  Two zippy trips.

A view of a comfortable college town, Evanston

A view of a comfortable college town, Evanston

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The First Travel of 2016: Britain and Germany

Part of a page from an original Gutenberg Bible (1451-55), Gutenberg Museum, Mainz, Germany

Part of a page from an original Gutenberg Bible (1451-55), Gutenberg Museum, Mainz, Germany

 

Travel in the New Year began late, nearly the end of January. So I was pretty excited when I hopped on the short flight from Washington National up to JFK, and then onto the big Silver Bird across the ocean to London. Arrived Heathrow just after six on Sunday morning, headed to the American Airlines arrivals lounge and tucked into a smaller variant of what I call the English-heart-attack-breakfast. Hopped on the train into town and the Bakerloo Line west a few miles to Kensal Green and my billet, at the home of Caroline and Scott Sage. Regular readers may recall that I’ve known Scott since he was in daughter Robin’s kindergarten class in 1988. I had not stayed with them for almost two years and it was good to be back. I chatted with them briefly, played with their cute and lively 16-month-old Eva Rose, then walked through light mist to St. Martin’s Church for Sunday service.

Telephone time; at 16 months, she's mastered "Hello"

Telephone time; at 16 months, she’s mastered “Hello”

Reading time!

Reading time!

The Rev. Graham Noyce greeted me at the front door and introduced me to a parishioner. We chatted briefly, and I took a seat in a nearly empty sanctuary. Happily, by ten o’clock (when a youngster pulled on the ropes to ring the call to worship on the tower bells), the church was more than half full, a mixed congregation, reflecting a rapidly changing neighborhood: about a third of the worshipers were black people from the Caribbean or Africa, the remainder mainly young families. As in the rest of Europe, church attendance has waned in Britain, and it was nice to see young faithful. After a basic service (and some totally unfamiliar hymns), we remained for coffee, tea, and fellowship, and I met a number of people, including a fellow American, Lucy, who teaches at the Royal College of Art.

Altar, St. Martin's

Altar, St. Martin’s

The view from my pew

The view from my pew

St. Martin's Church, Kensal Rise, London

St. Martin’s Church, Kensal Rise, London

I headed home, then peeled back out (Scott and Caroline had friends over for brunch, and I didn’t want to be in the way), bound for Trafalgar Square and the National Portrait Gallery, a great museum that I had only visited once before, in 2009. All sorts of people, famous ones, are there. Kings, queens, princes, and princesses, of course, but also scientists, artists, inventors, musicians. Mr. Boots, founder of the drugstore chain, was there, as was Dr. Jenner, who discovered the cure for smallpox; James Watt, who invented the steam engine; Field Marshal Montgomery, hero of World War II; and many more. A wonderful window on the sweep of British life and achievement. I ambled across St. Martin’s Square for a tuna sandwich and mango smoothie, enjoying a late lunch while listening to a busker who had talent. The phrase “we are young,” memorable title of a short film I saw nearly 50 years ago, popped into my head, because at moments like that (and, gladly, they are frequent) I did feel young and quite alive.

Royals at the National Portrait Gallery: Queen Victoria and Princes Harry and William

Royals at the National Portrait Gallery: Queen Victoria and Princes Harry and William

Aviators: WWI fighter pilot Albert Ball (downed 43 enemy planes and a zeppelin); and Amy Johnson, who flew solo to Australia in 19 days, and who died in civilian service to the WWII effort, 1941.

Aviators: WWI fighter pilot Albert Ball (downed 43 enemy planes and a zeppelin); and Amy Johnson, who flew solo to Australia in 19 days, and who died in civilian service to the WWII effort, 1941.

Busker, St. Martin's Place

Busker, St. Martin’s Place

Refreshed, I ambled a mile across to Piccadilly Circus, thronged with tourists, hopped on the Tube, and went home. After a tonic, 45-minute nap, I had a long and nice chat with Caroline while she was feeding Eva, then preparing dinner. She’s got a very successful recruitment business, Kea, and we yakked about that and many other topics. Then we tucked into a superb Sunday dinner, chicken, roast vegetables, yum! Worked a bit of email, made it to 9:00, and said goodnight.

Eva eating dessert (yes, she also loved the green stuff in the foreground)

Eva eating dessert (yes, she also loved the green stuff in the foreground)

Monday morning, first day of February, time to stand and deliver. Put on coat and tie, hopped on the Tube, and headed to Imperial College London and the Imperial Business School. A few butterflies flitted in my stomach, for after six weeks away from the classroom I was feeling a little out of practice. At ten we were in the large auditorium of the Royal Geographical Society (nice for a geographer to hold forth there, but it was only because the large halls at Imperial were all booked). The insects inside me calmed and I delivered a two-hour talk to Master’s of Marketing students. Said goodbye to host Omar Merlo, walked down Kensington Road, jumped on a red bus and rode west to Notting Hill, a posh neighborhood.

English buildings often feature curious, sometimes whimsical design detail

English buildings often feature curious, sometimes whimsical design detail

At 1:00 I met Sir Geoffrey Own, a colleague for 15 years and my former host at the London School of Economics. He’s in his ninth decade and still rolling forward. We chatted about his forthcoming book on the UK biotechnology industry, some politics (I tried hard to skirt the U.S. follies), some life. And tucked into a nice lunch at Polpo (“octopus” in Italian; before ordering, I asked Geoffrey if he wanted to “share some octopus,” but he declined). Next stop, Euston railway station, then a fast train 50 miles northwest to Milton Keynes, then the C1 bus a few miles north to Cranfield University, site of specialized programs in aviation, ranging from aeronautical engineering to airline management.

The C1 zigzagged through an endless, monotonous suburb. Visual balm soon appeared: just as we entered rural England, the sun came out, and on the right side a verdant winter pasture filled with blackface (Suffolk is the breed) sheep, thick with fleece. A Norman church appeared, all part of the wonderful country landscape. Hopped off at the uni, met my new host Pere, a Catalan and fellow geographer, and delivered a talk from 6:00 to 7:30. Pere had arranged a “taxi” back to Milton Keynes station, actually a university car service, and I had a nice, chat-filled ride with driver Gary, friendly and talkative – not quite Talking to Strangers, but pretty close. He had traveled a lot in the U.S. – skied at Lake Tahoe three times – and really liked my homeland. Hopped on an earlier train, and was home by 9:30, in time for a short chat with Scott. It was a long day.

By Tuesday morning Eva had become comfy with me, which was good because I was the babysitter for about 40 minutes until their day nanny Carrie arrived. We had a lot of fun reading books, and rolling and chasing balls. But I was reminded that looking after toddlers is hard work (full disclosure: I did not change what smelled like a really big poop, leaving that to Carrie’s experienced hands). I grabbed my suitcase, said goodbye to Eva and Carrie, and walked around the corner to the #18 bus east into the center, a handy ride that eliminated the walk to the Tube station. Grabbed a bit more breakfast, a big tub of yogurt, then a large coffee.

In Scarlet & Violet, the florist near the Sages' house

In Scarlet & Violet, the florist near the Sages’ house

While waiting for the bus to Stansted Airport and my flight to Germany I watched the unhappy end to a fracas in front of a fancy townhouse on Dorset Square. A volatile young English fellow, Michael, got into some sort of skirmish with two prosperous newcomers from the Levant; it was unclear how it started, but after the kid called the two “immigrants,” they proceed to beat him up (though not badly). Then the police – at one time 10 officers were on the scene, causing a passerby to say “overpolicing” – arrested the young man. I overheard chunks of his account, and was not precisely sure justice was unfolding. By the end, Michael was pounding on the inside wall of the paddy wagon, and I was on the bus to the airport. Real life in the big city.

Moderne style apartment block, Gloucester Place, London

Moderne style apartment block, Gloucester Place, London

In my lectures, I often speak proudly about the democratization of air travel over the course of my career. At Stansted, you see it, and it looks great – hundreds of people who can now afford to fly, or fly more often. While waiting in the security line, I chatted with a young woman from Dublin, returning home to see her family, but only for a day. “God bless Ryanair,” I told her, and she agreed. And you see it onboard too: excited new passengers at both windows on my row filmed the takeoff with their smartphones. It all made me smile.

We landed at Baden-Baden, near Karlsruhe, at 4:20 (the Ryanair ticket, booked early, cost an astonishing sum, $17.50). It looked like a former Cold War air base, and reading Wikipedia later I confirmed my guess: the French built in in 1951-52, then handed it to the Canadians, the RCAF base operational until 1994. Hopped on a bus north to the train station at Rastatt (the bus rolled briefly down Torontostrasse, see above!). Early on, two nice vignettes of Green Germany: solar panels on every other south-facing house roof in the burg of Hügelsheim; and on the Rastatt train platform a man harvesting aluminum cans from the recycling bin (I handed him mine, for which he thanked me effusively. Got on a regional train to Karlsruhe, a French TGV to Stuttgart (zipping for 10 minutes at 150 mph), and another regional train south to Reutlingen.

Met my host Oliver Götz at the station, dropped stuff at the hotel, and headed out for some Swabian dinner. We had a nice yak and would have stayed longer, but I had some pressing business to conduct by phone and email, work-work and work related to the sale of our current house (more on that soon). Head hit pillow at 12:40, way, way late for this grandfather. The mattress in the (barely) three-star hotel was squeaky and too soft, but I was too tired to notice much.

Slept in! ‘Til 7:30! Tucked into breakfast, then walked 1.5 miles to the ESB Business School at Reutlingen University, my second visit there in five months. At ten I gave a recorded interview with two students and a PR manager for the school, met Oliver for lunch at one, and from three to five delivered a talk on airline sales strategy. During a break Kevin introduced himself and told me his dad was born in Minneapolis, and graduated from Southwest High School, not far from where I grew up. Small world, we agreed.

Dusk on the campus of Reutlingen University

Dusk on the campus of Reutlingen University

I took a bus back to the hotel, and worked a bit, until the hotel wi-fi went down (it was not a fancy place, which was fine, but wi-fi has become a bit like running water – ya gotta have it). Walked across town to a wonderful brewpub, Barfüsser, for some homemade beer and an enormous dinner of roast pork, a bread-dumpling nearly the size of a basketball, and German cole slaw. The wi-fi was still kaput (a great word, German, but much used in parts of the U.S, too). Clocked out early, but slept fitfully, because I was expecting some important emails, which appeared sporadically through the night.

Up early Thursday morning, out the door, and onto a train to Stuttgart. I had a rare 45 minutes before getting on the next train, so took a walk around the station, site of a massive redevelopment effort (a few of the big holes looked unchanged since I saw them 14 months earlier). Got on the 9:37 headed north. February 4 was the first day of Carnival, and true to form three revelers in costume sat opposite me and popped beers before we departed Stuttgart. At Heidelberg, a Minion, a Captain, and a Bedouin boarded coach 8 (the Minion sat across from me). I got off at Mainz, urging the revelers to party hard, put my suitcase and backpack in a locker, and began walking east in steady rain. By tradition, the season begins at 11:11 on Thursday morning, but clearly lots of people started at breakfast.

One of several big holes adjacent to Stuttgart's main station

One of several big holes adjacent to Stuttgart’s main station

Nicely-preserved older building, downtown Stuttgart

Nicely-preserved older building, downtown Stuttgart

Redevelopment adjacent to the Stuttgart railway station

Redevelopment adjacent to the Stuttgart railway station

 

Karneval reveler on the train

Karneval reveler on the train

Karneval celebrants, Mainz

Karneval celebrants, Mainz

First stop was the magnificent red-sandstone cathedral, the Dom, begun in 975. A block east was the reason for the stopover: the Gutenberg Museum, marking the achievements of Mainz’s most famous son, inventor of movable type. I arrived in time for a demonstration of a copy of his printing plate and press; the show was in German, but I got the picture, and ended with a three-color page from his first work, the Bible. Of the 180 original Gutenberg bibles printed 1452-55, 49 have survived.

The Romanesque Mainz Cathedral, more than 1000 years old

The Romanesque Mainz Cathedral, more than 1000 years old

Inside the Cathedral

Inside the Cathedral

The interpretive panels were mostly in German, and as an old museum hand (Science Museum of Minnesota, 1979-83) I thought they could have told the story better, but there were some cool lessons. One: he started with the Bible, but others who took up his invention quickly broadened the scope. Two: the spread of information on the printed page eroded the absolute authority of the Church – Luther had Epistles printed in Wittenberg a decade after his break with the Catholic Church. The museum also told the story, somewhat irregularly, of the evolution of publishing since 1452. A very cool place.

Recreation of one of Johannes' early presses

Recreation of one of Johannes’ early presses

A museum visitor pulls the lever that prints the page

A museum visitor pulls the lever that prints the page

Printing plate for a sample Bible page

Printing plate for a sample Bible page

The museum had a good collection of older presses and equipment, all before digital technology

The museum had a good collection of older presses and equipment, all before digital technology

1491 Treatise on the medicinal uses of stuff from animals

1491 Treatise on the medicinal uses of stuff from animals

Epistles published by Luther, 1530

Epistles published by Luther, 1530

Pickled herring, the Thursday lunch

Pickled herring, the Thursday lunch

Walked briskly back to the station in heavier rain, grabbed my bag and a lunch, and got on a train north on the west bank of the Rhine to Koblenz. I was facing backward and on the side away from the river, so was not at close as I’d like to one of my favorite European landscapes. I’ve often written in these pages about the steep slopes and storybook villages that line the river, and even on a bleak day the valley is lovely. Walked through a cold rain (which only slightly dampened the revelry) to the Hotel Trierer Hof, long a favorite (not least because of a 2009 snafu: hewing to the European tradition of leaving your big key and fob at the reception, I was locked out of my nearby small hotel when I returned from dinner, and the family-owned Trierer Hof took me in, and even gave me a special rate).

Worked a bit, then took a much-needed nap. The Altes Brauhaus, established 1689, my chosen dinner destination, was in nightclub mode (dark except for ultraviolet and party lights), and was clearly not a place for a repast. Next try, Mein Koblenz, visited the year before, was closed for all of Karneval. The rain had stopped, making reconnaissance in the Altstadt, the old town, easier. I spotted the Hotel Kornpforte, looked in the window, and said “this is it,” simply because the diners’ average age was about mine. We’re too old for hard partying!

Night in the Koblenz Altstadt

Night in the Koblenz Altstadt

The dining room emptied, but a table of five older ladies, in their 70s and maybe 80s remained. I wondered: in 1945 were they hungry? Cold? I wanted to ask them, but of course I could not. Instead, I enjoyed a couple of beers and tucked into a salad, pair of sausages, and an enormous pile of fried potatoes.

Nicely-designed new shopping area, Koblenz

Nicely-designed new shopping area, Koblenz

Slept nine hours, tonic, suited up, and hopped on the #8 bus across the Rhine and downstream to Vallendar and my 11th visit to one of Europe’s best business schools, WHU / Otto Beisheim School of Management (Otto the benefactor founded a hugely successful retail chain, Metro). At 8:45 I met my host and long friend Jochen Menges for a coffee in the village, the walked up the hill to campus. I peeled off to do some work, then delivered two lectures to undergraduates. In between, I had a nice Italian lunch with Heidi Hoffmann, a WHU program head and another long friend. The restaurant owner, a native of Italy, visited briefly with us, and I spoke a few words of Italian and showed him the picture of my great-grandparents Enrico and Cesira.

The Altes Brauhaus, back to normal

The Altes Brauhaus, back to normal

At five Jochen dropped me at the hotel. Changed clothes, caught up on email and headed out for dinner. Happily, the Altes Brauhaus was back to gemütlich (cozy), and I took a stool by the window to watch the scene, and a schwarzer (black) beer. It was nice to be back, and I spent a happy couple of hours people-watching, and enjoying another filling German dinner. Was asleep by ten, up at six, onto a fast train to Frankfurt Airport, and home via Charlotte.

On the flight across the ocean, I watched the engrossing and sad film “Spotlight,” about the heroic and persistent Boston Globe journalists who uncovered the horrific story of the scores of Catholic priests who sexually abused more than 1,000 children, and of the church cover-up. The movie reminded me of the power of a free press, which took my mind back two days to the Gutenberg Museum in Mainz, for it was Johaness’ invention that made possible newspapers, and thus (as I wrote above) a means to challenge authority. And I thought of all the men and women who fought to preserve that right to challenge, and our other freedoms. We must never forget what they have given us.

German still life, Altes Brauhaus

German still life, Altes Brauhaus

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