Buenos Aires, by tradition, and a day trip to Nueva York

 

Tile art in the 9 de Julio subway station: Alfredo Guido's Luján (1936)

Tile art in the 9 de Julio subway station, Buenos Aires: Alfredo Guido’s Luján (1936)

 

On Tuesday, August 4, I flew up to JFK, then down to Buenos Aires, to a wet winter, and to my eighth appearance at the South American Business Forum, a student conference organized by young volunteers from Argentina’s premier tech school, the Instituto Tecnológico de Buenos Aires, ITBA. Konstantinos, a SABF volunteer, met me at the airport and we headed into town. He was an interesting guy, Argentine mother and Greek father, both living in Greece. He lived with his Argentine grandmother near downtown and worked at an electroplating company (lots of ITBA students have jobs like that). It was a long ride, and we had a good yak. First stop was to pick up longtime pal Rick Dow, who has joined me as a SABF stalwart. Rick arrived a day earlier and was staying at an Airbnb in Palermo. When we parked the car and I stepped out and onto the curb, it immediately felt familiar, almost like home. Buenos Aires is like that.

Layered graffiti, Palermo neighborhood

Layered graffiti, Palermo neighborhood

Konstantinos dropped us at Sottovoce, a fancy Italian restaurant near the center, and 20 minutes later we were reunited with United Airlines’ country director, Christoff Poppe, who I met some years back when lecturing at Northwestern University. We had dinner with Christoff in 2014, and the lunch was much the same: lots of good discussion about the U.S. and Argentina, politics in both places (Argentina would hold a presidential primary three days hence), and of course the airline business. Sr. Poppe is a great window on Argentina. After a splendid pasta lunch, Rick and I ambled to the hotel – this year we were at a rather fancy Sheraton, not the Waldorf, where the students stay.

Political season in Argentina

Political season in Argentina

We didn't see a lot of blue sky that trip, so you needed to snap a pic quickly!

We didn’t see a lot of blue sky that trip, so you needed to snap a pic quickly!

At 7:30, we hopped the subway back to Palermo, looking in a café for Rick’s misplaced jacket (turned out he left it in the Airbnb, and the host kindly delivered it the next day), then a taxi to Miramar, one of the capital’s many bares notables, historic drinking and eating places. I had dined there several years earlier, an outstanding traditional place. Martín Siniawski, his pal and business partner Juan Trouilh (who first invited me down, when I met him in New York in 2005), and M’s sweetheart Valería Luna, joined us for a nice dinner, a lot of laughs, and fine conversation. By tradition, the last task that night, at 11:00, was to deliver a cheer to the 2015 SABF organizers at the Waldorf. It was a long, good day.

Martín at Miramar

Martín at Miramar

Neon sign, Avenida San Juan. "Before the eyes" is the literal translation for eyeglasses

Neon sign, Avenida San Juan. “Before the eyes” is the literal translation for eyeglasses

The 2015 SABF organizing team

The 2015 SABF organizing team

It was pelting rain Thursday morning (the weather was mostly bad the whole time), so Rick and I hopped in a cab for the four blocks to the conference opening venue. High point in the first-day plenaries was an Argentine economist Agustín Etchebarne, who used the very clever website www.Gapminder.org to make some optimistic points about global economic development. As is often the case, some of the best learning happens away from official sessions, and that day it was dinner with Oscar from Mexico, Rebecca from Brazil, and Ignacio and Facundo from Argentina.

Rick with Ignacio and Facundo

Rick with Ignacio and Facundo

Day two, Friday, is always breakouts, and the morning highlight was Rick’s preso that nailed the conference theme of inclusion. It should have been a plenary for the entire conference. He is engaging and thought-provoking guy, and has been for the nearly 30 years I’ve known him. Had a nice lunch with Jonathan from Zimbabwe and Tatyana from Russia, whose life trajectory was changed after she won a scholarship from the U.S. State Department to attend an American high school – it was in Honolulu, and her Asian-American classmates got her interested in Chinese, which she now studies. She was just back from a year in Taiwan. Once in awhile, the State Department gets it right, and they did with her. During dessert, I shifted down the table and chatted with Isabella Martinez from Chicago, who had attended the 2012 SABF and was so inspired that she formed a NGO called Netwings, which, among other good works, provided funds for four students to attend the 2015 SABF. Rick and I attended an interesting afternoon session with a woman who described her career, with lessons along the way. We left early, me to the fitness center and the hotel room to get a start on my closing remarks for the next day.

Floor monument honoring four workers who disappeared during the military regime in the 1970s

Floor monument honoring four workers who disappeared during the military regime in the 1970s

Rick and I ambled down the street to El Establo, a familiar bar and restaurant, for a beer and some snacks before dinner. We were having a nice time when in walked Rich, a worn-out old guy from Tucson. Let’s just say we were face-to-face with an extreme sex tourist. It was a rare moment when Talking to Strangers was really not very uplifting.  And there was more . . .

We walked across to the student hotel. Oscar had brought a fine bottle of tequila, perhaps the best-known export of his native Jalisco, bought some lemons (“I couldn’t find any limes”), and produced three shot glasses. Tatyana had never tasted tequila, but deadpanned, “I’m Russian, I think I can do this.” It was a fun moment. The entire group ambled a few blocks to the student party, but the early vibe did not seem good, so Rick and I peeled off, heading to Al Carbon, a reliable steak place, for a nice meal and some laughs.

Tatjana from Russia

Tatjana from Russia

Friday eats: beef tongue (left) and ribeye

Friday eats: beef tongue (left) and ribeye

The former offices of the Buenos Aires and Pacific Railway Co., now a shopping mall, Galerias Pacifico

The former offices of the Buenos Aires and Pacific Railway Co., now a shopping mall, Galerias Pacifico

I got up early Saturday to finish my talk. We headed to the small ITBA campus, to yak with people, including Linnea from Minnesota (a student at Penn) and some SABF-organizer alumni who were still fully committed to the project. Just before lunch we listened to a fine motivational talk from Juan Baptista Segonds of Rugby sin Fronteras (Rugby without Borders), a NGO that organizes rugby matches to promote inclusion, peace, and amity. It was inspiring. After a stand-up lunch of empanadas in the main foyer of the school, it was time for me to stand and deliver, to again present the conference closing remarks. They went well. Rick and I hung around as we did in previous years, answering last questions, hugging youngsters and posing for pics, then walked back to the hotel, stopping at a grocery to buy two big tubs of dulce de leche, the milk caramel I dearly love. It’s a great souvenir of Argentina.

Longtime friend Agustín DiLuciano, who helped with a group art project on day 3

Longtime friend Agustín DiLuciano, who helped with a group art project on day 3

At the close of the 2015 SABF

At the close of the 2015 SABF

At seven we met Josué, another SABF organizer-alum, for a beer. We sad outside on Avenida Cordoba and yakked fast, mostly learning about his plans to apply to four MBA programs in the U.S.: Harvard, MIT, Chicago, and Stanford. Needless to say, he’s a bright fellow. At eight, we hopped in a cab back to Palermo. Rick had done some online research and found one of Buenos Aires’ best pizzerias, Siamo nel Forno (literally, “We are in the oven”). A letter on the desks in our hotel rooms explained that because the next day was election day the law prohibited sale of alcohol after eight, so Rick brought the wine he received as a speaker’s gift. Either the letter was wrong or the pizza people ignored the law, because the other patrons were tippling. We shared a couple of great pizzas and a salad.

Siamo nel Forno, Palermo

Siamo nel Forno, Palermo

Next stop, as the previous year, was La Catedral, a neighborhood tango club in an old, high-ceilinged warehouse (hence the churchy name). Sadly, there was no live orchestra, but Rick and I were transfixed, watching tango lessons on the dance floor. Check and done, we hopped back in a cab and were back before midnight.

At La Catedral

At La Catedral

We had a slow start Sunday morning. I rode 12 miles in the fitness center and packed up, then Rick and I ambled northwest, through the fancy Recoleta neighborhood, to the city’s main art museum. Closed for election day. So we hopped in a taxi and headed back to the center, to Café Tortoni, an old-school coffeehouse that seems largely unchanged in a century. Just before one, we headed back out to Palermo and met Martín, Vale, and Juan for lunch in their neighborhood steak joint, a really small place (fewer than 20 seats). Either the no-booze-on-election-day rule didn’t apply to restaurants or the owner didn’t care, because we enjoyed a glass of Malbec and shared some seriously good food: for starters, morcilla (blood sausage), another sausage, sweetbreads, and fried cheese; and main courses of smoked ribs, steak, and roast pork. Yum. A 2.5 hour lunch.

Cafe Tortoni, now and then

Cafe Tortoni, now and then

Clever design abounds: green plants form the facade of the Arredo furniture store

Clever design abounds: green plants form the facade of the Arredo furniture store

Window shopping in downtown: as I have often written, it's a bad place to be a vegetarian

Window shopping in downtown: as I have often written, it’s a bad place to be a vegetarian

Rick and your scribe with Juan, Martín, and Vale

Rick and your scribe with Juan, Martín, and Vale

Sunday eats: morcilla (left) and smoked ribs

Sunday eats: morcilla (left) and smoked ribs

When we headed out, it was raining lightly. We headed to Martín’s and Vale’s highrise apartment to sample Terma, a herb-infused soft drink that Vale’s company is rebranding (a curious flavor, but I liked it). Juan drove us back to the hotel.

Terma

More design: sculpture outside a highrise apartment block, Palermo

More design: sculpture outside a highrise apartment block, Palermo

 

The first inkling of trouble started at 5:50. The car that was supposed to take us to the airport showed up 20 minutes late, and dropped us not by the runways, but a mile from our hotel at a downtown bus station. No explanation in English, so we assumed that the SABF organizers intended us to take the bus out to the airport. We were waiting 10 minutes for a very incapable clerk to sell two bus tickets (literally the slowest guy on the planet), when Rick spotted a black taxi outside. In no time we were in it, zooming toward the runway. There was no traffic, and we were there quickly, but still a bit too close for comfort. Gave Rick a hug and he peeled off.

I was returning indirectly, via DFW, to ride American’s new 787. Brand-new airplane, 169 total flight hours, and on the way to the takeoff runway it broke. Hydraulic pump issue. We headed back to the terminal, but lightning had closed the ramp, so it took awhile for mechanics to get on board. They were getting it fixed when the pilots calculated that they would run out of allowable duty time, mandated by the U.S. FAA, so the flight canceled. “Come back tomorrow” was the onboard message.

Eager to find AA’s passenger service helpers, I sped through Customs, forgetting that I had checked a bag. Oops. Re-entering was not easy, but after several attempts to get past the rent-a-cops, I found a door leading to the Customs offices. Unlocked, good. Walked in, saying “Hola” loudly. No response. Kept walking, good. Soon I was back in the claim area, grabbed my suitcase, and headed back out. American did not have a good handle on how to get 200 people to hotels, but eventually (after meeting the captain and others former comrades) I got a voucher and hopped on a bus back downtown, to the crew hotel, the fancy Intercontinental. It was raining hard, and the bus windows leaked, but we got there.

My head hit the pillow at 2:10 Monday morning. I was up six hours later, showered and down to a fancy buffet breakfast. When I’m at home on Mondays (to be out of the way of Florencia and Angela, who clean our house), I always head to Starbucks to work for 90 minutes, then to the public library. So it fit that I’d head to Starbucks, if not a local library. I spotted one in Palermo, the agreeable neighborhood we had visited several times that trip, and it would deliver an added benefit of another ride on the subway. So I dropped my bag at the hotel front door and walked north to Linea D, then west to Palermo.

The Starbucks was in an agreeable small shopping mall, Distrito Arcos, built on former industrial land adjacent to a railway line. I asked the barista if they accepted Visa prepaid, adding that my flight the night before had canceled, so I had no pesos. She said yes, poured me a large coffee, and I took my place in “the corner office,” literally. It felt familiar, and I got to work, pounding through a consulting assignment in no time. In a final show of Argentina’s over-the-top hospitality, the barista brought me a little cappuccino topped with whipped cream; on the cup she had written, “Good luck with your next plain.” So sweet! I immediately hopped up, stepped behind the counter, said thanks in her language and mine, and gave her a hug. “I thought you might be nervous about your flight,” she said, and I replied, “well, I travel a lot, and am used to these things.”

"Corner office," Starbucks, Palermo

“Corner office,” Starbucks, Palermo

GoodLuck

I had sliced through my work quickly, and saw that I had time to walk a mile or so to the offices of Streema, Martín’s and Juan’s company. It was still raining, though lightly, and I set off, down Avenida Paraguay. The offices were in a modern, concrete building and the place looked exactly like a start-up. I said hello to a couple of the people I had met in the past, and we sat down to yet another steak (I cut it in half, insisting they refrigerate the remainder for someone staying late). We had a nice yak, I brought them up to date on the flight saga, and at 1:30 I hopped in a cab back to the hotel. Martín fronted the pesos for the fare.

Juan Trouilh at the offices of Streema

Juan Trouilh at the offices of Streema

The lobby was full of cranky passengers, although they looked well rested. The same bus from the night before rolled up. I was among the last to board, and the luggage hold was full, so I hauled it up and to the back row. Off we went, until the bus broke down six miles from the airport. By that point, everyone was shrugging rather than mad. The driver failed to fix it, and an hour later two smaller replacement buses arrived, but not before an officious toll-road cop harassed a passenger for taking a photo of the replacement bus. I quietly growled at him. Tinhorns are everywhere.

Part of the long way home!

Part of the long way home!

It took two hours to travel 18 miles. In the terminal, the lines were enormous, and it took an hour to check in. People were beyond cranky. I was just glad to be headed home. Hopped on the repaired 787, ate and slept a bit, changed planes in DFW, and headed east. I was happy when I looked out the 737 window and saw the Great Falls of the Potomac River to the right, then the Watergate apartments to the left. I was home.

Three days later, way before sunrise, I drove to Dulles Airport and flew north to New York Kennedy, arriving at 7:45. Ambled through the jetBlue terminal, then onto the Airtrain to Jamaica (the Queens neighborhood, not the island nation!). At Terminal 8, two familiar faces boarded, American Airlines crewmembers who had served me ten days earlier enroute to Argentina. A true small-world moment (since then, they had been down and back twice). We chatted a bit. At Jamaica I hopped on the E train and rode it to the end of the line at the World Trade Center. Ascending to the street, I could see the new (budget- and time-overrunning) station designed by Santiago Calatrava (I’m no longer enthralled with superstar architects, and projects like that are one reason). Walked south to Cortlandt St. and into a seminar for ocean shippers and shiplines – my newest consulting client is trying to bring pricing reform to that mode, and my job is to help convince both the supply and the demand sides that airline-style dynamic pricing makes sense. I listened to a couple of speakers, offered my own remarks, answered some questions, ate lunch, and peeled off. As a Transport Geek, I like learning about a new mode.

Calatrava's soaring but over budget World Trade Center transit station

Calatrava’s soaring but over budget World Trade Center transit station

Fulton Street subway station, lower Manhattan; a surprisingly modern and nice piece of transit infrastructure

Fulton Street subway station, lower Manhattan; a surprisingly modern and nice piece of transit infrastructure

Rode the subway under the East River to the Dumbo neighborhood of Brooklyn to meet my young friend and mentee Emily Sheppard, daughter of my dear friend Jack, who died in 1993. We had a smoothies and a good yak, and I hopped on the F and A trains out to Queens, then onto the Q10 bus to Kennedy and a short flight home.

The former TWA terminal at JFK, designed by Eero Saarinen. An early plan had the Saarinen structure as the ceremonial entrance to the new jetBlue terminal behind, it, but the older structure stands empty. That day, I departed from an (almost) arrived at terminals designed by the great Saarinen

The former TWA terminal at JFK, designed by Eero Saarinen. An early plan had the Saarinen structure as the ceremonial entrance to the new jetBlue terminal behind, it, but the older structure stands empty. That day, I departed from an (almost) arrived at terminals designed by the great Saarinen

Chris Santacruz, a long employee of the Brooklyn Roasting Company, specialty coffee roasters and brewers

Chris Santacruz, one of Emily Sheppard’s colleagues at Brooklyn Roasting Company, specialty coffee roasters and brewers

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London, and too briefly, Dublin

A nice vignette of London's multiculturalism: Irish, Armenian, and Jamaican shops on Goldhawk Road

A nice vignette of London’s multiculturalism: Irish, Armenian, and Jamaican shops on Goldhawk Road

On Thursday, July 17, I flew to JFK and across to Heathrow for the first teaching of the fall term, a lecture at Imperial College London. I had other stuff arranged, but the schedule fell apart, and rather than cancel, I kept the promise to my professor-friend Omar Merlo. Landed at six, hopped on the Tube, and as I often do on arrival in England, I cued The Beatles on my iPhone. “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “Eight Days a Week,” “The Long and Winding Road,” and other faves flowed as we headed east on the Piccadilly Line.

Poster at the Heathrow Tube station; I really liked the message

Poster at the Heathrow Tube station; I really liked the message, aimed at seniors

I was only staying one night, and Carolina, the Airbnb host in Hammersmith (her house was great, very close to the Thames) where I stayed two months earlier, required a two-night minimum. So I booked with Melinda, simple digs that were also in Hammersmith (I like the neighborhood a lot), a block from the Tube. On arrival, the Pakistani shopkeeper next door who was supposed to have my key did not, but somehow linked up with a friendly fellow who did. This kind of small hassle would drive some travelers nuts; me, I just roll with it. My room was still occupied, but they let me drop my stuff.  I washed my face, changed clothes, and headed out.

My Airbnb was not fancy, but it was spotlessly clean

My Airbnb was not fancy, but it was spotlessly clean

Because the schedule that day changed a lot, I had no plans, and last-minute meetings with several friends could not be arranged because they were traveling, so I reckoned a series of bike rides would be good, on the great London bikeshare network, my third experience in three months. It’s the most fun you can have for the equivalent of $3.15 a day!

I rode around Hammersmith and the next district west, Chiswick, to see the Griffin Brewery, of Fuller, Smith & Turner, makers of a favored beer. I then headed into the center. At 11:30, I found myself at the Imperial Business School, and opted to try to say hello to Mikhaela Gray, my administrative host. She met me at reception and we had a cold drink in the school café. And a great yak: she was from Singleton, a town in New South Wales north of Sydney. I mentioned I lived in Australia in 1981, and then the small world got smaller: she not only studied where I taught, the University of New England in northern NSW, but lived in the same college, Duval, where we did. We yakked about Edwina the college master, the town, and more. It was a lot of fun.

The Griffin Brewery, Chiswick

The Griffin Brewery, Chiswick

The plaque identifies the housing as originally for the working class, but the intended residents no longer live in Mayfair!

The plaque identifies the housing as originally for the working class, but the intended residents no longer live in Mayfair!

Hopped back on the bike, intent on showing up at the office of another friend. When I got to Stratajet’s offices in Mayfair, the name was not on the tenant list next to the doorbell. Time for lunch and a bit of Internet research, so I grabbed a tuna sandwich and ambled a block west to an agreeable small park, Brown Hart Gardens. Nourished, I found a Starbucks and loitered outside to pick up a free wi-fi signal, learning that Stratajet had moved a couple miles south, to 33 Greycoat Street near Victoria Station. Rang the doorbell and had to talk my way past a new employee who didn’t quite believe that I knew the team. But in no time I was chatting with founder Jonathan, Olivia the marketing chief, and their new CFO. Got a 15-minute update on the company (they’re getting close to going live with a service best described as Uber for private jets), hugged them, and got back on the bike. Rode along the river back toward Hammersmith. My room as ready, so I moved in and took a needed brief nap.

Fancy new condos on the Thames

Fancy new condos on the Thames

I did a bit of work. At about four I briefly met my host, Melinda, an ethnic Hungarian who grew up in the Transylvania region of Romania. We yakked a little about cultural oppression, and later that day she emailed me some testimony:

My grandparents’ generation were forced to give up their ethnicity, [the authorities] collected their Hungarian documents and Romanized their names . . . stealing in this way their personality; my parents never had Hungarian documents. Then my generation has got their Hungarian ethnicity and documents back in 2011, receiving apologies.

At 4:20, I put on long pants and headed back out on a bike, east a couple of miles to The Scarsdale Tavern, a very agreeable pub in the middle of a wealthy residential area. It was a gorgeous afternoon, and I was surprised to find an open table on the front terrace. At 5:15, I met another former AA colleague, Maria Sebastian, who now leads the sales team at Virgin Atlantic. Hadn’t seen her in years, and it was great to catch up. About an hour in, I zipped to the men’s room, and when I returned she was yakking with four guys from the next table, who turned out to be American Airlines pilots – the second small-world moment of the day! They actually were from US Airways, but we’re all American now. A great group, we yakked about flying, and more flying. Mike was proof of the magnetic force that draws and keeps people in the business – before landing at US Airways in the mid-1990s, he had flown for Provincetown-Boston Airlines ‘til they cratered, then Air Midwest, then landed with Eastern and flew big jets until they collapsed in 1991. He then flew for another small carrier, USA 3000, for a few years before signing on with US Airways. Whew. Loves-to-fly-can’t-imagine-doing-anything-else persistence.

Mike the pilot

Mike the pilot

Brewers Fuller, Smith, and Turner are known for great beer and attractive pubs; The Scarsdale was a virtual flower garden

Brewers Fuller, Smith, and Turner are known for great beer and attractive pubs; The Scarsdale was a virtual flower garden

The Scarsdale Tavern scene at 7:30 on Friday night

The Scarsdale Tavern scene at 7:30 on Friday night

At 7:30, Maria’s husband Bob arrived with their Sophia, 10, and Ava, 4; we didn’t have enough time to visit, because I had to peel off. Oops, dinner plans also got messed up, so rode back to Hammersmith and grabbed a curry at Sagar, a vegetarian restaurant on King Street (just okay, a bit pricey and not spicy enough, even with a little bowl of chopped green chilies). Back in the room, I worked a bit, then fell hard asleep about 9:45. Zzzzzzzz. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Woke up at 3:40, flopped for about an hour, then fell asleep until 6. It was another gorgeous day, and I was determined to extract the maximum from the bikeshare, so put on shorts and rode on, south across the Hammersmith Bridge and into an agreeable district called Barnes, and rural green surrounded by city.  It felt just like being in the English countryside, right down to the red foxes/  Crossed the Thames on the Putney Bridge, grabbed a big tub of yogurt, then another bike, and headed back to Hammersmith. Early-morning riding is much more peaceful than at mid-day, where you really need to keep your wits.

Barnes Common: countryside in the middle of the big city

Barnes Common: countryside in the middle of the big city

Like other inner London neighborhoods, Shepherds Bush is gentrifying quickly -- about $2 million for a new condo

Like other inner London neighborhoods, Shepherds Bush is gentrifying quickly — about $2 million for a condo in this new building just a block west of the shops pictured at the top of the post

I exchanged bikes again and headed north, detouring through Ravenscourt Park, a nice swath of green just west of my Airbnb. People were walking their hounds – Brits love dogs – and a range of breeds were on display. Then east to Shepherds Bush and a needed jolt of coffee at Café Liz, a tiny place run by Italians. The Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations” was on the radio, a nice reminder of home, mixed with a twinge of loneliness. At nine, I met Ravi, a City University MBA candidate who found me through a fellow student who had been in my guest lecture seven months earlier. He bought breakfast (the Italians had learned to make the Full English Breakfast, and I enjoyed it) and I helped him frame his thesis, the last hurdle until graduation.

Ravi was pretty typical of the globalized student body who I am lucky to meet each year. He grew up in Mauritius, an island in the Indian Ocean. His grandparents emigrated there, and he’s now in London, and with a Spanish wife. All this mixing and movement, made possible by the jet airliner!

At 10:30, I walked back to the Airbnb, suited up, hopped the Tube to Imperial, met Mikhaela and Omar, recorded a few video snippets, presented a lecture, bowed to strong applause, and walked quickly south to the Tube and back to Heathrow.

The weekend MBA class at Imperial Business School, a diverse lot

The weekend MBA class at Imperial Business School, a diverse lot

As I have done several times in recent years, I avoided paying the UK’s ransom-like $250 departure tax, this time by flying to Dublin, which offered the additional opportunity of a couple of pints at one of my favorite pubs, Mulligan’s of Poolbeg Street, with my longtime former Aer Lingus chum Maurice Coleman (Maurice deserves huge credit for introducing me to Mulligan’s).
Arrived at 7:20, hopped the shuttle bus to an airport hotel booked with AAdvantage miles (and not very many, might have been a mistake), changed clothes and in 10 minutes was back on the airport shuttle, then the 41 bus into central Dublin.

From the Aer Lingus inflight magazine, a message that was repeated all through the arrivals area of Dublin Airport; one wonders about the crashes that prompted the campaign (and how dumb were the drivers?)

From the Aer Lingus inflight magazine, a message that was repeated all through the arrivals area of Dublin Airport; one wonders about the crashes that prompted the campaign (and how dumb were the drivers?)

Was hugging Maurice by 9:20, and a Guinness in hand a few minutes later. Mulligan’s was way emptier than on weeknights, and Maurice and I had a padded bench facing the crowd. He’s a very literate and interesting soul, and conversation ranged, as always, across a bunch of topics: his recent swims in the sea near home (he goes year ‘round), his daughter’s budding career, a recent gruesome crime in Ireland (“In a secular society,” opined Maurice, “good and evil have lost their meanings”), mutual friends, and more. Mr. Coleman helpfully observed that the last express buses to the airport departed at midnight or one, but I was plumb wore out and caught the 11:00 trip on Route 41.  Dublin buses all have free wi-fi (why can’t we do that?), so I caught up on email and sent Maurice a thank you for the pints.

Fellow tipplers at Mulligan's

Fellow tipplers at Mulligan’s

Best pals!

Best pals!

There was time for one more interaction, on the shuttle from airport to hotel. Three generations of a family from Derry in the north were staying in my hotel after arriving late from a holiday in Brittany, near Nantes. Cieran was a couple of years younger than me, retired after 40 years at the DuPont plant in Derry (Kevlar, Lycra, other useful stuff). His wife Mary, daughter, son, and grandchildren Ella, 4, and Jimmy, 1, chimed in, too. A nice chat, it was. Walking up to my room, I thought about all that Cieran had seen in Northern Ireland in his lifetime, and gave thanks that things were; though far from tranquil, things were much better now than 30 or 40 years ago. A silent prayer for peace, and thanks to U.S. Senator George Mitchell and others who worked hard to help improve that tortured land.

Slept until eight on Sunday, then back to the airport and a flight to Philadelphia. Waiting for the connecting flight home, I had a long T-t-S chat with an Irish family coming to America for a three-week summer vacation (Washington, Orlando, Naples, Florida). I offered some sightseeing tips in the capital, we yakked a bit about the three kids’ schooling. And I had a shorter chat with Marcus, sitting on the floor of Concourse F strumming his mandolin. A guitarist for 20 years, sometimes paid, he know consults and speaks on health care, and plays a “homemade” instrument. We agreed that everyone should have some form of artistic expression. Some nice moments at Gate F-25.

Philadelphia airport always has cool art displayed on concourses; this was from an exhibit called (Un)Earthed, whimsical interpretations of life under the sea

Philadelphia airport always has cool art displayed on concourses; this was from an exhibit called (Un)Earthed, whimsical interpretations of life under the sea

Marcus the mandolinist

Marcus the mandolinist

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Cambridge, Massachusetts

Fenway Park from our spectacular 3rd deck seats

Fenway Park from our spectacular 3rd deck seats

On Tuesday, July 7, I flew up to Boston for a few days of meetings with my client, SmartKargo, way-cool air cargo software. Landed, met up with my colleague Jay, and hopped in a cab to the offices in Cambridge, adjacent to MIT (where the founder and two other leaders studied). The New York Times recently described the area as “the most innovative square mile on the planet,” and the low-hum of brainpower is audible.

Four of us spent the last half of the afternoon in meetings, then repaired to Mead Hall, a big bar with about 100 beers and ales on tap. Hopped on the T (as public transport is locally known) Red Line, two stops to Harvard Square. Walked into Harvard Yard, then a block west for outstanding pizza at Cambridge, 1 (that’s the name). Hopped the subway back to Kendall Square and to our digs, an apartment rented through Airbnb (hugely convenient location, two blocks from the office). Slept hard.

Steeples, Harvard University

Steeples, Harvard University

Jay and Milind, my bosses

Jay and Milind, my clients

Sculpture atop a street bollard

Sculpture atop a street bollard, Harvard Square

Specialized retailing: I like Curious George, but a whole store?

Specialized retailing: I like Curious George, but a whole store?

Up at six Wednesday morning, rented a two-wheeler from Hubway, the local bikeshare network, and pedaled west, back toward Harvard, then further west into a leafy neighborhood of big homes. Dropped the bike after 28 minutes (trips under a half-hour are free), picked up another, and rode back along the Charles River on an exceedingly bumpy path. That pavement was emblematic of seriously deficient infrastructure in Boston – roads, bridges, trains, the place is a mess. But who wants to tax people to fix it. Me, and not many others!

Charles River, Cambridge

Charles River, Cambridge

At 7:45 I met a longtime friend, Webster O’Brien. We worked together in American’s international planning group in the mid-1990s, and I’ve always appreciated his sunny demeanor, wit, and huge intelligence. We got caught up, had a nice breakfast, and parted at 8:30. I walked back to the apartment, cleaned up, and headed to the office. SmartKargo rents space from CIC, a new kind of office landlord, aimed at new and high-tech firms, and delivering a lot of amenities – showers, free food and drink, pool and ping-pong tables, the works. We spent the morning and early afternoon in meetings, and about three a trio from our newest customer, Hawaiian Airlines, arrived. Took an instant liking to fellow Minnesotan Tim, Brad, and Ginny. We did a bit of business, then headed back to Mead Hall, then across to see the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. On the Red Line across the Charles, I had a nice, brief T-t-S with a young African-American man, whose T-shirt read “The circumstances of one’s birth are irrelevant. It is what you do with the gift of life that determines who you are.” A nice idea, I said. He replied, “It’s from Pokemon, you know.” Well, no, I responded, adding that great swaths of popular culture were completely unknown to this old fellow. He smiled.

The young man with the Pokemon quote

The young man with the Pokemon quote

Batter up!

Batter up!

It took ages to go four stops on the Green Line streetcar, but we finally got to Fenway. It was my first time there since 1983, and it was a lot of fun. Fans are enthusiastic (even though the team is struggling a bit this season), beer is cold, seats were great. And the Sox beat the Miami Mariners 6-2, hooray for the home team. The crowds waiting to get down the stairs to the T station were huge, so Jay and I peeled off and walked home. It was faster.

The view from the SmartKargo office

The view from the SmartKargo office

An artist's view of Cambridge from above

An artist’s view of Cambridge from above

We spent Thursday in meetings with the Hawaiian team. At five I hopped on the Red Line and the Silver Line bus to Logan Airport and flew home. Boston is always an interesting place.

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Two Short Trips in June

Dusk-June29

Enroute to Chicago, June 29. The sky is a good place to think.

 

There were two short trips later in June, one a sad day in Dallas to attend the funeral of the daughter of a former work colleague. Before and after a somber hour in church there were happy moments. On the way there, two wonderful T-t-S exchanges. The first was with an Iwo Jima survivor (his gimme cap identified him as such), sitting across the aisle from me on the flight. He was 92, and in really good shape. I shook his hand and thanked him for battling on my behalf, and as is almost always the case he was modest and self-effacing. But when the nation needed him, he was steadfast. The second was with the shuttle bus driver from the airport to American Airlines headquarters (where I met my ride to the funeral), a Mexican immigrant who told me proudly about her daughter, studying in New York to be a physician’s assistant. Her story did not square with the ugly racism spewed by Donald Trump a week later.

After the service I met many longtime colleagues, and it was great to see them, although under such grim circumstances. And on the way home I connected with the flight attendant serving us in first class, Paul Sullivan, working the cabin with his wife. Both were ex-TWA flight attendants (started flying in 1977 and 1969, respectively, but only married for 8 years). After dinner, he provided a summary of his career, and I was reminded that those who take wing for a living are a special lot.

On June 29, I flew to Chicago, rode across to Evanston with longtime friend Gary Doernhoefer, met the next day with Anne Coughlan, our host when we do a “tag-team” guest lecture at the Kellogg School of Management, and zipped home on the last day of the quarter.

A recent post focused on the wing, and it remains both a powerful invention and a wonderful metaphor for many things.

A recent post focused on the wing, and it remains both a powerful invention and a wonderful metaphor for many things.  Here a 737 wing above Chicago, snapped 30 minutes after the image at the top of this post.

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Muscat, Oman: a long ride for 49 hours on the ground

 

Looking up on my brief Muscat ramble!

Looking up on my brief Muscat ramble!

I was home for fewer than five days, trundling back to Dulles on Friday, May 29 and back onto BA’s massive A380 to Heathrow, then on to Muscat, Oman, for a short consulting assignment. Because I didn’t get to see any of what many describe as a fascinating country, I compensated with some great T-t-S moments. On the transatlantic flight, I had a good chat with seatmate Martin (we again were favored with the exit row and tons of legroom). He grew up in a small town in the Highlands of Scotland, joined the army at age 15, and ended up in the United Kingdom Special Forces, an elite unit on the cutting edge of national defense. He now works for an information-security firm and lives in Hertfordshire, in the west of England. Enroute to the Gulf I sat with an American of Pakistani origin; he grew up in suburban Philadelphia and has worked in health care, now at the Cleveland Clinic’s new facility in Abu Dhabi (where the plane stopped briefly).

The view from my hotel room

The view from my hotel room

We arrived Muscat at 9:30 on Saturday night. Hopped in a taxi a short distance to a nice Holiday Inn. My client arrived a couple of hours later. We spent the next two days in meetings, and I had zero chance for exploration, save for a walk around a long block at sundown on Sunday night, when it was still about 105°. Lots of folks staring, me smiling and waving. You can’t learn much about a place when you’re stuck in a hotel and nearby office for two days, but Oman did seem to be comfortable in its own skin, to use a human analogy.

Dessert from the vast hotel buffet

Dessert from the vast hotel buffet

I was warm when I returned after 20 minutes. “Cool off in the pool,” I thought, and I donned my swimsuit. The water was tepid, but still felt good, and I had a couple more chats with strangers. Bernard was a young Aussie of Hong Kong Chinese ancestry, also in Oman to consult, and Mr. Rahman was a delightful fellow from Lahore, Pakistan, an accountant and businessman. High point of that chat was sorting out the entire set of problems in the Middle East in about 20 minutes: we agreed it just wasn’t that hard!

In addition to these chats, I also had a couple of nice yaks with servers in the hotel dining room, with Fadi from Syria, smiling despite troubles back home (he was happy I was eating Arabic food from the breakfast buffet, and so was I). We read about the manifold woes in Syria, and then, suddenly, we are face to face with a person whose family is living with all that. We also got to know a bit about Soriya, new to Oman from Delhi. Labor migration looks different when she is standing right next to you. She said she was adjusting, but we’re sure it was still hard to leave home and family in search of work.

With Fadi

With Fadi

Soriya-Rob

With Soriya, from Delhi

Less than 50 hours after arriving, I flew home. It would be good to spend more time there.

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Scotland and England

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

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

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

Approaching Glasgow

Approaching Glasgow

Stream near Glasgow Airport

Stream near Glasgow Airport

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

Glasgow: solid

Glasgow: solid

Donald Dewar, Scotland's first-ever First Minister

Donald Dewar, Scotland’s first-ever First Minister

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

Along the River Clyde

Along the River Clyde

Entry to the St. Enoch station of the Glasgow Subway

Entry to the St. Enoch station of the Glasgow Subway

Ceiling, lobby, Glasgow City Chambers

Ceiling, lobby, Glasgow City Chambers

Bridge over the Clyde

Bridge over the Clyde

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

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

Old-looking but new distance marker on a bicycle route

Old-looking but new distance marker on a bicycle route

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

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

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

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

The traffic cone really says it all

The traffic cone really says it all

NewGlasgow

New buildings near the University of Strathclyde

 

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

MrsToward

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This exuberant Art Deco building on Sauchiehall Street stuck out!

This exuberant Art Deco building on Sauchiehall Street stuck out!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Haggis, neaps, and tatties

Haggis, neaps, and tatties

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

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

High-rise public housing, The Gorbals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One of Priscilla Barrett's many works.

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

Clock, Old St. Mary's, Cambridge

Clock, Old St. Mary’s, Cambridge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eagle

Ceiling, dining hall, Sidney Sussex College

Ceiling, dining hall, Sidney Sussex College

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

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

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

Madison, my Friday best friend

Madison, my Friday best friend

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

TheDove

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

Panorama from just downstream of The Dove

Panorama from just downstream of The Dove

High fashion Mini, Hammersmith

High fashion Mini, Hammersmith

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mango lassi at Masala Zone

Mango lassi at Masala Zone

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

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In Praise of Wings

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

Maleficent

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

Pfeilstorch

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

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

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

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

Wing-757

Wings-2

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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