Wilmington (that’s Delaware!) and Philadelphia

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Market Street, Wilmington

The day after Easter, April 2, I rode with Robin to her new workplace northeast of downtown Washington, got a quick tour (she’s now Director of Public Affairs for the Emerson Collective, a nonprofit founded by Laurene Powell Jobs), and set off on foot, briskly, for Union Station, a mile away.  Hopped on Amtrak, bumping and lurching north to Wilmington, Delaware.  Hopped off, and in no time was getting a great city tour from Jean Spraker, a longtime friend – her late husband,  geography prof Tom Harvey, and I were in grad school together, and he was a great friend and an astute observer of landscapes urban and rural.  Those skills rubbed off on Jean, and in 25 minutes I had a good grasp of the inner districts of the biggest city in Delaware.

We motored back toward the station for a swell lunch at Banks’ Seafood Kitchen, right on the Christina River, and a good catch-up yak.  I had not seen Jean for nine years, way back to a weekend at their seaside house west of Portland, Oregon (Tom taught at Portland State University).  Jean recently moved back to Wilmington, where she grew up, and was settling in after decades away.

The downtown landscape was fascinating (perhaps I was channeling the former geography prof, Tom or me), and instead of hopping on the 12:50 train I asked Jean to drop me at the foot of Market Street.  I walked west for a bunch of blocks, then returned to the station.  Had a bit of a wait for the local train to my destination, the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, but it was so worth it.  Here’s the rich variety of architecture on Market Street:

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There was a lot of the mid-19th Century style known as “bracketed Italianate,” including a bracket that had made its way from roof to ground!

Climbed onto a commuter train at 2:45, and bounced north, making lots of stops.  Got off at the University City station, walked several blocks north to my hotel on the edge of the Penn campus, and set off for a walk around.  As I told the Wharton MBA students in all three classes the next day, the school changed my life.  Thirty-five years earlier, in 1983, forty of us began a summer postdoctoral program at Wharton called “Alternative Careers,” aimed at “recycling” academics as businesspeople.  Back then, the supply of Ph.Ds. wanting to be professors – in any field – far exceeded college demand, and a number of schools were determined to try to help right the balance.  Our cohort ranged from hard scientists like Jack Sheppard, a geneticist, through the social sciences, to humanities scholars – I think one of my classmates specialized in Renaissance French literature.  Over that summer, we were transformed, and it remains one of the best academic experiences, in addition to changing my life (a year later, I simply would not have caught the eye of Stephen Wolf, Republic Airlines’ new CEO, and subsequently been hired, without the Wharton lines in my resume).  Needless to say, I am so grateful to Penn for that opportunity.

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Benjamin Franklin founded the University of Pennsylvania in 1740, and the 37th Street Walk features many of his famous aphorisms, like this famous one about flies, honey, and vinegar

I stopped into Penn’s career-services office to thank, once again, the only remaining person on the Alternative Careers admissions committee, Pat Rose, who through the years has become a dear friend.  I was glad I did, because she would retire in a few months’ time.  We had a good catch-up yak, and I peeled off, bound for the hotel gym.

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Pat Rose

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I stopped into Steinberg-Dietrich Hall, and sat in “my” old seat, pausing again to give thanks for the opportunity.

Was up early Tuesday morning, back to the gym, then out the door for a bit more of a campus tour, past the high-rise dorm where we lived that summer, breakfast, then into the first class.  By tradition, had a big lunch at Pod, an Asian fusion place near the school, then back for two more lectures.  At 4:30 I said goodbye to Americus, picked up my suitcase at the hotel, and zipped through the rain to the New Deck Tavern to meet – for the third year in a row – Wharton classmate Jim Cohen.

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Locust Walk on the Penn campus

Beyond a successful career in medical market research (his Ph.D. is in zoology), Jim is an accomplished pedal-steel guitarist, and about to launch another career as sideman in a Linda Ronstadt tribute band, Ronstadt Revue.  We yakked about the old days at Penn, how we were lucky enough to get in, but a lot about music.  Music talent runs in the family; his son Jonathan is a music prof at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, and a way-talented saxophonist.  Tucked into a couple of beers and split a plate of nachos.  My flight was delayed and I would have happily stayed longer, but Jim peeled off to a birthday party.  I slogged through the rain back to the U City station, onto a train to the airport, and after a long wait, home.  For the second time in a week, head hit the pillow about 1 AM, but it was a good start to the quarter’s travels.

 

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Germany and England, Again

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The Neckar River at Tübingen, Germany

After Montreal, I was home for four days, including Saturday, March 24, when I rode my bike into downtown Washington for the “March for Our Lives,” nearly 200,000 of us calling for sensible gun control.  The speakers were all youngsters, including a number of survivors of the February 14 tragedy at the Florida high school.  I was so happy to learn that Delta Air Lines provided three charter flights to Washington so students from the school could lift their voices in the capital.

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The Youth & College Division of the NAACP at the March for Our Lives

The next day I hopped on the Metro to National Airport and flew to Charlotte, then across the ocean to Frankfurt for a quick teaching trip.  Landed at 7:30, and an hour later met my young friend Tobias Hundhausen.  We hopped on a train to the main station, then out to the Rödelheim district for a tour of a data center.  Since I last saw Tobias in fall 2017, he had taken a new job as COO of e-Shelter, which operates data centers in Germany and elsewhere.  Data centers, as you know, are the “home of the Cloud,” which puts my pal on the cutting edge of the new economy.  It was a fascinating morning.  His firm essentially provides a roof, electricity, and climate control (a big deal, since servers and related I.T. hardware require consistent temperature, humidity, and even atmospheric pressure).  Customers range from small to “hyperscale” firms like Amazon.  The local power company provides two lines of 120 MW each – so the place almost consumes the output of half a typical (500 MW) generating station.  Whew!  The company is growing about 20 percent per year, and there were several projects underway on the campus, workers laying cable, finishing walls, installing fire suppression systems, and the like.  I peppered Tobias with questions, and he had all the answers.

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Scenes from the data center

We ambled back to the Rödelheim station, had an early light lunch and a good yak, and I peeled off, headed back to Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof, then south to Stuttgart and on to Reutlingen, for my sixth visit to the European School of Business (ESB) at Reutlingen University.  It was Easter Week, and the train to Stuttgart was packed.  Middle seat, but no matter.  There was work to do, and I got it done.

Arrived in Reutlingen at 2:55, hopped on the bus up to campus, and from 3:30 to 5:00 delivered my “advice for graduating students” talk.  This was “just-in-time” teaching!  Hung around after the talk to answer some questions, then the bus back down the hill and the train west a few miles to the historic university (founded 1477) town of Tübingen.  I stayed there on my first ESB visit, and it was good to be back.  Trudged up the hill with suitcase to Goethestrasse 14, my Airbnb digs.  Tom welcomed me and we had a short chat.  I was totally tired, but also hungry and thirsty, so after working my email to zero I changed clothes and walked into the wonderfully preserved Alstadt, the old town.  Headed to Mauganeschtle, a restaurant I visited on my first trip.  It was already the start of spargelzeit, asparagus season, and I tucked into a wonderful dish of maultaschen (stuffed pasta, the local equivalent of ravioli) with white and green asparagus.  And beer.  Walked home, and Tom’s partner Sandra was there.  We had a nice quick yak and I clocked out.  Zzzzzzzz.  Whew, nine hours was tonic.

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The almost make-believe town hall, Rathaus, begun 1435

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My Airbnb digs

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Dinner Monday evening

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Spring poking through winter

Up at 6:45 Tuesday, a welcome shower, coffee, and Sandra’s special recipe of “overnight oats,” cold with nuts and cinnamon, and a banana.  A nice chat with both my hosts, then out the door, down the hill on the bus, train across to Reutlingen, bus to school.  Worked all morning in the student cafeteria, the Mensa, and ate a big lunch.  From 1:45 to 3:15 I gave a talk on airline marketing, then hopped bus-train-bus back to my Airbnb digs.  Changed clothes, worked a bit, and ambled into town for a light dinner at a simple German restaurant.  Early to bed again, but slept fitfully for part of the night.

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Fellow traveler on the 9:00 AM train to Reutlingen

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The Reutlingen Uni campus from my “corner office” in the Mensa

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Splendidly ornate banks opposite each other, Tübingen; below, architectural detail

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Out the door at eight, to the nearby supermarket for breakfast stuff (yogurt and freshly-based whole-wheat rolls with lots of seeds), then to the train station.  Hopped on the same yellow-and-white regional train that I caught the day before.  I was enroute to Stuttgart, then west to Karlsruhe, and south toward the airport at Baden-Baden for my 1:20 PM Ryanair flight to my next teaching gig, at London Business School the next day.  Plenty of time, right?  Well, not if the yellow train broke down for two hours.  We lurched to a halt three miles north of Reutlingen and sat and sat.  The only good part was that the train had free wi-fi, so I could make contingency plans.  Even after an hour delay I could still make the flight.  But no, so I opted to head to Frankfurt and fly standby on Lufthansa (one of the great perks for airline employees, huge reciprocal discounts; that ticket cost me $71).  Was able to buy the e-ticket online while I sat.  We finally got to Stuttgart, and I was aiming for the 11:51 express to Frankfurt Airport.  Stopped at the Deutsche Bahn info counter and explained the mess to the friendly young agent.  Here was a best case of recovery from customer service failure: he heard my story, printed out an itinerary for the 11:51 train, handwrote an explanation, stamped it, and wished me a nice journey – no additional charge, no fight, no hassle.

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The culprit: nicely painted, but kaput

The Lufthansa check-in machine at Frankfurt Airport spit out a boarding pass with a seat assignment, woo hoo, and I did my “flying standby, got on” dance, steps perfected over the course of 52 years of flying without a booking.  Like I did a month earlier in Düsseldorf Airport, grabbed lunch fixings at the REWE supermarket and had a little picnic outside the store.  Worked a bit, took a short nap sitting upright, and at 4:00 took off for London.  Landed at 4:45, got through immigration more quickly than a month earlier, and onto the Heathrow Express into town.  Then onto the Tube, and was at London Business School shaking hands with my host Oded Koenigsberg by 6:15.  He handed me keys to a room in their adjacent guesthouse, and gave me directions to the classroom for the next morning.

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Wednesday’s “picnic lunch,” Frankfurt Airport

I was not done.  Agreed to meet a young airline mentee, Freddie, in the pub adjacent to the school at 6:30.  Washed my face and zipped next door.  We had a good yak for an hour.  I peeled off, back to the room.  What to do about dinner?  I had done some research on top-rated Indian restaurants in London, and Dosa n Chutny looked really yummy.  It was clear across town, south of the river in a suburb called Tooting, but off I went.  And I was glad I did.  The place had zero ambience (orange walls, bright fluorescent lighting) but astonishingly good South Indian food.  So good, a fine base for a hard sleep, deep into dreamland.

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Fellow diner, Dosa n Chutny

Slept in, meaning past seven, suited up, out the door for breakfast stuff at the nearby market, back to the room to eat, then a short walk south to London Business School’s new Sammy Ofer Center, a stunning re-do of the historic Old Marylebone Town Hall, built in the 1920s.  From 10:25 to 11:40 delivered a talk to a very engaged and diverse group of 80 students.  Nice applause.  Afterward, two students from Minnesota introduced themselves, a nice bit of the small world.  Peeled off at noon, out to Heathrow for the flight home.

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Regents Park from my room in the London Business School guesthouse

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The splendid, recently-opened Sammy Ofer Center, London Business School

Captain Freeman commanded American Airlines 105, and at the end of the flight the purser announced it was his last flight before retiring.  Once we parked at JFK, I headed to the flight deck to thank and congratulate him.  I told him that I had a flight deck jumpseat card for years, and always left the cockpit wishing that passengers could witness, as I did many times, their consummate professionalism.  His wife was with him, and they seemed a bit bowled over by the gesture, and my words of praise.  I had a big wait at Kennedy, but used some of the time to bring this journal up to date.  The long layover became longer, because fog closed JFK to arrivals for almost two hours and the short flight down to D.C. was late by that amount.  Happily, a kind Pakistani-American taxi driver was still on duty at 12:45 AM, so I was home at 1:10.  And glad to be there.

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Montreal, Still Winter

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On the McGill campus, looking east toward downtown

On Sunday, March 18, I flew nonstop to Montreal on a “real” ticket (thanks to McGill University’s Institute of Air and Space Law, IASL).  Landed, zipped through border formalities, and into a nice T-t-S with Isabelle, an Air Canada flight attendant.  Told her my “first-visit-to-Montreal-51-years-ago” story and a couple of other tales while we waited for the STM (public transit) express bus to downtown.  The bus runs non-stop, but was not express – weekends are for freeway rebuilding, so it took an hour.  I was deep in my iPhone screen, but when I looked up close to the center I immediately knew where I was, and said to myself “this place is really familiar.”  Nice to have a collection of places that feel well known.

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The view from above: Adirondack Mountains, New York, and the St. Lawrence River at Montreal

 

Hopped on the Metro for the last couple of miles and walked to my digs.  First stop was lunch at Kantapia, a now-familiar Korean hole-in-the-wall close by.  Slurped a bowl of noodles in spicy broth.  Ambled back to my suite on the top floor of La Citadelle, McGill student housing, watched a bit of March Madness basketball, and took a nap.

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Stained-glass backlit art, McGill Metro station

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Another sort of e-Commerce: lunch at Kantapia

Out the door about five.  The wind was howling, and it felt like single-digits Fahrenheit.  Onto the #24 bus, then the #165, skirting the western flank of Mount Royal, the big, forested hill right in the middle of town.  It had been more than three decades since I was on Chemin Côte-des-Neiges (literally, the “Snowy Side Road”), but again it felt familiar.  Hopped off in the neighborhood adjacent to the University of Montreal and several other schools, and made my way to Saint-Houblon, a brewpub.  I had been to the other location, in the Latin Quarter east of downtown, many times, frequently enough to make friends with Michel, a manager.

Sat down at the bar, and there was Michel.  Instant recognition (yet more evidence of a familiar place!).  He explained that he normally worked the other venue, but was training a new server/bartender.  Michel explained that since my last visit five months earlier they had started a microbrewery, and he brought me a couple of IPA samples.  Yum, especially the “NEIPA Passion,” a New England IPA, fruity and hoppy.  It was not busy, and we had a long yak.  He was  26, what in America we call an “Army brat,” both parents in the Canadian Forces.  Dad of Italian ancestry, Mom a Quebecker.   We talked about the Saint-Houblon enterprise, the four owners, the new brewmaster who Michel said was “almost despicable” for his unwillingness to compromise with his produce.  Saint-Houblon (“Saint Hops”) serves great food in addition to fine beer, and I tucked into baked cod, cauliflower couscous, and beets.  So good.  Said au revoir to Michel, thanked the new server, and headed home via Metro (it was too cold to wait for two buses).

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Michel and your scribe, Saint-Houblon

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New Metro car; as I never tire of writing in these pages, every one of these Canadian passengers has health insurance. 

Up at dawn Monday morning, out the door, and a few blocks to Tim Horton’s for breakfast and a large coffee.  Met my McGill B-school host Mary Dellar in the classroom at 8:20 and delivered a talk to her Services Marketing undergrads, an engaged group.  At the end thanks came in loud applause as well as a Tim Horton’s prepaid card.  Yippee!  Mary had a midterm to proctor at 11:35, which gave us time for brunch and a good catch-up yak.  She’s a swell person, a true Canadian in the best sense.

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Poutine breakfast, Le Universel; this dish came with a handy referral to an English-speaking cardiologist!

Worked for a couple of hours, and at one met my law school host, Brian Havel, the new head of IASL.  I was still stuffed, but enjoyed a bowl of cream soup with scallops and corn in the McGill Faculty Club, housed in the ornate former mansion of a successful German industrialist.  From two to four I held a colloquium about aviation careers and the airline business with masters’ of air law students, informal and enjoyable.  Walked back to the hotel, took a short snooze, and headed back to campus for one more gig, 6:00 to 7:30, to the undergraduate marketing club.  A full day.  Back to the suite, into jeans, onto the #24 bus north on Sherbrook a mile to the Latin Quarter and another fave brewpub, L’Amère a Boire, for a beer and a rabbit burger.  Yum!

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Same street as above, looking west toward the mountain

The flight home was in early afternoon, so I paddled around the suite, worked a bit, and headed out for a Tim Horton’s breakfast, then a couple of bus rides around town (the STM three-day pass, including the ride from and to the airport, is under 14 bucks), admiring the old neighborhoods; Montreal has a lot of architectural texture.  Last ride was back on the Metro.  Grabbed my suitcase, walked down the hill to the airport bus, zipped west, and flew home.  I never tire of that city.

 

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One reason Montreal never tires: tons of rich architectural detail; here a weathered portico, Av. du Parc

 

 

 

 

 

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Remembering Jim Britton, The Traveling Kind

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James S. Britton (1947-2018) in a good place: Bozeman Brewing Co., Bozeman, Montana, July 2017

On Sunday, February 25, I drove a rental car north toward a week of teaching at Penn State (described in the previous post).  As I motored west and north through the Maryland suburbs of Washington, I cued Emmylou Harris’ and Rodney Crowell’s “The Traveling Kind”:

In the wind are names of poets past | Some were friends of yours and mine

And to those unsung, we lift our glass | May their songs become the traveling kind

My brother Jim was the traveling kind.  He died unexpectedly in early February at age 70.  In coming to grips with the sadness and grief of losing my only true sibling, I have thought often of brother-and-brother travels through the years.  The first trip I recall with clarity was our 1956 family vacation to visit Uncle Harold and his kin in Montana.  And the last was also to Montana, we two brothers exploring our paternal roots, just seven months ago.

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Two brothers, Castle Mountain Ranch, Montana, July 1956

Here are some brief vignettes of other travels with Jim, mostly from a long time ago:

The North Shore and Gunflint Trail, Northern Minnesota, 1957 and many more times

On our first visit in 1957 and every year save one until 1966, Jim and I marveled at the Northern Lights, enjoyed pan-fried fresh fish at Greenwood Lake Lodge (cabin 9 was our favorite), tucked into blueberry pancakes at the East Bay Hotel in Grand Marais, and went fishing by ourselves and with our father – best place was tiny Sunfish Lake, brimming with walleyes.  Dad trusted Jim with the aluminum fishing boat and 5½ horsepower Johnson motor, and we two zoomed around the lake a lot.

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Two brothers, Cabin 9, Greenwood Lake Lodge, Minnesota, August 1957

Trips on the Burlington Zephyr (passenger train) to see kin in Chicago

The train rides on this streamliner, down to see family, were formulaic, beginning with our mother dispatching Jim and I to run down the stairs of the Great Northern Station to the platform, hop on the coach just in front of the dining car, and grab the four seats facing each other at the base of the Vista Dome. Chairs secured, we headed upstairs to enjoy the scenery, especially the hundreds of miles in the Mississippi Valley.  I can still recall sights from those rides, and even smells: the hot metal smell of train wheels and brakes, and the wool seat upholstery, infused with tobacco smoke.  And the taste of freshly-grilled hamburgers for lunch in the diner.

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Our mom didn’t have a camera, so I had to grab this pic off the Internet, and the image of the postcard below

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The short trip to Marshall Field’s in Chicago, November 1957

Though our Gram (maternal grandmother) often took Jim and me from their big apartment on Logan Blvd. into the Loop (downtown) by El (elevated train/subway), I have vivid recall of one trip.  It happened when our family was moving to Cleveland, and on a night when Field’s, Chicago’s vast department store, stayed open past dinnertime.  Jim and I had misbehaved earlier that day – I can’t recall the transgressions – and Gram axed a promised trip to Field’s enormous toy department.  Our comportment must have improved, because just before dark she relented.  “Hurry,” she said.  We left the apartment and walked briskly west and south to the El station on California Ave.  I remember waiting on the wooden platform for the train as if it were yesterday, Gram holding Jim’s and my hands.  I don’t remember what toys she bought us, only the joy of grandmotherly kindness and redemption.

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No pic from that trip to Field’s; and none of the two brothers with Nonno and Gram, but this one of Jim in about 1953 makes me smile

The road trip to Florida, August 1964

Jim’s friend John Lillejord tagged along for the adventure, a circuitous route south in the big blue Oldsmobile, to visit grandma Florence, Uncle Walter, and Aunt Mil, who had moved to the Sunshine State two years earlier. We boys hung out in the TraveLodge in Holly Hill, body surfed at the vast Daytona Beach, ate fresh shrimp along the Intracoastal Waterway, and more.

Lutsen, Minnesota, March 1969

A weekend trip to ski fast, then Jim and his buddies partied hard in a room in Olson’s Motel in Tofte.  That time and almost all the time, he let me tag along. And on that trip he taught be how to drive the stick shift of his Sunbeam Alpine, winding south on Highway 61, hugging the North Shore of Lake Superior.

 

Not long after that spring ski trip up north, Jim moved to the West, where he stayed for the rest of his life.  He remained “the traveling kind,” moving by car, truck (for years and years in a reliable Ford F-150 pickup), and by bicycle.  Jim and I shared a passion for two-wheelers.  Though he bought a skinny-tire machine years after me, he quickly bested me, routinely riding 100 miles in a day, taking on some astonishing road trips through the mountains, and competing vigorously in a range of road races.  It was in those events when he was strongest.

After marrying his beloved Pam in 1989, the two of them became the traveling kind, by car on many trips across the west and occasionally further afield.  A couple of decades ago, they ventured across the Atlantic, and made a number of way-cool bike trips through Italy, where Jim decided that he ought be also be called Giacomo.  In that country they would be known as tipi da viaggio (special thanks to my paesano Massimo in Milano for nuanced translation; as a sidebar, just before he died, Jim and I started talking about a trip to Italy to meet Massimo and see some places described in the touching new novel Beneath a Scarlet Sky).

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Jim and Pam, Crater Lake, Oregon, 2009

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Jim and Pam at home in Jacksonville, Oregon, July 2017

In the five decades he lived in that spectacular and mostly empty part of the world, I visited far too infrequently.  And I’m sad that we never traveled together again until last summer’s trip, which he correctly described as “epic.”  I am grateful for that last time together (my loving account of that trip is here).

Further along I-270, Emmylou and Rodney sang:

When the music slowly starts to fade | Into the light’s last soft decline

Let us lie down in that evening shade | And rest among the traveling kind.

Like me, Jim was the traveling kind. We miss him.  His newspaper obituary is here; I’m working on a eulogy, which I hope and pray I will be able to deliver later this year.

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Jim loved all mountains; here the Bridgers north of Bozeman, Montana

 

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To Penn State

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The Nittany Lion, mascot and team name at The Pennsylvania State University; at left the sculpture created in 1942 (his right ear was being repaired); at right huge paws welcome visitors to the university’s art museum

On a rainy Sunday afternoon, February 25, Linda dropped me at a nearby Marriott, where I picked up a rental car and drove north, headed for a week as “professional-in-residence” in the College of Communications at Penn State.  I had the whole afternoon to drive 175 miles, so I took the scenic route: freeway to the Pennsylvania border, then two-lane highways of varied quality north.  It had been a long time since I drove the ridges and valleys of the Appalachians, more specifically the Allegheny Mountains.  Up and down and up and down, through some interesting and old towns, mostly small.  A couple of wrong turns here and there, but was at the Nittany Lion Inn, the university’s historic hotel, by 4:45.  Parked the car and would leave it in the same space for four days.

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The drive north took me through historic Pennsylvania towns with lots of old buildings

At 5:45 I met my host for the week, Prof. Ron Smith.  We motored a couple of miles to a brewpub, and another prof, Steve Manuel, joined us.  I did a little research on the faculty I would meet that week, and knew that Steve would have some stories.  And he did.  Entered the Marine Corps in 1969 as an enlisted man, firing from a helicopter gunship in Vietnam, and departed 28 years later as a major at the Pentagon.  Quite a lot of action in between.  Since leaving, he has gone on 60 USO tours as a photographer, in between teaching stints at Penn State, where he’s served for two decades.  “Been shot at?” I asked.  Indeed, he replied.  It was quite a meal.

Up way early Monday morning, to the hotel gym, then breakfast with two more faculty, then into Ron’s advertising creative strategies class.  Did a bit of consulting work, met Ron for lunch, then at 2:00 met the person responsible for the Penn State invitation.  In October 2015 when I was teaching in Chicago I spent a couple of hours with a longtime American Airlines colleague.  His daughter Margaret came out to the patio to say hello, Tom introduced her, said she was an advertising major at Penn State, adding, “Margaret, you should see if Rob can be invited to speak.”  Almost 2½ years later, Margaret, her classmate Audrey, and I were yakking at a coffee shop in downtown State College. A fun chat.  Headed back to campus, Ron found me an office, and I was set.  Worked until 5:30, walked back to the hotel, changed into jeans, and headed back to town.

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Old Main

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The school’s buildings and grounds were in really good condition, especially well-maintained older structures

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The Nittany Lion Inn, my digs for the week; built 1931, university-owned, and used for teaching in the school’s hospitality-management program

Earlier I had spotted a promising tavern, the Darkhorse, on an alley called Calder Way.  Zipped in, sat down, and in no time was chatting with Nolan the bartender.  Nice TtS piled on top of SMN (Small world, no?): he worked for five years as a counselor at a summer camp for special-needs kids on Big Trout Lake in Minnesota, two miles from my pal Tim McGlynn’s cabin.  Also yakked with a couple of colorful locals, Alec and Eric.  A nice time.  Next and last stop was India Pavilion for dinner, then home.

Tuesday, same drill: on the fitness bike, breakfast (on my own), then to class: one before lunch and two after.  In between, a delightful lunch with more faculty: Tara, Frank, and Denise.  Back to the room, changed clothes, out the door for a beer, then a spicy Thai curry.  Wednesday, again.  Breakfast with a prof, then to his class and another.  Lunch with grad students and Denise, brief meeting with the dean, Marie Hardin, worked a bit more and got prepped.

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Self-explanatory, and so true!

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I welcomed these intepretive signs all over the campus, many of which noted “firsts” at Penn State, like this one

The main event of the visit was a keynote speech in the student center at 6:30.  Denise, Ron, and I had an early dinner in the Nittany Lion Inn’s superb dining room (like Cornell, Penn State has a “hotel school,” and the inn is used extensively for hands-on lessons in hotel and restaurant management).  The keynote went well – attendance was a bit sparse, but your scribe delivered a solid talk, and answered some great questions.  After the talk, two people with airline connections introduced themselves: Debbie, a former Continental flight attendant, and Jillian, whose mom has worked on the ramp at LaGuardia for American and predecessor companies back to Piedmont Airlines.  Walked back to the hotel, changed clothes, and had a nightcap beer.

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Like other schools with agriculture majors, Penn State has an on-campus creamery; it was way bigger than the one at the University of Wisconsin

Thursday morning, back to the gym, packed the suitcase, tossed it in the rental car, and headed to my office.  After lunch and a detour for a milk shake at the Berkey Creamery on campus, I met a soon-to-graduate student, Mike, who was torn between a career in comms and one in the cockpit.  We chatted for an hour, and after he left I felt much better about young people – Mike was hardworking, kind, humane, thoughtful.  He’d make a good pilot.  Last class ran 3:30 to 4:30.  By then it was pelting rain.  Walked briskly back to the car, fueled up, and headed home, this time on the freeway.  It was, alas, one of the most awful drives in almost half-a-century behind the wheel.  Sheets of rain nearly the whole way, fog on the ridgetops, and once on I-70 a parade of semis, many of which were in the uphill left lane.  I was seriously glad to be home, even to clean up a couple of MacKenzie’s accidents on the basement carpet!

The visit to Penn State was superb, and I told host Ron that I would very much like to return in future years.

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The lion motif was everywhere on campus!

 

 

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London, Germany, London

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Romanesque church (from 1156), Maria-Laach Benedictine Abbey, near Andernach, Germany

My wings were clipped for 39 days, until February 10, and my first priority in that time was to help Linda recover from her second knee replacement.  Happily #2 went way, way better, and at “decision time” in late January we agreed she would be well enough for me to resume my mobile life.  I was way excited on the 10th when Linda dropped me at Georgetown for a morning lecture before heading to the airport.  Woo hoo!  It was pouring at noon, so rather than walking across the Potomac to the Metro, I hopped in a taxi on campus.  Enjoyed my first Talking-to-Strangers moments of 2018, a nice chat with the driver.  He emigrated from Iran “when Nixon was president.” I asked him if he went back.  “Every year,” he replied, smiling, “and I’m going again in two weeks.”  It would be a two-month sojourn to five places, visiting friends and family.  I gave him a good tip, “for your travels.”  A good start to the trip.

Although I was headed to London, I detoured up to Connecticut, flying to Hartford, where Jack picked me up.  We zoomed south to New Haven, dropped my bags at his pad, headed to a quick burrito dinner, then the main event, Yale men’s hockey vs. Princeton.  We went twice the previous season, and it was good to be back in the Ingalls Ice Rink, designed by the famed Finnish architect Eero Saarinen (Dulles Airport, Gateway Arch in St. Louis, other cool stuff).  Even better when the home team scored three goals in the first six minutes.  Princeton pulled within one, but the Bulldogs clinched it with four more goals in the third period.  Back to the apartment, inflated the airbed, off to nine hours of sleep.

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Ingalls Ice Rink at Yale, known fittingly as “The Whale”

Up at seven Sunday, yakked, read, and at nine jumped on the exercise bike in the YMCA gym (two blocks from home, very handy), pumped out 20 miles.  Back home, showered, and at 10:45 were first in line for pizza at Frank Pepe’s, a New Haven institution since 1925.  Tucked into a big one.  Jack then took me on a wonderful car tour of New Haven, into some places I had seen before, and some new neighborhoods.  An interesting place.  He dropped me at Union Station, kiss and hug, and onto the 1:25 train to Grand Central Terminal, New York.  The ride south and west was interesting, through the backyards of affluent suburbs, past some hollowed-out industrial districts, then into the vast metropolis.  Arrived Grand Central on time, detoured into the main hall to gaze upward at the remarkable robin-egg-blue ceiling, adorned with painted constellations – it is one of the world’s most magnificent transport hubs.  My T-Geek professed mastery of New York public transit got dented shortly thereafter: the chosen route did not work, because of weekend construction on the line that would get me close to Kennedy Airport.  So I reversed course, headed to Penn Station, then the Long Island Rail Road, and one more short ride; I still managed to arrive JFK with time for a beer in the Admirals Club.

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New Haven Union Station

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Waiting for the 6 Train

Hopped on the 777 to cross the ocean.  While watching the movie, I noticed the passenger a row ahead and across the aisle holding a musical score. Then he was moving his hands as a conductor would. When we landed, it was time for TtS. As he out away the musical score that read “Leonard Bernstein,” I asked the maestro where he was conducting. “Rome,” he replied.  I apologized for not recognizing him, and asked of his home orchestra. “Two,” he said, the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, London and Santa Cecelia, Rome.  Later that day, I Googled, and he was Antonio Pappano.  I zipped through London Heathrow, hopped on the Tube east, and by long tradition cued The Beatles – “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “Yesterday,” and other tunes are a perfect welcome to England.

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Maestro Pappano’s inflight rehearsal

Changed trains twice, and by 7:30 was ringing the doorbell at Carolyn and Omar Merlo’s house in Kew, near the famous botanic gardens.  Had a good yak with Carolyn, who was home from her job with the BBC because daughter Sophie and son Freddy had a week off from school (Omar was teaching in Qatar, home late that night).  Also greeting me was Mr. Waffles, their 14-month-old golden retriever, who was 1) absolutely huge, and 2) totally wild.  He seemed to remember me as the old guy who liked to play, so we did some tug-of-war until my hands were covered in slobber.

Showered, changed clothes, and headed out to my first gig at London Business School.  I had some time, so paused for a jolt of coffee, and at 11:15 met Hannah, a MBA student from California, and two of her colleagues, then from 11:45 to 12:45 gave an annual talk to the LBS Marketing Club.  Very well attended and lots of good questions from seriously bright students.  Walked back to the Tube, rode two stops to Oxford Circus, and met a young entrepreneur friend for lunch and a good chat.  It was a nice day, clear and cold, and I simply could not resist a ride on a one of London’s shared bikes, so off I went, pedaling west from Whitehall, past Buckingham Palace, across Hyde Park, then west to beyond Hammersmith, eight miles.  I planned to hop the Tube back to Kew, but the line was down, so had to take a very crowded and very slow bus home.

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London window shopping: the London Transport Lost Property office at Baker Street (note the year the iron went missing), and the elegant Pinarello bicycle showroom on Regent St.

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More Regent St. elegance

Whoops, forgot to get a key when I left that morning, and no one was home, so I walked back to “downtown” Kew for a pint at the Tap on the Line, the only pub in London directly on a Tube line.  Carolyn had my mobile number, and texted me to come home, so I finished my pint and headed back.  Changed clothes and at 7:30, she, the kids, and Mr. Waffles walked a few blocks to the Kew Gardens Hotel, a very agreeable pub, for a nice dinner.  We were having fun, and had even more fun when Dale, a former student of Omar’s a now good pal, arrived.

To describe Dale as a character doesn’t even come close.  He grew up in San Diego, in a large Mormon family, but the stories he told of adolescent hijinks made the wild kid in our neighborhood seem like a choirboy.  My stomach hurt from laughing as he recalled tales of stealing a massive concrete panther mascot from a rival high school and putting it in their front yard (he professor father and mom were out of town); using a Volkswagen as a raging bull to chase kids around their backyard; and seeing if they could hang from the Coronado Bridge for a minute without letting go and dropping into the water far below.  Whew.  Wild kids.

Slept hard, nine hours.  Omar was in the kitchen when I lurched down the stairs with my suitcase, and we had a cup of coffee, cereal, and a good catch-up.  Left the house at 8:45, had a quick cup of coffee with another friend, then hopped the Tube to Imperial College.  Met Omar for lunch, then delivered a lecture to his M.Sc. class on branding, big, 180 students.  Dale attended, and we visited a bit after, then I peeled off.  A quick yak with Mikhaela, a longtime friend at Imperial, then onto the Tube, across town to Liverpool Street Station, then the train to Stansted Airport, and a Ryanair flight to Frankfurt.  Arrived 10:30, headed to the train station, hopped on the 11:39 train to my next destination, WHU, a private business school in the Rhine Valley.  It was the very last minutes of Mardi Gras, or Karneval as they call it in that part of Germany, and I spotted only one remaining reveler along the whole line, a turquoise-wigged young woman on an adjacent platform in Mainz.  Arrived Koblenz, a very familiar place, at 12:55, walked to the Hotel Trierer Hof (built 1786, began welcoming guests three years later), head hit pillow at 1:30.  A long day.

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The “classroom,” auditorium of the Royal Geographical Society

Up at 7:30; six hours of sleep was not enough, but it had to do, because it was showtime at 9:45.  Zipped across the Rhine on Bus 8, walked up the hill to the very-familiar WHU campus in Vallendar, and delivered a leadership talk to a sparse group, reduced from either flu or Karneval hangovers (more likely).  Dashed out, back to Koblenz, changed clothes and walked to the train station.  Hopped on a local train to Andernach, then almost missed Bus 310 (I couldn’t find the stop, and would have missed it save for all the students climbing on; Wednesdays must be early dismissal).

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My longtime digs in Koblenz

I was glad I made it, because I was bound for Maria-Laach, a Benedictine abbey 11 kilometers north.  I met one of the monks two months earlier, on a flight from Copenhagen to Frankfurt.  Among other things that day, he told me the Benedictines were noted for hospitality, and invited me to tour the abbey on a future visit.  I was excited.  Along the way, I had a nice TtS with a teenage boy of 13 or 14, who told me the abbey was really interesting, and that the nearby large lake, formed by a volcano, was where he went sailing in the summer.  The bus took a circuitous route to the abbey — the 6 miles or so took 40 minutes via Nickenich, Wassenach, and several other small burgs, dropping chattering students at each one.

Fr. Augustinus was waiting for me in the abbey parking lot, and welcomed me warmly.  First stop was the welcome center for a short video introduction.  The abbey opened in 1156, and there was a fair bit of upheaval in the nearly nine centuries since.  Napoleon dissolved monasteries, sold off property.   Today the abbey has 35 monks and 220 staff to operate the abbey’s many enterprises – one of St. Benedict’s rules was every monastery had to be self-sufficient, and this one was a large enterprise, operating a hotel, conference center, large shop and art gallery, and a garden store renowned in the region.  We toured the grounds, had a cup of coffee, then visited the Romanesque church and a spectacular library that was built when the Jesuits briefly held the abbey in the late 19th Century.  Here are some scenes:

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The Abbey Church

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Detail, Abbey Church

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Two interpretations of Fr. Gilbert, founder of Maria-Laach

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The Benedictines create art to honor God, and the abbey grounds, church, and buildings abounded with lovely paintings, frescoes, and sculpture, including these contemporary works depicting Fr. Gilbert, Mary, and Noah

 

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The abbey library, built in the 19th Century by the Jesuits

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At five, I thanked Fr. Augustinus and wished him well, then hopped into one of the abbey’s cars, meeting Herr Hoffmann, one of the 220 staff.  He was friendly but spoke no English, so the ride down the hill to Andernach was entirely auf Deutsch, together with hand gestures and lots of comparing photos on our mobile phones – wives, kids, dogs, the universal sharing of family.  Hopped on the train back to Koblenz, and took a short nap.  Whew, a long and good day.  At seven I wandered a few blocks to one of my world-fave taverns, the Altes Brauhaus, opened in 1689.  Had a couple of beers and a plate of cold herring with fried potatoes, yum.  Then a solid sleep

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In the Altes Brauhaus

I woke, on a day off, to two or three inches of snow.  Plan was to head across to WHU, work the morning, meet two long WHU friends for lunch, and go to a thermal bath, in nearby Bad Ems, in the afternoon.  After breakfast I ambled to the stop for Bus 8 and waited.  And waited.  And waited.  After 90 minutes it was clear that a little bit of snow had massively disrupted service, so walked to the train station and hopped the rails to Vallendar.  My faith in German efficiency and perseverance was slightly dented.

Met Heidi and Sandra for lunch, a now-annual event, at an agreeable little Italian place.  Tucked into pasta, and made great conversation with nice people.  Because I didn’t get any work done that morning, and a new assignment arrived, I spent the afternoon working at WHU, and got caught up.  Missed the baths, but stuff happens.  Headed back to Koblenz, pausing at the bus stop for another TtS, with a WHU Ph.D. student who had lived in Chicago for a year as an intern with the German-American Chamber of Commerce.  Headed back to the Altes Brauhaus, then home.  Another long sleep, catching up from earlier in the week.

Friday morning, time again to stand and deliver.  My new WHU host, Jane Le, was ill on Wednesday, but was there that morning to introduce me to a class slightly larger than two days earlier.  Gave the talk, lots of good questions.  Afterward, Jane’s TA, Mommin Durrani, invited me to coffee, and although I had a bit of work I was so glad I accepted.

Mommin was one of the most interesting grad students I’ve ever met.  He was from Peshawar, Pakistan, close to the Afghan border, a chaotic and unstable area.  He had just arrived in Germany, after Jane agreed to supervise his doctoral thesis, which will be an ethnography of informal security personnel – the brave and totally underpaid people who defuse IEDs and other dangerous stuff.  He has been embedded with these workers, and will return for more field research.  His work is groundbreaking, sure to shake up the field of organizational behavior.  Just one story: the U.S. Defense Department sends bomb-defusing robots to Pakistan, but they are useless in a place without 24/7 electricity, so the team uses decidedly low-tech solutions, like magnets attached to string.  That launched a discussion of appropriate technology, the failures of Western-imposed economic development “solutions” (think World Bank and the U.S. Agency for International Development), positive developments like microcredit, and lots more.  My chat was easily one of the most fascinating conversations in the past year – and I meet a lot of interesting people.

At one, Mommin, Jane, and I met at the Mensa (school cafeteria) for a quick lunch.  To my great delight, grünkohl (cooked kale) was on the menu, with boiled potatoes and a giant sausage.  We yakked across a bunch of topics, then headed back to the classroom for my last talk of the week.  By the numbers, more than 300 students in 6 days, at 4 schools.  Good to be productive.  You can’t mess with consistent quality, so tippled and dined once again at the Altes Brauhaus.

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Spires of the Liebfrauenkirch, Koblenz

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Wasting food is not an option, but it’s hard when you’re traveling; a bit of ingenuity for the leftover schnitzel, hanging outside my hotel window; it made a nice Saturday lunch!

My train was not until 10:30, and in my ongoing drive to be productive, agreed to be filmed for a series of WHU-student-produced videos.  Jöran Heikhaus picked me up at the hotel at 8:25, and we zoomed across the river to campus, with great chatter along the way.  As I have written here, I deeply admire the German tradition of apprenticeships and internships, and Jöran was the poster child – worked briefly in Sydney and London, was helping a B2B startup in Koblenz, and still studying full time.  Very cool.  We laid down about six short videos, zipped back to the train station, and said goodbye.  Great lad.

I hopped an earlier direct train to Düsseldorf Airport.  Rather than using the time to bring this journal up to date, I looked out the window at some interesting stuff: a mothballed nuclear power plant (it had operated for less than two years in the 1980s); a wonderful mural of Bonn’s most famous son, Beethoven (a kilometer south of the Hauptbahnhof), and the huge Bayer chemical complex in Leverkusen, north of Cologne.  Along the way, a nice TtS with a law student enroute to Düsseldorf.

Flew Saturday afternoon to London Heathrow and into easily the longest immigration queue I’ve seen in 51 years of crossing borders.  It took way more than an hour to get through.  About halfway along, a nice TtS with Casey from Minot, North Dakota, who designs sweaters for upmarket ski-clothing brands Obermeyer and Spyder.  She grew up in Billings, Montana, so we had a nice yak about my father’s native state.  Went to college in Colorado, moved to New York, then Denver, then married a fellow in the air force, hence Minot.  She was fun to talk with, and it made the long wait a bit less unpleasant.  Finally admitted to the U.K., I hopped on the fast train into town, then the Tube, then a fast mile walk to the home of my long friends Scott and Caroline Sage.  Their daughter Eva, now three, still recognized me, even though it had been 14 months; and they had a smiling new daughter, Sadie Rose.  It was such a joy to be there.  The grown-ups visited briefly, then the Sages left for dinner.  I stayed until Carrie, their wonderful caregiver arrived, then peeled out for dinner at Khas Tandoori, one of those slightly-worn looking neighborhood Indian restaurants that dot London.  Scott recommended it, and it was terrific.  Home, and asleep by 9:30.

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Scott and Sadie Grace, 6 months, and Eva Rose, already 3

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Chopped green chillies, always a good addition

Visited briefly with the family Sunday morning, and at nine walked east, across Queen’s Park to St. Anne’s parish, where I worshipped in late November.  The vicar, Mother Christine, and I yakked a bit before.  The congregation was yet smaller than the previous time, but so friendly.  Afterward, as before, I had a cup of coffee and chatted with another two from November, father-and-son scientists Mark and Patrick Haggard, and a new fellow, a U.K. civil servant, from the Ministry of Finance.  Renewed, I walked home, said hello to close friends of the Sages who were there for lunch, and headed out.

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Late-winter still life, Scarlet & Violet

First stop was Scarlet & Violet, in my limited view the best florist in the whole world, to get Caroline a gift card (the house was full of Valentine and spring bouquets, so I thought a chit for later made sense).  Then into Café Mineiro, run by Brazilians, for another jolt.  They made great coffee, and I sat down to admire the shelves of Portuguese and Brazilian packaged foods.  The place had a friendly vibe and, as I have written many times in these pages, ordinary experiences like this are better than a visit to a famous museum.

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The Sunday scene in Cafe Mineiro

I walked a mile south to a museum, not a famous one, but a good one for a former ad man: the Museum of Brands, Packaging & Advertising.  Their collection was enormous, starting in the Victorian era, with the rise of what we regard today as modern consumerism, to the present.  Food, toys, games, all sorts of stuff.  Although the artifacts were great, the interpretation (museum speak for explaining things and putting them in context) was weak.  Still, pretty cool.  It was lunchtime, so I bought a couple of sandwiches and a pint of skimmed milk, found a “picnic spot” on a side street, and tucked in.  Headed back just as the friends were leaving the Sages.  Scott and I yakked a bit, then took Eva to a nearby park.  Had a light dinner and headed to bed to read.

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English packaged goods through the years

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Intrepid workers of the gig economy; I told them I admired their work

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My picnic venue

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Evidence of a multicultural London

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You know the street is moving upmarket when a Bentley is parked!

Up Monday morning, into central London, worked a bit, and at 12:30 met my former, longtime host at the London School of Economics, Sir Geoffrey Owen, and Scott for lunch in Notting Hill.  We three had gathered the year before, and the 90 minutes were like a mini think tank – lots of discussion of U.K., European, and U.S. politics, economic trends, old industries and new, and more.  At the beginning of lunch, I told the two that I had planned to create an agenda but did not, and as I said “see you next year” to Geoffrey, he replied, “Have an agenda ready!”

At 3:45, I met my friend Jan Meurer, a retired executive from KLM.  We were repeating a successful visit to Cranfield University, 50 miles northwest of London, and dialogue with students from the school’s specialized air transport management and airport planning M.Sc. programs.  Gary, a drive from the school who I had met previously, picked us up at the train station, and we had a good yak (small world: his wife had worked in a Girl Scout camp 50 miles from my home in Minnesota).  Jan and I carried on the dialogue from 6:30 to 8:15, answering students, making comments, and having fun.  It was a good session.  Hopped the train back, then the Tube and London Overground back to the Sages.  Picked up a sandwich and cole slaw for a late dinner.  A long day.

Tuesday was the last teaching day.  Hopped the bus back to Imperial College Business School and delivered a two-hour seminar on crisis management.  Worked a bit, jumped on the Tube across town, and at 1:00 met my longtime friend David Holmes for our annual winter lunch.  David is a wonderful fellow, retired from a senior post in the Ministry of Transport and ten or more years at British Airways, where I met him.  We were back at Rules, London’s oldest restaurant (opened 1798), a comfortable place in Covent Garden.  We’ve done the lunch for more than a decade, and it’s always a joy to reconnect, updates on family, the state of the world, and some critical commentary on Britain (from him, not me!), including a long discussion on the railways.  He is another Transport Geek, though a refined sort.  His most entertaining tale was the account of his resignation in the mid-1990s from the Oxford and Cambridge Club in London, a protest over their deplorable treatment of women.  He’s just reapplied, and said he hoped he could host me there in 2019.  We shall see.  Octogenarians can still be regarded as troublemakers!

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The New Academic Building, London School of Economics

I peeled off at 3:10, walked several blocks to the London School of Economics for my 19th appearance.  Delivered a talk to about 50 students from four to six, then I was done for the (long) day.  Zipped home, arriving in time to read Eva four bedtime stories.  Tucked into Lebanese take-away.  Asleep early.

Up at 6:30, goodbye hugs and kisses, across Queen’s Park to the Tube, Heathrow Express, and a flight to New York JFK, then home to Washington.

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Sadie searching for milk . . .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Flying Start to 2018: Chicago, Briefly

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Winter, seriously: Not the arctic, but Lake Michigan east of Chicago

As I did on the first day of 2017, on New Year’s Day I was up early, out the door, onto the Metro, and aloft on the Silver Bird to Chicago; same destination: the northwest suburb of Arlington Heights for the annual party of my cousins.  Five of the six children of my Uncle Bapper (that’s how my older brother Jim first pronounced “Joseph”) live in Metro Chicago, and four are within two miles of each other.  As I noted last year, Bapper’s early disablement and death created remarkable tightness among the kids, and they are always fun to visit.  Landed in below-zero weather and headed to the rental car lot, then drove eight miles across well-familiar terrain.

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The Budget rental car was a mess, and no one was around, so I resorted to self-help measures (and later got a refund on the rental)

Before the party, I spent almost four hours yakking with Cousin Jim, oldest of the six, and his swell wife Michaela.  They are nearly as close as siblings, and it’s always great fun to catch up.  They’re in the throes of college admission for their oldest, Jack, and have two right behind, Charlie and Katie.  We motored a few blocks to Cousin Mike’s, who with his wife Gail were the 2018 hosts.  In no time I was hugging cousins, spouses, and kids.  It was a lot of fun.  They are a very tight bunch, and it’s a joy to see them together.

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Rock-and-roller Charlie Fredian and his new Fender bass

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Cousins Jim, Bob, and Mike Fredian

Was up early the next morning, and like the year before motored east to suburban Glenview for breakfast with Cousin Larry and his wife Judith.  Larry is actually a first cousin once removed; his mom Alice was youngest of my maternal grandfather Jim’s six sibs.  We had a caloric breakfast and a good catch-up about his three kids and several grandchildren.  They are fine people.  We drove back to their house, where I had made a firm friend with their new dog Blackie, and yakked some more.  When I left, Lorenzo kissed me, and I was reminded that Italian men (and even just 25-percenters like me) kiss each other.  Nice!

Drove briskly back to the airport.  On the way, passed the first McDonald’s (well the first one built by Ray Kroc) in Des Plaines, noted that it was now a museum, and further noted to visit soon.  Flew home, trip one done and fun.

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