27 Hours in Connecticut, 5 Days in Omaha

Winter came early to Omaha: two inches of snow on October 28

 

Was barely home (from Pennsylvania and Quebec), just two nights, and on Sunday, October 20 I flew to White Plains, New York, north of the Big Apple.  Son Jack and girlfriend Reed picked me up, and we motored around Westchester County, through lovely small towns like Katonah and Croton Falls, then into Connecticut, through seriously-posh Ridgefield to Bethel, a pleasant place where they now live, after relocating from New Haven earlier in 2019.  It was raining the whole time, but still a lovely drive, especially around the many reservoirs that store water for New York City.  Those areas felt almost like northern Minnesota, pristine and quiet, yet just over an hour from one of the biggest cities in the world.  We chilled a bit at their new pad, then headed out for dinner.  Was asleep early.

Above, Katonah, New York. Small-town feel, but less than an hour from Manhattan. Below, one of the many reservoirs that hold New York City’s water supply. At bottom, we stopped at Reed’s office; she’s the recreation director for the Town of Lewisboro, so it fit that she posed in front of one of the little buses used for outings.

Reed’s dog Kora is so sweet; she provided protection from marauders all Sunday night, from a perch on the guest bed.

Up at six, out the door an hour later, east to New Haven.  Jack is still working downtown, but soon will take a job much closer to Bethel (Reed works in a small town 14 miles from there, so both will have much easier daily commutes).  We had a good yak in the car.  He dropped me at the Yale School of Management for my debut there.  At 9:30, met my host Soheil, an interesting young professor, originally from Iran.  Delivered the airline revenue talk in the morning to MBAs and other master’s students, a highly diverse and engaged group.  Spent the lunch hour listening to a prospective faculty member sell herself with a lecture on her doctoral research).  Worked another hour, then delivered the same lecture in the afternoon to another engaged and varied class.  Soheil peeled off to meetings, I hopped in a Lyft to the nearby tiny New Haven airport, and flew to Philadelphia, then home.  Zip, zip, zip.

Above, interior of the modern Yale School of Management building. Below, the view from the air: the Connecticut shoreline east of New Haven; the North Fork of Long Island, and the estuary of the Delaware River.

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Six nights home was nice.  The two terriers, Henry and MacKenzie, especially liked the long walks.   Two hours before sunrise on Sunday, October 27, I hopped in a Lyft car to National Airport, bound for my second annual week-in-residence at the Aviation Institute of the University of Nebraska Omaha.  Talking to Strangers started before leaving our driveway.  Vakhtang, the driver, was a chatty and amiable fellow, from “the other Georgia.”  We had a great yak in the 21 minutes to the airport.  He suggested I do some guest lectures in Tbilisi, and I replied that I would like that very much.

Zipped through Charlotte Airport, and onto a flight west to Omaha.  Landed at 11:35, hopped in another Lyft (driver way, way less conversant), and was at the hotel before noon.  The neighborhood, a new mixed-use development called Aksarben Village (Aksarben is Nebraska backwards), was built on the site of a former Ak-sar-ben horse track and fairgrounds, was by now well familiar, and I ambled a block south to lunch at Pickleman, which was staffed by way-friendly young people.  Then again, I thought to myself, I was back in the Midwest, a region of friendliness.  Tucked into some veg chili and a tuna sandwich, walked back to the hotel to change, and headed to a nearby gym that has an agreement with the hotel (I used it every morning in 2018).  Pumped out 20 miles, back to the room, short nap, a little prep for the coming week.

As a native Midwesterner, I like Omaha, not least because of messages like this! “We Don’t Coast” is such a fine slogan.

At 6:30, my host Scott Tarry, director of the Institute, and wife Mary, picked me up for dinner, and we motored a mile or two to an agreeable Italian restaurant for a big Sunday dinner.  Was home to watch game 5 of the World Series, and cheer on the Houston Astros vs. the Washington Nationals – though we live in suburban Washington, I was backing the team from Texas.

Up at six Monday morning, over to the gym for 10 miles on the bike, then to the UNO campus.  Worked a bit, and did the first class at 10:00.  After lunch I taught two more classes.  Scott had organized a small gathering of faculty that night a few blocks from the hotel, and I spent a pleasant couple of hours getting to know some of the other teachers.  It had begun to snow, and fairly heavily, so was happy to get a ride a few blocks to the hotel with Becky Lutte, a professor and accomplished pilot.

A couple of dawn views of the University of Nebraska Omaha campus

Rinse, repeat: stayed busy Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, a pleasant routine, riding the school’s shuttle bus from the stop right across from the hotel to campus, early breakfast in the student union, and into classes.  The four days sped past.  I didn’t get as much time to explore Omaha as on the 2018 visit, but spent an agreeable hour between classes Wednesday afternoon walking the campus and the nearby Fairacres neighborhood, well to do and beautiful.   I spent some time in the UNO Fine Arts Building, offering a varied array of things to learn — a nice reminder of the broadness of American public universities.  And a splendid T-t-S that night with Kathy and Greg Davis at a Thai restaurant in Aksarben Village.  We exchanged hellos when I sat down, but later, as they were finishing, we got into a long chat.  Dr. Greg was a dentist, almost my age, sold his practice and now keeps busy (a bit like me) teaching at the Creighton University dental school.  We talked weather, Omaha (they were both natives), the new African-American history museum in Washington (they were both African-American).  Even got some solid professional advice on new dental-crown technology.  A lovely few moments, relieving a small pang  of loneliness.

Above, a splendid home in Fairacres; below, scenes from a walk through the Fine Arts Building.

Nebraska has since 1978 had a law requiring that 1% of the cost of any new public building be allocated for public art. Now there’s a good idea, above and below.

Scenes from the rapidly growing Ak-sar-ben Village, a mixed-use development south of UNO. Built on a former horse track, the place offers housing, retail, and huge array of restaurants.

Up Friday morning at five, to the gym for one last workout, then out to a recap breakfast with Scott.  He’s a super guy, and we had a good yak about the week, and some ideas for the next visit.  My 9:18 flight to Chicago was three hours late, but happily was rebooked on a connection, and was home by 7:30, dogs on the leash.

 

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Penn State and Montreal

The iconic stadium from the 1976 Summer Olympics, Montreal

Was home from Minnesota for three nights, long enough to paint the garage floor and do some yard work.  On Monday the 14th, Linda drove me a few miles to a Hertz location, where I picked up a Nissan roller skate for a one-way drive north to my second visit to the Pennsylvania State University, Penn State.  It was a glorious morning, clear and crisp, perfect for a drive.  Started on the freeway, but hopped off at Hagerstown, Maryland, and zigzagged north on U.S. and state highways, over the Appalachian ridges and valleys – six ups and six downs by my count.  Through pleasant small towns and hamlets.  A lovely ride.  Just before arriving in State College, stopped at an overlook above town, and read an interesting interpretive sign: at the time of European arrival, 90 percent of Pennsylvania was forested, but the state is still 60% woodland.  And I was reminded of evidence, from earlier that morning, of a hardwood industry: lots of signs for saw sharpeners, chainsaw retailers, flooring companies, and the like.  Some views along the road:

Happy Valley, home of Penn State

Arrived on campus at 12:15, checked into the Nittany Lion Inn (run by the school, in part for students in their hospitality program), ambled across the street for lunch, dropped the car, walked the campus, went to the gym, and took a short nap.  At six it was time to perform, to a packed room at an event of the student Ad and PR Club.  After the talk, club officers Haley, Morgan, and Jillian took me out to dinner.

Above, at left, Nittany Lion Inn; right, a new building on the vast campus. Below, in the presence of greatness: your scribe with Penn State starting quarterback Sean Clifford, who is friends with one of my Ad/PR Club hosts.

Up with the roosters Tuesday morning, back to the gym.  At 7:30, met hosts Steve Manuel and Ron Smith (both familiar from my visit 19 months earlier) for a caloric breakfast in the inn dining room, then off to four back-to-back talks.  There was barely time after the first one to zip over the Berkey Creamery for a chocolate shake – Penn State has a big ag program, and like the University of Wisconsin-Madison, they run a small dairy operation, from cow to ice cream.  It’s a wildly popular place (I tried the night before, prior to my club gig, but the line was out the door).  Finished the last talk at five, back to my room to change.

In the Berkey Creamery (my shake is in prep at left)

Met Steve at 5:40, and we motored to dinner.  He is a super-interesting and colorful fellow, former Marine officer, with lot of great stories, including plenty from his nearly three decades at Penn State, and a long stint as school sports photographer.  The guy has a lot of talents.  His colleague Denise Bortree joined us for the meal, and more great conversation.

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Was asleep by 8:45, because I was up at 4:20 Wednesday morning, out to the small airport, onto a 6:00 jet to Philadelphia, then a connecting flight to Montreal and my 24th time at McGill University, a long favorite.   Landed in Canada before ten, onto the superb #747 express bus into the city, and up the hill to Desautels, the McGill business school Desautels.  Met host and pal Bob Mackalski, and sat in on a class on innovation, not to present, but make a few comments from the back row.  Ate a big lunch at a fave restaurant – great in part because everyone in the place knows and likes Bob, so we get rock-star service.  At 2:30, we co-taught an undergrad brand management class.  I peeled off, walking to my digs, at the top of a McGill dorm.  Great place, huge apartment.  Did some work, and at six headed out to a new brewpub, via Metro and bus.  Waited 45 minutes for a bus that never came, so reversed course and headed to my fave pub, Saint-Houblon on Rue Saint-Denis.

The view from above: wind turbines in New York’s Adirondack Mountains; harvest time in Quebec, and pleasant suburbs west of Montreal.

Wednesday night, and the place was packed.  While we waited for a table, a kindly server brought us small glasses of free beer, way cool.  In 10 minutes, I was sitting at a counter on the balcony, with a great view of the bustling place.  Studying the beer menu, “Pêche Blonde” caught my eye, and I asked for a pint.  Wow!  Made with lots of peaches.  The server was super-friendly, offering samples of anything else that caught my eye.  Tucked into a nice plate of spicy tofu and vegetables, and headed home.

At left, Saint-Houblon; right, the Berri UQAM Metro station — like many in Montreal, it features vibrant stained glass windows and other public art.

Was up at 6:30 Thursday after a long, much-needed long snooze.  Worked my email.  At 8:20, I headed out, into cold rain and strong wind, east a couple of blocks to a cozy café, to meet a long friend of Fabio Scappaticci, my young pal in Geneva who I visited three weeks earlier.  Ridha and Fabio met each other as young teens, and are as close as brothers.  Six months earlier, I had attempted to help Ridha with an aviation job, and it was nice to meet him in person.  A way interesting guy with a great family story.  Mom and Dad from Palestine, first years in Saudi Arabia, moved to Canada at 11.  After a long yak and a nice breakfast, we walked to his condo, met his French wife and young daughter Leah.  We walked Leah to day care across the street, which was a lesson in itself: the sparkling clean, amply staffed, well designed facility was actually run by the province.  Such a different model from the U.S., and better.  Yes, taxes are much higher, but services like that facility might even make conservatives – certainly the ones who claim to be “pro family” – reconsider how we do it south of the border.

Above, a rain-blurred view from Ridha’s apartment; below, Leah and Ridha; at bottom, the corridor at Leah’s day-care center.

At 12:30, I met McGill law lecturer and longtime host Kuan-Wei Chen, known as David, for lunch.  Sadly, my favorite little Korean place, Kantapia, next door to my digs, had closed, but we found a new Korean place on Peel, and tucked into a fine lunch and good conversation.  Walked back, took a tonic nap, and worked a bit.

Above, lunch at Woojirib Korean Restaurant (the stone dish was cooking my eggs); below, evidence of strong winds.

At 4:30, I suited up and walked briskly south on Rue Sherbrooke.  It was still raining, and the north wind had picked up.  Up the Peel St. hill to the McGill Law School.  I was way early.  In one of the foyers was a permanent exhibit of Inuit printmaking, seven prints from the 1980s.  As I admired the expressiveness, I was also saddened by the knowledge that Europeans – in Canada, the U.S., and elsewhere – tried to made native peoples like us. Why?  I had no answer, but I surely enjoyed the art, especially the two interpretations of caribou (the wild version of semi-domesticated reindeer).

At left, “Caribou Acting as Men,” by Oshoociak Pudlot (1909-1992), Cape Dorset, Nunavut, 1983; right “Spirit of Summer Caribou,” by Pitseolak Ashoona, also from Dorset, born 1904 and created this in the year of his death, 1983.

At 6:00, it was time to stand and deliver my airline-alliances lecture to a small group of graduate law (LLM) students.  Finished at 8:15, and walked back to the room.  It was (by my standards) late.  I was tired, but also hungry and thirsty, and was reminded of a similar evening in Cologne several years earlier: I could just put on my pajamas, or put myself “out there.”  So I pulled on jeans and zipped out, a block north to the #80 bus, rode 15 minutes and a short walk to a microbrewery and pub, Dieu du Ciel! (literally God in the Sky, or Good Lord! by Google Translate, either way a nice name).  It was nine but the place was still hopping.  Found a stool at the bar, got a nice welcome, and tucked into a couple of beers and a wonderful pizza.  The place exuded such a friendly vibe, and none of the youngsters minded that I was, like the night before, the oldest person in the place by a factor of two or three.  “Out there” was the right place to be.

Slept in on Friday, until seven.  It had stopped raining, streets were dry, so it was time for a ride on Bixi, Montreal’s bikeshare.  Hopped on a silver cycle and headed east, into what had historically been a series of working-class neighborhoods, almost solely francophone.  Zigged and zagged, and ended up in Maisonneuve Park, a huge urban green space.  Rode around the park twice, then rode back downtown, 13 miles.  Breakfast at my fave Tim Horton’s, oatmeal and a bran muffin.  Packed up, stopped at the McGill bookstore to buy a souvenir quarter-zip fleece with school logo, hopped the #747 bus to the airport, and flew home.  Canada is always such a joy.

At left, part of a huge frieze that spans four walls of Montreal’s Central Station, depicting signal Canadian scenes and featuring the words of its national anthem; right, a portion of a brilliant stained-glass window that also interprets Canada from Pacific to Atlantic, installed at Dorval Airport in 1960 and moved to its new transborder terminal (I like the cargo ship sliding down what seems to be Niagara Falls!).

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Postscript: walking from my gate at Washington National Airport to the Metro, I passed a small exhibit of artifacts from the old days of flying. This poster caught my eye; when we lived briefly in Cleveland, Ohio, 1957-59, my traveling-salesman dad sometimes flew on Capital Airlines (which merged into United in 1961). The turboprop Vickers Viscount was brand new back then, and my late brother Jim and loved going to the airport to pick him up, stand on the observation deck, and listen to the plane’s distinctive whine.

 

 

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Back Home to Minnesota, to Teach at My Alma Mater

A painting of St. Anthony Falls, the main reason for Minneapolis’ location on the Mississippi; the art was in the lobby of the Minneapolis Club,

 

Travel in the last quarter began on Monday, October 7.  Flew home to Minneapolis/St. Paul for talks at my alma mater, the University of Minnesota, landing in clear skies and warm for October.  Hopped on the Blue Line light rail into downtown Minneapolis.  I had an hour to kill, so ambled into the central library, a place I often visited when doing research in high school.  The library is on the same site of the building I visited, but its new incarnation dates to 2006, with a design by the architect superstar Cesar Pelli.

Harvest time in the glaciated landscape of western Wisconsin

 

Atrium of the central library; at right, a statue of Minerva that I’ve known since I was a child.

Continued on, across the Mississippi, past a couple of almost-original flour mills and other buildings from the 1880s, when the city really began to grow, thanks in large part to a St. Anthony Falls, at the time the largest hydropower site west of Niagara.  Paused for a nice T-t-S with fellow watering his lawn.  A Minnesotan, he had lived in Australia for a decade, and the house on 5th Avenue SE for 30 years. At six I met longtime friends (and overnight hosts) Deb and Phil Ford for dinner at Alma Café, a great place to eat.  We tucked into a fine meal (and some terrific desserts) and got caught up after a year.  Drove home, yakked for a bit, and clocked out.

Along the Mississippi, just upstream from the falls

Statue of a wheat farmer along historic S.E. Main St.; at right, the Pillsbury “A” Mill (1881), for 40 years the largest flour mill in the world.

Chefs at Alma Cafe; I’ve adopted my friend Jan Meurer’s practice of thanking the cooks when leaving restaurants with an open kitchen, and these three appreciated the gesture.

Up early Tuesday, out the door a few blocks to France Avenue and onto the #6 bus I well remember from childhood (we lived less than a mile from the bus stop where I waited).  I was happy to see the bus fill up, almost all young men and woman commuting to jobs downtown.  Public transit in the Twin Cities works well, and people use it.  All good.

Paused for a large cup of coffee in the atrium of what was in my day called the IDS Center, a skyscraper, then rode an escalator to the second floor, falling into Minneapolis’ vast skyway network, a series of inside walkways and enclosed bridges that run more than a mile north-south and another mile east-west.  When it’s below zero, or 90° F and humid, the skyways are quite an innovation!  Ambled for a couple of blocks on skyways to the Minneapolis Club, for more than a century the elite power center of the city.  At 8:30 met long friend Mike Davis, formally Judge Michael J. Davis, Senior Judge for the (U.S.) District of Minnesota.  We had a nice breakfast and a good chat (I first met Mike in 1973, when he hired Linda to work at a poverty law office).

Above, one of the many skyways downtown; below, new tall buildings attest to a strong economy — Minneapolis/St. Paul has long had a diverse and vibrant business sector.

I peeled off at 9:45, hopped on the light rail a few stops to the University, and from 11:15 to 12:30 delivered a talk to undergraduates in Prof. George John’s marketing principles class.  George and I hopped in his car and drove across the river for lunch in a Chinese restaurant.  He’s an interesting fellow: born in India, grew up in Brunei (his dad worked for Shell Oil), came to the U.S. to study, and stayed.  We talked a lot about university policy and governance, and returned to a theme Mike and I discussed a few hours earlier, the sustainability of higher education.

George kindly drove me back to the Fords, I yakked briefly with Phil, then headed out on his bike for a 23-mile ride around Minneapolis’ famed urban lakes, then east to the Mississippi, north, then back west along the Minnehaha Creek, a little stream I’ve known all my life.  Yakked with Deb and Phil for an hour, then borrowed their car and headed to dinner at one of my fave eateries anywhere, the Black Forest Inn.

Minnehaha Falls. Well familiar as a child, I had not seen this cascade for almost 40 years.

Spent a colossal couple of hours over Oktoberfest beer and dinner with Edina High School classmate Guy Drake, formally Reverend Guy.  We’ve known each other since 1961, but were never that close.  We reconnected at one of the Class of 1969’s informal reunions at a suburban bar in 2016, and when I saw him at the 50th Reunion in July I suggested we get together.  Whew, what a conversation.  Guy was always seriously creative, a performer: theater and music.  He had a modestly successful duo with fellow student Tom Johnson, and they recently reunited – after Samsung had basically stolen one of their tunes from 1970 and used it in a TV commercial.  There were plenty of other stories, including his ordination as an Episcopal minister at age 60.  And lot of dimensions to that man.

Rev. Guy Drake

Out the door at seven Wednesday, three blocks south to Wuollet, one of the world’s great bakeries, for a raspberry and cream cheese Danish, then west past the shopping area of my childhood, 50th and France, to Starbucks for a large coffee.  I knew I was in Minnesota when I saw a 30-ish man cleaning up a small spill he made on the milk and cream counter.  People on the East Coast almost never to that.  It made me smile.

Breakfast time; worked hard not to get the laptop keys sticky!

I worked my email, then hopped on the #6 bus downtown.  Like the day before, it was packed with young people heading to downtown jobs.  Changed to the light-rail a mile or so back to the university, worked a bit, and from 9:55 to 11:35 delivered the airline-pricing talk to full-time MBAs in Mark Bergen’s class.  After class, I was working my email on a bench outside the classroom, and fell into a sort-of-T-t-S with one of the students from the morning lecture.  He grew up on a farm in southeast Iowa, studied chemical engineering at Iowa State, and now was looking for a job with either 3M or an ag firm.  We had a nice conversation, ending with me: “Please tell your mom and dad thank you from me.  If not for them, we wouldn’t eat.”  He said we would relay my gratitude.

At 1:30, I met former airline colleague Ann Hathaway, friend since 1984, at Birchwood Café, a pleasant café a couple miles’ walk from campus.   We had another fine chat, a lot of talk about the recent memorial service for her mother, who lived a good and long life, nearly to 96 (regular readers of this journal may recall my mention of my grade-school Spanish teacher, Don Miguel; he was Ann’s father).  Ann drove me back to campus.  At three I hopped on Nice Ride, the local bike share, for a quick swing around the East Bank Campus of the university.  Brought this update current, and from 5:45 to 7:30 repeated the airline pricing lecture to part-time MBA students – a very vocal group.

A little flora and fauna enroute to lunch at Birchwood

High point of that talk was a special guest, Emily Sheppard Bevan, daughter of my dear (and now long-departed friend) Jack Sheppard.  Emily is considering a MBA, and Mark and I welcomed her to the classroom.  Once done, we hopped in her car and zipped east to downtown St. Paul, for a late dinner with her mom Martha, and Emily’s husband Michael.  We had a fine meal and a great conversation, cut a bit short from my fatigue.  Emily kindly drove me all the way to Deb’s and Phil’s house.  I revived a bit after donning my pajamas, so we talked for awhile.

Up at first light Thursday morning.  It had rained overnight, and the streets were still wet, but I wanted a last ride on Phil’s bike, so headed out.  Rode up and down every one of the eight streets in the Country Club neighborhood of suburban Edina, an old and leafy district where we lived from 1959 until 1966.  Zig-zagged a bit through parts of the adjacent suburb of St. Louis Park, then back to 50th and France for a big cup of coffee and an apple fritter.  A fine ride.

Back at the Fords, I showered, had a last chat with my friends, then hopped on bus and light rail back to the airport – for the second year in a row, I did the whole visit on the Twin Cities’ fine public transit network, at a total cost of $11.50, including the bikeshare!  Flew back to Washington.

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Europe, the 200th Trip, And Still Way Cool

Lake Geneva, Switzerland

I was home (from Hawai’i) exactly 24 hours and 10 minutes.  Headed to Dulles Airport, flew to Charlotte, and hopped on the Silver Bird to Frankfurt.  My 200th trip to Europe.  But every trip is exciting and different.

Zipped over to the airport railway station.  Waited a couple of hours, then onto a train north to Bonn, the capital from just after World War II until 1992.  I hadn’t been there for 45 years, and was excited to be visiting.  But first a pleasant ride along the Rhine Valley, north from Mainz to Koblenz – a familiar route, but I had never traversed it in perfect weather, and it was beautiful.

Arrived Bonn just before noon, stuffed my suitcase and backpack in a locker, and headed south a mile to the German History Museum, which was really history since 1945, the story of the modern federal republic.  Tucked into needed lunch at the museum café, then set out to explore.  Regular readers know I’m a huge admirer of the country, and the museum underscored the reasons why, principally a commitment to what translates as a “social market economy.”  Capitalism, but with the rough edges mostly sanded smooth.  The museum told the parallel story of East Germany from 1945 until the collapse of the Soviet Union and Eastern Block in 1989-90.  It was a remarkable afternoon, four hours.  And it got me back to thinking of a persistent theme in geography, pride in place.  That idea has had a hard time in postwar Germany, because of the horrors of the Nazi period.  But pride in place is not nationalism.

The museum is arranged chronologically, so it begins with the nation in rubble, 1945. Below, varied images of the first postwar Chancellor, Konrad Adenauer, a man I have deeply admired for decades.

 

Above left, a re-creation of missing-persons signboards, common in the late 1940s; at right, a clever, literal interpretation of the Rosinenbomber, the Raisin Bomber, from the 1948 Berlin Airlift. Below, as Germany rebuilt, she began to export: Steiff teddy bears, Olympia typewriters, and more.

Above, barbed wire and the Berlin Wall, erected 1961. As a 10-year-old, the Wall symbolized Cold War tension at its extreme, and I found this part of the museum especially moving and in a way personal. Below, more powerful images of a divided Berlin, at right John F. Kennedy’s famous visit in June 1963.

Above, happier depictions of 1960s Germany: re-created department store display wndows, and a flower-power VW bus. Below, the museum traced the postwar history of East Germany, the GDR, very effectively.

Above, this poster, for the Marshall Plan (ERP, European Reconstruction Plan), made me smile and feel proud. The ERP may have been America’s finest hour as global citizens. Below, scenes of a prosperous Bonn.

Walked back to the train station in perfect weather, and hopped on a standing-room-only train north to my teaching destination, Düsseldorf.  Rode the U-Bahn (subway) one stop to my hotel.  I was seriously hungry but way tired, so instead of heading a mile into the city, to the Altstadt (old town), I tucked into salad, cold herring, and fried potatoes (a German fave) at a nearby restaurant.  Asleep early.  Slept hard.

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Up early Monday, to the gym to crank out some miles on the fitness bike, then down to the hotel’s enormous buffet breakfast (one of the best anywhere).  My gig at WHU (the German business school I’ve visited for almost 20 years) was not until late afternoon, so I zipped onto Nextbike, the multicity bikeshare.  It’s easily the smartest system around: you tap the app on your smartphone, grab a QR image on the bike’s rear fender, the lock snaps open, and off you go.  No fixed stations.  Way cool.

Above, talk about convenient location: I took this picture of the Oberbilker Markt subway station from my hotel room. Below, the graffiti-laden counterculture street called Kiefernstrasse, and at right a facade painted as crossword puzzle (I got two of the words, even with my poor Deutsch!).

I rode into the city, then across the Rhine to the fancy Oberkassel neighborhood.  It started raining lightly, so I rode back to the hotel.  Worked a bit, took a needed noon nap, suited up, and walked a few blocks to a supermarket for lunch stuff, then over to WHU.  The school has two campuses, and in Düsseldorf there’s a small building mainly for MBA and exec ed programs.  From 5:15 to 6:00 I delivered a talk on career and life to 60 incoming full- and part-time students.  There was a reception afterward, and I grabbed a beer while talking to students from Ecuador, India, China, Palestine, and a few Germans.  Way interesting conversation.

Peeled off, headed back to the hotel, changed clothes, and rode the U-Bahn to the Altstadt for dinner at Füchschen, one of the many brewers of the distinctive local beer called Alt (“Old,” not Alternative!).  Tucked into an enormous heavy dinner, late, and paid for it with indigestion for hours.  Note to self: no more big fatty meals after nine.

The Monday-night scene at Füchschen; at right, waiters keep tab on your beer mat

Back to the gym Tuesday morning, a small breakfast (was still full), and out on Nextbike to drop off receipts at WHU.  Checked out of the hotel at 11:30 and took trains to the Hamm neighborhood near the Rhine harbor.  The port has moved, and the whole area was in ambitious redevelopment, commercial and residential.  Picked up a Nextbike at the Hamm train station and rode five miles along the Rhine, back to the old town.  Picked up my suitcase at the hotel, headed to the airport, and flew to Birmingham, England – was headed for a short visit with my long and dear friends John and Diana Crabtree (I met John nearly 40 years earlier, when we were both visiting lecturers at the University of New England in Australia).

Above, burgeoning redevelopment of the old (Rhine) river harbor in Düsseldorf. Below, a contemporary interpretation of the ancient tradition of pictograph store signs (dating to a time when few could read), and a traditional sign, in this case for the Schumacher Brewery. At bottom, the Rhine is still a significant commercial waterway.

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Off one packed train and onto another at New Street station, Birmingham, and arrived Worcester at five.  Diana picked me up at the station, drove to pick up their youngest, Jessica, at school, then east five miles to their little village of Crowle.  Sat in the kitchen and caught up with Diana (last visit was 15 months earlier) as she prepared dinner.  John arrived about seven, and we picked up where we left off!  Such a joy to stay connected.  John had a long and successful career as a lawyer, and a second career as a tireless volunteer for civic betterment in Birmingham and the West Midlands, indeed across the whole of the kingdom.  If you look up “tireless” in the OED, you’ll find his picture!  Among other roles, he’s currently the Queen’s representative, the Lord Lieutenant, in the West Midlands.   Was plumb wore out, so wished everyone a good night and was asleep by 9:30.

Wednesday morning found me sitting in the kitchen with coffee, catching up with Diana (John had left early for another full day of meetings; among other civic duties, he’s become chairman of the organizing committee of the Commonwealth Games, a massive athletic event for members of the British Commonwealth, to be held in Birmingham in 2022).  At 10:15, I walked a couple of blocks and hopped the #356 bus into Worcester.  Ambled around for an hour, visiting the city museum, then at noon met the new dean of the Worcester Business School.  Ann-Marie seemed interested in having me do some teaching; we shall see.  Grabbed a sandwich and chips from a supermarket and ate in the shadow of Worcester Cathedral, burial site of King John I, the Magna Carta guy.  Zipped inside for a quick look, then walked back to the station for the bus home to Crowle.

Above left, in the city museum, an 18th Century West Indian soldier from the Worcestershire Yeomanry (they interpreted the British presence in Colonial America differently than we would, which caused me to growl out loud!). At right, handiwork from the Royal Worcester porcelain works, 1893; called pierced porcelain, it was cut by hand with an oiled knife.  Below, Worcester was a center of glovemaking, and, of course the very origin of Worcestershire Sauce, from local chemists John Lea and William Perrins.

Above, Queen Victoria in front of the city courthouse; at right, a sagging second story above the goldsmith. Below, Worcester Cathedral and the crypt of King John (1166-1216), who gave us the Magna Carta and the concept of rule of law.

Earlier in the day, I determined that Diana’s bike was the only one with tires that would hold air, so pumped them a bit and adjusted the seat.  Changed into bike shorts and a T-shirt and set off on a now-familiar route, south on quiet country roads through small hamlets to beyond the curiously named White Ladies Aston.  It was a perfect day for a bike ride, light breeze, blue skies, 68° F.  I did a few zig-zags, then headed back to WLA, determined to find a local who could explain the origins of the place name.  And I found her: Mrs. King, a local resident and schoolteacher for special-needs children in Worcester.  2We had a fine T-t-S that followed her simple explanation: nearby was a convent, and the nuns of the order wore white habits (though presumably not every day!).  It was a fine ride, 21 miles, though interrupted twice with technical issues with the gears that, happily, I knew how to fix.  The English countryside never ceases to delight, all the more when close up on a two-wheeler.

 

Left, local produce at the Crowle shop, and free produce sweet blackberries) along the road

Thursday morning, down to the kitchen for a bowl of cereal and coffee, just like at home – being with the Crabtrees is like being at home – then out on Diana’s bike on another sunny (but cool) morning, east and north through hamlets and villages, past sheep and cows, across a canal and railway tracks, 15 miles.  One of Diana’s friends, Clare, stopped by mid-morning.  It was her birthday, so we had cake and a nice visit (I had met her previously).  At 11:45, John and I hopped in his big BMW and motored 40 miles northeast to Coventry, last visited in 1977.  The Luftwaffe firebombed the city in November 1940, and the center was rebuilt in the 1950s and ‘60s; more recent redevelopment has attempted to correct some rather awful urban planning, and the place looked much better than four decades earlier.  John had a meeting with city officials, and I peeled off to admire the modern cathedral, built just north of the one that burned and partially collapsed in 1940.

Above and below, scenes from the Thursday morning ride.

 

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Above left, the shell of the bombed church, adjacent to the 1956 cathedral the tapestry above the altar is the largest in the world). Below, the famous altar cross made of melted nails from the firebombing, and a peace bell from the German people on the 50th anniversary of the attack. At bottom, a stained-glass wall and statue of St. Michael.

I first became aware of the cathedral in 1968; images were on the cover of the 12th Grade English Literature textbook in Mr. Jensen’s class.  I thought of dear Mr. Jensen as I walked around; we had remained connected until his death in December 2017, and I really wanted to email him some photos.  It was lunchtime, and Diana recommended the Rising Café in the cathedral basement.  Run by a Christian charity, it offers work and restorative dignity to men and women recovering from drug and alcohol addiction and other hardships.  I enjoyed the lunch very much.  Walked around the church a bit more, and at 2:10 met Robbie Crabtree, John and Diana’s younger son, who was just starting his first year at Coventry University.  He was excited.  We had a coffee back at Rising Café (on my way out, I paused at a table of three café workers to commend their new directions), then took a quick look at his dorm room.  John met us at three, we yakked briefly, hugged goodbye, and motored back to Crowle.

Above, Robert and John Crabtree. Below, James Crabtree and Diana.

No time to rest, barely time to wash my face, change into nice clothes, and get back in the car, north in thick rush-hour traffic to Birmingham and their splendid performing-arts venue the Hippodrome (John was chairman for many years).  We met the CEO, Fiona, for a drink and some finger food before the start of a triple-bill performance, two works by the Birmingham Royal Ballet, and one by a group called Black Ballet.  Some wonderful dancing, for sure (I had been to the BRB a couple of times before).  Zipped home fast, no traffic on the motorway.  Asleep at 11.

Up before dawn Friday, to say goodbye to John, who left at 6:30 for meetings in Birmingham (he and Diana were flying at mid-day to a wedding in Edinburgh).  Diana and Jessica dropped me at the railway station at 7:30.  Rolled my suitcase down the hill to the ASDA supermarket, bought a big tub of yogurt and two wholegrain rolls, then back to the station and bench for picnic breakfast.  Hopped on the 8:35 train to London, one of the new Hitachi trainsets of the Great Western Railway, comfy, free wi-fi.  Arrived Paddington station at 11, waved to the bear, and onto the Bakerloo tube to Marylebone and my destination, the new (and fancy) Sammy Ofer Centre of London Business School – my third visit of 2019.

Last scenes from the visit to Crowle: flowers in the Crabtree garden

At 12:15, met my long LBS host, Oded Koenigsberg, who gave me a splendid tour of the building, in the former offices of the Westminster City Council.  From 12:45 to 2:00, I delivered a talk to 60 MBAs and exchange students, bowed at applause, and kept moving: onto the tube to Euston Station, then a fast train back to Birmingham Airport – the LBS gig arose late, after I had booked my flights into and out of Birmingham.  Changed clothes in a capacious men’s room stall at the airport, bought dinner sandwiches and a salad, and turned attention to a major problem: my iPhone was not charging.  I’m loath to buy stuff at airports, but needed a fix.  A very kind fellow at Dixon’s, a UK electronics chain, did some quick diagnosis, and, alas, it was the cord.  Bought a new one, hooray, and celebrated with a pint of pale ale in the airport bar, woo hoo (when our personal IT gives us trouble, it really gets us out of sorts, doesn’t it?).

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My EasyJet flight to Geneva was almost an hour late, so I expected to miss the 10:09 bus a few miles into France, to Ferney-Voltaire and my overnight digs with Fabio and Lisa Scappaticci (I met Fabio, a wonderful young guy, when lecturing at Cambridge in 2011). Despite a long line at Swiss immigration, and a couple of detours, I made the bus, walked a few blocks, and was soon hugging Fabio.  Lisa was returning from a business trip that night, and their two sons, Luca, 6, and Leo, 4, were fast asleep.  Yakked for 30 minutes and headed to a hard, but short sleep.

Saturday weather was perfect again.  We rounded up the boys and drove to the Saturday market in the center of Ferney.  Because of oversight, Fabio could no longer legally drive, so I took the wheel of the VW Minivan.  “Can you drive a stick?” Fabio asked earlier.  “Of course,” I replied.  Though I hadn’t driven one for more than 15 years, it’s one of those skills you don’t forget, like riding a bike.  I was more concerned about narrow streets and buildings that abut the rode.  But my first 10 minutes were flawless!  We bought produce, cheese, and bread at the market, which perfectly reflected how much the French care about quality food – everything looked fabulous.  When we returned, Lisa was home, and totally worn out from a week in Nigeria and a long ride home, so after an early lunch we piled the kids back in the car and headed north, into the Jura Mountains – they’re not as tall as the Alps, but they’re still big.

Above left, Luca strumming on a ukelele, and the boys at the Ferney market. Below, samples of lovely goods at market. At bottom, the view from Fabio’s and Lisa’s backyard.

Captain Britton was at the wheel again, with Fabio giving directions.  Easy driving, even when we started to climb the mountain.  Main concern was passing bicyclists.  Arrived at a parking place about two-thirds of the way to the top, and started a leisurely stroll.  Luca’s and Leo’s legs are small, so we only hiked about a mile, but it was still splendid.  Most of the walk was on private land, and we passed a small herd of cattle grazing on the slopes, bells clanging.  The boys wanted to play with the Hot Wheels cars Lisa brought them, so we paused in a meadow.  Four flat-top stumps made perfect racetracks for the boys, and seats for the grown-ups.

Above left, hairpin turn easily negotiated; at right, Mont Blanc is just visible. Below, on the trail in the Jura.

Fabio and I yakked for an hour, across a lot of topics.  He’s had an interesting life, and is only 37.  Grew up in Montreal, son of Italian immigrants, earned a McGill degree in aero engineering (and played varsity soccer for the Redmen for ll four years), worked in aerospace, then spent years in volunteer service, including 18 months with Oxfam in the eastern Congo, one of the most dangerous places on earth.  He now works for the IP arm of the UN.  The kids wanted to stay and play more, but we headed back to the car, back down the hill, home.   Fabio made pizza and salad for dinner, and we split a fabulous bottle of Brouilly that he brought back from a recent trip with his parents to Burgundy (only a couple hours away).   Along the way, I bantered with the boys, especially Luca.  They speak English with their father and French with their mother – Leo kindly corrected my pronunciation of parfait (“perfect”); accent on the first syllable! Fabio and I cleaned up the kitchen and clocked out, nine hours of catch-up sleep, wonderful.

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Out the door Sunday morning, Fabio risking immediate incarceration by driving me three blocks to the bus stop, hugs.  I hopped onto the #66 bus, then the 8:32 train across Switzerland to St. Gallen and my 20th visit to the B-school there.  At Zürich, a splendid but way-too-short T-t-S: as we approached the station, I offered to help with the huge suitcases of an African-American couple about my age; they boarded the train at Lausanne and slept most of the way, clearly worn out.  As I schlepped a huge bag off the train and onto the platform, the wife said they had been at their niece’s wedding the night before, and didn’t get much sleep.  I asked where they were from; “Leesburg, Virginia,” she replied.  “We’re neighbors, we live in McLean,” I said.  They thanked me profusely.  I said “God bless you.” Immediately the husband gave me his business card, a bear hug, and a blessing in return.  Back on the train, I smiled: I just met Rev. Michael Mattar, Senior Pastor of Hope Fellowship Church.  Just wished I had been able to chat with them on the ride.

It’s a scenic ride, too, along Lake Geneva, then great views climbing away from the lake, and into the mountains, through Fribourg, and the language turns from French to German, then into Bern, along the green Aare River, towards Zürich, big city, then east and north toward St. Gallen.  All along the way were lush green pastures, and lots of cows.

Arrived St. Gallen a minute early, got some lunch fixings at the supermarket in the station, hopped on the #3 bus east 10 minutes to my new digs.  For years, I had stayed downtown, mostly at one hotel.  This year, the school asked me to arrange accommodation, so I booked an Airbnb.  It looked goofy at first, but the corner room was large and bright, with big windows on two sides, and spotlessly clean.  Bath down the hall wasn’t a problem.  Ate my lunch, changed into bike shorts and a T-shirt, and set off.  I wasn’t feeling strong, climb-worthy, so opted to ride west along the railway line (trains can’t go up steep hills!), with a couple of pleasant detours into some valleys and across farms.  Was back at five.

Above right, the well-trained eye will recognize the flag of Texas below the Swiss banner at this farmstead near Gossau.

After a rest, I headed to dinner at my customary spot, a Swiss place run by an energetic young family, so returned to a Thai place I spotted on the bike ride.  Big massaman curry (unhappily not spicy, toned down to Swiss palates), yum.  Hard sleep.

Was up at 7:00 on Monday morning.  The plan was to use the day off (teaching would be Tuesday and Wednesday) for a long bike ride, but it was raining and the forecast was more of the same, all day.  So I headed up the hill on the bike (always a good climb), on wet streets, to campus.   Grabbed two cups of coffee and was soon working away in the library, by now a very familiar place.  Just for fun, I tried to find the current issue of MIT Sloan Management Review, which includes an article I co-authored, so I headed into the library stacks in the basement; alas, the fall 2019 edition had not yet arrived from Massachusetts.  Ate an early lunch in the student cafeteria, the mensa, worked a bit more, and rode down the hill.  Took a nap, first one in days.  The rain had ended, but streets were still wet, but I needed some exercise, so set off.

Distinctly Swiss: under national law, many buildings must have fallout shelters, and the university library’s served a dual purpose as periodical stacks; at right, as I have often written, the Swiss are fervent about local manufacture — the Coke could be made more cheaply in nearby Poland, but no!

At 5:45, I cycled a mile into the center to Fondue Beizli, a familiar restaurant, and at 6:00 met Paul and Hananja Brice.  Paul was chaplain of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, my longtime digs at that university, and we’ve stayed connected.  We missed fondue in 2018, but were back together for a third cheese dinner, and great conversation.  High point were words and pictures of their daughter’s wedding a month earlier in the huge Gothic cathedral, the York Minster.  Way cool.  A lovely evening.

Tuesday morning at eight, and I was in Tibits, a vegetarian restaurant, for breakfast with Thomas, a St. Gallen MBA I met two years earlier.  Super-interesting guy, worldly, a lot of good conversation.  Thomas peeled off for a business trip at nine, I rode back to the room, suited up, and rode up the hill to the university.  Worked the morning.  Met my longtime senior host, Winfried Ruigrok, and his two deputies, George and Xiaxou, for our traditional lunch at Wienerberg, a fancy place just across from campus.  Great meal, great discussion.  After a short post-meal bike ride, worked the afternoon back in the library, and brought this journal up to date.

At 4:15, it was finally time to stand and deliver, to about 50 students in St. Gallen’s top-rated master’s program in strategy and international management.  I don’t think I’ve ever taught such an engaged group, constantly asking questions.  It was fun.  At six, I rode down the hill a few blocks to Xiaoxu and her husband Wei’s apartment.  Months earlier, she had invited me to a Chinese dinner, and when I arrived she was at the stove.  We had a good chat; Xiaoxu is a perfect exemplar of the young global citizen, having worked and studied in many places.  She’s just a delightful person.  Thirty minutes later, Georg arrived, and we all sat down to a seriously big meal, with lots of dishes: spicy pork ribs, dumplings, chicken, vegetables.  Yum.  It was dark and rainy when I continued down the hill to my Airbnb, and I rode slowly.

Up Wednesday and out the door to give a lecture to Winfried’s MBA class, done before noon.  My next presentation was eight hours later, so I changed clothes and biked around town, stopping at the university mensa for lunch.  Took a nap, suited up, and rode back up the hill to school.  Parked and locked the bike, and sent Georg and photo of the location; I was leaving the next morning, so would be on foot for the remainder of the time in St. Gallen.  Worked some hours in the library, and at 7:00 met members of the school’s aviation club, then delivered a shorter version of the talks I gave earlier, on airline alliances.  Had a beer in the classroom with some students, and walked back down the hill.  Packed up my suitcase for early departure.

Above, weathered roofs; below, St. Gallen at dusk, and before dawn in the old town.

Rose way early Thursday morning, because I almost forgot to visit the angel.  Which angel?  The enormous wooden one atop a giant arch in St. Gallen’s baroque abbey church.  Hopped on the bus a few stops toward the Altstadt, ambling through the rain to the Klosterkirch.  I waited 15 minutes until it opened at seven, walked in, and there she was, welcoming me, left arm pointed upward toward the skies; I remember seeing her for the second time in November 2001, two months after 9/11 and just two days after a third American Airlines tragedy.  Eighteen years earlier, I beseeched the angel, and did again that morning.

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Walked to the train station, found the Starbucks, and had a giant tub of coffee, equivalent of $6.55, but I needed some zip for a busy day.  Hopped the train to Zürich Airport, and onto SAS north to Stockholm.  The flight was late because of European ATC, so my planned lunch in the mensa of the Uppsala University business school would not happen before it closed at two.  Grabbed a chicken wrap and chips at an airport newsstand, and hopped on the fast train, 19 minutes to Uppsala, then the bus up to campus.  At three I met two students from the Ekonomerna, the student business association, and delivered a talk from 3:30 to 5:00.  Walked back to the station, through a familiar and pleasant landscape (Uppsala is the oldest university in the Nordic countries).  Hopped on the #102 bus south, out of town, to the home of Mia and Hans Kjellberg.  Hans is my host at Stockholm School of Economics, and for the last several years they have hosted an overnight.  When I arrived, Hans was making pizza for dinner, and Mia was visiting their son in hospital (the next day there was good news).  We had a good yak and a glass of red wine.  Mia returned, and we tucked into wonderful pizza.   Then a long sleep with the windows open.

Above, autumn scenes: harvested fields near Berga, Sweden, and lingonberries in the Kjellberg kitchen. Below, more scenes from fall at the Kjellbergs.

Mia drove us Friday morning to Uppsala, and onto the fast train into Stockholm.  A thirty-minute ride to the capital explains much of why Uppsala has grown quickly in the last decade, and the train was packed.  Walked briskly to SSE, and into a meeting with Fei, one of Hans’ Ph.D. students, research U.S. airline deregulation.  We had a good discussion, got her pointed in some new directions.  Time to stand a deliver for the last time that trip, to 65 MBA students.  Another long host, Per, and a new guy, Christopher, invited me for lunch – it was more fun to talk about Swedish pro hockey (the season had already begun) than U.S. politics.  Headed back to the Marketing Department, changed clothes, and walked a mile south to the airport bus, back to Arlanda Airport, and onto SAS south to Frankfurt.

In Vasaparken, Stockholm; at right, the splendid Swedish way: fathers taking care of young kids

I found a cheap, simple hotel in Raunheim, a pleasant suburb, hopped on the S-Bahn (suburban train) two stops, then 10 minutes’ walk to a clean and modern $43 room.  I do love a bargain.  Weeks earlier, I did some Googling for a dinner venue, and, happily, a nice place was less than two blocks away.  The online menu suggested Croatian proprietors, and that was the case.  Everyone in the restaurant was friendly and welcoming.  I sat at a corner of the bar, and yakked a bit with a young woman newly arrived from the Balkans.  Tucked into Pljeskavica, meat loaf stuffed with sheep cheese, plus a trip to the salad bar and a couple of beers.  At the end of the meal, the bartender poured me a Sliwowitz, the plum brandy popular in the region, here served warm.  Life was good!

Slept hard, up early, back to Frankfurt Airport, breakfast in the Admirals Club, a flight to Charlotte, then northeast to Washington.  The 200th trip to Europe; I never tire of the Old World.

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And not least: a pictorial shout-out for an unheralded work group, the folks on the ramp; at left, on departure from Dulles, and at right, on arrival at Washington National. I’ve started to wave to these men and women, and will continue.

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Atlanta for the Day, Then Alohas in Hawai’i

Waikiki Beach, Honolulu

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Henry Le

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

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

 

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Summer Traditions in Minnesota and Texas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Above, at the judges’ brunch

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Your scribe and son, two generations of goat expertise!

 

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

Judging table still life

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

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

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

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

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Kiawah Island, South Carolina

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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