St. Louis, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Montreal, and Omaha

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Along the Lachine Canal, Montreal

On Sunday, October 7, jumped on a quick flight west to St. Louis, bound for my second appearance at Washington University.  Landed early, hopped on the handy Metrolink light-rail from the airport, and within 30 minutes was at the hotel on campus.  Along the way, something I’d never seen on public transit: a card shark working passengers, mostly young black men, on the train.  I really wanted to get a picture, but, well . . .  He had a wad of cash, plenty of Franklins, and in the three minutes I was on the Blue Line train he had done a brisk business.

At five, I reconnected with Bill Burnes, a St. Louisan and great fellow.  Back in Aughts, Bill and his colleagues worked at Momentum, the agency that handled American Airlines sales promotions.  I had not seen him in a dozen years, found him on LinkedIn, and up he drove in his Mustang convertible (it was about to pour, so the top was up).  We drove a mile to Salt & Smoke, a barbeque restaurant I visited the year before with students, and had a 2.5-hour repast, catching up, discussing marketing, ranting about the idiocy of procurement departments, and more.  Oh, yeah, some good local craft beer and a plate of pulled pork, beans, and tomato salad.  It was a great evening.

Up Monday morning to the hotel gym, cranked out some miles, breakfast, then over to the Olin Business School.  Met my host, Professor Chak Narasimhan, and delivered a talk to a small but engaged class in (distribution) channel strategy.  The Faculty Club was closed, so we walked next door to the law school for a quick lunch and yak.  Hopped in a taxi at 1:00, like the year before bound for the suburban house of Steve Schlachter, friend since 1963 and former AA co-worker.  Much of the joy of Talking to Strangers is conversing with people way different than me.  The cab driver, from the Kikuyu people of Kenya, was way different, but much the same.  We talked about work and family, about faith and values.  We also talked about how, almost five decades ago, we were nearly in the same place at the same time: on my only visit to Kenya, in 1972, we visited Lake Nakuru, famous for its huge flocks of pink flamingos.  A couple of years later, he started school in Nakuru, traveling from his home village 100 miles west.  Those kinds of time/place near-intersections are not uncommon, another datapoint on a mobile life.  I gave him a good tip.

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WashU has an impressive campus, not least for the quality of the buildings: renovated older halls and dazzling new ones

Steve and I immediately fell into a long chatter across a bunch of topics, including other friends, current events, and some substantial remodeling of their home.  We zipped a mile to the supermarket for some supplies (read: beer for Rob), then back for a mid-afternoon snack.  At four, I hopped on his sleek city bike and coasted down a big hill to Creve Coeur Lake, ringed with a great biking trail.  It was warm but not hot, and I cranked out 17 miles, then pedaled over to the gardening store where Steve’s wife Cindy works.  Steve met us at 5:40, we put the bike on the car rack, and drove home, up the hill (I sorta cheated a little, but the hill was big).  Took a shower, grabbed a cold beer, and at 6:30 we headed back to Paul Manno’s Café, a wonderful Italian place where we dined the year before (do you detect a pattern?  The St. Louis trip was like, as Yogi Berra memorably said, “Déjà vu all over again).  Was fast asleep well before ten.

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Creve Coeur Lake, suburban St. Louis

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Chris and Haley, Cindy’s father and daughter co-workers at Schmittel’s Nursery

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Hospitality!  Fellow Minnesotan Steve served my beer in a Vikings glass.  Skol!

And up at 4:40 Tuesday morning, out the door, and back to the airport for a 6:12 departure to Minneapolis/St. Paul on Delta.  Even though I had been to my home state just six weeks earlier, I was still excited to return.  Landed in rain and mid-40s temps, and began a bold experiment: public transit everywhere, no rental car.  Bought a Metro Transit day pass for $5 and hopped on the Blue Line light rail toward the University of Minnesota, where I would teach later in the morning and afternoon.  At the 50th Street station, a woman with some bulky bags squeezed in next to me.  “I’ve met you,” she said, “You’re a teacher.”  I replied affirmatively, launching an outstanding T-t-S.  More specifically, for the second time in two days it was a T-t-S-w-P-W-D-T-M – with people way different than me.  Susan looked Ojibwe, and halfway into the conversation I asked her if she were Anishinabe, the more respectful term for that nation.  Yes, she was, and told me that her “real” first name was Flower in the Wind (she said it both in English and Anishinabe).  Lovely.  We talked a lot about her 28-year-old son; she was happy that “he finally seems to be directing his energy in positive ways.”  Just before I got off the train, she told me that at age 55 she had outlived most of her friends, a sad commentary of the life expectancy of Native peoples.

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The famous spherical-triangle roof at Lambert St. Louis International Airport

 

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Flying into rainy weather, and a perfect flight on Delta Air Lines

I grabbed a quick breakfast in the B-school, worked a bit, then set off, across the wide Mississippi River to the East Bank Campus of “The U.”  It was raining lightly but steadily, so I ducked into a few buildings as I made my way around.  Paused for 20 minutes in the atrium of the architecture building, where a civil engineering job fair was just getting underway.  More T-t-S with several organizations looking to hire imminent graduates.  Despite all the time I spend at universities, they always fascinate me, that morning in the broad range of things to study.  After the job fair, I lingered in the mechanical engineering building, specifically in the shops where students built things.  Just wonderful.

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Longtime friend and stalwart Geography Prof. Rod Stewart in his tidy office

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The Washington Avenue bridge connects the U of M’s West and East Banks. As an undergraduate, I crossed this two-block-long span up to six times in a morning.  I still know the way!

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Outside the Mechanical Engineering shops; at right, a machine that can cut any material using 60,000 psi of water pressure.  Whoa.

 

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Last stop on the campus roam was the Borchert Map Library, named for a wonderful former professor; here a close-up of a USGS topographic map showing my father’s birthplace in Cascade County, Montana

Hopped the Green Line light rail back to the West Bank and met my longtime U of M host, Debbie John.  Delivered back-to-back lectures to her undergraduate advertising class, with yummy pizza in between.  At 3:30, I said goodbye, and hopped on an express bus, then a local bus, then three blocks through the rain to the home of long friends Deb and Phil Ford.  Such a joy to lodge with friends, way better than a hotel.  We yakked for an hour.  I cheated a bit and headed to dinner in Deb’s car rather than public transit, north to the home of Emily Sheppard and new husband Michael, plus their swell big dog Buster.  Emily’s mom Martha, widow of old pal Jack Sheppard arrived, and we tucked into a big dinner and lots of conversation.   But I was plumb wore out, so hugged them all before nine and drove back to the Fords.  Yakked briefly and clocked out.

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Undergrad advertising class, tucking into free pizza

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Canine pals along the way: Sadie (Steve and Cindy were petsitting) and Emily’s dog Buster

I didn’t teach until 9:55, but my body was still on Eastern Time, so woke up at 5:25 (one hour difference seems to mess me more than the five or six across to Europe!).  Showered and out the door, several blocks south and west to 50th and France, the shopping area of my childhood.  Stopped at the fabulous Wuollet Bakery for a Danish, then yogurt at Lund’s & Byerly’s supermarket, then a big Starbucks.  At eight I hopped on the #6 bus, a line from my childhood, and rolled toward downtown Minneapolis, then across to The U on light rail.  Delivered a talk to MBA students in mid-morning, met host Mark Bergen for lunch, worked the afternoon, and repeated the MBA lecture at dinnertime.  Mark is an enthusiastic and welcoming host – the only of my B-school hosts who whoops at the end of my lectures.  Great fun!

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50th and France, Edina, Minnesota, familiar for 60+ years

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Carlson School of Management

Deb and Phil picked me up at 7:30 and we motored a couple of miles to Brasa, a wonderful casual eatery we had visited several years earlier.  We tucked into a great dinner, and even better conversation.  Headed home.  Last nice moment of a good day was Deb playing some tunes, Cole Porter and the Beatles among others, on their Steinway.

Up early Thursday morning, out the door and onto the 46 bus across south Minneapolis and the Mississippi to the Highland Park neighborhood in St. Paul and a wonderful reconnection (and caloric breakfast) with Ruth Mordy Friedlander, who I had not seen in more than three decades.  Ruth was the daughter of Wendell Mordy, who was president of the Science Museum of Minnesota when I worked there briefly in the early 1980s.  Wendell, his swell wife Brooke, and Ruth, we all became friends, but the last time I saw her was at her wedding in 1984.  There was a lot to catch up on.  Staying connected and reconnecting is such a joy.

Ruth kindly dropped me at the airport, and I flew home.  A good start to the quarter’s peregrinations.

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After returning home, Ruth dug out a picture from the last time we met, at her wedding in October 1984; I’m holding a one-month-old Jack in his car seat, and yakking with the father of the groom

 

Ten days later, on a windy and crisp Sunday morning, October 21, I flew Air Canada to Montreal, for my third 2018 visit to McGill University and, by my pretty-accurate reckoning, the 100th trip to Canada since the first one in 1967.  Landed at 1:30, and made fast for the STM (local public transit) express bus downtown.  While waiting to board, I struck up a conversation with a friendly fellow American.  It turned out to be one of the better T-t-S ever.  Mark Inch served in the U.S. Army for 35 years, rising to the rank of major general and heading the entire MP organization.  He served in the new Administration as director of the federal Bureau of Prisons, but resigned after just seven months following significant, “principled” (his word) disagreements with the Attorney General and others.  We continued the conversation all the way into town.  He had a hugely varied military career (for example, serving with UN forces in Somalia in the early 1990s and teaching at West Point).  And he was a fellow geographer, earning a Master’s at the University of Texas at Austin.  Just a fascinating guy.

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After a quick connecting ride on the Metro, I checked into my “hotel” atop a McGill highrise dorm, a place now very familiar.  Hewing to formula, slurped a bowl of spicy noodles at the tiny Kantapia Korean café, then hopped on Bixi, Montreal’s bikeshare.  It was windy and cold, but I needed some exercise, and to see (for the first time) the largely Francophone neighborhoods of east Montreal.  Had a great ride until my iPhone suddenly lost all power.  The Bixi app was thus useless, but happily the kiosks at the stations recognized my debit card and account, and was back on my way, returning to downtown.  No phone meant no camera, and I wanted to snap some pictures of the neighborhoods and some lovely older buildings, especially churches.  Next time!

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Grabbed a quick nap, hopped back on a Bixi, a mile east to my fave brewpub, Saint-Houblon. on Rue Saint-Denis.  The friendly server told me that Michel, a manager there who I had gotten to know on many previous visits, had left two weeks earlier.  I had a couple of beers and a sensational plate of salmon and shrimp dumplings.  Rode back, clocked out.

I wasn’t teaching until Monday afternoon, so at dawn put on warm clothing and hopped on the Bixi, down the hill to the St. Lawrence River, then west along the formerly industrial Lachine Canal.  Lots of detours, because of the seemingly endless residential and commercial construction downtown and on the edges of the center.  The whole city seemed to be a construction zone, either buildings or roads.  My Republican friends would no doubt be dismayed to see all this growth in a “socialist” economy!  Rode back, parked the bike, and ambled a block to a bowl of oatmeal and muffin at Tim Horton’s.  Suited up, grabbed my suitcase, and headed south and west to the McGill campus.  My class was in the law school, but I parked for a couple of hours on the second floor of the business school and did some work.  Halfway through, a student who was in two of my lectures a year earlier sat down for a chat.  “Do you remember me?” he asked.  As I usually do, I apologized, but then actually recalled that he had worked summers for Delta in Atlanta, and we talked about career prospects in the airline business.  I subsequently sent a couple of email recommendations for him.

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At left, industrial buildings recycled as condos along the Lachine Canal; at right, the new construction that is everywhere in Montreal

At noon, I met my long friend (and now co-author; stay tuned for details) Bob Mackalski for lunch at Universel, a familiar and fave eatery a few hundred meters from the B-school.   We had a lot to talk about and less than an hour, but we managed to cover a lot of ground, mostly about his new job as director of McGill’s Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship, the university’s business incubator.  Bob, a consummate marketing pro both in and out of the classroom, was brimming with creative ideas on how to advance the center.  It was a great yak, but way too short.  As I have written before, he’s one of the most interesting people I regularly meet.

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Montreal brims with street art; this colorful critter coiled outside our lunch venue

After lunch, I trudged up the hill on Peel Street (torn up for new water mains) to the Institute of Air and Space Law, and delivered a talk on airline alliances to a hugely multinational class of 20.  Back down the hill (wish I could have balanced on the rolling suitcase, wheeeeee), onto the Metro, the 747 STM bus, and a flight home.  I never tire of Montreal, even for a short visit.

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I visited just days after marijuana became legal in Canada; here a deposit bin just before entering the U.S. Customs Preclearance Facility

 

Six days later, on Sunday, October 28, I flew west to Chicago and on to Omaha, for a week of teaching in the Aviation Institute of the University of Nebraska Omaha.  Landed in early afternoon, hopped in a taxi piloted by a friendly Ethiopian immigrant (tech-savvy, I paid him via the Square app on his smartphone), checked into the hotel near campus, changed into jeans, and jumped on a Heartland BCycle, Omaha’s bikeshare system.

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Omaha’s Midtown district, anchored by Mutual of Omaha (insurance); new commercial and residential buildings and plenty of green space

I have for decades said that anyone who thinks the Midwest is flat has never been there, and that’s totally true about Omaha.  I headed east toward downtown, up and down, up and down, up and down.  Nearly everyone I passed nodded, smiled,  or made eye contact.  Chatted briefly with a few people at stoplights.  It was great to be “home” in the Midwest.  Had a good look at a pleasant mid-size city, then rode across the wide Missouri into Council Bluffs, Iowa – an interstate ramble.  I missed lunch, and my “fuel tank” was low on the ride back.  One way to conserve energy was to time the three downhill glides to zip through green lights at the bottoms – it was the cycling equivalent of large birds riding thermal updrafts in the summer!

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The city still has wonderful old buildings from its era of fast growth a century ago; at left, the former public library (note authors’ names above the windows), and a big office building in what’s simply called Commercial style

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The sinuous Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge across the wide Missouri (named for a former U.S. senator)

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My fave Omaha neighborhood, Happy Hollow, just east of UNO

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Nebraska microbrew, a reward for the hilly ride!

My UNO host and director of the Aviation Institute, Scott Tarry, and his wife Mary picked me up at 5:45, and we motored a couple of miles north into an agreeable older neighborhood called Dundee for dinner at Pitch.  A superb meal, and good talk.

As on every recent trip into the Central Time Zone, I woke at five.  The Courtyard by Marriott had a tiny fitness center and no bike, but happily guests could use a nearby gym, so I headed there for some exercise on Monday morning, then onto a shuttle bus and over to the larger north campus (UNO has two, separated by about a mile).  Spent some time getting settled, then in meetings with faculty.  Delivered three back to back lectures from 11:30 until 3:45, whew (glad to have eaten a big breakfast), then another talk from 6:30 to 7:45.  Then I was plumb wore out.  Back to the hotel, into jeans, and down the street for a Thai curry.

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The art in the foreground was funded under a 1978 Nebraska law that mandates 1% of the capital cost of constructing new public buildings be allocated to art; now there’s a good idea!

Rinse, repeat on Tuesday and Wednesday.  I was glad that Scott and his colleagues were keeping me busy.  Wednesday was Halloween, and a few students wore costumes (though not in my classes).  I missed trick or treating (it seemed like years since I was out of town on Halloween), and I didn’t finish teaching until 8:30 Wednesday night.  Whew.  Thursday was an easier day, two classes in the morning and a short one in early evening.  High point of the day was a nice T-t-S with the shuttle driver back to the south campus.  I was the only passenger.  He was an African-American man about my age.  I greeted him cheerfully, and sat down.  “Man,” he said, “you are in a good mood.”  I replied that I tried hard to always be that way, and cited sage advice from one of my bosses, CEO Gerard Arpey of American Airlines, who said we don’t really control much in our lives, but we have absolute control over our attitude.  That launched a great chat, mostly centered on family. I wished the ride were longer.  Back at the hotel, changed clothes, found a new BBQ restaurant for dinner, tucked in, and was asleep before nine.

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Nebraska clearly invests in higher education; UNO facilities were new or newer, and well-kept

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The first building on the new campus (1931, when a former private college became a municipal university), and the Henningson Campanile, named for a Nebraskan who headed a construction company that brought power to rural people, among other projects

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Two Omahans: painting of investor Warren Buffett in the lobby of the business school; and a recent arrival working the wok in the student union

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“Quest for Knowledge,” also funded under the 1% law

Friday morning, up again at 5:00, off to the gym for a longer ride (17 miles), then to a caloric breakfast with Scott and his Aviation Institute colleagues.  I did a “gentle hard sell” to return in 2019, because I really enjoyed the week with nice kids and a great, small faculty team.   Stopped to drop my expense report at the school, then, for the first time ever, hopped in a Lyft to the airport.  Kemy from Seattle was the driver, and it was a fine ride.  A young African-American from Seattle, he came east to college and stayed.  Showed me pictures of his kids, compared notes on house prices, and agreed that our President was a complete dolt (I’ll ride Lyft again, but not Uber, at least not until they hire more grown-ups to run the company).  Flight to Chicago was late, but I had two hours until my connecting flight.  Was home by nine.  It was a good week.

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Backlit ad in Omaha Airport; as a heartlander, I like the message and the double-entendre slogan. Hooray for civic pride!

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Switzerland, Berlin (Briefly), and Sweden

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Morning on the Umeå River, northern Sweden

On Saturday, September 15, was onto the short flight to Philadelphia and across the Atlantic for the first European teaching of the autumn term.  Landed in Zurich on a beautiful late-summer morning, sunny and warm.  Had a $7.50 cup of Starbucks in the airport train station, and hopped on the 10:44 train to St. Gallen and my 19th visit to the university there.  While waiting for my train, there were three variants of Talking to Strangers: H-f-S, help for strangers.  I directed two Israeli youngsters to the platform for the train to the downtown main station, an African fellow to the train for Weinfelden, and a Chinese student for the train to Ziegelbrücke.  I do know my way around Switzerland!

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Skies above Maryland and Switzerland

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Art in Philadelphia Airport; crocheted work by local Jessica Curtaz

Arrived in St. Gallen, after 18 years well familiar, at 11:35.  Happily, my nearby hotel had a room ready (the Swiss can be rigid about check-in times), and I was changed and out the door before noon, onto my local host Georg Guttmann’s bike.  Georg has kindly loaned his bike every September since 2014, and I’ve varied my rides.  I hadn’t been toward the Alps since 2015, so I pointed the two-wheeler that way – actually west out of town, then south.  My destination: the end of the road in Wasserauen, 15.5 miles away.  Google Maps helpfully told me there was 1,515 feet of climb and 890 feet of descent on the way there, and in no time I was huffing and puffing.  Georg’s bike has a very low front gear, which made the steep hills less arduous (but still harder than I recalled from three years earlier).  The descents were fast, and in a couple of places wild.  Biggest downhill risk were the many moist cow turds in the road.  I imagined skidding on wet poop.  But I did not spill, and made it briskly through small villages to the tourist town of Appenzell (teeming with visitors), then another few miles up the Sitter Valley to Wasserauen.  Lovely ride.

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“An apple a day . . .”

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The Swiss have long taken “wayfinding” to the Nth degree

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The top of Sitter Valley is a popular paragliding area

Paused at the midway point for water, then started back.  I was hungry, and my usual go-to places for lunch, either the Migros or Co-op supermarkets were closed on Sundays, so I peeled into Backerei (Bakery) Schäfli.  They had a big outdoor terrace, and I tucked into Sennenrösti, the Swiss version of cheesy hash browns (like the Waffle House’s “Smothered and Covered,” but twice as expensive).  The plate was yummy, and it was nice to relax for nearly an hour, watching the Swiss enjoying their weekend.  Lots of elderly folk with the ski-pole-like walking sticks.  And almost no tubby folk like in the U.S.

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Lunch!

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A design common in central Europe: combined house and barn

Three years earlier, I took the wrong way back, climbing way too much, and back then I cheated a bit by hopping the local train, the Appenzeller Bahn, back to St. Gallen.  But 2018 was the real deal, which meant a tough slog back up the hill to the village of Stein, and then lots of Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee descents into St. Gallen.  Was back at the hotel at 4:40, an awesome afternoon.  The cool shower was tonic, as was a 60-minute nap.  Worked a bit, and at 8:00 headed to dinner at Drahtseilbähnli, a fun, small restaurant that opened a few years earlier.  Super friendly staff, great food.

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Village in the Sitter Valley

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Kids’ playhouse, Appenzeller dairy, Stein, and street art in St. Gallen

Was up way early Monday morning, biking up the hill to the University of St. Gallen.  It’s a climb, and even on a cool morning I worked up a sweat (my suit jacket was neatly folded into my backpack).  Worked the morning in the library, at 12:15 met Georg, and from 12:30 to 2:00 gave a lecture on airline pricing.  After class, a group of students invited me to coffee and further discussion.  We sat outdoors at the student union and yakked for 90 minutes.  Said goodbye, rode back down the hill (Wheeeeeeee!), changed clothes, and took a quick nap.  Biked out for dinner, checking a few places before settling on Tibits, a vegetarian buffet place I visited in May.  Great meal, down the food chain.

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The St. Gallen abbey church, outside and in

Rose early again Tuesday morning, out for a short (six miles) ride before sunrise on a cool morning.  On the way to an 11:15 lecture to MBA students, I stopped at the wildly Baroque abbey church, pausing for daily prayer beneath my favorite religious icon in the whole world: a wooden angel up on the ceiling.  I’ve admired her and whispered to her since my first visit in 2000.  After the MBA talk, Georg, my prof host Winfried Ruigrok, and I repaired to an Italian place for lunch (our traditional Swiss eatery was closed for renovations).  Worked several hours, and from 4:30 to 6:00 gave a lecture to 55 international management students, a younger group.  Back down the hill.  At 8:00 I met Georg’s replacement, Xiaoxu (from Shanghai), who just began her Ph.D., and Nina, who was a student helper, for dinner at Zum Goldenen Leuen, a longtime favorite.  Had a nice craft beer, potato salad, weisswurst, and great conversation.  Xiaoxu was especially interesting, very perceptive.  Third night, finally slept hard.

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Urban garden, Kleingarten, adjacent to St. Gallen campus; these small plots, sometimes with little overnight huts, are common across Europe

Repeat, repeat.  Up at six Wednesday morning, onto the 7:25 train to Zurich Airport and a 10:20 flight to Berlin.  Hopped on the 109 Bus from Tegel Airport and was at my digs, an Airbnb, by 1:00.  My host, Angelika, was as friendly and nice in person as she was in arranging the stay, and kindly allowed me to check in early.   The apartment, in a wonderful early-20th-Century building, was 100 feet from an U-Bahn (subway) station, which made the capital’s excellent public-transit system even more accessible.

Berlin was just a quick stopover, 27 hours, to attend InnoTrans, a huge railway exposition and trade fair held every two years.  I first visited with fellow Transport Geek Michael Beckmann in 2016, and really enjoyed it.  I’ve started to do a little consulting in railways, and remain fascinated with trains, so after dropping my suitcase and yakking a bit with Angelika and her daughter Helena, I headed to the huge Berlin Messe (fairgrounds).  Spent an afternoon wandering through several buildings.  Headed back to the apartment, washed my face (it was still very warm in Berlin, after a record hot summer), worked some email, and at 6:30 headed into the center.  Hopped off a S-Bahn (suburban train) at the newish main station, and walked toward the Reichstag, the German Parliament.  It was not quite as open as last time I visited, but still way less guarded than the U.S. Capitol.  I walked east on Unter den Linden (in the other direction was the famous Brandenburg Gate), and continued south to dinner with friends at the Hilton Berlin.  It was a nice meal and good conversation, but really long, and I was way tired.  Hopped on the U-Bahn at 11:20, head hit pillow past midnight.  I did not sleep well that night, ugh.

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Fittingly, the Richard-Wagner Platz U-Bahn station featured scenes from his many operas (“Siegried” shown here); at right, around the Reichstag were pavement-mounted place signs (identical to those on roadsides) for all 11,000+ German cities, towns, and hamlets, in alphabetical order — part of Germany Unity Day, celebrated on October 3.

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The Reichstag and Deutscher Dom (cathedral)

Up and out the door, back to InnoTrans.  I was headed to Sweden that Thursday afternoon, so rolled my suitcase and backpack everywhere.  It was still warm, and it was a sweaty morning.  But an interesting one, seeing lots of state-of-the-art trains and trams, yakking with some interesting people.  Scenes from the show:

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Not surprisingly, the Chinese were everywhere

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Best of show: trainsets from Stadler of Switzerland

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And tucked into a little corner: how we used to move on rails

Left the show at 1:00, S-Bahn and bus back to Tegel Airport, quick lunch, and a SAS flight to Stockholm, then, after hustling across Arlanda Airport, onto a connecting SAS flight north to Umeå, my 24th visit to the university in that pleasant city of 120,000.  I was seriously hungry, and the hotel where we always stay, the Uman, offers a free buffet dinner every night.  Tucked into fish curry and lots of the vegetables that are often missing from the travel diet.  Was asleep at 9:00, deep ZZZzzzzz for nine hours.  Tonic!

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Sunset, enroute to Umeå

My student hosts, from HHUS, the business-school student association, had kindly rented a bicycle for me, and the hotel receptionist handed me the key the night before.  So Friday morning at 6:20 I pulled on bike shorts and sweater (it was about 45° F, clear blue sky) and zipped off.  After two dozen visits, I know the place well.  Crossed the river, east to the island of Ön in the Umeå River, then west to my favorite place for riding, the small island of Bölesholmarna.  For several years (though not since 2015), I would say hello to Keso, a West Highland Terrier like our Henry, and his two masters.  I did not see Keso in 2016 nor 2017, so when I saw two women walking their dogs on the island, I asked if they knew Keso.  One did not, the other did, but said she had not seen them for a long time.  I vowed to keep looking.

After a shower and breakfast, was back on the bike and up the hill to the university, and USBE, the business school.  Worked a bit, and at 9:40 met one of my hosts, Chris Nicol.  Delivered a talk to his first-year international business students, ate a quick lunch, and from 1:15 to 3:00 gave a talk on airline strategy to Masters’ students.  Still not done.  From 3:30 to 4:45 it was time for the sixth annual “Drink and Learn” seminar at the E-Pub, a bar that HHUS runs.  The place was packed, and the bar was doing a brisk business in pitchers of beer.  I gave a short talk on emotional capital in business, answered some good questions, and was done.  But I stayed around for a couple of beers and informal chats with students.

On previous trips to Sweden, I met people with connections to Swedish-Americans in Minnesota, but never 3 in 10 minutes: Mary from the small town of Mora, daughter of a Canadian father and Swedish mother (who was on exchange from a small university in northern British Columbia); Axel, who as an exchange student in 2015 lived three blocks from one of the houses in Edina where I grew up (we talked a lot of hockey); and another young Swede who was an exchange student in a small town west of Minneapolis.  Small world stories, all.

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The E-Pub crowd, and your scribe with Alex Holmaner, the exchange student in Minnesota

I was about to head back to the hotel when a student asked me if I would “join the boat.”  It was noisy and I wasn’t clear about the invitation: a ride in the Umeå River, perhaps?  No, the boat was a 4-foot long toy-like wooden vessel, the Titanic, with five holes for shot glasses.  The bartender filled the glasses with Jack Daniels (not a favorite spirit, but when in Rome, or Umeå . . .), I joined the group, and at the foghorn signal we lifted the entire boat and drained the shots.  Lots of applause and backslapping.  “We are young,” I thought, and perhaps a little drunk!  Hopped back on the bike, slightly wobbly, and back down the hill in light rain to the hotel, where a sauna was just what I needed.  After a good sweat and a cold shower, I tucked into the buffet dinner, back to the room to read, and asleep early.   The original plan was to go to the opening game of the local pro hockey team, the Björklöven, but the game was sold out.  Boo!

Up at 6:15 Saturday morning, cloudy with rain forecast, but I gambled a bit and headed out for a pre-breakfast ride.  Strong wind from the southeast, but no rain until the last mile of nine.  Back into the hotel only a little wet, and hungry.  The hotel also lays out a lovely breakfast buffet, with plenty of coffee.  The weather forecast was rain until early afternoon, so I chilled in the hotel room, bringing this journal up to date and doing some consulting work.  I checked the local weather radar, ventured out at 11 in search of replacement Björklöven T-shirts for Jack and me (originals purchased 2009!), to the northern end of town and a big sporting-goods store.  The store was of course open, but the little “Team Shop” that had the team shirts, was closed.  And when I left the store, it was a full-tilt gale, howling wind and pelting rain.  Got home sopped, nearly with little fish squirting from my shoes!

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Offices in a traditional riverside style

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Locavore opps: herring and salty fish-roe paste at left, and a smoked-reindeer sandwich

With a lull in the storm, about one I headed out to grab lunch at a nearby supermarket, then a nap.  By three the skies had cleared, so back out on the bike, which was nice, except for a saddle that was truly tearing up my rear end!  Did a little more work in the room, then at six rode a few blocks to Lotta’s, a wonderful pub and microbrewery.  The place was hopping.  Shook hands with the bartender, who I see every year, had a $10.32 glass of IPA from the Swedish island of Gotland, and headed back to the hotel for the buffet dinner.  Read for an hour or so, and copped another 8.5 hours of sleep, window open, nice and cool.

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Top, old and new in downtown Umeå; bottom, moonrise on the river.  The cityscape has changed and grown substantially in the almost 25 years that I have visited.

Up at 6:15 for the third straight morning.  Mostly clear skies, light wind, on the bike (ouch in the butt!), west along the Umeå River, upstream, a familiar ride.  The light was lovely, the ride pleasant on a gravel trail.  Crossed the river on a pedestrian/bike bridge, back on a highway.  Grabbed a couple of cups of coffee, then changed, then a really big breakfast.  At eleven, I rode a few hundred feet to the (Lutheran) church for high mass.  I had not been there for three years.  As always, the sequence of the liturgy was the same as home, but the hymns were tricky!

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Scenes from the Sunday-morning bike ride; at top left, the historic Backen church (16th C.); and various mushrooms

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Views from my hotel window: the Stadskyrka, and an elaborate house next door

I hopped back on the bike about one, intending to go far, but the combination of the tortuous saddle and a strong wind were discouraging.  Grabbed a light lunch at the supermarket, then a nap, then some reading and writing, as well as photo editing for this blog.  At five I headed to another pub, Gröna Älgen, the Green Moose, a few blocks east of downtown.  It was a new place, and having visited the Blue Moose in Vail, Colorado, many times, I needed to see the verdant one.  The place had a neighborhood-bar vibe, small and welcoming.  A fellow three stools down at the bar recommended a Belgian Lambic (ale), fruity and a bit sweet.  It had been at least 25 years since I had one, and though I normally drink local, I thought it good to agree.  And it was tasty.  He left soon after I arrived, so I struck up a conversation with the friendly bartender.  Toward the end of the chat (and my beer), he told me he was a Kurd, and that his family emigrated to Sweden in the early 1990s, after the first Gulf War (I emailed the bar later that day to ask his name; a few hours later he replied that his name was Baland, and he was the bar owner).  I’ll go back to the Green Moose in 2019 for sure.

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Baland multitasking at the bar

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Graceful old high school near the hotel

Monday was an all-day meeting with the USBE’s International Advisory Board.  As we’ve done since the board formed in the late 1990s, we convened in Samvetet, a conference room with glass on three sides.  I’ve long enjoyed the IAB meetings in that room, not least for the opportunity to gaze out at the always-interesting Northern sky.  And in recent years, I’ve appreciated conversations with Håkan Olofsson, a Umeå native who has worked all over the world and now lives in suburban Denver.  His two oldest boys are serious hockey players, one with the NHL’s Minnesota Wild, and the other finishing at the University of Nebraska Omaha and hoping to turn pro.  We talk hockey and lots more – just a terrific fellow.

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Håkan and others at the IAB meeting

Was up earlier than usual Tuesday morning for the last morning bike ride, 9.8 miles to make an even 350 for the month to date.  My backside was still sore, but the morning was clear and cool, and the ride was nice, a last spin along the river and around Bölesholmarna (sadly, no Keso the Westie).  At nine, the IAB met jointly with a local advisory board and the trustees of the business school for a “strategy session.”  Like the day before, it was a tutorial on the consultative “Swedish way,” which sometimes includes gentle euphemisms: “messages for future improvement” = bad stuff.  It was a full day, and at 6:30 enjoyed a wonderful last dinner, a favorite far-North fish, arctic char (röding in Swedish), and more great conversation with Håkan.  Asleep early.

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Orange: the former Umeå city hall (now a restaurant); classic Swedish contemporary chairs, and autumn foliage

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Plants on the earthen eco-roof of a multipurpose civic building

Wednesday the 26th promised to be full, and it was.  Flew to Stockholm at 7:25, arriving late because of heavy rain and wind.  Hopped on the express bus, soon into traffic on the highway into town, a bit of stress about getting to my first lecture at Stockholm School of Economics for the 10:30 start.  It’s less than a mile from the bus stop at St. Eriksplan to the building, but it was raining hard.  Most folks would have hopped a taxi, but I’m a Transport Geek, so jumped on the Stockholm Metro two stops (the equivalent of $3.50 for a senior fare), and made it to class 15 minutes early. Whew.  Met a new host, Daniel Tolstoy and delivered a talk on new airline business models from 10:30 to noon.  The usual formula is lunch at a nearby buffer restaurant, but I was due at Uppsala University, 35 miles north, at 2:00, so hustled to the train station, grabbed a ham-and-cheese sandwich at 7-Eleven, and hopped on the 12:40 train.

Arrived Uppsala at 1:10.  It had stopped raining, which was nice.  Walked briskly to the Uppsala business school, met longtime host Katarina Lagerström, and from 2:00 to 4:00 delivered a talk on alliances.  But I was still not done.  At 4:30, I gave an hour talk to Ekonomerna, the student business association.  Then I was done, but two students wanted to talk some more, so they walked me back to the train station.

At 6:10 I met longtime Stockholm School of Economics host Hans Kjellberg and a new Ph.D. student Fairouz.  Since my time at the school earlier that day was limited, Hans invited Fei (pronounced “Fay”) to dinner.  And he and wife Mia kindly invited me to stay overnight in their new-but-old Swedish house, always great.  We tucked into a wonderful spicy North African stew, lamb tagines, served on couscous.  So good.  After dinner, Hans’ wife Mia left us to talk about Fei’s Ph.D. research plan on U.S. airline deregulation – so I was still working!  We had a great chat, and she left about 8:30.  I was fast asleep by 9:15.  A long day.

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Uppsala’s Domkyrka, seat of the Swedish (Lutheran) church

I was up before sunrise Thursday morning, breakfast and coffee with Hans, and south in his car a few miles to Knivsta.  He hopped on the train into Stockholm, and I took the #801 bus to Arlanda Airport, a BA flight to London, an AA flight to New York Kennedy, and a connecting flight home to Washington.

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The Department of Crafts at the University of Linköping created this wooden-relief art and donated it to Stockholm Arlanda Airport in 1991.  It’s based on a 1906 children’s novel by Selma Lagerhöf, written to teach Swedish children geography (ya gotta love that!).  To me, it’s a metaphor for the blessing of mobility.

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Philadelphia, Very Briefly

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Independence Hall

On September 6, I hopped on the Metro to Union Station, headed north to Philadelphia for a brief consulting gig the next day.  While waiting to board the train, I spotted an ID tag on a fellow traveler’s piece of luggage, “Finnish Broadcasting Corporation.”  That was a perfect T-t-S invitation, so I said “Welcome” in Finnish (one of about five words in my Finn lexicon).  She looked surprised, and we launched into a 15 minute yak across a bunch of topics.  Paula was the U.S. correspondent for the YLE, as it is known over there, and she and her camera-woman were headed to New York to interview a victim of sexual abuse by a Catholic priest.

Arrived in Philly about 4:30, hopped on a suburban train two stops into Center City (as downtown is known locally) and my hotel.  Grabbed a quick nap and at 6:30 set off to meet my clients for dinner on Market Street.  I hadn’t been in the center for years, and it was fun to walk past so much history in just a few blocks; pausing at a stoplight, for example, I looked at the old brick building to my right, and a plaque identified it as the house where Thomas Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence.  Cool!  Moved on, gazing affectionately at the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, and more.  We Americans are still working on creating, as it says in the preamble to our Constitution, “a more perfect union,” but I remain a patriot and an optimist, and I love walking in the footsteps of the people who started the whole experiment.

Had a fine dinner with my clients, a diverse lot.  Slept hard.  Up early, to the hotel gym, then the daylong engagement, then a train home to Washington, arriving just in time for Robin’s birthday dinner.  Some scenes:

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The firmer Lit Brothers Department Store, and the Rohm and Haas Building (1964-65), already on the National Register of Historic Places

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 I wanted to get a closer shot of the statue of Washington, but a rent-a-cop shooed me away.  I growled at him, then muttered for several blocks about U.S. paranoia.  How can we exude strength and confidence if we don’t allow citizenry to take a pic of our first President.  Just silly.

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Some nice friezes around town; at left, the old U.S. Courthouse, and at right a small part of “Spirit of Transportation,” in the 30th Street (railway) Station; though completed in 1895 (and moved to the current location in 1933), note the child holding the airship!

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City Hall.  For decades, no building in Center City could be taller than the hat atop William Penn’s statue!

 

 

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Back to Texas

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Metal critter at the Cook-off

 

Regular readers know what happens the first September (Labor Day) weekend: this was my 28th consecutive time to judge the World Championship Barbeque Goat Cook-off in Brady, Texas (pop. 5,425).  Flew to Dallas/Fort Worth, landed at 11:15, hopped in a rental car, and made fast for a spicy Indian buffet lunch with long friends Nisha Pasha (originally from Chennai, India) and Ken Gilbert (Chicago).  We worked together for years at American Airlines, and it was great to catch up.  I would have liked to chat for another hour, but had to keep moving, so hugged them both, then pedal to the metal to Dallas Love Field to pick up son Jack, in his 11th year as a goat judge.  We’re talking experience!  We yammered the whole way south and west 200 miles, pausing, by tradition, at the Dairy Queen in Comanche, Texas.  We were at the motel by 5:45, washed out faces, chilled, watched some football, then headed to Mac’s BBQ for dinner.  Back home, lights out early.

Up at six, to the gym, then coffee, then over to Richards Park, site of the cooking and fun.  The cook-off organizers at the Brady Chamber of Commerce extended the event to two full days, and to be honest, Jack and I were skeptical, wondering if this might be our last year.  That doubt was erased in the first hour, breakfast and chatter with fellow judges, a great group of old friends and new ones, too.  Back slapping, good-natured ribbing, lots of laughs.  Just great to be back in Texas.

Being back in Texas meant being away from what sometimes seems to be an echo chamber of political thought around the nation’s capital.  As I and many others have written in the past few years, we all do ourselves a disservice if we only pal around with people who share our views.  Truth is, Linda and I wouldn’t have made many friends in the 25 years we lived in the Lone Star State if we didn’t learn to get along, and to genuinely like, people on the other side of the political spectrum (it was, of course, better if their views were informed with research or logic!).  So it was that I laughed heartily when I spotted this bumper sticker (yes, it was in uppercase): GUNS KILL PEOPLE LIKE SPOONS MAKE ROSIE O’DONNELL FAT.  Yes, of course, gun violence is serious, but sometimes you just need to lighten up, right?

For the first 20 years or so, we only judged goat.  In about 2010 the chamber added a “mystery meat” competition, and 2018 saw those two, plus (on Saturday) beans, chicken, ribs, and margaritas (we skipped those); Sunday was hot sauce, Bloody Marys (I helped), then MM and, finally, goat.  Whew!  A lot of sampling.  Saturday sped past.  We peeled out at about four, back to the room, Tex-Mex dinner, and early to bed.

Sunday: rinse, repeat.  Back to the park and back to work.  Jack peeled off to help his pals Stewart and Riley judge best cooking rigs, I tasted a few Bloodies, and we headed toward this year’s mystery, bacon, and at 3:00 the goat.  In 2016, I was promoted to senior judge, so we sampled nine Super Bowl entrants (open only to previous first-place finishers) and 18 finalists.  Some nice goat.  I ate all but one sample.   As a senior judge, I felt quite a bit of responsibility, so I pitched in to keep the tables tidy and, at one point, recovered to Super Bowl entries that someone mistakenly tossed in the trash.  Whew, close: good thing I am an inveterate dumpster diver!

We opted not to stay for the awards, back in the car, back to Dallas with the required stop at the DQ in Comanche.  Jack and I agreed that we needed to head back in future years, for the wonderful sense of belonging, the warm welcome, and the fine time with good ole-boys (and, increasingly, gals).  Belonging is so important.  Here are some scenes from the event:

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Longtime Cook-off organizers Terry Keltz and Kim King

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Left, Jack and fellow young judges Stewart Storms and Mark Marshall; right, three of the women judges — the judging ranks have become way more diverse in recent years

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Stalwart judge Eddie Sandoval and local businessman and rancher Jason Jacoby

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Two generations of judges; at left, Paul and Lanham McCallum of Grapevine, Texas

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The team judging the best cooking rigs

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From day 1 sampling: chicken and pork ribs

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From day 2, hot sauce and Bloody Marys

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Senior judges hard at work

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A cupla good ole’ Texans from the Waco Boys Cooking Team, in their signature orange colors

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Cook-off still life

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The right-rear tire had a slow leak, and the warning light caused a bit of stress, but we were in the Big D by 8:10.  Dropped Jack at a friend’s house, and motored north to our old (1988-2007) neighborhood in Richardson, Texas, and the home of long friends Jane and Brad Greer.  Brad’s sister Vicki was there, and we had a good catch-up.

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A common Texas sight: wind turbines, which now generate more than 22,500 megawatts — the equivalent of about 40 nuclear power plants

As I did when I stayed with the Greers in September 2016, I was up before light and out on Brad’s bike for 19 miles around the old ‘hood and beyond to a good chunk of our former hometown.  It all looked good.  Got back, showered, ate a swell cooked breakfast (thanks, Jane!), picked up Jack (he was flying home from DFW Airport, not Love), and flew back to Washington.

 

 

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Another sign of a changing Texas: lawn sign for the Democratic candidate in our old neighborhood, once almost 100% red!

 

 

 

 

 

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To Minnesota, then Up North

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On the North Shore of Lake Superior, near Grand Portage, Minnesota

Four nights at home was pretty nice (the dogs especially liked it).  On Wednesday, August 22, I flew home to Minnesota.  It was, once again, State Fair time, and your scribe has not missed the fair since the mid-1980s – more than three decades.  Landed at noon, picked up a swell little Toyota rental car, and headed to the nearby Fort Snelling National Cemetery and my dad’s grave.  Thanks given then, and every single day.

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Along the way to Minnesota: dunes on the northeast shore of Lake Michigan, and some of the last farmland in rapidly suburbanizing Washington County, east of St. Paul

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Next stop was lunch with the Honorable Michael J. Davis, Senior Judge of the U.S. District Court, and a friend for 45 years (back then, Linda was an intern in the poverty-defense law firm where Mike worked after graduating from law school).  It had been too long, three years, and we got caught up on family, jobs, health, and a little dab of the current and grim national situation.  But only a little, and in the parking lot as we departed.  I used the men’s room in the restaurant to change into shorts and a T-shirt, then walked 100 feet to a station of Nice Ride, the local bikeshare system.  Earlier in the day I bought a $6 day pass online, and off I went, west to bike paths on Lake of the Isles, Lake Calhoun (renamed Bde Maka Ska, because Calhoun was an icky fellow), and Lake Harriet, then east along Minnehaha Creek – all familiar from more than 50 years of riding through Minneapolis’ splendid parkland.  It was a gorgeous summer day, not too hot, nice breeze, and I covered 23 miles.

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On the Minnehaha Creek bike path, and the venerable #1300 streetcar, restored and still rolling after more than a century

Was back at the restaurant at about 4:45, headed into the bar for an iced tea and Wi-Fi connection to do some work, then motored a couple of miles east to the Black Forest Inn, a German fave since 1971, and dinner with Jinny Jensen, recent widow of my 12th grade English teacher, and my pals Bob and Paula Woehrle.  We had a good yak about recent travels, books, and more, then headed to the Woehrles for a good sleep in their guest room.

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After the ride: Minnesota wheat beer from Schell’s

Bob and I were up the next morning before six, and out the door to opening day at the fair.  Arriving that early, we parked on the street close to the fairgrounds, and headed into the action.  It was a cool morning, tonic, and I was pumped.  First stop was the animal barns – more precisely sheep, rabbits, and poultry.  We walked back across the fairgrounds and lined up for breakfast at the “dining hall” of the Salem Lutheran Church.  It was a long queue.  Pals Rick Dow and Steve Schlachter texted that they would be late because of traffic and bus woes.  Rick found us as we were finishing breakfast, and we then walked into the traditional first stop, the juried art show.  This year’s show was substantially better than previous years, and we really enjoyed it.  Steve and his longtime pal Skip found us just as we were entering stop two, the Creative Activities show, a showcase of all sorts of domestic talents, from needlepoint to woodworking to baking and canning.  Hewing to the proven formula, stop three was the Horticulture building for a look at crop art (only in Minnesota), award-winning vegetables, flowers, Christmas trees, and lots more – plus the increasingly large set-up of the Minnesota Craft Brewers Association.  It was 10:30, but time for a cold one, or more accurately samples of four cold ones.

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At left, a man committed to his flock

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Works from the juried art show

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Left, Tim Walz, candidate for governor; at right, a weaver demonstrating both her skills and some true wisdom (atttributed to Albert Einstein)

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In the Creative Activities exhibits

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You can win a ribbon for all sorts of stuff!

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“Crop art” is a distinctly Minnesota genre; lots of entries depicted contemporary events and themes

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Next time you sit down to a meal, think of these hardworking farmers

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Marching animals (equine and human) are a big part of the fair

Bob and Rick peeled off, and Steve, Skip, and I headed to the animal barns, back to the poultry, sheep, and rabbits, plus the much larger displays of 4-H cattle and hogs.  And goats.  Always good, at least once a year, to think about from where our food comes, and who works hard to produce it.  As I have written many times, domestic animals are truly a wonderful gift.  We three sat for a half hour to relax and yak a bit more, then I walked briskly back to the car and pointed it north toward Duluth, at the far west end of the enormous Lake Superior.

I wisely paused at Hinckley for mid-afternoon refreshment at Tobie’s, a place I’ve known for almost 60 years.   Sitting down at the counter, my friendly greeting to Teri the waitress seemed to confuse her.  “I like to be civil,” I explained.  “Bless your heart,” she said, “I could use a little civility today,” then itemized three or four unpleasant encounters she had with rude tourists.  When I left, she patted my arm and said “thank you for making my day.”

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One of Tobie’s celebrated caramel rolls. Yum!

I drove on, cresting the hill above Duluth for the first views of the magnificent Lake Superior.  That sight always makes me smile, and feel truly Minnesotan.  Headed through town to the far east end, the Lester Park neighborhood, and an Airbnb hosted by Julie, a young athletic trainer at the College of St. Scholastica, a small liberal arts college.  Washed my face, worked a bit, and at 6:45 drove a few miles west to Tavern on the Hill and a splendid catch-up dinner with Bob Ryan.  Bob and my Cousin Jim were roommates at the University of Notre Dame, and I’ve known him for more than 25 years – back in the late 1990s, Linda and I bought a vacation rental property, a splendid log house right on Superior, from Bob’s resort development company.  Bob is a quality person, a true citizen, and we talked a lot about his community service, among other topics.

Slept hard that night, through thunderstorms, and woke Friday morning to pelting rain.  The day held a clear mission: before my brother Jim’s memorial service seven weeks earlier, I asked Pam if she would set aside some of Jim’s ashes for me to take back to the North Shore of Lake Superior, to the special landscapes we first saw in 1957 and enjoyed almost every year for a decade.  She agreed, and had part of Jim neatly packaged in two Ziploc bags, which went into my backpack.  As in Oregon, I wanted to deliver him to the wind, the water, and the earth, and thought hard about the three best places.  I had a plan.   Jim went to the winds at the scenic overlook off Highway 61 at Good Harbor Bay, five miles west of Grand Marais.  We stopped there on our first trip up the North Shore in August 1957, and I remember the scene like it was yesterday.  As I did on the 50th anniversary of the stop in 2007, I cued a wonderful, soulful tune, mandolinist Peter Ostroushko’s “Heart of the Heartland.”  I spoke a few words of prayer, and scattered him into rainy skies.

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Good Harbor Bay

Drove into Grand Marais, to the Cook County Whole Foods Co-op for a picnic breakfast, which I gobbled quickly on the front steps of the store.  It was time for stop two, sending Jim to the waters.  Back in the day, the family vacationed at Greenwood Lake Lodge, a simple resort on that large lake, up the Gunflint Trail, a paved county road.  I drove up the highway, and turned east onto a Forest Service road; it was way better than the rutted track that once connected the highway to the resort (the one that tore the transmission of our 1959 Mercury!), and in no time I was on a small bay at the south end of the lake, not far from the portage we used to Sunfish Lake (more a pond) that was our go-to place for walleye fishing.  It was still raining steadily.  I walked out on a small dock and said another goodbye and prayer as Jim entered the cold water.

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Greenwood Lake

Drove back to Grand Marais for stop three, the pebbled beach on the east end of town.  On Sundays, the day after we arrived at the resort, the family would drive into town to mass at St. John’s Catholic Church (it’s still there), then down the hill for a big breakfast at the East Bay Hotel (also still there, though modernized).  After gobbling our pancakes, Jim and I would head down to the beach to look for agates and skip stones into the big lake.  At the south end of the beach, I returned Jim to the earth.  My three-part memorial was done.  Amen.  And tears.

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East Bay Beach

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Jim’s return to the earth (left), and good things from it — flowers outside the café

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Grand Marais harbor from the Angry Trout

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Though it no longer stands tall  on the roof, I remember this sign from the 1950s

My picnic breakfast was a bit thin, so I headed to a fave place, the Angry Trout Café, for a fresh whitefish sandwich (assuredly fresh, because fisherman Harley Tofte’s boat and dock are right next door!).  Back in the car, north and east on Highway 61 to the Grand Portage National Monument, almost at the Canadian border.  “Grand Portage” was the 8.5 mile trail from the Pigeon River to Lake Superior that had been walked for centuries, a detour around a series of waterfalls.

In the mid- to late-18th Century, England’s North West Company set up a trading post there: Indians and French trappers would bring pelts, mostly beaver, from as far as Alberta and Saskatchewan to Grand Portage, where they were sold and loaded onto lake canoes (see photos for more detail).  At the new and well-done Heritage Center, I watched an excellent 20-minute movie that told the story, then walked a few hundred yards to a recreated trading depot, with interpreters dressed in period costume explaining tipi and canoe building, fur trading, and the annual cycle at the outpost.  It was fascinating, very well done, a credit to the National Park Service (currently undergoing a budget slash from the Trump Administration) and cooperation from the Grand Portage Ojibwe people, who own the land.

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Birch bark, essential material for the Ojibwe, for housing and transport (below), and more

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The exhibits also told the story of how the furs were used in England — Brennan the furrier made things from ermine (left), and others made artists’ brushes from badger

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But it was the beaver, or rather his or her pelt, that was the major driver of the North West fur trade

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A lake canoe, and Lake Superior visible through the gate; these vessels were 36 feet long, 4 feet wide, and could carry up to 4 tons of cargo; the journey to or from Montreal took 6 to 8 weeks.

Drove a few miles north and joined the line to enter Canada, then continued north to Thunder Bay, an industrial and port city: they make things (forest products, railcars, other stuff) and move things (railways into the port carry grain and other exports from Western Canada for shipment through the Great Lakes and on to oceans).  Thunder Bay was formerly the twin cities of Fort William and Port Arthur, and the urban form reflects that history.  Found the Airbnb on McGregor, a comfortable and eclectic older home in a prosperous neighborhood of the former Fort William.  My host, Anne-Marie, was out of town, too bad, because in correspondence she seemed like a way-interesting person.  Had a short chat with Brandon from Calgary, another Airbnb guest.  Washed my face and headed out, north a few miles to the Dawson Trail Craft Brewery, one of two micros in town.

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You know you’re going to have a great Airbnb experience when the front door welcomes you!

With nearly a half-century of experience with drinking places, I can quickly size up the vibe, often right at the front door, and Dawson was immediately welcoming.  A small (maybe 15 feet by 30 feet) taproom was in front of the brewery.  People were smiling, laughing, enjoying the end of the week.  I sidled up to the bar and got a glass, then starting chatting with a fellow American.  Then I yakked with Wes and Murray, locals with lots of good stories about the outdoors (Wes told me he was going fishing the following Sunday morning: 3 hours each way to a river brimming with walleyes – he once caught (and released) 140 fish in 5 hours).   Murray was from Saskatchewan, and we talked a bit about Prairie agriculture.  The 2018 harvest was coming in, and it was big (not as large as in 2015, which they told me took two years to clear).

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At Dawson Trail; right, Murray and Wes

Then I yakked with Kari, who worked at the brewery but was not on duty.  I told her about my mission that day, returning brother Jim north, and she started to cry.  “Not tears of sadness,” she said.  Also yakked with the Anderson brothers.  Kari offered the other American and me a Thunder Bay pastry specialty, the Persian, a hole-less doughnut topped with a lot of pink icing.  It went well with our ale!  It was a great couple of hours.

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A Persian and a beer

Anne-Marie had recommended a simple restaurant on the Fort William First Nation, an Indian reservation south of the city.  Motored down to the Rez, but the place was closed “due to labor shortage,” so I headed to other Indian food, the Monsoon Indian Restaurant not far from the Airbnb.  Tucked into a huge and very spicy meal.  On the way out I had a nice T-t-S with the co-owner.  They came from the Punjab in 2007, originally to near Toronto, then moved to Thunder Bay in 2011.  “Did they tell you about winter?” I asked.  She laughed and said, “Yes, but we quickly got used to it!”  You have to admire the adaptability of immigrants.

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Was up at 6:30 Saturday morning, out the door before daylight, for a look around Thunder Bay.  East to the port area of Fort William, then north to downtown Port Arthur, where the lakefront (south of its docks) had been substantially redeveloped with condos, a new hotel, marina, and parkland.  It looked really good.  Took a short walk and had a nice T-t-S with Margot, who answered a few questions about the place.  She was a local, and told me a lot of interesting things.

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St. Mary’s Ukrainian Orthodox Church

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By the port; Canadian grain feeds a lot of people worldwide

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The 1905 Canadian Pacific depot, Port Arthur, and the former logo of the Canadian National, on a restored caboose nearby

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Thunder Bay factories: Resolute Forest Products (lumber, wood pellets, building materials) and Bombardier Transportation (passenger railcars and trams)

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Breakfast time!  My Toyota rests beneath.

Back in the car, west to my fave Canadian breakfast venue, Tim Horton’s.  While waiting for my oatmeal and muffin, had another T-t-S with a teenager wearing a Westfort (short for West Fort William) Hockey hoodie:

Me (pointing at the team logo): Are you guys good?
Him: Nope.
Me: Okay, but are you having fun on the ice?
Him: Yup.
Me: Attaboy.  That’s really all that matters.

Five minutes into breakfast, another T-t-S with a guy about my age, who appeared to be part Ojibwe:

Him: Can’t get today’s paper out of the machine by the door; it’s stuck.
Me: Well, it’s probably the same old news.
Him: Yeah, but I always like to look at the obituaries to make sure my name isn’t there.
Me: I hear you.  Being vertical is better than horizontal.
Him: For sure.

Back in the car, south on the highway, and across the border into the United States (where the officer asked rather a lot of questions, way different than entering at an airport).  Parked at the Visitor Center of the Grand Portage State Park, separate from the national monument (which is several miles south and west), and walked a half-mile up the Pigeon River to the High Falls, a drop of about 130 feet and the reason for the grand portage: you just wouldn’t want to be in a canoe at that point in the river, just upstream from Lake Superior!

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The High Falls of the Pigeon River, the reason for the Grand Portage

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The persistence of nature: a fir tree sprouts in rock on the river bank

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One of many Ojibwe decorative works in the state park visitor center

The lake views were much better than the day before, some truly dramatic vistas.  Arrived back in Grand Marais about ten, bought a sandwich and banana for a drivetime lunch, and wandered around.  The parking lot of the coop was full of artists and craftspeople selling their wares (and some junk made in China), and the lineup of smaller chainsaw sculptures caught my eye, a bear in particular.  After texting the photo to Linda and calling, we agreed that Mr. Bear would look great on our front porch.  Done!  Ambled over to the town’s craft brewery, Voyageur, for the 11:00 tour hosted by Casey from Virginia.  She knew a ton, and it was easily the most thorough brewery tour I’ve ever done, and I’ve been touring them for almost 50 years.  (Two tidbits: their water comes from the municipal supply, which comes right out of the big lake, no chlorination or other treatment, just pure water; and they have begun to buy hops from a new farmer in Hovland, 17 miles northeast.)  There were samples along the way, some really fine brews.

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Scenes from a thorough brewery tour

When I got to town an hour earlier, I called my long friend Tim McGlynn, who I knew might also in town, ready to head by seaplane to Isle Royale, a national park in Lake Superior, with two other long buddies.  The call rolled to voicemail, so I figured they had already departed.  But he called me back five minutes later and said he was in a chartered fishing boat two miles offshore.  I suggested lunch, and John Massopust, Tom Terry (who by another coincidence I saw at the State Fair art show two days earlier), and Tim joined me on the deck of the Voyageur for an hour of laughs and reminiscence.  It was travel serendipity on steroids!  Whew!

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Friends since 1963: Tim McGlynn, John Massopust, and Tom Terry

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Hopped in the car at two, pedal to the metal, and was back at the Woehrles by 6:10.  We had a couple more beers, and a delicious dinner of pork chops and vegetables.  So yummy, home cooking.  Was asleep just after nine.

Bob gets up early (way before six), and we headed out on bikes (I borrowed Paula’s) for a swell 14-mile ride, mostly on the bike paths that have spread all across the Twin Cities.   Great ride, yakking along the way.  Back home for a bowl of raisin bran and coffee, showered, hugs, out the door.  I had several hours, so I motored into downtown St. Paul for a look around (it had been a couple of years), and the center looked really good.  Lively, even on a Sunday morning, lots of people heading toward a Farmers’ Market in Lowertown.  Meandered back to the neighborhood where we lived from 1978 to 1987, past the bungalow that was our first house, and to a nearby coffee shop on Grand Avenue (sadly, my favorite bakery across the street, Wuollet’s, is closed Sundays).  Back to the airport, drop the car, Mr. Bear past the TSA screeners, and onto American Eagle nonstop back to Washington.  A splendid visit back to my roots.

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Mr. Bear, riding south from the North Shore

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The Annual Relaxing Vacation

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Dawn, Kiawah Island, South Carolina; much of the place is wetland, among the most biodiverse landscapes on earth

Was home from Argentina only two nights, and on Saturday, August 11, the Brittons – kids and granddaughters – flew to Charleston, South Carolina, for the now traditional week on Kiawah Island.  One of Robin’s friends since grade school, Courtney, came along, too.  We rented the same house as 2017, which was splendid in many ways, not least a swimming pool.  The routine for six days was identical.  I rose early, pedaled 20 miles or so across the verdant island, then breakfast, reading, trip to the bigger pool or the beach, lunch, nap, more relaxing, dinner, long sleeps.  Vegetable-like, but even for an active fellow like me it was fun.  We did manage to drive into Charleston Thursday afternoon for an amble on King Street, then dinner on Queen Street.  We dropped Robin, Jack, Dylan, and Carson at Charleston airport early Saturday morning, drove across the big Ravenel Bridge into Mount Pleasant, then back across for brunch at Hominy Grill, a Lowcountry fave (sadly, no longer open for dinner, as we discovered two days earlier), and another hour of motoring around Charleston.  It’s one of America’s oldest and most interesting cities, thanks to nearly a century of civic commitment to historic preservation.

Some scenes from the island, family fun, and Charleston:

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19th Century “bird’s eye” view of The Battery, Charleston, and the modern view — two of the homes at left are still visible at right

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Although not much of a shopper, this silver sardine dish in Charleston’s oldest antique store was mighty tempting!

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Brunch at Hominy Grill: their slogan is “Grits are good for you,” so I enjoyed a bowl, along with the week’s third dish of collard greens.  Oooooeeeeee!

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At Charleston airport, there’s a memorial to the 2015 terrorist attack on the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church, and before I flying home I paused there for daily prayers and contemplation.  The memorial has photos of the victims, stained glass, and paintings to honor and remember; this one was especially beautiful:

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Argentina and Chile, Like Every August

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Valparaíso, Chile, one of the world’s most colorful cities

After teaching the annual crisis-management course at Georgetown in late July, on August 1 I hopped on a flight to Dallas/Fort Worth, then on to Buenos Aires for my 11th appearance at the South American Business Forum, a student conference organized by students at ITBA, Argentina’s best technological university.  I’ve been with SABF almost from the start, and I’m invested in its success.  Landed in winter, sunny skies and just above freezing.  Tomás, a SABF organizer from the late aughts, volunteered to pick us up at the airport: Adriano, a native of Bolivia who grew up and now studies in Germany; a speaker from Peking University and her aged mother; and your scribe.  It was good to catch up with Tomás, who after a few years with the airline LATAM in Chile had started a business supplying ingredients to the growing numbers of craft breweries in Argentina.  My kind of guy!

The 2018 SABF organizers felt compelled to change things, so instead of the simple hotel we had used for years (and where we had become friends with Sergio at the front desk), we were at another place, and from the start the vibe at the Viasui was bad.  While waiting for my room, met up with long friend and other stalwart SABF supporter, Rick Dow.  Headed out for lunch, then a short nap.  At five, we ambled across downtown to the old SABF campus for a “tea” with the participants.  They were really fired up, and we had the first of many great conversations – with Chris from Canada, Marcella from Brazil, Lucas from Argentina, and many more.   Rick and I headed to dinner with former conference organizers, and ended the evening, late, with our traditional cheerleading to the 19 organizers of the 2018 event.

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SABF stalwart Rick Dow practicing the tango

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Specialized retailing: tango shoes for women and men

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Chris from Toronto (left), proudly showing his Iron Ring, worn by many Canadian engineering graduates (full story here); at right, SABF participant watching one of American Airlines’ post-9/11 commercials as a primer on crisis management

A short night.  And the food poisoning that had caused gut problems (no clinical detail needed) earlier in the week recurred, but the show must go on, so suited up and headed out.  In the past, the day 1 plenary session was a short walk a few blocks to the auditorium of an insurance company, but this time we hopped on buses and lurched through early rush-hour traffic a few miles southwest to an auditorium in Buenos Aires’ stunning new city hall, designed by Norman Foster.  Candidly, the first day plenary talks were hugely disappointing, save for a wonderful presentation by Jen, head of a foundation that enables people to make prosthetic hands using 3D printers, and Felix, an expert on risk assessment at Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Human Development.  But the conversations during breaks and lunch were great.  Rick and I met a wonderful Argentine businessperson, Jaime Feeney, whose conference-organizer niece invited him to help with mentoring sessions; Jaime, whose Boston banker-grandfather took a job in Argentina in the 1930s, had, like Rick and me, done a lot of interesting jobs in his life, and he had the Irish gift of gab, sure – as well as a twinkle in his eye.  At the end of a long day, we rode buses back to the hotel, then on to a simple Italian restaurant for dinner and more chats with students.

Saturday morning Rick and I made our own way to the second venue, a newer ITBA “campus” not far from city hall, stopping for breakfast at a pleasant old-school café behind Teatro Colon, the main performing-arts hall.  High point that day was a workshop from a Finnish schoolteacher, who explained the keys to Finland’s world-leading educational system.  She was fun and impressive.  Every year, I am responsible for closing comments, so spent most of Saturday afternoon with my laptop.  From 4:50 until 6:00, Rick and I (and lots of others, including Jaime) did mentoring sessions with five or six students, always good to connect in a small group.  Kids are eager to learn about career and life, and that may have been the most useful part of the conference.

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Our Saturday breakfast venue: old school to the max

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Buenos Aires is full of wonderful old buildings with rich detail (left and below); at right, the new city hall

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Sara, the Finnish teacher

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Saturday lunch, from a food truck parked at ITBA

Back on the bus to the hotel, changed clothes, and Rick and I headed out for a long and fine steak dinner, bottle of Malbec, and lots of conversation.  The portions were huge, and although Argentines don’t request boxes for leftovers, Rick and I did, because we knew that one of the many hungry people that are sadly common on city streets would appreciate the food.  It took awhile, but we spotted our target, a young mother with two little girls.  Then she disappeared from view, so I gave the bag to a young man, who spotted the mom and kids and selflessly passed it to them.

Just heartbreaking, though not as sad as the homeless woman we saw earlier in the evening, who was yelling at and pulling the hair of her daughter; Buenos Aires is a place where social dysfunction is right in front of you.

Sunday morning, on buses back out to the new ITBA campus.  I spent time polishing my speech, then lunch, then we ambled a few blocks back to city hall for the last presentations, a panel discussion from SABF alumni, and another disappointing speech by a so-called expert.  Then it was my turn to stand and deliver, and it went well.  Hugs and last words (including a delightful short chat with Jaime’s sister Alicia), then out the door.  For some odd reason, there was no SABF bus back to the hotel, so Rick and I walked across Parque Patricios to a busy street and a taxi.  The park was jumping on a sunny Sunday afternoon; kids dribbling soccer balls with their dads and uncles, lots of people walking dogs, picnickers, and in the northeast corner people dancing the Zamba, a traditional South American dance with indigenous roots in Peru and Bolivia, with a live band.  It was a wonderful scene.

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Back at the hotel, I changed clothes, zipped out to buy three jars of dulce de leche, the carmelized-milk “jam” that is a total fave, and my customary souvenir from Argentina.  At 7:45, United Airlines’ country directyor and long friend Christoff Poppe and his UAL colleague Ary picked up Rick and me, and we rode to the Gran Parilla del Plata, a great traditional restaurant in the historic San Telmo district (we ate there in 2016, and it was great).  A superb meal, and even better conversation.

Up early Monday morning, out the door, onto the Subte (subway) and bus to the airport.  Rather than flying home, as in 2016 I headed across the Andes to Santiago for a quick talk at Universidad Católica.  I was flying standby on LATAM, but managed to snag one of the last chairs, giving me the opportunity to do my “standby dance,” fist pumps, and lots of woo-hoos (needless to say, people were staring).  Arrived in Chile just past noon, then to a “maybe-the-USA-is-not-so-smart” moment: at the airport foreign exchange desk (I normally don’t use them because they’re ripoffs in the U.S. and most of Europe, but these were fair rates), the agent rejected one of my $5 bills because it was torn.  Chile, like many countries, now uses polymer banknotes, which don’t tear and are nearly impossible to forge.  Sigh.

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Hopped on the bus to the Pajaritos station of the fabulous Santiago Metro (clean, punctual, and frequent trains), then east to Santa Lucia station, not far from downtown.  My Airbnb was 100 feet from the station, and friendly host Katherine allowed early check-in, which enabled a tonic, two-hour nap.  Zzzzzzzzzzzz.

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Public art in one of the world’s loveliest subway stations, La Moneda; on both platforms are 15-20 oil paintings depicting the diversity of Chile’s landscapes

Up about five, worked a bit, and at seven hopped back on the Metro, out into the fancy suburbs.  It looked so prosperous, and so different from Buenos Aires.  At 7:45 met a longtime Argentina friend Josué, for dinner and a good catch up.  Lots of changes in his young life in the past year: earned a Harvard MBA (with top marks), became a father, and relocated back to South America, rejoining Boston Consulting Group.  We had pizza and salad, lots of laughs, and good conversation.  Back to the Metro, home, and a long sleep.

Tuesday was the first day in a week that was not busy-busy.  Made a cup of instant coffee in the apartment, headed down from the 22nd floor for yogurt and pastry, back home for breakfast, admiring the great view.  Only drawback, and small at that, was no wi-fi in the apartment, but good signal in a common room on the second floor, so headed down there to do some work and bring this journal up to date.

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The same view from my Airbnb, 20 minutes apart; heavy overnight rains washed the skies

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At noon I met Josué again, and needed him: for the first time in nearly 50 years of overseas travel, I needed to see a doctor.  Eight days earlier, two days before I left on the trip, I got flu-like symptoms that I later self-diagnosed (correctly, we believe) as food poisoning from raw oysters I ate in the U.S. before flying south.  I was sort-of okay when I left, and not taking the trip was not a possibility (I’m a “the show must go on” teacher).  I felt okay except for intestinal cramps and, well, you know what else.  But it wasn’t going away, and I needed meds.  So Monday night I booked an appointment with a doctor at Clinica Alemana, a huge private institution.

Chile has a free health service for everyone, but people who can afford them use private services.  The clinic was a marvel of efficiency.  After registration and $93 for the visit, Dr. Claudio Feres ushered us into his office.  We got the problem laid out briskly (he winced when Josué translated “raw oysters”), he examined me, and was reasonably sure that I had an intestinal infection.  He wanted to do lab work, but I was leaving the next day, so he prescribed antibiotics and anti-poop meds, and off I went.  The guy was about my age, and exuded professionalism.  We filled the Rx, my pal peeled off, and I headed back to the apartment.  Wandered over to the original campus of my host school, Universidad Católica, had a sandwich in the sunny courtyard, and home for a nap.

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At the old UC campus (above), and the new business school (below)

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There are few better windows on foreign places than the supermarket

Worked a bit, and at five walked a couple of blocks to the UC business school, meeting my long host Andrés Ibañez.  From six to seven delivered a lecture to MBA students, then peeled off, onto a packed rush-hour Metro train, then a taxi to the apartment of other long friends, Felipe and Constanza Recart.  I had not seen them for six years, and it was great to catch up with them and their two kids, Simon (almost seven) and Laura (four).  Cota was expecting a third child in January.  She prepared a delicious dinner of Chilean salmon, risotto, and salad, and we had a great chat.  Hugged goodbyes, walked a block to the bus, then the Metro, and home.

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Simon and Felipe Recart (scroll through the blog archives to August 2012 for an older pic of these two)

Wednesday was a real “day off,” and I had a good plan: day trip by bus to the historic (founded 1541) port city of Valparaíso, 60 miles west, then back to the airport for the flight north ( had been there a couple of times, most recently in 2011).  Hopped the Metro back to Pajaritos on the western edge of the city, bought a $8 round-trip from my favorite long-distance bus line, Turbus (had fun with the ticket lady, practicing my Spanish and she her few words of English; “come back anytime,” she said proudly), and hopped on the 9:20 trip.  Rolled up and down ridges, across the Casablanca Valley in a Mediterranean landscape that looked a lot like California.  Along the way, roadside shrines that marked traffic deaths varied from tiny to elaborate, often decorated with little cars (and in one case a rusty toy bus, yikes).

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In the downtown market

Dropped down to the Pacific Ocean, left my suitcase at the station, and set off on foot to the Metro, west to the port, then up Artilleria, one of the funiculars that climb the many hills of the city (several were closed for renovation).  The Transport Geek was in heaven, riding the rickety (but totally safe) cars.  Walked down that hill, then on to the Cordillera funicular.  On my way to the next ride, El Peral, I heard shouts and saw TV cameras in front of a courthouse, so I headed over: the people appeared to have won a victory against the national Ministry of Education over the rights of hearing-impaired kids to receive instruction.  Hooray!

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Rode up El Peral to admire the wildly Art Nouveau Palacio Baburizza (1916), built by a businessman but now a museum, then tucked into an excellent fish lunch on the terrace of Resturante El Peral.  Wandered the city a bit more, then hopped on the last T-Geek ride of the day, a trolleybus from the 1950s.  Back to the bus station, back to Santiago, and onto the Silver Bird north to Texas, and northeast to Washington.

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Palacio Baburizza, above and below

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The very best of American Airlines: Santiago airport agent Sr. Vergara reassuring a nervous passenger (she hadn’t flown for 30 years, and he calmed her down)

 

 

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